Phoenix Day 4

This picture looks almost identical to a picture I took today, except it wasn't at sunrise. This leads me to believe one of two things:
a. It was taken at the same location I was at today, or
b. It was taken freaking anywhere in Arizona because every cactus and horizon and desert space look exactly the same!

Today we went to a Greek Orthodox monastery. To be honest, I didn't really want to go. Mostly I just didn't know what to expect, and the dress is less than to be desired (oh, didn't I mention that I went to stay in an Amish community?). But I can honestly say that I don't remember the last time I felt as at peace as I did in that place. Fountains everywhere, beautiful architecture, art and decor all from Greece, and the most amazing vegetation I've ever seen. Everything smelled wonderful, and even the children sensed the need to walk softly and speak in whispers. In that moment I considered becoming a nun.

But who am I kidding?

It really was amazing, though. Despite the migraine. I've had a near-constant migraine since the night I got here, and I can't shake it. I think it has to do with a combo of random eating times and blinding sunshine.

Tomorrow is pool day. We're going to sit by the pool all day because it's supposed to reach about 20 celsius, and I'm going to finish my Holy Spirit book. That's the goal. I've also been told that I don't need to bother shaving my legs because everyone here is so old they won't be able to tell anyway. This is def my kind of place.

Despite the constantly beautiful weather (I haven't seen a cloud yet) and the t-shirt temperatures, I miss snow. My body isn't cut out for warm winters. As much as I'm enjoying the rest, I can't wait to get back.


Phoenix Day 2

So, I arrived. On time, no major catastrophes to report, nothing lost in the shuffle, no limbs out of place. Why was I so worried?


It's hot here. Hot as in going to White Rock at the end of August: still warm, but you can feel winter coming on. And there are no clouds anywhere. As far as the eye can see. There are cacti and palm trees everywhere (covered in lights, absolutely ridiculous). It's crazy. And there's nothing. Everywhere I look, nothing. Why anyone would live here, I cannot fathom.

Today I ate real Mexican food, went to a Mormon Temple, and saw a massive tumbleweed Christmas tree (like I said, ridiculous).

I don't really know what else to say about it. Except that the dog is crazy. Ummm....?

This is my first blog in forever and I have nothing else to say. Maybe I've gone crazy. That is my latest thought. That I must be crazy to think the way I do.

I guess I'll update soon. I guess?


Are Not

The more days that go by on this break, the more I realize that life is just not the same.

Breakfast is not breakfast without choose-your-own eggs, which for me is always scrambled with cheese (even though if I were anywhere else I would never choose it).

Tuesdays are not Tuesdays without mini-church. Especially the secretly trying to escape to do homework while wishing the whole time I could stay and forget about it.

Showers are not showers without random girls running through at all times, mold growing all around, and pressure/temperature that changes every thirty seconds.

Wednesdays are not Wednesdays without "Wonderful Wednesday Dinner," arriving 15 minutes early for no reason at all, and then feeling dumb for the next 14 minutes until everyone else shows up.

Homework isn't homework without the pool breaks (even when all I'm doing is reading ahead for next semester).

Thursdays are not Thursdays without chicken strips. I so dearly miss chicken strips.

Weekends are not weekends without lame chick flicks, procrastination, multiple church services and changing seven times a day.

Car rides are not car rides without guys "pretending" to make out, fighting for shot-gun and Timmies.

And waking up is not waking up without people to see the second I open my eyes until the second I fall asleep.


Dear Boys, I Have an Announcement...

The original draft for this blog was nothing more than a bitter diatribe that did little to get across my real feelings. It was definitely not something I'd be proud to have my name attached to, thus the re-write.

So in the last several days I have been informed by several people from several points of view of the same thing: it is impossible for me to have guys that are just friends. Apparently the fact that I caught the somewhat-pretty gene means that I am doomed to a life of either only female friends or guys who I think are my friends but actually just want more.

I'm trying to see it from their POV, but I'm having trouble coming to terms with the idea that EVERY guy I talk to only does so because he's thinking that someday it might be something more. I try to give most guys a little more credit than that.

Once again, the world is in my face telling me that it's only beauty that matters. If I weren't pretty, no guy would even bother trying to get to know me.

So, a basic summary of what I'm hearing:
- my personality, sense of humour or conversational skills don't count toward my friendability when it comes to the opposite sex.
- what comes out of my lips is useless; only having them perfectly glossed will grab a boy's attention.
- even if I think we're only friends and we have discussed it and agree that is where we stand, chances are pretty good that he still only wants to get in my pants.

Thank you, World, for defining my worth. Once again, you have made it so clear.

I have also been told that since I've found one guy who 100% is not interested in me and vice versa, I should cut my losses now and accept that I will probably never find another one. Hooray.

Well, I'm going to look on the bright side (and hopefully turn around this otherwise-gloomy blog), and try to see the good in this whole "experience". Obviously these people have a valid point: I can't be naive. However, I need to trust my own instincts and not walk around acting like I believe I am God's gift to men (which I assure you, I am NOT). So I will take this all with a grain of salt and go on pretty much the way I have been: being myself and not stressing the small stuff.



Next Saturday I leave for Arizona, and I haven't quite decided how I feel about it yet.

I'm going to visit someone who I've only seen once, very briefly, in the last three years because of a...disagreement. I guess that's the best word to describe it. I love this person very much, but she always tests the limits of my patience in every area.

I was originally staying less than a week, but now it's nine days. My dad tried to tell me that maybe it's not the best idea; once I'm there, I'm stuck. But, because I feel peace about it, I'm going in trusting God that He will be with me and guide my words and actions so that, at least for my part, I can know I tried my best.

Maybe it appears that I'm only going into this with a bad attitude, but that's not actually the case at all. I'm very excited, just scared that... well, to tell the truth, I have no idea what I'm so scared of. Myself, possibly? Every time I go somewhere new, I wonder if my self will grow or struggle as a result.

My highest hopes are that this will be an opportunity to lay aside all stress and just relax to my fullest potential. My body is still in go-mode, and I'd really like to lay back and enjoy the break while I have it. And I want to mend this broken relationship. There are past hurts that need to be addressed, and I would really like to have all of that taken care of when I get back.

So, here goes. I'm setting out on an adventure with no clue as to how it will turn out.

Am I scared? Yes. Terrified? Pretty much. Going anyway? Absolutely.


This is the End, my Friends

This place is so depressing with almost everyone gone, and the rest leaving by tomorrow morning. I can literally feel the physical weight of nostalgia pressing on my chest. I won't be leaving until tomorrow morning, and already the burden of that is getting to me.

Steph left this morning at seven, and she hugged me good-bye in bed and left. The second she stepped out the door I could feel the emptiness, even with my eyes closed. The blank space where she should have been hovered above me, and I couldn't get back to sleep for what felt like hours.

As I lay there, wrapped in pink silk and feeling that perfect level of warmth to fall asleep, my mind kept me occupied with thoughts of this semester. My first semester is already over!

What did I learn? Did I learn anything, accomplish anything, feel anything out of the ordinary in the nearly four months I've been here? I learned that procrastination may have been cute when I was 15, but it doesn't suit me so well in my twenties. I learned to be careful with my heart, and to guard it with everything I have because it is my most precious possession. I accomplished the impossible: I completed all my courses and exams without dropping dead from the stress. I accomplished my number one goal when I set out to come here: build strong, healthy relationships with other Christians. And I felt free...to turn my life around, to continue growing in my relationship with God, to stretch myself in all new directions.

I think my heart is heaviest because I know that I will never again be sitting here in this moment, on the brink of Christmas break after completing my first semester of college. I will never be in this place in my life again. Part of me is so glad. There are still so many things I need to change as far as my attitude and actions are concerned...and even aspects of my character. I honestly want to be a better person, sometimes it's just really hard to kick the old habits and just be...nice. But part of me is incredibly sad. It will never again be these people in these rooms with these relationships and this dynamic again. The question is, are we losing something amazing right here, right now, or are we moving onto something even better that we couldn't imagine if we tried?

As I type, there are people in the hallway crying and hugging and saying good-byes, and every time a new person decides to leave (about every three minutes) I jump up and join in.

I began this blog in some feeble attempt to express what I'm feeling and hopefully release this feeling of tightness I feel all over me. I can't get rid of it. Maybe when I go home it'll feel a little better, but for now all I can do is look around and see the emptiness of where all those who complete my life should be.


It's All Coming Back to Me Now

My roommates can attest to the fact that I've been a little crazy lately. Actually, half our hallway can tell you about my screaming tantrum a few days ago about how it's unfair when some people have boyfriends and others don't. But the other day, I finally figured out my root issue. As much as I love being in a relationship, my biggest concern is about the end result: babies.

I am obsessed. I see pregnant women in the mall and I almost lose it. At church on Sunday they had all the teensy kids on stage singing, and I almost died. They were so small and so sweet and all had their own amazing personalities. I def want one of my own.

And then last night I was sitting next to someone holding a baby, and for sure everyone around me thought I must not like babies or something because I had to completely turn my body away. Every time I looked at her, I had to fight back the tears.

The scariest part is that the idea doesn't scare me in the least. Even the idea of not having a significant other and raising a child on my own doesn't make me blink. Maybe I'm just sheltered to the hard facts of how difficult that undertaking would be, but I really don't think so. I've watched enough people do it, and I have no doubt that I would have enough support from my family and my Stephanie. Don't think this means I'm thinking of ordering off the "menu" any time soon, or luring some random into helping me out. The idea of being alone and prego just doesn't scare me as much as it probably should.

The hardest part right now, though, is knowing that of course, deep down, I want to be in a solid, committed marriage when I have the happiest news of my life to deliver. I meant telling people about it, not...anyways. I really, really want that.

I think I came out of the womb 10 years old, and have only progressed from there. That would make me thirty right now, and would also make my current freak-out over no spawn somewhat legit and not crazy-person-talk. I know people think I'm psychotic because I want a baby at 20, but I wonder what they'd think if they knew I've wanted one since I was about 16.

I was born to be a mother. Plain and simple. I guess God's timing on this just isn't my own, and I'll need to wait it out. Until then, I'm going to do my best to be patient and not steal random toddlers from passing strollers.


The Biggest Question of Life

This will probably be my hardest blog yet. It is the expressed version of an epiphany I had just a little while ago, and it's taken my life and heart by storm. That is why I have to get it out. I've found that I have all these crazy thoughts and emotions constantly bouncing around in my head, and they need a place of release. If I try to hold them in, even for my own sake, I end up falling apart instead.

The question that is currently rocking my soul:

Am I lovely?

Growing up, Lovely was a nickname given to me by my mom. I don't know where she got it from, why she deemed me worthy of it, or if she ever questioned her judgement. And until this moment, I have never thought to ask her any of these things. So from the time that I was very small, I always had this word lovingly thrown upon me, but I never knew if it were actually true. And it didn't occur to me that this was underlying until only a few weeks ago.

Someone was telling me a story about something (as you can tell, I was obviously paying so much attention; I'm sure I would have remembered it all if a certain point hadn't completely stopped my heart). The point of the story, by the end, was that whoever was being talked about finally realized that the problem God was working out in her life rooted in a simple question: Am I lovely? And without even knowing why, I started to cry. And I couldn't stop.

So I guess this is my deep-rooted hurt. The thing inside me that tears apart my self-confidence even as I walk through my day unaware? It's the secret part of me, deep inside, that wonders if I have worth. And somehow I've grown up with the notion that worth comes from beauty.

This thought, while seeming foolish, has never been negated. Every past boyfriend I've ever had started having feelings for me because I was hot, then for my personality...if he ever decided to find out if I had one. I have never in all my life had a guy love me for me, and then appreciate how I look.

So somehow, through this skewed view and my own insecurities, I became hopelessly addicted to compliments and attention. Although I'm (mostly) over it now, that part of my past still haunts me. What is it that makes me special? What is it that makes me worthy of love?

The hugest part of me has always been asking this question, even though I never admitted it to myself: if I did not look the way I do, would anyone care to get to know me for who I am inside? And, if they took that crazy leap and decided to try, would they find anything worth loving once they dug around a bit? The most insecure part of me wonders if anyone would love me at all.

So here comes the dilemma. I know I am beautiful in God's sight, made in His image, and He loves me unconditionally. But (I know, why does there have to be a but? Yet somehow there is), to everyone else in the world, am I lovely? If you strip away all my physical attributes and are left with only the insides, is there anything redeeming remaining? Is my character that of someone who can be loved for exactly who they are, or do I need the supporting elements of my physical extremities?

And here I stand at a crossroads. Not knowing if all my twenty years summed up is enough to make someone stay, I sit here and wonder if I'll ever find out. No one has ever stayed...but maybe that's just because they weren't meant to. Maybe God has bigger plans beyond those too shallow to look beneath the surface. Unless they did, and that's what drove them away. And the list of insecurities continues.

I have a feeling I'm only going in never-ending circles now, so I'll wrap it up.

I'm waiting on the person who can come along, see what God sees in me, and love me for who I am. Even when I'm old, wrinkled, and have lost all signs of youth. And then, standing in front of him with my laughter-etched skin and gray hair, I'll look deep into his eyes and ask: "Am I lovely?" And then he'll smile, and I'll know when he says "Yes" that he means it with every heartbeat.

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Today I've been reading over a mini-journal I kept at camp this summer. It was a compilation of thoughts based on what the speakers had said, as well as new things I was coming to understand about God. As I read them now, I can see the things I grasped and have worked into my life already, and the thoughts which haven't yet completely sunk in. Six months later and I'm still trying to understand the same truths. So here is a sample. I think it's so awesome.

"I need to be ministering to people. If I'm not loving on them, it doesn't matter who I am. My self is no where near important as the one [lost sheep].
I want to be genuinely pleased with who I am.

"Joshua 5:13-15 -> Joshua at once realizes his mistake, that God does not work for him, but the other way around. They're on God's side, not him on theirs.

"Romans 11:33-36 -> God's plans for my life are totally untraceable.
His plans are so beyond us. We cannot possibly understand the intricacies. I cannot know the mind of God, or counsel him as to what he should do in my life, or think that for anything I've done he would owe me.
The fact that I'm breathing is evidence of God's grace for me.
Everything originates in God, is held together through God, and exists to glorify God.

"This INCREDIBLE God loves us.
It's ridiculous.

"None of it is for my glory, for me.
It's only for HIM.

"John 12:41-43 -> These leaders cared more for human approval than God's.
Stand. No compromise. That's leadership. That's belief.

Who am I to say that anyone owes me an apology, owes me ANYTHING, when I owe God my life?

"The only cure for guilt is to understand that God IS compassion.

"Hebrews 4:14-16 -> Jesus gets us.

"Romans 8:1 -> 'Therefore there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.'
God is always asking us to come back to him, ready to give and have more.

"My heart's cry: I want to know I need God like the air I breathe."

To me, this is inspiration in its purest form. Looking back on what God was teaching me half a year ago, seeing how far I've come and how far I still have to go.

I hope that I never reach a day where I think I've had enough God, where I know enough about him that any more would just be silly. Every day, I want to come to know him better. Hopefully I can put myself aside long enough to allow him to change my heart.

"I Want You, I Need You"

The more frustrated I get, the more I'm realizing how crazy my priorities are.

I am stressed beyond belief because of finals and trying to finish all my assignments on time, I have no car and almost no money to get a new one that I desperately need, and I'm not getting enough sleep to nurture my battered body back to health. But where is my head in all of this? Marriage.

What is wrong with me? I've barely begun life on my own, and all I want in the whole world is to give myself completely over to someone else. My life is a mess (but are lives ever not?), and I want someone else to come in and either help me tidy up or just sit with my in the midst of the chaos.

Then I remember that there's someone who loves me more than life itself, and he is desperately trying to romance me. The same way I'm waiting for the perfect person to come along and sweep me away, Jesus is waiting for me to acknowledge his attempts and love him the way he loves me. And being the jealous God that he is, he's waiting for me to fall for him before I'm allowed to fall for someone else.

I often wondered why I was never as close to God as I wanted to be, until a couple months ago it was revealed to me: I am desperately afraid to let him love me. My experience on this earth has told me that any time someone said they loved me and promised me that I could count on them, they left. And it was always my fault. So how could I offer myself up once again to someone promising love and expect him to stand by my side, even in the rough times? Impossible.

It has taken so long to finally let him in, to let him love on me the way he wants to. I still push him away all the time, afraid of how much this will hurt if it ends. I still cannot wrap my head around the idea that he will NEVER leave. Ever. And no matter how many times I mess things up or try to push him away or get too emotional, he won't throw his hands up in the air and tell me he's through. How did I get so lucky?

Yet even knowing all that I do, I still try to do things on my own. I give it "all" to God, but tell him that there's just this one space in my life that I've got under control and I don't need him meddling in. Or when he tries to go deeper with me, I push him off and tell him that it's really okay, I'm good for now. I tell the maker of the universe that I'm fine without whatever it is he wants to reveal to me. In fact, I'm just fine here on my own. ...but I know, deep down, that's not really true. The human condition that we all suffer from is loneliness. Here is the one who wants to cure my disease, and I push away the remedy.

So this is why I'm still single. This is why I don't yet have my hubs and everything that comes with. I'm still too stubborn to let God all the way in. I haven't yet figured out how to be loved. Thankfully he has enough grace to sit through the process with me and whisper in my ear all the ways that he has planned to make me fall more in love with him than ever. And with every word, I get a little bit closer to trusting him.


Don't Forget Your Backpack

I'm learning how to not close up, shut down, or fight back. My immediate reaction in the past has usually been a combo of the three whenever someone has hurt me, even unintentionally. As I ask God to change my mindset and give me greater patience, he doesn't disappoint.

I think the hardest part for me is to remain open and vulnerable, even as I'm being torn apart. How in the world do I continue being gentle and kind, even as my heart is breaking? The problem is that the answer is not of this world; it only comes from above.

I used to have serious anger issues. It actually got to the point where my bursts of rage were uncontrollable; even I wouldn't see it coming. In the process, I would be hurting the people around me and, ultimately, myself the worst. I don't know when I became so angry, but I do remember the day I decided I needed to change. Every day is still hard, but God has so much grace. Even when I miserably fail and lose my cool (usually resulting from forgetting to count to ten), he softly corrects me and tells me that we'll do better next time.

People's responses always differ when they realize I'm no longer going to fight back. Some push harder, expecting to get a reaction. Others simply stop talking to me. I'd probably be confused too.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that I am far from perfect, but I'm working on it. Trying SO HARD, but it's all for nothing if God doesn't have my back.

I fully expect that one morning I'll just wake up and all of this won't even phase me anymore; I'll be so beyond this issue and be working on another one that God brings to my attention. But until then, I plan on doing everything within my power to control what is within my control, and let go of the rest.


View From the Top: Part I


For the first time, I felt like I shared too much. It wasn't even that personal, but something inside myself felt betrayed and I can't explain it.

PS - I'm adding this so late that you'll never read it. In fact, it's entirely possible that no one will ever read it. This picture reminds me of the hill where we worked out our first fight...and then made out in the back seat. Part of me still misses you. I think a part of me will always wish I could have known how we would have turned out. I miss you.


Where Are You, Christmas?

Christmas is now less than 23 days away. And once again, I find myself single.

This will be my fourth consecutive without-a-man Christmas. I'd far rather, times a million kabillion, be single over Valentine's Day than the holiday which takes over the entire last half of December. No other holiday in our culture takes up so much time, money or energy. 1/24th of our year (if you're a late shopper; if you're an early go-getter, then possibly up to 1/12th of your year) is consumed with gift picking and giving, cooking and eating, celebrating and wishing we could take back about ten pounds of celebrating (unless you're me). And there is nothing more depressing than being alone this time of year.

Everywhere I go, it's cute couples bundled up in poofy coats with pretty scarves and matching mittens. They cuddle and hold their mittened hands, while walking along the anywhere they might be, looking at Christmas lights and dreaming of the future. Yet while they look ahead, they also know that in this particular moment, there is no where else they'd rather be than in that second with that person.

I miss that. I miss the knowledge that no matter what goes wrong during the holiday season, whether family spifts or gravy that gives everyone food poisoning, there is that one person who wants to spend every moment of it with me. Wow.

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. Ultimately, that is all. Our culture has transformed it into a whirlwind of media pressure to eat, buy and live a certain way. Yet in the midst of both polar opposites, there is a beautiful little space filled with vanilla-scented candles and God-centered carols and softly drifting snow, topped off with the constant surrounding of everyone who loves us. That is the place I dwell in.

Let me rephrase. Christmas is not about being attached, and is not based on having a significant other to attend all festive functions with. But the truth is...I'm at a place in my life where I want to be with the person I'm supposed to be with already. I want to be sharing all of this with him.

I love this holiday. I love everything it represents and all the warm fuzzies that go with it. I'm just so tired of waking up to the snow and not having a special someone to pummel snowballs at me, and then care enough to wipe it out of my hair.