…And It’s Okay

If we’re going to use the technical definition, I haven’t been popular at any point of my life. I have just the right amount of social awkwardness & introversion that I’m forever stuck in the outskirts of every social group I’ve ever been in. Moments that I have the spotlight snatched by the throat are brief. I think I prefer it that way….

But spending lots of time on the outer circle gives you plenty of time to think and observe. I’ve been considering the following:

1. Social Insecurity isn’t just a struggle among teenagers.

We all remember what it was like spending every waking moment thinking about how to climb the social ladder as a teen. At least I did. We all had this inner longing to be accepted, but settled for a sense of belonging. It may come down to semantics, because they do hinge on one another.

Sadly, many of us realized that belonging comes at an unjust price. It’s a familiar ghost that often follows us into adulthood. Even for the most secure of us. We are faced with the occasional decision of whether we are going to be ourselves or fit in.

2. Pettiness stops being funny/admirable when you hit 30.

I remember when I stopped laughing hard at my “petty friends”. Granted, the #thanksgivingclapbacks are pretty brilliant.

3. The older you get, the harder it is to maintain relationships like you did in college.

I remember talking to my friends in between classes everyday. Going out every Friday and Saturday. Sitting with each other at church services. The only things usually standing between me and my social life were massive papers and part-time jobs. Now…I not only have a husband and two kids, but (technically) 3 jobs, a nonprofit, and a host of monthly volunteer opportunities. Life has never been this busy. I would love to keep up the same level of social life as before, but I’m confused that I will still get “You prioritize what you care about” shade. Sometimes I end up falling asleep before I can text my friends back, if I can be honest. My closest friends either 1)Are just as busy and/or 2)Understand that I’m busy and love me anyway.

4. I have some pretty driven, dynamic, gifted friends.

Okay, this one is more of bragging moment rather than a mere observation. If you simply followed my friends on their social media, you’d see that I’m connected with undiscovered artists, dancers, writers, musicians, orators, entrepreneurs, helpers, philanthropists, and dynamic personalities. Having them in my life and witnessing their visions to change the world unfold gives me hope.

I’m super okay with being on the outskirts because of the view I have.

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The Gift of Suffering.

I truly feel like one of the greatest gifts a person can give is to sit together with another inside of their suffering. With no agenda. No reciprocity, even. Just the silent act of empathy, wrapped in genuine human connection. We all suffer, at one point or another. We all experience grief of various forms and severities. Pain is our great unifier.

Yet, we are so uncomfortable with someone else’s pain. We will fill gaps in conversations with awkward, well-intentioned cliches. Or avoid all together. Others will become hypervigilant from guilt or for appearances sake. Wracked with self-doubt or fear, we are afraid of getting too close to the sufferer.

Maybe we remember how suffering changes you. Snatches you from proximity with our superficial worries; instead focusing our attention on the abstract. The unknown and inexplicable. It is easier to pacify ones self with everyday cares.

Despite that fact that suffering tends to have nearly lethal devastations attached, the glory that can come from it is significant. Can we ponder on how this occurrence multiplies when communities mourn together? Can you imagine it?

What happens when you take your eyes off of your own pain for a moment & join hands with your neighborhood, family, and community concerning a hurt that we all may be able to relate to? And what happens when you lend ears to someone’s story that you have NO connections with, or a superficial awareness of?

Glory happens. Heaven is depicted. We are living out part of our best & purest selves when we join together. Humans are capable of great hatred and malice. But I don’t believe that’s our True Nature. That’s not our Origin. We are most like our Creator when we lay our own lives down.

So, I have a reason to be thankful today. Even for the pain I feel. Because I’m not carrying this weight alone. I have family and loved ones who are shouldering this with me. Let us do that for one another, especially in these days.

Ten.

I’ve loved Nick George for 10 years. Give or take. May 18, 2007 was the day I realized it was actual love. There we were, walking across our college campus, mere hours before we were both meant to go home for the summer. I’d spent a week in a sort of funk because I knew that our friendship would end up whittling away to “oh, she’s just that girl I hung out with my sophomore year”. I had come to accept it…until he asked me to take a walk with him.

That Day led to a forever.

Because three months after May 18th, he asked me to be his girlfriend. Another almost 5 years after that, he asked me to be his wife. And a year after that, we would start to have our kids.

Our path has been far from easy. And we have both felt like giving up at one point or another. But the fruit of being loved by Nick is immeasurable. The “18th” will always be significant for us. I’m so glad I agreed to go take that walk.

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Pride.

I have spent so much of my life trying to hold a compliment in my head long enough for it to seep through my ribcage and into my heart. Most times, I end up gagging on a fear that I’ll be found out as a phony.

I’d end up holding the compliment in my sweaty palms, instead. Awkward and unsure, give it a once over and toss it back to its recipient. Or into the thin air.

Now. I can’t seem to hold a criticism in those same palms without my heart crumbling inside of my chest. I’ve never been this fragile. Every face is a potential enemy. Everyone carries the potential to destroy me. My husband. My clients at work. My God.

This isn’t the “toot your own horn” on loop kind of pride. But a sinister type where I feel inauthentic in moments where I want to shine the most. I look over my shoulder and test out each glance. Are you pleased with me?

….and I answer the question with a “Of course not.”

I can see an image of myself as a small girl, with my mother’s church clothes, jewelry, and shoes on. They are obviously too large for me. Swallowing my tiny frame. I want to feel pretty. As pretty as the person whom these clothes belong to. But I spin and twirl and pray for a “Oh, darling. Look at how beautiful you look.”

The one compliment that satisfies the need. Finally.

So I can rest my tired feet and stop this rat race; constant pursuit of pleased nods and grateful hugs from those around me that I often get. But it never seems enough.

I think pride is kin to memory loss. You must be privy to forgetfulness to be prideful.

I forget that I have alwaysbeen valued and cherished.

Even before I was cognizant of any desire to please and take the credit. Before any hands raised in front of pulsating hearts to give accolades, high-fives, or wide hugs. Before the creation of selfies and high school superlatives. Before I knew what it was like to be ignored by a boy I liked.

Pride is an insatiable black hole. Matched only by Love. Nothing can win against Pride except Love. Only Love. When I let Love have its way in me, I can rest, return glances with smiles, and be great because I am Loved. And I truly know it.

“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” – Zepheniah 3:17

50 Shades of Black & Blue

Confession: I spent much of my life being an in-closet feminist.

Not only did I recognize how women are viewed as having minority status, but I soon saw countless examples of how women seemed to exist for a man’s pleasure. I understood the Biblical design for men/women, but yet my ideology of equality and shared submission battled with the way things actually are. And I was angry and even bitter.

When you only have your rights to rally for, it’s easy to simplify the struggle to a moment of protest. A single march. But it appears that something as simple as an erotic book series can ignite talks of inequality.

For example, I should be able to read a book surrounding a straight-laced young woman, who lived her life suppressed, finding a supposed “sexually liberated” experience. Anyone discouraging me from reading are being oppressive, right? After all, men are able, and even encouraged, to be sexual. Women, however, are expected to be both Mother Theresa & Nikki Minaj when beckoned.

I want to read these books. Because it is my right as a person. I should do it without being judged.
Simple.

But then I gave birth to a woman.
…well…she’s a toddler now. But it is inevitable that she will become a woman.

I’m not responsible for her gender. God already took care of that part. But I’ve been given the thrilling, tumultuous task of showing her how to be a woman (Lord, help me.). She may not take one ounce of my teachings/example with her into adulthood, but darn it if I won’t still try.

The process of rallying for certain rights become complex when you are considering how it will affect the next generation. I’m picturing Naomi as a 29 year old, and I’m praying that she will not only feel equal with men, but that she will recognize her uniqueness/role as a woman.

Regrettably, books like 50 Shades of Grey does not give respect to a woman’s uniqueness. Only nods to the most debased version of her desires. A 2D version of the fire that a woman’s heart actually contains. It shifts the perspective too far right that love becomes abuse. But isn’t that the typical narrative that we hear of a woman in love?

Crazy. Desperate. Ultimately misused.

I know it is not a philosophy book or a textbook for Women’s Studies. And I understand that the poster-child for the Anti-50 Shades movement are largely conservatives. However, communities are coming to this book’s defense as being normal, acceptable treatment between a man and a woman. And that is not what I want my daughter to desire; not in her love or her sexuality.

This book teaches that pain is the path to desire. I won’t nick pick here because I understand people have various tastes. But this isn’t about having different desires, but about the definition of desire being altered. In my opinion, true desire is only unlocked when two things are present:

Safety
Commitment

By safety I mean a relationship where two people can explore and deny any part of the sexual intimacy. Being tied up, blindfolded, coerced, manipulated, and emotionally and physically gagged does not create safety for the woman. It only enhances the distorted satisfaction of the man. The woman’s satisfaction is not a byproduct of this set up. A happy accident, at best.

And then there’s commitment. When two people make the ultimate commitment (dare I use the M word here: Marriage), they are declaring openly that they share the responsibility to respect one another: mind, body, and spirit. In these books, there was no such commitment made, leaving this woman in danger of being physically, emotionally, and spiritually wounded by an already wounded man.

Another complex portion of rallying for rights is recognizing your part in narrative. The young lady in the first book constantly pursued the man, even after him telling her to stay away.

Raising, not simply head-strong, prideful, self-absorbed young women, but those in touch with their identities is integral to helping them know when a potential relationship is toxic. Not simply knowing what they are attracted to, but gaining a wisdom about what traits to stay far away from.

Ultimately, it’s not all about changing policies or evening the playing field at the end of the day. The heart is hard to legislate. As it has always been, confident, wise women will till their own fields. I will teach my daughter and daughter-types to conduct themselves as if no glass ceiling exists….until it no longer doesn’t.

Signs You’re too Young Minded for a Commitment

Today was the day that the term marriage was redefined. Whether you agree with the decision or not, the institution of marriage is on an examination table. A whole collection of people will finally get to experience the challenges & heartaches of marriage. On some level.

Ironically, there is an entire generation that will simultaneously rally behind marriage equality but are wrestling with commitment. The term “prolonged adolescence” means that young adults are waiting longer than ever to finish college, move out of their parents’ homes, and get married. Perpetual bachelorhood is romanticized over romance itself. It seems to me that there is more warring against traditional marriage besides the recent declaration.

But I’ve been thinking….current culture reveals so much evidence that not only are most 20 somethings not choosing to get married, but they aren’t even prepared for the commitment. And not only that, but they aren’t attempting to prepare themselves. I can’t speak on this without having the experience to back it up. I wasn’t married at 22. I made a ton of mistakes.

…so, I’m not at all pointing any fingers here…

Anywho. Here’s the list I came up with of signs that you are too young minded to handle a long term commitment. Feel free to comment/add/minus any of these….

1. You cannot take constructive criticism with humility.

2. You haven’t the foggiest idea of where you’d like to be in 5 years.

3. Your ideals/beliefs change depending on who you’re around.

4. You have multiple personal electronics which their cost add up into the $1000s but you can’t seem to save for a car.

5. You cannot make a full meal on your own (including a starch, a meat, a vegetable, and maybe dessert).

6. You stink at having roommates or always choose to live alone.

7. When out with friends, you can’t (at least once) pick out the restaurant.

8. Your FB timeline is filled with passive aggressive/attention seeking posts.

9. Your previous relationships ended due to the same, exact reason. Doesn’t matter which one, but they are all identical.

10. You believe its the opposite sex’s fault you aren’t in a relationship.

11. You spend most of your time looking for someone, rather than becoming someone.

12. If you’re female, you still say the following: “I have more guy friends than girls. I just don’t get along with girls.”

12b. If you’re a male, you still use derogatory terms for women (e.g. thot, etc.).

13. You either feel like marriage is a) a prison sentence or b) your salvation.