Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I am thoroughly frustrated right now.

For a lot of reasons, only one of which I will blog about now.

In case you haven't noticed, this blog has been a little, uh, quiet lately. And by "quiet" I mean I think I only had three posts last year. (My computer crashed and I checked, and it's more like 6, but still. I also had two drafts that started with "I am frustrated." They never got published. We will see about this one.)

I thought by now I would be better. I wrote in my last blog about how much I struggled to go to church and that is still so hard for me. The experience is completely exhausting (even though my church is awesome and I love them.).

But ultimately, I realized that if someone were to ask me what my faith was like right now (and I was being honest), I would have to laugh and go "What faith?" Because that's where I am right now. 

It's not that I doubt the existence of God (though I have). It's just that I'm stuck in some sort of theological paradox. And I don't feel like I see (read: perceive through any of my senses) God anywhere.

Trying to pray fills me with an overwhelming amount of guilt that ultimately just makes my throat feel like it's closing up and I can't do it without just breaking down entirely. And not in the good cathartic kind of way. In the "I spend the rest of the day feeling anxious and miserable for a reason that doesn't even make sense." I've never really understood prayer, anyway. It always seemed ridiculous to me. But nothing like THIS ever happened upon trying to pray.

Most of this stuff wouldn't bother me except that it doesn't feel like I'm making any improvement at all. I hope that this state is transitory and that I won't feel like this forever, but I don't know what to do to make it better. And things just don't spontaneously get better on their own, you have to do something.

I just don't know what.

I'm at a loss.

If you have any suggestions, real, concrete suggestions, I am all ears. Because I don't know what to do anymore.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I Lost Jesus Somewhere.

I am really frustrated at the moment.


I have been here for a month, and at this point, I cannot fathom the idea of going to one of the local churches and/or campus ministries. I've talked to some of them and they all seem nice, but the idea of going makes my stomach churn and my heart start racing. The last time I went to church, I spent the whole time thinking that I was going to throw up.

It's not that I'm worried about the people liking me or any of that. I just can't handle the idea of spending time in another religious institution.

Right now, my church is online. I read more about God and how He is working in other people's lives and I love that. I love seeing how He shows up to other people. I love reading about other people's struggles. I love seeing their thoughts and their experiences. Sometimes it breaks my heart and sometimes it makes happiness swell from the very depths of my soul, but it always, always, always gives me just a little bit of hope that God hasn't quite given up on me yet. That there is still time and things won't always seem as terrifying as they do now.

To be honest, without people like Jamie the Very Worst Missionary, David Hayward, and Elizabeth Esther, I don't know where this last year would've taken me. Honestly, I think that I would have given up on faith altogether if it weren't for their stories.

Mostly, this is because my faith has more and more seemed to drift from mainstream protestant faith. I find myself seeing more and more Jesus in people who, well, aren't really the people you'd expect to see Jesus in, and less and less Jesus in the people where Jesus is kind of supposed to be. Or where people say He is.

And this scares me.

It completely removes any capacity for neat categories and boxed up people.

It goes against all I've ever heard about those horrible evil non-Christians.

More and more, I find myself seeing the actions of people who are christians, and I find myself screaming, "But THAT'S NOT JESUS!!"

Because it's not. It's not the Jesus I read about.

But then  I see Jesus. And He's not where He's supposed to be. I see him standing on a stage in front of me, telling the whole audience, "It doesn't matter what you're going through - violence is not the answer!" except with a bit more profanity than that.

This doesn't fit.

And it's scary.

And if church is going to be a place for me, then it has to be a place where Jesus is seen in all other places.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Unreasonable Positives and My Day of Laments

The other day I thought my whole world was going to come crashing down around me.


I thought it was.

For those of you who don't know, I'm leaving for the University of Alabama at Birmingham tomorrow. (Did I really just say tomorrow? I'm leaving tomorrow?!) 

I got a message from my mom, and we had known that they had messed up my tuition stuff. But the text from my mom essentially said, "I don't know how we're going to pay for your schooling this year."

Which is well, scary.

So I did the only natural thing to do.


Then I did the next most natural thing. Get on the internet, and freak out to friend.

So while I was freaking out and having horrible visions of having to go to Vol State (the local community college that I loathe with a fiery passion that burns within my being.), Keedy told me this: "This is the one time I will allow you unreasonable positives."

I have this tendency to fantasize, and not in a "Drops of ocean spray rolled down his chiseled chest" kind of way. I just imagine these weird scenarios that would never, ever, ever in a million years happen. Ever. Last night, it involved me getting to meet Terri Irwin and then bathing a tiger. Just to give you an example.

I bring these things up all the time. Keedy will say something to me and then I'll be like "Well maybe...." and then she tells me the exact reason that will never happen. She is a bubble burster and she likes it. I really think she thrives on seeing my disappointment as she explains exactly why we can't go to Holiday World, the zoo, AND the treehouse all in one week.

She is a super realist.

So the one time I was being super pessimist, she told me she wasn't going to shoot down my super-positives.

Which is so totally unfair.

I didn't want to be positive. I wanted to continue lamenting in the misery of my situation. (Also? I can be kind of melodramatic sometimes.) But she was all NO! THAT IS NOT ALLOWED!!

And eventually we ended up arguing about why I couldn't just force myself to fantasize about wonderful things when I just wasn't in the mood. Which effectively distracted me from my laments.

Then she left to go do... idk stuff. And I was left alone to wallow in my miseries.

T'was an exciting day.

By the time she came back the problem had been resolved.

This post really doesn't have much of a point.

Except this: Don't let anyone lull you into believing that the Financial Aid office actually cares about your situation or helping you pay for you education. THEY ARE LIES. 

The end. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A short rant on how we're being pimped out for money and hating ourselves for it.

So, last week I did something I'd never done before. I bought a girl's cut tshirt. Yes, I am a girl, but I've always stuck to guys tshirts. Always. I'd like to say that I bought it in a "PSH YEAH I CAN WHERE WHATEVER i WANT" moment, but really, I just wanted the shirt because I liked what was on the shirt and Hot Topic only sold the girl's cut. And I learned something: It looks awesome on me. 

The shirt supports To Write Love on Her Arms, an organization promoting mental health and advocating treatment for self-injury, depression, eating disorders, and suicidal behavior.

 After I got this shirt, I went into my closet, and started trying on things that I haven't ever really worn because I was too afraid to wear them. And I learned something else: They look good on me too.

That's not right. I thought, You're not supposed to like the way you look. 

I actually felt guilty for enjoying the body that I have.

Anyone else think there is something hideously wrong with that?

But that's what we're taught. I see it all the time. We're told that if we just lose X amount of weight, then we will be happy in life and everything will be rainbows. But once we reach that, we're not happy. We find out we still need to be thinner. And thinner. And thinner. Until what? Until we disappear? Of course, if you just so happen to be one of the people who is naturally the "ideal" thin, you get to listen people constantly telling you to "eat something" and that you're "too skinny." You can't win.

It's no wonder that every 1 in 200 girls in America develop an eating disorder. The mortality rate for eating disorders is 12x higher than the death rate for all causes of death for girls aged 15-24 combined. There are people dying because they hate their bodies. Dying because they have lost the ability to eat from being forever told that food is the enemy and that they're not good enough and that they don't deserve to be happy. There is a 30-40% recovery rate for anorexia and bulimia. The other 60-70% either die from the disease or live the rest of their lives miserable and hating themselves. (Source)

Now, let's take a quick look at the plethora of dieting products that are out there.
Pills! YAY! *sarcasm*

I'm going to save you lots of money and tell you this: They don't work.

They're not supposed to work. Do you know why? Because if they worked, then you wouldn't need the products anymore and they lose their market. In economics, this is known as "planned obsolescence". Basically, they make a product that works up to a point, then stops, so you feel the need to buy it. This is the reason we don't have light bulbs that last 100 years, even though we could easily have achieved such a feat by now. With weight loss products, they help you lose some weight, but do nothing for the long-term, and then, in some freakish turn of marketing genius, you blame yourself for the failure of the product, and buy more.

In short, this is how the system works: We have the fashion/magazine/media industry telling us we need to be a certain size, while the "weight loss" industry sells us pills, books, special foods, and basically everything else you could think of to make us "healthy." Then, when those products fail us, we feel guilt and shame, and possibly eat hoardes of McDonald's french fries or rocky-road ice cream to pacify ourselves, then go buy the gym membership that we will stop using in a month to start another dieting program.

And somebody else is getting rich off this. 

 Now, this isn't to say that we shouldn't be healthy. Or try to be healthy. Yo-yo dieting isn't healthy. But here's the cool part: They give us this cool little colorful guide thing to tell us what our body needs to be healthy.

Obviously, some people might have special dietary needs and that might change this some for them (if so, your doctor should be the one telling you about it.) But.. this is it. This is the food we should be eating to make us healthy*. There is a nice fancy nutrition website that tells us how much of this we should be eating.

*Healthy does not necessarily equal airbrushed model skinny.

We have forgotten how to enjoy the diversity of our bodies, of the fact that everyone is different  and that everyone deserves to be called beautiful because of it.

I'm going to be happy and ignore the everything that says that I shouldn't be happy because I should be happy with who I am and I should enjoy wearing clothes and I don't have to obsess over everything that I wear. I'm also going to enjoy eating, because eating is supposed to be enjoyable and I shouldn't hate everything I put into my mouth for its caloric content.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The God of Parking Spaces and Football Touchdowns.

Sometimes I have to ask myself, what in the world happened to me?

Because when I look around, I feel like my entire faith in God has been shattered to pieces. I look at my Bible at home and I get a tiny little glimmer of hope that maybe, someday, I'll be able to read it and enjoy it again. I listen to people pray and I hope that I will one day be able to do that genuinely and with eagerness again. I read the blogs of my friends and I celebrate the triumphs in their faiths and I wonder where my own went.

When I look at it, I see that my faith was shattered by reality.

The reality that people starve to death. Every day.

The reality that people die from diseases that should've been prevented. Every day.

The reality that some people never get rescued.

And that makes it hard.

It makes it hard for me to believe in the God that grants parking spaces and cheers on football teams, who is worried about how far we have to walk in the wal-mart parking lot.

In the end, I found that I was left with three options:
  1. God doesn't exist. 
  2. God doesn't care.
  3. I (We?) got God all wrong. 
I never really doubted that He existed. But for a really long time (even now, I suppose), I questioned whether or not He was good. The questions in my mind were usually phrased like this: If He cares about *this*, why doesn't He care about *that*?

These things came up in conversation with a good friend of mine a few weeks ago, who is wiser than 99% of the people I know. She finally stopped me, and said, "God didn't do any of those things. People did."  And she was right. She reminded me that God let us do as we pleased, and that God didn't create the system. He didn't create the system that allows 16,000 children to die every single day because they didn't get enough to eat while 40% of the food eaten in my country is thrown away. That wasn't Him. That was me. 

What I've come to realize is this: My faith was shattered. Broken. Beyond repair. But my faith had been in the wrong thing. 

My faith had been in the God who is focused on me. Who was waiting to fill my needs and my wants. (Disclaimer: This does not mean we need to neglect our own needs. It means we need to be much, much, MUCH more aware of others.)

In truth, I think we've missed our mission. I now have to believe that God is waiting for me to get off my rear end and do something. I think He's waiting for me (us?) to be Him instead of speak Him. To quit arguing about stupid stuff talking about Jesus and start acting like Him. It's funny. The one parable that Jesus told that has become my favorite is the one about the sheep and the goats. And I've realized that the sheep weren't sheep because they got the most commitment cards signed. The sheep were sheep because they took care of the people's physical needs - hunger, thirst, nakedness, homelessness.

On my first mission trip ever, we went to Mexico, and I can't remember who said it, but someone told me: They will never hear the love of God over the sound of the rumbling stomachs.

Truth be told, I don't like this fact. I don't like the idea that I have some responsibility for all of this. I don't like the fact that I will have to change my habits and my thoughts and my perspectives and, most importantly, my actions in order to be this person that I want to be and serve this God that I'm supposed to serve.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Priest in the Muck

I don't know how many of you are avid readers (if you're reading my blog, I'd imagine that this would be many of you), but I am. I read lots and lots of books. The book I'm reading right now has been on my "to-read" list for four or five years now. I read one book by the author, and then decided that anything else of his must be worth reading. That was only one book, I Am The Messenger, and I'd seen it in book stores for years. Every time it was the same thing: "Ooh! I want to read that! Markus Zusak's writing is amazing." But I never did. 

Well. I went to the library. And I was searching through books, and I found it. So I thought "Well now I have to get it!" Namely because the book I wanted wasn't there (For those of you who are curious: Fallout, by Ellen Hopkins). Now, I'm not one to ascribe to the "Every little thing that happens to us in life is for a specific reason and purpose. The gum I got stuck on my shoe today was stuck there for a PURPOSE! to better the WORLD!" type thinking (though I will say that God can use anything to speak to us and work through us, even shoe gum), but I think that books and experiences can affect us more profoundly in certain times in our lives. 

This is one of those times. 

I came across an interesting minor character in my book. His name is Father O'Reilly, but we will just call him the Father. 

The Father is an ordained Catholic priest. (As most people with the title "Father" are). To give you an idea of the Father and his lifestyle, let me quote the book: 

He's balding, the father, and about forty five. Not quite as tall as his brother, and he has bottle green eyes and fairly big ears. He's wearing a robe and I wonder why he lives here and not at the church. I always thought priests lived at the churches so people could go there if they needed help or advice...[two pages later] His church is the old one at the edge of town and I now realize why he's chosen to live here. The church is too far away for him to really help anyone, so this is the best place for him. It's everywhere, on all sides and angles. This is where the father needs to be. Not in some church, gathering dust...He admits that if his church was any kind of restaurant, it would have closed down years ago. 

The book described an incident where the Father did some over-the-fence couples counseling, literally yelling from his kitchen window to his neighbor's, and giving them advice.

His ministry is everywhere.

His ministry is in his backyard, in his front yard, on his street. It's everywhere around him.

The building that he preaches in, however, is nearly empty.

The building is decrepit. Ed asks about the state of the church building, and he says "Don't you have money to fix all this stuff?" The Father replies, "Well, not really, Ed. I've put it all into single teenage mothers' funds, alcoholics, the homeless, addicts.."

At this point, my soul screamed, "YES!!!!"

There was something about this character that just screamed 'Christ' to me. The Father's building may have been decrepit, but he made a world of difference in the lives of those around him. The people who were most affected by his life, his love, weren't the ones who were in his church building. They were the ones next to him.

My life has seemed to beg the question lately, what are our priorities supposed to be? As people? As a family? As a church? As the body of Christ?

What is our time going into?

Where is our money going?

What are we building?

What legacy are we leaving?

What message are we sending?

I want to spend my life serving. I want to invest my money in people. I want to build bridges. I want to leave a legacy of love, and send a message of hope.

The Father was working to leave a legacy in his neighborhood, immediately around him. His love and his care were obvious to anyone who met him. He was one who truly lived for Christ, for the gospel. He lived it in the muck. In the dirt. With all the messed up broken people.

I can only hope I will be so blessed.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Do you ever want to run? Just run. Not run to get somewhere. Not run to exercise. But run for the sole reason that you need to hear the sound of not being able to hear anything at all. Run to feel the air flying past your ears. Run to feel it stinging at your eyes.

You want to run but you know running won't get you anywhere. You know that you could run five, ten, fifty, a hundred miles, and eventually, you would have to stop, and turn around and walk back home.

And as you would run those five, ten, fifty, hundred miles, you would feel everything lift from you. You would feel the things you were running from float away. You would know what it was like for nothing to be able to catch you.

You would reach the point where nothing could touch you. Then, you would stop. You would stop and take in the freedom. You would scream and let everything go. You would see the beauty of the horizon. You would feel the blood in your veins course through you. You would feel your heart try to pound itself out of your chest.

Then you would turn around. You would turn around and begin to walk. You would walk for five, ten, fifty, a hundred miles. And as you walked, those things that floated away so quickly would fall right back down. Those things would fall and hit your shoulders. They would take hold of you again. You would feel their weight pressing on you, pushing you back down to Earth, pushing you back towards the place you came from.

You would walk back to the place you ran from. You would reach home, carrying with you the same things you left with. You would feel them chained to you once more.

You would succumb to your own exhaustion. Collapse. Hear yourself breathe. Feel the blood in your veins. No one would know why you run. They would see your exhaustion. They would see nothing change. They would see the same chains as before.

You wouldn't dare tell them why you run. You wouldn't tell them about the moment where you stand and breathe, free and alive.

You would smile, and lace up another pair of running shoes.