Grace is when God gives us what we don't deserve.
Mercy is when He doesn't give us what we do deserve.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Exactly Enough

I am not sure when it started.  I know no one ever said it.  No one even implied it.  Yet somehow, while I was growing up I started to feel like I wasn't measuring up.

Mom would make a comment about getting my hair out of my face but I heard that I wasn't pretty enough.

Dad would make a comment on my outfit and I wasn't stylish enough for my photographer father.

Grades, not smart enough.

Swim team, not fast enough.

Dance, not graceful enough.

Before I knew it, I lacked follow through, I wasn't a good enough driver, pretty enough, smart enough, funny enough, have a good enough voice... the list went on and on.

Having a dead brother didn't help.

It made things worse.

In addition to not feeling like I measured up, I was failing twice over.  I was not just letting myself down, I was letting Adam's memory down.

Somewhere along the line I convinced myself (please note, I DID THIS TO MYSELF) that I had to do more, be better, or just attempt to somehow live for both of us.  This world was going to miss out on all the possible goodness and all the imagined gifts Adam would have blessed it with.  So, in my mind anyway, it now became my responsibility to not just live for me, but excel for him.

Talk about pressure.

I am not sure how it started or how I came to believe it so surely, but believe it I did.  Every time I felt I fell short of the imaginary "ENOUGHS" I was failing the both of us.  I remember a few times where I wondered if the wrong child had died.

I know!  Horrible thought.

But I still thought it.

To myself.  It would have gutted my Mom to know what I was thinking.  I can't believe I am actually admitting it but I am and it feels kinda good.  I used to think that if Adam had lived he would have been better, made less mistakes or somehow had this blessed life that I just couldn't live up to.  I could never live up to what I imagined the greatness of his life would have been and it was easy to imagine his life would have been great.  I mean, if you're wishing a kid back from the dead, you're hardly likely to imagine them ordinary...

I also can't pinpoint when I stopped worrying about the "ENOUGHS".  I guess they were a bit like a plant you don't water... they just sort of faded over time until they were just dead twigs reminding me of what had once been there.  I came to recognize that if I really believe that God has a Master plan, imagining the wrong child died was like telling God he made a mistake and I don't believe that.

I do still try to honor Adam (by donating to charity in his memory) but I no longer try to live my life to make up for the loss of his.  I'd like to believe his spirit would be proud of my growth.  I came to trust that my Amazing God made me just as I am and that by virtue of that fact alone, I am exactly enough.  I have been blessed with all the exactly right attributes to make me who I am.  I have lived through all these experiences, including the loss of my brother & the warped perceptions that grew out of that loss, to shape me into whom I'm to be.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Getting out of my own way

May 10, 2003 I moved to Nashville from Huntsville.  

One of the first things I did was to find a church.  I was feeling a little emotionally and spiritually bankrupt after my time in counseling.  It wasn't that the job was so all together horrible, but the schedule of 24 hours on for 3-5 days and then 24 hours off for 1-2 days made it hard to get involved with a church because it was so rare to have Sundays off.  It was also really hard to make friends outside of the job because you had no consistency to make plans with people.  It was also hard for me to witness what some people were capable of doing to their own children.  

I really didn't put a ton of effort into finding the church.  I went to the ELCA website and searched for churches in Nashville.  Then I tried a few out until I found First Lutheran downtown.  I liked it and the people were nice, there was virtually no young adult group, but that didn't keep me from getting involved.  I got very involved.  I was on the youth committee, I did the food for fellowship hours and made dinners for our Room in the Inn program.  I joined in the Supper Club and that was wonderful for meeting a variety of people in the congregation.  It was a great place for restoring me, but it didn't fire me up to go out into the new week.  

By late August 2009 I was done.  I had been longing for more for quite a while and I was starting to feel really taken advantage of by the church.  IT wasn't the whole congregation and I am willing to admit that I probably should have said no more often over the years.  By the time I was saying NO, people were not willing to hear it.  

Despite the fact that I was longing for a church to both restore me and fire me up it took me close to two more years before I discovered Cross Point.  I tried several churches but this time I did something new... 

I went outside my comfort zone.  

Yes, that's right this nice Lutheran and Catholic girl decided to try all sorts of churches that weren't necessarily what I had grown up with.  

Some I tried were really not for me.  Some were okay, but just not quite what I was looking for. 

Through it all I was longing more...

It was the best thing I could do.  To go outside what I had known and explore all these different churches, because while none of them were right for me, it helped me get a broader sense of what I did and didn't want in my new church home.  Also, not having my church needs met enabled me to get to a point where I let the walls down on the "Everything is fine" facade and to really let a friend know what I was struggling with.  

She told me about her 2 year long search for a church and how it brought her to CrossPoint.  She told me all about her pastors and this new series they were starting on Shattered Dreams.  The first week I went, I liked it.  


I cried.  

(I still cry almost every week.  It's how I really know I'm where I need to be.)

BUT... I really missed the Lord's Prayer and the Creed too.  I knew from my friend that the did Communion but I didn't know how often.  What I am surprised by was more what I didn't miss.  I didn't miss most of what I had growing up.  I was happy to discover the worship music filled that void I was missing.  I was charged up for my next week.  It didn't take me long before I realized that I didn't even miss the Lord's Prayer or Creed at service.  I say the Lord's Prayer before I go in and then I am usually so overwhelmed by the music and message that none of the rest matters.  

I have been amazed by how after 28 years of church attendance, teaching Sunday School and all my church involvement all the books I have read... I hear these familiar stories and it's in a new and fresh way.  I am learning things about passages I thought I understood that make me understand them in a deeper and better way.  I am so glad that I was able to go out of my comfort zone, because that flexibility has allowed me to stretch and grow my faith.  It pains me to admit that I'm not sure I would have been as open to CrossPoint's differences from what I was used to had I not tried all those other churches and been without for so long.

What area of your life would benefit from your trying new things that might be outside your comfort zone?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Not in my plans

I had this whole post planned out, but what I am about to say was NOT in my plans.

I don't get it.

In the last week I have been contacted by 3 (THREE) different guys that I was happy to leave in my past.  This isn't the first time they have just contacted me out of the blue either.

Two are guys that have been friends of mine for over 10 years now and we don't keep in contact terribly often, but in recent years communication has really dropped off.  In the past when they would call or email it was exciting to touch base again.  Now, I am glad to hear from them but really just wonder what they want and how long they'll be around before they drop off the face of the earth again.  The conclusion I have come to over the past couple of years is that some girl has made them feel badly and since I am so sweet they come to me to boost them back up and remind them how wonderful they are before they feel better and can move on to the next girl.  I am willing to admit I may be COMPLETELY off base, but that is just how I have been able to make sense of their actions.  "Boston" called me drunk to tell me that he was thinking of moving to Nashville.  "Chicago" sent me text messages to see how I was and to tell me has reached a point of clarity, wants to change the world and it's right up my ally... do I want to help him?

The guy that was my ex was ages ago and I felt a little bad about how things ended way back when.  Right before Christmas he was apparently at a friend's house while they were on Facebook.  He had his friend try to find one of our mutual friend's page since she was expecting a baby and he wanted to see if she had had the baby and posted pictures.  Instead he found my face smiling back beside a comment I had left for her.  He called her, got my contact information from her and then called me out of the blue.  That was thrilling.  I was very excited to catch back up with him and have a chance to make peace with our past.  We emailed, talked on the phone and he came to visit more than once, but then suddenly he just dropped off the face of the earth.  I was a little confused but since so many years had passed after our real connection and we hadn't had much time to reconnect I just brushed it off.  Okay, that's a bit of a stretch, I was confused and I did have some moments of self-doubt... but I quickly came to a conclusion that it wasn't about me.  It was his poor manners, his bad behavior and I deserve so much more than that type of behavior.  He just emailed me.

Okay the thing I REALLY don't get is that they all seem to come and go at the same time.  I mean, it can be 3 months or 9 months.  Now, none of them know each other and it is rare that they all contact me on the same day, but it isn't long after one shows up that the others come creeping back too.  Is it something in the water?  Does it have something to do with full moons?  Really, it stumps me.  I just don't get it and I struggle with why they just keep coming back to me.

I am also struggling with how to cut this off because there just isn't much a friendship left anymore.  There are great memories of how close I was to each of them, but now they are no longer a part of my reality.  While they may still get something out of the relationship, I really don't.  When I need a friend I don't think to reach out to any of them because odds are I'll be met with radio silence.  Closing the door on a friendship is never easy, but I do think at times it is required.  There are times when the relationship needs to come to a close but I struggle to do it.  I hate to walk away from people and while I may know it is time I certainly don't do it with any sort of ease.

Have you had to walk away from someone recently?  How did you do it?  Would you do anything differently?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The fine line between yummy and dummy

Some of you may know that I am allergic to eggs (No, even if I could, I would never eat Robins' eggs, I just love the color of them).  Not even the whole egg really... if I can find a way to get to the yolks without them being contaminated by the whites I could be in eggy bliss.  You see, I LOVE EGGS!  I love them when I bake, I love them in egg sandwiches and I love them when I cook.  The worst part for me is I think if the allergy was worse I would be better at living with it.  Right now, my reaction isn't great, but it isn't life threatening.  I don't even break out in hives all over, instead I get these annoying patches on my elbows and knee (right side only) that itch like crazy.  The allergist told me (after the prick test) that since it wasn't life threateningly severe I didn't have to completely cut eggs out if I didn't want.  He did say that I would have to manage my exposure and over time my reaction could become increasingly uncomfortable to the point where it might become severe but there is no way to know when or if it would worsen or how bad it might get to be.

The doctor told me that my reaction would be worse if my body was dealing with other allergy triggers (say Christmas with 3 dogs instead of 1) and that it would be better if they were baked into things than cooked (cake = good, mayo = bad) or combined with other things.  Please, trust me that I am really grateful eating eggs doesn't require use of my constant companion the Epi pen or send me to the ER because I have had my throat swell shut and that is NOT a fun experience.  It's just that when I first found out it was really overwhelming.  I mean, I started to run through all my favorite recipes... No pancakes, No pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, No custard pie for Christmas, None of Mom's sweet breads, No cakes, No French toast, No crusty breads, No breaded chicken and the list just went on.  I started running through all my favorite recipes (I have quite a few since I like to read cookbooks like some people read novels) and thinking about how the last time I made them I didn't even realize that they were causing my problems.  More importantly, that it would be the last time I got to enjoy them.  Thanksgiving was just a few weeks away and my family was coming to me this year.  What was I going to do?  There had to be pumpkin pie.  I was not going to make them miss out just because it would make me uncomfortable.  Then as I came to grips with the fact that this was my new reality, I started researching and experimenting with egg free cooking.  I now have some tricks that have helped me to continue baking and be able to enjoy the treats I make without itching.  

Joy, right?  I found a way to work around this complication... not so much.  I know logically that cutting out eggs completely clears up the itching and makes life in my skin more comfortable.  In fact, since I found out what exactly the problem was I have cut eggs out for the most part, and that is the problem.  "For the most part" means that I no longer eat omelets, traditional cakes or most breads from the grocery... but I still drink Root beer, nibble on jelly beans if they're around and succumb to the temptation that is really good sour dough bread if I am not focused on what is in them.  Uh-huh, that's right, all of those items contain egg whites.  Yep, I know.  They are EVERYWHERE!  The obvious things aren't such a problem, even though they still tempt me, it is all the little ways eggs sneak into things.  Then, just that because the reaction is mild and mostly uncomfortable not threatening, it is easy to be less diligent about checking when I am feeling rushed or stressed over other things.  I also occasionally rationalize that just a little isn't so bad, the allergist told me I just had to manage my exposure to eggs.  The thing is... I know if I avoid them the patches go away and I don't want to crawl out of my skin, so I know in my heart that I should cut them out COMPLETELY.

I kind of think of it like temptation and sin (and yes, eggs are majorly tempting when you can't have them by the way!)...

There are some things that really aren't good for us, but the consequences of those choices aren't dire.  Sure, they maybe make things a little uncomfortable and make it hard to live in our skin for a bit, but because it's not sooo bad we let ourselves slide when we're stressed.  Instead of checking our choices, we just go with what we want and then later, when the now familiar uncomfortable reactions set in, realize it was not our best decision.  If it was a hard and fast NO vs a YOU WILL HAVE TO MANAGE THIS it would be easier I believe.  The flaw is in thinking that we can manage it.  Because we can't.  Not without putting a lot of time, effort and work into managing it and odds are that even then you will slip up because we're HUMAN and fallible.  We start out strong managing our temptation, we research a little by reading the Bible, find other people's tips and tricks for working through the process and then we start to put somethings into practice.  We do enough to feel comfortable and confident with this new altered reality of our life and then the problems start.

We're comfortable that we can handle it, so we are a little less intentional and diligent.  Maybe you stop looking for new ways of managing the temptation or you quit seeking out others who are coping with the same situation.  We've got this down, so we mainly exist with our safe options until that one day we see something new and decide to give it a go without really looking into it... It's only later that we realize that it was a seriously bad choice for our well being.  Sure, we can stop now it's not too late to walk away but we've already compromised ourselves.  We will be paying the price for this choice.  I think that like eggs for me, sin is the same is everywhere, it can start out small enough but will cause increasingly severe reactions over time and in some ways it is just better to cut it out completely than try to manage it.

So yeah, while I am really grateful that my reaction to eggs is mild, I think I would be a lot more diligent if it was a serious threat instead of an uncomfortable one.  I am especially prone to feel this way as I scratch at my knee because I have forgotten that egg whites are used to make Jelly Belly candies shiny and have consumed several.

It is everywhere, it can be hidden in places I wouldn't expect it, I need to be diligent about avoiding it because some of the things that are just uncomfortable for me to live with now may later cause serious complications and put my life at risk.  

What things is it just easier (or maybe would be smarter) for you to avoid than try to manage?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Grace for the moment

I like to think that I am a pretty warm, loving, generous and kind person. Not in a "how good can I be" sort of way but just because that is who I am.  That's not to say that I don't make mistakes or that I am always at my best, because I know that I have a lot of growing left to do.  There is plenty of room for improvement.  It is a continuous process and I am hopeful that as time goes on I will only increase my capacity to love and offer compassion to others.

Sadly, there is no one who can make me feel less loving than my Grandma.  I mean it.  I struggle EVERY time I have to deal with her.  She just has this ugly side and I am at a loss for how to prevent minimize it's toxicity in my  life.  She has this tone she uses when she talks to us that I can't even begin to describe, she manipulates and deceives, but I think the thing I dislike the most is that she is constantly trying to pit the 4 of us against each other.  Now, if there was a single guy around she would be on her "best" behavior and would flirt up a storm, but it wouldn't last.  It never does, because I believe she won't find what she's looking for in any mortal man.

I am eternally hopeful, I mean EVERY time I talk to her or she visits for a holiday I think it will go well.  I hope that this time something would be different, maybe she'll be in a happier place, maybe she will not be so ugly with everyone... it's yet to happen and instead I end up in tears.  Crying as much for the injuries she inflicts as for how horrible I feel about myself and my attitude towards her.  I know I am called to be better than that.  Jesus asks two things of us.  Just two.  Love Him with everything we have and love each other.  I believe I have a great capacity for love but my interactions with Grams would belie that.

Yesterday, I had a maybe 30 minute conversation with her and then spent another combined total of almost 4 hours crying intermittently the rest of the afternoon and evening.  During the call she told me she had been to the ER twice in the previous week but followed that statement up with an order not to tell my father.  Um, hello- please do not put me in that position.  I dislike my mental response to her news, because if there was really something wrong with her I would feel horrible, but I just chalk it up to Grams being her usual self.  In the last 18 months she has had 5 CT scans for various reasons.  She has visited specialists for fibromyalgia concerns, alzheimers testing, and now it's back pain.  This is on top of a life time of other worries... it is a bit like the boy who called wolf.  I am not doubting that she is uncomfortable, but I honestly feel as if she likes the face time and attention she gets from the doctors and nurses more than that she has any real ailment.  Plus, I think she really glories in using it to try and make us feel guilty for not living near her.

I get that she is lonely and I have to believe that she is hurting and empty inside for a love that no one of us will ever be able to give her.  Because if it isn't that, if she isn't desperately aching for acceptance (the kind that can only come from God), then I don't know what it is.  I do not understand how someone can be so malicious and manipulative to their only child and his family.  How she can long for us (or at least the attention we can give her) and be so hateful it drives us away?  She makes it almost impossible for us to want to be near her.  I will admit I should call her more.  I really need to make more of an effort but it is hard when I know how wretched I feel after dealing with her.

How do I love on someone who I believe needs love so badly and at the same time does all she can to make loving her so impossible difficult?  I am not Jesus, I don't even pretend to come close to his level of loving on others, but I am called to be as Christ like as possible.  He has loved me, fiercely, even when I have been my most unlovable self... do I not have a responsibility to extend the same grace to her?

I think this will be one area where I will just have to step out on faith and trust that the Holy Spirit will guide me because I know with 100% certainty I can not do this on my own.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Starting Over

I used to blog, a lot, and I'll admit I made some amazing friends through my blog.  I miss taking the time to write everything down and get it out of my head, but finding the time is a bit tricky.  As much as I wrote from the heart before, I don't think I will link this blog to that one.  Instead I will start fresh because I am in a new season of my life and it really just seems right.

I have been attending a new church since just after Easter and the renewal it has brought to my life has been amazing.  I can't think of a single week that has gone by when the message didn't bring me to tears.  I mean it.  I cry every week, the messages just resonate that deeply with me.  Which seems odd, since all to often I think our society gets louder and more demanding to drown out the sound of God's Truths being whispered into our hearts.  I love at night, when I am laying in my bed, and I've forgotten to turn my sound machine on.  Now, I live in a condo with other units on 3 of the 5 possible sides so I sleep better with it on.  I will eventually get up and turn it on, but for those moments before I do there is stillness I enjoy.  In that quiet space I hear the beat of my heart so loudly.  In the chaos of the day I never notice it but it's there, drumming away inside of me.  Unless I stop to focus and really listen for it, I won't hear the steady thump and whoosh of blood moving inside me.  I think that's a reason Psalm 46:10 tells us to "Be still", "Cease striving" or "Let go of your concerns" depending on which translation you're reading.  I honestly feel it is because when we are busy, striving and stressing we can only hear the noise that fills our days and the chaos of our own thoughts.  When we are rushing through our lives we miss the quiet moments that reveal God's wonder and beauty in the world around us.

My hope for this new season is that I will make (and more importantly take) the time to slow down, unplug from all my digital distractions and just be still.  That I really seek out the moments where grace and mercy are made apparent.  I desire deeply, to be still so the words God whispers into me sound as loud as the beat of my heart in the stillness of night.  I hope that I am able to quit striving so that I may know God on an ever deeper level.