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Archive for August, 2008

Thanks to the five or so of you who posted your stories. For the other 95 or so of you who apparently checked the blog yesterday (the stats page does not lie), you are all slackers. Kidding. I know, I haven’t even told you mine. Comments are still open…so if you feel the need to come out of the creeper/stalker closet, go right ahead.

Okay, back to the story I promised you.

I can think of several defining moments in my life…but fortunately for you, I’m not much of one for being ultra-vulnerable in a public space (especially since I don’t know where the other 95 blog hits came from today), and that immediately eliminates two of them. The defining moment I shared with the group is the most recent, and there is not a day that goes by when I don’t think about it. Here’s the story:

I had a series of transitions in high school that left me really confused about the way God ordains relationships to work in my life. For one reason or another, I felt like every significant relationship in my life (other than my immediate family) had either ended in their abandoning me or my being forced to abandon them. Either I moved away from my closest friends and mentors, or they moved away from me. It seriously happened like clockwork. Year after year, I would begin to really invest in a relationship, being honest and authentic in deep ways that involved risk, and like a bad alarm clock, every single one of those relationships would be over. I would move or they would move. I would transition or they would transition. And I just knew that God was behind all of it.

I know this will seem trivial to some people, but during my junior of high school, I had a youth pastor who moved. It shook my world. It wasn’t so much that he (and his wife whom I DEARLY loved) were moving to another church in another state….it was more about the fact that I had made one last ditch effort to be real with someone I thought cared about my life, and then God moved them.  In my anger about it, I just began to assume that God was some sort of indian giver when it came to signficant relationships. He would place people in my life as some sort of tease. He’d wait until I began to value the relationship, and then He’d find a way to end it.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I really stopped risking in relationships at that point. I was so afraid of being abandoned or feeling the hurt of another loss that I stopped opening myself up to having good, solid relationships. I mastered the art of social skills on a surface level, and I had a ton of great friends, but at some point, I had stopped allowing others to love me. And in doing so, I stopped really knowing what it meant to love others fully. 

I was a fortress. 

Fast forward a few years. I had gone back to Colorado for a weekend to go on a retreat with the youth group from my church there – Little Log Church.  I was in the process of trying to decide if I wanted to move back to Colorado or move to Nashville to work for Long Hollow, and I had felt clearly that weekend that God had shown me that Nashville was the door He was opening.  Up to that point, I had really kept the lines open for going back to Colorado, and when I got on the plane to fly home to Tennessee, I realized for the first time in the entire decision process just how hard it was going to be for me to leave some of those relationships.

As the plane rolled down the runway, tears literally streamed down my cheeks. It had been a long, long time since I had felt loss and hurt like that, and I felt so many of the same old emotions welling up in me. I grabbed my journal out of my backpack, and I started writing because I didn’t know any other way to make sense of the things going through my mind.  I wanted to retreat. To sleep it off. To shut down emotionally.

But then it hit me. I realized in that moment that the relationships I had made when I lived in Colorado had required me to take down the walls of my fortress. I had allowed people to love me fully in a way that I hadn’t allowed in years, and in return, I had been able to love them more fully than anything else I’d ever known. I had risked and offered vulnerability in relationship, and others had risked and offered vulnerability with me. And I cherished every single moment of it because it had been so long since I had known community like that. And now the Lord was closing the door on those things. I was moving away. I was transitioning out of those relationships. And I was absolutely shattered at the thought. 

In that moment, in the hush of a late-night flight home to Tennessee, I felt the voice of the Lord in my spirit speak so clearly to my aching heart. “I may give and take away, but I do not give to take away. Loving and being loved is always a risk worth taking, and part of My design for you is just to love and be loved fully.”

…That was the defining moment for me…

It was this crossroads. I had the choice to retreat and turn back to the destructive, unsatisfying pattern that I had adapted for my safety…or I could learn to do as Christ did. To choose to love and risk being loved fully. And it has changed the way I do relationships. I don’t fear loving others fully or going beyond the surface. I don’t worry about the possibility of another loss. Loivng and being loved fully fully is a risk worth taking. And all I really know is that love like that tore down the fortress around my heart, and I’ll never be the same again.

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I have a love-hate relationship with my Group Processing class. It’s not nearly as fun as the last class I took here, but it’s definitely not the worst school experience on my list.

One of the requirements for this particular course is that we actually particpate as members in a group counseling experience. We have to be counseled as a part of an assigned group all week…three or four hours every afternoon. It’s freaking intense. But it’s good. I’m beginning to see the value in some of the techniques that I’ve often placed into the category of “NEVER.”  Who knew I might ever appreciate some therapeutic value in a group member talking to an empty chair? 

(If you are tilting your head and raising your eyebrows at that thought….believe me. That’s what I’ve always thought too. You’d have to be there to experience it yourself. In fact, if you want me to test my new skills on you, I would be more than excited to have you sit and talk to an empty chair. Kidding…unless it was for my own personal amusement.)

Anyway, we’re required to eat lunch with our group every day, and each day we’ve had a discussion assignment to prepare us for our afternoon sessions. Yesterday, this was our discussion topic: What are the defining moments in your life thus far?

The answers I heard at my table yesterday were so interesting. Everybody had a different story, and I left lunch wishing we’d had more time to hear other stories…and I left with a couple interesting thoughts in my own mind about defining moments.

SO….I’ve never really done this before, but I want to pose a question for you to answer. What is the defining moment of your life thus far? What about your life changed because of it? What did you learn from it? How do these defining moments impact your life now?  Short or long, happy or sad – I’m just interested to hear. I have a theory that I’ve been tossing around in my mind…and I need some other stories to confirm it. I’ll post my story in the next day or so, and I’ll post my ideas about it once I hear your stories. Okay? Great.

P.S. (AndYou’dBetterStillBeReading P.S.): If you are a blog-stalker/creeper/unknown reader, today would be a great day to MAKE YOURSELF KNOWN. 🙂 I never have a clue who is reading this thing. I’m not much of a blog-commenter myself, but I think you should at least consider telling me your stories.  Please?

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Funday Sunday.

Okay, so it wasn’t really a Funday Sunday. I spent approximately eight hours driving myself to Lynchburg, and then I just spent the last six hours doing the remainder of my pre-course assignments. I had to handwrite every workbook answer, so my hand is blistered. It’s just not used to this kind of abuse anymore. Who handwrites anything when you can type much faster and more efficiently?

I’m back at Liberty for Round 2 of my intensives.  In the midst of attending class from 8-5 every day, I also have six papers (all at least five pages long) due by Friday at midnight.  I’m not exactly sure when those are supposed to get done, but apparently they’re expecting the words to practically fall out of my hands and into the computer after such life-changing class moments in my Group Therapy class. Or not.

I don’t have any complete thoughts to share tonight, but here are a few random things that deserve at least a short shout-out.

1. Dear Israel Houghton….Love you. Love your stuff (sometimes). But Cannot Stand One More Rendition of “I am a Friend of God.” Are we worshipping the Lord, or are we having a self-esteem boosting therapy session? I always think the chorus should go something like this: “I am a friend of God. And I will repeat that line over and over and over again until it doesn’t matter to me anymore that No One Else Is My Friend. HE calls me friend.”  Great thought. But next time, let’s come up with a less obnoxious way to sing it. Okay? Great.

2.  Dear Semi-Truck Driver…..STAY IN YOUR FREAKING LANE. Just because you are huge does not mean that you have the right to straddle the line. And it CERTAINLY does not mean that you should try to pass your friend who is going 20mph less than the speed limit by cutting me off and going only 10mph faster than your friend. YOU ARE STILL TOO SLOW. MOVE OVER. (Inquiring minds want to know: Yes, I get road rage from my dad. It’s an inherited trait, and I cannot be held responsible for a bad attitude when I’m driving with such morons).

3.  Dear Corporate Sharpie Company….It’s about time. And I’ll love you forever for this:

Introducing: The Sharpie Pen. It DOES NOT bleed through paper. I would know. I just spent six hours filling in the blanks in my workbook with one. A-MAZ-ING.

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So frail.

I’m floored.

The “Healer” songwriter is a fraud. The whole story is a lie. Tyler‘s blog has the full story and links to the news articles about it.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, the “Healer” song is a song that was just released a couple of weeks ago on the new Hillsong: This is Our God album. It is phenomenal. PHENOMENAL. I haven’t listened to it yet without tears of gratefulness streaming down my cheeks.  The song itself and its simple words are amazing, but the song was brought to life by the video of the guy who wrote and performed the song. The video is a tear-jerking story about how he had written the “Healer” song out of his two-year battle with a terminal illness, had barely been able to perform it for the recording, and it includes this huge proclamation from his mouth that “By his wounds, we are healed!”

And it was all a lie. A huge fraud. Totally fake. He was never sick. The oxygen tank in the video was unnecessary. His proclamation of Isaiah 53 was not a personal proclamation.

What do you do with news like that?

We are so frail. SO FRAIL. I am continually amazed at just how depraved and wicked we are.

WERE IT NOT FOR GRACE…

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Excellence.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music…Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. -Martin Luther King Jr.

I have never experienced a season of life as humbling as this one. And it’s not the kind of humbling that looks beautiful and spiritual. It’s the kind of humbling that hurts over and over and over again. The kind where my legs collapse under the strain of pride, and I have nowhere else to be except on my knees. But I believe firmly that even in the midst of pathetic realities, trivial tasks, and painfully present humility, I am called to excellence. Excellence in small things and in big things. In my life plans and in my day-to-day.  I just want to be obedient to that. To sweep streets to glory of the God who dwells inside me.

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I officially finished up my summer semester yesterday. I am glad to see it end. I’m a little bit OVER eight weeks of “Multicultural” counseling aspects…and I’m especially over ridiculous papers such as “Arab Muslim Religious and Political Tradition and Its Impact on the Professional Counseling Relationship.”

YES, I actually had to write a paper with that title. And yes, I’m still kind of bitter about it.

Moving on.

I start my new semester on Monday. I’m pretty excited about it actually. I’m not excited about writing papers and saying no to social fun in order to get assignments done. But I’m excited in that IWishICouldGoBackToSchoolShoppingAndILoveAFreshStart way. I’m obsessed with goal setting and to-do lists and priorities, and it has become a tradition for me in recent years to re-evaluate and readjust New Year’s resolutions every fall before starting back to school. So…in honor of the official BackToSchoolAfterATwoDayBreak, here is the current evaluation of some of my 2008 New Year’s resolutions and some new ones as well.

1. The half-marathon (in a decent time). I had planned to run the Nashville half in the spring, but it just didn’t happen. Between Quest and the Spring Break trip and being pretty sick at some point inbetween those two things, I just didn’t have enough time to train. So, I have two potential races on the horizon – one in November and one in December. Training starts Monday.

2. Memorize Colossians. I’m more than half-way there. If you are looking for tips to stay on top of memorizing, try hanging up laminated sheets with the verses in the shower. This is the only thing that has been effective for me. I mean, what else do I need to think about in there? It makes this time a lot more productive.

3. Read at least thirty books. Okay, so I haven’t done too well on this so far. I’m usually an avid reader, but school has a way of making books look a little repulsive. I’ve only read three books in total…but I’m halfway through at least a dozen other ones.  I don’t think this goal is out of reach yet. I have a stack of books that I’m dying to read (or finish reading), and I’m going to try and buckle down on the goal of reading thirty minutes a day most days. I’ll update more on this later…and I’ll give you the full reading list at some point. I’ve read some GOOD stuff this year.

4. Disciple girls and be discipled. Disciple girls – check. That one was pretty easy. Be discipled – uncheck. Not sure where to start on this one. I haven’t been very intentional about seeking out this kind of relationship, but I’m not really sure the best way to go about it either.

5. A new one. Sleep. I generally only work Monday-Thursday, and that leaves me with two good mornings a week to sleep late and be a little lazy. But I’m not getting nearly enough sleep during the week, and it makes my mornings miserable. It is also leading to a severe overdose in coffee intake. During the week, I probably average 5-6 hours a night (I know. Don’t gasp. I can barely function on that). I need more like 7-8, but I kind of think that 8 is unrealistic since I get up so early to workout and run. SEVEN is the new goal. Regularly.

6. Blog consistently. I haven’t totally abandoned blogging at any point since I started it, but I want to be more consistent. I always have things I want to blog about, and the more I write, the more I LOVE writing. So, I want to write more. And better. And more consistently.

So, there they are. Goals, priorities, and a massive to-do list. Happy New (School) Year!

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Yes,  my Hannah Montana toothbrush does play her music. Inside your mouth. A Disney party three times a day.

Remember, coveting is a sin.

Up next…lunchables, goldfish crackers, and Saturday morning cartoons.

This little girl is SO grown up.

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