January 25, 2010

I Smell a Change in the Wind... or on My Screen...

About, oh, maybe a year ago {?} I started writing a "book" on singleness.  Really it started as a pamphlet, written more as an extended journal entry and rant than anything else.  I was in the middle of dealing with some pretty strong emotions: anger, bitterness, sadness, disappointment, insufficiency, hurt, pride.  Most of my friends were in serious relationships, my roommate was dating seriously (which led to engagement), and I... well, I was still alone, unpursued, unattached.  While I'd never experienced anything more than one DTR (define-the-relationship, for those of you out of the Moody-speak loop) in my entire high school and college experience, the idea of being the "last one" was new for me; I was working through it with typing fingers and whirling mind gears.

There were nights of tears.  There were pleading prayers.  There was depression.  There was selfishness.  And now, as I change directions with my "book," it is fascinating to look back and see how my writing process mirrored my own process and progress.  My writing started as something for me, something to make me feel better and a way for me to work through my hurt.  While I thought I was focusing on the right things: moving forward, enjoying singleness, etc, what I find now is simply that I was altogether too me-focused.

Every month or two I'd pick up the "book" again... subtracting something that just wasn't right, adding something I'd learned in the meantime.  And when I look at the words before me now, on a bleach-white, bare, electronic page, I must apply the newest, most important lesson (nay, hurdle) I've learned in my life as a single woman.  What would be the point of my writing another book on singleness to sit on the nightstand of a single woman, for her to read before she goes to bed alone?  She'd be armed with more superficial artillery against her depression-- that "I'm not alone" feeling soothes for a time.  But with what would she really be left, when more of her girlfriends get married, and she truly is the last one?

With my own growth and struggles and victories and triumphs, I have found that it's just not enough to read the words of someone else; it is not enough to try to help myself.  No, there is one source that is sufficient for me and for other women to live and love their life of singleness: that is God's Word.  And so, my "book" has taken a new direction.  From here on out, I'll be using my musings and anecdotes only to introduce the meat that has satisfied me and truly changed my perspective-- I'm writing a devotional.  I don't want it to be one of those light, fluffy, cheesy devotionals that a single woman will pick up, read for three minutes with her breakfast and forget about by the time she hits traffic.  I want it to be a meaty, intense, truth-packed collection of real-life issues and lessons backed not by experience or feelings but the Word of God.

The only way to change perspective, the only way to find joy and contentment, is through His Word... so why would I steer women from that and towards my musings alone?  I can't in good conscience.  So there it is.  The winding road of my journey has changed me, and I do want to communicate that with other women.  But very simply, I didn't change myself.  God's Word changed me.  It is my true prayer and hope that women with similar struggles will be changed as well.

January 15, 2010

Oh, The Places You'll Go...

I was driving home tonight, listening to Jeff Buckley softly croon "Hallelujah," when I looked to my left and saw what has become one of my favorite sites here in Florida.  It wasn't the Bay, the Gulf, or the beach, as one might expect, but a downward sloping plain dotted with lights and high voltage towers.  I don't know what it is about it-- maybe the little bit of wide-open yet contrastingly urban landscape-- but it's one of my favorite places.  And after just watching 500 Days of Summer, I got to thinking about my favorite places.

Up north, at the bottom of Belly Button Hill is a sprawling tree; the branches of which nearly touch the base of the hill.  It's a spot where I've had picnics with friends, read horrible Christian fiction, and stared at the clouds. 

There is a section of the creek that runs through my hometown where branches sweep low and ripples sparkle in the sun.  Nevermind that the water is a muddy brown, like the kind of drinking water they tell you exists in India.  It's perfect, all year round.  I love riding my bike there and parking it for just a few moments as I watch the dirty-brown ripples.

But I have a hard time sitting still.  More often than not, my favorite places are more like favorite glimpses-- little treasures that make me smile for no other reason than the fact that they exist:

There is a section of road that is peppered with forest preserves, and when you're passing this particular spot at just the right angle, with just the right atmosphere-- not too hazy and not too foggy-- you can spot the Sears Tower in the distance.  I always smile.

Here in Florida, when I come home from work as the sun is making its final descent, the gold makes the most beautiful display when it pours through the tennis courts, creating a foggy, misty glow.  I often hop out of my car and just stare for a moment, hoping the children on the tennis courts don't think I'm staring at them.

I have just decided to make an effort to find more favorite spots, and instead of just glancing for a moment, sit and relax in said favorite spot.  But I probably won't pick my favorite spot with the high voltage towers.

January 6, 2010

Like A Lady Gaga Song...

It grew on me, slowly yet unexpectedly, like a Lady Gaga song.

Have you ever had the perfect half of a simile?  I have.  For the past few days the above was the half of a simile I'd thought up... the only problem was I couldn't finish it.  I couldn't think of anything legitimate that could complete the analogy.  Until tonight, when what God was trying to teach me grew on me, slowly yet unexpectedly, like a Lady Gaga song... and now forgive the irreverent analogy.  I just had to use it.  So let me explain:

While I sang the memorized words, my mind numbly traveled elsewhere-- what would I wear tomorrow? All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing-- did I have enough Weight Watcher's points for crackers when I got home? I will worship you Lord, only you Lord...The familiar words poured out of my mouth while my heart, only having just begun to crack at its foundations, was stony and cold.  My eyes glazed over as they fixed past the heads of students to the illuminated screen bearing the very same words that fell so vacantly from my mouth.

In that inexplicable way the Holy Spirit has of doing  things, suddenly the words I'd been singing from memory penetrated my heart.
Take my fret
Take my fear
All I have I'm leaving here.
Be all my hopes
Be all my dreams
Be all my delights
Be my everything
It washed over me, coming slowly yet suddenly, unexpectedly.  Use any metaphor you like-- the lights went on, the dam in my heart burst, it was a catalyst-- whatever.  The point is, I got it.  I finally got what the Holy Spirit must have been trying to communicate to my stubborn, blind heart for so long.

For the past I-don't-know-how-long, I have been fixated and focused on my unfulfilled dreams, future hopes and seemingly unattainable goals.  All my dreams and hopes have distracted me from the ONE THING that is needed.  They were unwittingly hedonistic, blanketed by good intentions.  In my pursuit of goals (however good they may be), I abandoned my First Love.  My dreams and goals in and of themselves aren't bad.  But it's been off, the perspective skewed and the priorities whacked.  And so no more restlessness.  No more fretting.  No more obsessing about what to do, where, when, and how.  Now it's just God.  Just pleasing Him.  I have a sneaking suspicion that when my priorities are back in line, my other goals won't matter so much anymore.  All the things I want to do?  Who really cares.  I'll do my best to redeem my time, seize the day, and live life, but my dreams aren't eternal and they have been too ME focused.

So here are some of my new goals:  I want to worship God in...
WORK-- always do my best and give my best effort, keep a good attitude even when it's hard, share the gospel with more students
FREE TIME-- spend more of it in prayer, don't waste my time on foolishness, use it wisely.
SPEECH-- stop being so sarcastic, be more encouraging.
THOUGHTS-- stop thinking so much of myself, stop daydreaming so often of the future and possibilities and stop being jealous of my imagined future life, memorize and meditate on Scripture more often.
DISCIPLESHIP-- be a good example to the girls, work harder at spending more time with them and reach out more to them.

I've been saying that I am going through an identity crisis-- a quarter-life crisis, and that I don't know what I want to do with my life.  That's not true.  I know who I am.  I'm a woman who has been saved from her sin, redeemed by grace through faith by her Savior, Jesus Christ.  I was born to worship him with my life.  And I want to be a fully-devoted follower of Christ.

This epiphany comes "coincidentally" on the traditional Epiphany holiday.  I found that to be a funny little reminder of God's perfect timing and understated sense of humor. 

I'll leave you with the verses I found in my mind last night and I've been meditating on them ever since:
Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.-- Philippians 4:4-7
The requests I've brought to God are my new-found resolutions and goals.  And this peace will guard my heart and mind against the following evils with which I've been struggling, sapping my strength and resolve: bitterness, complacency, selfishness, pride, jealousy, anger, and discontentment.

Many of my posts have been about my struggles, and I'm sure many more will continue along that vein.  But tonight's post is a triumph, an epiphany of something God's been trying to teach me for a while.  He finally got through to me, and I hope and pray you will be as encouraged as I (maybe not learning the same lesson that I've learned) by God's faithfulness to teach us, mold us, and shape us as we grow in him, and in his goodness that he guards our hearts and minds with his peace.

January 2, 2010

My Life, Now Playing at a Theater Near You...

Today I sat for a while in the relative cold outside a local Starbucks.  Sipping my seasonally inappropriate passion tea lemonade, I squinted into the sunlight as I attempted to put into words what has been flitting around my head these last weeks.  Some, too personal, will never be put into words.  But as I sat there, this is a bit of what came to my mind.

Sometimes I feel my life playing out like a movie-- a "rom-com" without the rom.  Don't think less of me when I tell you that I even play a mental soundtrack.  Most times, I am the weirdo quirky best friend who supports the leading lady and provides comic relief.  Once in a while, however, I am the leading lady.  I see my life in the reels of film-- as I come home to an empty apartment, as I cackle and bemoan life with my girlfriends, when I wrestle with life decisions and emotions.  Only the satisfying resolution is missing; the last scenes which play out to a happy conclusion before the credits roll.  That "aha" moment never comes.  The leading man never comes out of nowhere with his pithy, witty charm and devilish grin.  Maybe that's why I keep watching rom-coms.  I love when things change for the leading lady, when things resolve, and when the music swells and the camera pans away.

But life isn't a rom-com.  It's not even a com.  It just is life.  Perhaps it is my expectations of my brand of a happy ending that causes me to stop trusting God, take my eyes off Him, and place undue attention on myself and my desires and dreams.  See, what's missing from rom-coms is an eternal focus.  My story may not be the stuff of Hollywood, but it is a good story, because it is written by the sovereign Creator and Sustainer.  I'll be satisfied with the journey until I reach the happy ending He's written.  I might still create mental soundtracks though.