Tuesday, October 30, 2012

We Need a Transformation

Millennials, Generation Y, the Lost Generation are all phrases that have been used to describe the peer group I was born into. Not only are we more likely to be liberal in our political and lifestyle views, but we are more likely to subscribe to no particular foundation of belief, instead taking pieces from each religion that we find suit us and creating our own. Yet, smaller, within the Christian peers I found that people are anxious for a transformation, for a revival to sweep not only through the ranks of believers, but beyond us through the whole world. My generation desperately needs leaders who are willing to push the boundaries of what churches are doing now. We need women who are not afraid to confront us about where we find our worth, value, and integrity. We need men who challenge us to be strong, independent, respectful, and fiercely unashamed of our beauty. 

I have wrestled and seen my sisters struggle as we move through life with just where we fit. Are we the pretty one? The athletic one? The smart one? The married one? There are speakers out there challenging men to overcome this passive view towards God, women, and relationships, but what about us? We have become dominant in relationships, usurping the role of men. We do not understand what healthy balance consists of as we are told you have to look here, but still have enough energy and heart to pour yourself out over there. Our footing with God is constantly in flux, our personal battles take a toll on how we believe God looks at us. Over half my friends are married, does God favor them more? I transferred from an academically competitive university to one nationally recognized for its prestige, have I failed God by doing so? I can no longer see where God’s stamp on my life has been and where my own missteps have occurred because I’m so busy worrying about what everyone thinks of my actions. We need a transformation that yells in our face, “Stop! You believe, but He will help your unbelief.” It takes a lot to be still and know that He is God, but it is time to make the noise cease. 

It is time to fight from the darkness for the light.

lux ex tenebris invictus...light triumphs out of darkness...

Friday, September 21, 2012

On Your Graduation...

Hello Beautiful!

It's Christmas 2013 where you are now and you have finished your undergraduate studies in history. You probably have an idea of where you're going next, whether it is graduate school or an internship or a job. It is hard for me to imagine what that will feel like, knowing that a few months ago I would be done three months from now and trading it all in to regain a piece of our life.

We made the decision to change schools did we not? I hope it was still the right thing to do. I hope one year from now I am not graduating from a different school than the one I am at now. What would that say about my, our, decision making process, huh? The funny thing is, I don't know where else you would go. You were in Colorado just at the beginning of the month and your old university has moved on without you, like you blew away with the sage-brush, just like you insisted would happen. People do not believe you like they should. A handful of people still keep up with you, others are too hurt or do not care anymore, or never did. You probably still do not know the answer to that either.

I hope, fifteen months from now, when you find this letter and reread it, you are in a happier place than I am right now. That you are in a better place physically, meaning you can kick some literal ass; that you are in a better place spiritually, since neither university or home seem to pull you from the stagnant; that you are in a better place mentally, not double-guessing yourself or plagued with so much fear.

Tonight I am not feeling well. It appears to be a developing sinus infection, with an already impressive cough, we could skip infection and go straight to bronchitis if we're lucky, that's where the good meds are. But it is more than that. It always is.

Tonight I am mad at a guy, jealous of a girl, but predominantly angry at myself for doing it again. You know what I mean (we have to work on that). You stamped his opinion card a bit too early. You let yourself think, despite your conscience whispering, "Be careful," that just maybe the drop of interest he had displayed, the chemistry you possessed would be something. It, clearly, is not. He has chosen the other girl, hasn't he? And I am so, just, annoyed at him for it. The kind of annoyed where they say something and you just laugh, knowing anything else is too painful and imagine running him down with your car. It is the kind of jealousy that makes you not want to like her, even though you don't know her really well and you have no reason to dislike her. She has never been anything but nice to you. But it is the anger at myself for thinking, that just maybe, this one would be different. This is the guy; the smart, charming, intelligent, Christ-oriented guy that was going to look at me and say, "Her." He may not have been THE guy, but he could have been a good beginning.

But he is not either the first or the last one, is he...and I am frustrated. I do not know what your life looks like right now, a newly minted, degree-possessing graduate. I do not know if we have someone special in our lives. It is entirely probable, but I am banking on the assumption that this is unlikely. I suspect that your time between school, church, and work has convinced you of three things: that men are gay, taken, and the single ones are dead. That is how I feel right now. Which is a rotten way to feel, in case you do not remember at Christmas. And it is not the way God intended us to feel either.

So, I have come up with a list of things that I am starting now, this week, the moment I awaken in the morning, because things have to change or disaster will strike. I hope that when you are reading this, you can that you have done most, if not all of these things and are working on finishing the list before you're twenty-five.

1. I hope you are able to look at yourself every day and believe, down to your soul that you are beautiful. To believe that God loves you as his daughter, something you have professed for years, but are no longer sure what that means right now. To have confidence in what you have done with your life and for yourself and nobody else.

2. I hope you are healthy, physically. That you have an understanding of what makes you sick and how you can remain healthier for longer; limiting your flares and your trips to the hospital for ER grade migraine treatment or medication because eating anything makes you sick and lose weight, and not because you did P90X for five days straight.

3. That you have maintained the friendships that matter to you, completely severed the ones that do not, and found the courage to decide for yourself whether someone is worth the heartache or deserves a good lashing. I pray that at least one friend from Colorado has flown out to see you, and if they haven't, that your graduation party they would not miss for the world.

4. That you will board a plane soon that takes you to exotic locations, for thirty days, where you run around Europe and see life beyond the small town you returned to.

5. I pray that the courage exists inside you to leave when it is time to leave. I know that we came back to Pittsburgh to settle and stay here and perhaps, that is what will be for a few years or perhaps, Pittsburgh will always be home base, but promise that you have worked on your fear of going somewhere on your own, where you know a few or no one, even if it is not Littleton, Colorado.

6. I pray that you have worked on your mental health, that these hard days do not overwhelm you like they overwhelm me now. That dangerous thoughts are behind you, that you are reading this letter and it finds you unable to recognize the tear-stained cheeks of the you who wrote it.

7. And, despite it not being an even number, but the perfect number, I pray that you know love. Even if it is not in the way you are hurting for it now. While that love is wonderful, it is short compared to eternal love and the love of those who are there for you now. I pray that you continue to pursue different people who intrigue at an alarming rate, especially the woman you are jealous of and the man that is good for her. You can learn a lot from her, I know you know that, and that you support her own walk when it comes time. And that you know and understand that he is not going to wake up one morning and realize you are what he is missing. Life does not work that way. Romance, while the gesture is wonderful, occurs within the ordinary and you have fallen pray to assigning it extraordinary terms. You deserve those terms, but maybe not in the way you thought we would see it.

He already offers you an extraordinary love. He has always offered it to you. He died so that you might come be with Him. Live with Him. Follow Him. Trust Him.

It is hard, I am not going to lie. I am sure the trials you have faced are greater than my own at this writing, which is hard to imagine. But, our friend is right, we cannot resign, no matter how wonderful a cave sounds, we are too tough. I am too tough. You are too tough. Remember that. We have been through so much worse than this. Loss has its minor forms and major forms, life has its sharps and flats, music crescendos and cannot hold indefinitely.

Make me another promise, when you find this and read it in a year, that you will read it out loud and read everything you have written since this point back to me. I want to hear how your story turns out so far because it is no where close to the end. I want to hear all your bad days. I want you to find someone to share them with and be very honest. I want you to believe that you are loved and visible, I do not care if you have to tattoo something in your skin to remind yourself.

Promise me.

For Him.

For You.

It was never between you and them, it was between you and Him anyway.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

To Being the Coward

I am telling you now, it is not okay for people to say the same things to you...

You are a yellow-bellied wuss. The men in my life should know that they have little to fear from me because, even if I fancy you, I'll never do anything about it. I'm too scared to fight for what I want. I'm too scared that asking for more will destroy what we have. Even if I loved you, time would make you my brother because I freeze on the inside. You have nothing to fear from me, so you can go ahead and choose her because I will never stop you.

Suicides, where do they go when they die? You know I was told they go to Hell. It did not matter that they did not know her. It did not matter that telling me such a thing deepened my own pain. Such things are of little consequence when a debate can be had. What people do not realize is that when they say such things suicide looks a little more appealing to the person they're saying it to.

She is different than I thought she was. Oh, what a charmer. You need to understand that there is an amazing difference in being honest with someone then leaving them for it and them telling your friend they rebounded to that you are not quite who they thought you were. You need to know that you did not lie, they were not paying attention.

It would be better if you were away from your family, doing your own thing. This is a statement I have heard multiple times now, from the same consecutive sources over the past year. Let me explain, it's a selfish statement, really, people advising you on a decision based on their personal preference and not what is actually best for you. Be wary of the people you inconvenience by improving your quality of life.

Why would I pour into someone who is going to leave? There really is nothing like someone looking you in the eyes and telling you that you are not worth their time and attention if you are not going to stick around. A piece of advice, this is a person you should never share anything personal with past how you are handling your academic load. Such people like to attach labels to you that make you, I don't know, have a determinate factor. For example, you could go from a girl who seemed flustered to depressed in the space of a few months. They're not so helpful when they assign the latter, regardless of  truthfulness.

Changing universities will put your already dry soul in jeopardy. Going from a small, private, religious based educational system to a large, public university will have its own challenges. But, if you are entrenched with a great support system at home and at church, your soul's condition should not be a criteria for concern, even deserts have monsoons.

The thought of going back there makes me hollow inside, makes me want to take my car off the Rockies. That, is not even funny. I am not quite sure which is worse: having someone you love think you're joking when the thought of going back to somewhere makes taking your life bearable or the fact that you even thought about taking your own life while you were there. I cannot look at you and say for absolute certainty that there are people who walk through life and never have a thought about ending it early. All I can tell you, is at twenty-one, I thought about it last year.

When tragedy strikes your life when a mentor commits suicide, something deep inside you unhinges. Little things become annoying. Big things become unbearable. When you relapse into a cycle of illness and missing class and make-up work and your grades sinking, just like they did in high school, when you last thought about it, something has to change.

You need to know these things because it is so important:

You are not your grades. Having bad grades for a season is not the end of the world, even if you were raised in a family that treats it that way. They are the worst reason on earth to think about leaving it for.

You may be a coward when it comes to men. But, there is nothing wrong with that. Not all girls are gifted with the ability to convey deeper feelings for a guy past, "Just friends." Take it from the girl who left Colorado without letting a soccer player know. The same girl that has not told the engineer here at home. Not all of us were born with bravery in our veins, it takes time to develop.

You are different than they thought. Let them take it with them to the curb. If they are telling someone else you are different, especially if they chose your friend as a rebound, understand that they saw a different you. You being a huge home-body has nothing to do with why you would not go out with them. The fact that you were not staying in the same state and that your father would shoot them on sight, however, does.

Your soul can survive a drought. Sometimes, the places people think are the driest, turn out to be the most nourishing for those that are starving. But take a look at who you're surrounded by as well. It could be them that are sucking you dry.

You are worth committing to. I don't care if it's a boyfriend or a side-kick, you are worth someone devoting express time to you. Understanding you and what makes you unique and intricate and fashioned of God. Anyone who writes you off just because your place in their life is temporary can be dropped off at the station.

So, here is to being the coward...

The girl afraid to tell the boy or the boy scared to tell the girl. Here's the bonus: We're both chicken.

Here is to telling people and their opinions of you to be damned because the Devil sent them.

To challenging the notion that going through life is easy and that, sometimes, you stare into the pit.

Understanding that you are worth more than what someone said.

Challenging that your soul has nothing to do the location but in what way the rain comes.

I may be a yellow-bellied, dry soul, different kind of wuss according to some.

But...the story never ends with someone being handed a broom and a dust pan...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Single of Heart: Single and a Christian Young Lady

"To be the beauty, abducted by the bad guys, fought for and rescued by a hero....This desire is set deep in the heart of every little girl--and every woman....There is something fierce in the heart of a woman. Simply insult her children, her man, or her best friend and you'll get a taste of it. A woman is a warrior too. But she is meant to be a warrior in a uniquely feminine way. Sometime before the sorrows of life did the best kill it in us, most young women wanted to be a part of something grand, something important. Before doubt and accusation take hold, most little girls sense that they have a vital role to play; they want to believe there is something in them that is needed and needed desperately....Women​ love adventures of all sorts. Whether it be the adventure of horses or white-water rafting, going to a foreign country, performing on-stage, having children, starting a business, or diving ever more deeply into the heart of God, we were made to be part of a great adventure." ~John & Stasi Eldredge, Captivating

Ponder the above quote and think honestly on its reflection. If Captivating pointed out one important thing to me it is that I was created by God to be a helper, to desire to be fought for and rescued. And this, however, is where the eye of my personal storm rages. Honestly, being single has never been much of a struggle for me until this year--I went through all of high school without ever being in a relationship and, outside of a small two week dalliance my freshman year, I have remained unattached for almost twenty-one years. And even though my twenty-first birthday is merely a week away, I know I am young and that I have more than enough time to trip in front of the man I will one day marry. Yet, the community I live in at university is poisonous towards a young woman of God and her expectations of relationships. Christian universities, especially mine, run rampant with relationships, engagements, and marriages all achieved within the space of those four years of undergraduate studies. 

Even further, though, these relationships have very little affect on my own circle. Despite the fact that my university is small and I know most everyone by name, I do not spend an equal amount of time with everyone. Relationship pairings have meant very little to me until now--when such changes are beginning to radically affect my own sphere of life. It sounds selfish, I know, but two of my best friends at university both entered serious relationships within the last year, one got engaged this past Thanksgiving Break and the other will be engaged within a matter of months--if her boyfriend's jests are to be disregarded. And so, that leaves me and my friend, Dani, to spend a great deal of time on our own, as our friend Rina divides her time between us and her fiancĂ©. And even now, despite having to share one of my best friends, none of that has been as hard as now being confronted often with, "Sheridan, get yourself a man, I want to double date with you," from more than one source. 

I am not the kind of girl that sits on the fence with men: I have more guy friends than I do girlfriends and I have been caught red-handed in the act of flirtation, but I am not the one to ask them out on a date, coffee, yes; attending a movie as a massive group, of course; one-on-one, dinner, not a chance. While I am a millennial, I was raised old-fashioned and if a man were interested in me, he can be courageous and ask me out himself, I'm certainly not going to do it for him. And yet, this is where I have learned may lie the root of one of my problems: I am not forward with men in any spectrum of relationships past "chilling." I almost never realize I'm flirting and when I'm caught, I'm so embarrassed, I blush like no tomorrow. Why then, would I struggle with being single? When then, if I'm cool simply being friends, has this become a major struggle in my walk? 

I know one answer is that I am increasingly beginning to feel left out or worse, the dreaded third-wheel. While the boyfriends come around to the room, since their girls live with me, events like dates or hanging out leave me the odd one out as they sit there involved in a romantic mush fest, which for all intents and purposes is uncomfortable to witness, no matter how much joking and teasing occurs to lighten the mood. And to top it off, my precious engaged Rina says things like, "Sheridan, I have discussed you at length with the university secretary (who I do office work for on occasion) and we have decided that given how amazingly stunning you are, there is no good reason for men not to be pounding down our door asking for you." She really means nothing malicious by it, but it only points out the obvious: I am unattached and in fourteen months I'll be in her bridal party. I am behind her in this magnificent race we have all believed we are running to find love. 

And, it's true, I have the same grand excuses every head-strong, stubborn woman has for not dating: I'm focused on my studies, I'm not in a good place right now, I am no where near ready to even have marriage as a prospect on the horizon, etc. Yet, I have been informed that those are not truly valid excuses, which has me wondering where anyone gets off telling me that. I am focused on my studies right now--a boyfriend is a massive distraction and as I have learned this year, I would much rather be social than do my work, a toxic combination. I am truly not in a good place right now--any man came my way, no matter how good we may be for each other--I cannot even imagine how long that relationship would last, probably become my second short-term dalliance that ends with the man moving on. And, despite the fact that most of my friends are getting ready for "the walk," I am no where near ready to even fathom the possibility of having the conversation within the next year--too much has happened and will happen in the next year to properly account for anything. 

Right now, I'm trying to figure out just what exacting God is writing into my life story and I can tell you, from the looks of things, a man is currently not one of them. And so, here Dani and I sit, with this horrible little stamp on our foreheads that we both would swear was a neon sign on given days: Christian Young Lady, Single, Looking for a Good Man, Although You Would be my First! Yeah, that's a sign that draws a ton of applicants, the "I'm-Her-First-Real-Boyfriend job, woo-hoo! Let me hop aboard that train." No, that statement is laced with sarcasm in just about every man's mind when they meet the two of us, I'm quite convinced. We're loud, intelligent, and we have opinions that we certainly don't know how to keep to ourselves about things that matter to us. No, Dani and I are now attempting to figure out this together, this taboo that we have somehow existed within for almost twenty-one years (the amount of people that make it seem like fifty is truly amazing). Somewhere along the way, Christian culture said we were supposed to meet our husbands sophomore/junior year of university, get engaged senior year, and marry in the year or two to follow. I disapprove of this formula--this one that our faith-based educational community is obsessed with--there are so many more important things for the time being.

So, here is what I say to this struggle I face more and more as Rina's fourteen months rapidly expires: the Hell with people saying, "I don't understand why you're single." If I understood it well, maybe my situation would be different, but for now, this is the hand I possess, and you always play the cards you are dealt. I am not going to waste my single years. I want to travel--odds are Dani will come with me. I want to have a career (maybe several across different fields). I want a higher education degree (maybe more than one) so I can taste the abundance of life. I want to see the horizons I have only ever studied, photograph the far reaches of the globe, and write under the shade of some ancient ruins. I want to find my God, even if it means I have to lose Him in the process to find Him for real. I want to witness the bustle of the busiest cities, hear the music of narrow street corners, and the rhythm like jazz I believe to be laced through existence. 

Here, now, I submit my manifesto to be single of heart, to throw away the garbage and time lines my culture says I need. I do not believe I was placed on this earth to merely wander down a path, be picked up by the first man I come across, and spend my life following him wherever he goes. There will be a time and a place to work with a significant other, to carve our own crazy path through this smattered map of life, but until that time, and through this struggle, I will free myself of such nonsense beliefs and create my own path where few have dared to tread. Life's grandest adventures wait for people who are courageous enough to open the door, backpack over their shoulders, and take the first steps down the dusty road...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

God called us out of Darkness

I have thought for a very long time about exactly what purpose I had in creating this "blog." I have not been one who tends to openly record my thoughts for people to see at the ready--my notes on Facebook are walled up behind privacy barriers. Yet, here this empty space has remained, for almost a year by my count, and now I have finally decided upon what it should be utilized towards. I was never quite sure that anything I had to say would ever be of enough merit to warrant anyone else reading my words, but I love to write and I have decided that I shall share and just listen to what people are saying.

For this premiere post, I thought I would keep it short and sweet, and perhaps explain why exactly I decided to name this "lux ex tenebris invictus." As you may have realized, that ancient Latin phrase translates as, "light triumphs out of [the] darkness." Surprisingly, it found it's way to me decorating the front of a Trans-Siberian Orchestra t-shirt (shown above) and I had my ancient history professor translate it, since I knew no Classical Latin at the time. Upon learning what is meant, I thought how incredibly amazing that such a simple phrase is and the power it possesses. Even if you study the image for but a few heartbeats you can see everything innate within the statue, everything that it is trying to convey. Lions are powerful and strong, hunters on the savannah, family-centered creatures, fiercely loyal, incredibly gentle, but at the same time incredibly dangerous. And just look at how the lion has been situated--he is triumphing out of the darkness, surrounded in light that reflects from the moon, snow, even piercing blue eyes (however unnatural). 

I would then, in light of all of this, in light of the most simple of triumphs, that light can be seen in the darkness, propose this challenge: What holds us back from such a life? God has called us up out of darkness, we are not bound by the shackles of Hell, so why do we live like they still are bound to us? I know that I have struggled with this for so long, sometimes everyday for months at a time, especially the last two years. I am not immune to conceding to the black, wilting in the empty, all I am asking, is that lady to lady, man to man, and across lines, we embrace the fact that together we can be this lion, proudly atop his perch, his achievement etched in stone. We can achieve invictus.