Thoughts

Settling Down as a TCK

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I just read a post from the blog The Third Culture Kid Project that is titled “The Day I Compromised.” In it the author talks about how settling down is not a sign of failure for a TCK. This truth gently relieved a dormant wound I’d covered away until I could find a salve to soothe it. As a TCK you’re always told how much you have to offer the world since you have travelled outside of your home country- in my case America. It is true that as a traveler of the world your mind becomes more open and you learn how relate to people in other countries more easily – sometimes more easily than those in your own home country. You learn to appreciate different cultures and to see more of the outside world than wherever you happen to be living at the time. Those foreigners no longer seem strange but feel more like family. Because of this, you are told as a TCK you can work anywhere and you can help teach other people who never have been outside their own country to see the world a little bit differently. You have a perspective others don’t have the opportunity to have. You have a wealth of nations behind you and in you and a part of you. Think of how much you could do and accomplish!

So when a TCK -me- does “settle down” it can feel as if I am a failure for not living out the potential that is supposed to be in me. I see friends who are also TCKs living in other countries and helping the world and living up to that potential. And when I see them I am amazed and rejoice at all they are accomplishing and get to live through. But there is also a piece of me that becomes disheartened as I sit at my desk job back in the little town I was born in. Don’t get me wrong I have a wonderful life and I am so extremely grateful and am so blessed. I got to marry the man of my dreams who I never thought it would ever be possible to date let alone marry! We have a house and a very cute pitbull who is a huge baby we get to take all kinds of walks with through fantastic forests. We have electric and running water and warm beds and air conditioning when it gets too humid and heat when it snows. We get snow!!! God has blessed us with great jobs and He continues to provide for us and gives us more than we could need and want. Please believe I do not regret what all God has done for us.

Still, as a TCK, there is this restlessness at times to travel the world and absorb all I can. And see the beauties of God’s world before it’s all gone. There is this dark whisper inside that tells me I gave up because I’m not in another country and doing something grand and accomplishing more. That darkness makes it hard to see that settling down isn’t failing. Sometimes I feel like settling down means that all I have grown through and gone through and travelled through is being wasted. That more than half of my life was for nothing. I know this isn’t true. And I wouldn’t change anything. But it is something that I don’t like to dwell on. This is why when another TCK says that settling down is not failing it relieves a wound I know they deal with too.

And when I think about it, we’re all just living. Those TCKs living in countries that are not their passport countries home are just living their lives the same as I’m just living mine. We’re just on other sides of the world. We live with worlds inside us no matter where we are. We are still world travellers even when we “settle down” whether it’s in our passport’s home country or the one we decided to settle down in. Settling down isn’t giving up. It’s just living. And it doesn’t mean you will never travel again. It also doesn’t mean that those mixtures of cultures inside you die. They will still be there. They are a part of you and they helped to form you. You will always be a culture all your own. No matter where you decide to “settle down.”

Thoughts

Blogger Recognition Award

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First of all thank you so much to Lyndel Paris at Island Girl on a Mission for nominating me for the Blogger Recognition Award! I’ve never been nominated or won any sort of award before -except at the county fair when I threw darts at the correct amount of balloons to win a stuffed animal- but I’m not sure if that counts as an award. Anyway, I just want to say thank you from my sometimes ink-stained, typed-out fingers and emotional rollercoaster imagination but especially thank you from my very grateful heart for taking time that is all your own to read my blog. Sometimes, not just as a writer, you can start to feel like no one sees or hears you. Or maybe they hear but aren’t really listening. It can be discouraging. But that’s when we have to remember that we write, speak, and live and persevere not to receive praise or recognition but because of the kind of person we want to be. To build our integrity and character. But that is not to say that it does not feel good when someone comes along side you and says, “I see you and I hear you.” So thank you very much Miss Lyndel Paris for listening!

How Writings from the Cave Began

I started my blog, Writings from the Cave, after realizing I didn’t just want to write in silence anymore. At University I took several writing classes and it was encouraging to write with others who loved to write and who were also discovering our creativity and being challenged to continue to grow and think and write in new ways. After I graduated, that community was gone. I was back to writing in silence. I failed at finding a writing group to be a part of- schedules are busy and clash sometimes- but I knew I didn’t just want to stop writing. I believed God wanted me to write and I did not want to just sit and let my mind grow stagnant. So I decided to start a blog where complete strangers could read anything I wrote and give me accountability and community. They could give me advice and reassure me when I started to doubt myself. All of my life I usually only had my mom around to read anything I wrote and she’s my mom so of course she would like anything I wrote and of course she would think I was a great writer. And even though I am so grateful for my mom taking the time to read anything I handed her and for giving me unlimited encouragement and support, I still wanted to have a place where others could give me their opinions.

Besides needing accountability I also needed an outlet. A place that was all my own where I could just write truthfully and honestly about the goings on in my heart and mind. It was a sort of therapy to set free so much that had been hidden and trapped and built up in me over 20 or so years. So even though I was hesitant – what if no one likes what I write? Or I do it wrong? – I started a blog for my own sake and hoped for the best.

Advice for New Bloggers 

So, this leads to my first piece of advice for new bloggers. From a new blogger myself who is till learning how to do everything, I just want to say “Don’t be afraid.” When you feel that fear rising in you whispering doubts to your mind and attempting to make you feel as if you aren’t good enough, fight that fear back with bravery and post what is on your heart. Don’t write for others to like you or to notice you or write what you think others want to hear, write for yourself. Write from your heart and let your heart speak even when you are scared to. Your honesty and authenticity will  be what makes your writing beautiful even if you don’t know all of the “rules.”

Don’t write for a number of “likes” you want to receive. If you write a post and no one even takes notice of it you will start to feel worthless and as though your writing does not matter. I guess I am saying don’t base how good your writing is on how many people acknowledge it. Choose to be confident in your writing knowing you spoke from your heart and you spoke the truth whether it is noticed or not.

Believe that you do have something to say and a unique way of saying it that others need to hear. I used to get discouraged – and sometimes still do- when thinking about all of the awesome writers out there and all of the people writing and I thought who would choose to read me when they have so many options available to them. But then I thought about all of the different TV shows that exist and how each of them has their own story to tell even if the stories are similar they are told in different ways and people love watching even if they have heard the story before. So I ignored the failure voice inside my head and wrote anyway. So, believe in your voice and in your story and in the words you have to say. Believe that your voice will not get lost in a sea of voices.

Nominees

That being said I would like to nominate the following brave bloggers who have inspired me and encouraged me and allowed me to see their world:

Elaina M. Avalos

The Wild Heart of Life

Justified Ecstasy

Melody Chen

A Light Circle

Ashlin Horne

The Renegade Press

Freckled Foolery

OTV Magazine

Africa Far and Wide

In Passing Bye

The Third Culture Kid Project

Tea & Bannock

Sahaj Kaur Kohli

Live Original

 

Thoughts

Love Without Debate

Find-Love

Sometimes I think we Christians think too much about the rules and about what people should or shouldn’t do. We have a measuring rod which we use to analyze how others measure up or don’t measure up to our rules or what we think God’s rules are. We try to figure out when it’s okay to judge someone and point out to someone when something in their life looks wrong. I think we try to plan out someone else’s life and how we think God thinks they should be living it. Why do we think that is our place? We don’t know what is going on in that person’s heart or mind or how God’s heart is speaking to theirs. God works in all ways and reaches one person’s heart in a different way than He reaches another’s. And He has all the time in the world to get to know someone and for them to get to know Him.

I think we try so hard to force Jesus on people and make them live the life we were instructed to  live and be as miserable in our legalism as we are because we think that’s what makes them a “true follower.” “As long as you reach this point you are good” “As long as you reach this level of knowledge or maturity then you know you’re a true follower.” But people don’t all grow the same. And reaching a certain level in someone’s eyes or in the eyes of the “church” does not make you a follower of Jesus. You can follow all the rules you want but not be following Jesus. You can grow up going to church every Sunday morning and night and every Wednesday and attend Bible studies. You can know the Bible word for word and quote it. But never have met Jesus. Faith isn’t following all of the rules. Your salvation doesn’t depend on your attendance or on how well you reach perfection. Your salvation does not depend on what you do. Your salvation depends on what Jesus has already done for you.

We won’t and can’t ever know what God’s plans for another person’s life are except that His plans are for the good and not to harm and to give hope. The only thing we can be absolutely certain that God does want us to do for other people is to love them and forgive them. And not the kind of love that debates on whether or not to give “tough” love. It is not our’s to determine whether or not someone deserves love. Jesus didn’t say “Love someone as long as they deserve it” or “Love as long as they reach your standard.” All he said was, “Love as I have loved you.” (John 13:34) And how did He love us? Did He hesitate to make sure we were good enough before He died on that cross for us? Did He make sure we deserved it before He gave us His abundant grace and mercy? Did He make sure we followed all of the rules and knew His words and could quote them before He said, “I love and accept you.” ?

God didn’t ask us to determine who is sinning and who is not. He only asked us to Love.

God does not love like us. He does not withhold love until we reach a certain standard. He doesn’t only accept you as long as you’re perfect and follow all the rules. He loves you completely no matter how incomplete you feel or no matter how worthless others make you feel. He sees your worth and your beauty. He sees your heart and how it hurts and what makes it happy.

We need to stop trying so hard to determine whether or not it’s okay to love someone and whether or not they’re good enough or living in sin and just love. God didn’t place us on the judgment seat or the determining-whether-you’re-good-enough seat. In truth, He warned, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” ( Matthew 7: 1-2) When we sit and try to figure out whether someone is “living as they should” we become prideful and self-righteous. Then in our self-righteousness we start living as though our goodness is what saved us. We stop living in God’s grace and then we stop giving grace to other people. We start living by the law and stop living by faith.

We have to remember or come to realize God’s grace is abundant. He didn’t hold back. He didn’t debate on how to love us. He just loved us. There is room enough in God’s grace for us.  For all of our failings. For all of our humanness.

Thoughts

If God Could Write a Letter to You

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Dear One,

I’ve been thinking about you. I’ve seen how much you have gone through these past couple of years. I’ve felt your pain and even your numbness. I’ve counted your tears and collected them in a bottle along with mine. I’ve heard the lies and the rumors. I’ve seen the deceit and the misunderstandings. I heard your heart break and mine broke too. But I’ve also watched you accomplish so much despite all the struggles you’ve been through. I’ve watched you grow. And I see a confidence and self-assuredness in you that I know you can’t quite see yet. But it is there. There is so much I’ve wanted to tell you and so much I want to tell you. It is a good thing we have all of eternity for me to enjoy you and for you to see how amazing you are. Since I have so much I want you to know, I thought I’d tell you a few of my thoughts. Let this be the first of many to come.

I know you truly believe that you are annoying, and that you annoy every man and boy around you. But just because one man’s actions, or no action, left you feeling you were the annoyance of the world does not make it true. And if it’s any comfort to you, you could never annoy me. I will never shout at you to “Be quiet!” or tell you, “You’re too loud!” I will never shush the voice I gave you. I love to hear you talk. Whether it’s about Ryan Reynolds or about dance or how much you love your friends or how hurt you are by others words. I love to hear your voice. Especially your jokes. I knew I poured in the right mixture of humor for you. And your laugh is fantastic! If you find yourself in a room where no one is laughing, if they ever hear you laugh, it will cause them to smile and laugh too. So don’t get mad when you laugh at your own jokes. That was part of my plan. 😉

Although I do so love to listen to your voice, there are times when your words sadden my heart. When you call yourself fat and when you say you hate yourself, my heart breaks more every time. I wish you could see yourself through my eyes. And stop thinking I’m just being biased because I created you. I’m not. Remember I don’t show favoritism and I don’t lie. So when I say you are so extremely beautiful and perfect, it is the truth. I know others have made you feel less than beautiful and their self-centered words have pierced your heart. I know, because it pierced mine as well. Remember I am for you and never against you. So when you hurt, I hurt too. When you cry, your tears roll down my face too.

I know this relationship we have is hard because it is so long distance, sometimes it feels like an eternal distance, but I want you to know how close I am to you. You don’t have to see me for me to be with you. Do you see your heart? But it still beats. Since I can’t really show you how wonderful you are, I will tell you every day how delighted I am with you. So let my words keep you beating through this hard life. It will take time for you to believe my words about you but eventually you see how wondrous and amazing you truly are. And don’t let the enemy make you think it is prideful to see yourself the way I do. Every day I will remind you how special and beautiful and glorious you are! When the morning light wakes you up and graces its rays through your copper, brown hair and shines through your crystal blue eyes and glows against your soft white skin, I will remind you. And I will not get tired of reminding you.

I know that you are not used to such love like this, and I am so sorry it is such a foreign feeling to you. That is not how I wanted it. I also know that since you are not used to it, it can make you feel uncomfortable at times. But there is no catch. And I am not manipulating you or trying to take advantage of you as so many others have done. My intention is never to hurt your heart. I only want to help and heal and restore. I created you for such greatness. So much greatness it will be unbelievable at times. But believe it, my dear one.

When people call you “weird”, I call you wonderful and will whisper to you to continue to be who you are. When they call you a “bad role model” and a “troublemaker” and “just a girl with daddy issues”, I call you my beloved daughter who shines such light it makes the most brilliant star look dull in comparison. Remember when they say such evil things against you, that they are lost human beings who have not yet come to know my love for them. Do not allow their sinful words to live in your mind and seep into your heart. Replace their words with mine and I’ll repeat them until you believe them. Replace their scowls with my smile. Trade the darkness that imprisons for the light that frees.

So my dear one, listen to my voice. Speak loudly, sing courageously, dance poetically, and be your most silly, beautiful, wonderful self. You are not “too much” that you should be diminished or belittled. Be all of who you are. Do not let their words steal your voice away. Do not let your voice get lost in theirs. When you start to doubt who you are, I will be right here to remind you. When you feel lost and as if you don’t belong, remember you belong to me. I am your’s and all I have is for you. I have made you a conqueror. I will never leave you. I am here for you whenever you need anything. I will provide. I will take care of you. And I will always remind you.
I am delighted in you. I find such pleasure in you. You make me smile. You make me laugh. You make my soul sing. You make me proud to be your Father. And you could never do anything to diminish that pride. You do not disappoint me. And do not ever worry about disappointing me. Remember I am for you not against you. You make me love you. I don’t just love you because your my creation. I love you for all of who you are. You can come to me with good and bad and my love will not get any smaller. It only grows greater each day as I get to watch you be you. So shine, and don’t stop. You light up my world.

Never forget I love you. And that is a love you never have to earn.

Love,
God / Father 😉

Thoughts

When the Phone Rings

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The phone rang.
And my stomach turned cold.
I held my breath.
My heart beat faster.
I tried to calm my heart so I could listen and watch for any signs that something might be wrong.
Oh, it was just a phone call about softball practice.
Everything was fine. Everyone is okay.
I didn’t know why I always tensed up and fear shot through my stomach and heart each time the phone rang. Zach never looked terrified when his phone rang. Why wasn’t he panicking?
Why was I panicking? Why was my body always reacting as if something alarming had happened on the other end of the phone?
I know I don’t like loud noises and phones can ring pretty loud but it wasn’t that. It seemed every time the phone rang I tensed up in fear just waiting for sad news. I knew something bad had happened.
It wasn’t until a few days ago when I wasn’t totally thinking about this strange, fearful reaction that the answer hit me upside the head making everything so much clearer.
We didn’t really receive phone calls as I was growing up. We had a landline phone – before cell phones – but since we lived in Africa making and receiving phone calls was very expensive. Every minute was charged. So we didn’t call people and people didn’t call us. Unless something bad happened.

Big Bill is in the hospital. He almost died and they don’t think he’ll make it. And you’re not there to hug Zach.
Grandpa had another stroke. It doesn’t look good. Grandma’s okay. We’ll let you know more later. What if later is too late?
Aunt Kimmey has a bad form of cancer. She’s taking treatments. But we need to pray. Because that’s all you can do.
Aunt Janie has brain cancer. They didn’t give her very long to live. Will you see her again?
Your two dogs died of tick bite fever even though you just saw them a few days ago and they were fine.
Your Grandpa had another stroke again. It’s worse than before. He may be waiting to say goodbye. You might have to come home again even though you just got home.
Your Aunt Vickie is in the hospital and your cousin Emilee needs you. But your 8,729 miles away.
Your friend’s father just died suddenly. And you can’t comfort her.

Because calling long distance cost so much money, people only called when really important things happened. And usually really important things were really bad things. Or maybe I just remember the really bad, scary things. I do remember a “Happy Birthday” call but that didn’t happen every year like birthdays do. And the bad hits cruelly. With the “Happy Birthday” call at least everyone was celebrating, wishing they could be there with you. But when the other, more frequent calls came, there was nothing you could do. You weren’t there to comfort and you weren’t there to say goodbye if necessary. You were thousands of miles away.

I think that was the problem. I was being informed of things happening an ocean away that I could do nothing about except sit in fear and suspense and pray. It wasn’t like we could just drive down to the hospital and see things for ourselves. No, one phone call could uproot my whole world. There would be plane tickets to buy, packing to do, plans to store our stuff somewhere, finding someone to guard our house and take care of our animals? What would happen to my cat Gray? I just got back. We were just united again. He was ten years old and I knew my constant leaving him was taking his breathe away a little at a time. It was taking mine away. He was my best friend. He was there when no one was. I didn’t have friends but he sat with me. He laid on my paper when I colored. He covered up the words of my Bible and books I tried to read with his paw as if he wanted to know too. He knew when I was sad and he just rubbed against me trying to cheer me up. He laid with me when I was sick and couldn’t move letting me know I would be okay. He slept on my pillow every night and was my alarm clock for school in the morning. Even on Saturdays. It was difficult for him to learn Saturdays were okay to sleep in on. He was my protector from scorpions and centipedes and my comforter. Anytime I packed a bag he climbed in it. And when I came home after furlough he literally hugged my neck and would not let me go. He was my best friend. He’d been with me from the beginning. Born under my bed when I was five and my traveling buddy to our new life. My constant friend. I loved him and I knew he loved me.

I remember one time we had just got settled in a place to stay after we had been gone for a long time and had just gotten into the slow flow of things again when we got a call one night that my Grandpa had a bad stroke. They thought he was dying and waiting on my dad to come back and say goodbye. I was terrified. Not because of my Grandpa. I was sad for him but I didn’t really know him. I knew my dad was sad and worried but he had reason to be. I heard my parents talking on the porch about what we might have to do. I went to the door shaking – I can still feel my heart pounding and my fingers have started shaking writing this- I went to the screen door. My dad said we might have to go back. And I dreadingly fearfully asked, “What will happen to Gray?” I knew in my heart it was not the right thing to say but I was terrified. And you will probably think it was selfish of me to be concerned about my “stupid cat” rather than my grandfather. My dad certainly made it clear he thought so. And maybe you all are right.

But it was more than that. I instantly started crying and apologizing. I saw the disappointed faces and heard the disappointed thoughts. But I couldn’t put into words all I was crying to say. So I went back to my bed and prayed for my Grandfather to get better. Because I did not want to leave again.

I think this call was the epitome of why I get struck with fear every time the phone rings. Even now. Throughout the following days we waited for the call. The call that would deliver the bad news or the call that would call us home. Or both. But we were never called to come “home.” So I didn’t have to leave home. And I felt relieved. But I still felt at fault. Like it was because of my selfishness that my grandfather didn’t die and my dad knew it. I knew that he would carry my selfishness with him for years and that he would blame me if Grandpa did pass and we weren’t there. It was my fault. It was always my fault.

So today, when the phone rings, all those fears and feelings come flooding back in. I expect bad news because that’s what I always heard after the phone rang. But realizing this and knowing this now I hope will help me stop panicking even though I don’t know what is happening on the other end. I have to tell myself “It’s okay now. You’re here. You’re home. You life will not be uprooted to a different life a thousand miles away. You’re not leaving anything behind.” Even though I won’t have to uproot my home there still will be calls that uproot my heart with pain. And still all I can do is pray. Even though I’m here now. But in the meantime I’m trying to teach myself that not every call is bad and scary. Just because the phone rings does not mean there is bad news on the other end.

Thoughts

You Saw Me

Hide-and-Seek

It used to conflict me that you never asked about my life in Africa. You never mentioned it and you never seemed shocked or excited when I told you about the scorpion in my bed or the snake that tried to eat my monkey. Didn’t it interest you? Didn’t I interest you? Everyone one else had millions of questions for me but you never had one.
I didn’t realize it then but you were giving me exactly what I had always longed for.
I hid behind Africa for so long. I wasn’t interesting without it. When people found out where I grew up, I became exciting to talk to. I was like a foreign relic they could show off and brag about. Who was I without Africa?
But you were different. You gave me a place to rest where Africa didn’t define me. I defined me. Where Africa is not what made me interesting. A place where you were only interested in me. You weren’t talking to me because you wanted to safari my past. You weren’t interested in me because of the lions and elephants and snakes. You showed me you only cared about me. You didn’t boast about your souvenir from Africa. To you I was more than an airplane ticket to an adventure. I was the adventure.
I struggled with my past. I used it to feel interesting. Africa is where I got my worth. Other times I hid it because I wanted to see if anyone was interested in only me. That was a scary option though. And it was hard to tell a story without bringing Africa up. So most of the time I would just stay silent. But you are helping me to see that my past is not a story I need to tell to find worth. And it’s not something I need to hide either.
But it’s still hard. Sometimes I hide my past because I don’t want others to think I’m bragging about my history. When someone tells a story about when they were little, how do I tell a story about when I was little when all my stories involve Africa? I get afraid people will think I am trying to one up them. How do I relate to a normal childhood when mine was anything but normal?
How do I relate? I guess that’s the real question. One I’ve been asking since I became a third culture kid. I thought maybe the question would go away once I became an adult. But I’m still asking… why don’t I fit in? Why don’t I know how to hold a conversation? Or even start one? Why do I still feel awkwardly foreign? Why don’t I have friends? What am I doing wrong? What are the unspoken rules? I thought I had them figured out. But I don’t. How will I ever feel at home?
But that’s when your voice comes back to calm my fears. I’m your home now. You never have to wander again. I love you for you. Your past doesn’t define you. You’re worth more than the pink and purple sunsets and the dirt roads and the starry filled sky. It is beautiful but that’s not why you’re beautiful. Don’t be afraid to talk about Africa. It’s not just a story, it is your life. Your life is where stories come from.
Even though I tried to hide behind my stories or behind my silence, you still saw me. You still see me. You don’t see the awkward foreign girl who doesn’t know social rules. You don’t see the bilingual translator who can’t understand jokes. You don’t see African. You don’t see un American. You only see me. And you’re helping me to see me too.

Thoughts

I’m Tired of Dressing Up

Group therapy session

My husband and I were talking the other day about how churches should be more like AA meetings. To us, AA meetings are a place where broken people can go to find acceptance and support and friends and encouragement in their healing process. Where your past, or your present, aren’t held against you. It is a place where you already know that you are broken and you know that everyone you meet with are broken too. But the brokenness isn’t something to be hidden and ashamed of, but something to be celebrated because you are finally free in your brokenness. People don’t scowl at you when you enter for not measuring up to their standards. They don’t pre-judge you before they know you and they don’t judge you when they do get to know you because when they begin to form a relationship with you it is as fellow broken humans who need each other and can fight this together.

Perhaps we are glorifying the AA meeting which is very possible because we only know family members and friends who have gone to these meetings. But from the outside, standing at the doors of an AA meeting, at times, sounds more appealing to me than standing at the doors of a church.

I know several churches who say that they are a place for broken people. Who say that “Churches are a hospital for the sick not a hotel for saints” but in practice people don’t always live that out. Whether it is in the church’s spoken words or actions or attitudes, most of the time people visiting or even attending a church feel like brokenness is not accepted. Going into a church building, I think most people feel they need to hide their brokenness. Even if they don’t know exactly what is broken about them, there is a feeling that when you show up someone will see that brokenness and point it out.

Once inside, often there is not a feeling of acceptance, only a sense of possible acceptance if you can make yourself good enough and live up to all the standards and rules and do all that is needed to be done- confess, get baptized, become a member, go to every church meeting, don’t miss one day the doors are open, volunteer, teach, wear the right clothes, say the right things- basically “be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect” and don’t show any sign of humanness “because you are a new creation.”

Please know that the verses I am quoting are not supposed to be condemning or make one feel inadequate. I am only using them to show how Scripture can be twisted to make someone feel less than.

I have found that inside a church acceptance is conditional and love is conditional. Making the true God into a false god. Worshipped every Sunday as a conditional god who only accepts you when you are good enough, when you have jumped through all of the hoopes, when you have corrected yourself and made yourself righteous and holy and perfect all before you come to Him. Because if His children, who are examples of Him, treat us this way then it must be the same with God. There is no God to meet you in your brokenness here. If the church doesn’t go to this low level then there is the level where the unspoken word is “just do the best you can and cover up the brokenness so no one can see and then you’ll be accepted.”

And if ever a shard of glass from your brokenness falls out of your secure pocket on to the floor, scowls greet you. Once in awhile there are kind helping hands that stoop down and pick up your pieces and share the super glue they use with you. But most of the time, we all are just superglued broken glass trying to hide our cracks in dresses and suites and pretty words and judging others when we see through their stained-glass.

We have a problem here. A church is supposed to be the most welcoming and loving place ever. But more people find acceptance and genuine friendliness in a bar or an AA meeting than they do in a church. Judgments rain like praise songs in a church.“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10) It should not be, but it is. And I’m part of the problem too. There are several times when I wish I could have bit my words before they came out of my mouth. Whether I think someone deserved it or not, is that who I really want to be? If I want others to be loving and accepting, then I should be what I want. I still forget we’re not the super infallible Christian we all dress up to be.

I wish I could always speak kindly and always see the best in people even when they don’t show me their best. I don’t want to be someone who makes this problem worse. Someone who makes God out to be a conditional loving God. That is the worst place to be in. I used to be there. Always striving for perfection, or dressing myself up in the perfection everyone seemed to require of me. Giving the right answers, buying the best super-glue. I met all the standards they demanded-confession, being baptized, showing up every time the doors were open, teaching, volunteering- and soon I believed that meeting all of those standards is what made me a Christian. It was almost like if I even messed up on one of those “requirements” then I was a step further on a downward spiral to hell. I trusted in my own actions to save me. And it was exhausting. When you live like this everything becomes an obligation and not a joy. Everything is dependent upon you instead of Jesus.

If you believe that you are Christian because you show up every time the church doors are open and because you meet all the standards and requirements, that is the same as an addict believing they are sober because they show up to every AA meeting. Sobriety can’t happen if an addict keeps drinking. Christianity can’t happen if we keep hiding. There has to be a heart change. And our hearts can’t change if we keep locking them up because they aren’t perfect enough yet. We need to stop  judging and conditioning God’s acceptance. Nothing will change if we keep dressing up our brokenness. Let’s stop the scowls and stop the judgments and actually start treating others the way we want to be treated. Whether they deserve it or not. Who is it you want to be?

It’s going to be hard but let’s be broken together. Otherwise if we keep biting and devouring one another, we will be destroyed by each other. God didn’t condition His love for us, so let’s stop conditioning our love upon others.

Thoughts

Judgmental, Hypocritical Christian: The Three that Should Never Be, but Are

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Sometimes, I’m afraid to say I am a Christian. There is so much negative connotation that comes with that word. Sort of like saying, “I am a Muslim.” Suddenly everyone thinks you’re going to blow someone up and all you think about is infidels and genocide. But just like every Muslim does not walk around shouting “Off with their head!” so every Christian is not a judgmental hypocrite. I know that sounds like a lie or a plea for “my people.”  But in truth it’s just a plea for me.

I grew up in the church. I grew up as a preacher’s kid and a missionary kid in a the household of the most judgmental and legalistic person I know. And I grew up knowing that Christians should not judge or be hypocrites. But that there were rules and you had to follow all of those rules. If someone else did not follow the rules then you were allowed to judge them and condemn them and prophecy all the bad things that would happen to them. You were to look down on them. So that just maybe their shame would make them want to be right again. He taught me to make it look like you were enjoying yourself so much that the “sinner” would be jealous and turn from their wicked ways and come back to the “family.” I can see now what a twisted, wicked teaching this was. Even though as a child I felt something off about this and in my heart it felt so horrid and wrong, I had to survive. Or I would be the outcast. And at 10 years old in the middle of an African savannah where was I to go? So I believed the lies and ignored the aching questions in my heart. I told myself, he is a preacher. He is a missionary. He knows God’s word. He knows what’s right. He was placed by God over me to lead me and guide me. So if I don’t do what he says then I am not doing what God says. And he told me feelings don’t matter just obedience. So I obeyed and ignored my heart. And no matter what question I had in my heart – “But what about forgiveness and love and grace?” – there was always a hammer of twisted scripture to bash my hope to pieces.

You only get love when you’ve earned it. Once you have believed in me, once you have confessed all your wickedness, once you have baptized yourself, once you have made yourself perfect. You only get love when you do everything right to remain in my love. Messing up is not remaining in my love. Jesus already died once for you don’t make a mistake and waste his death. Don’t push Him to save you each time you mess up because He will get tired of it. He already died for you once don’t make him do it again. Forgiveness is only for those who live rightly and don’t do it again. Mercy and grace are only for the pure and perfect ones who have proven themselves and who deserve it.

But who don’t ever need it.

All I wanted to do was love people. But “You can’t just come over here and love on people!” You have to show them their wickedness, you have to make them do what is right. They are the world. They are the sinners. And until they repent they cannot be your friends. They are a danger and a threat to your Christian life. They will steal your soul so you must steal theirs first for Jesus.

But I wanted to know people and be kind to people not so I could introduce them to Jesus but just because they were people too and they looked like they desired love like I did.

To my little, deceived eyes Jesus was a trickster. He was kind to people and loving at first to get them to like him and want to be a part of his “family” but once you were apart of it there were loads of rules and all he did was point out how miserable you were and how you never measured up and how you failed and were ungrateful and didn’t deserve anything he gave you.

But this isn’t the real Jesus. This was just a man who had been deceived and lied to himself for so long he couldn’t see God’s truth anymore so that he became a deceiver and a liar. He was just a man. He was not God. And he definitely did not speak for God.

I’m beginning to believe that satan uses Scripture to deceive us. When we read God’s word, God is right there. But so is satan. And he’s twisting everything his way. I think it is easier for us to believe satan’s lies than God’s truth because satan appeals to our rational thinking and God’s truths are anything but rational.

You are loved. You are accepted. You have unending grace and mercy. I love to die for you. I love you. Even in all your sin. You don’t have to earn anything. I’ve already taken care of that. Just live with me. Just let me love you. I have so much love for you. I have so much goodness for you. I do want to see you smile and be happy and truly enjoying all I have created. It all was created for you anyway. I want you to feel. I created your feelings. You can be sad, you can be angry, you can feel hate. But most of all I want you to feel love and be loved. Love covers over a multitude of sins. Love builds up. Love sets you free from all that dark baggage that keeps you locked up. It’s hard to see the real Jesus when you’ve seen a false one for so long. It’s hard to believe the truth you’ve always hoped for.

Once I finally got out from under the corrupted teachings, I began to realize how free I was. How saved and loved I was. I had always known it, but I never knew it within my heart. Before, I couldn’t understand why anyone in the world would ever want to come to Jesus if you had to be perfect and live up to expectations and standards and if you failed you were one step closer to hell. I couldn’t see why anyone would want to live to earn someone’s favor but never receive it. To have your failings rubbed in your face. To feel like God’s love was always out of reach. And I could never climb the ladder. It was like once you thought you’d reached the top another 100 steps were added. I knew God loved me and saved me but everything was conditional. He loved me when I had done enough to please him enough to love me. He loved me when I got all of the right answers, when I was humble, when I was thoughtful, when I was kind, when I obeyed, when I knew what he wanted me to do without him even telling me, when he was in a good mood- which was hardly ever because he was never satisfied and was extremely unpredictable. God didn’t love me for me unless me was good enough. Which I never felt I was.

But now, now that I am free from that twisted authority over me, I have found freedom in not being good enough. Because I already am good enough. Even in my weakness, even in my mistakes, even in my sinful heart. The heart that struggles to forgive the mean words said against me, to forgive the deceived father who deceives, to forgive the best friend who betrayed me, to forgive the scowling glances that look down on me. It is hard. But now I know God has grace for me and He doesn’t look down on me for not being strong enough. He smiles at me and says “It’s okay, that’s what I am here for. I’m the strong one for you. I’m the grace-giver, the heart restorer. I have covered you in beauty. You never have to try to be enough because you already are enough. I am pleased with you. You don’t have to do something right to get a smile from me. Just be my child We’ll do this life together. And don’t forget, you have an advantage because I’ve already overcome it.”

With all this love and acceptance why wouldn’t anyone want to come to Jesus? Now I can finally understand why so many other people I’ve read about are so beautifully in love with a God who has no catch.

So, yes, I am a Christian. And maybe I’m a hypocritical judgmental Christian because I still make mistakes and I am not perfect. I still tend to judge people before I know them. That guy with the snakebites and black clothes who walked into my class striking fear in my heart. He must be an angry man who listens to screamo because they are angry too. But who had the kindest smile and the warmest heart. Who talked to me every day. Who listened to Of Monsters and Men with me. Who encouraged and believed in me and became one of my best friends. Or the girl with the tattoos and the sad face. Who wore gray clothes and never smiled or talked. But who drove and sang “Should’ve Bought Her Flowers” with me as loud as we could. Who gave me the most belly aching fits of laughter of my life. Who gave me a place to be myself and still be loved.
Or the tan guy with dirty, baggy clothes who smelled like smoke and softball fields. Who was rumored about – he always has a girl on his arm, his brother is a druggy so you know he does something too, he didn’t grow up in the church so he’ll never be good enough. But who has the softest heart. Who forgives the spiteful words said against him. Who is kind to those who aren’t kind to him. Who accepts my brokenness. Who loves me in my imperfections and still believes I’m perfect to him. Who thanks God with me every day for bringing our broken lives together. Who showed me how to love and forgive and be loved and forgiven.

I know why people don’t want to come to Jesus. It’s because of people like me who fail and get in the way of how much love God actually has to give. People who say they are Christians but don’t love like they should or forgive like they should or accept like they should. People who aren’t perfect. People who are just humans too.

Remember, I grew up in the church I’ve seen how evil people can be. But I’ve also seen how wonderful they can be. So when I say I am a Christian, please remember that doesn’t mean I am perfect, It doesn’t mean I won’t make mistakes, and it doesn’t mean I’m not human. I am doing my best just like you. But sometimes I get weary of trying to be good in a world so bad. Sometimes darkness clouds my sight and I can’t see clearly. But please give me a second chance because I know a God of endless second chances and I am trying to be more like Him. Please forgive me for when I fail and hurt you. I know I am expected to be better. But living up to expectations is exhausting. So please bare with me as I try to get through this life as a Christian imperfect human. I’m not making excuses. I’m just saying Christian does not equal perfection. And as you try to remember that, I’ll try to remember it too. Let’s do this life together.

Thoughts

We Forget We’re Just Sand

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We’re all breaking. Like a sand castle that keeps crumbling. We want to be strong and steadfast. We don’t want people to see the difficulty we’re having at holding our castle together. When one more clod cracks off and thuds on the grains it’s made of, we scramble to pick it back up and weld it back on with wet, sore fingers. We know it won’t hold for long just like the tide won’t always stay low. But at least no one saw. We check, looking into the faces of those passing by. The brown-haired tan girl with the blue, postage-stamp small bikini didn’t notice. And the chiseled guy watching her definitely didn’t see. When all the kids run by we hold our breath hoping their bare feet won’t stampede it lose. Thankfully, they don’t. We let out a breath but still don’t breathe easily. We never do. It’s like we’re training for when the waves come in. And we slowly suffocate.

Then there’s those random mean people who like to take advantage of the vulnerable, and come up and knock off pieces of our castles. We crumble a little more. We start to believe more people are nasty like this so we build our castles even more fortified. Now, when people walk by they awe over our strength and handiwork. And we start to believe them pretending we aren’t made of sand. But we are. And we’re disintegrating even faster as we sink into the water sloshing in.

Suddenly we find ourselves wishing we could crush our own castles and just be, instead of surviving. But what will people think when they see our castle flat and destroyed? Obviously, we aren’t as strong as they thought. But we’re tired and weary. We’re exhausted from maintaining the standard height. We just want to rest on the heated sand, watching the salty sea come in, and feel the warm sunset in our grains. So we let go and just be what we are made of. People will look down at us ashamed that they once praised our glory. But it’s okay. It’s good to be broken again. And hopefully one day they’ll realize their made of sand too.

Thoughts

I Am

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It might sound arrogant to say I knew all the answers, but I did. And I knew how to behave, which probably sounds even more arrogant. I knew that when the little brat kid who lived across from me punched me in the stomach until I couldn’t breathe, let alone stand, I had to be gracious and take the blame for it when his dad confronted me. I knew that when one of the boys stole my favorite pocket knife my dad gave me I had to forgive them. I knew I shouldn’t want more clothes that I liked because there were kids running around who only had the holey, dirty shirt they were wearing. I knew I had to serve everyone and think of others better than myself because they needed God’s love more than I did. And above all I knew I “was the only example. It doesn’t matter what other kids do. You have to be the one to do what is right. Be the exception. Be the good girl others can look up to.” And I was perfect. At all of it.

It all started around when I was seven years old. I decided I wanted to get baptized. I had made that decision when I was four but was told I had to wait because I was too young. When my dad asked me why I wanted to get baptized I said, “Because I don’t want to go to hell.” I wanted to be saved and safe in Jesus. But that answer wasn’t the right one. My dad told me what I should have said and told me to pray and think about it some more. So I did. I realized where my answer was wrong and said the right thing. I didn’t know it but that day I learned it didn’t matter how I felt or what I thought. How I felt was not important when it came to the right answer and doing the right thing. And having the right answer seemed to be what saved me. One of my dad’s favorite sayings was, “Put your emotions aside and do what is right.” So I got baptized on February 13. It was a Friday.

From that day on I learned all the right answers. I was the listening ear for anyone who had a problem; the one they came to for advice. I was the strong one; the one they came to for strength. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. I want to be there for people. I love to help in any way I can. But being the answer for everyone else meant I couldn’t be broken. Everyone knows an idol is made of stone and is strong, never toppling. And if it becomes cracked then it is false and what it represents is false. And I was supposed to represent God. That meant I couldn’t mess up. I couldn’t be human. I couldn’t be in need. I could not be sad or wonder where God was. Or be angry at God. Remember, feelings don’t matter. Right answers are everything.

But after so long, it all becomes exhausting; even though a good Christian shouldn’t be exhausted. It’s like trying to hold a sand castle together when the tide breaks off a little at a time. My serving, strong hands were growing weak and dirty. I saw other people truly experiencing God and His love, and it was all because they were broken. Like the drug addict who gets clean and gets saved or the woman who’s had too many men to count but finally falls in love with the Son of Man or the teenager who made a “mistake” and chose to keep him or the drunk who beat his family then throws out the bottles and bats and grabs a Bible. I’ve seen others experience God and His love, but those things never seemed to happen to me. I watched the people at churches praise God with their hands half-raised in the air and tears slipping down their cheeks in adoration of a God I didn’t know. Those same tears would drop with joy from smiling, radiant faces as those same people spoke of God’s unconditional love for them and how He had reached into their lives with underserved grace and mercy. Then, I wanted to be “bad” so that just maybe I could experience His grace too. But I wasn’t allowed to be “bad.” Even though I ached so bad to just let it all crumble.

I don’t think my breaking point happened at a specific time. In fact, I think I’m still in the breaking. It’s still easier for me to believe God loves, with intense passion, you, the addict, the whore, the illegitimate, and the drunk than it is for me to believe He loves me. But I think I began to break when I started to let myself admit the truth. I don’t like raising my hands to invisible arms. And I won’t sing praises for others to hear. I don’t pray like other people full of immaculate, fancy words or pray in a gibberish language that the “Spiritual” call groans of the Spirit. But my spirit groans too, it just never sounds like that. I’ve never heard God speak to me. And the only prayer I can muster up is “Help me.” I’m not strong all the time. In fact, I think I’m probably more on the weak side. I do cry. I’m not unbreakable. I want to be broken.

I have always heard people say that He comes into the midst of us at church. And while He may be there I think He’s probably too busy mending up other people than to unstitch me. But when I am alone, just me, in the world His fingerprints created that’s when I start to connect to Him. In the moldable sand He used to shape my body. In the green grass that pricks my bare feet. In the wind that blows across my face and through my fingers and into my clothes. In the smell of silky roses breathing liquid flavor into my lungs. Maybe He can’t be heard in a choir but in the mourning dove crying for the ones she loves to come home. And in the crickets playing their violin legs to ease the sun’s goodbye to another day. I can see Him in the pink and purple sunset slipping into a hammock of dark blue. And in the starry milky galaxies like a billion glittering eyes watching silently. Maybe His Spirit is in the groans of old, creaking trees and not in the made up words of the righteous.

Like I said, I’m still in the breaking. But it’s beautiful to be here. Because this is where I meet Him. I didn’t meet Him in a church with stain glassed windows and man-made walls to keep Him in. I met Him when I became human instead of perfect. When I shattered. When I began to break. I’ve realized when something breaks there’s room for Him to trickle in. All of my right answers and perfection were just whitewashed walls keeping me from Him. I’m learning it’s human to be in need. It’s human to not be strong. It’s human to be angry and sad and not understand. It’s human to feel because sometimes our feelings are more honest than the words we speak. It’s human to be broken. And I am human.