Anger Management

Blonde, blue-eyed, 5′ 1” (on a good day), with a white, lop-sided, toothy smile: my appearance wouldn’t seem to strike fear in most or intimidate many. Small in nature, but tougher and bigger than I look, I think I’ve often surprised new people with my gusto or aptitude to speak my mind. My friend, Krissy, and I used to joke that meekness was not in our nature and everybody just needed to get used to that.

In the past few months, I’ve thought more on my attitude, personality, and kindness, wondering if I was lacking in some ways or a little rougher than I used to be. Considering myself of the emotionally healthy sort and always seeking to improve, I’ve been aware of the places in my heart that feel hard or angry, rather than tender or sad. Swearing has become more fun or truly satisfying than it used to be, and I’ve found my patience to be less than at work, with friends, or with my more difficult family ties. None of these really connected or seemed out of the ordinary. And maybe I’m not all that bad. My friend Ryan and I were laughingly discussing how we aren’t really the “nicest” people, and my roommate Annmarie said, “You guys are nice, just your own unique brand of nice.” I’m not sure if that’s a compliment, but I’ll take what I can get.

In all my life, I never thought of myself as an angry person. I think that I grew up wanting to keep peace and emotional balance. I was the sensitive sort, often crying rather than yelling or complaining. I tend to want to help people and be there for them, not really one to stir the pot or cause drama. But through the last few months, I’ve realized that there is some anger in me, something tough and painful inside. Rather than sticking my head in the sand, I’ve decided to search it out and understand it.

I can’t take full credit for this revelation. My counselor, Debbie, did the heavy load of pointing out here. We were discussing my family in a session, as we often do, and she suggested that I seemed angry and upset. We talked about how I tend to expect more than is realistic out of some members, and then get angry about not getting the result I want or feel I deserve. She thought this could be remaining pain from my childhood, feeling that I didn’t get what I deserved then. Debbie led me to see that the anger is ill-founded and really just a displacement of sadness over what life has dealt me and what can or cannot be. Anger is really a replacement emotion, a place-holder when we don’t want to feel the pain or sadness that is really going on. It’s the alarm clock going off that we continually hit snooze on, or the bookmark in a book that we don’t really intend to go back to. The gap in a conversation where you say nice pleasantries that you don’t really mean and don’t plan on actually following through with.

Anger doesn’t really get you anywhere. It may feel better for the moment, but it doesn’t help you move on and it doesn’t get you past the pain. Bitterness can be a deep root that does not come out easily once firmly planted and fertilized. My anger is not an isolated event staying in one area of my life, but it affects all parts, as things of the heart often do. The anger is a symptom of pain that I’m needing to deal with, to give to God, and to let my life be how it is.  I don’t mean for this to sound hopeless, just an authentic look at some of the harder parts of life. Can I give myself grace or sympathy for the way things are when it’s hard and when it’s good? Can I let myself be sad because that’s actually how I feel, not need to move on to anger or bitterness because that feels more justified or easier to deal with?

The thing is: I am no island. I affect people. I influence them at my best and at my worst. In every sector too: my house, my office, my going-outs, and my coming-ins. The heart is a well-spring of life, or a fountain of grief, depending on how you take care of it and manage it. Clearly, I need to get it together if I want to be a helpful addition to my world, rather than a life-sucking dementor of sorts.

All I can say is I’m working on it. Managing my pain and letting myself BE. Not trying to constantly fix myself, but not letting myself numb out either. Being with friends who I can process with, or that I can just even have fun with, both being worthwhile activities. Puzzling (of course). Being the favorite tia I was born to be for my niece and nephew, who–by the way–are the cutest babies in the entire world. Writing has been a way for me to express what feels inexpressible and to manage all the things that are in me threatening to overtake me at any moment. I’ve literally had to write some times in order to go to sleep in peace, sometimes poetry or lyrical writing, or even just this post right here. It’s all a juggling act, finding the balance of life and health, but it’s one I know I can get down eventually.

Moral of the story: don’t let anger fool you. It’s just a symptom of something deeper that’s needs to be explored in order to be helped. If you don’t face it, you will continue to get harder until you are a shell of the human you could be: unable to be touched by good or bad. No one wants an armadillo sort of heart, so don’t let it get that way, ok? The end. Now I can rest in peace.

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It’s Not You, It’s Me.

Five simple words. Famous last words really. Used for breakups to smooth over the shock and discomfort, cliched but true.

Bear with me on this seemingly unrelated rabbit-trail. There are two types of people in this life: those who like puzzles and those who don’t. I’m not talking brain-teasers, or math equations. I’m talking 1000 piece, jigsaw, picture on the front of the box of a Japanese garden with a gazebo kind of puzzles.

I am the former. On a week vacation in an air b’n’b in Pismo this October, my sister and I discovered that we both love puzzles. We had a place right on the beach with my dad, step-mom, sister, brother-in-law, brother, sister-in-law, niece, and nephew. In one of the many closets of this beach-house, I found a puzzle and decided to set it up and try it. We had nothing better to do, so we started finding the edge pieces and sorting colors, knowing that many pieces would probably not be there because of the frayed state we found the box in. Puzzling can be a little slow at first, but there’s no satisfaction quite like finding two pieces that match and fit together. When you finish the borders, or can finally connect a whole scene, I feel accomplished like I ran a marathon. The sense of rightness is hard to describe: I’m not exaggerating that I felt light and like something finally came together just as it should.  The highlight of the trip for my sister and I was once we had pieced all of the puzzle we had, we found a few more pieces tucked away in the closet. What we thought was done, had a little more to go in an exhilarating rush of hope. Puzzles can be a controlled portion of the world where I know things will match up eventually, and that my hard work will pay off with the result I expect. It has one right answer that I can get to, unlike life and all of it’s factors, people, and uncontrollable circumstances, and that’s comforting even if it’s only momentarily.

Puzzles can be like love too. Sometimes you think two pieces should go together. They look like they fit, the images almost line up. The tab of this one could be jammed into the gap in this one. But you feel the tension or force needed and you see the tiny slivers where it doesn’t all quite match up and the outline is not all filled in. The rub is that you only come to that conclusion once you try it, and once you know your piece and the other piece well enough. No matter how much you want it to fit, it won’t always work.

The thing is that relationships are two imperfect, in-process people coming together and trying to make this love thing work. But, with that comes risk, vulnerability, and opening yourself up to a person who could give you the greatest gifts of life or the greatest pain. I think, no matter how each relationship ends or continues, you will probably get a good mix of both in a lifetime. Frightening, I know that is what life certainly holds for many of us.

Back to the fateful words of the beginning. Truly, some break ups or some problems are not about you at all. In fact, most of our issues, are not about another person’s faults, but our unique makeup, upbringing, and triggers that are getting worked out in life. What I’ve realized through the ups and downs of life and relationships is how valuable it is to know yourself. Know your flaws and your strengths, know your quirks and how to manage them, know what gets you angry and what helps you be the best you. And once you know that about yourself, then you are truly free to love someone else fully. If you know you and you know what you need to work on and what you can bring to the table, and if you really love yourself rough edges and all, then I think you are ready to love someone else. Only when you are okay and complete in who you are, are you free. Free to love with that Jesus love that’s not insecure looking for validation, looking for it’s needs and conditions to be met in order to make it.

Recently, I listened to a TED Talk that discussed how all our metaphors commonly used for love conjure up images of being crazy, in great pain, or a fallen state. To be smitten is the past tense of smite, defined as being attacked or afflicted, often used in the Bible in reference to the Lord exacting vengeance upon a town or people group. Taylor Swift, of course, plays into this writing songs that say if you aren’t crazy you aren’t doing love right. Thanks for that Taylor.

What if we switched the narrative and changed the metaphor of love to be more like a collaborative piece of art? We get to, with the people we choose, discuss and make that love into what we want it to be. We have choice and authorship, rather than pain and insanity. We have the responsibility to communicate and represent ourself and this other person well in what we create. I want to be this way in love. I want to make the people I’m around better by the honor I give and the way I show up. The key of love is being willing to show your cards, to risk the game, and to be all in no matter what. To be yourself and let the other person be themselves. To better yourself by looking in the mirror that love provides. To give love that chance, you have to know yourself and let yourself be vulnerable. No mirror can clearly show or fix an unsure, distant, wavering version of an image, but it can magnify a solid, yet beautifully flawed person.

So, where does this leave us? Acknowledging the risk and the hardship, but knowing it’s all worth it. Unsure of the picture I’m creating, but willing to give myself to it nonetheless. I’m going to show up and I’m going to be me and that’s where I want to be.

You Win Some and You Lose Some

Sorry for the long time no post. Quite frankly, there’s been a lot to write about and think about and a lot to want and equally not want to put into words. Also, I’ve been feeling more rebellious than my usual self, so the desire waned as people wanted me to post more (here’s looking at you, Jason). I’ve always been a late-bloomer, and this 26 year old is apparently deciding it’s time for a good ol’ teenage rebellion.

At the risk of sounding dramatic or hyperbolic, this past summer was one of the hardest seasons I think I’ve ever gone through. Work transitions and pressures were at an all time high, as the typical transition of Isla Vista was in full swing. As close, deep friends left and new friendships were formed, I did my best to stay tight to the constancy of God while moving with the inevitable flow that is life.

If you’re an avid reader of my blog or even someone who knows me enough to say hi as we pass on the street, you probably know that change is not my thing. In light of this, I was proud to be doing surprisingly well through the summer transition: feeling my Taylor Swift range of emotions as they came, giving myself compassion and grace, and taking things one day at a time. As if that wasn’t quite enough, in the midst of this (mid-June to be exact) my mom starting going through some health issues that are difficult, confusing, and with unclear solutions or titles to them. You’ll have to forgive my vagueness, but as you can see, this is not a place where I have a lot of answers or desire to go into great detail about the smorgasbord of suckiness that it was/is. You’re just going to have to take my word for it.

Through this, I’ve seen the little amount of control I have over people, life, and their decisions, despite their correlation or effect on me. I’ve been forced over and over again to relinquish to God all semblance of control I think I have or try to grasp, hoping He’ll do something with my life in the areas where I truly am powerless. I’ve recently cut off a significant portion of my hair, joking with people in an all too real way that, “I can’t control anything in my life, but I can control my hair.”

In this time, I’ve discovered the simple joy in a perfectly placed curse word. Not aimed at any one, just the right amount of sass so the general public really gets your point. I’ve also seen how people could be driven to alcohol or drug abuse, while thankfully not going there myself.

God has shown me through all the bad that it’s so much more about your response to the thing than the actual thing itself. I can choose to wallow in what’s happening or choose to rise above it. I can still be the best me despite the present situation.

God can use anything. He actually chooses to use the weak, ugly, but willing vessels over the strong, shiny ones. He takes the worst parts of our lives, the things that suck beyond belief, and somehow uses it to bring about good. Like when every area of your life seems to be falling apart, but your dreams and hopes for your prayer ministry are coming alive and falling effortlessly into your lap. Or, when you can’t seem to catch a break with one thing, but you’ve met a soul friend who is so willing to sit and cry with you in the rain in front of French Press and prioritizes your morning New Girl sessions over any other plans she could possibly have.

God doesn’t waste anything. He recycles the trials and the issues like crumbled up soda cans and turns them into a sparkly, new aluminum bicycle. For real though. Not only does He turn the problem around, but He uses the situation to grow in intimacy and history with you. He teaches you to be unshakable when everything is shaking. He teaches you to trust in Him when things feel so untrustworthy. He teaches you to continually turn to Him when things are good, bad, and everywhere in between. He uses a real-life trauma as a monument to His faithfulness.

A few months ago, my little friend Jeremiah told me, “Everyday’s a jackpot.” He was just referring to the overflowing mulberry bush that I was taking him to pick from, but I (of course) capitalized on the phrase. It’s become my mantra. No matter what the obstacle or what the day brings, I know I just need to find the jackpot with God, because He has it there for me if I’ll only look a little bit harder. My friends and I say it to each other. I’ve made it art on my wall. It’s not dependent on my ability or actions, but knowing that God has abundant life for me and is willing to give it to me at a moment’s notice if I would only look His way and accept it. 

No, I can’t change my present circumstances all the time. I can’t make my mom better, but I can choose to use this situation as a launching pad for greater hope, greater love, and greater faith. I can choose God no matter the problem, and choose to let Him speak louder than my stupid situations. I can choose to live my life and be the best version of me despite the obstacles any one tries to throw in my path.

What in the literal hell can stop me? 

Eight Years Later

I just passed the eight year mark since I first met Holy Spirit.

It all happened during one of my first nights at Jesus Burgers. I was just getting to know people there, and getting comfortable sharing about my faith with drunken partygoers. A man named Jason Westerfield who was filming a TV show for healing came by that night and asked a group of us whether any of us wanted prayer. The pastor nominated me and my friend, and Jason began to prophesy over us. He named the questions I had been asking and showed me that God had a much bigger plan than I could ever imagine. I was moved to tears to find that the Holy Spirit was our friend. That God is not a far off judge who only cares if we do right or wrong. He is intimately acquainted with the details of our lives and what we care about. This was revolutionary for me.

I remember waking up the next morning and talking it over with some of our friends. They didn’t understand. All at different places in their faith and different comfort levels with the less conservative parts of life and faith, they smiled and nodded as their eyes betrayed their doubts and confusion. It didn’t keep me from the cloud nine I was living on.

God knew me.

In the Bible, numbers mean something. They each have a unique place and significance. The number eight means new beginnings, such a fitting place for where I’ve been at this year. Starting in the summer, I realized the lack of the presence of the Holy Spirit I was living with. I desired to have Him in my life, but was living as if I could do it on my own and didn’t invite Him into my daily ins and outs. I was leaning on my own strength and abilities and thus withering away. I lacked joy as I strong armed my responsibilities the best I could.

This Fall one Sunday, Jason Lomelino was preaching on the presence and the Holy Spirit. He spoke about how Jesus said it was better that He go so the Holy Spirit could come. I thought about what it would be like to be the disciples, to be one of the people who lived, ate, and ministered with Jesus. For three years you follow this guy around, and then He says, “Sorry guys, I’m not really what you’re looking for. But don’t worry, I’m leaving and that guy is coming.” I would’ve been like, “Real funny, Jesus. I’m fine where we are, so let’s keep things this way, ok?” Have I mentioned my hate for change before?

As I was sitting in the front pew, not more than ten feet from Jason, I started to cry. I’m thankful that Jason knows me and knows that this is not odd or out of the ordinary. I realized my mistrust for the Holy Spirit, and thus my mistrust for Jesus and what He said. I didn’t believe the Holy Spirit was safe to rely on or need. Jesus was a safe place for me, Father God was steady, but Holy Spirit felt a little too flighty, a little too chaotic and questionable. This lie I was living in was keeping me from reaching my full potential. It was holding me back from the life Jesus desired me to live, free and full of the Holy Spirit. I dealt with my heart right then and there and asked for the Holy Spirit to fill me and be in charge. I relinquished the control I had tried to take and decided to let Him move in me.

Our faith in God does not always look the same. It can go up and down, it can grow and change. The trick is pressing into who God is, to who He’s always been. To not grow weary of doing good.

This year also marks eight years living and ministering in Isla Vista. At times it’s hard, it’s a different place to live in to be sure. Things can be a little less pretty here, a little young, a little loud. Community has a way at grinding down all your hard edges and pressing you beyond where you thought you could be pressed. But in that, I’ve learned more of who I am. I’ve learned more of where I can let go. I’ve learned that no matter what the circumstances, it’s nice to be in the middle of God’s will.

It’s a growing process, it’s an invitation to live engaged and present with Him day by day. To experience the renewal and regeneration that we get to dive into with the Holy Sprit.

Titus 3:4-8 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

The joy is knowing that I have a constant helper and a God who loves to meet me exactly where I’m at. He sees my fears, my questions, just as much as He did that late night eight years ago. He sees me, and He still desires to commune with me, to be one with me. To fill every lack I feel or experience and to show the world a better way.

 

Quarter Life Crisis

Just around the corner is my 26th birthday. Yes, I feel old, but mostly because I spend a majority of my time around 19-22 year olds. It’s ok though, I’m smarter and wiser, and my brain is more formed (take that). I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can remain hip and relevant with all the cool kids. Thus, I recently bought a skateboard. Meanwhile, I keep asking my parents, “Can you believe I’m turning 26?!?” to which they dully reply, “Yes.”

This past year being my 25th brought about a lot of reflection, questioning, and testing. Four years out of college, life had just begun to settle a little. When you’re in school, your life has one track. Everything has all been planned out and set before you. Suddenly you’re a train without the tracks and you have to decide what you want your path to look like. I had a job, place, community, and friends that stayed pretty consistent and still serve me well. The comfort I had in this steadiness felt stale suddenly. Everything was up for question. Were these what I wanted or were they just what was easiest? Was I taking control and choosing to be where and who I wanted to be, or was I sitting back and letting life just happen to me?

Often we think of life in black and white terms. I think, as humans, it might be easiest for us. That person/place/thing is good or bad. This major is better than that major. I like this job and this pay so it’s good and all others are bad. We use our four year old reasoning to steer through life and take all the good while avoiding the bad.

Now I’m a pretty basic girl. Give me fall and all the pumpkin spiced things! Give me Taylor Swift! Give me romantic comedies and let them all end happily ever after! Unpredictability does not excite me. I have a lot of comfort in knowing what to expect and what will happen next. The guy gets the girl, the main character is not actually dead, they always win the big game, so on and so forth. You can get hyped on your pumped up indie flick with the twist ending, and I’ll stay here thanks.

So when I started to look at my life and tried to categorize it, I realized I couldn’t. Things weren’t just good or bad. They had shades, layers, and extra add ons. It wasn’t as simple as I had wanted. Things weren’t laid out for me and I was unsure what would happen next. When I thought about change, the fear of it paralyzed me, all the while not knowing if I even wanted anything to change at all.

In the midst of this confusion, I started to listen to the NPR podcast, Serial. It goes through a murder case of a young high schooler in which the victim’s boyfriend was prosecuted and sentenced to life in prison. The case has so many holes, so many unanswered questions, you easily start to see some good in the defendant. On the edge of my seat, hoping this reporter can turn things around for him and re-open the case to vindicate him, I couldn’t stop listening. The interviewer takes you high and low on this emotional roller coaster of guilty or not guilty until you really don’t know which way is up and what to believe. I was so entranced, yet frustrated. SPOILER ALERT: you find out NOTHING at the end. You don’t know if he’s guilty or not. You don’t know if he really committed the crime or not, but he’s serving a life sentence in prison regardless. There’s no conclusion. I felt bereft looking for something to be categorized, neat, and nicely tied up in the end. I wanted black or white, guilty or not guilty, and I got neither.

Obviously dumbfounded, I did what I always do when I need a clue: I called my sister. I talked to her about the case, serial, my life, and she asked, “Do you feel good or bad about that?” I was like, “That’s just it! Neither! I feel like it’s not good or bad and that’s the hard part. I want it to be clear-cut, just one or the other.” She murmured her understanding and explained to me that change is a part of life that we can make choices in. Change can be amazing and wonderful, while also hard and unexpected at times, and every range in between.

I learned a powerful lesson through me taking the time to stop, think, and listen. Life is messy. Not every loose end gets tied up in the perfect bow with curled edges. Life for me is a lot more like the way I wrap Christmas presents: it gets wrapped with a decent sized piece of paper that hopefully covers the whole thing, you may or may not get a bow, and you can be sure I won’t curl the ends of the ribbon unless my mom forces me to. You do the best with what you have and figure it out as it goes. Life will not always be what you expected, but that’s what makes it worthwhile. You have to grow, you have to be stretched, and you have to be flexible. You got to find your joy where you can and let yourself be surprised sometimes too. Take risks, do something you didn’t think you could, break the boxes that people put you in. Drift through the grey and let yourself feel what you need to in it all. Give yourself permission to change and decide what you want your life to be. It’s your choice and you get to choose it.

Instagram Fame Means Nothing to Me Now

Sitting on the dirt floor of a half-built church in the bush of Mozambique with tears in my eyes and a laugh not far off, I asked an important question:

“Who the hell do I think I am?”

Wearing a lame t-shirt and barely matching long skirt, toting my purse, iPhone, jewelry, camelbak water bottle, all while holding a child who lives in a hut with no running water, no electricity, nor food even. Earlier, someone from our team had left an empty water bottle out and this almost started a riot among the children, clambering to have this piece of trash. As I looked at the vibrant Mozambican men and women around me, this question took over. Much like their beautiful mismatched colors and fabrics piled one on top of the other, my brain started to juxtapose their poverty and pure, unadulterated joy with all my possessions and discontentment. It shook me up a bit. I was forced to think and respond.

What had been my recent identity or identifiers in life? My perfectly crafted, messy but not too messy look. My love for funny TV shows, pop culture, and fiction. My routine. My ever-evolving (and might I add awesome?) Instagram account. Flash-forward to my stint in Africa where I was stripped of all these things and faced with that loud and unavoidable question: who the hell do I think I am? It’s not that those things are bad in and of themselves, but they’re certainly not what life is really about, or not what it should be about anyway.

Being hit hard by the Spirit of God on that dirt floor, I asked myself why I thought I could live without the presence of God. Why did I let myself be distracted and numbed to the point of depression when joy was at my fingertips the whole time?

It’s really like Jesus said, when you lose your life you’ll find it.

Ok, I know I sound so dumb and trivial, I admit. I did not lose my life, I lost social media, status, and connection. In our culture and our generation these things seem so important, but once I didn’t have them, I found I didn’t really miss them. I loved being unreachable. I loved not knowing what pictures were on my feed and how many likes they had. I even kind of loved not wearing makeup or any outfit I would wear ever. I loved looking people in the face, in their beautiful eyes, and being able to love them because they were there and available for love.

I was talking to my friend Zito, a 28 year old Mozambican man known for wearing a shirt that says (and I quote) “Zwinner is, is you nothing.” He was saying how much he wanted an iPhone or to go to America and I tried to explain to him how beautiful Mozambique was in comparison. The only way I felt I could explain it was that life felt more simple. There were less choices, less distractions, less things, and a lot more life and joy because of it. I told him that the people in Mozambique know how much they need God and thus they have Him, while in America it’s just not that way. We can see Jesus, but it’s through all these filters, edits, and hashtags like He’s better that way or something.  Cut through it all, cut through anything I would use to soften the reality of life’s rough edges, and Jesus was there, clearer and more glorious than I had time to notice before.

Today my iPhone sits close by, my makeup’s done, I’m wearing a dress, and I watched and thoroughly enjoyed an episode of New Girl before writing this. And, I don’t feel bad about it. I know it has no power to define me or make me content. Now, that I’ve seen the other side of the world, where the moon is upside down and the stars and everything else is too, I realize that only the presence of God can really satisfy me. These other things will fake their way at it for a bit, then leave me more dry and starving than before. Meanwhile, His heart holds me and shows me what I was made for. I make the better choice like Mary did, choosing to behold Him and enjoy Him. Simple. Nice. And all I ever needed.

BFFL. 

As we waited on the curb before her joining her fellow two passengers on the airbus, I tried to think of anything but driving home alone. It was our last few moments together before she went back to Switzerland and I carried on life in Isla Vista, not knowing when we would get to see each other again if ever. I promised myself I would make it happen somehow. We did make that pact to invite each other to our weddings. And it’s not so expensive to fly to Switzerland. For Yu Yu, my friend I never knew I needed, it would be a small price to pay.

She looked at me, we took one last picture, and I thought to myself, “Maybe we won’t cry.” I don’t know who I thought I was kidding. She started to sob, hugged me, pulled back, then hugged me again. She didn’t want to go, but her visa was up and her time had come and gone. Who knew four months could feel so fleeting? Who knew we would grow so close so quickly? As I drove home from the bus station, I thanked God for my friend and decided to keep going as she kept going, even if it was in different directions.

When I was young, friends weren’t really my forte. I have two older siblings who were too busy and too popular to hang out with me. I would beg to be let into my sister’s room, reminiscent of Frozen scenes with Anna trying to see through the key lock or speak to Elsa through the crack in her door with no reply. I had to bribe my brother to play any board game with me. When they both inevitably told me to stop being annoying and go do something else, I found solace in books or TV. These faithful friends took no effort, never judged you, and never told you to leave. I could escape into a world where I didn’t have to think, feel, or worry about anything.

Before you feel too sorry for me, I did have friends. When you’re little and have no access to them though, it doesn’t matter how many friends you have. I had friends at school, I had friends at youth group, but when they were busy or unavailable I often had to escape to be ok. None of these friends were very close and none of them were the type that did everything with me, so I had to face the loneliness that seemed to characterize my home life a lot of the time. Distract and disregard my mind said. Escape and evade. My heart wanted to be heard and deal with the pain, but it eventually learned it wouldn’t be listened to or cared for unless absolutely necessary.

The movies and books told me what I really needed was a boyfriend. He would never leave me or hurt me. He would fall hopelessly in love with me and never want to abandon my side. We would get married and friendships would become extraneous or an accessory for occasions when I could be temporarily be extracted from my endless love and marital bliss.

Yes, marriage was the dream. The key to end all loneliness and the solution to all problems.

To be fair, my view of marriage was limited at best. I have no memory of my parents together since their divorce finalized when I was two or three. I don’t even know who I would say is my first example of marriage. Few real life relationships were present or open to my inspection until much later in life. The romantic comedy always ended with the wedding, but who got to see their home life after the credits roll? What a mystery PDA was. I still feel vastly uncomfortable with disagreement. Romance is a confusing ideal that I didn’t and still don’t know if anyone will ever actually live up to. Yet, this elusive and prospective relationship had to be what I had been longing for my whole life.

When I got to college, I made friends that have lasted far beyond what I had experienced or expected. My first friend was popular, beautiful, free-spirited, and way too cool for me. I counted myself lucky to be paid attention by her, and still have the privilege of her being one of my best friends to this day. I became close to some other girls and guys within my church community and as I grew in security, I grew in my relationships. I knew these ones would last and they have, even to this day, almost eight years later.

The thing about Christians is they tend to get married. It’s this pesky thing that I can’t get them to stop doing. I stood by the altar and watched many of my best friends get married and find their person as I cheered on from the sidelines, hoping I wouldn’t become the shelved accessory or the irrelevant past.

God began in me a process of realizing that friends and relationships were not what defined me. As people started dating, or as friendships changed and altered, I had to know who I was regardless of what my relationships looked like or said about me.

I graduated and lived with another friend who was a new fresh breath for my soul. Unlike my other more independent friends I had seemed to attract, she was ready and down to do pretty much anything I was doing. She was what I had always pictured a best friend would be like. She was there when I came home ready and waiting for whatever fun adventure or emotional crisis I had going on. We ate together, watched TV together, read together, went to the beach and church together, pretty much were inseparable. The year was shockingly close to the thing I thought I had always been missing, but I still felt a little empty. I still wanted to find the husband God had promised, telling myself that then my needs would be fulfilled and satisfied.

That friend moved on and I dragged my feet, hoping my husband was coming soon and with him the permanent roommate, best friend, and life-long partner to fill my gaping hole of a heart. I came to a breaking point where I was done with the revolving door of friendship. Friends who came in, took up residence in my heart, then left to do their own thing not involving me. Disappointed with my raw end of the deal, and feeling envious of those around me, I started to put up a few more blocks to my heart.

Isla Vista is a transient, cyclical place. I’ve chosen to remain grounded in a city that’s ever-changing with a community that’s growing sons and daughters then sending them out to spread that love and identity in other places. I stay rooted like a palm tree, swaying and creating shade as the winds blow, as the sun sets and rises, and as the vacationers take their pictures then leave.

My heart had always been so soft and open, ready to collect the friends as treasures and prizes God had placed alongside me. With new roommates, co-workers, and Jesus lovers moving in and taking their spots inside my heart before I even had a chance to think otherwise. As I tried to create walls and not let people in, I realized that those walls really kept me from God and the full life I was trying to lead.

I got a little harder. Cried a little less when people left. Took a little more effort to get to know, and started listening a little more to what my heart needed. I got a little better at saying, “yes” and, “no” to the right things in the right time. I learned to do me really well and let you do you, so to speak. I realized through drawing near to God that He’s the friend I had been looking for, He’s the one who never leaves. As I insisted in my fairy tale mind to dream up a perfect person to fill my time and loneliness, He gently waited and made Himself available and known to me. He graciously has withheld men as I’ve learned to look to Him as my satisfaction and the filler of all my needs, not a guy.

Within this newfound freedom, I let our new roommate Julia (pronounced Yulia and lovingly referred to as Yu Yu, though she doesn’t like the name) come in past the walls. I took her on as my Swiss Miss. I introduced her to the wonder that is New Girl. I taught her to drive. I barely made fun of her accent, her tendency to forget English in the morning and night, and her love for Pretty Little Liars. I took her to Santa Cruz, San Jose, San Francisco, Palos Verde, and Disneyland. I said that every day was her day, and would do everything in my power to make her American dreams come true in her short trip. And with her, I learned a little more about myself.

No matter how hard I try, I cannot keep myself from loving people lavishly and whole-heartedly. I wouldn’t be myself if I did. It’s literally impossible to be a fun and caring person and not make friends. Though I’ve sometimes attempted my hand at being a recluse, my need for human connection, my responsibility to ministry and work, and my dislike for physical atrophy has kept me from going full on. Plus, I like instagram way too much to really give up on activity all together. Someday my prince will come, but until then I have a lot of fun times with the animal friends and other princesses. My life has got to be lived and I’m the only one who can do it.

Though our lives and seasons change and friends locations differ, I’ve been blessed to know and be known by some good ones. I know there are some constants in my life, the ones who’ve gone with the ups and downs and the ebs and flows and have stuck around physically, emotionally, mentally, or in one way or another. Somehow you’ve decided to link yourself to me and for that I am very thankful. And a special shout out to Yu Yu and those who have graced the rooms of Sueno. We’re living the dream and it only goes up from here.

So I say bring it on God. Bring on the people. Bring on the change. Flood my life with all that You have for it. I will not shut down and I will not stop being uninhibitedly me with everyone around me. I will be brave, because this life and all it’s relationships require courage and You have given me just that.

10 Things I learned from the Movie Insurgent

Here are the ten things I learned from the movie version of Insurgent (mild spoiler alert, though I must say it’s a little worth being spoiled). Life lessons I’m sure to take all the way to my local bank and cash in for years to come…:

1. Candor is the best dressed faction. Hands down. No contest.

2. It’s not easy to date and fall in love in an apocalyptic world. But, rest assured, that if you can cuddle or make-out with your significant other, then you can forget about the mass destruction and imminent death for a little while.

3. Amnity and their peace and happiness are good for NOTHING.

4. Tobias/Four has the worst, I repeat WORST, parents ever.

5. Sex sells. While the world is ending, you still need to look sexy in your skimpy vest while trying to save it. And you can definitely find time to sleep with your boyfriend.

6. Peter is the worst and everybody hates him. Caleb is the biggest dweeb, second worst, and no one really likes him either.

7. Movies don’t care about the integrity of a book. I care, but -alas- the film industry does not.

8. If you are from Dauntless and a main character you can A) run faster than a speeding train and B) dodge most of the bullets fired at you.

9. If you need a change and everything sucks, cut your own hair with a pair of rusty old scissors. It will look perfect and on point immediately.

10. The most important thing is to forgive yourself and love yourself. This ones for real though.

Just a few helpful lessons from your teeny-bopper, young adult, science fiction, apocalyptic movie version of books. But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself.

 

Pain Demands to be Felt

As Christians, we can sometimes deny or push down pain because we think it shouldn’t be a part of our lives.

The joy of the Lord is our strength. Christians shouldn’t be depressed. That’s just a lie so don’t believe it. All true sentiments, but not always helpful for someone going through the process of pain.

Our hearts are fragile and precious things. Worth guarding, protecting, and caring for at all times.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

If everything flows from our hearts, I believe we need to listen to our hearts, take time to care for them, and not suppress the pain or emotion that comes from them.

Real or perceived things can cause pain. There are days when no matter how many times you tell yourself that something is a lie, and therefore it shouldn’t cause you any grief because of that, there remains real pain that needs to be walked out of. The process of pain is something that each human goes through at some point. It’s a journey of walking out of your feelings rather than pushing them down into a dark corner, hoping they’ll never resurface, while it actually leaks out with every step.

However, when you do let your feelings be known, that is not permission to hold others responsible for them. You are the only one responsible for your feelings. Let me repeat: the only one. While you discover your feelings, you get to invite God into those areas of your heart, and then you get to forgive yourself and others. Forgiveness is the path to freedom. Not denial. Not blind positivity. Authenticity and openness.

I am a huge proponent for being positive, filled with joy, and not dwelling in self-pity or a victim mentality. It’s one thing to acknowledge your feelings and a whole other thing to sit in them. You must really feel and then really dive into the truth of who you are and who God is. Go and journal.

For myself, this has looked like getting alone and being painfully real with myself and God. I can tend to sugarcoat things for God. I put a positive spin on everything trying to will myself to believe it while not dealing with the pain. I’ve gotten the most relief by being real about my pain outside of optimism or what I “should” believe to be true. Realizing my true feelings, I’m then able to ask questions like, “What made me feel that way? Where did that fear or lie first come from? What’s the truth?” I’m able to experience the pain and then journey out, rather than trying to convince myself to just believe the truth.

Ask God the hard questions and expect Him to answer you. Get around some friends who know you and believe in you. Shoot down any lies and let satan know he doesn’t get to steal from you. Not today. Not on your watch.

See, taste, and know that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). When you let your walls down and you let yourself truly feel, you’ll see that your life is much richer and your heart is much fuller. Though it takes risk to let your heart feel pain, it also allows you to feel real joy. This is your chance. Go ahead and feel. I dare you.

As featured on Everyday Kingdom Living:

http://everydaykingdomliving.com/pain-demands-to-be-felt/

Doing Singleness Well

People are always writing about how to do relationships or dating well, but the truth of the matter is that more people are single than connected. Who’s out there to speak to us single people? Well, I’m here to represent. Being a self-appointed expert of singleness, (I’ve spent 24 years of my life happily and unhappily single) I think I may have something to say on the matter of how to accept and enjoy this phase of life. People are always asking me, “Annalisa, how do you make singleness seem so easy?” or, “How could you be so gracefully single?” Ok, no one’s ever asked me that, but maybe they will after hearing these tips:

  1. Embrace it: Once you get married, you’re (hopefully) married forever. So make an effort to do the things that may be more difficult once you’ve settled down. Travel, spend endless amounts of time with friends, be spontaneous, and live that YOLO lifestyle. I’ve found that I appreciate my singleness most when I spend my money. Most married people need to check in with each other when spending money, something I will cheerfully submit to when I’m there. For now, I blissfully check in with myself, and I’m usually ok with my semi-frequent, frivolous purchases.
  1. Don’t torture yourself: If the rom-coms, pinterest boards, or hanging with a certain person is not helping you stay content, then don’t put yourself in that situation. You have to see what’s right for you and what you can or can’t handle. Only you can determine that and only you are capable of holding yourself to it.
  1. Enjoy the process: While you aren’t in a relationship, you can learn a lot that will prepare you to be in one. Learn about yourself, who you are, what you like, and what you don’t like. I, for example, have learned that decisiveness is something I really value in a friend and potential suitor (take note you hip 25 and older males).
  1. Thankfulness is more attractive than self-pity: You’ve got to stay thankful. So, you haven’t found the one yet. You still have a lot to be thankful for in your life, and pining about your singleness won’t help anything. Count your blessings because I bet you have more than you think.
  1. Make more friends: Learn how to have good relationships with members of each sex. Having good brothers and sisters will teach you a lot and these relationships can bring lasting joy and fulfillment. Learn to relish the friend zone. It’s a nice zone that doesn’t have to be complicated or arduous. Marriage isn’t forever, we won’t have a spouse in heaven, but our friendships will continue.
  1. Live your life: Go after your dreams. Live life to the fullest. The right person will come along and add to your life and your goals and your dreams. So start living now, don’t wait for your person to come and make life happen. Life doesn’t just happen to you, you have to live it.

I hope these help you in your journey. This list is by no means exhaustive, but they are a tips I’ve found to be helpful. I’m a catch and I know some other catches around here, so repeat after me: singleness won’t be forever. But, let’s enjoy it while it lasts. For the next two weeks. Or month. Or quarter. Or God knows how long, but probably pretty soon.

As featured on Everyday Kingdom Living:

http://everydaykingdomliving.com/doing-singleness-well/