Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What's Missing

These past few days I've been having insanely huge girl friend withdrawals.

I miss the women that know the little pieces that make up my whole. And even though we're scattered all over the place, there's a bond that will last into the next life.

So while it's grey and dreary outside, I decided to write a little about those people I love and miss in a way I can't begin to describe.

One of my best friends in the entire world. We lived together for a year and a half as I finished out my time at Moody.

I still remember the first day we met. I had no idea what to expect, and was just coming off some bad rooming situations.

Brandi and I clicked right away. We shared similar past experiences, understood each other and meshed perfectly. When one of us was excited and hyper, we were both excited and hyper. And when one of us was sad, the other knew how to step in and encourage.

We used to make silly music videos late at night, explore Chicago with the latest guy who was in love with us, share secrets and stories from our day... I always looked forward to coming back to our dorm room.

Now we're miles apart, and yet I still feel like she knows me better than anyone else. I miss her laugh, our inside jokes, watching our favorite tv show together, and having someone know me like she does.

Up until I moved back to Iowa, we had almost the exact same story. We met at Moody, but didn't become friends until we both moved to Colorado.

Jessica and I both moved for the same reason--men that we had seemingly fallen in love with. But relationships sometimes don't work out, and neither of ours did.

We started dating again, broke up again, and are now sporting the single card. I think we both felt like our fates were tied together, and that someday, life would work itself out in that department.

I don't even know where to begin on what I miss about Jess. We used to have so much fun just sitting around doing nothing. Of course we had fun going out and bashing around Denver and the Springs.

I miss most the fact that, while most of my friends are getting married and moving on in life, we were at the same place. And because of that, we understood each other in a way that other people couldn't.

I have to post a photo of these three girls together because we were so connected during our time at Moody. We were all friends, and all served on class council together.

Rachel now lives in Germany, but we had the best times together. We really got close the semester that we had Satanic Themes in Modern Lit together (just about the best class ever with Prof. Angela Brown). For our final project, we filmed a video... and spent more time shooting ourselves doing weird things.

Rachel always made me laugh and feel bubbly. Yet there was always an honest air about our relationship that I treasured.

Megan and I had Communications classes together, and also had a mutual love for the Dryer 2 boys. Megan always made me feel at ease and warm, and somehow we made it through the most chaotic experience of planning the junior-senior banquet together. She lives near Chicago now, and I keep kicking myself that I haven't gone to visit her yet.

I could write an entire book about the part of my life that featured Gracie. We met in high school, when my family moved to Michigan, so she was there for some of the biggest upheaval in my life (twice over). We were in youth group together my senior year, and found out we had both gotten accepted to Moody. It was only natural that we then become roommates.

We lived together for all of freshman year, which was probably the best year I had at Moody. We knew everything about each other, and though we hung out in separate friend circles, we still came back to the same room to share our secrets. I always loved that Gracie knew where I was coming from and supported me completely. And of course, I love that we got in trouble together, just a few times.

A post about Gracie will naturally include my other half at that time, Heidi. And I had to pick this picture because it was the first time we really bonded, and our first "date" at Moody (with guys, not each other).

Heidi and I were neighbors for two years, and pretty much like twins. After we died her hair brown, we looked alike. We also dressed similarly, worked at the same place and played on the basketball team together.

Basketball was probably what bonded us the most, and I will never forget that experience. Heidi had a 100% shooting average from the 3-point line because the only 3 she shot, she made.

At the end of freshman year, we got our bellybuttons pierced together. This was slightly against the rules, but it felt more like a sisterly pact than a crime.

We shared just about everything and were rarely apart. Through the years, we had our rough patches, but always managed to remain friends. I haven't seen her since her wedding two years ago, but I still think of her as one of my best friends.

We didn't really become good friends until later, but Cami and I met at Moody. She would stop by our room a lot to talk to Brandi and that's really how I got to know her.

Cami and I get along so well because we have a similar spirit. We both love to say and do crazy things that most people don't understand. I love making her laugh because I know she finds my very random humor hilarious.

Most of my favorite memories of Cami involve dancing at our friends' big milestones. She's one of the few people that can keep up with me, and there's a few songs we've made our own.

I love that Cami is accepting and doesn't judge or look down on me. She's a true friend, one that anyone would want by their side. She's loyal and dependable, and also a very good writer.

I've enjoyed the times I've gotten to spend with her, and always wish they could've been more before she hopped across the pond to live in England.

Margaret was my first Denver friend. I "met" her via email before I moved, through the guy I was dating (and ended up moving for). She was the only person I met through him who continued to talk to me after we broke up. She invited me to her church and we attended regularly until I moved back to Iowa.

Margaret is always fun to be around. She's hilarious and thoughtful and always selfless. We used to get together to play Little Big Planet. I would also cut and color her hair and she would make me dinner. Margaret loves the Colorado Rockies (baseball team), and it sort of rubbed off on me. Going to her wedding was one of the first things I did when I moved to Denver, and she had it at Coors Field where the Rockies play.

Margaret and her husband would throw fun parties at their house. We'd also go camping/hiking together. We sort of felt like a little family, even though sometimes I was the third wheel.

The night I lost my job, Margaret drove 30 minutes in the snow to come sit with me just so I wouldn't be alone. She's a massage therapist, so I got a really amazing back/head massage that night too.

A few months ago we went through a really hard situation with a mutual friend. I sometimes feel like I abandoned her by moving, but at the same time, I know there isn't anything more either one of use could do. All that's left is for us to continue supporting each other across the many miles.
* * *

These are just a few of the amazing women I've gotten to know over the years, but are definitely some of the ones I miss the most. My hope and prayer is that God would give me more wonderful girl friends, especially out here in little Clinton. I don't know many girls my age, and that is one thing I hope changes soon.

I've always gotten along better with guys than girls, but nothing replaces that sisterly bond. To all my girl friends, I love you tons and miss you almost as much.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sutures of the Shared

I knew a blog update was long overdue. It was time to post about something. But there are so many somethings, it's hard to know where to begin.

Sometimes, I feel like writing is futile. That anything I say, in an effort to understand and be understood, will simply come across as foolish, selfish even.

Tonight, past pains reared up unexpectedly as I was starting to work on my Bible study for tomorrow. The circumstances surrounding them are so typical, anyone could probably tell the exact same story. But the severity of the pain, the process, the timing, are in a class all their own.

Then again, I return to the reality that we've all faced tsunamis of horrible things, experiences in life we wish we could forget. I am not unique in this. I'm sure we could all relay stories of awakening from a dream which felt so real, into a reality that seared like a knife blade into the heart. Stories of abandonment, of the feeling of absolute failure, and the realization of complete of powerlessness as life slips away.

So how could my story be important amid the endless ocean of other stories? And some, far greater than my own.

But that's really not the point, is it? The point isn't who suffered the most, whose hurt was the greatest, who faced death. The point is that we have this commonality, a need to share, and to know that we are not alone.

We all need to be understood. Sometimes that understanding comes from what someone else experienced, what someone else wrote. When someone expresses exactly the way you felt in that one freeze-framed moment of life, you know you're understood.

I think we all long for that. We crave that knowledge that someone else walked a similar road, that we are not alone in our fights and struggles. We crave the knowledge, too, that someone else succeeded. They made it out alive, stronger, wounded but healing, and we can do it too.

I told God tonight, as my wounds resurfaced, that I wanted them to be healed, filled with him. So many wounds get stuffed down, suppressed to a place we think they will be forgotten. But we can only do so much covering, so much stuffing, before things begin to show.

Honestly, I'm tired of covering everything up with a happy face and complacent attitude. I want it gone, done, healed and not hidden. Granted, healing takes time, but it's worth it. And right now, that's what I have, time.

I know I'm not alone in this either. Others have wounds, new and fresh or old and festering, that must be healed. What's it going to take for us to achieve this healing? In some part, I know it's the sharing, the stories, the understanding. God does his work, and part of that includes us, the body of Christ.

So tonight, I know my story, your story, isn't foolish or selfish. It's necessary.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Learning [the Hard Way]

I love that life is a journey. That I have the opportunity and ability to grow, to change, to become.

Of course, in that journey, not all change is good change, when our choices cause us to change for the worse.

In what I consider my last season of life, I didn't really care about my choices. My unspoken motto was, "I do what I want." I still struggle with that attitude, but I'm learning to harness it for good. And make better choices.

Ever since I was a teenager, one of my mom's most-repeated adages was, "Make good choices." The funny thing about being headstrong is, you can hear something all day, but not do it. Just like the band dc Talk used to sing, "Some people gotta learn the hard way..."

And so it was for me. I did what I wanted when I wanted, and it wasn't always good. In fact, a lot of times what I did wasn't beneficial.

I think we all struggle with this. Either we decide we want to experience life, whatever the cost, or we have something in mind that we want, and we'll do whatever we have to to get it.

I believe the latter attitude is a spawning ground for bad choices, especially when it comes to relationships. People want relationships, to date and marry, and some will sacrifice much just so they won't be alone. When you are blinded by the end goal, it's difficult to see the reality around you.

I've learned this in a lot of relationships; people can and will drain the life out of you, if you allow them to. Through words, actions, attitudes, they can drag you down like a rusted anchor to a place you never want to go.

Thank the Lord that he saves us from our bad choices when we can't get ourselves out.

The reality about so many of these leeching relationships is that we think we want them so badly. But after they end and the heartbreak fades, we can begin to see why they were so wrong. This person didn't bring peace, they only wanted to fight. This person didn't love, they lusted. This person wasn't seeking good, they were seeking personal gratification. This person didn't encourage, they injured.

The list can go on, and I'm sure every person can add to it. Whether friendship or romantic relationship, most of us have experienced it. On the outside, looking back at past failed relationships, there are a few concepts I come away with.

First, I want the ability to see these relationships a mile away, and avoid them at all cost. And really, it's not that hard to tell when someone is a leech. If they're not encouraging you toward Christ, they're only going to pull you away. So don't entertain it before it starts. Make a good choice, and don't get involved.

Second, I want the ability to recognize if I am in a disastrous friendship/relationship, and have the courage to get out of it as soon as possible. I feel like this is the hardest point, and one at which most people fail because of that fear of loneliness. This is the point that calls for the most resolve and determination. And the understanding that, though it may hurt for a time, you will be so much better off outside the relationship.

Finally, I want to be able to encourage others toward positive friendships and relationships, and away from destructive ones. Loving confrontation is a whole other blog entry, but is so essential. If you don't love your friends enough to encourage them toward Christ, then you are not a true friend. Part of that includes encouraging them toward right living, and making good choices.

Yes, some of us choose to learn the hard way. (And bad choices extend to more than just relationships.) But if we truly are learning the hard way, we won't keep repeating the same mistakes. We'll learn, grow, change for the better. We'll strive for Christ, and let him guide us to the life he wants us to live. And trust me, it's better than any life we could attempt to construct for ourselves.

Monday, February 7, 2011

In Remembrance

Taking communion at church has always been a somber and serious experience for me, though no less amazing in what it calls me to remember.

From a very young age, I was taught that it was a time to quietly pray, to remember Jesus' sacrifice, and to ask for forgiveness for my sins. It was a serious time, not to be taken lightly.

As I grew older, I always worked hard to keep the correct mind-set while taking communion. I didn't want it to become a ritual, a time that I merely went through the motions.

Communion has always been a time for me to search my heart and confess what I have done wrong, in thought and deed. Though lately, I had found myself asking for forgiveness multiple times for the same offense.

This past Sunday was no different, although this time, I caught myself. If I ask for forgiveness for the same sin multiple times, doesn't that mean I don't think it was forgiven the first time?

This thought was something of a slap in the face. Did I really think that God wasn't forgiving me, even though I knew that the Bible stated time and time again that God does forgive us? I realized that to continually ask God to forgive me for something he had already forgotten was on par with saying that God wasn't forgiving at all.

It was in that moment that I knew I had to let it go. If I really believed that God forgave me each time I asked, then I only needed to ask once. Jesus died once, a sacrifice for every sin ever committed. His blood was spilled one time, to wash away all sin. Once is all it takes for God to forgive and forget because of Jesus' sacrifice. Not two times or five or ten. He doesn't need our continual groveling or attempts at mending the wrong.

So I resolved to ask for forgiveness just once when I committed a sin. I resolved to truly believe the reality of God's love and Jesus' sacrifice. And I resolved to allow the freedom of grace to overshadow residual guilt.

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Romans 6:1-4

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Live First, Write Later

In case you hadn't noticed, I periodically like to change the name and heading of my blog. It sets the mood and tone, which does change from time to time, depending on what's being written.

I chose this current heading because it indicates that life, my story, isn't written here in a futuristic sense. I'm not writing what I want to happen, or coming up with my own story line. What is written here is being written after being lived, after it has already happened. After it has been written by Someone else.

I think at some point, we all get this idea in our minds that we can "write" our life. That if we live here, go to school there, do this and become that, eventually, the story we want will unfold. If we envision it, and complete the necessary steps, what we want for our lives will happen.

I started learning from a very early age that this is not the case; but I didn't really learn it until after college.

My efforts at trying to write life, to make it the way I wanted, started when I was probably two or three years old. The one thing I wanted more than anything was a younger sibling, and the sooner the better. After praying for nine or 10 years and not getting one, I had pretty much given up. That's when God gave us Michael, a reminder to me that prayers are answered, but not in our timing.

Around that same time, I was still trying to write life, just another chapter. This time, it was everything that I wanted to unfold through middle school and high school. It included friendships, basketball, relationships, and my living location. Of course, the fact that my family might move across the country never entered the equation. When it happened, though, it threw a kink in all my planning.

Toward the end of high school, I started trying to write life again. I had found out that I was accepted to the only college I had applied to. I, of course, immediately started envisioning how I wanted everything to be, how I thought things would unfold. I can honestly say, none of it happened.

After college, I got a little better about trying to take control, mostly because the past four years had been something of a let-down. But I did make one final attempt when I decided to move to Denver, hoping that what I wanted would happen. It didn't, obviously, and truthfully, it went entirely opposite of anything I had thought of.

Through it all I've learned that what we want really doesn't matter that much. It may sound harsh, but I can say it because over 20-some years, I've learned that firsthand. It's not about me, or you, or how we think life should go. Our wants and plans are usually selfish, and rarely are they the best thing for us, or anyone else.

Sure, I thought that my version of life was pretty near perfect, but I didn't take into account that there are billions of other people with stories too. I didn't take into account that my story would intersect with someone else's story, and that their needs were just as--if not more--important than mine. And I didn't take into account that God's plan was bigger, and far more important than any plan I could conjure up.

So life now, isn't being written by me. Or at least, I'm working very hard at not attempting to write life. I'm working more on being available for the needs of others. I'm working on learning what I need to learn to become the person God wants me to me. I'm working on being willing to participate in God's plan, however that might be.

In losing my job, I've been given the opportunity to completely let go and wait for God to put me where he wants. Already there have been some huge changes, but they have been so good and have brought such peace. I can't wait to see where else God will move, and how the story will be written.
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