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Bad Talk

In the past, I thought that vocalizing insecurities around other people was just annoying. Now I see that it isn’t just annoying; it is handing them weapons to tear you down. I have always been a rather insecure, self-conscious person. I wish there were a shimmering confidence powder I could dust over myself each day, but it’s just a lot of hard work and intentional re-wiring of thoughts and beliefs.

Over the years, people have said a lot of unkind things to me, and I used to wonder why. Now I see that they said unkind things to me because they (unconsciously) thought I had given them permission to do so based upon the way I spoke about myself. If you give others power to wield against you, they will. If given the opportunity to knock you down, they will, especially if you make it easy for them.

Insecure people speak ill of themselves to most everyone, because it is such a constant conversation in their head. Sometimes I am completely unaware of how mean I am being towards myself until someone points it out. Someone once said that insecurity is loud, and it is. Insecure thinking sounds like a kick drum pressed to the ear, rhythmically pumping out self-doubt and shame.

My best friend often reminds me that the words we speak have power. While I do my best to be careful with what I say to others, I am careless when it comes to what I say to and about myself. I think I do this because it doesn’t seem like it matters.

Some claim that you have no power over what people think of you, but I disagree. I think we all have the power to tell the world how we wish to be treated. For years, I have told the people around me that it is acceptable for them to tease me about my appearance, my fumbling attempts at dating, and my quirks and habits. Yet the moment someone asserts or draws attention to any of these insecurities, I feel personally attacked; I wonder how they ever thought it was acceptable to say something like that.

Then I remember: I essentially told them that, and they are parroting it back to me. It is quite startling to discover how  ugly and wounding the words we say to ourselves sound from the mouths of others. True, some people are just jealous ass-hats who like to elevate themselves by degrading others. But in general, I believe we offer people a permission slip when we speak ill of ourselves.

The result is a vicious cycle: we vocalize our insecurities, others say them back to us, and then we take those parroted words as confirmation that we truly are unlovable, ugly, stupid, etc.

I have often vocalized what I hate about myself as a way of receiving encouragement from others. It makes me sick to admit it, but it’s true. It’s not that I am just making up awful things to say in order to have someone refute them; I truly believe those ugly words and I am hoping someone will give me a reason to no longer believe them.

This never works. No matter what someone says, they cannot do the replacement work for you. They cannot re-wire your thinking and beliefs about yourself, only you can. At most, you are giving people permission to treat you badly, or at least you’re giving them a reason to spend less time with you. There is room for grace of course, but you cannot expect people to stick around when you never make an effort to believe you’re someone worth sticking to.

One of my favourite writers, Brennan Manning, once said, “We cannot accept love from another human being when we do not love ourselves, much less accept that God could possibly love us.” Those with deep insecurity need to fight for our birthright as children of God, and it takes a lot of convincing from Him to accept ourselves as He accepts us. It takes even more convincing to actually say those words out loud, and even more to live them out loud.

If you also struggle with insecurity, self-hatred, or negative self-talk, I would love to chat with you over a cup of coffee. You and I are not alone, and with God’s grace, we can help each other love ourselves out loud.

Upcoming Travels

In a little over a month, I will board a plane to go explore the country of France. When I arrive, I will join up with three other friends to experience Paris, Tours, Périgueux, and Orléans. After ten days together, we will return to Paris and go our separate ways. 

From Paris, I will take the train to Bordeaux, Avignon, Nice, and Caen and will be staying at Airbnb homes in each city. I had such a positive experience last year with Airbnb, so I decided to only go through them for my accommodation.  

I will be gone for a month, so I am hoping to see a lot. I would love recommendations for sights, restaurants, etc. I am especially interested in WWII and art. I will be celebrating my 28th birthday while in Avignon, so I am looking for something special to do since I will be on my own at that point!

If you have any suggestions, please message me! 

🖤

The Party

A couple of weeks ago, my best friend and I were hanging out at her apartment, as we often do. While chatting away, our attention was broke by a sweet melody coming from outside. The music wafted through the open windows, interrupting our thoughts. It was so distracting and beautiful that we lost track of conversation.

We peaked over the lot to a small party gathered, shiny balloons pushed by wind, cans of beer held to smiling lips. Children ran wild, ducking in and out of hiding places, hyper from too many sweets.

Though it was a rather modest party, there was a full mariachi band in costume, playing as if to thousands. We sat on the couch in the dimly lit apartment, wondering whether we should crash the party. After a few minutes, the music and laughter forced us down the stairs.

Now, we are normally very reserved. We spend our evenings together clad in sweatpants, bra-less, with unpainted faces. These nights are intended to be utterly free from all artifice and pretending, with no expectations. We usually spend the evening chatting, pouring wine, and laughing over jokes only the best of friends share.

We were entirely unfit to join a party of strangers, but the music was too hypnotic. We approached the group cautiously, giggling at our uncharacteristic boldness.  Standing in the lot with our arms wrapped around ourselves, we swayed, unable to keep from smiling. The music was pure joy.

People began to notice us standing there, the only white people at the party. A man with a smile that took up most of his face came up to us. He welcomed us to join the party, to come closer. It didn’t matter at all that they had never seen us before. To him, we were just as welcomed as if we’d been invited.  Before we could even protest, cold Mexican beer was in our hands.

I felt honored to be invited closer, but shame too. I thought about all the people who burn with hatred at immigrants, believing they are the cause of all that is wrong with our society. There has been a lot of talk about building a wall, but these stranger’s kindness knocked out a few bricks to make a door. I see the love of God in inclusion, in acceptance, in making a bit more room. I don’t see it in walls, in labeling some people legal and others not.

It’s not my intent to preach a point here; I simply wish to relate a sweet experience that reminded me of our collective humanity. It’s so easy in this day and age to remove our hearts from the matters of people, to make people into issues, and issues into something that doesn’t have anything to do with us.

Jesus talked a lot about loving the stranger. These strangers showed my friend and I a lot of love, and in that love, I saw Jesus. They didn’t fear us or show suspicion, and they didn’t request anything of us, except to join in on the fun. I realize issues of citizenship, immigration, and borders are complex issues, so I won’t attempt to simplify them.

What I will state simply is this: Jesus has called everyone to join the party. Everyone. He has called us to love the stranger, to open up heart and home to them. My experience reminded me how urgently we are called to do this, without exception, without fear.

Let’s love the stranger and invite them to the party.

 

 

 

Find Your Place

I have always been an indecisive person. I struggle with the simplest decisions, hemming and hawing and turning over possible scenarios and outcomes. A dear friend says my struggle to make decisions stems from shame–a deep rooted fear that I am not enough and that I am incapable of making choices. I believe this is true, for my inner-critic constantly taunts me and fills my mind with self-doubt whenever I attempt to make a decision.

This shame was further embedded into my heart by religion. It was clear to me throughout my teens and early adulthood that I needed God to make decisions for me. “Waiting on God” became the justifying remedy to indecision. My fear of making the wrong choice and veering off God’s “perfect plan for my life”, kept me from developing decision-making skills. It was a way of seeming to be a person of great faith, but in actuality, a terrified decision-phobe.

Though I have struggled with and been hurt by the church, I know God well enough to realise that He isn’t behind all this nonsense. One of my favourite concepts that my therapist has introduced me to is the idea of co-creating with God. As a dreamy-headed INFP with a creative bent, I love this idea. I love it far more than the nail-biting, waiting-on-a-sign-from-God paralysis of my upbringing.

I must make it abundantly clear that I have not abandoned God; I have just abandoned religiosity. I have given up on all the things religious people told me that do not line up with the character of God, or the reality of my experience as His child. I have spent so many years making myself unhappy in order to make God happy, but I am beginning to sense that this isn’t the point of it all.

While I believe that I, as a self-proclaimed Jesus follower, should make it my aim to honour God in all things, I no longer feel that in order to do that, I must fully abandon myself. After all, He made me; why would God put gifts and passions and desires in me just to watch me shove them all down, in order to “please Him?” Perhaps, and I am no theologian, God puts in us exactly what He wishes to bring forth in us. Perhaps following one’s passions and interests isn’t veering from God’s plan at all, but living it.

Last week in my therapist’s office, unbidden tears sprang up as I shared how unhappy and lost I felt. My therapist, a gentle and wise man, told me something I will never forget:

“You must claim your sacred place in the world.”

How does one claim one’s sacred place in the world? By making choices.

I sense that God wants to co-create a life with me,  one that brings me joy and Him glory. It may seem “holier” to wait on God to drop a neon sign from the sky, but I believe it’s just fear dressed in a robe and rosary. He wants me to claim my sacred place in the world, not wander aimlessly on it.

Let’s find our sacred place in the world and co-create with God. Let’s be doers and wise decision makers. Let’s use our faith actively to accomplish whatever we want to do.

In the words of St. Augustine, let’s love God and do what we please.

Travel Diary: From Dublin to Rostrevor

I was rather tired the morning I left Dublin, because I’d been out all night at a backpacker’s pub crawl. Before leaving the hostel, I stripped the bed, balled up the sheets, and double-checked that I hadn’t left anything. My hair dryer occupied the tiny wastebasket (the voltage was just too much for my American hairdryer…may she rest in peace). My backpack felt even heavier than my day of arrival, but I strapped it on and headed out the door.

As I flung open the brightly painted  door, I saw what awaited me outside: a torrential downpour. I immediately shut the door, wondering what I was going to do. I hadn’t packed an umbrella. I didn’t bring a raincoat, let alone a coat. I decided that the only thing I could do was just forge ahead, rain and all. Within two minutes, I was completely soaked, raindrops trailing down my nose and my hair slicked to my head. I accidentally stomped in a puddle while hurrying along, soaking my trainers. By the time I made it to the bus centre, I was miserably hungry, tired, and soaking wet. After purchasing a ticket to Newry, I sat down at a cafe and devoured a small breakfast and sipped a gritty, bitter Americano.

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Rostrevor, Northern Ireland

The bus was comfortable, and included free wifi. I listened to Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s while watching fields of sheep graze, occasionally glancing around at the other passengers. The Newry bus centre wasn’t as nice, and the bus was dingy. The driver was a kind old man, though, and that’s what matters. He dropped me off directly in front of An Cuan (which means “The Habour”). I walked up to the old building, noticing a scattering of children’s toys, and a few parked cars. I opened the front door, but no one was in the hall. I called up the stairwell, but received no answer. After several minutes of wandering around, I grew fearful that I was stranded. I called my best friend back home, as well as the friend that recommended I stay at An Cuan. Finally, I ventured around the enormous house, and walked up to the backdoor. A little boy answered, and I asked for his mum. The lady, Jen, came and we quickly settled the confusion. She led to to my room, sparely finished but comfortable. The house was a hodge-podge maze of the original structure and additions made in the 80’s.

After settling in, I took a walk to Kilbroney Park, which is a beautiful forested park that houses the Claughman Rock, the Narnia Trail, and Fairy Glen. I walked through Fairy Glen, past storybook homes, and a gentle river. The sun was shining, and I felt truly at rest. I remember smiling to myself, feeling proud that I was brave enough to come to the middle of nowhere in Ireland. Upon arriving back at An Cuan, I decided to take a shower and go to bed early. The shower, while slightly bigger than the one in the Dublin hostel, had barely any water pressure, and trickled out lukewarm. After a long day of bus travel and getting caught in the rain, all I wanted was a decent shower. This trip has made me realise how spoiled I am back in the States. I appreciate how the inconveniences are developing patience and thankfulness within me. The tight spaces, limited options, and budget accommodations are helping me realise how little I truly need to be happy.

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At the end of this street is the YWAM base, An Cuan.

My second day at An Cuan, another American girl arrived at the base. We chatted on the couches after the community meal, and she then invited me out for dessert and coffee. We walked down the street to The Church, a lovely old church that was converted to a cafe. I cheated on my diet and indulged in a toffee pudding with ice cream and berries. I am dairy-free and usually attempt a vegan lifestyle, but I just decided to go for it. We chatted about our faith, our struggles with doubt, and a little bit about our lives back in the States. After a couple days of being alone, it was such a blessing to make a friend!

When I got back to my room, I popped a couple of Benadryl to counter the affects of my indulgence. The next morning I awoke with a terrible ache throughout my body, a sore throat, and what felt like an ear infection. I had planned on a day trip to Belfast, and decided that I wouldn’t allow being sick to keep me from exploring. I was also in desperate need of a warm coat. I rode two buses to Belfast, and by the time of my arrival I was terribly hungry, grumpy, and ill.

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The beginning of the Narnia trail.

My guidebook suggested I visit Kelly’s, a three-hundred year old pub that once catered to Irish rebels. I walked in and sat down. No one served me, so after about fifteen uncomfortable minutes, I chose to move closer to the bar. After more uncomfortable minutes of waiting, I flagged down the bartender and asked if I could order. His accent was thick, so after a little difficulty, I was informed that they were serving only beef stew. I hate beef stew, and I didn’t want a drink, so I left.

I was then directed to a hip cafe, where I ordered “The Big Fish”. I assumed it was akin to fish and chips, plus that’s the title of my favourite Tim Burton movie, so I guessed it a safe bet. The waiter brought out a platter with a battered, deep fried fish the length of elbow to fingertip, with a serving of chips and mashed peas. It was an enormous amount of food. I ate everything though, because I was so hungry and past the point of caring.

After lunch I wandered around different shops in search of a coat. All the shops were featuring  spring attire, so all I could find were paper-thin raincoats. It began to rain, so I popped out my umbrella that I purchased in the village for about three pounds. The heavy winds immediately folded my shield from the  inside out, and I stopped to wage war on the cheap thing in front of a small cafe. After realising I was at a loss, I walked inside. “Having trouble with your umbrella, are you?” The comment came from a smiley barista with a red beard and vivid blue eyes. I laughed and replied yes, that I wanted to throw it in the trash. I ordered an Americano, and he hospitably told me to sit down and he’d bring it to me. I was relived to find a kind person. We chatted as I sipped on my coffee (which was delicious). He’d travelled through the Middle East on his own several years back, which I found impressive.

I told him I was in need of a coat, and he directed me to a TK Maxx (their version of the States’ TJ Maxx). After browsing, I chose a black down jacket. It was lightweight but warm, though not my style. After my jacket mission was complete, my desire to wander around Belfast died completely. I just wanted to go home to bed. I nearly cried multiple times, mostly from disappointment and feeling so poorly. I didn’t expect I’d have bad days while travelling; I thought that I would be so overjoyed and in awe that I would be immune to every difficulty.

When I returned to the base, I was feeling so ill that I just showered and went to bed. I awoke the next day fairly early for how sick I felt. I dressed for church, went on a walk to Kilbroney Park, and picked up some coffee before heading to the service. When I arrived, I saw a couple of girls from the base. I stood with them and chatted with the elderly. The service was beautiful, with various Scripture readings, organ-led hymns, and a celebration of the Trinity. I thoroughly enjoyed the traditional service, and felt so apart of the village community through the experience.

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Fairy Glen, with my dream house over yonder.

The next morning, I visited the local physician. As I had suspected, I had another ear infection. He prescribed the routine antibiotics, and told me not to fly for a bit. “That’s impossible…I have several flights that I cannot cancel!” He shook his head, but said to take care. I waited in a tiny pharmacy while the two women behind the counter gossiped and filled plastic bottles with various pills.

The remainder of my time in Rostrevor was spent resting, taking long walks, and chatting with locals. By the time the bus came to whisk me to another destination, I cried at the thought of leaving such a peaceful nest of a village.

Shame

For years, I believed that the source of most of my problems was rooted in self-hatred and self-pity. I fully believed that the reason I struggled with self-destructive habits and beliefs was due to an innate abandonment of self.

It has been revealed to me, however, that my core issue is shame. All the self-hatred, pity, and perfectionism that I have wrought come from the same source: shame.

As I became aware that my self-destructive habits resulted from shame, I became increasingly aware of the moments I experience it. A few examples are:

  • Stepping onto a scale or seeing an unflattering photo
  • Eating a food that I (or culture) has deemed “bad” and fattening
  • Meeting an attractive man or going on a date
  • Comparing myself to other women on social media

This is a very small, curated list. Because I am an intuitive, introverted person, I am highly self-aware. This self-awareness has led me to discover that I experience and live through shame on a daily basis. Shame has kept me from pursuing relationships, my dream career, and having peace with God. Shame speaks to me every day, and this is what it often says:

  • “You’re so gross/ugly/chubby/unattractive. You’d be more valuable if you were prettier.”
  • “You’re a terrible writer and you’re not creative. Who the hell do you think you are? People judge you and dislike you, so you should share as little of yourself as possible.”
  • “You are too old and ugly to ever find a man who will love you. Nearly all your friends are married! This proves something is wrong with you.”
  • “You’ve wasted your life. You haven’t done anything important and now you’re in your late twenties and it’s too late. It’s your fault.”

Shame says some terribly wicked things, doesn’t it?

If I wanted to face shame in a fight for my honour, I’d have to grab a mirror, because shame is most often from myself. It isn’t a separate entity that I can destroy. It is a wounded and frightened part of me. Shame insists on perfection, and anything less is a disgrace and should be abused roundly.

This evening I listened to a few TED talks, and one in particular struck me so intensely that I burst into tears. One line in particular drew some fast tears: “Shame: I’m sorry. I am a mistake.” I have included an audio download of Brene’s TED talk below, and I urge you to consider her words. It brought some clarity to the cloudy musings of the past year, giving shape and meaning to them.

 

 

I share this deeply vulnerable post not because I want others to pity me; I share because I want others to know that they’re not alone in their shame. I am sick to death of hating myself, of wishing I had a perfect body and perfect soul, of reaching a place of heaven on a very broken earth. Shame may try to destroy me, but it can also lead me to greater vulnerability, which Brene claims is the “…birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”

 

A Poem on Faith & Doubt

I wrote this little poem several years ago, based upon James 1:6, a passage from Scripture. I have always struggled with doubt–in God, myself, in other people. Over the years, my doubts have been met and transformed by truth. I am discovering that doubt is only a barrier if you allow it to be. Doubt, when accepted as a path, can lead one to new places and deeper understanding. Ultimately, I believe holding God’s hand on this path leads not to annihilation of relationship, but a greater capacity for it. Allowing doubt to be helpful requires faith, rather than the denial of it.

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“Uproot and plant yourself in the sea,” said the man of mustard seeds. “You’ve held belief in small things, but greater yet is what will be.”

The mulberry tree duly replied, “Surely my roots will never be dry. The fishes will dance among my leaves, for your faith, I’ll do as you please.”

Another man out and lost at sea, drowning in doubt with prayerful pleas. But oh, how should you receive? Marked with doubt, anxiety.

Faithless man, take hold the seed.