To the friends who teach us how to love

Sometimes my parents make jokes about my relationship with my best friend, usually of the lesbihonest variety. I laugh with them, because it’s understandable. The way I talk about Sam is often more loving than the way I hear people discuss their significant others. Don’t even get me started on the frequency – I’ve blogged about my deep love for her several times, excluding today, and will probably do many more in the future.

The reason is simple: She is the love of my life. We are just two heterosexuals who found our soulmate in each other, and it’s a beautiful thing. I know that this sounds strange, but if you’ve experienced it, you understand.

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Yeah I know we’re the cutest best friends on the planet DEAL WITH IT

I’ve talked at length about how we met, how our relationship grew, why she’s the greatest human, but in honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m going to focus on something else. Sam is the one who taught me what it really means to love another person.

Naturally, I have a family that I’m close with, but that kind of love is different. I was born to love those people. Most of them didn’t give me a reason to doubt their love so mine was inherently returned. To love someone you have no obligation to is another, more challenging issue.

I wish I could remember every detail of how we went from last-minute roommates to the pair we are today. Living with her was a strange experience from day one; when I arrived and she told me she thought someone was going to break in and murder her, but it was only a can of Diet Coke exploding in the fridge (instead of investigating she simply stayed still in bed).

Maybe it was our sheer proximity that caused us to become so close (and the fact that we deliberately created the same class schedules), or maybe it was our recognition of needing each other. Or maybe just the fact that I needed her. She is one of the few people in this world I actually need in my life.

It’s been almost a decade since we first meant, and almost nine years since our first hangout. This is mind-blowing to me. It feels as if we’ve known each other forever because of our closeness, but mentally I still think it’s only been a few years.

Over the years, being her friend allowed me to have a relationship worth fighting for. When I think about what it means to be loved completely, I think of Jesus and Sam. She knows everything about me. There is so much trust between us that I know I can tell her my truly awful thoughts and there will never be judgment. I can tell her my ever changing dreams and she will offer all of her support.

She has shown me what it feels like to be secure in a relationship. I never have to question where I stand with her. If she’s tagged in a photo with another friend, I’m not worried about being replaced.

The example she set taught me how to love. Granted, I’m not nearly as good at it as she is. I’ve learned that being so close to someone is challenging, especially when they can interpret your true motivations. There will be fights and tears and thoughts of is this worth it? But it always is. That’s the best gift she’s given me. I’ve learned that to experience something real and rare, you have to understand that it takes work. As comfortable as we are with each other, it still takes work. Her refusal to give up or let our relationship stay the same taught me how to love.

Sometimes we date people and they teach us what it means to be with someone else, but sometimes the best relationships we learn from are our friends, the ones who never leave. The ones who enter our lives right on time and become so important you can’t imagine a time without them. The ones who see us at our worst and best and love us at every single stage in between. Unconditional love is a powerful gift.

I think sometimes we can forget that this is what love should feel like, and compromise that pureness for something broken. Perhaps we are desperately trying to find a best friend and attempt to fit people into molds where they don’t belong. Sometimes we meet someone and it feels so good to be dating that we let it slide when their love feels forced, or maybe even conditional.

As humans, I don’t believe we deserve anything in life, but I do know we need to remember what real love feels like, and get rid of anyone who makes that feeling a little more broken. Love may break your heart, but it shouldn’t before you’ve even started.

Waiting for something is challenging, believe me I know, but remember what you do have. The people who love you and our God who loves you so much He created you just as you are. Don’t compromise for what you know isn’t right.

Personally, I’ve wanted some big, romantic relationship. I’ve hoped every guy I’ve met would turn into this dreamboat, but so far I’m still here and single. Maybe someday I’ll get it, maybe I won’t. Or maybe God only has one epic love story for me, and if that’s my Sam, I can’t imagine anything better.

Fighting for something real

Up until recently, I had a regular pattern I followed in dating: meeting someone > being cautiously excited > losing my dang mind with feelings > it ultimately not working > trying to orchestrate any possible scenario to make it work > losing my dang mind with feelings > moving on > backsliding > meeting someone.

I met good guys and ones you can just smell the bad on, but it never made a difference. Even if it seemed like a good thing, it never worked out. I’ve told God countless times that I was ready, now was the time. I could practically feel the excitement as I waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually someone would come along and I’d start my cycle again.

There are a million reasons I never tried to break the cycle, but the biggest one was moving on for real would mean that option would be gone and I’d be left with nothing. Give me ill treatment, but please don’t leave me without prospects.

I needed to hold onto these small teddy bears because it was something to hold onto. Because I have yet to see His plan play out, I don’t fully trust God with what’s next. Instead of believing in His big plans, I cling to what feels good now.

At 27, it’s actually not hard to understand why I feel like I need something tangible to put my hope in. While the average age for woman to get married in America is 27, there’s so much societal pressure, especially in the church to accomplish this sooner. And yes, accomplish, as if it’s another point you can use on your spiritual resume to sell yourself. Most of the people who attended the same Christian college as me are married, and I haven’t had a real boyfriend since I was 18. Needing something makes sense.

The idea of someone is better than the reality of having no one.

But these ideas only hurt me. They consume me. They distract me. Even worse, they show these guys I’m here whenever they might want me again and I’m way too eager to let things go and try again. Although let’s be real, ‘try again’ is usually just some texts that give me hope and then he’s gone again. But I’m always ready to reply, ready to charm, ready to be wanted.

Occasionally I justified this behavior. I’m just having fun, right? It doesn’t mean anything. I’m young and want to enjoy myself. I’m not doing anything that bad, comparatively speaking. That’s what the world told me, and I listened.

Except it did mean something. It always means something.

Even now I try to act all breezy and cool, but I want a husband (even typing that makes me feel as if I’m betraying some ancient decree that a woman should never appear too desperate). I’m not looking for a four-year boyfriend. I’m in my late-20s. I know what I want. I want a man who loves God and is going to lead our home and be my partner. I’m not trying to rush into kids or anything, but at this stage I’m not looking to date a few people. I want something passionate and magical and hard and challenging and real.

And yet it only recently occurred to me I wasn’t fighting what I wanted.

Our message series at church for January was ‘Fight For It,’ and it’s also the driving theme for our year. It was really inspiring and I took notes about how I was going to fight for my own victories, but never once considered fighting for my romantic life.

Then we talked about fighting for your family, and slowly it all began to click.

Nehemiah 4 discusses the dangers of rebuilding the temple and how they had to be ready to fight. He tells the people “Don’ be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” (4:14).

While God was obviously on their side, Nehemiah didn’t say it like “no big, guys. God will deliver us so be chill.” Even with the promise of God, it was still a battle they had to fight. They had to trust in His delivery, but they were responsible too.

Too often I rely on the delivery, but refuse to do the work. I expect God will give me this great man I’m waiting for solely because I’m checking all the right boxes. Maybe I even thought my dedication to growing my faith was fighting for it, but now I see differently.

I tell God this is what I’m waiting for, but every time an easier option strolls my way, I give in. I give up any fight I had for what feels good now.

Not anymore.

Recently I said no. I won’t give details, but I had the opportunity to satisfy what I wanted now and backslide into old habits, but I didn’t. I walked to my car, closed the door and screamed. Yep, that actually happened. Partially out of excitement, but also partially because I couldn’t believe I had something and let it go. Do I not know who I am?

And then I realized something incredible.

For the first time, I was actually fighting for it. I knew what I wanted and I refused to let a moment deter me. I’m actually ready to wait. I mean sure, I’ve been waiting, but my waiting wasn’t full of trust. There wasn’t a battle to trust God. It was just waiting for something to satisfy me now and telling God I believed His plan.

If I want something different for my life, I need to pursue something different. It’s so simple, and so important. No matter how hard I tried, clinging to guys who didn’t want was never going to give me the story I wanted.

I know myself well enough to realize it won’t always be this easy, and the devil won’t let me go without a fight. There will be bigger temptations I’ll fight on this journey as I wait, but instead of accepting defeat, I know I have another option.

I’m going to remember my God, who is great, and I’m going to fight for something real.

Why actually meeting someone terrifies me

This morning I slept in, checked social media and made myself frozen waffles for breakfast. I read my Bible, finished a book and started a new one. Then I made myself an egg sandwich for lunch and decided to do some writing.

This is my life and schedule. For my entire adult life, everything has been on my terms. I’ve never had to consult with anyone about anything. I simply decide what I want to do and then do that thing.

It’s one of the reasons I’m actually terrified to meet someone.

When I’m home alone watching a movie, I think it would be nice to have a snuggle buddy. Or when it’s snowing a lot, I wish I had someone to get snowed in with. Some nights I want to go out and be young and have fun with a man I love.

Those are all fleeting, superficial desires that mask the real fears. I’ve been single for so long and I cannot imagine adding another person into my routine.

If I think about it too long, I spiral down to a place where all the fears from a beginning of a relationship (like is it okay to hold hands or kiss in public or do you even want to spend time with me) to the more serious (like what happens if we get married and then have to live together – how do two people get used to living with one another??). When I’ve reached the bottom, and my anxiety tells me there is no solution except singleness, I thank God I’m here. It’s here that I’m like maybe being called to singleness wouldn’t be so bad.

I don’t think God feels the same way, though.

As much as my anxiety wishes it were true, I don’t feel as though this is God’s complete plan for my life (although that could be denial, who knows?).  It’s more my insecurities because I’ve been so single for so long. My last real boyfriend was during my senior year in high school, and it lasted three whole months. It’s also my longest relationship to date, nbd.

When I see the ease at which other people date and show affection, immediately there’s a voice that says I’m behind. Something is wrong with me. It’s so easy for everyone else, why can’t I meet someone? That evil voice is quickly refuted by my anxiety into convincing me being single is a good thing. We can control that. Why bring someone else’s emotions into the mix?

If I meet someone, and invite him in, I’m losing control and letting someone else affect my emotions. My time is no longer my own. I will make sacrifices. After all of that, he may change his mind and leave. The hurt doesn’t always seem like the risk is worth it.

I’ve seen people stay in bad relationships forever, and I’ve seen people settle for what they thought would be the best. I’ve seen the best relationships crumble in a moment, and I’ve seen even the most solid relationships struggle.

I’ve been told pain is part of letting someone in, and maybe that’s why I’m really so afraid. I pursue situations occasionally and am practically always looking, but how sincere are my efforts? Am I just pretending so it feels like action when deep down I’m too afraid to really start? Have I already made up my mind he’ll leave like everyone else?

One of my biggest character points is being prepared. I am at my best when I feel I have put in the work and I understand what I am getting myself into. A change in variables can send me into a tailspin. With dating, I am so out of my element that the whole process becomes frightening.

Texting guys can be painful. My best friend tells me to just be a human and not be weird, and it’s cute that she thinks I’m capable of either. Usually my banter becomes harmless taunting to mask what I really want to say. Not that I’m not sarcastic by nature, but it’s definitely a bad crutch I use in romantic conversations. I’m too afraid of being honest in what I want.

It’s not like honesty has screwed me over in the past. Typically, it’s probably my lack of honesty. I had a crush on a guy for a couple of years in college and finally, FINALLY, we were hanging out. One night, after he left, he asked me what I thought about what was going on between us. I knew on several occasions he expressed not wanting a girlfriend, and despite wanting to be his girlfriend more than anything else in the world, I panicked. Sam was sleeping and not responding to my texts, and I needed her bravery and advice. Instead, I told him I’m not interested in dating but if I were I’d be interested in him, which sounded okay at the time and he agreed but then nothing ever happened again.

I’m not sorry this didn’t work between us because ultimately I don’t think it would’ve, but it’s just an example of my complete inability to feel secure enough to be honest. People always ask what’s the worst that could happen, and I HATE THAT. The worst that could happen is I face reality and leave this world of maybe and learn how he really feels and I’m alone and embarrassed for even asking.

People who think that’s not too soul crushing to risk clearly don’t live inside my brain.

I have issues, I know, and I’m hoping counseling will help me work through some of them. I want to meet someone and trust that all of my fears will work themselves out, as these things tend to do. Perhaps I need to stop putting the burden of making me feel secure on him, and recognize I need to be secure in myself. If it doesn’t work, it won’t actually wreck me. It will just hurt, but I can’t keep a running list of everyone who’s left me because it makes me lose sight of the people who stayed.

I am not here because of all the guys who hurt me. I am here because I let them and refused to grow. I entered the same cycle over and over again and knew I wouldn’t get good results, but tried anyway.

Sometimes I worry that in writing something like this, someone will read it and think I’m some freak. I’m almost 30 and I’m this afraid of dating? And then the voices tell me because of these fears, no one will want to start anything with me. Who would? My lack of experience is laughable. I’m just faking my way through everything now. I’m insecure. I don’t know how to act or what to say. I wouldn’t be a good girlfriend anyway. I’m too weird and awkward.

I’m all bravado and now I’m showing that to the world. Beneath my confidence, I am afraid of the reality of meeting someone who actually wants to be with me. Because I think all these things about myself, I immediately distrust his interest, and therefore distrust him without reason.

I suppose, at the core, I don’t see why someone would want to be with me, and everything else is just an excuse to keep the possibility of it happening away.

I don’t hate Valentine’s Day

 

As a single person, sometimes I feel like I’m expected to hate Valentine’s Day. Or maybe we all feel like we’re expected to hate it. Think about it – how many people do you know who actually like the holiday? Single people hate the reminder they’re alone. Coupled people complain and say it’s a fake holiday to sell chocolate.

For your consideration, I actually like Valentine’s Day. No, scratch that. I love it.

For as long as I can remember it’s been one of my favorite holidays. I loved decorating the bags with doilies in elementary school and picking out the perfect valentines to give to my friends. I love red and pink and hearts and sparkles, and just the idea that one day a year we all get a little extra love.

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Valentine’s Day circa 2016. Clearly I had an obsession with this shirt/sunglass combo before I lost the shirt. RIP shirt

Historically, I can’t find a logical reason why we celebrate. Some quick Wikipedia research revealed that stories say Saint Valentine was recognized for performing marriages for soldiers, but other stories say he was killed for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.

Both stories could conceivably be true, because Valentine’s Day isn’t just the celebration of one saint, but several from early saints called Valentinus. Some speculate the timing was chosen to convert a pagan holiday to one accepted by the church. In the Middle Ages it was believed the birds mated in mid-February, adding to the legend. Romantic, right?

Ultimately it was the 14th century and Geoffrey Chaucer who made Valentine’s Day the symbol of love and devotion we now embrace (or endure) today. Next time you grumble about it being a holiday created by Hallmark to sell cards, remember this:

Valentine’s Day has been a thing for like, 700 years.

While it is technically a day for romantic love (thanks birds from the Middle Ages), I choose to view it as something better. Beyond the cliche heart necklaces that clearly say your boyfriend didn’t know what to get you and waited until the last minute, there’s a beauty to Valentine’s Day, if you choose to see it.

In high school, I started a tradition with one of my best friends. It was in the time before ‘love yourself’ and ‘treat yo self’ became the anthems of a generation, but somehow my friend and I figured it out. Every year, we would go to the movies and eat Taco Bell on Valentine’s Day. Instead of letting the pressure to have a date bother us, we automatically knew we would spend the night with someone we loved. To this day, if I see one of the movies we saw, I smile because of what it represents.

This is a tradition I now carry on alone. Every year, I take myself to the movies. I usually sneak in food (Chinese, mostly) because eating while at the movies is one of my favorite pastimes. There is no drama, no pressure, no worry. Only me enjoying my own company.

For 10 years, I’ve been my own valentine, and I have no regrets.

Beyond self-love, Valentine’s Day presents other opportunities for expressing love. Leslie Knope introduced the world to Galentine’s Day, where we ditch our men and choose to celebrate with each other and breakfast food. Last year, I spent the night with my family and we had a heart-shaped pizza. I see my nieces and truly think that there are no better valentines in the world.

We can’t change the fact that Valentine’s Day is a thing, but we can change our perspective. For Pete’s sake, we take a whole day to be thankful based on lies about how we made ‘peace’ with some Native Americans, but one day about love with over 700 years of history is unfathomable.

We show love every day, but like Thanksgiving, this is a day to be extra aware, and extra loving. To everyone, not just your significant other. Remember the value of loving yourself, and remind yourself of how valuable you are. Hug everyone you know and spread a little love. We have enough anger and resentment without bitterness over a holiday.

I don’t hate Valentine’s Day, and neither should you.

The eternal struggle of books vs Netflix

I used to be a reader. There was a time when finishing books consumed me and little else seemed to matter. I was the kid who stayed up late, sneakily turning on my bed light to read when I should’ve been asleep. I couldn’t wait to get home from going anywhere because it meant I could read my book again.

When the last Harry Potter book was released, I read it in 24 hours. Literally. I took it with me to a baseball game. I stayed up all night reading. I read it in church. I couldn’t stop.

Now when people ask what I like to do, I draw a blank and feel like the most boring person in the world. I don’t think this is uncommon for my generation, though. We like to watch Netflix and engross ourselves in social media, but that makes us sound like the most boring people ever. I default to reading and taking walks, because I am the most boring person in the world and I actually don’t know what I like to do.

I’m not sure when I lost it, but I did. Maybe it’s all part of adulthood when you think through your answers too much and want to seem cool while impressing someone with the interesting hobbies you enjoy.

Deep down, we know Netflix and chill (minus the sexual connotations of said ‘chill’) is basically the defining hobby of our generation. The ability to access thousands of titles across multiple platforms has made us numb to doing anything else. It’s the easy answer when you want to relax, plus new shows are dropped every day and you want to be in the loop.

We watch until the black screen appears, judging us ever so gently by passive-aggressively asking if we’re still watching. Of course we are, but you’re just being nice. I want to meet the person who accidentally leaves Netflix on and that question is actually warranted.

Before Netflix and social media and really even easy Internet access, all I had were my books. They were my escape and comfort. My imagination grew arguably too large because of the constant immersion. When I wasn’t reading, I was likely creating some elaborate world for my toys to inhabit.

As I got older, I had more distractions and less time to read for endless hours. I didn’t want to stay up reading all night because I was tired. Sure, I still told everyone I was a reader and acted pompous like one, but I knew. Reading was replaced by screens and the easy escape versus the one I have to concentrate on.

Every so often I read a book that pulls me in and I can’t stop. I’m riveted and feel like I’m a part of the world and it just stays with me, causing my thoughts to obsess about the world long after I’ve left it. Too often I start a book, get distracted, put it down and then start a new one. My stack of half-finished books is almost as high as the ones I haven’t read. Oh yeah, I still buy books. A lot of them. Because I’m a reader, and I like books, remember? I like spending money so they can sit on my shelf and remind me that I don’t actually read anymore.

This year, I decided to set a goal of reading 50 books. That’s roughly one a week and kind of intimidating and I’m already behind but hey maybe I’ll pull a couple of quick reads to make up for it. I wanted to find the determination I used to have in reading and the dedication to finishing every story I start.

I mean, I read through the entire Twilight series because I didn’t leave a series unfinished. And it was garbage. It’s okay you like it, we all have things we like that are garbage, but it’s not good.

The bigger issue is in recent years I’ve allowed adulthood to rob me of a lot of things. My temper is shorter and my optimism is waning. I’ll tell you I’m a glass half full person, but I don’t feel that way. It’s rare I wake up excited for anything and mostly can’t wait to go to bed again.

Right now, it’s like I’m in the middle of one of those long rainbow, twisty slides. For years I’ve been letting it happen and winding down, hating the static shocks that remind me slides aren’t as pleasant as you think (seriously why do kids love them). Now I’ve stopped myself and I’m in limbo. I can climb up, but that’s terrifying. I’ll likely slip and lose progress and get all hot and sweaty, but what’s the alternative?

I don’t want to lose myself anymore than I have. Change is natural, but I’ve let the hallmarks of who I am fall because it’s easy to let it happen then fight in a world telling you to give in, this is adulthood, it doesn’t get better. Maybe that’s true, but I can get better.

Reading more books may seem like a strange start, but I know it’s the exact right place to reclaim part of who I used to be and find that girl again. The one who would rather stay up late reading about the adventures of fictional characters than spend hours in text conversations trying to find the exact reason of a social media post. Not that I don’t love sleuthing, but I need more.

I am in the 92% of those who fail at their resolutions

I almost started this by saying ‘like most people, I make New Years resolutions,’ but it turns out most people actually don’t make them. In fact, some statistics I found on the Internet claim that while 41 percent of us always make them, 42 percent NEVER do. NEVER?

It’s hard for me to imagine that almost half of people don’t resolve to change their life, lose weight or make better financial decisions. What is New Years for if not the fresh start?

But maybe it’s because of the crazier (but not unbelievable) statistic. Only 8 percent actually keep their resolutions.

Maybe these non-resolution makers are the ones who realize you don’t a new year or even a Monday to change your life. Maybe they’re the ones who wake up on a Thursday and decide today’s the day and actually make it happen. Perhaps they don’t want to set themselves up for failure and instead pretend there’s nothing they wish to improve.

Either way, I am not in the 42 percent. I am part of the 41.

I can’t make a good life decision if I’ve already had a day of bad ones. If I decide to stop using my credit cards, I live it up until the next day when the ban officially begins. If I realize it’s time to eat less, I eat everything I can today so I can ‘start fresh’ tomorrow. Although tomorrow turns into Monday, and Monday into next week, and next week into next year, and I’m still here wondering why my life hasn’t changed.

I am part of the 92 percent who fail every year.

While cleaning my room last week, I found a misplaced notebook filled with my resolutions for 2017. Excitedly I scanned the list to see what I had actually completed, but then my enthusiasm waned almost as quickly as it began.

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I’m pretty sure I didn’t do any yoga last year. I managed to rack up a lot more credit card debt instead of paying it off. Lol still a lazy a sloth and still have a lot of room to grow as an employee.

I did move out from parents’ so that’s probably a win.

Surely I’m done, you think. Maybe this is the year I just accept life as it comes and try to be the best version of myself as life happens instead of overthinking everything. I’ll switch teams and join the 42 percent who don’t play the resolution game.

Nah.

This year feels different, not because I’m so full of hope, but because I feel so defeated. I’ve pushed myself into this place where if I don’t make the necessary changes, I’ll drown. This is God working in me – instead of the pride that carried me for years, I’m accepting my way sucks. It SUCKS. And I’m ready to rebuild my life and finally address my problems.

So because I’m sure you’re overwhelmed with curiosity, here are my resolutions for 2018.

 

  • Grow my faith

 

This looks like reading the Bible in its entirety for the second year in a row and fasting one thing every month. I already have a prepared list because too often I think I should fast something and then I never know what to do. I’m trying to take away every opportunity I have to make excuses.

 

  • Take care of myself

 

Basically this starts with counseling. I can’t keep denying I have real issues that I need to address, and I’m going to struggle in a lot of areas if I don’t take care of them. I usually say I want to lose weight or be healthier, but I really want to care less about my weight and more about why I am overeating and being lazy.

This is also about saying no and accepting my limitations. I often say because that person can do it, I can too, but that’s not a healthy way to live. I need to go only as far as I can and not be afraid to admit when I need to stop.

Maybe I’ll try to do more yoga.

 

  • Spend money on ONLY what I need

 

I have a real spending problem. I’m in an embarrassing amount of debt and I keep pushing myself down further into the whole. For a number of reasons, I’m sick of it. I should be clear when I say what I need is like a First World need, not the basics of food, water and shelter. More on that later.

 

  • Write one thing a month

 

Last year I wanted to write a book proposal. This year I thought about a themed series each month. For where I’m at now, that’s way too aspirational. If I can consistently write one thing a month, I’m already a success.

 

  • Read 50 books

 

Before a world of texting, Instagram and Netflix, I used to read. A lot. And I still do, but only sometimes. My goal is roughly one a week because I feel like the old me would scoff at that because she could read like 50 in a month, but I’m out of practice.

So here they are. Five resolutions. Two days in and I’m doing great, so we’ll see how the rest of year goes. It doesn’t necessarily feel like a fresh start, simply the end of my pretending I don’t need to change my life. They’re different, I promise.

Burn the Bears

A while ago I decided no more small teddy bears. In fact, I’m sure I even wrote about it but I’m too lazy to actually look. Some of you may read that first sentence and wonder why I have such a strong preference toward small stuffed animals. Let me explain.

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I know it’s cheesy BUT IT GETS ME

I’m not sure when I first saw that picture, but man did it change my life. It kind of became my go to for advice when I thought anyone was clinging to something they should leave behind. Yes it’s fine I know I’m the worst, but at least I knew in my self-righteousness I also needed to give up my bears.

The problem is I couldn’t.

I ignored them, sure. I put them in a pile of other things and said it didn’t matter to me anyway. Or worse, I thought God and I were holding onto the same, right-for-me bear so it was cool. It was God’s timing.

Soon enough I found myself back in the same place of self-doubt I know so well, sobbing into my little teddy bear and feeling like a fool. I saw my teddy bear for what it was, and saw all the denial I’d lived in for too long.

It came to me in a park. I had just read through the book of Titus and I was thinking about the verse in chapter 2: “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (11-12).

My first reaction was how I have this option to say no, and yet I find myself saying yes all the time. I am not self-controlled in any area of life. If I want it, I buy it because what’s a few more dollars on my credit card. Oh that boy didn’t treat me well? Better play his games again. I already ate three donuts, but that fourth one looks so good.

You get the idea.

That is where my journaling began to take a turn and I realized I couldn’t hold onto my teddy bear anymore. I thought by admitting other areas of struggle, I would be off the hook and I could cuddle with my pain. Fortunately, Jesus is a rescuer.

The comparisons plaguing my brain began to disappear and slowly I felt the teddy bear leave me. My Savior was there again, even though I stubbornly clung to what I thought was best because it was what I wanted. He gently reminded me where my worth comes from and how no one in this world determines my value. I wanted to spiral into the land where no one wants me, but Jesus reminded me there is no such place. He is always there, always comforting me, always reminding me that I am more than the way others make me feel.

And then it was gone. I released my bear. I gave to God the tiny fantasy I desperately wanted because it was the only thing I knew and decided to trust Him with my great reality waiting just beyond this season.

Now I’m free to dream again, beyond the limitations I willingly kept. I don’t have to stay focused on what I thought I wanted. I’m not trapped with something that will never give me what I need. In a phrase, I am free.

While this obviously applies to a specific thing in my life, it could apply to almost every area of my life. I hold onto what I know, good and bad, because the not-knowing seems worse. When I’m feeling low, I know that I can give it to God and feel light again, but I won’t. Instead I watch Netflix all day and dream that my life is like the shows I watch and slowly I slip from this beautiful reality I’m blessed to live everyday.

Earlier this week I said I wanted to make a change in my life, maybe a haircut or maybe burn down everything I own. Naturally I didn’t mean actually burning my possessions because that’s fiscally irresponsible, but a fire did occur.

I knew a change was in order, and it wasn’t one people will see. My room looks relatively the same and I still have all my hair. But I am lighter, freer, happier.

I burnt every last small teddy bear.

Perfect should try to be you

This is a hard topic to try and talk about, because sometimes it’s really difficult for me to see my worth, and I know I’m not alone. Even my most confident, beautiful and wonderful friends struggle at times. You can’t blame us, not in a world constantly saying you aren’t good enough.

While I could spend hours writing about the negative effects of advertising and the media on how we perceive ourselves, that isn’t the focus of this post. It’s more in how let others treat us and how that affects our value.

I think too often and without realizing, we let the opinions of others change the opinion we hold of ourselves. For some, it happens when you’re too young to realize you deserve better and for others it happens so slowly over time until you don’t believe there’s anything different.

To really summarize this idea, I’m going to borrow a quote from the brilliant Stephen Chbosky:

We accept the love we think we deserve.

Now, before I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I saw this quote circulated around social media so frequently I wrote it off in my brain as a silly way “edgy” girls romanticized their poor dating choices. Please know I’m not proud of this judgment I so easily passed.

I didn’t read the book until they started filming for the movie in Pittsburgh, but I’m so glad I waited. The first time I read it when I was very early into my 20s, it hit me like a welcome train of awareness. Yes, the characters were teenagers and going through things I couldn’t even imagine, but the truths were there waiting for me. It made me think about how I let people treat me and my motivations and through it, I began to confront some demons.

Another book, The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler, taught me the important lesson surrounding this idea of ‘deserving.’ We go through life telling our friends they deserve better, but at the root, they (and we) don’t. Yes, this sounds crazy and no, it doesn’t mean you should let everyone treat you like garbage.

Love is a gift we give and receive, and we learn to love because our Father loved us first. At no point have we ever deserved that love. I mean really, read pretty much every Bible story ever and you will see a people continually falling short. None of that matters, though, because of His great love. He created us, knowing we would never be enough. He continues to pursue us, knowing our hearts are wicked and prone to other gods. Nothing we do can change His love either way. We can’t deserve more by good behavior and we can’t deserve worse by bad behavior. This is such a powerful truth.

It’s not about deserving better treatment, but realizing we’re worth more because we’re children of God. We aren’t designed to let people treat us poorly because that’s not what Love is about. This is so much harder to actually follow, I realize.

Getting back to accepting the love we think we deserve, I think in some concepts deserve is used very well. When we accept the love we think we deserve, we are accepting imperfect love. Love that is flawed and conditional. Love that only works on the terms established by someone else. We are failing to see the beauty of love because we’re so blinded by the things within ourselves that make us feel less.

In my life, this lack of self-worth is related to my father, which is tragically far too common. Despite being a Christian all my life with a good stepfather, I was still trying to earn the love I never received from my father.

Because I never loved him as well as he thought he deserved, my father made me feel less and like I had to continually work to gain anything from him. I would go out of my way to see him and talk to him until it was me initiating every conversation. This pattern is one I can spot in almost every romantic relationship I’ve had.

Until I paid attention, I didn’t realize this was a problem. I assumed it was just guys and I really didn’t know what it was like to feel wanted. I questioned everything about myself and changed trying to find someone who would actually love me.

Because I didn’t see my value, no one else did who I was pursuing. It didn’t help I pursued men I could see weren’t good for me in any capacity, but their slight interest was all I needed to give up my ideals and compromise to make them happy. I was trained to work in exchange for fake love that never lasted.

When I couldn’t see my value, I accepted less than the love God intended for me to have.

Our need for companionship can be so strong it leads us down paths we know we shouldn’t travel. We pick people we know aren’t good for us but we tell ourselves lies like it’s nothing serious anyway or it’s just fun or this is just how guys treat us (and reverse for men, obviously). Or we even think that somehow we can change them and then they will love us in the way we want.

Think about some of the incredible married, engaged or in a serious relationship people in your life. Do you think they got where they are by making their significant other feel less or like they don’t really matter? Do you think the strong couple foundation is built on belittling or neglect?

The answer should be no. If we see healthy relationships, why do we assume we can’t have it, too?

On the other side of this, I can tell you the behavior justifications won’t hold up once you begin to really look at your life. I can’t excuse those pieces of my past, like staying with a guy for too long because it was fun and a distraction, because now I know better. All of these experiences shape who we will be, both alone and in relationships.

Now I have a hard time believing men are actually attracted to and interested in me. I doubt their motivations when they’re nice to me and convince myself they’re like this with everyone. If they stop talking to me, I assume it’s because they are like all the rest.

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking yeah, but it is nothing and just fun, and I really hope that’s true for you. What I know is it isn’t true for me, and every bad experience lowered how I valued myself a little bit more.

When we say yes to people we don’t really like or go back when we say we’re done, we’re showing them how we value ourselves. I know these are generalizations, but that’s where I’m focusing and I want to acknowledge I know there are exceptions. But on the whole, when we give in, we basically tell that person I don’t really value myself at all.

The other side to worth is thinking you aren’t good enough because of something in your past or where you are. We diminish ourselves because we aren’t exactly where we should be or we’ve made mistakes in the past and can’t believe someone could see past them. We carry that weight like a sign around our neck that says ‘I’m a crummy person and not good enough for you.’

Please know that’s nonsense.

Worth is tricky, isn’t it? The power we have to affect how someone views themselves and the impact we can have to make them see they are worth more. It’s hard to convince people of their value, but all we can do is try. And try and try and try because this is a fight you shouldn’t give up on, no matter what.

Even though I’m better than I was, my best friend still needs to remind me of my value when I start to doubt. I can still lose my mind over texts without replies and delays in conversation. The difference is now I’m more selective. I don’t just let anyone in. Conversely, I’m learning to tear down the walls I built to protect my heart and realizing not every man will hurt me. The way I guard my heart now is by reminding myself of how I am so loved by God, and that is the person I want to keep safe so no human can make me feel less.

So what can you take from all this? Remember that while we don’t necessarily deserve anything, we are worth way more than the way we let people treat us. I don’t know what happened in your past or what you did or how they hurt you, but I know restoration is possible. It will never be about finding the right person who will love us the right way, but by learning to love ourselves first and recognizing there is a Greater Love at work within. Completion comes from God alone and successful relationships happen when you can look at every piece of you, whole and broken, and realize how valuable you are.

Maybe you will get to a point where you know and feel this and don’t need reminders or maybe you will still need a daily check in with yourself to see how amazing you are. Either way, you are amazing and valuable and loved just as you are right now.

I will end with a poem by Bo Burnham, called Perfect:

I love you just the way you are

but you don’t see you like I do.

You shouldn’t try so hard to be perfect.

Trust me, perfect should try to be you.

Find Your Sam

The story of finding my Sam is basically all I need to remember God has a plan for our lives and man, is it good. Our story isn’t one that begins with instant connection or common ground. We didn’t hate each other and suddenly realize we should be best friends. We were just people who, by the grace of God, found each other and He worked out everything else.

Before I begin, let me describe what having a Sam means for your life, so you can understand the idea. Best friend is a description casually assigned to a lot of people that you may enjoy spending time with and may know all of your secrets. You hear people use this a lot, and sometimes I wonder how many best friends a person can have (I’m not saying there should be a limit, of course).

But a Sam is different.

A Sam is someone who is your person, your actual person. Not the person you latch onto because you WANT a person. As Emily Bronte describes it, whatever souls are made of, yours and your persons are the same (adjusted for my purposes). By my estimation you can only have one of these people in your life because they will understand you so thoroughly and so terrifyingly that more than one may overwhelm you. It is the person who always sees right through you, tells you when you’re being an idiot and never wavers in love and support.

That’s abbreviated of course. Now back to the story.

My first memory of Sam is her backpack. I was the nerd in class ready to crush freshman year with my Jansport classic and she had a corduroy backpack covered in flowers, probably purchased from somewhere hip like PacSun. She was there in my first college class, and she had a cool backpack.

One of the first things I said to her was I like your sweater. This was a few months later and we were standing outside a professor’s office. It was very nautical with red, white and blue stripes and gold buttons. I now possess this sweater, almost eight years later.

During bingo night in the Beehive (our cafeteria alternative), she was there with a bunch of people I kind of knew. She was wearing a giant sweatshirt and proudly owned the fact she wasn’t wearing a bra. I was partly mortified and partly in awe of this hero among women.

In our second semester, we had back to back classes and a mutual friend who sat between us. There was the occasional lunch and conversation, but nothing substantial. It wasn’t until an early morning drive and a rooming snafu that our paths truly crossed.

As you can tell, I could spend endless amounts of time describing the interesting events that brought us together and the relationship that developed. We became roommates for our sophomore year and strangely decided to have the same class schedule. She arrived on campus before me and when I got there, told me one night she was sure someone was breaking in but it was just a soda that exploded in the fridge. This is one of our earliest stories and still one of my favorites. She just waited in bed assuming she was about to be killed.

Back on track.

It’s been more than seven years since we became roommates. I’m not sure when we became best friends, but it slowly built until one day we just were. I think I like that best about us. We just were. We weren’t each other’s first roommate so the pressure to be best friends wasn’t there. By that point we had mostly established our own identities on campus. We weren’t desperate freshmen adding everyone on Facebook. We didn’t need each other then, but I definitely need her now.

She’s the person I can completely open my soul to – the good and the bad. I can tell her anything and trust that she will be there. I can try to lie to her and know she won’t tell me she actually knows better. Love is patient, love is kind, and love is my Sam.

The greatest gift she’s given me is acceptance. All my life I’ve worried if people still liked me, or if I annoyed them too much, or if I said too much. I meet people and leave feeling terrified, even if it went well, because the record plays of all the reasons why they shouldn’t like me. Even conversations with friends I know well can put me in a spiral because I’m never sure where I stand or if maybe this time I’ve been too much.

I never feel that way with my Sam.

It doesn’t matter if I’m in the middle of a breakdown, saying the same realizations I’ve had a thousand times before but still not changing anything. I can be completely delusional or in denial of how I actually feel. I can be condescending or self-righteous. I can be the worst version of myself around her, but I know I none of that will change how much she loves me.

What having a person means is true, unconditional love. Love like Jesus. Even if we’re both busy and we don’t talk as much as we used to, I still know how she feels. I can see her pursue different interests that maybe I don’t like and know she will still love painting her nails and going shopping with me. Our friendship isn’t jealous of other friends, because even when I see her with someone else a lot, I know how she feels because she tells me and makes me feel that no matter, it’s still me.

This is why someday our husbands will die and we will buy a house in the Hamptons, fill it with cats and raccoons and live out our days together. There is no better future.

The best advice I can give everyone is find your Sam. When you do, you will never be the same. She will challenge you and make you a better human bean. She will help you understand just how much God loves you and the way He loves us. Find your person who will still love you when you text her on her birthday to call her rude because she responded to your sister’s text and not yours.

Find your Sam, but don’t stress the people who won’t be. You’re not going to miss who God puts in your life, trust me. I didn’t find Sam. God brought her to me and made sure I wouldn’t miss out on the amazing adventure of being her best friend, her person, her soulmate.

I thank my God every day He gave me Sam.

Korres

TWO NIGHTS IN A ROW OF SKINCARE! ANOTHER BRAND WHERE I HAVEN’T TRIED ANY OF THE PRODUCTS. What a crazy week I’m having.

Last night I brought you the disastrous combination of Five Guys and a peel off mask. Fortunately, this endeavor was a little more successful (minus some burnt popcorn). And by more successful I mean I really don’t have much to say about my experience with Korres.

Actually it’s five days after I did and I reviewed a lot of new products today so this post feels inconsequential at this point. To keep it spicy, I’m going to follow a completely different format for this so I don’t waste any of our time together.


What I Used:

Greek Yoghurt 3 in 1 Cleansing, Toning and Eye Makeup Removing Emulsion

This was pretty effective makeup remover. It quickly removed ALL of my makeup (including eye) and left my skin feeling really nice. Plus it also helps tone the skin which is important.

Wild Rose Daily Brightening & Replenishing Buff Cleanser 

Exfoliating is cool. This was okay. It’s very gentle but your skin feels fresh when you’re done. Personally, I don’t like physical exfoliators that much, but this one wasn’t bad.

Wild Rose Vitamin C Petal Peel

This was a two-step process and during the second it said keep on for 3 to 10 minutes, or until it starts to sting. I forgot to time and it never began to sting so I became very worried I would melt my skin off by accident.

This didn’t wow me either. I’m a big Babyfacial fan, mainly because I can feel it working my skin and no pain, no gain. This one didn’t leave my skin feeling as nice or as new as I like.


Golden Krocus Ageless Saffron Elixir Serum

Honestly I have no idea what any of these words mean but it felt nice on my skin.

Wild Rose + Vitamin C Advanced Brightening Sleeping Facial

I contemplated whether a sleeping facial was a good idea after doing a peel, but I threw caution to the wind and said the heck with it, I’m doing it! My skin felt thick after I applied, which is probably because I didn’t sleep until three hours later so I was awake when it was freshly applied.

When I woke up, I didn’t notice anything about my skin. It wasn’t super soft or clean feeling. I think Korres is a nice brand, and a lot of my feelings are probably due to poor product selection for my skin type, but either way. I don’t think there are any products that would draw me back in. Except maybe the emulsion. I liked that.