Redefining Bravery

I’m currently in the middle of the 40 Day Challenge with Overcome the Lie. Each day, we get an email from my girl Ashley with a challenge for that specific day and man, does this girl know exactly what I need to hear. From today’s email:

“We’ve been spending a lot of time over at OTL talking about bravery, fearlessness and courage. And that bravery is not what we have always defined it as. That sometimes bravery is getting up in the morning. Sometimes bravery is looking in the mirror, lingering and seeing your beauty. That sometimes bravery is letting people go, laughing at the days to come or even speaking up.”

This week has been really difficult and full of life knocking me down over and over again. I spent the entire day yesterday in my room with the door locked, trying to ignore the world. That’s all I wanted to do again today.

But I didn’t because sometimes you need to look past your crummy circumstances and find a reason to be brave.

So today, bravery looked like getting out of bed; wearing a tshirt and TOMS while walking to the mailbox because it was 68 freaking degrees in the middle of February; taking a long shower; listening to old-school Nelly from 2002; wearing my favorite jeans and a rockin’ band shirt; taking shameless selfies in the bathroom; and rediscovering an old Spotify playlist full of songs that tug at my heartstrings.

Sara Bareilles wants to see you be brave. So does Jesus. So do I.

How are you redefining bravery today?

For more information about the Overcome the Lie community, check out their website. To join the 40 Day Challenge (it’s never too late!), email info@overcomethelie.org.

Speaking Up

Vulnerability is one of my biggest fears. If you’ve read some of my recent posts, you’re well aware of this.

But why? What holds me back from being open about my story, from sharing who I am?

How people will react. What people will think of me. What will change. Acceptance.

But I’m done.

I’m done worrying about what you think of me. I’m done staying quiet out of fear. I’m done feeling shame about my own life. I’m done keeping to myself instead of sharing my feelings. I’m done remaining silent when your words are hurtful.

I am speaking up.

I’m letting go of this shame. I’m accepting freedom because Christ has set me free from the chains of fear. I’m telling my story because you need to hear it. I’m putting aside my fears because Yahweh makes me brave.

Teach Me to Grieve

On Tuesday, I started attending a grief support group at my church. It lasts thirteen weeks and I know it will be beneficial, but it is scary. Really freaking scary.

There’s roughly 10-12 people and I’m almost positive every single one of them is at least twice my age. It’s strange because some of them are there because they are grieving the loss of a child my age.

I’m not good at being open with people, especially people I don’t know well (or at all). Vulnerability is a serious weakness of mine, so being in this group is a pretty big step outside my comfort zone.

In addition to meeting each week, we also have a “workbook” that walks us through personal reflection for five of the six days between our sessions. Each day’s reflection includes a prayer, just a few sentences to engage with God. The prayer for tonight really resonated with me.

“God, the pain of my grief is pressing in on all sides, and sometimes I can’t breathe with the force of it. Lift me into Your arms. Comfort me with Your presence, and teach me to grieve.” (emphasis mine)

The first part is painfully true. Literally. On some of the worst days, I struggle to get oxygen into my lungs. I lay in bed and yell at God over and over until noise no longer comes out. I sit in this overwhelming silence longing for comfort and community.

The last part really hit me and is something I’m going to try to really focus on over the next twelve weeks. I think part of why I’m still where I am is that I’ve tried moving forward in the grieving process, but it’s come with so much force.

I’m in a season of learning about humility. Sometimes I try to shift the focus from Jesus back to me and what is occurring in my life… and then I have a really long day that ends with a 45 minute drive home, a worship playlist full of truth, and straight-up ugly crying because He is so much more than I can ever comprehend.

So I’m stepping back, taking things slow, listening in, and waiting for His voice to teach me to grieve.

Cursing on Sunday

This happened today.

church tweet

We started a new sermon series today about what it means to be a Christian. My pastor prefaced his sermon by saying that this series would be straight from the Word, straight-up truth from the Bible. He said he knew we would not necessarily enjoy hearing what was going to be preached over the next few months. And he told us to get over it.

I understand that there is a time and place to be real with people about what God says in the Bible. And I understand that the Bible isn’t meant to be easy to understand. And I understand that the Bible isn’t meant to reflect our opinions, but that they should be rooted in the truths we find in Scripture.

But here we were, maybe five minutes into the sermon, and I was contemplating going home. And when I thought that preface was bad enough, my pastor began his sermon by saying today’s message was meant for Christian men, and more specifically, Christian husbands.

I don’t know why I stayed.

As a single, feminist, LGBT Christian woman, what was I supposed to get out of this sermon meant for Christian husbands?

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the end of the sermon turned to abortion and human trafficking. According to my pastor, abortion is a result of women who don’t receive Christlike love and trafficking is fueled by men who don’t love like Christ.

I know that I attend a church that is pro-life and not the kindest when it comes to homosexuality and I know full well that it is my choice to continue attending. You may be thinking, “if you know these things and you don’t agree with the beliefs of your church, why don’t you find a church that shares your beliefs?” For the answer to that question, I’ll send you here because Sarah and Lindsey have put my thoughts into words better than I probably could have.

And just in case I haven’t ruffled your Christian feathers enough with the words of this post, I’ll leave you with the last thoughts I wrote in my journal before leaving church this afternoon:

this sermon basically felt like bullshit… to be honest.

In Review | January

In an attempt to be more consistent with posting this year, I’ll be posting at the end of each month sort of recapping the past 30ish days. Recapping? More like sharing a bunch of great things that I found this month that I don’t think you should miss. I’m really excited about this, especially because this month was SO good.

Read:

  • You are not your mental health disorder by Sarah Benesi // “Your mind is not sick.  It may crave extra love in some areas, but it is not diseased.” (Sarah also has a wonderfully hilarious Twitter feed – follow her at @sarahbenesi)
  • 100 Awesome Songs from 2002-2006 by Forever Twenty Somethings // This is a great post because it reminds you of classic 2000s musical gems and also makes you feel really old.
  • Shut Up and Let Me Grieve by Jayson Bradley // “Even if what you say is completely right, it likely won’t help. There’s nothing rational about grief.”
  • Price Peterson’s Teen Wolf Photo Recaps // This guy is great and his TW recaps are hilarious. You can find his most recent recap here. He also photo-recapped the Grammys, which is also good for some laughs.
  • Leave (Stories from a Restless Heart) by Micah Murray // Okay, so this is technically an eBook, but this post will get it to ya (and it’s free, so you have NO excuse not to read it). Micah is easily one of my favorite bloggers; I really enjoy his writing style and he’s not afraid to really speak his mind. Read his eBook, y’all.

Listen/Watch:

  • “Stay Happy There” by La Dispute // The boys are back and I am so freaking excited. LD has a new album coming out March 18th and from the looks of it, it’s going to SLAY.
  • Local 12’s version of “Royals” // Local 12 does this thing called Dance Party Friday where they cover songs from the charts and they are SO GOOD. I mean, I’m a little biased because I kind of LOVE Bob Herzog… You should also check out their take on “Wrecking Ball” from the fall.
  • The Fault in Our Stars trailer // IT IS HERE. Watch it. Fall in love with this story. Read the freaking book by John Green before the movie comes out in June.
  • My roommate and I also watched Orange is the New Black this month. I KNOW that it came out months ago and can easily be watched in a weekend… Anyway, we finished it this week and we cannot wait for season 2 to come out!

What did you love this month? Anything I missed that is worth checking out? Let me know in the comments!

Thoughts about Trust.

I’ve been thinking a lot about trust lately. Mostly because I’m pretty rubbish when it comes to trusting people. I’m very hesitant to trust people because of things that have happened in the past.

This also affects my trust in Jesus. Part of this, I think, is due to the fact that I’m still understanding that Jesus is a person, not merely an idea. Thinking of Jesus as a person means actually needing to be vulnerable with Him. Sure, Jesus knows all of my thoughts and desires, but He wants to hear them from me. And that can be scary.

But hey, sometimes we have to suck it up and do things that are scary.

I’m going through a time in my life right now where I don’t really know what’s what and trusting in Jesus is really freaking hard. I’m trying to continually find Jesus in the little things because that tends to help.

Recently, those little things were “Oceans” by Hillsong, an assortment of paints, and a blank canvas.

Image

And I will call upon Your name and keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will trust in Your embrace for I am Yours and You are mine

A Cliche Post of Goals for 2014.

Sometimes you have a bad week. Or even just a bad day. I tried convincing myself that Wednesday was going to be a good day, a productive day off from both of my jobs. I listened to the first January Series speaker, watched a TED Talk, caught up on my YouTube subscriptions, and watched a movie I’d wanted to see for a few months now. But it wasn’t a very good day, nor was it very productive. I felt like I had picked up a fair amount of knowledge and I felt rested, but my heart just felt empty. I didn’t see a single person, not even my roommate, and I put off phone calls with friends because sometimes simply being sad is easier than being vulnerable (let’s face it – being vulnerable is pretty damn scary).

I’ve been thinking a lot about goals for 2014 (naturally) and I’ve narrowed it down to a handful of words: change, grow, create, adapt, and inspire.

Change. | In the past, I’ve had sad days… but they’ve mostly been sad weeks and/or months. I’m trying to get better at working through problems and getting past them. For me, this involves accountability check-ins every week or so with two of my best friends. It also involves taking care of myself better – eating healthy (well, some days), working out regularly, and learning how to say “no” instead of constantly trying to please others and meet their needs.

Grow. | I’m taking this semester off from school in order to work and I guess kind of re-find myself, which means I have a LOT more free time than I’m used to having. I’m trying to use this time to better myself in different ways (though I’ve been slacking and sleeping in a lot this week). I want to read more books and generally gain more insight to a lot of different things. I want to write more letters and strengthen friendships with people who I care about very much. I also want to be more intentional about my spiritual life. I took communion this past Sunday for the first time in six months. In those moments alone at the table, I found my Jesus again and I can’t wait to see where we go together this year. My favorite times with Jesus this week have been spent reading 1 Corinthians in my Spanish New Testament. I haven’t used the Spanish I know very much in the past few years, so I can’t always understand exactly what I’m reading, but I read it aloud and man, Jesus just finds his way into my heart and speaks so much truth to me.

Create. | In my free time over the next few months, I also really want to spend more time writing – both personally in my journals and publicly here, so expect to actually see posts more frequently! I’m also hoping to dig into some textbooks (which is lame, but cool (to me, at least)) and write more code. Ideally, I’ll have a new look for my blog in a few months, too. :) There’s also a stack of canvases on my shelf that need to have some color added to them, so I’ll be painting more, which I’m really looking forward to.

Adapt. | This was actually one of the first words I decided on and I chose it while driving back to Cincinnati after spending a weekend in Grand Rapids between Christmas and New Year’s. This is also something I don’t think I’ve shared with anyone yet, so here we go! I had a lot of time to think while I was in Michigan (and while driving to and from) and I knew in my heart that, while it is a beautiful place full of beautiful people who have impacted my life greatly, it is no longer my home. While driving around the city during my visit, I saw familiar places, but it wasn’t like what I experience here in Cincinnati. Here, I drive around thinking, “this is my Target/Kroger/Meijer,” “this is my church,” “this is my favorite spot to visit with this person.” In Michigan, all I could think while driving was, “this is a place where I experienced this with these people.” It was no longer about the places, but merely about the memories I had with people who shaped who I am today. And so, here I am, finding my identity and my purpose in a city and a state that I will soon legally call home. I’m planning to become a resident of Ohio within the next month and a half or so and I could not be more excited (I’m also not complaining about FINALLY paying in-state tuition when I return to school in May).

Inspire. | I’ll be honest – I don’t know exactly why this word made my list. Maybe it’s my twentysomething way of saying I want to “be the change you see in the world.” I just want to really thrive this year and live in a way that means something to someone.

As you may or may not have known, I deleted my Facebook just before the new year. It has been quite wonderful and I really do not miss it. I do, however, miss knowing what is going on in your lives! Please feel free to share with me, either in a comment or an email, what’s going on in your neck of the woods and what you’re hoping for in 2014. :)

an honest post.

I read this post this afternoon and it really spoke to me.

I’m still grieving Joel’s death. I still don’t know when I won’t be or if that’s even a point people are supposed to reach after losing someone close to them. I can go weeks without being impacted by it, but the emotions come flooding back eventually – usually sparked by a song, movie, blog post, or picture.

First of all, ask for what you need. It sounds simple, but it’s often the hardest part of grieving, or at least it was for me.”

friends, I’m going to be honest with you and ask for what I need. I need encouragement. I need to be reminded of good times. I need to be reminded of love and happiness, laughter and joy, grace and hope. I need hugs and fun times.

to put it simply, I need you.

both happy and sad.

Charlie, the main character in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, once said, “so this is my life. and I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

the grieving process is difficult and it’s different for each person. some days are much easier than others and some are just plain miserable.

and here we are – August 6, 2013. I’ve missed Michigan the most today and this same day last summer. I miss Grand Rapids and my family and my high school/college communities and my wonderful group of friends and I miss Joel.

it’s hard to know what the “right” feelings are today. I miss my best friend like crazy, but I also love my job, my crazy coworkers, my wonderful roommate, and everyone/everything else that make living in Cincinnati so beautiful.

so, like Charlie, today I’m both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.