Things I am Done Apologizing For

Like many women, I frequently find myself saying “I’m sorry.” It doesn’t matter the circumstance; if I feel my presence, opinions, or personality are an inconvenience, you better believe I’m muttering a “sorry,’ and backing down. My desires, needs, wants? Unimportant. Shelved for the convenience of others’ comfort. I mentioned this to my therapist today when she told me to work on “just doing me.”

“I’m really not good at that,” I said. “It’s easier to just… not.”

She laughed, then grew serious again. “But isn’t it far scarier to live your life with yourself in the back seat?” She was right, of course. After all, that’s what I pay her for. And so, without further ado, I present you with a list of things for which I am finished apologizing.

Splashing and making noise while I swim. I’m not small. When I propel myself through the water, there will be water displacement. This is science, and is something I am unable to control. I will make my noise, breathe loudly, kick hard.

Not always wanting to talk on long drives. Seriously. Can’t we just sit in silence? Maybe listen to a podcast? I don’t hate you, I’m probably just tired.

Dipping my fries in honey mustard or ranch instead of ketchup. It’s just delicious.

Setting boundaries. Period.

Needing alone time. This goes with the long drives thing. I’m an introvert. Sometimes I just need to be alone, or at least not be actively engaging.

My political and religious beliefs. No, they aren’t a carbon copy of my parents’ and family’s beliefs. Yes, I engaged in critical thinking to come to my conclusions. No, I am not stupid just because I don’t believe exactly what you do.

Liking those awful little Totino’s party pizzas. Look. Sometimes it’s 9 pm and I haven’t eaten and I just want to sprinkle extra cheese on some glorified cardboard with highly processed “meat” and call it dinner.

My stomach, thighs, and general body shape. I am not small. I take up space. If you sit by me on an airplane, our arms and legs will probably touch. This doesn’t make me less of a person (in fact, it quite literally makes me more of a person). Sometimes my clothes might reveal the fact that I have a stomach/boobs/thighs. Because I DO HAVE THEM.

Not being head over heels in love with the USA right now. This country, right now? Is not great. It’s not welcoming the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free. It’s not treating all men as created equal. It certainly is not practicing religious equality. So no, I won’t be waving my tiny flag in a parade anytime soon.

Believing that LGBTQIA+ people are, in fact, people – deserving of full and equal rights. Do I really need to explain this? Still? In 2017?

Not running. I’ve tried. It is terrible. I do NOT feel better when I’m done. The runner’s high has to be a myth perpetuated by Big Running to try to trick me into screwing up my ankles and knees forever.

Taking care of myself. After growing up in a world where any self-care or acknowledgement of my own needs, desires, wants, or plans are selfish and my heart is “deceitful above all else,” learning to care for myself has been a steep learning curve filled with excuses and avoidance. No longer.

From here on out, I will be free.

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The One Where I Want to be Known for Love

Today’s inauguration has me feeling all sorts of things, things that other authors have summed up far more eloquently than I will try to. All day long, I have been alternately inspired and alarmed by things shared by my friends and family members on both sides of the political spectrum. There is hate flying on all sides, emboldened by the ability to hide behind a keyboard and screen.

As I sit here tonight, mourning and hoping and praying, I have been convicted. I could write all night about all of the negative repercussions of this election. I could spend the rest of my days spewing facts and quotes at people who aren’t going to change their mind, and arguing with people who aren’t going to change mine.

That’s not what I want to be known for, though. Sure, I would like people to know that I don’t support this presidency, but much more than that, I want people to know that I DO support them. 

Photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/yDHkSxDiOf/

I want to be known for being a safe place for those of you who feel displaced and unheard in light of this election. For being the person who will hold your secrets, who will love you not in spite of who you are but because of who you are, and who will sit with you in the pit when words are not enough.

I want to be known for opening the doors of this precious home, dishing out hot soup and crusty bread, filling every inch of our house with those we love. For forcing you to have seconds, take home leftovers, stay for a cup of coffee, spend the night if you want. I want this home to be a safe haven, in every sense of the word.

I want to be known for kindness, for treating strangers with respect and smiling at the cashier at Meijer even when she is moving slowly. For hard work filled with empathy and honesty; for a welcoming spirit. For love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness. And self-control, even though that one is the hardest of them all.

Most of all, I want to be known for striving to be more like Christ in everything I do. I want to be known for crossing party lines, subverting cultural norms, and welcoming “the least of these.” I want to love you like Jesus does, regardless of who you voted for or what we agree on.

I want to be known for my love. May no one describe me by saying “she really doesn’t like [Trump/Southern Gospel music/Amy Schumer/mushrooms],” before they say, “she really loves [Jesus/people/making soup for people/dogs].” May my open arms and open door speak more loudly than my ringing words. May I never add darkness to a night already devoid of stars.

 

[thanks to my youngest sister-in-law, virginia, for calling me out, convicting me, and inspiring this blog post. love ya, gin. even when we don’t agree and you school me on how to love Jesus better.]

 

 

The One Where I Am Feeling Things

I was in my sweatpants by 6:00 tonight. It was one of those rare days where the cancellations synced up with a clean apartment synced up with a while before the next writing deadline. A quiet evening — soup, Christmas lights, kitten snuggles and binge-watching Netflix.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” I told the doctor who has known me since birth. He had made the same booger joke he’s been making since I can remember just a few minutes ago, when he looked up my nose with the light. “I can’t sleep, I can’t eat. I’m throwing up every morning, having minor panic attacks every couple hours. Everything hurts.”

Something about making soup inexplicably calms me, draws me to that place I so often try to avoid. As I chop carrots, dump in beans, shred leftover turkey from Saturday’s dinner party, my mind quiets down… and when my mind quiets down, my heart pipes up.

“Anxiety and depression,” the doctor said. How had we jumped from booger jokes to this?

He kept talking as he began to scribble on a prescription pad. “Your dad thinks this is bullshit [the doctor has always enjoyed cursing around me], but I’m the one with a medical degree and I’m putting you on medication.”

He stops writing abruptly, crumples the page. “I forgot your insurance is useless. I’ll get you samples.”

I pour in the broth, watching all the ingredients from the bottom of the pot begin to float. Then it hits me. A year ago, almost to the day. That’s how long it’s been since I stepped down from my internship at Crossroads. How long it’s been since I admitted that the dream I had held for years wasn’t God’s plan for me. Since I was able to sleep for the first time in months. I turn off the TV, and the only sound in the apartment is my knife, chopping a few more carrots.

The doctor is still talking, even as I watch the paper crumple to the ground. I’m perched on the exam table, silent, the familiar feeling crushing my chest again.

“Counseling,” he says. “Is a must. You have to take care of yourself. Are you exercising? Keeping to a routine?”

He doesn’t let me answer. “Start exercising. Keep to a routine. Go to counseling. Take this medicine. You’ll be okay.”

I haven’t talked about those days much. Not here, not with friends, not anywhere really except to the $25 an hour “counselor” out of a church in Angola I went to three times who tried to “break the word curses” placed over me by “speaking prophecies of truth over me.”  They say time heals all wounds, and it was true with this one – unless the prophecies actually worked. There are no hard feelings, no grudges or ill-will. God has graciously mended broken relationships.

The feeling came back, last winter, after the samples ran out and my medicine got changed to something affordable.  The chest squeezing, sleeping too much or not at all, eating too much or not at all, panicking for no reason feeling. My childhood doctor had a stroke a few months ago.  He’s back in the practice, a few days a week, but his office is two hours away.

So I went to a new doctor. She looked up a list online of the symptoms of depression and read them to me in a monotone, asking me to rate myself. At the end, she did some blood work and prescribed me something different. She handed me a few business cards for counselors and a bill for the 15 minute appointment. $250.

The carrots are chopped, so I swirl in some heavy cream, sprinkle in some basil.  I unwrap a loaf of crusty bread, cutting off a piece to put in the oven. Last week I rescheduled a day of appointments because the seasons are changing and the anxiety and depression are coming back, stronger.  I laid in bed until 2 pm, staring at the ceiling in absolute silence. Elijah came over after his classes and held me, silently, understanding without speaking.

It’s been a year. I took a little orange pill this morning, now blessedly covered by insurance from my new job, and on Thursday I’ll spend an hour in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  I bought a sun lamp and I sit by it for a while every day.  Jocie comes to the gym with me and I make myself push through it – whatever it happens to be that day.

My counselor tells me I need to slow down and stop talking so I can start feeling things. She says that I explain my pain away and talk through my sadness. She’s probably right. After all, last week at our session, we sat in silence for 15 minutes. It was uncomfortable and awkward and I cried for two hours that night.

I sit at my table, still decorated from the dinner party Jocie and I threw on Saturday night.  As I dip a warm crust of buttered bread into my soup, my apartment is silent. I am slowing down. I am not talking.

I am feeling things.

The One About The World

in nearly every corner of the world, darkness presses close and whispers

i am winning

he watches as brother turns against brother

as blood flows from theaters and bombs go off at birthday parties

darkness smiles as refugees are turned away

as children die for the sins of their parents

i am winning, he whispers

as another baby washes ashore

darkness sinks in further, gets comfortable

as parents disown their children

and churches bar their doors to those who are searching

i am winning, darkness smiles

he cackles as the inky black creeps further into the world

and those who claim to have light

pause with their hands on the switch

to argue about who, exactly, is worthy of the electricity

 

The One That’s a Love Letter to a Hometown

Dear Reading,

We’ve been together just over two years, you and I. I go between “only two years?” and “already two years?” nearly every minute. And even though I’m leaving soon, a piece of my heart will always love you.

If my life was a movie, your part would be that scene when the girl takes her glasses off and realizes she’s beautiful. Or the scene where the underdog finally stands up to the bully. (In this analogy, the majority of my life is the scene in Napoleon Dynamite where the farmer mutters something about arrowheads in the hills, but I digress).

I came to you, dear Reading, confused and hurt and tired and lonely. I needed a safe place to figure out who I was, to learn how to love and be loved.  I needed to learn how to fit into myself, to stretch into my fingertips and toes and stop trying to keep up appearances.

That’s exactly what you gave me. In this tiny little one-horse (well, maybe 7. We have Amish people) town, I rented my first apartment. I bought too many vegetables, not enough meat, and all the wrong cleaning supplies. I cleaned the bathroom, made a lasagna, lit a candle and crowded new friends around the tiny wobbly table donated to me by a cousin. After my first official dinner party, I christened myself an adult.

I finished school, worked full time, paid bills and mostly failed at budgeting. I walked your small streets and got a library card that isn’t even laminated. You let me cry – oh, I’ve cried so much here – healing tears and joyful tears and tears of betrayal and guilt and loneliness. You hid me in your cornfields and by your tiny lakes when a years-long dream shattered.

You taught me to laugh, deep and long, until I cried all over again. You gave me friends within easy driving distance, confidantes and acquaintances alike. Late nights crammed in my tiny apartment, playing stupid games and talking about everything. Long walks with ice cream and thrift store runs and trips to the beach on cloudy days.

You watched me fall in love with Jesus all over again, deeper and newer than every before. You saw me worship in an old church on Sunday nights, surrounded by teenagers I would give a kidney for. I got baptized in that old church, declaring to a room of the aforementioned friends and teenagers that I was in, all in, with this God thing. You heard me whisper prayers just outside the door of an old barn, saw me sob at my grandmother’s grave after buying the things to make freezer jam, and sat patiently while I screamed and threw rocks from train tracks into a deep gully.

I fell in love, for real, for the first time while walking your streets and sitting in your diners. Mile loops from my apartment, past that house, hoping for a glimpse or a quick hello in the midst of my short bursts of what I called jogging but actual joggers would refer to as “slightly brisk walking.” Breaking my family’s texts-sent-in-a-month record, constantly smiling down at my phone. Making mix CDs and passing notes like middle schoolers. That first hug, while your stars winked down at me. Crossing back over your borders after the most perfect first date.

I’ve learned so many lessons, dear Reading, in the two short years I’ve been with you. People I haven’t seen in a long time tell me how happy I look. I introduce myself to people now; I’ve learned how to small talk (when the conditions are just right and the stars align).

There aren’t enough words to talk about how thankful I am for the years we’ve had together. They’ve been some of the most influential I’ve experienced thus far.

Even though I’m leaving, dear Reading, you will always be dear to me.

After all, you introduced me to truck pulls.

The One For Your Dark Days

Note: Several of the pieces I link to are raw and contain strong language and themes of doubt. A link to a piece by a particular author does not signify an endorsement of their theology or everything they’ve ever written; it just means that piece prodded at my heart during my darkest days. Thanks for reading. 

The end of fall is drawing closer, the days are getting progressively shorter, the sun is poking its face through the clouds less and less, and the darkness is creeping closer to you. I know, because you’ve told me, and because I’ve been there. I’m not there now, but I was, and I remember.

When I drove past the cemetery today, I noticed that the leaves were almost all off the trees. Timehop reminded me yet again of where I was at this time two years ago – of the sleepless nights, the way I cried anytime I was alone, and the endless doubts and questions that plagued my mind and spirit.

I don’t know where you are, not exactly. Some of you have texted, called, written, talked. Told me you’re struggling, doubting, fumbling, scared. “I just don’t know what to do,” and “is it normal to cry this much?” and “where is God in this s**t?” are all texts I’ve gotten from you in the last few days. From 3-4 different individuals, making up the collective “you.” Different circumstances and stories, the same creeping darkness. The same ache to find some light.

It’s not like you don’t know. The answers are familiar to you – you’ve grown up in church, go to Christian college, etc. You know God is good. You know faith should be enough. But for whatever reason, it’s not right now. And on the darkest days, the ones when you don’t want to poke your head out of the covers or unroll the blanket burrito to face the world, no amount of cheerful Bible verses or “God’s got this!” is going to help you. If one more person tells you to delight yourself in the Lord, you’re going to punch them in the face. You’re not that okay right now, and you want something more than the Sunday school answers.

That’s why I’m writing this. I’ve been reminded lately of the things that got me through those dark times – little things. Honest writing, simple prayers, self-care. Because the truth is that God is good, He is enough, you should delight yourself in the Lord, and everything will be okay… but sometimes that doesn’t help and you just need to take a hot bath and know you aren’t alone. I’ve been “meaning to” put together a kind of list of the things that helped me keep my grip on sanity in my own dark days, but as I walked downtown hunched against the cold wind today, I decided to finally do it.

I pray you’ll find something here that speaks to your soul. I pray you will see the simple love of Jesus in a brand new light, that your faith will become your own and that it will be enough to sustain you when the darkness rolls in again.  I pray you find your safe places and people, that you are always real with yourself and with God. You are loved deeply and vastly by the creator of the Universe. May you believe that fact more every day.

Writing:
Micah J. Murray:
The Day I Stopped Believing in God
When We Criticize the Church
Dancing Around the Edges
To the One Losing Her Faith
I Don’t Have my S**t Together
And really, almost everything he has ever written. Two winters ago, I started at his first post and worked my way through his blog.

Addie Zierman:
Come Weary
An Open Letter to the Church: How to Love the Cynics
Why Are You So Depressed?
Glossary of Christian Terms Series
When We Were on Fire (If you read nothing else on this list, read this book)

Emily Maynard:
Why I Can’t Go to Church on Sunday
I Don’t Think God Has a Plan for my Love Life
Modesty, Lust, and my Responsibility

Sarah Bessey:
In Which I’m a Feminist, Sure, But First I’m a Disciple of Jesus Christ
Love Looks Like series (the kind of girly, chick-flick reading that helps with a good cry)
Jesus Feminist

Other:
Faith Unraveled – Rachel Held Evans
-Poetry by John Blase at The Beautiful Due
-A Deeper Story

Prayers (usually repeated in a whisper or a scream, over and over and over):
-“I can’t.”
-“Help.”
-“Thanks.”
-“Give me peace.”
-“I need You so much closer.”
-“Prove it.” (and then be still. Because He will.)
Valley of Vision

Practices:
-Light some candles
-Set an alarm and do nothing for 5 minutes but stare at a wall
-Journal at least a sentence a day
-Go for a walk
-Read liturgies
-Pet a dog or cuddle a baby
-Call your mom or grandpa or best friend
-Make something: food, a craft, etc. Use your hands.
-Before there’s snow, stand barefoot on the grass
-Look at stars
-Read poetry
-Take a bubble bath
-Visit a new church
-Go to counseling. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself

The One Where I Am Worthy

It’s a lot harder to write about things that are in process than things that are complete. It’s a lot harder to tell stories when they don’t have an ending. Yet, isn’t this what most of us need to hear? Don’t we need someone to climb into our trenches (or blanket burritos) with us and say “I’m here too, right now.” Not “I’ve been there, and now I’m out,” but “I am here. Let’s be here together.” Maybe you need this.

So… I am here. Right now. Let’s be here, together.


[image from soworthloving]

This has been a year of learning how to say “I am here.” It’s been a year of transition, a year of “I just moved again” and “actually, I’m not at that job anymore.” It’s been a year of full-time classes, part-time work, and support raising. When I decided to leave Moody and move into an apartment in Reading, I didn’t really realize I was thrusting myself into adulthood two years early.

In the midst of all of the transition, though, I’ve finally found myself settling into who I am. My life has quietly been riddled with insecurities, body-image issues, and general feelings of worthlessness. (All my fellow conservative-Christian purity-culture survivors say HEY!) I was too loud, too much of a leader, too fat, too awkward. From a very young age, I convinced myself of these things. I was a walking oxymoron, displaying confidence and leadership tendencies while inwardly shrinking back from myself.

When your whole life, you hear “be humble,” and “you are worthless in your sin,” and “don’t be too flashy/immodest/into yourself/showy/etc or you’ll attract the wrong type of guy,” combined with two or three mean kids in middle school, you start to believe that it is somehow holier to hate yourself than it is to love and take good care of yourself. Throw in the part where we believe people who are actively suffering for Christ are better than those who are really joyful in their lives, and I was basically screwed.

Change is hard and scary, and lies are easy to believe, so it took the complete-falling-apart of a couple years ago to get me to realize how many of the things I had believed about myself for so long were lies. And guys? That is hard.

Throughout the last year, Jesus has really been prodding my heart on this one. I regularly sit with friends and girls from Crossroads and beg them with tears in my eyes to recognize their inherent worth in Christ. I write “you are worthy” in enormous bubble print on the letters I send them… yet for so long, believed I wasn’t worthy. Wasn’t worthy of love, wasn’t worthy of taking care of myself, wasn’t worthy of being a generally happy person who actually liked my life. I told myself I wouldn’t swear on my blog anymore because of my internship, so I’ll settle with saying “that is CRAP.”

Satan still whispers his lies in my ears sometimes. I try to put those scales back on every once in a while. I’ve found myself sobbing in my car a few times… but I am slowly learning to believe and own my worth in Christ. Jesus thinks I’m awesome, and I should think that too.

I’m taking practical steps to take care of the body He has given me. (The girl who pretended to be sick EVERY. SINGLE. MONDAY. in eighth grade to get out of PE just jogged on purpose). I’m choosing to set boundaries for myself, to say no when I need to, to surround myself with people who lift me up instead of tearing me down. I’m done apologizing for my beliefs, opinions and preferences. I’m choosing to smile more, light candles in the evenings, take bubble baths, read books for fun and write letters to an invisible penpal in a southwestern-themed journal.

This is where I am. It’s one of those things that’s hard to share (I still think humility is an important thing, so I don’t want to be all, “HEY GUYS, I’M AWESOME!”), but I’ve been discovering how many women believe the lie that they are worthless.

And that’s exactly what it is: a lie.

You and I, we are so. worth. loving.