Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Big Love

“Big Love, -R”

This is my favorite way to sign letters and emails.  I don't mean it as a quick advertisement for an HBO show, but more to give a visual. I mean it to feel like a hug, to paint a picture of something larger than a 'love ya' and maybe less than "I love you", but I have BIG LOVE for you. We all have different types of relationships in our lives, they might all look a little different but the one thing that bonds people is dealing with hardship and struggle, and seeing it through to the other side. If there is a huge deadline at work, seeing teamwork and support for each other makes a workforce stronger. In a marriage, pushing through the fights and the really hard stuff bonds you together. Walking through the fire with friends and family, in whatever hell or struggle they're in, tightens that relationship and builds that trust. I believe that as humans we’re created for relationships.

I brag about my friends often, because they have been my life-line over the past two years. So, when it comes to my very best friends, I know I'm fiercely loved by them. I think of them as protectors, people who often see my value more than I do, keep me encircled, and keep me protected. They constantly remind me that I am to be treasured, and they will accept nothing less for me. They keep their arms locked in a circle around me, like an impossible game of Red Rover for anyone who tries to pursue. I treasure this circle of friends and the fierce love they provide me. 

In dating relationships I struggle terribly, on one hand, with not being in a hurry, and on the other, wanting to unleash this love I have stored away. I so badly want to share this love, but it's not just for anyone, and despite what's been suggested to me as of late, I am very much not desperate. The boy I dated last year could, in the same breath, make me feel absolutely treasured & adored as well as a complete after thought. It was truly quite a talent. We had our predictable weekly schedule and that's how it remained, Wednesday was date night and the occasional Friday or Saturday unless of course he had a family event, or football, a holiday, or was out of town... He kept me in my box, and I wasn't to peek over the top to try and see anything outside my calendar days. This relationship left me feeling like I was “rushing him,” but there is a difference between not moving too fast and not moving at all. One of my favorite lyrics is “my love’s too big for you, my love,” I’ll sing it over and over and over because; I tell you what, my loves too big to fit in a box.

The love I feel from God is that I am His favorite... the same way I think you are His favorite. The same way Collins is my favorite because she's so smart and hilarious and witty and so beautiful, and Austin is my favorite because he's tender hearted, and sensitive and cuddle and so stinkin' adorable. I don't know what God looks like, but I imagine him as a big burley kind of guy, nothing fancy or over the top in a white robe. I imagine He is enjoying observing my life as I would a toddler stumbling around trying to figure things out. I picture Him redirecting me at times, sneaking away dangers before I reach them or even see them coming… I think He enjoys me and adores me, sits with me in the darkness, links arms with me through the hard stuff, laughs when I dance, and more often than not, face palms when I'm totally getting it wrong. I think He loves me like I am His favorite. 

I’ve experienced contingent love, something that looks like love, but does not feel like love. From my experiences, mean people don’t bother me a bit; I keep them at bay. But mean people who disguise themselves as nice people bother me a lot. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced this most from people who say they follow Jesus.  They might follow Him, but they haven’t watched Him, learned from Him, and made any attempt to align themselves with His love. They twist and turn and make someone pure and beautiful into something very dirty and offensive. This is not my Jesus. Jesus was love.  He didn’t love people in spite of their struggle; he just loved them because they are people. This is BIG love. Nichole Nordemon’s song ‘Dear Me’ says, “and sit at all the tables, ‘cause Jesus eats with everyone.” This line makes me cry every time. This is Big love. This is the love I’m talking about.

I’m an introvert, so when I meet someone I struggle to let them in sometimes, and my resting bitch face does not help the situation. (I have friends to this day that say they thought I was such a bitch when we first met because, as one put it “your face is truly dreadful.”) But I feel love for people DEEP in my bones. The only way I know how to describe Big Love is as a mixture of all of these things. My love is big, but it has boundaries to keep it BIG. My love is Big, but it's mine to give away, not for you to take. My love is Big, as my heart breaks when other people’s breaks. My love is Big as I cry in celebration with candidates who take a sigh of relieve that they now have a job. My love is Big, when the kids and I hand out water bottles, food, an umbrella, a coat and anything else we have to give to the man on the corner of the road. My love is Big, so I sometimes leave kind notes on parked Police cars. My love is Big, and that’s why I can still seek love from a partner even though it's been taken advantage of before. My love is Big so I cheer for those who advance around me even when I disagree or feel envy. My love is Big so I can still believe that Jesus is good, even though people represent him so poorly. It's messy and it really doesn't make sense, it’s not fair or just, and I fail a lot of times... many times in my own home, and often when I'm speaking to myself.  This is Big Love, it cannot be contained in a box. I have Big Love because I’ve received Big Love, and Jesus’ love refused to stay in a box. 

Big Love, 
-R

Saturday, May 13, 2017

You've Taught Me

Dear Mothers and teachers of my life,

This is to you... mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers, yet to be mothers, moms of many, with partners and without, you've all taught me.

To my friends that became mothers years before me, when I couldn't relate. When all I could say was 'wow, that's great' but not understanding the totality of your life change. I know I observed from afar, but I saw a change in you. I knew you had grown and were different, it was beautiful to witness. You taught me.

To all my previous step mothers, you taught me. I learned resilience, I learned from your mistakes, your attempt to bring us in, to love us as best you could. I learned some what to do's as well as some what not to do's but I know your role wasn't simple. You taught me.

To my sweet oldest friend with the brand new baby. You're wonderful, and so incredible. You've been teaching me for over 20 years.

To my previous mom-in-love, you've taught me. You've taught me joy, so much laughter, persistence, a love for heavenly Father, but most importantly to have a thick skin, and soft heart. I miss you terribly, you've taught me.

To my wonderful Gram that my heart is often achy for. I wish you could see these grandbabies, you would be beside yourself, they're so wonderful. You taught me to hear the music and sing along as often as possible. And to my Grandma, you've shown me what it looks like to be committed and serve. They way you have served your husband, my PopPop, long after he's left this earth by continuing to serve his shipmates and play the role of a service members wife. You've both taught me.

To my great Aunt Dorthy, I weap as I write to you, because I'm sad you're soon to leave this side of heaven, but you have taught me to invest time in my kids and one day their kids. To show up. You have taught me the beauty in putting others first and our Christmas Eve's will never be the same. In the words of Collins, "you get to see GOLD!!!!!" We'll take care of the dogs. You taught me.

To my dearest of friends, you have taught me what it means to love and support no. matter. what. You have shown me what it means to be a friend, and a wife, and a mother, and to fight for what I deserve. You teach me everyday.

To my Aunt and Cousin, you have taught me what it means to laugh despite it all and that family is the only constant. You have taught me what it looks like to be a strong woman. You've laughed with me through the hardest of times and invested your energy into me, walking through the difficulties of the last few years. I've watched you love and support your husbands and how you make each other better. You've taught me the best of the best nights are laughing together, drinking good drinks, and eating delicious food. You teach me constantly.

To my kids step mom, you have taught me how to allow them to be fully loved by another. You have stepped up in grace, taught me kindness and humility and respect. I'm thankful for you, you're teaching me.

To my incredible friend and her wife with a grown son, you teach me constantly in work, in life, and in relationships. You teach me to laugh- a lot. You've taught me so much about what it looks like to support your child as they've grown into an adult, and life lessons after some of your mistakes when he was young. You're an incredible mother, and a wonderful teacher.

To my sisters, you're lovely. You've taught me each in your own ways. We've all had our ups and downs and all rounds, but at the end of the days, we're family. You're teaching me all the time.

To my beautiful friend's that have struggled with fertility, YOU are the fiercest of them all. Trying again and again, broken heart after broken heart. Pursing so bravely after so much defeat. I celebrate you as a mother and the strongest of them all. As someone who didn't plan either of my perfectly healthy children, you've taught me an incredible amount.

To my sister-in-law, who never planned your life as it's panned out, we adore you. You are a beautiful, flawless, humble, strong, fighter and protector, and do it all with such ease. Your passion to serve, protect, and empower my nephew is magical. You've taught me.

To my single mom friends, those who feel they're really living large when at the end of the week there's still $135 in their account. Those who were able to buy a full load of groceries and new underwear for the kids. Who don't get to tap out. Who are losing their minds with the missing socks, spilled milk, and car a/c going out because all of that means money that you just don't have. Those who snapped at your kids one too many times and feel like you're failing. Those who have had the courage to ask and accept help because there's just no other way around it. I see you, I am you, and you teach me in your massive amount of strength and persistence that no one will understand unless they've done it.

To my mom, You've taught me in ways I can never count. You've taught me to FIGHT. To succeed. you've taught me to serve my family. You've taught me to be humble. You've shown me an amount of unconditional love that I can't comprehend. You've taught me how to love my children, that crying is ok...even at commercials, you've taught me to laugh hard enough to pull the car over, how to two step, cook-although I haven't been the best student. You've taught me to sacrifice and to survive after emotional abuse. You've taught me to find adventure in whatever I'm doing.

As a mom, mothers day brings copious amounts of emotions. I could never express all of my gratitude in full to all of my teachers but I wouldn't have been able to do this life without each of you. You're my teachers, the ones I'm able to link arms with, to laugh and cry with. I am your biggest cheerleader, Go Mom's Go!

Big Love,
R



Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Party Planner



The first time I remember writing was in the 4th grade at Parkside Elementary in LaVale, MD, a very tiny town snuggled away in the mountains of Western Maryland.  We were given hard back books with, a completely white cover and clean pages and were assigned to write a story along with illustrations and at the end of the assignment we were going to read them to another class. I wrote mine about breaking my arm and having to wear a cast-I'd never broken my arm before, so it was completely fictional. At the same time my parents were in the process of separating and my mom, brother and I were preparing to move to San Antonio. So the day came, and I was going to read my book to the class next door... until I was told I wasn't... and I SOBBED. I remember feeling so left out, heartbroken, not understanding why this was being taken away from me when other kids the days previous got to, but now I wasn't. And then my teacher explained to me the class was throwing me a surprise going away party- and I cried again. They all wrote notes in a journal for me- we had cake and I felt very loved and sad that I was leaving my friends... and I still got to read my book to the class later that day. There were things happening behind the scenes, things I didn't have planned, but it was bigger and better and way more important.


My daughter believes in God. She just does. She doesn't over think His existence or how that can be, or lose her faith when things don't go her way, or when she's trying to understand hard things.  Her faith is very simple. He just is. That is what 'faith like a child' looks like. Jumping in, all of you, believing that God created us each individually on purpose. If you as my daughter anything about why she is the way she is, "why are you so pretty?" "Why are you so sassy?" "Why are you..." fill in the blank with whatever good or bad, her response is "because God made me on purpose." This is having faith like a child. It's simple, beautiful, and pure. It just is.


When do we lose that? When does our faith in God's goodness become childish and contingent?  *gasp* 'My faith in God is NOT contingent on anything. I know God exists! And I know God is good!"... But, are you sure? I've heard more times than I can count lately "God is really working today!" because something is going in favor of what's desired. Does that mean that if things aren't going as planned, He's taking the day off? He's clicked the half moon 'do not disturb' button on his iphone? (assuming he's an apple guy anyway, I certainly hope so... and fyi, my DND is on more often than not...also while we're here, just text me, don't call.) 


My friend recently got married and her wedding day was the BEST weather anyone could ever imagine for on their wedding day. Is this something to give thanks for - yes - if it rained that day does it mean God cared about her less? Not even a little bit. Someone recently got a job they wanted and said "yeah, it's been great, God is really working." This sentence just really makes me very uncomfortable. I just cannot help but be concerned when I hear this that their life is in shambles feeling completely left in the desert when something doesn't go as planned, when they don't get to read their book to the class, because they don't see that God is planning a party.


'God is really working!' when we think things are going as planned or not. God is good regardless if the current desires of your heart are met-or not. I have SEEN the waters part in my life. I have seen Him pave the way for me and all things just divinely land perfectly better than I could have imagined- but I've experienced the pain of things not going as I planned, or Him never fix situations I desperately wanted him to. I've SCREAMED at the top of my lungs at God to fix a situation or physical healing and he hasn't. I've screamed at God, physically, at the top of my voice so loud my vocal chords ached, and held a pen in my fisted hand scratching into a journal to fix my marriage, to take away my psoriasis, to heal my son's breathing problems when he was an infant, in utter desperation...He didn't. I've been ANGRY with God, in my ignorance of what's happening...But God is still working, I just can't see it yet, the party was and is still in preparation. 


He hasn't always fixed it to what I think that should have looked like- God is still good. I'm currently struggling with a bit of anxiety and depression- God is still good and still working. I have to deal with other humans poor decisions- God is still good and is still at work. We're asking for healing over my nephew with PKD, He hasn't- God is still good. I've been passed up on a job I want THREE times- I know God is still working. I make poor choices-God is still good. Humans suck- God is still good. God's goodness isn't a reflection of our humanness. It doesn't mean he's not working, we just can’t see things as he can.


I know I reference Donald Miller too much, but he talks about how the story of the forest is bigger than the story of the tree. There is no forest without each individual tree, but the bigger story isn't about the tree, it's about the forest. We are all required in this life we're all living- but there is so much more going on that we don't see, more to this life than just ourselves. God is working on about 10,000 different things in our lives, but we're only aware of about 3.


I’m in the midst of this season of questioning a lot of things I’ve always been told about God, but I haven’t questioned his existence or his goodness. We have no idea the depth of the love the Father has for each of us individually, specifically, intentionally. My faith is becoming less childish and more like a child, it’s very simple. I don't always understand why I don't get my turn to read my book to the class, but I have to trust in the process that something bigger and better and way more important is coming, I just can't see it yet.





Monday, April 3, 2017

This Mess is Mine


Confession: A fear is that the car in front of me will put on their breaks and I'll run into them in the middle of a car wash." I posted this on Snapchat, along with a photo of my windshield completely covered in suds. The reply I received said, "100% impossible." I never said this was a rational fear... in fact, how often are our fears rational?  This irrational fear stems from the fact that I was in MANY fender benders in my early driving years. However, this hasn't crippled me from getting my car washed once every couple weeks, but I still think about it every single time I do it. There are many fears I have that haven't crippled me- yet. I love dogs, but I fear some, because I've been bitten a few times. I fear losing my job, because I've been the product of "restructuring" on more than one occasion. I fear escalators, this comes from when I was 8 yrs old seeing the insides of a little boys hand after it was about ripped off. I fear being divorced AGAIN, this comes from growing up around many failed marriages. I fear being too damaged, this comes from emotional abuse. I fear becoming too hard, which comes from being told I am too closed off not once but twice in the last few weeks. These are all factors of the mess that's mine. 

A sentence I'm tired of hearing is "whyyyyy are you single?!" Not only is this a rude comment, but its ignorant. It's akin to asking a married woman "whyyyyy haven't you had kids yet?" well, that's none of your damn business. Maybe she has a deep down in her gut desire to be a mom but it's not in the cards for her. Maybe she just doesn't want dirty, sticky hands everywhere and enjoys the freedom to travel as she pleases. Maybe she fears trying again because she's had two miscarriages before, and the heartache of losing another might just kill her. The point is, she doesn't have to tell you why.

When I'm told something like "you're so great, I just don't understand why you're single!" its slightly offensive. I'm aware that it's meant as a compliment, I really do, I know that's the heart behind it... but, I struggle to not respond with "that's a good question, did you have time to sit down and talk about how badly my heart desires a partner, but all I seem to come across are those who tell me that I'm 'so cute I make a baby deer look like a pile of shit?'  and why it is that my bar is set about 10,000ft due north of that kind of 'compliment? Or how I've been on a couple really really fantastic first dates, but not been pursued by any of them. Did you want to talk about that? Oh, I'm sorry have I made you uncomfortable in answering your question...?' 

I'm encouraging of everyone owning their stories, and I'm the first to publish my mess publically, obviously. But come sit on my patio and drink some coffee or a glass of wine and lets talk about desires of our hearts and our lives and the cards we've each been dealt. Please, please do. Don't just say this kind of comment on a whim, and please don't say it with such desperation in your voice, because instead of complimenting me what you're actually doing is confirming my fear that there MUST be something wrong with me for being single. When in fact there's nothing wrong with me. I'm willing to be open and vulnerable, but I'm certainly not desperate and won't force something to happen. I unapologetically wear my heart on my sleeve because I know the reward will be great and I have too much to lose to be anything but honest about the mess that's mine. Which means sometimes I’ll drive home drenched in tears after sharing parts of my heart with someone because I could see the bricks simultaneously stacking up around them with every word I spoke.


An M.O. of mine is to stumble across a song, fall in love with it and play the shit out of it until I'm utterly annoyed with it. Recently that has been a song called Mess Is Mine, by Vance Joy. There have been days at work that this is the only song I've listened to, on repeat, all day. Hours and hours and hours of playtime this song has received from just me alone. "This mess was yours, now your mess is mine...sorry for the mess. hey, I don't mind."  I have a few friends that have been a part of seeing this mess be created, they've seen me at my worst, then helped me find my feet. They know all my secrets, details of my stupid mistakes and things I will carry with my for the rest of my life. My friends that I can call and just say 'I need you to tell me nice things" or like Leslie Knope told her best friend, Ann, "I need you to text me every 30seconds and tell me everything is going to be okay" and they'll do it. They get it, but they've been a part of it all along the way.  These are my people, the ones who make me feel like my mess is theirs too, not just mine.

I'm messy, I get that. I have two children, very limited free time, some baby daddy drama, work-in-progress-credit, and a big ol' slew of scars on my heart. It’s a mess. My fear is that my mess is too large for someone new to come and claim, and this fear comes from having yet to see it happen.


Today is a day that I believe the fear that I am in fact a mess- and I am.  But some days I believe it more than others, sometimes people confirm it, and some days I burry myself under my mess. As I saw the bricks being stacked recently, I believed my mess was my identity. But it's not. I fear being closed off, because I've been told I am, and I fear being too open, because I know I can be. BUT, this mess IS mine, I do own it because I did my part in creating it. What I wont do, is continue to live in fear that this mess will always be only mine. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Ugly Grace


Grace is not pretty. I feel like we hear the word ‘grace’ and we think of it written in pretty script with lots of loops and swoops in the lettering and we picture it written over an image of the beach and get a warm fuzzy feeling of this sweet term. But that’s not the grace I know. Grace is hard, it’s ugly, often involves a person with a tear soaked, snot nosed, red face, with a stomach full of dying butterflies. That’s the grace I’ve experienced. It’s hard and usually has to come from intention, without ease.

I’ve heard stories of people being persecuted for their ‘big’ sins within the church. The things that are considered the taboo and make people uncomfortable to even talk about like premarital sexual relationships, affairs, divorce, homosexuals, and some even just drinking… you know, normal life stuff that we have all been intertwined with at some point. I’ve had friends and seen people be shunned, and shamed, and treated as if they were nothing.

My divorce has been final for two years and I just experienced this for the first time and it fucking hurts.  I’ve been in a battle of my emotions and my hurt to not speak out and react, but rather breathing deep, staying centered and remembering the amount of grace I’ve accepted from my God. To accept shame from anyone at this point would be taking a step in the wrong direction, it would be akin to a prisoner that has been freed and released to a fresh new start, banging on the prison doors to be shackled again. I’ve read a lot on shame, I’ve written about shame and how no one has the ability to shame me more than myself. They’ve certainly tried, however my inner voice is loud and more cruel and honest than anyone else could attempt to be.

But, grace. I’ve stepped out of the prison and am well on my way to the good life, arms and legs and heart unshackled and free to live. 

Here’s the thing, and I’m sad I feel like I have to say this, no one, not even you, has the authority or power to judge anyone’s life as sin.  When we attempt to shame someone for things they’ve ‘done’ we’re attempting to step into God’s role of judgment and delivering punishment. Like saying ‘hold on, God, I’ve got this one.’ But you, my co-human, are just not that powerful.  You don’t get to decide what my punishment should be and by attempting to you’re not teaching me anything about God and you’re not acting like the Christ you say you follow...you're just being an asshole. 

MY God, is loving, and kind, and his heart is BREAKING for things I’ve endured and decisions I’ve made.  My God, even in my ‘sin’, adores me and sits beside me, and invites me to sit at the table and break bread with Him. He’s seen my red faced, snot nosed, tear soaked face, and has taken the time to know why the butterflies are dying in my stomach.  He’s taken the time to know my heart, yet still calls me His favorite. Most importantly my relationship with the Lord is mine, it is deep, and intimate, and does not need to be explained. 

Hear me friends, I’m by no means saying there isn’t consequence to our sin. There is absolutely a cause and effect to all of the decisions we make, good and bad. Believe me two years out and I’m still feeling the ache and ripple effect of my divorce…but, there isn’t an ounce of regret and I truly don’t believe God is punishing me for it.

So now that I’ve been delivered a man made punishment for my divorce I will feel the hurt and process those emotions, but I will deliver grace in return. I will act in love, not out of spite but because I have felt the depth of what grace actually is and to not extend it would be the hypocritical churchy thing to do, and I’m determined to attempt to be like the Christ I say I follow. I have a natural conviction to believe that people are doing they best they can, but I also believe we all have a lot to learn. I cannot deliver punishment to my co-humans no more than I can accept shame from my co-humans, and I’ll never return to that prison again, my God told me so.

Friday, March 10, 2017

My PB&J God


 
I think God is a Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich.

I've always known there to be a God. I was raised Catholic, I came to know Christ personally when I was in high school in a summer camp in the depths of the mountains in Colorado. I worked in a church, and helped in recreating a House of Prayer. Played the pastors wife role… not very well, but I did. I've seen the church do some amazing things as well as have experienced the hearts of some that were very Un-Christ-like and unkind. I have Atheist friends, Mormon friends, Agnostic friends, Muslim friends, Jewish and Messianic Jewish friends. I've been in it - the religious world. I’ve done some research, as well as run from it. I've paraded my faith around telling people they are wrong in the way they are living. I've been a hypocrite. I've been that Christian asshole spewing Jesus jukes. I've played all sides, but I've never not believed that God is real. And now, I’ve got questions. I believe, but I wonder if I’ve been wrong a lot of the time. I am pulling it all apart, asking a lot of questions I've been scared of before. I’m wondering if I've wasted an incredible amount of time focusing on this a Monte Cristo, deep fried, very complex and fattening sandwich of a God, when really, I think He’s as simple as a Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich.


I've been in these conversations with friends for a couple years now kind of questioning some things here and there after traveling through some traumatic events. I know the copious amount of grace I've been shown and feeling like God has perfectly timed opportunities and split the seas for me to flee emotional abuse even though it's against what the bible says... I've got questions, and I feel like I'm finally at a place where I can ask them, and be wrong, and be right, and change my mind, and it's all okay.


My daughter is four and learning to read. Over the last year or so each letter has been introduced and we practice what words start with those letters. It's been a jaw dropping experience to see her brain working and her excitement as it was starting to click. I’d laugh to myself trying to teach to her how ‘C’ can make a ‘K’ sound, like in her first name "Collins" ... but her middle name “Kay” starts with a K, not a C - you see how this is confusing? Now she's starting to put together things she's learned about letters and sounding out words to read. I'll sit with her as she's trying to piece together words, sounding out the first two letters together, the last two letters together and then putting them altogether to figure out a word. But then you throw in the 'ch' sound or 'ie' and she has to ask for help... and then just because it's that way in one word doesn't mean is the same in another word. The English language is not for the weak. But I love to sit with her as she's figuring it out and am exploding in excitement with her as she's putting all of this together and giggling to myself when she's so far off because of the English rules that just don't make sense and some I can't explain yet because she has to learn the basics before she can begin to grasp their, there, and they’re… which lets be honest, a lot of adults still don’t understand…but, I digress…


I feel like this is how our PB&J God is looking at us, his children. He's seeing us figure some things out, whether that’s science, parts of the bible, or even what were supposed to be doing on this earth, and is throwing his arms up saying 'YES, you're getting it!' and then other times he's just giggling at us thinking "dude, you're so, so, SO far off, and this one you're just never going to understand." Then other times with His head cocked to the side, and eyebrows concerned for His children that have just gotten it so wrong and turned him into liver and onions... when He's simply a Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich. Then there are those that have thrown away the sandwich, because they're tired of it, they expect more or want to experience a Thanksgiving feast.


If you’re unfamiliar with the Monte Cristo Sandwich, it's this incredibly gluttonous meal, made with turkey, cheese, ham, triple-decker, battered and deep fried glory. This is all the glitz and glam and rules and regulations and JUNK we've turned God into. I'm in a season of deconstructing that sandwich. I want to get rid of all of this extra crap that is just not needed. It’s over-kill, and literally doing damage to the body. I'm listening to this podcast called ‘The Liturgists.’ It's a guy named Science Mike and Michael Gungor and the journey they've taken, completely deconstructing this gluttonous fattening faith they've always known and loved and have pulled apart every piece until they were left with absolutely nothing. At all. They came to realize it was all crap. Then they started simply. They decided they don't have all of the answers but they do have a lot of questions. They have an understanding of facts, and science and what they could prove, what was just mystical that they couldn't prove but were just believing because they just believe it and cannot convince anyone of. They took it all apart, deconstructed this Monte Cristo God and realized He’s simple. Bread, peanut butter, and jelly. And this is the extent. Simple and perfect.


I have atheist friends who act more Christ-like than some of my most theologically studied friends. One of them is the MOST loving person I've ever observed and constantly building people up, with love spewing from his pores, and frequently doing charity work in our city. Another hosted a fundraising event for my family years ago after our house was hit by a tornado. He is very vocal about his angst with the Christian religion and how were all so far off from actually being like Christ, who we claim to follow…and he's not wrong. So many Christians are concerned with if people are acting right and wrong and following the 'rules' than we are about just loving people- and that doesn't mean loving people in spite of their sin, but just loving them because they are co-humans. Just love the people.


The PB&J God we experience now is different than the Thanksgiving Feast we’ll experience in heaven.  Eternity is described as a wedding and with a feast, and drinking and dancing, but we’re not there yet. We have these understandable grand expectations of our Almighty God to be the ultimate feast. But we're not there yet. We haven't reached completion and we don’t feel fulfilled by our PB&J God that we experience now. We won’t get to feast until we meet God. That's when we'll finally understand all the things we couldn't comprehend yet or can’t scientifically explain. That's when we'll reach completion and finally be fulfilled and experience the feast. I don't think we have capacity to understand now just like my daughter doesn’t have capacity to understand where commas go in a sentence and not to throw them around like confetti as I tend to do. "I can no more understand the totality of God, than the pancake I made for breakfast understands the complexity of me."  A God this feeble mind could comprehend isn’t worthy of my worship.  People end up throwing away the Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich because they can’t explain it all, or are wanting to be full when what they’re craving is the thanksgiving feast that they haven’t experienced yet, and won’t until earth is as it is heaven. 


All of this to say I’m ok with being wrong. I’m ok with asking questions. I’m ok with not having all the answers and the inability to debate someone into believing as I do. I’m just trusting in the simplicity that we’re here to just love each other. I want to stop complicating the simplest of ingredients when it all comes down to our PB&J God as we get to experience Him now and just know that one day we'll get to sit at the table of the feast and finally comprehend the totality of God, but not today. I’m going to ask questions, but most importantly I’m totally okay with not having all of the answers.

Monday, February 6, 2017

My Story, My blog-Smiling's my Favorite

I moved to San Antonio when I was in 4th grade. Many of these friendships I still have today and thankfully we never moved too far so I was able to grow up with many of them and collect more great friendships over the years. Thanks to social media I've been able to cheer them on in all their endeavors over the years. I've seen some of them be married, some divorced and so many babies born. One starting and thriving in her own business as a lady boss, one working for NASA and one opened a school in Africa for special needs children. Some chasing HUGE dreams, traveling the world, a professional fighter and an exotic dancer. So many serving our country, pastoring churches, becoming incredible musicians, the list goes on and on. I've read a lot about creating a great life story and what is your purpose in life and what kind of effect are you leaving in the world, but I think there's more than that. As incredible as all of these things are my friends have accomplished and dreams they're chasing, there is still so much more to each of them and still so much division between people. We all have stories of heartache and triumph, family ache, religion ache, physical and emotional ache. I feel like if we were all more honest about these aches, we will learn to be more compassionate with each other, and realize were all a lot more alike than we think.

Its no secret that I'm in the online dating world. It's terrible and hilarious and exhausting-but it is what it is. I have to have to give my story over and over, a quick synopsis- grew up in San Antonio, was married about fiveish years, divorced now 2. I have two babes and they're with me majority of the time. I have a great job, I'm very close with my friends and my family. I like to run, read and write although I don't give myself enough time for any of them. I like getting out when I can but home life is my jam." I basically say different versions of this same paragraph over and over. Those are the basics, but THERES SO MUCH MORE. We all have so much to our stories, the question is how much to we tell, when, and what parts do we keep to ourselves and which parts have we never told a soul? This surface level stuff doesn't make me vulnerable, sharing these details aren't scary. The people I connect with better and tend to end up talking with longer, eventually meeting are the ones that I get vulnerable with.  The ones that ask about my kids and their personalities or they ask about my marriage, my family, my dreams and goals. That's when a connection starts to occur, when I allow them into my life, I give them a peak at some of the more tender parts of my heart rather than just 'how's the week going?"...or other ridiculous and inappropriate things they've said...that's a whole other post that's in the works.

There is so much power in telling your story. It breaks walls between people, it breaks walls within ourselves. Freedom occurs as we share our hearts cries. Each word we speak it's another blow to the concrete wall we've barricaded behind until eventually there's nothing but dust in the air and as it settles we get to experience so much more, all the things that were on the other side of the wall that we weren't able to see with it in tact-usually its love.

The most common response in my previous writing is how vulnerable I am, how much I expose myself, and I've received an insane amount of feedback that it's encouraging to others that I bare my nakedness so freely. I just don't feel like I have an option. When I write it's to tell my story, its in attempt to not allow my past to control me, to not keep my life a secret. I want more than anything to be in relationship with people, but I can't do that if I keep myself behind walls. I have to accept my past in order to step into the future. Donald Miller wrote "sometimes our identities get distorted because people lie about us and scare us, and sometimes our identities get distorted because of things we've actually done. The result is the same, though. Isolation." And I refuse to stay in isolation. Yes, I'm an introvert, but total solitude and lack of relationships is something total different. I believe we're created to be in relationship with each other which comes with the risk of being turned away, judged, labled and discarded. It also comes with a lot of love, relief to some that they aren't alone, and deep relationships with real people who get it or are challenged with a new way of thinking if they haven't walked in these worn down shoes that I have.

Brenè Brown is a genius when it comes to vulnerability and she said "I believe that vulnerability-the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome-is the only path to more love, belonging, and joy....the downside? You're going to stumble, fall and get your ass kicked."

When I was first coming back to life, and really trying to figure out who I was and take control of things of my past I wrote "It's Time."  Sharing that was a wrecking ball to the Trump sized walls I'd built around my heart, sure to keep everyone out at a safe distance, ensuring no one knew shameful details and damage that had been done over the years prior. After I clicked 'publish' I felt completely naked and terrified as those walls were destroyed (queue Miley cirus.) The result? The boy I'd gone on a few dates with said he didn't feel we could see each other anymore. This was when I knew I was on the right track. He was kind and hilarious and probably the best first date I've ever been on to this day, but he couldn't see past my past and removed himself from any future. I'd love to say I wasn't phased and was onto the next but it did come with the feelings of being too damaged, shamed, and 'will anyone want to be with me?"

But then I realized the fact that this is me. I cant be anything less, I cannot change my past, and I cannot pretend that these things didn't happen. There's that scene from The Notebook when Allie shows up and Noah's house with her suitcases(baggage), lookin' a hot mess from all the tears and heartache and he sees her from the window and she just shrugs her shoulders, like "welp, here I am. I know I've made bad, hard choices, but here I am, choosing love."

This is a reintroduction to my blog. I'm not going to remove any of my previous posts because all of it, especially my writing the last 2 years, is part of my story(baggage) that's brought me to this point.

So this is my blog, Smiling is My Favorite. I promise to be nothing but honest and open. I promise to never be malicious, but I promise to be true and own my story. I can guarantee I'll be wrong sometimes and I promise to change my mind sometimes. I promise to be vulnerable, and I will support anyone who wants to take baby steps into owning their story-whatever that needs to look like to them. I promise not to judge. I promise to listen when needed and give feedback when asked. Lets start a bigger, real, honest, conversation in telling our stories. I'll start.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Living in Lala Land (a not so love story)




Tonight I experienced the movie LaLa Land. I had a smile on my face almost the entire movie. It’s an experience like no other. It's magic. It's perfect. I said goodnight to my friend, and I got in my car still on a high from all that LaLa Land was and dreaming of when I could see it again. I turned on Johnnyswim, my latest music obsession, and was homeward bound. As I was about to turn onto DeZavala Rd just a 1/2 mile from my home, my cheeks were drenched in tears before I even realized I was weeping.

I was so happy seconds ago, but my heart aches. I struggle to quiet the lies that have been spoken into my life as truth, declaring to me that I'm a failure, that I'm not smart enough, that I'm lazy, that I lack a backbone, and that I'll end up alone.

I've been reminded many times this week that I'm in a different season of life than those I'm surrounded by. I have a permanent weekly Skype date with my two best friends. One is married with two beautiful babies, and one is married and fighting a hard fight for children of her own. Another best friend recently married a wonderful man who loves her and her, now their, two boys and are in the process of buying a home together. Other dear friends of mine very much deserve and were hired into a job I desperately wanted for myself. I'm SO, deep down in my heart, over the moon for my friends and the amazing lives they've found themselves to be in. Yet, my heart aches, and I hear the false truths mocking me again, quietly announcing to me that I'm a failure, not smart enough, too lazy, and very much without a partner.

I know I am loved. The Lord has gently, and at times abruptly, placed people in my life along the way to reveal to me how much I am loved and cherished. My life is so good right now. I have a wonderful job, my kids are healthy, their dad and I are on good terms, I'm surrounded by great people, and I've created a wonderful home for my little family. We're doing good! But, I am being transparent that in ALL the overwhelming joy I have in my life, in all my celebrations, wonderful times, perfect-to-me  friends, and life I've created- my heart still aches for more. My life is far from perfect, and I certainly am not trying to live a façade that it is. This life is HARD. I take much pride in the life I've created, but it's definitely easy to fall into lala land and what if I had done things differently.  This isn't ever how I dreamed my life would look.

In my previous life I would often be asked, "What would you do if I wasn't here? What would you be doing? How would Rhonda make decisions if I didn't exist?" and my answer was, "I've lived my life in a way so that I didn't have to make these decisions or carry the weight of it all on my own."  I married the first man I loved, the first man I slept with. I tried to do things the right way. Yet, here I am, weeping on my computer, without my children in the next room, while I make people uncomfortable reading my diary and my battle stories of emotional abuse.

I'm a survivor. I am happy. Yet my heart aches and I hear the words again:

“...you're scared, that's okay with me.' You're a failure. Your marriage failed. You're failing at work. You can't afford a vacation. You will never afford a house. You didn't get that job. You don't have a degree. You're not smart enough. You're lazy. You're a liar. Look at the weight you've gained. Look at what a mess your house is. You're a terrible cook. You'll certainly never finish school because you're so lazy. You don't have a backbone. Those guys at work have backbones. They got the job you wanted-as if you had any chance of that against them. You are alone. You want to be chased? lol I don't see anyone around. You're hard. You're damaged. You're too difficult. You're too dramatic. Way too revealing about your life. ‘it will hold strong. You cannot escape the truth’ You have no time. You're frumpy and awkward and boring. No wonder there are so many first dates and so few seconds and definitely no thirds. ‘With your bitterness, hatred, non conformance, pride and small mindedness haha, so glad I'm not with that for the rest of my life! Good lord, you're a special breed of crazy.”

The enemy uses these phrases to keep me in the darkness, to ensure dominance over my life. The enemy dances these words around me, disguising them as truth with tap shoes on that rat, tat, tat on my heart relentlessly on and on, leaving me defeated and weak. This is the lala land that emotional abuse has abandon me in.

 

"Don't you think I hear the whispers

those subtle lies, those angry pleas

They're just demons, demons

Wishing they were free like me."

 

The truth is I am enough. I know I deserve greatness. I've started an incredible career for myself and am the sole provider for my children, and we’re MAKING IT. The truth is I have a linen closet full of extra blankets, and we have clothes all over the damn place. We have a messy home because we have a home that we live and play in and are abundantly blessed to have filled. The truth is I'm kicking ass and the lies that were declared to me are in fact false. I'll continue to battle them with truth, I'll continue to learn, and fail, and cry and address the invisible scars I've collected like stamps in a passport as I’ve traveled back and forth to lala land. I'll continue to dance to the music of the truth that I am free and I am oh, so worthy of love.