Saturday, October 21, 2017

It's been a while.

So...oops?

I kept meaning to blog, but the past two weeks have been kinda rough, so the days kept slipping by, and it just kept becoming tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.

Let's catch up, shall we?

We have air again, as of last Friday, so three cheers for that. That was a long two and a half weeks, but it just breaks my heart even more for what the people of Puerto Rico are going through. The timing of that definitely kept it all in perspective (most of the time).

I went to the neurosurgeon last Thursday. None of the tests he ordered showed anything, so he's pretty much at a loss for what to do or what is going on with my head. There is one more test he could do, but he's really hesitant because there's a high risk of infection, especially with me being a MRSA carrier, and we're pretty sure this test is how I contracted staph meningitis back when I was 17. Plus, he's not confident that this test will produce any results, since the other tests didn't, so putting me at such a great risk for what will probably tell us nothing seems like a dangerous idea. So I had him fax all of his records back to my neurologist, and I'm waiting for a call from him to see if he has any ideas on what to do. I can't afford the copay for the Botox (it's way more expensive than the Botox I did when I was still at Campbell), so I don't know if he has any other ideas. If he doesn't, I may go through with this other test from my neurosurgeon just to try something instead of giving up, because I am tired of being in this much pain. Otherwise, I'm kind of screwed.

Last weekend, what I thought was just allergies and my typical sinus issues moved into my chest and turned into a full blown respiratory infection. So Monday, I got to go to the doctor and get a stronger antibiotic than I'd been on two weeks before, a steroid inhaler, and meds for my nebulizer machine. Woo. Always something with me.

Most of the week flew by because I've slept a lot because I've felt like crap (as one does), but Thursday, I did make it to my psychiatrist, and she changed my depression. I haven't seen her in two months, because at my last appointment, things were going well enough that we thought I didn't need to come back in a month, but things have gone so downhill with me mentally since then that I knew I needed to change something. Luckily, she is awesome and didn't even question my request once I told  her about how bad things had gotten. I told her that I talk to my therapist every week, I take my prescribed medication every day, I do everything I'm physically capable of to take care of myself mentally, so I have to try changing meds, because I can't keep feeling this awful. So we'll see how this goes.

Hands down the highlight of the past two weeks, though, was the two hours I got to spend on Facebook video chat with Clayton today. I know I say this all the time, but I am so, so, so lucky and thankful that he is my best friend. No one makes me laugh harder or teaches me more, let alone all in the same conversation, than he does. He is one of the few consistently good things in my life, and one of the very few people that make me feel completely safe and free from judgment. I can talk to him about my relationship with God, my struggles, my anger, my frustration, especially with everything that's been going on with my head and the doctors being stumped, and he doesn't shame me for any of it. Instead, he reminds me not to shame myself, like I am prone to do. But what was different about our conversation today is that he actually put on his "Spiritual Director" hat (his words, not mine) and asked me about my prayer life and gave me some advice on how to broaden it and change my perspective on who I see God as in the midst of my current struggles. I'm used to talking through different stories and passages in the Bible with him, and he's taught me a lot about theology, but this was something totally new. And I loved it and totally appreciated it. He doesn't want me to stay in this rut that I've been in for a little while now of feeling angry at and abandoned by God. The level to which he cares for every facet of my wellbeing (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) is very comforting and humbling.

I'll tell you one thing: I would be lost without my people. That much I know for sure.

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Love That Lasts {A Review}

For the record, I got an advanced PDF copy of the book for being on the launch team, but that has absolutely no bearing on anything I'm about to write. All of this is 100% genuine.



Love That Lasts: How We Discovered God's Better Way for Love, Dating, Marriage, and Sex

Love That Lasts is the upcoming book from Jeff and Alyssa Bethke. Jeff is the author of Jesus > Religion and It's Not What You Think, and Alyssa is the co-author of Spoken For, but this is the first book that they have written together. After being part of all three of their previous launch teams, I knew that I wanted to be a part of this one, too. The Bethkes have been teachers to me from the very beginning of my walk as a Christian, and as they grow and create more work, they seem to say exactly what I need at that time. They have been such blessings in my life, and I'm so thankful to be able to help them out.

This book walks through Jeff and Alyssa's stories, from their childhoods, to their meeting, dating, engagement, and marriage. They came from polar opposite backgrounds pretty much, so from the get-go, the book gives you the feeling of no matter where you come from or what you've been through, there's something here for you, because they get it. Jeff is admirably raw about the darkness of his childhood, the mistakes he made, the ways he objectified and mistreated women, and Alyssa gives an inside look to the "purity culture" and shows that those "good Christian kids" that you think have it all together and know how to follow the rules are just as broken and hurting as the "outsiders" by confessing an eating disorder she struggled with for years. These two waste no time in telling the ugly truth, in showing you where they started so they can take you on the journey of how far God has brought them.

The chapter that stood out to me the most was Chapter 4, "Riding Solo," because, well, I am currently riding solo and have been my entire life. Honestly, before I read this chapter, it always baffled me to know that Alyssa had been single her whole life until she met Jeff. She's beautiful (seriously), kind, smart, funny, I didn't get how she had never dated anyone before Jeff...Then, I read the first few sentences of Chapter 4: 

"I've often heard it said that there are girls boys date, and there are girls boys marry. Well, growing up, I fell into the "girls boys marry category" - the non-flirty girls who like to have fun but are the deeper, quieter, more stable types. Which, looking back, was a good thing, but at the time, I thought it sucked. Guys, I just wanted to go on a date...But I was the kind of girl you only got involved with if you were ready to get down on one knee. And that ruled out most - or all - guys." 

And I was like ohhhhh, I get it. I'm the stable one, the one who always ends up in the friend zone, the sister. I'm not quiet (by any means), and I like to have fun, but not the kind of fun that screams "date me!", at least, not in this age. I went on a few dates when I was in New York, but I either got "friend zoned," or the guy decided he wanted a casual thing and it never turned into anything. So I've basically lived with this feeling of "when is it going to be my turn?!" as I watch all of my friends find their person, get engaged, get married. But as I read through Chapter 4, it felt like Alyssa was speaking straight to me. 

God is giving you what is best in this very moment. You can trust His good work in your life. God is writing a good story just for you. It's your story. It doesn't look like anyone else's story. It's unique and set apart and beautiful. Even if it doesn't feel beautiful or is not what you would have written, it's good, and if you let Him, He will bring you into joy that you never thought possible.

I know some are still longing, though. Still waiting. As you hope in God, as you fight to believe His promises, you can pray. Run to God with everything. Roll your every burden to the Lord. Tell Him your ache. Your pain. Your longing. Your hopes and dreams. Your deep desires. Cry out to Him. Give thanks to Him. Lift your potential husband up to Him. Ask Him to make you into the person that He wants you to be. Pray for your future spouse. Pray faithfully. Pray for their heart, their character, their mind, their hopes, for healing and wholeness. You get the opportunity to join God in the work that He's doing in their life! It's not in vain.

Sometimes, I forget the fact that I've said countless times that I want God to have control of my story. It's like I've said it about every aspect of my life except this. This chapter, and these quotes in particular, reminded me that there is a purpose in this season, and that I don't have to just sit and wait impatiently. I can actually do something, and maybe while doing that, not only will I grow closer to God, I'll find the peace I desperately want.

The other section of the book that spoke to me the most were Alyssa and Jeff's chapters on sex. (Each chapter in the book is written by one of them rotating between them.) Let's face it, your sex drive doesn't wait to show up until you're married. (Life would be a lot less complicated if it did!) And it's something that I've been struggling with, especially in the past year or so, but honestly, my view of sex has been twisted since I was a young teenager. I had decided I was going to wait until I was married to have sex, and my mom told me she thought I shouldn't do that.

As Alyssa says in Chapter 14:

"While everyone's experience with sex is different, I would argue that regardless of where you fall on the spectrum - multiple partners, living with your boyfriend or girlfriend, abuse, porn, going to third base, or falling on the other side of the spectrum as a virgin, never have kissed someone, wearing a purity ring - we all need healing in some way in this area."

I couldn't agree more. It feels like either sex is seen as some taboo thing not to be discussed, or it's casual and meaningless, and there's no in-between. And it ends up being the thing a lot of us get in our heads as the way to get the intimacy we want, because we don't know how to get it any other way. When I was in New York, I went further with a guy, basically just short of sex, than I should have, and I regret it now, basically because I wanted him to want me. (You can imagine how well that worked out.)

While Alyssa came from the purity culture, Jeff came from the world of casual sex and talks about how that damaged his view on women.

Sex, girls, and the chase consumed me. I can say that now, after looking back, but when I was nineteen, I know for a fact I wouldn't have admitted - or even known - that was why I woke up every morning. But it was what made me tick. Ultimately it was about gratification. Satisfaction. That brief moment in time when pain, shame, and guilt seem to be a distant memory. Euphoria. That moment of connectedness. A hollow one, though. A cheaper one. A bastard stepchild version of true nakedness.

In Chapter 5, he tells in detail how his porn addiction started, grew, and created "monster-like qualities" in him.

I became incredibly selfish. Fast tempered. Had a horrible view of women that played itself out in every single relationship before Alyssa.

But, as only God could pull off, his YouTube career started when he wrote his first poem, a poem called "Sexual Healing," for an open mic night and people actually loved it and related to it. In Chapter 15, he writes:

I realized just how hungry we all are - for intimacy, for connection, for life. And how we know deep in our hearts that the current promise of sex isn't cutting it, no matter how hard we fake it. There is a better way. And Jesus is inviting us into it with open arms.

While I couldn't relate to everything they said right now, because I'm not dating, engaged, or married, there is wisdom in this book that I know I can save and use for years to come, when I am in a relationship and marriage. There truly is something in this book for everyone. For married couples, to help you through issues you may not even realize you have. For engaged couples, to give you tools and help prepare you for marriage. For dating couples, to give you wisdom about your relationship, your future, and whether this is the relationship/person God intends you to be in/with for life. For single people like me, who may have made an idol out of marriage and relationships and need to remember that God is here, and He is first, even when we feel forgotten or ignored.

And for couples, there are also Love That Lasts workbooks, one For Him, one For Her, written individually by Jeff and Alyssa, with exercises to help strengthen your relationship and help you learn how to love and serve your partner better.

I truly believe that this is a book that will impact your life and your heart. We are creatures that desire love. We all want relationship and intimacy. We want to love and be loved. I believe this book will help us learn how to seek, find, grow, and keep the kind of love that God has wanted for us all along. The tools and wisdom in this book can help each of us find Love That Lasts.

Love That Lasts: How We Discovered God's Better Way for Love, Dating, Marriage, and Sex by Jefferson "Jeff" and Alyssa Bethke releases on October 10, 2017. You can pre-order it at their website here, on Amazon here, or at Barnes & Noble here

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Friday, September 29, 2017

God is so good.

First off, our air conditioning died this week. When you have a heat-triggered seizure disorder and the temperature is still in the 80s outside, that's a pretty big problem. BUT the tech who came to check things out and told us what was wrong called his company (who has worked with my grandma for as long as I can remember, pretty sure since before I was born) and they loaned me a stand-alone unit for my room for free for the week until we can get our house's A/C fixed, and it's also strong enough that with our fans, we can circulate enough air through the house to make it bearable. Plus, the weather is supposed to cool off a good bit for the next few days. PLUS, when my grandma found out, she didn't freak out. She was calm and told my mom that she could afford to fix it, and that it was her responsibility as the homeowner, so not to worry about anything. She was so chill I was kind of thinking "Who are you and what have you done with my grandmother?!" So yeah, all big praises there. Honestly, I was feeling pretty sorry for us at first...then, I remembered what's happening in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. So yeah, all big praises there.

But really, the main reason I wanted to write this post is because God has proven himself so good this week, beyond anything I could ever possibly even imagine I deserve. After how utterly broken and hopeless I felt last week, how close I was to giving up entirely, God has shown up so big and faithful. Love has been coming at me from every direction, including from the singer and the band who did that cover that helped give me the courage to call the Hotline, and it's like God has been saying "See? This is what you could have missed. People want you there. You're supposed to be there. I'm not done yet."

Sometimes, I feel so replaceable to people. Not because of anything that they do, but because I get it in my head that there's nothing I can offer that they can't get from someone else. Someone who isn't sick and tired and in frequent need of reassurance and almost always stressed out. But the five people (other than my therapist) who know the details of what really went down last week, everything that I was thinking that pushed me into that dark place last Thursday, they have made it so clear to me just how much they value me, how much they respect me and want me around, that it's hard to miss the lessons right in front of me. I'm not as replaceable as I think I am sometimes. I'm not as invisible as I feel sometimes. I'm nobody's charity project. Not anymore.

It's ridiculous that I'm still learning and re-learning these things after all this time, after all the times they've told me what they told me this week, but sometimes, I just need the reminder. And more than anything, I am thankful beyond words that I have a group of people who know the real, not-hiding-anything me, who see my scars and baggage, and they just aren't bothered by any of it. They aren't scared or annoyed by it. They are patient to tell me they love me and reassure me as many times as I need to hear it. They get that it's not that I don't believe them. It's just that I need them to remind me of the truth of how they feel when my mind starts lying to me. Because sometimes, it's next to impossible for me to shut down the lies in my head when they get started without someone else's voice there to help.

I'd be lying if I said I'm 100% back to myself now, but what I can honestly tell you is that last week, I didn't see a way out and thought I'd never find one; now, while I still don't really know what I'm going to do about a lot of things, I at least believe I can figure it out. And I largely attribute it to the people who have reminded me so clearly and loudly this week that no matter what happens next, I won't have to face it alone. I won't have to face anything alone ever again, if I'll just let them be here. If I'll believe them over the lies in my head.

God is just so good, y'all. When I lose sight of everything important, when I lose sight of Him, I start falling, but that's never the end of the story. I am surrounded by people ready and waiting to catch me. When I feel like the world is out to get me, they are there to make me feel protected. They help carry my burdens, they help carry me, when I forget how to breathe. And these five people that have been here this week, I met them all pretty much by accident. An exchange trip I wasn't supposed to be allowed to go on (and almost wasn't allowed to), a Religion class I joined to run a Twitter account, a soccer team I only met because the one player I knew insisted, and, of all things, a fan fiction website.  That's the kind of stuff that just makes you go ONLY GOD. There's not a doubt in my mind that He orchestrated all of that.

God is big enough and powerful enough to use anyone that He wants to. So while I'm not entirely sure if it was my friends' intention this week to make me feel really glad I'm still alive, God managed to make me feel that through their words, anyway. So hey, I'll take it.

Anyway, there's your friendly Friday night reminder that God is awesome, my friends make me feel so loved, and I'm glad I didn't hurt myself last week.

Tomorrow? Wolfpack game! Back to Carter-Finley for the first time in 4 years. I'm stoked.

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

1-800-273-8255

That phone number right there, it saves lives, y'all.

How do I know?

Because it's the phone number to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, and I called it on Thursday.

I'm not writing this post to make you go "OMG! What happened?" or tell me you love me or tell me how sorry you are that I'm struggling.

I'm writing this post because September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

And I'm writing this post because it's something that nobody really wants to talk about, and so many people suffer in silence because of that. Trust me, a big part of me really doesn't want to write this post - I'm shaking trying to type out the words - but I feel like I need to. The people you think have everything going for them, the people who can appear to be doing so well, the people you put up on a pedestal as your role models because they seem so fierce and you wish you had the kind of innate fierceness that they do, those can just as easily be the people who are struggling with depression or other mental illness and suicidal thoughts as those who have made it known.

I was so ashamed to tell my best friend today what happened, honestly. I thought it'd make me appear weak. I thought that it would shake the belief he's always held in me, that it would shatter his desire to be my constant cheerleader. But it was after some wise words from him that I realized (remembered?) that depression, mental illness, they don't make a person weak. The chemical imbalance in my brain does not make me weak; it's part of what makes me me. My strength lies in the fact that I've never let the demons win. I've never given up fighting, no matter how low, or broken, or close to giving up I've felt.

But more importantly, my strength lies in the fact that despite everything this world has thrown at me, I still desire more than anything to love people and be kind, in the fact that that is my core characteristic when I owe the world nothing at this point. I'd honestly never thought of strength like that until he said it. But he's right. Love in the face of unrelenting bullshit, I can't imagine anything stronger, more powerful, more beautiful than that.

When people get to know my life story, and they learn everything that I've survived, they often start to look at me like I'm more capable or successful, or just better, than them. "I could never deal with all that you deal with." That's what I hear almost every time. But what the vast majority of people don't hear or see or know about, everyone except a handful of my closest friends, are the times that I am breaking down, feeling absolutely crushed under the weight of my day-to-day life. I put on a good face for most people, but for a select few, I'll show when my heart is broken, when my mind is clouded by anger and frustration and fear, when my eyes can't see another inch and my feet can't figure out how to take another step forward because everything just seems so. hard. They know when I'm hitting my breaking points, and they refuse to let me go.

It just so happened that Thursday night, I didn't tell any of them. One, because when it got really bad and dark, it was incredibly late and I didn't think I could wake any of them up. But mostly two, because I had it in my head that I didn't want to be a burden to them, that they have their own lives with their own problems, and it would be so much easier for all of them if I just wasn't here. Their lives would be "less complicated." After everything I went through to get the incredible family of friends that I have today, and knowing how much they love me and everything they've stood by me through, I still thought it would be easier if I left them. That was one of the (many) things that pushed me to the edge that night.

I didn't actually attempt suicide on Thursday. Today, I'm really grateful that I didn't. But I considered it, in a way that I haven't really done since high school when I was dealing with relentless bullying. There are three things that stopped me.

One, this song by a rapper named Logic, and the cover by Alyson Stoner and Next Town Down, all about someone who is suicidal calling that hotline. Whether or not you're in that state of mind, you should listen to it. It's incredibly powerful.

Two, remembering what two of my soccer brothers told me last summer after my heart stopped during that surgery - that losing me was a possibility they couldn't bear to think about, that it would destroy them. Despite the fact that I thought it would make their lives less complicated in the long run, I knew I couldn't hurt them like that.

And lastly, the woman I spoke to at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. She talked me off of that edge when I didn't have anybody else to call and made me start to believe in myself again just a little bit when I couldn't see a way forward and felt like giving up.

If you're reading this, please hear me. I don't know what you're going through, and I may not be able to help or understand it, but the Hotline, it works. It worked for me. Please call if you need help. The world needs you.

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

The past few days.

You know your life is kind of sad when you are as excited to go to the doctor as I was to go to the neurosurgeon on Thursday.

Too bad nothing good really came of it.

The doc was irritated because my neurologist sent me to him before doing all the tests he could have done, and I didn't have all my records from Duke and my brain surgeries, because no one told me I needed to bring them. He needs to run a bunch of other tests plus get all the records from Duke before he can tell me anything. So I have to a) get Duke to fax him all my records, b) get Duke to mail me CDs of all my scans to bring to my next appointment, c) get a bunch of labs, d) get a shunt series (X-rays), and e) get checked out by a neuro-ophthamologist. I talked to my old neurosurgeon from Duke's office yesterday, and they emailed me a release form that I can print out, fill out, scan, and email back to them, so I've got to talk to my uncle tomorrow since he's bringing me meds anyway. I'll get the labs done next Monday the 25th at my primary care. The shunt series can be done as a walk-in next time I go down to see this doc. They sent the referral to the neuro-ophthamologist who will call me to make an appointment. Hopefully the fact that I don't have vision insurance won''t prevent me from being seen. Also, usually when a shunt is infected, there is redness around it, but there's not around mine, so that's a good sign; however, he's very concerned about how sensitive I am to touch on my head, so he "hopes it comes together quickly," because it's not a good sign that I can't stand for my head to be touched. If the labs and X-rays don't show anything, all he can do is tap my shunt, which he really doesn't want to do because of my history of meningitis (Duke docs are pretty sure I got meningitis thanks to them tapping my shunt when the valve broke). Meanwhile, I get to spend another month or so in constant, unexplainable, excruciating pain.

So...that's fun.

Yesterday, Mom and Mommom left for 10 days in Pennsylvania. I was going to go, but decided that I'd rather have 10 days to myself and hopefully be able to get some job applications done. (So far, that's been a no go thanks to my freakin head.) The silence is weird, but refreshing. My aunt and uncle are leaving on Tuesday, so then it'll just be me and Chelsea in town, but I don't even have to see or talk to her every day, so it's no big deal.

Today, I woke up feeling pretty good (well, pretty good for me, anyway) so I thought that after my afternoon of sports, I'd be good to get some work done. Ha! Guess again. As soon as the last game I cared about was over, my head felt so explosively painful I couldn't do anything but sleep. I can still barely turn my head. On the upside, the Wolfpack won, so there's something, I guess.

Sigh. I'm so tired of feeling like shit.

Here's hoping tomorrow is better. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Story of my life.

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Monday, September 4, 2017

A post about bullying.



When I was in third grade, Becky O'Neill called me stupid, because I wrote my Js backwards. I told her, "J's a hard letter. You never know whether to hook left or hook right." A right hook from Ashton Bellman in junior high was meant to swell me up and make my tiny nose normal-sized. At least, that's what he told me. And in high school, Ryan Mundy called me many things I dare not repeat but still replay in my head from time to time, all because I did theater instead of playing football.

Sticks and stones, right?

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words...A stone I can take. A quick break, yeah, that I can shake. And though you've never punched me in the face, every syllable you speak stabs through my spirit and hardens my heart. And though my hand makes the cut, your words are the accomplice, seeking to accomplish I know not what other than to bury some sense of loathing you have for your own self. I know you hate yourself so much; otherwise, you wouldn't be so obsessed with hating me more. No eye has seen and no ear has heard just how much I care about what you think of me, because I would never show anyone other than the darkness of my bedroom and tear-stained pillowcase. Just in case Mom and Dad could hear my cries, I suffocated my suffering in a cotton case grave and believed all the lies you told me about who I am, or what I would become, or whose fault it was. 

It got worse when your fingers started saying what your mouth was too cowardly to utter. Under the influence of your description of me, I learned to despise many things about myself, not because they're so bad, but because if I didn't have them, then you wouldn't have noticed them and be powerless to use them against me. The pricks and pins of pricks' opinions spins my whole sense of self out of whack, and so I shacked up in the safest place possible: on the island of invisibility, on the shore of "don't make any waves," at the corner of complacency and fitting in. I hide in the back country of cowardice praying you won't notice this insecurity factory I call a life, or a family, or a faith, or a body. And even today, I'm not lying when I say I could care less about what people think of me, because I could. I could care much, much less, because I still care a whole lot.

But you are not my source. You are not my well. If your opinion of me were the last cup of water in a desert, I would throw it in your face, and even though there's still a trace of the pain you caused, those scars are hard as armor and so faint that sometimes I can't even see them anymore. Because the sticks that used to harm me have been crossed, the stone that used to bruise me has been rolled away. Sticks and stones were your weapon, but sticks and stones are His way. So say all you want; a better Word has been spoken. Lie all you need to; a greater Truth has been revealed. Hold me back if you must, but my future has been sealed.

Sticks and stones, right?

-----

It's been a while since I've really thought about the bullying I experienced growing up. Progress, right? Well, then things like this poem come along, and I realize I've still got a lot more healing to do than I thought I did...and I've never been more thankful.

Most people know that I was bullied pretty intensely when I was a teenager, to the point where I was forced to leave the church I'd grown up in and spent the vast majority of my high school years contemplating suicide. I was surrounded by so many people telling me that I was unwanted and that I would never be loved that I became convinced that they were right. Even when I got to Campbell and met the people who proved they were wrong, became my family, and loved me at my lowest, my brain couldn't reconcile the truth in front of me with the lies that had been engrained deep into my soul.

I think I've gotten better at it over the years, but listening to this poem made me remember that those wounds are still very much a part of me and how I view the world and relationships. I still struggle to understand why people like me as much as they do and to accept the love that I know in my heart I deserve. I can't help but wonder how different my life would be now if I'd had words like Jon's to hear when I was younger, if I would have sabotaged so many friendships out of fear and shock.

I know the truth now. I know who I am as a person, as a friend, and in the eyes of God. I know how loved I really am. Just today, one of my friends from my neighborhood in NYC called me. He originally said he only had five minutes, but we ended up talking for nearly half an hour, and one of the last things he said to me was a reminder that I am never alone and never forgotten, even though it can feel that way being stuck in this town so far away from the people who know and love me best.

Let's be real: bullying sucks. I know that sounds obvious, but this is something that I think most people don't talk about because they're afraid to, or they're ashamed and they haven't fully recovered from the lies and the hate drilled into their heads. I think a lot of us get bullied, even the people we think are untouchable, the people we think have it all together and everyone likes. People are cruel sometimes, and while it'd be easier to say something cliché like "Why can't we all just be nice to each other?!", the reality is that we don't live in a utopia where that's possible. We're broken, and we hurt, and it's easy to take that hurt out on someone around you you see is vulnerable. I definitely was vulnerable and easy to attack, especially being in a small school where it was easy to be known for all the wrong reasons.

Words can break you. Physical wounds heal. The bleeding stops. The bruises and scars fade. The pain goes away. But mental wounds? They seep into your soul like red wine into a white couch that you have no idea how to get out, except you can't throw out this couch because you've only got one and you're stuck with it for life. So you scrub and scrub and pray that God will perform some miracle and it will go back to the bright white it was before, and some days you think it has, but other days, you look at it, and you notice the faint reddish-purple droplets still lingering and become convinced that it's all ruined, that you're ruined, and you might as well give up.

That's what happened to me. I became so convinced that I was too broken to be redeemed or ever be worthy of love that I stopped trying to find it, but more importantly, I pushed it away anytime I thought it was getting close. I hid. I tried not to be seen so I could avoid what I believed was the inevitable end of someone else telling me they hated me. But people like my soccer boys and my Reformation brothers, they saw me saying "no" and refused to take that for an answer. They made me their family when I didn't think I wanted them to and pursued me when I tried to run from them. They are the reasons I finally began to understand that maybe I am worthy of love, after all.

But ask any of them and they'll tell you the lesson doesn't always stick with me. I've said more times than I can count that I don't understand how I got so lucky to have them, and it's partially because it still seems so unbelievable that everything has changed so drastically. God used two groups of guys I never really intended on meeting to begin with to show me that His declaration of my worth is the final say. He is the voice of truth, and He tells a story completely opposite from what I grew up hearing and believing. It's like Jon says; my future has been sealed because my self-worth lies in a foundation that no person can ever shake. I know it's true because I actually trust people now. I'm not afraid of loving and being loved just because I've been burned or I've heard a lot of terrible things said about me. I stay determined to see the good in people because God sent me people who saw the good in me when I didn't see it in myself.

Do I remember the things bullies told me? Yep, pretty much every single one of them. Do they still sting? Yep, some days more than others. But do they define me? Not in the least. And that change in my perspective is 100% all God's doing through the Holy Spirit and His working through the people He's surrounded me with.

Praise be to God.

If you have scars from bullying (which, really, I think more of us do than we care to admit), go listen to Jon's new poem, "Sticks and Stones." It's embedded in this post. Bring tissues.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Rerouting, Rerouting

I've come to realize something.

I've been doing a much better job lately at learning how to direct my emotions into something productive.

I feel things very intensely. I always have, and I probably always will. That's just a part of who I am.

But I'm learning how to take those strong, intense emotions and pour them into positive things instead of wasting my mental and emotional energy on negative things that I can't change. It's like I have a Siri, finding an alternative path when she realizes I'm about to drive into a lake. I'm just rerouting my emotions instead of a car.

For example, instead of being caught up feeling devastated or furious about having another friend abandon me over a mistake I made, a friend I never could have predicted I'd be okay with losing, I'm making the choice to focus my love and my heart on the friends who have stuck by me, the ones who have a grasp on what forgiveness means. Really, ever since I started making friends at Campbell, anytime I lost someone, I would get so caught up in that that I would lose sight of the incredible people I still had. That was a disservice to them and, frankly, horribly destructive to my mental health.

I don't get it right all the time. It's definitely a learning process I'm still very much deep in the middle of, but it's a huge improvement over how I have been for a long time. I have so much going on right now that I've accepted that I don't have the capacity to waste brain power, mental strength, or heart on negativity and people and things that ultimately just add more stress to my life.

I guess this is what self-care feels like, huh?

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Friday, August 25, 2017

A lot of soccer this weekend. And a lot of driving.

And a LOT of time with my grandmother.

Brianna's college soccer team was playing at Duke today. That's 6-6.5 hours round trip. Mom didn't go.

And they're playing at William & Mary in Virginia on Sunday. That's probably going to be 9 hours round trip. And Mom's not planning on going to this game either.

Which means I have ALL that time in the car with my grandmother by myself listening to her bitch about every. little. thing for a total of four hours of soccer and maybe one hour total of actually seeing Brianna play.

And I don't have a phone battery that lasts me long enough for either of these trips, or a portable phone charger.

The upside, though, is that the Campbell boys are also playing today and Sunday, and I can stream their games in the car on the way home on my grandma's tablet.

I hope I at least get some good sleep tonight and tomorrow, because I slept like crap last night, and I know that definitely didn't help matters.

Lord, help me.

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Charlottesville


Neo-Nazis use a symbol of Polynesian culture in their storm through a college campus. A black cop stays calm and protects men throwing Nazi salutes and wearing KKK hoods. People trying to stand up against racism are literally mowed down by a coward with a car. These are all sights you'll see this weekend in Charlottesville. And it's a heartbreaking reminder that evil is alive and well.

To all Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, agnostics, atheists, and every other non-Christian, please hear me: THIS. ISN'T. JESUS. This is not what he stood for. This is not what he preached. This is not what he would be doing if he were around today. These are bitter, angry white men scared at the idea of people not like them getting a seat at the table. There is still a HUGE number of Christians who believe in freedom of religion the way the Constitution intends it. I know it may not feel that way, but I promise you, it's true. And we won't give up the fight.


To all POC: You are seen. You are valued. You are loved. These may be the loudest voices right now, but they're wrong. These are bitter, angry white men scared at the idea of minorities no longer staying silent and taking away their privilege of the final say. They may be louder for now, but it won't stay that way, no matter what terror like this makes us think. I don't have the answers, all I can say is please know that so many of us are on your side. You are never alone.


To white people, especially Christians: STAND UP. SPEAK UP. DON'T SHUT UP FOR A SECOND AS LONG AS BIGOT RALLIES ARE HAPPENING. We may not be able to end bigotry and hate, but we can send it back to the fringes of society where it belongs. 


All lives won't matter until non-white lives do.
All lives won't matter until non-Christian lives do.
All lives won't matter until we get a president who condemns white terrorism as strongly as he does ISIS terrorism.


We've got a lot of work to do. The longer we hide behind "not all white people" "not all Christians" "not all Republicans" to avoid taking blame, the longer we allow this to spread like the disease it is. It's on ALL of us.


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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Dunkirk! OMG.

All of my thoughts will be under the poster to respect you poor, unfortunate souls who haven’t had the pleasure honor of seeing this movie yet. 
SPOILERS ABOUND.


Okay, seriously, if this movie is not the Hamilton of the Oscars, and by that I mean if it does not get nominated for all the awards and win every single damn award it is nominated for, then I will personally start a revolt against the Academy. Because HOLY HELL. THIS MOVIE IS PERFECTION. Easily the movie of the year. Christopher Nolan did it again.
I don’t really cry at movies or television, but that part where Alex told Peter George was dead, then Peter still told Cillian’s character that George was going to be okay, and the look he gave his father afterward, because he knew it was the right thing to do not to traumatize him any more than he already was, that was the part that got me closest to crying. 
Speaking of George, I want to take Barry Keoghan and Aneurin Barnard and wrap them up in blankets and keep them safe and warm forever. It was nice to see Alex’s humanity come out and try to save Gibson just what seemed like seconds after trying to throw him off the ship.
Watching Harry Styles nearly drown three times in the span of an hour and forty-five minutes is not good for my blood pressure. Or sanity.
Hans Zimmer is a genius, and also really, really cruel. I think I’m going to be hearing that ticking clock in my sleep.
How can Tom Hardy possibly do so much with just his eyes??? I want to meet him just so I can ask him that. It’s ridiculous. He spent the vast majority of the movie with the pilot’s mask over his face, yet I felt more attached to him than almost any other character. That final look when he takes his mask off in front of his burning plane and you can see Germans behind him, AGH! SO GOOD! 
I didn’t get to see it in IMAX, because we don’t have an IMAX theater nearby, but the cinematography was so phenomenal, I still felt like I was there. I remember noticeably jumping several times.
The chemistry between Kenneth Branagh and James D’Arcy was great. They made me smile, even in the middle of all the tension. They and Mark Rylance were the perfect balancing forces leading the chaos.
I actually audibly laughed when Peter pulled Collins in from the water and Collins just said, “Afternoon,” with a tone of like Hey mate, how’s it going? Nice day out, isn't it?
Harry was so good, and I mean that from a purely cinematic perspective, not because I love him. I forgot that I was watching Harry. I can’t believe that for someone jumping into their first major acting role, with such a recognizable face, he was able to immerse himself so easily. Maybe it was at least partially because who Alex is is so different from who Harry is, but even though I knew it was him, I forgot it was him because I was so enthralled by the action of the movie, particularly during the scene in the grounded boat with the group. You could tell that Alex was really only an asshole because, as Harry said in interviews, he was as scared and desperate to get home as anyone, but he genuinely scared me a few times. 
All in all, 10 out of 10. I’d go see it again, but my grandma was so pissed at the movie theater upping their prices, there’s no way that will happen. Ah well, once is far better than none at all.
Run, do not walk, RUN to see this movie as soon as you possibly can.

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