Wednesday, October 26, 2011

You Can Run, But You Can't Hide

As I sit here at a picnic table sipping coffee on a brisk October morning, I am once again reminded of the reality that there is no such thing as hiding.   Running, yes; this is something I am good at.  The difference between the two is significant.

Almost six years ago now, I ran away to Southern California to escape.  I did not want to sit with myself; I saw it as impossible at the time.  I was overcome with pain and guilt and wanted to forget and start over.  On the outside looking in, this is exactly what it seemed I did.  I got a new job, new friends, and a new environment.  I ran and ran without looking back for months.  Eventually, though, I was forced to stop sprinting and take more than a few ragged breaths before I made the decision to sit down and rest.  It hurt a lot, this resting.  But it stands as one of the best decisions I have ever made.  I moved back to Portland different; not perfect and happy, but quiet and vulnerable.  I was open to looking at myself with new eyes; eyes that saw myself for who I really was.  What I saw was a woman who had very much taken solace in playing the victim and refused to accept responsibility for the part I had played in my broken relationships.  I saw very clearly that I had a choice.  I could continue to run and watch my future relationships suffer as a result of my refusal to search for the truth in myself and others, or I could sit, rest and open myself to the possibility that I had serious things to work through...things that had haunted me my entire life.  Things I owned.  Parts I played.  The latter is what I chose.

I am dating someone who is different than anyone else I have ever dated.  In my decision to sit and rest and look at the truth, I have become very self aware.  Over time, it became very important to me to invest and be a part of a romantic relationship where he, too, saw the importance of rest and truth-seeking.  Someone who was aware of his own self; both the negative and the positive and had the same passion for self-growth that I had become so focused on in my own life.  I was very skeptical a man like this existed - at least a man in his thirties that was single and available to the possibility of a romantic relationship.  This man found me a month ago.  He is intentional and honest and isn't afraid.  He knows what he wants and is deserving of.  He isn't afraid of what I bring to the table and wants to talk through everything.  I very much believe he isn't going anywhere, in spite of me being absolutely terrified.

In our commitment to being honest with each other, I have once again been forced to look at the ways I have begun to jog again.  It is so engrained in me to push people away when they get too close that I don't even recognize I am doing this unless I am called out.  He does this.  He isn't satisfied with excuses and wants to deal with issues head on.  He requires it.  I cannot hide at the end of my run; the same issues will find me as they have found me time and time again.  My friend, Shannon, has a blog where I had commented on something she had written, "Sitting with yourself...so hard, so important."  I need to put my money where my mouth is.  If I truly believe people can change, this applies to me as well.  The unhealthy race I have always loved to be a part of has no finish line.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Miraculous

My sister got married almost a week ago, and this occasion brought our whole family together for the first time in quite a while.  There were many blessings in this...having the privilege in sharing my sisters' wedding day with her being the largest, of course.  She was absolutely stunning and happier than I have ever seen her.  She doesn't like to be the center of attention, (which of course she was), but handled all the unwanted attention with a great deal of poise and strength and confidence.  I think she could see the prize at the end of the finish line and decided it would all be worth it.

I got to spend some one-on-one time with my brother-in-law, Billy, a few days later.  He lives in Southern California and has had a very hard year.  He battled testicular cancer and came through this sickness with a clean bill of health - thank God.  In addition to this, he is in the middle of dealing with some very painful issues in his personal life.  I wasn't sure how our time together would pan out, but knew it was important that we talked.  I tried to pray on my walk to meet him, but had a hard time with my words.  Turns out, sometimes you don't need words to pray.  He knows your heart.  

Billy and I wanted different things for the evening.  I wanted to be encouraging - to say just the "right thing."  I should know by now that saying the "right thing" is neither here nor there and rarely encouraging.  After all, what does that even mean?    Billy wanted to be guarded and careful with his words.  I think we both decided separately to throw out our misconstrued notions of how the night "should" go down and instead, decided to simply be honest with each other.  And more freedom and encouragement and enlightenment came from that for both of us than any "right thing" bullshit.

Our conversation made me reflect on a lot of things.  The most substantial of these was how little I understand and believe in my heart of God's greatness - both what He is capable of, and what He has done and is doing in my life and in the lives of people I love.  I could tell you all day long that "miracles happen every day" and "God can do anything."  While I do believe these things in my head, I don't really believe them in my heart of hearts.  I know this because I do not expect Him to move in a powerful way in my life outside of what my humanness allows me to suppose.  Does this make sense?

For instance, lets say I have chronic neck pain.  I would know in my head that God could take this pain away if He so desired, but I don't think I would ever ask Him to take this pain from me because I would never think that I was "important" enough.  Same thing about praying for a miracle...I never think to ask for one because I think somewhere deep down I believe that these are reserved for people other than myself - "good Christians."  The truth is, there is no such thing as a "good Christian."  But bigger than this, I am very much "important enough" simply by loving Him and involving Him in my life.

Billy very much believes that in this horribly painful situation of his, God will work something out that is beautiful and profound and miraculous.  He asked me to pray with him in this and I told him that I would.  And since our talk, my belief in the miraculous has expanded and filled my heart with hope.  It does not matter how we come to Him; the most important thing is that we come...come just as we are.  Ask for the miraculous.  Expect the miraculous.  He is bigger.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rose-Colored Contacts

I scratched my cornea a couple months back and this was an issue for me.  I couldn't wear contacts for a couple weeks and was restricted to wearing glasses only.  Understand that I hate wearing my glasses - since I was "that little kid in glasses" everyone felt sorry for when I was small, wearing them now holds a negative connotation for me.  I still feel awkward and ugly in them present day, despite the fact that numerous people have told me that I look good in them; sexy even (thank you, Emi and Laura.)  It's a complex.

In the last couple weeks, my eyes have gone awry again.  I have been to the eye doctor three times in these weeks and every time they have given me strict orders not to wear contacts.  With my sisters' wedding right around the corner, big work visits from corporate executives, an extensive travel schedule, a new hair color I am still getting used to, and my overall feeling of unattractiveness underneath this restriction from my eye doctor...it's been rough.

Minimize it all you want, but when I went to the doctor this morning and he cleared me to start wearing contacts again - I was overjoyed.  I think I told him I loved him, I'm not sure.  Crazy?  Ridiculous?  Probably.  But let me tell you that I left that office feeling better than I have in six weeks.  One piece of good news spurred me to think about other good things in my life right now.  Little things like coffee with Jill this morning.  Breakfast with Kyle yesterday.  An overdue counseling appointment this afternoon.  My plans to go tubing down the river with Emi Friday.  Sometimes the little things make all the difference in the world.

Life can be hard.  Life can be extremely painful.  My heart has been so heavy lately that the slightest encouraging thing can make me smile.  Maybe this is good.  Maybe I can learn to appreciate the little things in this.  Maybe I need to spend more time meditating on the things I have to be thankful for versus the latter - for there is, indeed, much to be thankful for.  I spend a lot of time looking deep inside my heart and trying to ensure I am operating out of a healthy perspective, and I believe this is the right thing to do.  But it is very emotionally exhausting.  I told Jill this morning that if I were sexually active right now I would think I was pregnant.  I'm so tired all the time.  She said it's ok; that I'm doing the right thing by giving the painful attention to my heart and all that lies within.  The payoff will be life changing.  She is right.  It will be.

I have never been the girl able to look at my world through rose-colored glasses.  I've seen and experienced too much to do this from an honest place.  But perhaps, for today - even if only for a few hours - I could get behind looking at my world through rose-colored contacts.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

For My Future Husband

You have travelled a long road to get here - a road possibly marked not so much by time but by process; a long road, nonetheless.  I am fully aware of who I am - my attributes and my flaws.  Being the intelligent man that you are, you have weighed both and decided I am worth it.  You have committed to me for the rest of our lives wholeheartedly with your eyes wide open.  I have hidden nothing from you, and am exactly as you see me - nothing more, nothing less.

You love God and desire to be the best, most complete man you can be.  You are strong.  You are confident.  You are smart.  You are self-aware and know exactly what you are signing up for (me.)  You are compassionate and patient.  You are not afraid to speak your mind.  You challenge me in the midst of my passionate tirades and speak Truth to me in love.  You are a leader.  You are honest with me even when it's hard.  You tell me I am wrong when I am wrong.  You make me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world.  You love me for where I am at.  You desire growth in me.  You desire to see me live out my dreams and my goals.  You listen to me and care about what I think and how I am feeling.  You ask me questions - both easy and hard.  You love people.  You love my family.  You love my girls (Emi, Laura and Jill.)  You are not afraid of emotion.  You are not afraid of me and all that I am - all that I bring to our relationship, good and bad.

Don't think for a second that I don't recognize all that you have had to endure to get here.  I know that I am not easy.  We fight hard and love hard.  I love this about us.  I love that we are honest with each other and talk about the hard things.  I love that we don't agree all the time.  I love that you love how excited I get about the little things.  When you touch me, I get chills.  When you smile at me, it warms my heart.  I don't doubt for a second that you will be an excellent father, and I love that you can't wait to see me be a mom.  I love that you are proud of me; proud to be with me.  I love that after all I have put you through, you never gave up on me; never walked out on me.

When we first started dating, I was skeptical and gun shy.  You were quietly confident and curious.  We didn't rush things.  We spent time getting to know each other.  Commitment was a big deal to both of us and we talked about this extensively before we took the plunge to being exclusive.  You were patient with me and the time it took for me to share my heart with you - more importantly, you understood why I was careful and encouraged me to guard my heart in a healthy way.  You were understanding of my past and cried with me about my fears and my hurts.  You were not daunted by the many men of my past and never held this against me.  You allow me the freedom to grow and to change.  You make me a priority and always make time for me.  I never wonder how you feel about me - you are very clear.  The things you say to me are specific to me and me alone; you do not talk this way or say these things to any other women but me.  I am the most important person in your life, but your identity does not lie in me but in God.  While you would be devastated to lose me, it would not be the end of your world; for your hope lies in Someone outside of me.

I love you endlessly and am so proud of you.  I will always support you and encourage you.  I will always be your biggest fan.  I promise to listen.  I promise to compromise.  I promise to acknowledge and correct poor behavior.  I promise to apologize when I hurt you or wrong you.  Thank you for being patient with me while you stood in your firm belief that I am the one for you and waited for me to know the same.  I know that I have been scared and afraid and slow to agree to this most important union, but need you to know that I am no longer holding onto these things.  I am choosing you, as you are choosing me.  It will be rocky and hard and it's important we know this.

Finally, my love, please know that I did not choose you lightly.  As I write this, I do not even know if I have/have not met you yet.  I prayed that you would not come into my life until I was ready, healthy and healed and this has been a very long process.  But - I would not change this for the world.  I had to endure very painful things to get here and acknowledge some very dark places hiding in my heart before I was ready for you.  You were worth the wait.  I am so excited to be your partner.  I wouldn't want to walk down this road with anyone but you.  You are the most amazing man I have ever met.  No one has understood me as you do.  We were made for each other and I will be thankful for you my whole life.  I love you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Night Feeding Miracles

The cries are muffled at first and then grow in a slow crescendo that is anything but pleasant.  One young voice first, followed by another shorty thereafter.  Great.  Whoever said "two is better than one" didn't have twins.  I glance over at my husband sleeping soundly next to me and hate him for a moment.  I think about moving around a lot in bed and "accidentally" waking him up and don't have the heart.  He works hard, too.  I sigh and push myself up and out of bed, tripping over a shoe on the floor and swearing out loud in the dark.

As I walk down the hallway to their room, I think about my life before babies.  Oh, it was so much simpler.  I went to bed when I wanted, got up when I wanted...I had a schedule.  On a whim, I could meet a friend for coffee or make plans to go out with the girls on a Friday night.  I could surprise my husband with a new piece of lingerie when he got home from work...sex in the kitchen, bathroom, hallway, entryway, wherever we wanted.  Gone, gone, gone.  I find myself so exhausted by the time 8pm rolls around that it's all I can do to give him a handjob...and that's on a good day.

I open the door to the nursery I decorated myself and peek in.  Instantly, I'm ashamed about my fantasies of a childless existence.  They lay in separate basinets that are parallel to each other against the wall...Thomas told me when I set up the room that it looked aesthetically strange, and I had snapped at him and told him if he didn't like it he could change it.  Parallel and against the wall it stayed.  So I'm not good with spacial decoration, so what?  I had other things I brought to the table.

I walk over and look down at the girls, one after another.  Oh, they are beautiful.  Every time I look at them, I am amazed I had a hand in creating these perfect babies.  They are only six months old and already look exactly like me.  Well, not EXACTLY like me because they are bald and kinda look like Glow Worms from time to time...there are worse things.  I bend over to pick up Grace and lift her up and away from me so I can look at her more.  She is warm and smells like "baby."  I coo at her softly and she smiles a slow, sleepy smile.  Bringing her in to me close, I take two steps left so we can talk to Hope.  Hope doesn't care at all.  She is busy playing with her feet and doesn't even look up.

The chair I nurse them in is in the corner.  I love my chair.  It's soft and rocks easily.  I sit down gently and take out my left breast to feed Grace.  That's how it has gone, somehow.  Grace gets the left, Hope gets the right.  It just happened.  Her tiny nose and mouth rest for a moment on my breast before she finds my nipple and latches on eagerly.  For all the stress before they came about my fear of not being able to breast feed, it became the most natural thing in the world to me.  Much like being a mom.  I love it.  I feel so close to them when I nurse.

As she eats, my mind wanders.  I close my eyes and exhale slowly.  I am blessed.  I have a beautiful, caring, attentive husband and these two angels.  I whisper a quick prayer of thanks and start to sing to her.  Grace loves it when I sing.  She stops swallowing and stares at me before she smiles and continues to eat.  This one is my "mama's girl."  Hope prefers her father, even at this age.  When I heard I was having twins I was not surprised.  I had felt I would have twin girls for years.  When they told me they were identical, I was horrified.  Would I be able to tell them apart?  What about boys?  What about The Parent Trap, dammit?  Why IDENTICAL twin girls?  I had to let it go, eventually.  Thomas always said it would be more fun this way...what does he know?

I feel someone watching me mid-song and look up.  Thomas is there in the doorway, strong and silent.  He is smiling at me in that gentle way he does that melts my heart because he makes me feel like I'm the most beautiful woman in the world.  I cock my head to the side and smile back, reaching out my free hand to hold out to him.  He walks over, holds it, and strokes the inside of my palm.  God, I love this man.  While still holding my hand he leans over to look at Hope in her basinet.  She stops playing with her feet and beams up at him.  He lifts her up and holds her close to him,  looking back and forth from me to Hope to Grace and back.

"Are you doing OK, love?" he asks me quietly.

"Yes."

"Are you ready for this one?"

"Yes.  Let's switch."

He transfers Hope to one arm and reaches out to lift Grace from me.  I think my heart might stop as I look at him with both of them.  I am so proud.  With one fluid, practiced motion he transports Hope to my arms.

"Wrong breast," I say with a small smile.

"There IS no wrong breast."  He laughs as he reaches down and flips her around.

"Sing again," he says.

"Why?" I ask shyly.

"Because they love it.  They love your voice.  I love your voice.  I love you.  You're amazing," he says with sincere adoration in his voice.

"You're crazy," I laugh.  But I sing anyway.  He smiles with satisfaction, listens for a few seconds and begins to sing with me.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Breathless

I brush the long strand of hair that has escaped from my ponytail out of my eyes with frustration.  We have to be close.  You are ahead of me and I am desperately trying to keep up.  I am panting and hiding it, forcing my mouth to remain closed so you can't hear the unattractive noise.  I want you to be impressed with me.  I want you to be proud of me.

As we round the corner, I see that we are not close at all.  Silently, I curse myself for trying to show off when I insisted on taking the 12 mile hike instead of the 8.  We have been walking uphill for what seems like 4 miles and I am miserable.  You turn around to check on me more often than I am comfortable with, not sure if it is out of concern or you just being YOU.  I don't want you to be concerned.  I don't want you to know this is KILLING me.  For these reasons, I have smiled at you every time you turned around.  I want to put on a grand performance...I am loving this.  I could do this every day.  My face is not bright red and I am not discreetly wiping sweat off my face at regular intervals.  This is easy.  We should do 20 next time. 

The lies I am telling myself abruptly come to a halt as I lose my footing and plunge forward.  I break my fall with my hands and make a small noise of surprise.  By the time you have turned around and made your way towards me I am on my feet, wiping away the small rocks I have embedded in my palms.  I hurriedly assure you that I am fine, purposefully not making eye contact with you for as long as possible.  You take both my wrists in your hands and peer intently at them.  I am devastated for multiple reasons, positive at this point that you can not only hear my heart pounding out of my chest but can also see that I am a sweaty, unattractive mess.  My discomfort deepens as you put down your backpack in one fluid motion and are instantly absorbed with my palms again.  You gently wipe away the rocks that remain and peer down at me intently as you do so to gauge my level of pain.  I can only look at you for a second at a time before I look away.  I feel like you can see right through me and it makes me nervous because I like it too much.

Your eyes are amazing.  I've always loved them.  But more than your eyes themselves, I love how you look at me.  My heart is still pounding and I am no longer sure it's because of the hike.  I instinctively try to pull out of your grasp and you won't let me, looking at me pointedly as you pull me closer to you.  I'm not breathing.  We are so close I can smell the soap you must have used in the shower that morning.  I force myself to let out my breath slowly as you take water out of your backpack and explain to me that you are going to clean the wounds.  One by one, you hold my wrists as you slowly pour water over my hands.  I jump at the impact.  It stings and I tell you so.  You smile slowly at me and tell me that you know.  I can't help but smile shyly back.  You do that to me.

Cleaning done, you ask if I'm ready to start hiking again and I laugh and say yes.  You laugh too, and keep looking at me with those eyes.  Damn those eyes.  What are they saying?  We are walking side by side now, happily silent.  I love being silent with you.  It feels so intimate to me.  We are no longer walking uphill and I can breathe again.  I notice how beautiful it all is.  The sun is warm and bright and birds are chirping.  It is still and magnificent.  From time to time, a hiker on their way down will pass.  Every time, you protectively touch my elbow and move behind me to allow them room.  I am silently praying for hikers to come more often so you will touch me again and I hate myself for it.  I realize once again how pathetic I am and smile wryly.  Oh, this man - what is it about you that I am so embarrassingly taken with?

Lost in thought, I remember how nervous I was when we went out for the first time.  I played it perfectly, of course, and you never would have known that I had brainstormed questions I could ask you to ensure we never had any of the uncomfortable silences I detest.  We had a great time together - we always have ever since.  It was different then; safer.  We were simply getting to know each other, and that's the easy part.  We spoke easily and laughed easily.  I always liked you.  What came after caught me off guard...

You break into my reverie as you knock me playfully to the side with your hip and ask me what I'm thinking about.  I smile up at you brightly and say "nothing."  You laugh and ask me one of your questions that mean we are going to be talking for awhile.  I love your questions.  They are thought-out and interesting.  You care about how I answer.  You are always interested and almost always want to dig deeper.  I can never answer your questions with one word answers.  It wouldn't at all be the way "we" are.

We are lost in conversation and I have completely forgotten we are hiking until we reach the top.  You stop talking mid-sentence as we look around in awe.  It's breathtaking.  We look down and around on trees on top of trees on top of trees.  The clouds are white and light and look close enough to touch against the stark contrast of the blue sky.  We can hear animals but not see them, except for an occasional bird gracefully soaring in the wind.

I sit down on the ground and murmur something softly about beauty as you take a seat next to me.  We sit in silence for awhile.  You turn your head to look at me as I stare out into the world.  I can feel it.  Eventually, I turn towards you slowly to meet your gaze.  For once, I don't panic or feel the need to look away.  So we just...look.  You smile at me lazily and I do the same before I sigh and look away.  You look at me for a few moments longer before you turn.  I regret breaking eye contact instantly.  I want to grab you and kiss you.  I want to feel your arms around me, slowly moving your hands up and down my back and then entangled in my hair.  I want to make you breathless as you make me breathless every day.

You are standing up now and holding out your hand to help me up.  Afraid you will be able to see my disappointment, I look down as I stand.  You step towards me and hug me gently.  I want you to hold me forever.  I want to stay like this always.  You step back and smile down at me.  You are speaking to me with your eyes and I answer back with mine as we turn to go down the hill together.

Friday, February 4, 2011

More Than Just A Pretty Face

I grew up with a beautiful mother.  I remember thinking she was the prettiest woman I had ever seen when I was small.  She always looked perfect; perfect hair, perfect makeup, perfect outfit, perfect body.  I was so proud she was my mom.  As I got older my world got bigger and I became increasingly aware that prettier women than she existed and they were, in fact, everywhere.  Perfect women were at the grocery store, at my piano recitals, in my church, in my magazines and on my TV.  I was surrounded.

My mom was aware of these women as well.  She liked to comment about them as they walked by.  These comments were never malicious.  On the contrary, my mother worshipped their beauty.  She would follow them with her gaze and immediately seek out her own reflection, fussing with her perfect hair and making self-depricating comments about what she saw in the mirror.  This made me sad. I would tell her how beautiful she was in an effort to ease the obvious pain she felt, but my sincere words of adoration always fell short of anything that could make her feel better.  It was heartbreaking to watch.

When I was a teenager, the sadness I felt for my mother transformed into something else.  I had started to develop into more of a woman than a little girl and my mom noticed.  She did not gaze at me longingly like she did the women deemed beautiful by her own definition.  Instead, she was critical and seemed disappointed in my physical appearance.  Disapproval of the clothing I chose to wear was communicated verbally, not because of the outfits themselves but because of how my body looked in them.  She frequently asked me why I didn't run more and began to put my eating habits under the microscope.

At first, I felt like she was right and desperately wanted to make her happy.  I became obsessed with my body and skirted dangerously close to several different eating disorders.  I was unable to look in the mirror.  I was ashamed and didn't want to leave the house (I haven't mentioned yet that at this time I weighed 120 lbs).  My obsession with my body turned into obsession with being aesthetically perfect as a whole.  I wanted to be beautiful, but more than this I wanted to be acknowledged as beautiful by the general public.  I looked for this nodding in all the wrong places, and most of the time I got it.  I was miserable.

It took years of therapy and many tearful prayers for perspective change in order to come anywhere close to being comfortable in my own skin.  I think it's something I could struggle with for a long time.  One of many things I have learned through my journey in therapy is that there are some unhealthy perspectives I will, in fact, always have a tendency to hold close.  But these things do not own me or have any real power at all.  Change is always possible.  For me, this change will only come about in trying to see myself the way Jesus sees me - and to see others the way He sees them.  What He created is beautiful.  He doesn't care what size I am or if I wear makeup to work...He cares about where my heart is.

In light of the fact that I have gotten a little fluffy over the holidays, I have just begun to work with a personal trainer at my gym (MY gym...ha!  I said that like I actually go).  Before I signed up for this service, I had to do a lot of self-reflection about the reasons WHY I wanted to do it.  I am not oblivious to the fact that the danger of body obsession is still very real for me.  In the spirit of one of my goals for 2011, (to re-capture the passions of my heart), I thought back to when running was a healthy outlet for me.  Running gave me energy and made me feel good.  I ran Hood To Coast for years and it was an amazing experience.  Feeling good about your body is not a bad thing as long as your motivations are healthy and don't involve your identity being wrapped up into it.  So, I signed the contract and had my first session yesterday.

My time at the gym was frought with varying emotions.  Men and women with perfect bodies worked out alongside me.  It was intimidating and humbling.  But as I sweat like a pig, (I am NOT a pretty girl when I work out), I realized I had already made some progress in my body image struggles.  I wasn't worried about what people thought or what I looked like in comparison to the others there.  I had taken another step towards a healthy existence and felt proud of myself.  I would be lying if I said I didn't want a kick ass body in a bikini this summer.  But for the first time in my life, I want it for myself and no one else.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Big Church, Small Girl

Texas...familiar and foreign at the same time.  I lived in Dallas from the ages of 12-14 and arrived back two days ago to visit my parents, who re-located from Portland three years ago.

Last night I attended the mega-church in Rockwall my parents are members of.  We walked in "late" and worship was in full swing.  Three huge screens in front with alternating close-ups of the band members with lyrics to the songs underneath.  The auditorium was HUGE.  It holds 5000 but my dad told me "only 2500 were probably actually there."  Ha!  Really?  So few...

As the three of us stood and sang along with everyone else, my mind wandered.  I began to remember all the churches I have been a part of in the past, and realized it's no wonder I have a hard time really feeling a part of any one church.  The daughter of a man who felt led to plant churches around the country, I grew up never getting attached to any one in particular or the people who went there.  Everything was temporary.  At the end of the day, we would leave.  We would move.  We would begin again.

Mega-churches are interesting, and actually, the kind I am least familiar with.  We would only attend this type of church in the interim of a move, as any church my father started up would be small.  I remember attending Jerry Falwell's church in Lynchburg, VA, and being terrified of the thousands of people.  There were lights and cameras everywhere.  People laughed and cried loudly.  When my family filed onto the platform there one Sunday to be "sent off" before another move, I cried in front of everyone as my mom looked on with embarrassment.  I couldn't help it.  I was petrified and didn't understand how/why all these strangers laying hands on us was going to benefit ME.  Stranger danger. 

Another mega-church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada - more terrifying than Lynchburg because half the church spoke French.  My father would herd us around like cattle and introduce us to everyone.  I didn't understand why they spoke a different language from me.  I came up with my own answer...they were speaking in tongues.  I had seen people do that in church before - that was the answer.  Sounded the same...made sense.  I took the liberty to educate and alert my younger sisters to this fact and was secretly proud when my less shy sister was introduced to a French-speaking man one Sunday and asked him, "Why are you speaking in tongues?"  My parents were horrified and apologized profusely, telling the man they had no idea where she had come up with such a question. She pointed at me.  I shook my head "no."  All eyes turned on me.  My heart was beating out of my chest and I could barely breathe, but I managed to squeak out, "Is that bad?"  Silence.  I supposed it was.  Oh, Canada.

I much preferred smaller churches.  I could run around with my sisters and felt very important because my daddy was the pastor.  Everyone knew who I was and it felt like everyone liked me.  But here, in these small churches, was where I learned that authenticity in the church was hard to come by.  Everyone was "nice."  No one yelled or spanked their kids, marriages were intact, and everyone was very put together.  At least in public.  I secretly hoped that behind closed doors, their lives looked more like mine.  Early in the morning at my house one Sunday before church, my mom had spanked me and yelled because I was reading in my room instead of getting in my dress.  I continued to cry in the car on the way to church and when we pulled into the parking lot she said, "Jamie, knock it off.  You don't want people to see you this way.  What would they think?  The pastor is your daddy."  Small statements like this were made frequently.  I had no idea what they meant at the time but the implications for my future views of the church and "Christians" in general were substantial.

As we took our seats last night after worship, I glanced at my parents and smiled to myself.  Some things never change...but some things, thankfully, do.  In the revolving door of churches of my past, I had somehow managed to find a church in my present that I feel at home in...where authenticity is embraced and encouraged.  I can laugh, cry and be myself.  I am always accepted.  I settled down in my seat further, very much engrossed in my own thoughts when the man directly behind me yelled out, "Tell it!" and I jumped (literally) inches in the air.  Holy s**t.  I had almost forgotten I was in the South.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Go Time

I used to be passionate about writing.  I think I used to be good at it.  I don't remember...

I am embarking on a journey, one that is painful and difficult.  In this journey, it is essential that 2011 be about the elements of healing and rediscovery.  I lost a part of myself in 2010 and have been reeling and grasping at straws ever since.  I don't have answers yet, just glimpses of what could be.  Glimpses, at this point, are positive.

In the last two weeks I have remembered pieces of who I used to be, thanks to my three best girlfriends and even some new friends.  This Jamie of the past was passionate above all else.  Many saw her as "over the top" expressive.  She was complicated.  She felt alone much of the time, even when surrounded by people. She lived inside her head.  She was always looking for ways to improve herself; ways to heal.  She loved to read, write and invest in people on a level that was unique and special.  She loved to play all sports and loved the Seahawks.  She loved fashion and traveling and most of all her dog and best friend, Margot.

I made the decision to put Margot to sleep in 2010 due to a tragic injury and cannot remember my life for the three months following.  My friends say I was a ghost, and I believe this to be true.  I still FEEL like a ghost most of the time.  After she died, I couldn't feel anything.  I didn't care about anything.  I went through the motions of work and day to day life, not caring if I lived or died.  I was closely monitored by those that loved me.  I became a different person, radically different from the woman who existed before...

I stand now faced with questions about who I am and who I want to be.  Who USED to be no longer matters, the way I see it.  I am a different person now and I am finally OK with that.  I desire to be honest with those around me, but more importantly honest with myself.  Authenticity of self and the ability to communicate that truth with people and be accepted at the end are of utmost importance to me...so much so that I have cut off contact with anyone who does not appear to have this same desire.

I know little right now, but of the following things I am sure: I love Jesus and desire to be in close relationship with Him again (He has shown me in the last year that He is still interested in me as well.)  I have an excellent support system of people who love me unconditionally (no matter who lies on the other side).  I love to write (this brought to light by a new friend in addition to a guy I briefly dated).

Passions have been wakened and I hope and pray this means a process of some sort has begun...my future depends on it.