A Confession of Feelings

I’ve spent most of the past few months being really angry.

It started with some family crap, and finished with some church crap, and neither crap really needs to be explored here. All the crap is more or less being resolved. God has a way of making crap beautiful. Kudos to Him; it’s hard work working with crap.

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And although I’ve been more of a close observer than a direct victim of it all, the result of everything has been a lot of personal growth and also a lot of personal anger.

I’ve been angry at others for guiding me too much or not guiding me enough, angry at myself for being too strong or not strong enough. Angry at all the foolishness we humans are so gifted at performing.

Thankfully, I haven’t found myself angry at God. Plaintive, yes. Incredulous, frustrated, and feisty, uh-huh. But not angry. I just can’t logically be angry with God when it’s the perversion of His law, not His law itself, that causes so much crap. It’s not you; it’s me.

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I came across the tail end of 2 Peter 3 the other day. One verse stuck out like one of those horrible jumping cactus needles that lies in wait like a bandit and leaps from the sand to lodge itself into the sole of your foot. In this chapter, Peter encourages his loved ones to watch out for false teachers who twist the Scripture out of ignorance and instability.

And then he says this: “You, therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability” (vs. 17).

This cactus needle stuck out because it is the crux of my anger. While I’ve had the gift of being surrounded with Godly people my whole life, I’ve shirked the responsibility of my own stability. Godliness, for most of my life, has meant following this teaching or soaking in that Bible study or laying out a spiritual cookie cutter and lopping off God-given parts of myself so I can fit into the mold of “Christian living”.

I’m angry, because I didn’t recognize the bullshit.

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I thought never standing my ground was being flexible and “led by the Spirit.” I thought never voicing my needs and desires was being “Christlike.” I thought feeling at peace in my walk with the Lord meant I was stagnant. I thought being uncomfortable meant I was listening to His still small voice.

And sometimes, yes sometimes, that is absolutely the case. But when you find yourself guilty for feeling feelings, when you can’t make a decision because you’re striving to discern whether your emotions are fleshly or spiritual when you’ve never known the difference, you might have a stability problem.

I think it’s telling of our Christian subculture that we perpetuate these unstable ideas as Godly. I think we coil ourselves up in shame and confusion so tightly that we go numb and we can no longer recognize the bullshit. And I think we’re wrong, because Jesus Himself said that his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matt. 11:30). What right do we have to add weight we were never supposed to bear? To do so is terribly blasphemous.

A relationship with God is harder than fitting into a spiritual cookie cutter, but it’s much more simple. It’s constant, it’s daily, and it’s beautiful. It’s living out the kind of childlike faith we were always meant to have. It’s cutting your own spirit-led path in the woods instead of deepening a rut that hundreds of well-meaning souls have followed.

When you learn to do that, you’re just not angry anymore.

 

 

 

 

Forest Paths

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Forest Paths

Every day
I cut my path through the forest.
Some days
I cut miles and miles of new terrain,
and others
I barely make it a foot.
But I have a good compass,
and I’ll come to whatever glades and hills,
rocks and water,
highlands and lowlands
that my path is meant to cross.

There are others
who’ve cut great highways,
deep muddy ruts
scarring the once-green earth,
traveled by pilgrims
who were meant to cut their own paths,
but didn’t,
meant to follow their own compasses,
but didn’t.
They were fearful.
They were pious.

Sometimes
the great rut-makers
and rut-walkers
scorn my simple path
because it is not safe,
not logical,
and definitely not well-traveled.
They cannot see
that their own road
is wider and deeper and more twisting
than it was ever meant to be.

They have forgotten their compasses,
in favor of what was once a good direction
for one
or a few.
And now they think
it is the only good way.
They cannot understand
the thrill of the wilderness,
the beauty of pain,
and the joy of the small voice
when you’ve got a good compass.

Our Coming Adventures

Over a month ago I shared that we were making tentative plans for some big adventures. Well, we’ve decided to take the leap and spend most of the summer in a new place:

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(photos all by me :) )

We’ll be visiting the great state of Arizona for 2-3 months! We plan to stay with Alex’s grandparents near Phoenix, helping them out and getting to know them better. Alex and I have been to Arizona several times together and separately, and it’s one of our favorite states. Alex wants to move there. I’m a little more skeptical.

It was a little scary to decide to run off West when we still have a house and jobs here in PA. I like structure and I was rather set on our plan to stay near school over the summer. But this was an opportunity that shot up suddenly, and we’ve noticed that when this happens it’s usually something we need to take advantage of. We won’t have very many years of utter flexibility, so we decided to enjoy where the wind takes us while we’re still light enough to be swept along.

It will be a busy summer. We have three weddings to attend in three different states, none of which are Arizona. We’ll get to see a lot of new airports. But we’re looking forward to going on those adventures together, to discovering new people and places and learning more about ourselves in the process. We are fully confident that God is leading us in a new and exciting direction, and that we can trust in His provision as we do something slightly crazy.

And anyway, it’s the closest Alex will let me get to being a gypsy.

 

Everything is Beautiful

With the arrival of March, we enter “Still Winter”, a season known to the rest of the world as “Spring”, and one of the most depressing parts of the year in Western PA. The weather is a yo-yo. You can literally wear shorts one day and a parka the next (this week was like that).

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I used to hate this time of year. Every warm day made me incredibly giddy, but with every temperature drop my hopes were dashed. More than once I’ve trekked through snow on the way to church Easter morning, snow boots paired with a floral dress.

Last year I focused on just getting through winter to better days, and this year I tried to love it while it was here. And I’ve realized after everything that I actually absolutely love Still Winter.

There’s something about the the trees so bare and the grass and brush so many different shades of brown, all waiting for something to happen, that gives you this sense of incredible hope. The tops of the trees are thick with tiny buds, which will burst out in a week if we have a good stretch of warm days. And time seems thinner; I feel the accumulated hope of many years and generations all coming together with the spring.

Everywhere I look I see something beautiful. It’s usually very mundane things, like a house or a bush or a rock and some snow. But I can’t help it. My eyes get pulled in and I can’t stop staring and feasting on the beauty. There are things I think are so beautiful and I can’t explain why.

This weekend starts Spring Break. While Alex will be spending it in sunny South Carolina with his sports team, I will be in sunny Oil City, PA. It’ll be nice to catch up with family and friends, even if the weather doesn’t cooperate (I lied. It’s not that sunny).

My town is a forgotten one, a place that used to be great and isn’t, and I think that sense of failure and hopelessness is unconsciously imprinted onto everyone’s mind. Facebook has a meme page for Oil City, with some referring to it as the Elephant Graveyard from The Lion King. Lovely stuff.

But there is beauty there, too. There are tree-covered hills healed from decades of abuse, majestic brick buildings and painted gingerbread houses built by old millionaires. There are good people who need hope, who need to look at things and be captivated by beauty without understanding why.

So that’s what I’ll be thinking about this spring break and Still Winter. I hope I run into others who think about it too. And I think that practicing that kind of focus can do some amazing things. I’ll have to try and see.

 

 

Avoiding Mid-Life Crisis

Today’s post sounds pretty informative, until you remember that I’m only in my twenties. Sorry about that. 

  
I’m bad at waking up early. I do all the tricks: drink water before bed, put my alarm on the other side of the room, keep the curtains drawn back as best I can. But somehow I’m still always rushing. I wake with the alarm, bring it back to bed with me, and fall asleep with it. 

Sometimes I wake with minutes to get ready, and I start crying “oh no, oh no, oh no!” And I wander around the room wringing my hands and lamenting my life. Alex calls these moments my midlife crises. 

“Let’s go to bed early,” he’ll say, “so you don’t have a midlife crisis tomorrow.” Good advice, if a little odd. But sometimes it still doesn’t work. Sometimes my brain decides to stay comotose until twenty minutes before class. Sometimes I forget to pack a lunch or brew coffee. Sometimes we’re running to school, slipping on ice and bounding over roads, racing the bells that chime the hour. 

Sometimes I get home so utterly exhausted I want to do nothing, when I have everything to do. I start to cry and wring my hands again, hating and loving and lamenting.

These are the moments that make me a volatile person. I never thought myself someone with a short temper, but maybe instead I have short nerves. Neither of those is good, and I wish I’d caught it sooner. Alex waits for the storm to pass, and I realize that none of this is worth a storm. Nothing is worth treating the people I love this way. 

So I give myself permission to make little decisions to avoid midlife crisis. I take ownership of my days. I decide not to go to this one class today, or to be a little late to this other thing so I can have dinner with my husband. Even a year ago I’d be wracked with guilt for playing hooky. But nothing is worth being Crazy Lady. 

The biggest challenge, of course, is taking ownership of myself, of reminding myself to nourish what is most important and to remember what isn’t. It means being independent of my circumstances and choosing to be myself, whole, calm, and strong, even when a hundred crazed outside voices tell me otherwise. 

I’m still working on all this, of course. But recognizing that I must is a start. It’s a start I hadn’t made before. 

Call in the next ten minutes, and you too can avoid mid-life crisis!

Thick Skin

“You need thick skin to survive in this world.”

“What if I don’t have it?”

“You’ll have to grow it.”

“What if I can’t?”

“You’ll have to.”

“What if my skin is delicate, almost translucent? What if no matter how much I try, a bruise is always more painful, a wound always more deep? What if I always cry when someone shouts? What if I can’t help it?”

“You’ll have to learn to handle it.”

“What if every beauty is more dazzling, every joy more intense? What if every word carries immense weight and every glance tells a story? What if the sticks that build a house talk and soak in memories like sponges? Is there any good that can come of all that?”

“None.”

“How do you know?”

“Because life doesn’t work that way.”

“Maybe it does! Maybe it’s meant to!”

“Calm down. You’re too sensitive. You need thick skin to survive in this world.”

 

Adventures

I’ve always liked traveling. When I was young my family drove all over the South and Midwest, staying with family and visiting historical sites along the way (we were homeschooled so we had to make it educational). We visited Chicago, the Outer Banks in North Carolina, Nashville, and Orlando. I fell in love with St. Augustine (the city, not the man).

We’d always travel down South in the winter, halfway into February when we were most sick of snow. The balmy temperatures and the fresh, floral scent in the air meant a kind of freedom. We weren’t stuck in snow drifts. We were on an adventure.

Somewhere along the way I lost a little of my love for adventure. It’s been replaced by an annoyingly grown-up need for security and planning. Sometimes I wish I could drop everything and be a gypsy, but then I remember I have a job and a house and an education (and anyway, my husband says no).

But it looks like there will be a return of adventure for us in the months ahead. Opportunities have come our way and although it’s a little terrifying to take them, we realize that we must. Everything that needs to work out will.

So stay tuned for our adventures, and go on a few of your own while you’re at it. :)

I Made Something! And Other Matters

Every week I used to have a “Crafterday” post here (think clever pun between “craft” and “Saturday”), which I haven’t done for a while. I guess I found different things to talk about. That, and I got too busy on Saturdays.

But if those posts were your cup of tea, you’re in for a few! (Cups of tea.)

Ever since we moved I’ve been obsessed with homemade banners to decorate the house: they’re cheap, they’re easy, and they’re whimsical, all winners for a poor college student!

(I apologize in advance for the crappy photos. I lost my light and the camera was put out about it.)

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I’ve made a few tiny triangle banners like this, using paint sample cards from Walmart. This is my Valentine’s palette, but I also have a winter one, a Christmas one, and a longer strand of blue and gray for our bedroom. I’m a tiny bit obsessed.

So imagine my joy when one of my favorite bloggers featured a No-Sew Heart Garland for Valentine’s Day!  Disney over at Ruffles and Stuff has the best ideas. (And the cutest kids, btw.)

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This was my version. I didn’t have the felt the tutorial calls for, and I wish I had – these scraps of Minnie Mouse-esque silk were hard to work with. :) I simplified the design with only three hearts; they pack a punch!

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Disney’s tutorial also inspired me to make another garland using my leftover crocheted hearts from last year. I love how it turned out!

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I also copied this with some plain fabric cutouts for my sewing corner:

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Gosh, I need help! We’re drowning in beautiful heart garlands!

In all seriousness though, I have been wanting to share Ruffles and Stuff on this site for a while (so thank you, garlands). I’ve followed Disney’s blog for several years now, and it’s been a constant source of encouragement to me. This is not only for the clever DIYs, but also for her honest and joyful approach to life, even when life gets really really bad. She has helped me to see that life is a very beautiful thing, and that one of the truest ways we can worship God is to live in gratitude, because He’s created every beautiful, ridiculous facet of life as a gift to us.

These ideas played a part in my resolution to “Take Joy” this year. Last year was difficult on many levels, and I learned a lot about myself and the people around me – lots of good things and lots of bad things, which are still good to know. As someone prone to anxiety more than I realized, learning to take joy in the little gifts of life is literally a life saver.

So go visit Ruffles and Stuff; you’ll be glad you did! Every day there’s something a little different to enjoy, and and Disney really is the sweetest ray of sunshine. :)

Have a great week folks! (Sorry about all the hearts!)

6 Things I’ve Learned from Being Married in College

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As you know if you’ve read this blog in the past few months, I got married last June. My husband and I, however, are both still in college. I have less than a year to go for my Bachelor’s degree while he has over two.

Married college students are a rare sight. I know a few classmates who are in the same boat, but it’s unusual in our culture. Unfortunately, young marrieds are largely ignored or even chided as culture embraces young  unhindered singleness. While I agree that the single college years can be incredibly fulfilling, today I want to share six things that can be learned from being a young married student.

 

1. Life is Not the Same for Everyone.

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Our society has road-mapped life to a T. Go to college, get a job, get married to your soulmate. But this is neither fair nor realistic. For as vocal as we are about individuality, why do we allow such a cookie-cutter life schedule to be imposed upon us?

I’ve learned that there’s not one life plan or lifestyle that’s inherently perfect. What’s a good choice for me isn’t a good choice for the next person. It’s okay to come to a point in your life where you decide that it’s the right time for something, not popular opinion. For us, it was getting married. We didn’t have everything planned, but we knew we loved each other and wanted to marry each other. It was the next logical step for us, and we took it.

 

2. Love is Not the Same for Everyone.

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Our generation has this grandiose view of love in which you meet someone who gives you perpetual butterflies and after much angst you finally decide to marry them and live happily ever after. Cue harps and singing birds.

For us – and for a lot of people – love is simpler and stronger, bolstered by a deep friendship, commitment to shared convictions, and a healthy dose of Mike and Ike’s and Netflix.

Marriage, although it does radically change your life, does not signal the heavenly end of your life. You are still you, with your same faults and hopes and dreams, and so is your spouse. Life goes on.

Just because our life might not look like everyone says it should doesn’t mean something’s wrong with us, nor does it mean our life is less valuable. It simply means we have to figure out what marriage looks like for us in our unique situation.

 

3. I Need People So I Can Be Myself.

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In our hyper-individualized society, admitting you need people is considered overly dependent, especially if you are a woman saying it of a man. We say things like “I just need to find myself” or “I need to love myself before I can love others”. While these attitudes may have a place, I think when taken too far they create isolation and selfishness.

The truth is that I cannot be a whole, well-rounded person without other people. Other people shape me, sharpen me, and soften me into an ever-better version of myself. This is especially helpful if, like me, you have trouble being yourself.

In marriage, having another person to show you a different perspective in life is rejuvenating. Now I have a built-in best friend who loves me unconditionally and encourages me to be myself. He shows me how to push myself and embrace life, and now I get out and try new things more as a married person than I ever did while single. I have the courage to explore the world because I know at the end of the day I will come home to my favorite person and we will talk about our discoveries together.

 

4. College is not designed for married couples.

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This is a fact of life, one I’ve noted with resigned disappointment. The undergraduate system as it is now takes for granted that its students are unattached to anything but itself. It takes for granted that I live on campus and don’t need to clean up a house at the end of the day or that I will eat my meals in the dining hall instead of running home to cook. It demands that you be there for events, practices, and trips at the drop of a hat when you are trying to build a separate, independent life as a married adult.

That’s just the way it is, and acknowledging that puts us in a better place to work out how we juggle our various responsibilities as a couple. It gives us the chance to learn how to draw boundaries, manage our time, and to consciously make our relationship a top priority.

 

5. Money Will be Tight, and That’s Okay.

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This is not a fun lesson, but in a way it’s kind of liberating. When you’re newlyweds in college, you just don’t have a lot of money. That’s what deters a lot of people because again, as a society we expect to have the lifestyle of forty-year-olds – complete with a house, car, and picket fence – as soon as we receive our college degrees. People don’t want to get married until they have a decent job and have paid off a decent amount of college loan.

For us though, getting married streamlined everything. His money and my money became our money, his savings and my savings our savings, his debt and my debt our debt. Instead of striving as individuals to make it financially, we can come alongside each other and work together toward a common goal. That helps us to stay responsible and accountable to each other and to learn together that life’s meaning is derived from relationships, not possessions.

We live simply, but comfortably, and we are sustained in ways we don’t fully understand. People have told us we’re lucky to be able to live so independently, and they ask how we do it. Honestly, we can’t answer. Each week, each month we find ourselves provided for by God in ways we never expected. We could try to be more logical and worry about it, or we could just live in peace in His provision. So we do the latter.

 

6. It’s totally worth it.

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I’ll be honest; I was a little terrified when we got married. Vowing to commit the rest of your life to someone else is huge. But each day I grow in certainty that this was absolutely the best decision to make at this time in my life. I feel like I was born to be married. I love putting together a cozy home and cooking yummy food (apparently I’m pretty good) and sharing my life with the kindest, goofiest guy I know.

When people ask what it’s like being married in college, I most often say “it’s really fun!”, which is an odd way to put it. But it honestly is. You can’t live a life of fake martial arts face-offs, stuffed animal obsessions, and Disney movie character impressions and not have fun.

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And I know, as I’ve always known, that married life isn’t always fun. There are hurt feelings and misunderstandings and pet peeves and tears. Ironically, we seem to most hurt the people we most love. But it’s that amazing ongoing lesson of Christ’s love, that picture of God and His people that marriage is meant to sketch, that keeps our perspective steady. We respect and love each other as people, which allows us to love each other as a couple much more fully.

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Obviously I wouldn’t encourage someone to go out and get married for the heck of it. But if you are at a point where you feel ready and yet society is squeezing you with its worries and expectations, know that you aren’t alone.

Getting married young isn’t for everyone. Staying single isn’t for everyone either. And that’s the point. There should never be pressure one way or the other, whether marriage is better or singleness is better. There should never be rolled eyes and raised brows. There should only be encouragement and respect in the myriad ways God chooses to plot out our lives.

Which, I suppose, is the seventh thing I’ve learned.

Mr. Quo

 

I am not content with Mr. Quo.

Everybody wants to be his friend, but I

cannot get past his fibs

and sticky fingers.

 

I am not convinced of Mr. Quo.

Apparently he is very wise, but I

have known friends of his

who are still fools.

 

I am not quite thrilled with Mr. Quo.

They say you can choose your friends, but I

choose one greater than he

and they berate me.

 

I am not a friend of Mr. Quo.

He likes things in their place, but I

prefer to live in a snowglobe

shaped more unusually.

 

So I will say goodbye to Mr. Quo.

Thank you sir for everything, but I

am tired of all your dictates.

You are quite demanding.

 

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