Friday, June 24, 2011

Moving Forward

Here in the sitting and waiting stage of this quest, I have been learning... and then learning the same thing more deeply.

I keep a journal that is my prayers to God; sometimes it helps me to write them down; it allows me to formulate my ideas more thoroughly and it helps me to move beyond the repetition of worrying about the same thing over and over. Often, an answer or an encouraging message becomes clear as I write. I don't write every day; I might for several days in a row, and then I slack off for a spell. I've been debating over the last couple days, whether-or-not to share one of my entries in my prayer journal- one that feels like the near-culmination of a fairly big personal struggle. But they are my conversations with God, so is it appropriate to share a prayer to God.... and do I want to share so much anyway? It might not seem like a huge revelation to readers... but it's a matter of making myself vulnerable once again.

In some ways, I think it will help me to share- that this would be the Amen to that entry- and if you, the reader, are friends with me, then I am sharing something that explains me... and if you don't know me, well, it doesn't matter 'cause I'm just another random person. Part of me feels like if I share this, I can move on with stuff I've dwelled on too long- unless, well, the entry explains itself. Part of me feels like it might take away my need to share so much- that what I write will be about the fact that I just feel like sharing. Then also, a friend of mine recently said that what I write has the potential to help others... and if it helps people, well... As I write this, I am contemplating whether I'll post it as a draft, or for others to see. At least, it doesn't hurt to write it.

Anyway,  this is it:

Lord God, sometimes I wonder about what I say on FB and my blog. I share myself so vulnerably, and often, the people who I hope will comment to me (not necessarily publicly), don’t, and I’m left wondering, Did I make a fool of myself? Did they misunderstand? Do they disapprove? Or did they just not see it? Usually, all I really want, is to know who read it; who knows what I said. That is the biggest downside of sharing in written form; I don’t know who knows what about me....
Lord God, I used to say more to you. Then I started saying it to friends. You, I know, do not withdraw from me. At some points, you may make your presence less obvious- perhaps to teach me something. But you, yourself, do not withdraw. When I am earnest with you, seeking you, asking you to be in my life, you do not decide that I’m too needy. You do not decide that I’m too off-base, that I’m too insecure, or that I’m too unstable for you to be in my life.
Perhaps that is why I started sharing with friends. I felt secure in my relationship with you, but I wanted to know that fellow humans would also accept me. I wanted them to understand me, hoping that would enable them to accept me, because it seemed like most people didn’t accept me, and I figured it must be that they just didn’t understand. And I didn’t want to be alone in this world.
I’m not sure whether-or-not it was a mistake to make myself so vulnerable to others. I do have friends who have stuck around, and some have become much closer over time. But I remain insecure. I don’t think my mistake has been so much, sharing myself in such detail, as it has been relying on acceptance by them. You are the only one I should aim to please…. And yet, you are the one who said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” And I was very much alone.
I am so grateful for my friends. I am so glad you put them in my life. After years of praying for a real Christian friend; someone I can talk about religion and God with… whom will be interested… whom I won’t offend or bore…. who will understand where I’m coming from when I say I believe in forgiveness, and not tell me I need to push away those who hurt me… who will understand my using the Word in my decision-making…when I choose to make a career out of serving others, when I choose to aim for something other than the “American Dream,” when I believe in putting aside personal security and uprooting my life to strive for something that seems impractical- just because that is where God is calling me (not that doing so has proven easy on any level); I have found such friends… and more than one.
Thank you so much. I have a group of people who care about me, who accept me, who at least acknowledge that the basis of my decision-making is an acceptable one. Thank you that I have friends who both encourage and challenge me; who are willing to be straight with me, and call me on my faults, but who haven’t run because of them.
Please Lord, help me to continue to find more of my strength in you. My friends are only human, same as me. Even as a group, they can’t do it all- especially if I expect all from them. But they love you Lord, and they love me too. That is enough for me. Let that be enough all-the-way around; let me not feel insecure just because they aren’t always available on every level; that makes me too needy.
I want to be there for others. I want to encourage people. I want to share your love. I want to glorify you. I want to be a light. And I feel like I’m in the way- or at least I threaten to be. I’ve been so self-focused, and that is not what I want. I want to focus on you. I want to glorify you. I want to be close to you. You make me whole. Let me not get in the way of my relationship with you. Let me not base my security on anyone or anything but you. Let me still have close friends… And let me be a better friend. But please be the center…. Maybe that’s been my mistake.
Haven’t thought of this song in soooo long:
“Jesus, be the center. Be my source, be my light, Jesus. 
Jesus, be the center. Be my hope, be my song, Jesus.
Be the fire in my heart. Be the wind, in these sails. Be the reason that I live, Jesus, Jesus
Jesus, be my vision. Be my path, be my guide, Jesus.”

Monday, June 13, 2011

Secret Weapon: Friends (WM pt2)

This week, the monster is Fear of Friends Pulling Away. It's probably the most frequent villian at this point, but it has another thing coming if it believes it will actually win...

But today, he tries a common angle:

I write things on my status on Facebook, and later, I think, What if they thought it was inappropriate? What if she was offended? What if it made him uncomfortable? What if they misunderstood? What if they think I'm lying? What if they think I'm manipulating? What if they think I'm trying to guilt-trip them? What if they think I'm being fake? I could stop posting on Facebook... but I need them to see me for who I am. I cannot hide. I'll lose myself if my reason for not posting, is to hide. And it's not about posting on Facebook; that's just the door the monster is trying today.

So then the monster tries another angle:

I think, "My friends are wonderful... hmm, I say that a lot"- whether to them, or a general public statement. My former "best friend" for the past 16 years always complimented me. I learned from her, how to encourage people. Then she turned out to be the master manipulator- many people have been conned by her, so my fear becomes: "What if my friends think I say it too much... and think that I have an alterior motive in saying it? What if they don't trust me?"... But I fight the monster as I think, "Oh what the heck, my friends are awesome. Shut up monster. They're wonderful because they know I'm imperfect but they don't care. They know we all struggle. They accept me for who I am. And even if they question my sincerity, they'll just watch more carefully. They won't push me away just because they aren't sure. They'll give me a chance, and they'll see that I'm for real. They care about me. And they believe that God can change people. They won't give up on me. They'll talk to me if they have concerns- if they see a problem that needs to be addressed. That is a big part of why I know they're wonderful in the first place."

So I can be me around my friends, 'cause even if my friends see me as strange, they'll still be my friends; I don't have to hide. If I hide, they won't be able to help me. And I do need the help of my friends. They are the secret weapon against this monster.

And even as I'm fighting this monster this week, I'm also seeing the battle being won. It struck me, as I commented a few days ago about crocheting, that I would not have written that a year ago. There's no way, no when, no how that I would have acknowledged it because to me, it symbolized the epitome of a homebody. Not that crocheting was a bad thing, but I needed first, for my friends to see certain things about me that I felt people never saw.

A few of my teachers as I was growing up, labeled me in many ways- they saw me as lazy and weak, someone who used my disability to get out of responsibilities, a faker, a loner, excessively shy, and so-on. I needed my friends to see the outgoing, adventurous, determined side of me- the part of me I know is very real, but felt was invisible to everyone else. But I know my friends see me now; So I can be more fully me now. I can acknowledge all of who I am- even to myself. My favorite activities will probably always be camping, exploring, biking, and outdoor adventures such as backpacking, rock climbing, and such- and of course, making jewelry and scrapbooking. But I also do enjoy gardening, cooking, crocheting, reading, art galleries... and I can say all of that, and it won't contradict. I can be me, and know myself even more than I did before because I can trust that my friends know and accept me for who I am.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Wrestling w/ Monsters (WM pt1)

I am in Illinois right now, visiting my grandma. I drove here from California, by myself, which meant a lot of alone time. And now, I still have a lot of 'alone' time. Grandma is here, but she isn't highly energetic. There's lots of TV, interspersed by games of Chicago Rummy. Sometimes she starts telling me about her past, which I find interesting. But I can't grill her all day. So I read my Bible. And I exercise. And I crochet. And I read other stuff. And I crochet or read some more. And I think. And it's good for me even though it's a little hard to be still.

Cause I am wrestling with some monsters... some mean, ugly monsters- varying colors and sizes, some with claws and some with horns or spikes, each with varying numbers and types of appendages, eyes, scars, etc... and they threaten to do great damage if I don't do something about them.

When my oldest niece, Lauren, was 2, she wanted to run down the sidewalk, so I ran with her, yelling, "Ahhh! The monster's gonna get us!!!!" We yelled as we ran all the way to the end of the block. When we got there, I needed to get her home without a fuss, and I didn't want her to be afraid of monsters, so we chased the monster all the way back (still yelling). Then when we got home, I said that the monster was sorry, and we agreed to be friends.

My own monsters will never make good friends, however. They must be gotten under control and banished. Two of my favorite quest authors, Ursela LeGuin (in Wizard of Earthsea), and Madeleine L'Engle (in A Wind in the Door), talk of power in the ability to name each star, each grain of sand, and so-on.

In sociology, there is the "labeling theory," which in part, acknowledges that labeling and defining a situation- giving it a name and a description, is what makes the situation what it is, and allows people to create a response. If, for example, we name spanking as abuse, then we react individually and as a society, to spanking as a form of abuse. If a child is spanked, and discerns, "I misbehaved and this is the consequence," then the child may try to behave next time. If on the other hand, the child tells himself that the spanking is because the parent hates him, then the child will feel increasing resentment.

Point being, naming is powerful... So I must name my monsters.

Beyond that, I must recognize them- when they go away, and when they come back. They do seem to come back time and again as they try to find other ways to get to me. It's only with consistency, that they learn they really are not welcome.

And I will have to find the appropriate weapon to fight each; the truth that yields them powerless.

And I may have to fight them multiple times, in multiple battles. If the monster is strong, it may keep coming back like the monsters at the end of each level of many video games, each time with a newer, fancier weapon.

But I will continue to fight them. They stand no chance of winning against me. Because I won't give up. My master is nearby. I don't even need a fancy whistle to call him for help. He sees where I am. He hears what I'm thinking. He'll help me because I trust him, and am open to his help.
I love comments. It makes me feel like I'm not just talking to a wall, and rids me of the feeling that this time, I said too much, or said something the wrong way.

(I review your comments first, so if you want to say something just to me, just let me know).