The Voice

You are the voice in my head that says,
“Why didn’t you do better?”
and no reason is sufficient.

You are the voice in my head that says,
“This is your fault!”
all my actions have malicious intent.

You are the voice in my head that says,
“You are a burden.”
When did my basic needs become selfishness? Continue reading

Good Enough

This weekend I sat through another sermon about being good enough for God no matter what mistakes we’ve made or what sins we have committed.  It seems like so many people need to hear this message, but it never seems to resonate with me.  I have spent my entire life trying to be perfect for people.  I don’t have regrets that make me feel guilty and distant from God.

It’s not, though, that I think that I deserve everything God can give.  I know that I do not.  I was raised with the knowledge that what I deserve is Hell.  What I deserve is suffering.   I am not worthy of anything good happening to me. Continue reading

10 Things About Being an Extravert That You Might Be Surprised To Hear

  1. I do have a personal bubble.  Just because I want to be around people all the time and I like talking to you all doesn’t mean that you can invade my personal space.  Back off.
  2. I am okay with silence.  Hey, often I’m happy just being around people without the pressure of keeping up a conversation.  In fact, one of my favourite things to do is to find a busy place and just people-watch.
  3. I am more inclined to listen than to speak.  No, seriously.  I like talking, too, but I also like being involved in other people’s lives.  I love other people, and part of what makes up each person is their experiences, thoughts, and feelings, and I enjoy hearing about that.  And – BONUS – even as I listen I’m still around and interacting with people.  Yay! Continue reading

Look For the Helpers

I have been becoming increasingly frustrated lately with the people who I have been encountering as I travel around the city.  Between nearly getting run over, catcalling, strangers trying to get a date out of me, inconsiderate behaviour, and parents screaming at their children, it has been hard to see the good in people.  I have good reason to be angry at the way I and others have been treated, and that can obscure the rest of the picture.

Last Monday, my bike’s chain fell off the gear and got stuck.  A lady returning home a few houses down from a walk with her children saw me struggling with it, so she came over and helped me.

Last fall, I forgot my purse in a bus stop on my way to an 8 AM class.  A lady saw it, picked it up, and brought it to the police station, where they contacted me to pick it up.

When a drunk man was hitting on me while I sat on the bus, and he grabbed my hand and wouldn’t let it go, the bus driver took the time to make sure that I was safe and that I was alright.

When a man taking a smoke break saw me looking at my bike while waiting for the light to change, he explained to me what was causing the noise I was hearing, exactly how to fix it, and not to worry about it, since it was a very minor problem.

These are just a few examples of people who have gone out of their way to help me, unasked, and without anything in return.

I am grateful for these people, and I need to make sure that I do not forget them too quickly in my frustration with others.

Growing Up

Since moving out of my parents’ place, I have changed a lot.

At first, I would have made any parent proud.  I didn’t buy junk food, and I always ate my vegetables before my dessert.  I went running every morning, and handed all of my homework in on time, if not early.  I read all of my textbooks cover to cover.  I kept my room spotless, and washed the dishes every day.  I never bought anything that I didn’t absolutely need, I never ate out, and I checked with my roommates before leaving the house.  I passed up on fun events in order to do ministry or schoolwork or chores.

Today I finished off another bag of chips, and the only exercise I got was walking to and from the bus stop and the restaurant for lunch.  I’m taking dance lessons.  I have handed in assignments late in order to get more sleep.  Sometimes I skim my textbooks.  My room is a complete disaster, and the dishes are piling up in the sink.  I bought myself some movies and a sewing machine.  I eat out at least every couple of weeks.  I go in and out of the house whenever I want without worrying about checking in with my roommate.

Maybe I have become irresponsible.

What I do know, though, is that over the past three years, I have been growing up.

Everything that I never learned when I was younger, I am learning now.  I might have learned how to run a ministry and keep a tight budget and a packed schedule when I was twelve.  I knew what it was like to lose sleep, to worry, and to work hard until I reach a goal, but I never learned how to live.

My life often looks to me like a disaster, but it is so much more than that.  It is a beautiful mishmash of failures and successes and joys and pain and learning.  I am starting to learn how to take care of my mind and my body, but to not take it too seriously.  I am learning how to have friends and how to have spontaneous fun with people.  I am learning that it’s okay to be vulnerable, but I don’t have to be, if I don’t want to.  I am learning that I don’t always need to be careful.  I am learning that I am capable of protecting myself, but I don’t always need to.

I am learning to find peace in the middle of chaos,

joy in the middle of disappointment,

vibrant life in the middle of dry monotony.

Beauty can be found in the middle of pain.

Hope can be found even in loss.

Grief will come, but it will not take me over.

Life will happen, and I will make the most of it.

Here’s to growing up too early, and here’s to never growing up too late.

Here’s to being an adult, surviving, thriving.

To the One I Consider the Least of These

Matthew 25:31-40

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father,inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’”

You know, as far as I’m concerned, you are most definitely the least of these.  I don’t want to go out of my way to show kindness or love to you.  You don’t deserve my forgiveness, let alone my love.
Have you heard the song “Spirit Speaks” by Know Hope Collective?  The line that resonated with me goes: “I’ll go where You will lead to love the least of these – my greatest offering.”
My greatest offering indeed.  Loving you is a sacrifice.  It means giving you what you don’t deserve – what you didn’t give me.  I don’t want to.  It’s not fair.  It doesn’t seem like justice.
It’s not justice.  It’s grace.  And it will take time.  But I will.

Figuring Out Forgiveness

Matthew 18:21-22

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

I have spent two years trying to figure out forgiveness.  For a while I thought that when I forgave, it would stop hurting, but I forgave, yet I was still hurting.  At another point, I thought that maybe forgiveness means reconciliation with the one who sinned against me, but he refused to change and I was hurt again.  I came up with many more theories, but each one failed me, leaving me increasingly baffled.
I have discovered, though, that forgiveness seems to mean not holding a person’s sin against him or her.  It means that when I am upset, I don’t use it against them.  I do not need to forget about what happened, and I can take steps to keep it from happening again, but when I forgive, I start to see and treat them as human.  They are capable of evil, yes, but so am I.  And like me, they are also capable of good, and I cannot let my hurt blind me from seeing the good that they bring to the world.  When I forgive, they become, in my mind, more than just the person who sinned against me.  I will not claim the right for myself to condemn them for their sin, because I also am a sinner.
I have also discovered, however, that forgiveness is not a one time event, but neither is it a process.  It is a cycle that never seems to end  It merely gradually becomes a little bit easier as I make my way around to forgiving again.
Forgiveness doesn’t last, you see.  I might stop holding this hurt against you, but I am not healed yet.  The wounds reopen, and I feel the pain, and the anger and bitterness that come with it, all over again.  A memory resurfaces, Father’s day comes around, someone reminds me of the way you treated me, and I find myself holding your sin against you all over again.
It’s hard to forgive you.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve had to forgive you all over again, but I must have reached seventy-seven times by now.  I will keep forgiving, though.  God forgives all of everyone’s sins completely, so I suppose that with God’s power in me, I can forgive these.  However many times the pain comes back, I will forgive you again.

Validity

I wish that someone would have told me when I was younger that my feelings are valid.  I was always told the opposite, though: your feelings are wrong, because they are not what I am feeling.

I started to  believe that there are emotions that I should not feel, or that it is wrong to have certain emotions at certain times.  I thought that I was not allowed to feel like I was being treated unfairly.  I thought that I was wrong if I felt hurt by someone’s thoughtless and misguided words.  I doubted myself.  I determined that, since what I felt wasn’t what others thought I should feel, my emotions should be dismissed and ignored – not just by others – but also by myself.

Your feelings are valid.  Your feelings are real.

Feelings may not accurately represent objective reality.  That’s okay.  Emotion is allowed to be subjective.  That does not decrease the validity of those feelings, and it does not make what you feel any less real.

For in the end, really, it does not matter what you feel.  What truly matters is what you do with those feelings – what you do because of your feelings, and what you choose to do in spite of your feelings.

Your feelings are valid.  Your feelings are real.

New Year, No Change

It’s strange, when I think about it, how January 1st is such a big deal, when really it’s just another date on the calendar.  Nothing actually changes on New Year’s unless we make it happen ourselves.

In fact, why does change have to be limited to the beginning of a New Year?  What if we made resolutions to change our world for the better throughout the rest of the year, then actually followed through with them?

What if evaluating the way each one of us has been living our lives became a habit, not a yearly tradition?

What if, after the party ends and the sun rises and life returns to its normal routine, we still have the resolve to do things differently, to do things right?

What if instead of only celebrating a new year, once a year, we could celebrate and be grateful for each new month, or sunrise, or meal, moment, and memory, taking a moment to pause and recognize the significance and value that each one of these holds?

Would our lives look any different?  I think so.

When January 1, 2012, arrives, the world may not be any different, but that’s up to each of us.  The New Year has no power to change anything, but every second of every day, we do.