Wednesday, December 11, 2013

10 Days Later…No Words…Just Anxiety

I distinctly remember promising on December 1st, that I was going to write every single day this month, to get into the habit of writing every single day. To point out the obvious, I have not written a single thing outside of rewriting my thesis (which was twenty-two pages in the end) and my notes for studying and filling out paperwork at the bridal salon.

It has been a productive ten days, but not in the way I was hoping.

I have been consumed with anxiety about finishing my thesis. Which I did.

I have been worried sick over my oral presentation. Which went phenomenally well.

I have paced, since my last final, worrying if my capstone course will give me the grade I need to leave proud of my accomplishments, not just because I slid out by the skin of my teeth. At this point, I would take a C, happily, but it would not belie the work and hours put into the project. I would rather receive a B, but it is just a waiting game now. Grades are not finalized until next week.

I am a week away from knowing if I have graduated with my Bachelor of Arts.

I am a week away from not stepping foot in a classroom as a student for an undetermined amount of time. I am far too burnt out from my undergrad to attempt graduate studies right now. And the Captain advises working for a few years and putting a dent in loans before accruing new ones.

I am beginning the job application process. Fingers crossed on these Colorado inquiries of mine. Or just pray that I find work soon. I do not know that a bridal salon and closing two nights a week at the store are enough to foot my gas, insurance, and student loan bills, which kick in next month.

I find myself overwhelmed at the prospect of so many decisions.

I get trapped in my head easily.

I panic.

I get frazzled.

I blush.

I stammer.

It is exhausting.

Being an introvert is not always as restful as it sounds.

It takes months of my knowing someone before I feel a semblance of comfort unmarred by anxiety.

I am supposed to apply for jobs and then pick-up and move there to work.

Chances are high it may not be in Colorado where I know numerous people.

I am all for adventure and starting some place new, but I am afraid of jumping straight in with no fail-safe. No backup. No one to call when something goes wrong that can access me easily.

I fear being truly on my own. It does not sound safe. It is unfamiliar.

But, maybe it is the words of a Baggins I should be taking: "I am going on an adventure."

Having read the terms and conditions and understanding that it may not go as I hope it does. I know planning, to an extent, is useless and I try to remind myself not to get so wrapped up in details I have no control over.

I cannot control other people. I cannot control whole situations.

I am only me. I have to have faith and trust in the LORD or I am truly alone.

It is taking that step of faith that is the hardest.

But December may yet prove to be an exercise in how to do just that.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Unde lux est orta salus invenitur...

Right about now, I can imagine the look on your face as you read and reread the title and imagine that I became a hobgoblin sometime in the last five days for writing my title in language long dead. I would apologize, but I am not contrite. In fact, I am going to work on augmenting your quality of life, one Classical [Christmas] Latin phrase at a time. Mine as well, considering I am a bit rusty. My history thesis did not fall within the category of Roman Antiquity as I had hoped it would, so we get to go on that minor adventure together. Do not worry, before long, you will see the Latin in everything and parse words upon seeing them. Especially those of you in medicine, law, and anything having to do with the human body (yes, that means athletic trainers and coaches too). You can thank me later, after you start dreaming in Latin. I will drive you a little nuts, in the best way possible, while adding a little culture to your life simultaneously.

Moving on, however, breaking down Wheelock's Latin for you is not the purpose of my writing tonight. Dominantly, my brain is a little fried from the final draft of my thesis being due tomorrow and as someone with unheard of levels of anxiety, I keep tinkering. I will probably be awake most of tonight, actually, so tomorrow will be more fun than I can say. Once I turn it in, I will be able to sleep--it has been a restless Thanksgiving weekend.

With the passing of another Thanksgiving, though, I realized something extremely troubling about how my semester has played out. I was confronted with very tangible proofs of how selfish and fallen I am as a human being. My desire to completely skip November and simply graduate overrode natural common sense. Some people are stuck in the past. Others are firmly planted in the present. I have the problem that follows progressively: I get stuck in my head, in future plans, and have a hard time readjusting to the present. I got a taste of life and working in an office I would love to be hired at this summer, in a town I learned is not so bad, in a state I adore. The Springs is no Denver, is hard matched for where I grew up in Evergreen, and I am not convinced Garden of the Gods trumps Aspen's Maroon Bells, but I digress. My point is, I am so ready to be done, I became flippant about things I should not have been.

I went to Focus this summer and it rocked my boat more than I expected. I watched sunrise at the Maroon Bells on the 4th of July and have gone through withdrawal for that sight ever since. I made new friends, but missed quality time with old ones, our schedules consuming with no cross-over, just time grabbed between shifts or during shifts. And here, on December I, mere minutes from December II, I find myself burnt out and starved of quality interaction with most of the people I count as close friends. Do not get me wrong, there have been the texts and the Facebook messages, and the occasional telephone tag, and the conference Skype that ends at 3am with the others calling me to wake me up because I fell asleep a half an hour ago and they just kept talking. All of those have been wonderful and life saving. I cannot wait to breathe and attempt to catch my breath, and graduate and be done, at least for the next few years.

Here in the problem with the other half of this though. I fell out of a routine with God. Writing was my ritual until my sophomore year. Now the words I write here are the only words that see any light that has not been mandated by academia and we both know my writings have been sparse this semester. You see? All consuming: the selfishness, the desire to be done colliding with the frustration over a twenty page paper, which is nothing, I might add, in length terms. That frustration vent of a piece about women in the church was over three thousand words--half my thesis length--in just under two hours.

So here is where I am now, after church this morning and confronting the very real and being uncertain about what is next. I am going to start simple. I am going to start by writing every day this month of December, I through the XXXI. Everyone waits until January for their resolutions. This, however, is much more important than a resolution. Something has to give. And it starts with me. It starts with God. It starts with as many pages as it takes to hash it out. To make sense of the burn out. To see where He leads.

And it starts right here with those words: unde lux est orta salus invenitur

from where the light rises, salvation is found

Monday, November 25, 2013

As a woman, what do you want from the Church?

I have been a devoted follower of Preston Yancey's blog for well over a year now. As a church history minor, I have adored his examinations of theology and find myself a bit miffed that I have to wait a whole calendar year for his book to be placed on top of my reading book stack--I have no more shelf room. It is also a source of constant amusement to me that one of my friends went to the same graduate school as him and my RD's wife's little sister is his fiancée. Small world. Just last week, however, he issued something that made me stop and mull it over. I have been pondering and meditating on it for days, as well as which arm I should sharpie 2 Corinthians 4:8 in Latin to, but that is separate. 

He posed this question: As a woman, what do you want from the Church?

As a woman, what do I want from the church? As surprising as it sounds, I have never been asked this question before and I find this troubling. Preston spoke about it in discussion of giving women open mic on his blog about the thing or things, they want from the church, and is accepting submissions on a rolling basis. His word limit, however, is 600-800 words, something I am not totally comfortable with, so I am going to dry run my thoughts here, with myself, God, and I think the seven people that read this regularly and there may not be that many of you. But I have recently become reacquainted with this single frustrating trend within the Church and I think somebody has to call it out, so I am going to. After all, lux ex tenebris invictus, right? Light triumphs out of darkness.
As a woman, I want the Church respect the definition of "personal life."

I suffer no delusions that the fact that I address relationships often has not escaped notice. I would apologize for that, but it is the stage of life in which I find myself: surrounded by relationships. I believe, at last count, that the number of single girlfriends I have do not outnumber the fingers on my left hand. Now, before you raise some white flag, bracing for a single girl to beat you over the head about how to own your singleness or make you feel bad for being one of the many in my life who are married, I invite you to stop and breathe. This is not about any of that. This is about an attitude within the church that affects both married and single. Let me paint a picture of both sides, the one I am getting and the one some of my best friends are receiving.

Single side first: 
"Do not worry, you are young, you have plenty of time to marry."
"Maybe guys do not date you because they see your purity ring and assume it means something else."
"It is quite obvious that he likes you because of…."
And my recent favorite: "Is there anything going on between you and…"

Dating & Married side:
"Have you guys talked about when you're getting married?"
"When do you think he'll propose and how?"
And recent married friend favorites: "Have you guys talked kids yet?"

I am just curious as to where everyones' tact and upbringing in conversational boundaries has gone. I mean, even if we're friends, in what way is this any of your business? I have a very specific, small group of women that I confide such matters to, and unless I tell you otherwise, you are not a part of said accountability group and neither are you the person I am dating/engaged/married to, and therefore, it is definitely none of your concern. Something attending a small, Christian university taught me is that the gossip mill loves grist and relationship news is always plentiful, juicy, and changing. 

As I am currently standing on the single's side of the line, I can comment more intimately about the phrases I wrote because they have all been said to me since the beginning of the month. Those are the best of all of them, but I promise there were more. The first two occur a lot because I am a sales consultant in a bridal salon and by the end of a bridal appointment, there are almost no secrets between yourself and some brides. When you are helping them in and out of dresses for four hours, stories get shared back and forth. 

The one I hear the most is that it is okay that I am not married because I'm still young (two months from 23) and they are surprised at how little single girlfriends I have remaining. Oh the things Christian college will do for you, if not bestow an MRS degree. As much as I appreciate the sentiment and can feign kindness in response, telling me I still have plenty of time really does not help me feel any better. As "Save the Date" cards continue to come (three 2014 weddings already, with more to show up), I have a whole batch of friends who I am waiting to announce the first round of pregnancies. All us singles have placed bets, don't you worry. All your married friends have too, I promise. 

Do you want to know why it does not help for you to tell me that? For me, it promotes an insecurity. I have no success stories to tell except my only ex and I, together for two weeks, are very good friends, but it took over a year for that to be true. You want to know what insecurity it promotes within me? That I might still have time, but maybe not enough time to figure out how to keep a relationship moving forward. It promotes fear in my life because I am so far behind so many of my friends in my personal interactions with men and have no love life to speak to. It might sound ridiculous to say that, but it took nineteen years for me to go on my only date. If I am engaged, let alone married at 25, I will consider it the greatest triumph God may have worked in my life to that point.

The second one, that my purity ring throws men off, I'm sorry, I have to call it, so cover your ears: bullshit. What utter nonsense. Total hogwash. One of my best friends from high school professes the same thing I do, saving ourselves until marriage, and she has always opted not to wear a ring because she holds that tenant to herself. Nothing wrong with that in the slightest. I, in contrast, like having the ring. It is a good conversation starter, number one. And the other perk, I have learned, is that it appears to limit frivolous attentions, which I have told you baffles me. To say that wearing the ring, though, detracts from my perceived availability is ridiculous. Any man that has ever spent any time with me in public or in person, knows that I read single loud and and clear. If not, I have probably called them obtuse in general conversation. And as a general standard, Christian culture is familiar with the concept of the purity ring--it may be a dying breed, but it is still recognized. A ring is not a turn off. It can all be solved with a single question.

So I think he likes me and based off of my deeply biased account of the facts and conversational snippets, you completely agree with me. This is where you, as my friend since I am confiding these childish girlhood scenarios to you, need to put me back in my place and remind me that nothing is final until a date is involved, and even then, life is not set in stone until you're dead. I have run up against this wall frequently since this summer. Talking to friends about extended conversations with one man tends to raise a lot of questions, especially after weeks of back and forth. You know what my friends did when I asked for council? They told me to stuff my fear, take a risk, and see where it goes. Not bad advice, because what is the worst that could happen? He does not like me. Okay. 

But they did something worse than that, a few gave me a list of conclusive evidence that proves he must like me, even a little. Thank you for that. I can certainly maintain my perspective now. Talk me down a road and then they get frustrated when I take it upon myself to maintain that perspective. He has not asked me out. We have no understanding. Unless said otherwise, he is my friend. And then there is the nagging for the "DTR" which is poison in its own right. Here is my advice, the next time one of your friends gives you a list of conversational snippets that indicate he must like her, tell her that there is nothing wrong with seeing where the friendship leads and stop there. Do not fluff it up. Remind her to keep her boundaries, to not let her heart get ahead of reality, and hold her accountable. Do not cut her brakes and berate her when she is hurt that it did not go where people assured her it would because "the signs were all there that he liked you and he must be an idiot not to see them too." She is your sister in Christ, protect her like she is one.

Lastly, and one of my favorites with the previous: Is there anything going on between you and…? No. You ask if I am sure? Of course, I am. I am one half of the equation just described and I have not gone out with him, so the answer is a conclusive and resounding NO. And beyond that, even if I have gone out with him, more than once, if it is not public knowledge yet, why do you assume that asking me will grant you access behind the curtain? I have had friends that dated for months before they announced exclusivity. Did most everyone know by then? Of course, they were no longer trying to hide it either, but no one ever asked. You can ask me seven different ways to Sunday if there is anything going on between me and whomever you choose, but my answer will always be the same, "Unless you know something I do not, the answer is no." Sure, I might like him. Maybe a little. Maybe a lot. But if I did, I would not tell you. It is not public knowledge for a reason, mind you. Remember what I said, small group of girlfriends know the whole truth. You are not them or my mother, therefore….

And for the dating/engaged/married whom I count as close as any other, since a majority of my best friends are categorized as such, I think I and everyone else, owe you an apology in some shape or another. I apologize for all the times I asked about when you two are getting engaged. I was raised by parents who did not waste any time and one year just seems like a ridiculous amount to decide whether or not you want to live with someone who will become your closest confident for the rest of your life. But on the same playing field, my heart breaks for you every day too. I know what expectations you have because you have confided in me and you are tired of waiting for the proposal because that is all you are waiting for now. Or worse yet, you are barely engaged and friends and family are talking children. How utterly ridiculous. 

It is always one thing after the next: you're talking to a man, they want to know when you will date. You're dating a man, when will you marry him? Engaged, how did he propose? Because no proposal is official until it has been Youtubed and announced on Facebook. Yet another thing to consider as a part of your "personal life" for a time. And then married to a man, are you pregnant yet? On and on the train goes. Many of my own friends find themselves in that last category, one of numerous married milestones. The problem is the emphasis that they feel is placed on it, akin to the emphasis they felt as singles about getting married. Why the rush to have children? Let them enjoy being a married couple. They have plenty of time, right? 

Nothing about the relationship process is any of your business, unless you are included. That, as a woman, is what I want from the Church. You preach constantly about boundaries here and boundaries there, but then fail to understand that boundaries are not exclusively personal, they are interpersonal too.  Asking my friend when she and her husband are having children has nothing to do with you. Their bringing forth life does nothing for you and you asking may be doing more harm than good. What if they have miscarried? What if they cannot conceive? And if they are simply waiting, what then? It does not make things any better to offer your comments. 

And do you want to do know what else I want from the Church, in regards to respecting personal lives? I want you to be honest about how hard it is. That is something I do not hear about enough inside these sacred walls and yet I see it demonstrated every day and become more and more aware of it. Only since returning from grueling, eye-opening, culture shocking understudy in Colorado Springs this summer, have I began to understand just how challenging so many things in life truly are, especially marriage. A plethora of married friends will offer a vivid insight. 

I have begun to realize just how exhausting it must be for my mother to have my father working out of state, approaching four years now. The way I talk about my father working in a separate state, new friends might assume they are divorced, but they are not. Approaching thirty-four years, next summer, in fact. It is a window into the life that some of my friends, who are military wives, have. A small window, but a glance none the less. And it makes me hurt for you and pray for you and wish for you in ways I may not for other people. Whether that is wrong or right, I cannot say, but it is for you and that is what matters. And I see how still other friends have fought it out over finances and when they should start trying to have children and if going back to school is even an option. I know that I do not know the full story--how can I? I am not married to their spouse and I am not them.

However, despite my fears that I have no idea how a relationship practically looks for me, because I think myself a special kind of awkward that may be impervious to the "normal" rules of dating and relationships, seeing them work through it, fighting or smiling, gives me hope. It grounds me in reality seeing the struggle of sharing life with another who is just as fallen. Marriage is not utter bliss. I will not always like my husband and vice versa. We will fight. I will make it worse more than once by not being so good at communicating. Despite what I have been told, I will not regret saving myself for my husband. However, the sex will not break the headboard (I am looking at you, Twilight). Although, I refuse to discount the idea that it wouldn't be fun to try, if only for the story. 

That is what I want and need more than ever as a woman in the Church. I need to know that it is okay that I am not dating and married like most of my friends. I need to know that you do not see my worth defined against whether or not the ring on my finger ties me to someone specific. I need to know that my worth is not found in how grand my engagement story is because I like it simple, because what is being proposed is the grand gesture. I need to know that it is not easy. Not as a deterrent, but as a way to keep me grounded. A happily every after does not end at, "You may now kiss your bride." Happily ever after are stories that have no finished yet, to quote Mrs. Smith. I need you to be honest with me. I need you to speak into my life so I am not tempted to elope with that guy I like within the realm of fantasy, divorced completely from what is real, which can be so very far from the truth.

I want you to stop saying those things you think I want to hear. They are not for me.
I want you to stop asking those questions you want the answers to. They are not for you.
I want you to be honest with me when I ask for advice, even if I become angry at the answer.
I want you to know I will be honest with you, even if I deny you the answers to the question you want.

Call me a bitch for speaking to you this way. Trust me, it is not the first time, nor the last.
Call me naive for wearing my purity ring. Your insistence does not change my mind.

Ask my friend one more time when she will be pregnant and see if she lays a hand on you before I do. She and her husband may have fought about it earlier that day and you are rubbing it raw.

Ask us something real, for once. Something that has nothing to do with our jobs or our relationships or our thesis paper or our plans after graduation.

Show that you care about us more than just that. 
Show us that our worth to you goes beyond that.
Show us that you see us. 
Show us that who we are, is not invisible.

Monday, August 26, 2013

That Girl: Do You Remember Her?

Somewhere, deep inside of me, an eight year old girl still lives. That girl who would stand on the deck of her house and wish the Rockies would stand up and trade places simply because they were bored. That wild horses ran loose in Elk Meadow. That hot chocolate is a summer drink just as much as a winter drink because it snows sometimes in July, even if it is melted by noon.

The third grader who insisted to her teacher that turning the notebook sideways helped her write; ridiculous right-handed bias against a left-handed student. That fourth grader who read the Hobbit, albeit in a month, and the Fellowship of the Ring and White Fang a year later, despite the insistence of her teacher that it was above her level and she did not want poor quiz scores to lower AR reading levels.

That girl who got an 18/20 on those reading quizzes and who was reading near college level at twelve. Who created her own world and its heritage in middle school and began the first draft of her first novel at age 13. The girl who fought through an eighth grade year of stupid boys  and numerous sick days to get her only 4.0 GPA for her final quarter. The girl who moved six times across the country and around the Pacific Northwest.

That girl. The one who despised page limits. Who railed against an average vocabulary and people who did not think. After all, it's the new sexy. The girl so bookish, she could lose herself for hours and read hundreds of pages, if not a whole book, in a day. Who tried her hand at romance writing and found she was good at it, despite having no personal experience to draw from and still does not.

That girl.
She got lost a few years ago.
Put down her pen.
Dropped her books.
Forgot the view.

You see, she fell in love with different stories. The wrong stories. She went against her nature until she suppressed it so completely. She loves people now. She loves their stories. She loves their lives and how they live it. She got involved in the mess. She became defensive of people, but never learned to be defensive of herself. She fiercely loves her friends, even when they do not fiercely love her. She enacted the traits she read about, the old-fashioned character that melded her upbringing.

She has learned the hard way.

Life is the same as the books she read. Full of danger and bravado. But no safety.

She has seen love in books and in life and rages at the discrepancy, wondering how people who know what it feels like, how they could present it as it is not. Who would do that? Who would tell them to do that?

She sees the epic quests. They are full of dragons and gold. But the dragons are not defeated. The gold is not reclaimed. It is becomes a constant fight in the singular.

And now she sits here, typing this, wondering at the girl she once was.
Wondering at the little girl I once was and how the things have changed.

And yet...some things have not. For I still remember pieces of her.

I still am one of the biggest Anglophiles you will ever meet. God Save the Queen!

I may not drink hot chocolate in July, but hot tea, any time, with milk and honey, of course.

And every week it seems, my book collection grows. Just today I added the complete and collected Sherlock Holmes as well as Kavalier & Clay. My time for reading goes down, but my book stacks in front of my shelves and boxes in the closet and garage are ever increasing. I have little time to just curl up and read, but when I do, God help you if you disrupt me.

I do not write any more, or have not since that one day, nearly three years ago. The words escape my head, my creativity in the throws of an extended drought. I know, though, that they are there, for I continue to write, just not like before, not like I used to. It may take some time, years even.

One day, I am sure of it. Perhaps I will be laying in the grass on a blanket, leaned against the chest of the man I love or with a child I would pull a star from the heavens for and it will begin again. The words will pour out, as if from my fingertips and I will not be able to stop them. And that first novel all the way back from 2004, it will find itself finished with a period, or possibly a question mark as its final punctuation. And because it was that child who gave me the words, it is those words I will read every night before they sleep until it is finished.

Yes, there are things about my eight year old, my twelve year old self I wish I could reclaim.
There was a lot of innocence in being that young, even with how much my family moved.
But there is one thing time has given me that I am thankful for and it is this simple:

If you had asked my eight year-old, boy chasing, insanely flirtatiously confident self if I was to be married I may have laughed at you and said boys have cooties, but I would like to think yes, if I could get past that. My answer has not changed. I am no longer insanely confident nor aware of flirtation, but I no longer think men contagious. If you had asked my twelve year old self, who fought with her little brother constantly, if I would have children with my husband, she would have flat out told you no, that children and siblings are the worst sort of thing you could inflict upon your self and the world around you. That answer has been completely replaced. Perspective changes everything.

And yes, do I fancy the idea that my Anglophile self will be rewarded with a husband with a fantastic voice and accompanying accent? Yes, on days I am truly ridiculous. Ordinarily, a great voice is more than enough and that designation is not strict, but must be earned.

I do not know how else to say it.

I am 22 years old...almost 23.

I freely admit that the sooner I get married, the better we all will be.

I also admit that it will probably have to be arranged, because I have no idea how it will happen.

I am massively introverted, regardless of how conversational I can be.

I spent years having the introvert beat out of me with constant demands for my attention. I am now fighting to beat the extrovert out of me. It does not belong in the dominance it has achieved.

In the future, any stories I write for my children or grandchildren or great grandchildren, I wrote solely for them. Publish something I write posthumously and see whom I haunt until eternity comes.

That girl. Do you see her now? Do you remember her, even a trace of her?

I remember that girl. She is still there. She is not gone. She is still me.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Greatest Lie

I find myself at a loss as how best to explain myself tonight.

It almost undoes me to admit it to myself let alone other people.

Since May I have had conversations with a man I met at one of my best friend's weddings in the middle of April. We have conversed about many things:
* our love of food--particularly regional and ethnic
* we have shared music back and forth and have common favorites
* we both love insane Youtube videos and ridiculous, stupid jokes, particularly puns
* He is intelligent and driven
* He doesn't take himself too seriously, but knows when to be serious...I think
* He is family-centric
* I can see him fighting to pursue God
* He has the fortune of being able to combine his great loves with his studies and his job
* I know where he spent one of the best months of his life
* I have seen him handle a stressful situation with multiple attention demands and not lose his head
* He knows exactly how to tease me and turn me a color of red you may never have seen before
* If he had to chose another name, I know what it is
* Seeing him only twice this summer, one planned, one by luck of the draw, made me excruciatingly nervous for absolutely no reason. Spending time with him and talking with him was as easy as breathing.

What am I trying to say with all of this? As if the first part of this was not entirely laser-lighted, I have a crush on him I cannot seem to get a rein on. The worst part, as my radar is worth nothing when it comes to this sort of interaction, I have not the foggiest if there is even mutual interest, despite others suggesting there is grounds to believe there is. Besides, what man would talk exclusively to one woman for such an extended period of time?

And you know what lie the Deceiver whispered in my ear at church that Sunday, at the end of July, as I sat next to this man in question? He slithered onto my shoulder and hissed at me, "Silly, Sheridan. What were you thinking? You believed a man like him: popular, tall, and handsome would actually find something equally appealing in you? How ridiculous. But I know, he's exactly your type: the athlete, the one all the girls love, handsome, smart, from a good family, with your ever pressing and ridiculous requirement: a Godly man, especially one who treats the women around him with respect. He is exactly your type, historically. You are forgetting one small, but crucial detail: You have never dated your type. Your type has never liked you back, not that they have said anyway. What makes you think he is any different? Oh, my hell, you are so predictable. Well, sweetheart, let me burst this bubble of yours now, as you have, clearly, gotten ahead of yourself.

"Shall we examine the facts that sit next to you in this exact moment in time? I think we should. How long have you know him, three months, almost four? If he were interested, would he not have done something about it now or at least come to see you in the Springs? Not necessarily, you say. The whole long distance thing, an excuse, but then let's evaluate this then shall we? Let's describe him: 6'8", muscular build as he still maintains a fitness regimen, even if it is not as rigorous as his basketball days, sharp features--the jawline--and what other preposterous way you put it: underlying facial architecture--and the blue eyes. Of course, how could I forget, as if you were not so utterly ridiculous, his left-handedness made him even more attractive to you. You see how unfairly tipped the scale is, though, my dear? You are a foot shorter than he is and while you are not ugly or fat, you certainly do not really think you have what it takes to stand by his side. You are plain at best and while you are a runner, you have done so infrequently this year that you are far from tone and you know he looks every inch it. And you have seen the girl, his ex. Sweetie, time to step out of the clouds, plant yourself on the ground. Your type is out of your reach. You and the basketball player. Or the Navy pilot. Equal vanity points. Equally outlandish matches. Why would he choose you? Just think on that. What in anything that has happened suggests he will choose you?"

It is amazing everything that can be said to your heart and mind and spirit in the space of a few seconds, even sitting in church. We think the church is sacred ground against the enemy, that we cannot feel his effects within its walls and he should be burned by even attempting something. He is more crafty than that, unfortunately. He has convinced the world He does not exist, why should a building stop him? What are physical barriers when space and time mean nothing to him? He will attack your soul just as soon as attack your body. And do you want to know what that feels like? It is a wedge that drives itself between you and the subject of the lie. It left me feeling agitated and worried the entire drive home and at points throughout the day as to whether I had done something wrong by sitting with him. What finally ended it was taking a moment and screaming at the lie and telling God over and over I did not believe it and then deciding to do something I had learned weeks before: communicate, ask instead of dread, face the truth and move forward. The man in question confirmed that I had believed a lie. He was glad he got to see me before I left the state and that we had not gotten to engage in what will be, I am sure, a quickly escalating prank war (when it happens).

I forgot, consumed by the lie, the foundation of all of this, regardless of whether or not he likes me in return: he is my friend. We can laugh and joke and tell each other how badly we want a drink without the other beating down and instead saying, "I can recommend a good tap room." The Devil does not get to have the last word if you do not let him. Let him call me names like bookish and plain, I was told bookish is a fantastic word that is not said enough. Who is plain now? I see the world through a different set of eyes than he does, yes, but that does not make me plain or not good enough for him, as the Devil may want me to believe. In fact, it might make me excellent for him in more ways than one. Perhaps that is what Lucifer knows, how we are together, perhaps he fears what even something as baseline powerful as a friendship can do. Why not fray the edges while I sit and worry and destroy it myself out of fear? Oh how he loves to whisper such silly little things. If only they did not reek of his own agenda and fears. We are more powerful together than apart--believers in communion with each other.

After all, if the greatest trick the Devil ever played is convincing the world he does not exist, how much damage would it do to his lie, to see believers calling his bluff? His web of deceit. Battling past his utter bullshit. It sounds to me like we might be exactly his type and he does not like to lose.

For us, it may begin as recognizing a single lie.
For him, it is the beginning of the unraveling of the fabric. I am not sure he believes in loose ends.

Monday, August 12, 2013

To Him...I Believed You Impossible

I saw this little snippet tonight as a share from a girlfriend's Facebook page and it stopped me cold, dumped freezing water on my head, and then watched me stagger from vertigo. And I lie here on my bed processing more and more that final sentence, the one that hit me hardest: "But to me, the most important thing will be that you are falling in love with me, despite my thinking that it is impossible." It has put me on the edge of tears because it has exposed a deep-seated fear I have about you, my husband, predicated entirely on the foundation of a lie.

I believe your love for me impossible sometimes...or most times, if I am truly honest. I pass unnoticed to many, if not all guys, from where I am seated. And I am just struck with how that can be. Everything I learned at Focus this summer goes against all of this. Our relationship, you to me and me to you, is a reflection, the closest reflection this side of life, that exists to mirror what my and your relationship with God should look like individually. One spouse to another. God to His creation. Bride to her Bridegroom.

And yet, you love ME. You love my stupid jokes and how puns make me smile. You love how I turn an unseen shade of red whenever anyone, but especially you, teases me. You love how I cannot help but sing with the radio--EVERY song that I know--which may be all of them for hours on end, depending on the station. You forgive the fact that my enjoyment of crass humor will probably be my one way ticket down to the inferno. You may share it. You may have reined it in.

You love me despite the fact that our bed, no doubt, has at least one day's outfit laying at the bottom of it. And just because I stripped it off and changed into something more comfortable upon returning home from work and not because it was strewn there after some fun. You love me despite the fact that I do not always know when I have taken teasing too far. You love me despite the fact that I drive well over the posted speed limit and hopefully have not yet had a speeding ticket in the time we have been together, or perhaps you were in the car when I got my first one, and it took everything inside of you not to burst out laughing while the officer was writing me up and it made you love me more--even if I was upset about you laughing at me.

And you know what else? You love a most ridiculous woman. TV commercials and movie trailers can reduce me to tears. When I hear Rascal Flatt's cover of Life is a Highway, I have a strong impulse to dance, but not just anywhere--in the kitchen...around the island...with my dog, Pepper, who has probably passed since marrying you. I cannot seem to finish a full glass of beer, even in good company for two hours, but can take my shots like a champion. Although, maybe with you I can, if drinks take longer than two hours and I am not driving. I have books coming out of my ears and continue to collect new ones, even before finishing the old ones. Do we have a library yet? And despite being an excessive introvert, I really do not know as often as I should when I should simply shut up and stop talking.

You love me despite the fact that I know I have questioned it, like I am right now. You love me despite my frustration that the camera sees everything except for me the way I imagine God looks upon His creation. You love me despite the fact that I have been cynical about love and how people show it. Somehow you overcame my opinion of that in how you treated me. I wonder what it will be that makes how you and I relate different.

You love me even though I oft communicate better in writing. We must have broken down major communication barriers or taken it slow enough that they simply stepped aside because we did not try to pummel through them. You love me enough not to have rushed me, I pray especially in the physical touch arena. I am skittish and frazzled now even thinking about it. You should use that to your teasing and flirtatious advantage.

But you know what matters most about this quandary realizing this about your love for me? It exposes the fact that by even questioning the fact that you love me despite all my annoying little habits and married me in light of the little ticks and greatest flaws I have, how often have I disqualified God's own love for me on the same grounds? How often have I accepted the love I believe I deserve, not the love God tells me I deserve? Not the sacrificial love He has given me?

If I have believed even your love impossible, what then, have I believed about the Father's love? I have not even married you yet...I do not even know if I know who you are and look at what you have taught me about love. Look at what our LORD revealed about Himself by means of a relationship I have yet to experience even a taste.

Can you even imagine that love?

In this moment, I finally see a glimpse of it.



Tuesday, July 30, 2013

To Him...

The very first time someone told me to sit down and write a letter to you, I was a sophomore at university. A girlfriend was explaining that writing things out, particularly stressors directly related to your presence or lack there of, would lessen the load. She has gone on to have a string of unhealthy and damaging relationships, so I don't put much stock in her formula for preparing for a husband. Yet, I cannot remember if I actually wrote one. I may have started it and never finished, long hand like it should be, in my crazy cursive handwriting that has been dubbed a crowning achievement of the left-handed populace by my discriminately right-handed handed social circle.

I best apologize in advance for that, my left-handed orientation. Unless you find yourself of the same orientation, I will forever have to be on your left side, so as not to cause a conflict amongst opposing dominant genetics. As if that were not all you had to contend with, I am head-to-toe recessive genes: blue eyes, left-handed, and skin that burns so fast you would swear I was a ginger.

All of the science aside, I should be honest with you, right? I marry you, therefore, this conversation is probably not uncommon, at least, I should hope not. Brutal honesty? From where I am sitting: you scare me half to death. And it is not that I do not want to be married to you, because I do. Just ask some of my girlfriends and they can attest to the fact that I have days where a man to put his arm around me and pull me close and a man to kiss sounds like the best thing this side of heaven.

Those days are hard days.
Those days make me question a lot.

It flies in the face of everything I have been taught in church. Respectable young ladies do not have such desires. Respectable young women keep their hands to themselves. Impeccably brought up young ladies do not flirt. I hope you are prepared for this mentality. I hope it does not intimidate you or come across as a lack of interest. What am I saying, it probably will. I have no idea how to communicate that affection.

When I flirt, I do not even realize I am doing it until someone points it out. Which is perfectly acceptable, right, because I will have seduced you with my awkward. Physical touch of almost any kind, even the thought of it, makes me turn an unseen shade of red on the color spectrum. As of right now, I have never kissed anyone. Perhaps it is unrealistic, but I think it would be utterly fantastic if you were the only one I ever did. My cousin was lucky enough that her first kiss, at 22, was to the man she married the following spring. Which consequently, the thought of my first kiss makes my chest concave.

You want to know something else? I really hope you like dumb jokes or, in the least, can tolerate them without rolling your eyes. I am sorry, you can blame a good man I know for that unleashing of character. Perhaps that is inconsequential, but somehow, humor is where people draw lines. I prefer to doodle on mine.

But, all of this, centers around a single all-encompassing fear: messing it up with you. Saying or doing something wrong. Assuming instead of asking you. Cultivating a friendship that I then proceed to blow out of the water before anything can even progress because of an action, a word, a gesture that I said or did, or worse, failed to do. To be even more honest, I have no idea how our whole meeting, interaction, and relationship will work, let alone get off the ground. Is that a bad thing to say? You have to understand--the more I learn about relationships and marriage and guy/girl interactions, I find myself wondering how relationships begin at all.

I know some great and Godly men who are single and it blows my mind because I do not understand how there is any of you left to chose from when there are so few available to begin. And I see the women of my generation and I see the Godly women and I see the women whose behavior would never have been tolerated in historical society and see how they are the first to go off the marriage market which leaves my head spinning. And then my married and engaged girlfriends tell me how my single status bewilders them because I am so funny, smart, beautiful, and Godly. High compliments for sure, but missing the point. That combination of characteristics does not guarantee me you, only a life in which I can live crazy dangerous and on the edge, if I were not so afraid.

It all hinges on that: my fear. I hope when you enter my life, whether you are in it now or have yet to show, that you will challenge my fear and encourage the risk. And here is the linch pin, when you like me, I hope you would just say it. I would like to think that when that time comes, I will not be quite so fearful and that I would take the risk and the chance to tell you the same thing. I have never been able to say it before which everyone says is my problem--how can you act if you do not know.

And if distance is a hinging factor, I apologize now. I keep bouncing back and forth between Colorado and Pittsburgh and the idea of moving to Portland or London for graduate school. Distance is rough and I am not one of its vehement champions because I desire spending time with people above everything else in my relationships. Emails and texts are wonderful, but so are phone calls and Skype. And despite even those forms of communication and technology, I do not like the notion that exists when friends or even you, would become this beautiful idea behind a computer screen.

I do not want a beautiful idea.
I want what is real.

I know you scare the hell out me because I have never been so close with a man before.

I know this makes me become flustered easily in my relationships with men because I am so bad at distinguishing what is innocent jokes from what is flirtatious.

I know that it will take work and a lot of it, regardless of distance, whether there is a twenty minute drive or a twenty hour drive between the two of us.

A good man I met this spring gives me hope for you because I know he would not cave in upon meeting my father. He may never meet him, but you will and until this spring, I was not sure men existed that my father would not laugh off his property. I now know one and you would make two. The numbers are climbing.

Despite my fears predicated upon your existence, you need to remember only this one thing: I cannot wait to fall in love with you. I have waited twenty-two years and every day God has shown me ways in which I am getting stronger and in ways I am weak. I know I have days where I want you so bad my skin is the only thing stopping my body from going everywhere at once. I know it will not always be easy, but life, nor God, ever promises that.

And here is the final thing you should know: I will keep waiting for you. My life is not on hold. I have not stopped living, but I have waited longer than culture has ever declared possible so that I am known fully only by you. It is a mystery I cannot wait to experience with you.

Just know that.
I have waited and am waiting.
I may berate you severely if you take a decade to show, but I am here.
I am not going anywhere.



Thursday, May 16, 2013

Promised vs. Engaged

Note: The promise ring I reference in this writing is in reference to a place holder for an engagement ring, not the promise/purity ring worn to demonstrate sexual purity prior to marriage.

Over the past few days my mom and I have had some interesting discussions involving this trend in relationships that I have noticed becoming pronounced amongst my friends. I do not know if anyone else is observing this particular phenomena amongst couples, especially Christian ones, but I find myself wary of the consequences it may bring. It is yet another affect of our dating relationships that I, personally, believe will prove more harmful than helpful. It grants the feeling of security and commitment when it, in actuality, puts full commitment on a stand still, satiating the feminine party and allowing the men to continue to build gumption enough to ask the all important question, on bended knee. It is a way to test the waters and suss out the possibility of rejection. It is the definition of actuarial science: probability, statistics, and assessment of risk. It is ridiculous. It is this idea of the "promise" ring, or in my family's derisive vocabulary "engaged to be engaged."

Promise rings, historically, have been a tradition, possibly beginning as early as the Middle Ages. These rings were, generally, given from a man to a woman with whom express intention of marriage was being made, but the money to wed or the financial stability to keep a wife was lacking without a man's commission. Ability to wed was entirely financially driven and matches were often subject to the approval of family or wealthy patrons. No physical contact of any kind was allowed prior to the wedding and couples engaged to be married were under strict supervision, unlike today's relational culture. Promise rings, however, were a statement of engagement with the idea that a wedding ring or a wedding was the thing that could not be afforded.

The trend I see amongst my friends and fellow believers, however, is a corruption of the original intention of the promise ring: its use a place holder for engagement, hence a ring stating we are engaged to be engaged. It is a ring that signifies that a man loves you and plans to marry you, but who has not yet proposed. It is something given, with the expectation of a proposal and proper ring soon to follow. That, right there, is the problem. It is commitment without commitment. It is the binding of yourself to another person, but not officially because he has not formally asked for your hand. It is an outrageous notion.

I believe that this practice causes great harm. It leaves people in a state of waiting. I do not believe in waiting, unless it is a very good reason. I am sorry, but a man is not one of those good reasons. He can either propose and make it official to everyone that you ARE getting married or not. There should be no in between, no ring saying I am going to propose soon. No! You can propose or you can leave. Those should be the two choices. I am not suggesting that at the time he presents you with a promise ring you should leave him. I am saying that he needs to understand, upfront, that you have expectations and a promise ring is not one of them. You want a proposal, a wedding, and to be him. A promise ring practically declares the inevitable, so I do not understand why it is in practice in the first place. Most of my friends who had promise rings got engaged within the following six months and are now married, others are expecting an engagement any week now. Why not just skip the promise ring all together?! If you know you're going to propose, spending money on a promise ring is uncalled for, I don't care if you believe it to be romantic.

Ladies, do not compromise. I hate it when people say, "Ladies, don't settle." We all settle. Everyone settles. People that don't settle on one person are called man-whores or players or easy women. So telling us women not to settle for the best man is ridiculous. What we should be saying is DON'T COMPRISE. Do not you dare compromise your values or your beliefs or who you know yourself to be and what you want out of life. If you refuse to compromise, you will be able to settle down with a man who is at your level and you won't be "settling" for someone less. Time to remove that tired and treacherous statement from all vocabulary, particularly believers' conversations, once and for all.

This is why I refuse to compromise on this notion of promised vs. engaged. Promised is now the precursor to engagement. It is an unnecessary and toxic middle step. You have to be able to move on with your life, to take the next step, especially because my friends, my age are marrying. We are still young, promise rings and the waiting for the proposal keep both parties stagnant. It lets men take more time. If they don't know if they are ready to marry when they offer you a promise ring, they should not be giving you one. That is why it is so damaging. It still gives him time to decide when to you that ring screams that he already knows and you have found your "One" (another myth I won't get into here).

Do NOT compromise. Promise rings are silly. I believe they have two exceptions to their use and only two: #1) a military relationship, in which the boyfriend is deployed or #2) a relationship where distance outside of military deployment is an issue. In these circumstances I believe the ring should be one the man already owns, not one he purchased--that is an engagement ring--and that ring signifies, "I will come back for you." It is a promise to come back, not a promise of proposal.

Promising to propose is hollow. Promising to marry is significant. You can begin making plans together, you can begin having those more difficult more intimate conversations. You can begin building a life in the same direction. A promise ring means none of that. Promises can be broken just like engagements are, but to treat a promise ring with equal weight of an engagement ring is treading water indefinitely. People have drowned for less. I don't want you to be one of them.

I know I may have offended some of you, perhaps even more of you than I realize. I know I have some friends who are currently promised and waiting on their own proposals that may become quite upset at my words. I only say them because I love you and I have seen how we date and the damage it causes and how fallen we are and how we complicate relationships more than we have to. I think promise rings complicate relationships. They are meant to be temporary: the dog-tags given back to the sailor when his ship returns from sea; the ring given back to the man who travelled abroad for six months for work or school or adventure but came back to pursue you, like he promised. He kept his promise it is time to move forward.

Perhaps together, perhaps apart.

But, you have to move forward. You have to keep living your life. You cannot spend it waiting. If you spend your life waiting without owning your expectations, I fear you will always be waiting. I want you to chase the life God has planned for you and I want you to run wild within the boundaries of that, with faith like a child and an awe and wonder that is so often lost as we get older. I want you to find someone who can run wild with you, who can pursue their own calling while supporting yours and you supporting theirs. I want you to experience sacrificial love, but not like this. Not by sacrificing on the words and glitter of a promise. Sacrificial love is a vow, overcome by death, hardened in the line of failure, and ultimately triumphant. It does not fear the peaks or valleys. It steps out in faith, in courage, in union.

Do not compromise. Do not lose yourself waiting for the proposal and planning your future around that expectation. Live the life God gave you and continue to live it with the person you love, the person who makes you laugh, the person who believes in you and what God has set in place for you, the person who makes you feel most like yourself, the person who reveals yet another side of God you may not have seen without them.

Keep focus on the vow, it protects its promises.

Expect a man to own to it.

Allow God to protect you from the ones that won't, until He introduces the one that will.

Protect your hearts, sisters. For the heart is a muscle and therefore, cannot be broken, but crushed.

A worthy man will ask on bended knee, not give a promise stating his intent to do so.

Untangle the deceptions. Lighten the burden. Increase communication. Lessen the heartache.

Never forget He loved you first. Never forget His love is perfect. Never forget you belong to Him.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

You're a Virgin?! Why?

My first exposure to the notion that I was sheltered came my freshman year of high school. Not only had my family moved 3/4 the way across the country (Washington to Pennsylvania), but I was contending with high school students I did not know how to handle. I was the oddity, that girl that had moved seven times. "Is your father military?" is always the question I get, even now at 22 years old. Families do not tend to move around a lot, at least not the ones I now found myself immersed in. It was the opposite of families I was raised with.

My father works in nuclear waste clean-up and nuclear power plant construction--when one job is done it is on to the next. The average is about two and a half years, three is we're lucky. The fact that we have had the same Pennsylvania address for eight years is outrageous. Perhaps I should insert a caveat with that: it is not for lack of trying. We were supposed to move after I graduated high school, but that never happened and I returned to Colorado for three years of university after having resided there a decade previously. My most complete memories begin with the three and a half years of my life in the Rockies.

The commonwealth of Pennsylvania, however, is structured differently, especially my regionally famous high school, which I hated for the first two years of attendance. I was picked on for being the ferocious animal rights activist (yes, I was that girl...) as classmates placed pictures of butchered wolves in my notebooks and slaughtered horses in my textbooks. I gained my first non-familialy designated nickname, because I don't know you well enough to tell you those (and if I do, we'll talk sometime): freshman. The junior and senior girls on my bus called me that. So did one of the theater girls.

My parents sounded overbearing to all of them. I never went to parties. I left Washington without telling this one basketball player that I "liked" him and did not call him when he wrote his number in my yearbook the week prior to my cross-country jaunt. I never did drugs or smoked (my father threatened to disinherit me if I did). I never swore worse than utilizing "crap." Outside of a sip of Budweiser at six (disgusting, my father declared he would never have to worry about me in high school), some Don Pérignon for finishing unpacking our house in PA, and a taste of peach schnapps my father poured into his orange juice at dinner one night my junior year, my first experience with alcohol was on my 21st birthday, which left some people I attended Christian university with, mystified. I had never slept with a boy, let alone kissed one, which has not changed.

The girls called me "freshman" because I had freshman morals. I did not do anything I was suppose to do in high school, like rebel. Clearly, these girls did not understand my idea of rebellion. Moving all over growing up makes running away appealing--rebelling is not always sex, drugs, and rock n' roll. As these girls graduated, however, their conversations grew distant. I disliked their stories of hooking up with their brother's roommate when they drove up for a weekend visitation at his college (what they did not realize is that his brother's roommate or friend won't exist like that if he ever finds out). I disliked hearing how not being easy made me worth less, that my lack of experience defined me.

It was never a difficult decision for me growing up. My cousin had a promise ring, vowing her virginity until marriage and I grew up respecting her approach to men, even the confidence she possessed in telling some guys to walk on because they made her sick. She married when I was in middle school and her fiancé said that in the weeks leading up to the wedding he grew anxious because he wanted nothing more than to remove her promise ring and hurl it at the wall across their honeymoon suite. As I am now a decade older than I was then, I can say that I greatly appreciate that imagery and would very much like my husband one day to actually do something similarly dramatic in deed and not just in word. I would, however, like my ring back, so it cannot go down a drain or out a window or get fed to the dog.

The first, outright, challenge to my promise ring (which is a classic silver band on my left ring finger) came the summer after my sophomore year. It was during a poetry seminar at a two-week writing institute I attended every summer. The only guy in my group brought up my ring and I explained that it was my promise to God, myself, my parents, and my (future) husband, that I will only sleep with him when we are married. Immediately, he declared my promise unrealistic and impossible to achieve so it was a waste of my time even attempting such a feat. "You won't make it to the alter a virgin," he insisted. "It cannot be done." I explained that my cousin had and she was happily married. He brushed it off, "She must have lied. No one can do it." The conversation spiraled from there. One of my friends tried to defend, explaining that it was my choice and she found it admirable I stood up for it. He would have none of it, "Even if you date a super duper Christian guy, you won't make it." Even looking back on that conversation from six years ago, I firmly believe he won our argument, even if he truly didn't. I viewed it as a loss because no matter what I had said, his opinion never changed. He called me crazy and fool-hardy and said he won't be surprised when I have multiple partners before getting married. I climbed into my mom's car twenty minutes later crying. I had never defended my purity before and I believed I had been steamrolled.

I have gotten a lot better since then. I have friends that believe the same as I do and we encourage one another. I have met many stand-up men, both Christian and non, and my faith is not utterly shattered by these conversations that whomever I marry will expect more of me than what I am prepared to give. As one of my favorite abstinence speakers said, "No ringy, no dingy." I cannot help but laugh at the crass, but utter truth of that statement. Just because I have found a solid foundation does not mean my views go unchallenged. In Christian circles, the perception is married or virgin upon sight of my ring, a quick question eliminates the first option. In non-Christain circles, the assumption is engaged or married, followed by shock at the actual meaning, often genuine confusion.

Back in the fall I had a conversation with a coworker, a man who perceives himself as God's gift to women physically and in all aspects of the bedroom because he is adventurous. You do with that information what you will, I am not elaborating more than that. He asked about my ring and I explained, which some people think is my first mistake, but I am not ashamed of what it stands for. If men know upfront they are either going to respect my decision or be completely bitter. It narrows down your options, and trust me, what you have left is where you should be looking in the first place. He asked why, outside of my faith, what practical reason could possibly exist for such an exception. The basis of his logical argument was this, "If you don't sleep with a man before you marry him, how will you know if he's bad in bed? You're just setting yourself up for lousy sex the rest of your marriage. That's why us atheists introduce sex into relationships (pardon his sweeping generalization that all non-believers are loose). We want to make sure we're compatible before we make a larger commitment to each other." Clearly, his interaction with virgins are limited, if not singular to me. My only rebuttal to this flawed argument, "If I have never slept with any man, but my husband, how would I know he's bad in bed? I would have no one to compare him to. And besides, isn't that a piece of the fun of being married? Even if it is, what you call "bad sex," it won't stay that way. Trust me."

Regardless of the fact that when I work with him he still seems unsure what exactly to do with me, since he cannot talk about his sexual exploits, his opinion on the matter has not changed. Neither has mine. So, to answer everyones' questions: Yes, I am a virgin. Yes, I am proud of that. No, you will not be able to change my mind. Is there fear associated with my honeymoon? Of course, but I have also never had a serious relationship (or really even a non-serious one) and if I were dating the man I am to marry, I trust that God will grant me serenity. I have been told that security like that overcomes fears we cannot even imagine living without. Is it a struggle? For me, a lot of time, no, but other times the worry over whether or not I will die a virgin overwhelms me. It is irrational, but I don't think I want to leave this earth without experiencing the most original human bond created by God. To say that I would feel cheated, even at 22, is an understatement.

And yes, some days the thought of sleeping with a guy sounds wonderful, I admit it, freely. I'm not perfect. I don't want you to think I'm this unblemished little flower. I find men attractive and thereby, distracting, just like any other woman. But it is a constant reminding and realigning of the goal: unity in marriage, without intrusion. Honor to God and my parents because I had the courage to stand up to everyone who said I'm crazy, that it's impossible for me to make it to the alter a virgin, and that even dating a wonderful Christian man is not enough.

And now, six years later, I understand the flaw in my very first conflict over purity. Everything he said reflected human will-power and self-control. We have them and demonstrate these skills, but they are intrinsically corrupted. I understand that I cannot do this alone. I understand that this is something I share with Deus. I understand that the support of my friends and family, including men, makes all the difference.

What you need to understand is that my decision is none of your concern. That was my mistake: believing that he had won an argument that he had no stake in. He just wants to see me fail.

When you have some stake in my purity, you can come and talk, but otherwise, you can stop asking, "Why?" It's a tired question and I will give you the same answer every time because, in the end, it is between me and God, it has never been between me and you anyway.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

When Words Fail

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever should draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

It was the spring of my sophomore year and I spent a lot of time in the secretary’s office at my college. She had an incredible sense of humor and she made everyone feel lighter, even when the burdens of life weighed us down. She was my sounding board and I discussed everything with her. Her interns always chimed in with their thoughts and perspectives.

On this particular day, I was asking for advice on my testimony. I had never formally shared it and now the group I met with once a week had asked me to be the testimony of the night. I did not know where to begin. Should I give a quick overview of my life and then testify from my current struggles and how my youth leader’s suicide had quickly unraveled the people around me? Or, should I talk about my life more whole picture? I was at a loss.

One of the interns looked at me and offered, “Well, Sheridan, you could do that, but you could start at your conversion moment too. That way everyone understands how you came to Christ and you can proceed from a common ground.” Unfortunately for her, I do not have a conversion moment. I was raised in the Church and do not remember a time where I did not know Christ as Savior and Son of God. My faith has grown more personal since high school, but I have never not believed. It was half the reason I was struggling, I did not know where to start. The secretary made some suggestions, but her intern appeared dumbfounded. The only thing she said, “I’m sorry, Sheridan, but I think it’s kind of sad you don’t have a conversion story.”

Words. Spoken in that moment. Destructive. Words--fallen just like our nature.

Language is one of the most powerful tools we possess as humans. It enables us to communicate with one another across unspeakable barriers. Words, though, have this double-edged tendency to be both our greatest achievement and our greatest downfall.

One simple statement, spoken without malice, passed judgment on my worthiness to offer my testimony, but further than that, questioned my salvation and faith in Christ. Granted, she may never have intended for me to feel that way, but the way it was spoken—with shock and pity—communicated these things. We can never judge someone’s faith by the existence of a conversion story--many may not have one. Belittling the value of my testimony because I have never slept around or done drugs, waited to drink until I was 21, and do not remember a defining moment where I did not have God and now do, is a disservice to the stories I have within me. Whether or not someone’s faith story pleases you is not the issue, the issue is do you recognize God’s fingerprints in the faith they have?

~Prayer from St. Augustine of Hippo~

O Lord my God, I believe in you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Insofar as I can, insofar as you have given me the power, I have sought you. I became weary and I labored.  O Lord my God, my sole hope, help me to believe and never to cease seeking you. Grant that I may always and ardently seek out your countenance. Give me the strength to seek you, for you help me to find you and you have more and more given me the hope of finding you.   Here I am before you with my firmness and my infirmity. Preserve the first and heal the second. Here I am before you with my strength and my ignorance. Where you have opened the door to me, welcome me at the entrance; where you have closed the door to me, open to my cry; enable me to remember you, to understand you, and to love you. Amen.