1am+

It’s 1am and my heart and mind are at war with each other.

My heart, listening to worship music, is filled with peace; I feel closer to God in this moment than I have in months. It feels like my heart wants to escape out of its body and hold fast to God and no one else. It feels amazing. And only slightly painful. I feel a desire to lock myself away for a few months, ignoring needless distractions and focusing only on a simple life of focusing on God and nothing else.

But behind that immense joy, my mind is racing. Focusing on so many different, messy emotions that I feel overwhelmed.

Life seems more fleeting when it’s after midnight. I’m hit with nostalgia, missing old friends and fond memories. Feeling that I’m not as young as I used to be and realizing that some dreams are never going to come true. Focusing and untangling lingering feelings from past relationships that I should have let go of a long time ago.

And realizing that all of those lingering feelings brought me to this place. A place where I feel like I’m on a precipice of something. 

Maybe it’s a lifestyle change. Visiting Haiti opened my eyes to a part of myself that I had previously been too afraid to confront. The thirst for adventure and new cultures hasn’t left my mind since coming back. Living abroad doesn’t fill me with anxiety like it used to.   And the idea of having the freedom to move from place to place, without any strings to tie me down, fills me with relief. Like breathing would be a bit easier in a lifestyle like that.

But I also yearn for safety and comfort. Marriage, something that filled me with fear and disinterest just a year ago, is becoming something I’m thinking of more and more. Maybe it’s because I’m surrounded by so many healthy relationships. Marriages that aren’t perfect, but are good. Where the love between the couples feels so real, that it’s almost tangible. There’s a part of me, bigger than my pride wants to admit, that desires the feeling of being cherished and loved. And somehow, listening to worship music makes me long for that good, safe relationship even more. Because I know that a relationship rooted in God would be a very good thing.

So maybe I’m not sure what to do with all of this. Maybe it’s just jumbled, now almost 2am thoughts, that aren’t meant to come together to form any cohesive meaning. But maybe the feeling of being on the edge of something isn’t the precipice I’m imaging. Maybe it’s less a lifestyle change, and instead, taking the time to discover the intentions behind these messy emotions and giving these desires to God. Learning not only to trust him, but to also obey him.

Because ultimately, my desires don’t have much weight without God. And as He has shown me, especially this year, his ways, the paths he’s guided me on, are far better than he ones I imagined for myself.

Daddy Baggage

Writing about my father isn’t new. Talking about a fatherless life and the negative and positive impacts it’s had on my life, also isn’t new. But after a day of scrolling through various social media accounts, reading stories attached to dorky photos of dads and their daughters, my heart is feeling both a little raw and a little introspective. 

Father’s Day holds mixed emotions for me. On the one hand, I greatly appreciate it because fathers, good father’s, should be celebrated. I think their role isn’t always recognized with the importance it should be. But on the other hand, it’s a hard day for me. It brings my “daddy baggage” front and center. It’s a reminder of a relationship that I’ve will never experience. A reminder that even if I have the most amazing mother in the world, there’s still a part of me that feels like something is missing.

If you had asked me what I wanted when I was growing up, I probably would have told you I wanted a father. It was my birthday wish and early attempts at matchmaking my mom to the potential single dad’s from my elementary school. Attempts that always failed because my mother was never in need of anyone and the men I “picked”….well, to seven year old me, they seemed wonderful, but in reality, not so much.

Still, I remember wishing for a dad for years. It was never motivated by jealously or because I was lacking from love or attention (my mom was somehow two parents in one and did it in such an effortless way, that still amazes me to this day). But watching little girls and their fathers always made me feel like I was missing out on something. Something that I longed for from my own father. Or at least, a father-like figure. Because even as a little girl, I recongized that my father was someone that would never be like those other dads. He was never going to be a good father, let alone a good man. 

So I created an “ideal daddy” in my head.

My fantasy father was many things. He’d want me, first of all. And he would be a good man; not an alcoholic that was prone to selfishness and violent behavior. I would know my worth because he found me worthy. He would be my greatest playmate and partner in adventure. And when I grew older, he would carry my burdens and comfort me when boys broke my heart, even as he reassured me of my beauty and value. He would be caring and kind. Funny and serious. And he would always give the best hugs.

In a perfect world, I could have had this. If my father wasn’t the man that he was, a version of this could have existed in my life. But life isn’t perfect and things that have the power to cause pain, happen.  

But eventually, the hurt becomes less sharp. And the longing becomes more of a dull ache.

Somewhere along the line, I stopped using my birthday wishes for a father. I stopped thinking that the only thing that could make my life “complete” was a father. And to my mother’s (probably) eternal gratitude, I stopped trying to pair her with my friend’s dad’s. I began to feel more at peace with the reality of my life. I accepted it, and I embraced it. The pain was still there, but it was manageable now.

I think I should say, there’s no permanent fix to growing up fatherless. There’s nothing that can ever really fill the space where a father should fit. As wonderful as my mother is, as much as she gave of herself and was all those things listed above and more, she still isn’t a father. And for as much as God has been, and continues to be, my Heavenly Father, he still isn’t able to physically wrap me in his arms in a hug that I still, many times, desperately crave.

But God has brought so much healing in my life for this. I have examples of wonderful fathers in my life, who have brought me joy in knowing that good father’s can, and do exist. He’s given me a sense of purpose in my fatherlessness; a desire to cherish and love those who feel like they’re lacking in worth or value. And He continues to be a patient, loving Father  to me, despite my many mistakes and shortcomings.

But like I said above, this day always brings along a sense of bittersweetness. And for a few moments, that dull ache becomes just a bit more biting. And that small girl in me who spent years wishing for a father, flares up a little, making that longing a little more fierce than it was yesterday. 

My baggage is still there. I’m still the girl who is sometimes labeled with “daddy issues”. And my longing never fully goes away. But God is good and uses my brokenness for good things. He surrounds me with love from himself and others. And every year, I feel like he heals more and more of those tender, raw parts of me. And I rejoice in what he is doing.

My Body is Not Meant for You

Friends, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started writing this post, only to find that I am unable to finish it. Most of the time, I feel as though I’m not qualified to write this; that my words are ineffective or not enough. Other times, I am unable to write because I feel so much anger that my words come out jumbled and scattered. But in spite of all these obstacles, my soul refuses to let it go. So with a fresh brewed cup of coffee in hand and a fiery pit of righteous anger in my gut, I attempt to write.

I grew up in the age of “Modest is Hottest”, a snappy slogan printed on t-shirts and stickers that were marketed to both shame and encourage young women into buying them at Christian events. I was taught that thin-strapped tank tops were of the devil and bare shoulders were traps of temptations. Most of all, I was taught that my body was inherently sexual and it was my job to do everything I could not to let it lead my “brothers in Christ” into temptation.

Truthfully, I don’t think that was the message my youth pastor’s hoped would come through. But nevertheless, it was implied heavily in every girls event I attended throughout my time in youth group. And I thought nothing of it. It never occurred to me that the weight of purity only fell on the girls and never the guys. It never crossed my mind that they weren’t confronted with the same amount of responsibility that us girls were. It was just something I accepted.

Until, I was in a position of leadership and criticism for how I dressed began to pour in from those above me.

Looking back, I can’t help but laugh because it wasn’t until my early twenties that I began to even feel comfortable showing more skin. Back then? I dressed like a puritan. So much so that my mother would beg me to show even a little amount of skin. But it didn’t seem to matter how covered I was. Every week after church or youth group, I would come home to a message about my outfit of choice such as: “great job at church today, but I wanted to let you know that your bra strap was showing, keep that in mind” or “hey, cute outfit today! but when you bent down, your shirt didn’t exactly cover your bottom and it wasn’t exactly appropriate” (I was wearing leggings).

On and on it went. It made me feel horrible. With every message I received, my shame grew deeper. Was I truly inappropriate? Was I setting a bad example for the girls and guys in the youth group? Was I dressing in a way that was sexual? I never felt like I was wearing anything immodest, but it didn’t matter; my sense of self-worth was shattered. My body was no longer my property. It was dictated by the demands of others.

And this is where my post always seems to implode.

The amount of harassment women face on a daily basis is unacceptable. Women are raped, assaulted, accosted. Yet, somehow, in far too many instances, they are blamed for it. Somehow, an issue of consent turns into an issue of what the victim she wearing, as if what a woman chooses to wear is an indicator of what she does or doesn’t deserve.

How is it that my body, which is my own, bares the weight of responsibility for a man’s  desires? I certainly never consented to the  level of sexuality that it has been assigned.

Please keep in mind that everything I write is always motivated by a deep love of the church, and in no way, do I claim that the church should take the blame for any of this. They are just one small part of a narrative that already exists. But as a church, we cannot continue to pretend ignorance of some amount of responsibility. How many stories of sexual abuse in the church have been hidden because a church doesn’t want to wreck the image of itself of pastor it has created? Are we, a body of believers and followers of Christ, so determined to keep a facade of perfection that we convince ourselves it’s okay to brush aside a victim’s story? The answer should be obvious but unfortunately, for many churches, it isn’t.

How do we change this? I wish had an answer, but I’m not sure I do. One thing that I do know, however, is that we must change the way modesty and purity is taught in the church.

Using shame as a motivator is not acceptable. Placing all of the responsibility of sexuality on women is also not acceptable.Men in leadership, instill integrity and respect in the men under your care. Teach them to take responsibility for their actions. Teach them not to shame a woman for the way she dresses. Reject the “boys will be boys” mindset.

Women, please understand: you are not responsible for the thoughts of others. Your body is not a source of sexual temptation. It is beautiful and it is yours. And God’s. Dress in a way that makes you feel beautiful. Find your own style. And demand the respect that you deserve.

Hello My Name is Inadequate

I have a nasty habit of comparing myself to others. I wish I didn’t but sometimes it can’t be helped. Okay, more like all the time. But in my defense, it’s hard to resist the lure of comparison, especially when social media is so easily accessible. For instance, Instagram is one of my favorite apps and I could spend hours on it looking through photos, getting ideas and mainly obsessing over the beauty of the PNW. Usually it’s my way of unwinding after a long day but lately, I’ve found that I’ve begun comparing myself to the seemingly endless photos I see of perfect women on Instagram. More specifically, the perfect Christian women of instagram.

You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones with the fashionable hipster outfits and perfect bodies. The ones who can take a selfie and caption it with a bible verse and NOT come off ironically. The ones who always seem to find those special walls with amazing murals to pose in front of (okay real talk: where are these, how do I find them, please help me out here). They’re perfect.

And looking at them kind of makes me want to scream. Not at them but at myself.

Here I am, at almost 25, living in a place that I don’t love, working at a job that while I’m grateful for, sort of makes me lie down on my floor and scream from the stress of it. I’m basically doing the exact opposite of everything I thought I would be doing in my twenties.

I don’t have a killer squad of women that I can strategically pose with against a brick wall and gush about their beautiful hearts for Christ. I don’t have that smile that’s always the perfect mix of spontaneous and posed in every photo. I don’t have what these women have. And if these are the women who are representing the image of Christianity, does that mean I’m doing everything wrong?

If I let myself, I could spend hours questioning how they do it. How are their poses always so good? How do they have all these friends? And most importantly, how are their relationships with God always so strong? They make it look effortless and I’m not sure how.

Because dear ones, I am a mess.

I mean, my hair is literally ALWAYS a mess. My eyeliner is never even. I wear leggings 5 days out 7 and I’m as awkward as they come. I’m in a constant struggle between choosing joy or letting cynicism overtake me. My relationship with God can seem like an uphill battle at points. Every day is a fight for contentment. And most days, it’s a fight I lose.

Please don’t misunderstand me. This is not at all a slight towards these women. It’s not really about them at all. This is all about me and my insecurities.

Because there is no such thing as a “perfect Christian woman”. There’s an image of it and then there’s the reality. I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect. Not even the girls I’m talking about are. We’re all a mess, though some of us are better hiding our mess than others.

All I know is that if I continue to spend my life comparing it to others, I’ll never be able to remove myself from a feeling of inadequacy.

And I don’t want to waste my life on comparisons.

I’m not really sure how to let go of comparing myself to others. Do I spend less time on soctal media and instagram?  Do I look deep inside myself to find my own sense of worth and confidence?

Maybe. I think those are all good starts.

But I think the only way I’ll ever truly let go of comparison is if I find contentment in the life I currently have.

And like I said above, that is not easy.

I tell myself daily to be present where I am. But in the back of mind, the longing for a different life never fully leaves. While it’s not a bad thing for me to hold onto dreams to I hope to accomplish, the hold I have on them is so tight that it gets in the way of finding joy in my everyday.

Contentment is a fight. A daily one. And if it can’t be found, at least not at the moment, in the life I have, it needs to be found in God.

My contentment needs to be found in Christ. My feelings of inaquacy need to be laid down at His feet. And once they are, I know that’s the only way I can let go of comparison and find rest in Him.

Such A Noble Aim, is Love

We were carrying out our favorite tradition: sipping on Rise Up coffee smoothies, sitting on a dock, enjoying beautiful sunshine when my friend turned to me and said:

“When it comes to relationships, I’m never sure if I’m compromising or if I’m just figuring out my worth.”

Immediately I paused to write it down because, yes. Exactly. She somehow managed to summarize everything I felt towards relationships in one sentence.

I’m currently at a point where I don’t want to be in a relationship. First, because my life is a bit messy and a relationship is the furthest thing on my mind and second, because it scares me.I can be honest enough to admit that.

Just like I can admit that my current view on love is dimmer than I would like it to be. While I’ve seen great relationships, I’ve also witnessed terrible ones as well. I’ve watched so many dear friends fall into horrible, toxic relationships. And while a part of me wants to say I would never be with a guy like that, I know that would be a lie.

My friend and I both agree that our track record of guys we’ve fallen for isn’t the greatest. Whether the guys just aren’t good for us or not good guys in general, our taste has the tendency to be less than stellar. And therein lies the problem. And the confusion.

See, every time I like a guy, the same thing happens: I begin with a list, a mental checklist of qualities I’m looking for in a potential partner. However, as time goes on, I find that the list begins to diminish. I start crossing off things because the importance of them has lessened. I start compromising. And it’s not on superficial things such as looks or interests, either. It’s things like “sometimes he can be condescending towards me and makes me feel like my opinions aren’t warranted…but I’m probably just imagining things, so it’s okay” or “I never wanted to be with someone who drinks and he does…but I’m probably just being too picky”. And I just…what? Why on earth do I do that?!

Once again, my friend summarized it in another simple but oh so profound sentence:

“We live in a society that constantly tells women that they aren’t good enough, so they settle for what they think they deserve.”

…Yep. Pretty much.

The thing is, I pride myself on being a strong, independent woman. And yet…the minute a not-so-wonderful-guy enters the scene, I find myself compromising on values that matter to me because a part of me feels like I don’t deserve any better. Like I can’t do any better. Because society, and in turn myself, has told me that having a list is too picky and too demanding, so I need to lessen my standards. I need to settle.

We’re impatient so we settle. We’re told we’re too picky so we settle. We’re told we’re never going to get what we “deserve” so we settle. We compromise.

But that isn’t the kind of compromise I want to make. I don’t want to compromise on my worth just because I feel the pressure to find my “other half”. I don’t want to be with someone who thinks he’s “settled” by being with me. That’s terrible! Who wants that? No one. I want to be with someone who values the same things I do; who sees my worth and celebrates it, just I would see and celebrate his. That, to me, is worth waiting for.

So here’s the thing: I’m done compromising my worth. I’m done scratching things off my list so I can accommodate what society thinks I should accommodate. If that makes me picky, demanding, or high-maintenance, I don’t care.

Because honest, deserving love? That is more important to me than anything else.

Besides being single is fun! Because who else is gonna buy all those cats? 😉