Tag Archives: life

31 days to discover what i know.

oconnor-bday

For me, writing has never been a hobby. It’s has always been the way I process my interactions with the world. It’s a compulsion. Like breathing, it is almost involuntary for me. I’m not entirely sure I have a grasp on my own thoughts until I can see them written down. It helps me make sense of things. It makes me feel alive. It makes me feel creative and like I can change this world for the better. Maybe. It makes me feel like I might even have the slightest bit of control over my life.

LOLOLOLOL

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been a writer. I remember being in 4th grade and attending a Young Authors Banquet at my elementary school, clutching in my tiny hands a novel I’d written (and illustrated!) on computer paper and carefully stapled together. The very next year I remember a teaching assistant (who wasn’t exactly fond of me) snatching my journal away from me during class because I couldn’t seem to quit writing and focus on her lessons.

When the internet happened and, almost beyond my own consent, slithered its way into my daily life, I naturally began to write on the internet. (Shout out, LiveJournal!) Then, in 2009, this blog was born. Thanks to technology, candidly chronicling my interaction with this world through my own highly biased lens was easy, fun, and exciting! If you’ve been reading me for any length of time you know that I’ve always been as authentic as possible on here (because I know no other way) throwing all caution to the wind, pouring my heart and soul out to whomever may be reading/watching/listening/whatever to the words I have to say, not necessarily thinking of the implications of my very naturally occurring practices. And people liked it. And I liked that people liked it.

But then recently, I learned that some people DON’T like it. Maybe they don’t like me. And, furthermore, may even be hurt by it and/or me. The line between my blog and myself had become so blurred that I wasn’t able to see where I ended and the internet began. And so I was hurt by it. So I was hurting myself by writing on the internet, despite not really knowing any other way to interact with the internet.

In other words, I’ve recently found that writing on the internet can be really tricky.

Get away, Captain Obvious. No one asked you.

Needless to say, over the past few months, this has rattled me into a blogging silence. I’ve found myself staring at blank pages terrified to say the exact things I’m feeling because they may offend someone or, worse, actually hurt someone and then, by proxy, hurt me. So instead of writing, I’ve been… just… not.

Not even in my journal.

Because how do I know my journal isn’t gonna go squealing to its BFF my blog? I mean really, Self. Come on. You’re ridiculous.

Anyway…

That’s a pretty vague (again, the authenticity of this whole internet thing is a sudden terrible fear I have) explanation to my unexpected blog silence over the past few months.

But hey! I think it might be over!

My dear friend Beth posted on her blog that she’s gonna do this thing in October where she writes for 31 days. And she invited anyone else who might be up to the challenge.

And I thought, “Hey. I might could be.”

And then I opened up my blog to write this post and I got scared. So who knows.

Are any of you up to the awkward challenge of me trying to figure out how to blog again? *desperately searches for a fist bump somewhere* Come onnnn.

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enjoy the song you’re currently listening to.

I’ve started running seriously again and, as I’ve said before, what you listen to on your run is totally half the battle. (It’s possibly even more than half but LET’S BE HONEST, I’m even more terrible at math than I am at running so let’s just move on.)

My run this morning was particularly laborious. Not only is is already full-blown summer here, so the 90-degree-already-and-rising heat was mercilessly beating down on me like a fiery fist, browning up my arms with a quickness, but the wind was also crashing against me (and poor Dax in the jogging stroller) with full force which made it feel like I was trying to run through a wall.

So naturally every bone, cell, and fiber of my being was calling out to me, “Why are we doing this? This really sucks. Please stop doing this. Please go back home and put us back on the couch so we can die in the comfort of our own home.”

And I really wanted to.

Then a really silly song came on my running playlist and I made a genuine effort to move my attention to the song from the pain in my body and just enjoy the music. And it worked.

Then the next song came on just as my body started to scream more furiously at me. And I focused on THAT song and pushed through.

And that was my mantra for the rest of the run. Just try and enjoy each song, each as its own little piece of art, from beginning to end. Keep the legs moving, keep the breath going, and just enjoy the song. And you know what? I didn’t die. I finished the run and perspired a good gallon of sweat then took a shower and I felt great. And now I’m blogging. BLOGGING! Like I’m supposed to!

Not to be a total downer, but I think it’s safe to say that when we walk through this life, pain is inevitable. Disappointment is pretty much par for the course. People are going to let us down, our jobs are going to get frustrating, our families are going to be strained, and some of our relationships are going break apart. And all of that sucks. Just like when I’m running and hate it, my M.O. when life gets rough is to shut out the world and ball up on the couch and die a little bit.

But by doing so, I miss out on the “songs” I’m currently listening to, or the art surrounding me: my son’s laugh, the blue sky, the grass between my toes, good food (particularly PASTA!), and so on.

If we shift our focus from our obvious and inevitable hurts to the hidden art around us, we can get through each day. We can finish this hard run, one song at a time, and be better for it.

What “songs” are you listening to currently? What “art” can you appreciate today?

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Filed under personal, running

the ministry of authenticity.

I love Sundays. I work at the church in the morning and then take my sleepy, almost two-year-old son (who already thinks he’s two, thankyouverymuch) home for his nap. He still takes teenager-long naps, usually four hours, which gives me time to either keep working or tidy the house (ha) or enjoy a little quiet “me” time. And although our cool but perpetually gooey white tiled floor is begging for a sweep and a mop (after, of course, all the toys and clothes are removed) I am here, painfully aware of the time that has passed since I last blogged, feeling guilty and ashamed.

What better place to be raw and exposed than in front of my blog/the entire Internet?

Being authentic has been a sacred echo in my life lately. Because I work at a church, most of my interactions and friends have been born out of that building, and many of my friends in the church have explained to me that they struggle with being their full selves all the time. They have separated their personalities into little compartments — the “church” self against the “social” self, the “intellectual” self, the “vocational” self, etc. People feel like they can’t be the same person they are around their pastor that they are around their friends and I don’t like that.

I remember when I first moved here, I told someone what my favorite movie was, and they were shocked that I had the courage to admit that fact about myself in public because it’s “so inappropriate”. (It’s Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, by the way.)

A few weeks after that interaction, a dear friend of mine was upset at church. When I asked her what was wrong, she choked back her tears and said, “It doesn’t matter. I’m just going to hold it all in and pretend I’m okay like we’re supposed to do.” I basically blew up at her.

“NO!” I shouted. “You can’t do that! You have to be okay being upset right now, because when the time comes that I need to be upset, I need to know that this is a place where it is okay for me to be upset!” (For the record, we miscarried a month later and I let the whole world have it.)

It was in that moment that my eyes opened up to this idea of dividing ourselves into different people and the danger it poses to us as Christians because, by falsifying our testimonies we dilute our ministry. 

I’m not entirely sure why but I’ve never been able to be more than one person. I literally can NOT be someone I’m not, despite the pressures put on me by other Christians. Like it or not, I’m all me all the time. I’m a Christian who also has the mouth of a sailor. I’m a Christian who gets angry and frustrated. I’m a Christian who (thankfully!) has friends who aren’t Christians. I’m a Christian who, by the grace of God alone battled (and overcame!) an eating disorder. I’m a Christian who likes admittedly bad Jim Carrey movies. I’m a Christian and there are dark parts of me that are dirty and messy and need to be washed clean every freaking day. And I’m sure I’m not alone, but so many people are afraid to admit it.

Why does this happen? Why do we Christians (or people in general, honestly) feel so much pressure to be perfect all the time? Why does the world end if we are seen with a beer, or seen walking out of a counselor’s office, or seen angry at the world for a minute because — gasp! — life sucks sometimes?

In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Maybe I’m reading the wrong translation, but that doesn’t look like Jesus said, “You know what? Make sure you’re burden-free before you come to me. Make sure you’re smiling 24/7. Only come to me when you are in the best mood ever with no desperation or fault. Check your baggage at the door before you come chill with me.” So where do we get this crap from?

How can we fully expect to lead other people to Christ when we put on this unrelatable show of perfection? How can we expect anyone to buy into our faith when they can’t even buy into our own bullshit?

Let me be real. In about two weeks, we’ll celebrate our one-year anniversary of leaving the brown baby hills and crunchy sorta-dead grass of Tallahassee to live/do ministry/perpetually sweat in the ever-paradisical Naples. Moving here completely wrecked me. Much like ripping the bandage off of an infected wound, the pain was big and fierce. I feel like if I had felt comfortable enough to be authentic about my pain, I might have healed more quickly. But that took a long while.

But the good news is that healing has definitely happened. Scars remain, but the blood flow has ceased as I’ve done my best to bring people into my realm of authenticity. And I am grateful for the little changes I’m seeing: the tears shed on my own shoulder, the angry text messages, and the willingness to accept grace and love amidst it all. And just like that, both feet are inside the door. I am here, planted, ready to continue this life in this place with these people. My shoes no longer straddle the metaphorical threshold, the outside foot ready to bolt and drag the rest of me with it at the first chance. We are here. We are living. We are doing authentic life together and each day it becomes more beautiful.

That’s what Jesus came for, guys. In Luke 5:31-32 he says, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”

Amen.

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Filed under God, life, personal, transformation

can you hear you? we can.

This post has been swirling around in my spirit for the better part of six (!!!) months, but I haven’t really had the real words for it until now. (Actually, even now, I’m not entirely sure I have all the right words. But what I am sure of is that there is becoming increasingly less room in my brain for unimportant things like blog posts so I’ve got to get out whatever loose scraps I can to make room for all those important 90s song lyrics I can’t seem to forget.)

I have this friend whom I dearly adore. She happens to be strikingly beautiful, dangerously talented, wickedly smart, and hilarious. I want to tell you so many other things about her, including her name, but I can’t do that because I’m pretty sure she reads my blog and if she knew I was publicly affirming her in such a way I bet money she would very likely turn fifty shades of burgundy and demand that I remove the post immediately.

And this post is way too important to me for her to do that. So let’s just call this amazing girl Kay.

The thing about Kay is that no matter who you ask — whether they’ve known her for five minutes or her entire life — they’ll all say the same things I just did: that she’s a walking phenom; a force to be reckoned with; someone that transforms the earth from merely a revolving sphere of dusty rock to a beautiful, magical work of art. I’d venture to say that anyone you ask wouldn’t be able to find one, single bad thing to say about Kay.

But here’s the thing: none of us have to say anything bad about her because she says all the bad things about herself.

If you compliment her, she will deflect it. She’ll be the first to tell you she’s worthless. Or ugly. Or something equally wrong.

And it hurts my heart so very badly, not because all those things are untrue, but because to her, they are. 

I’m sure it will come as a surprise to exactly ZERO people when I say this, but Dead Poets Society is one of my all-time favorite movies that I don’t own (DAN WHY DON’T I OWN THIS MOVIE?!?!). One of my favorite quotes from the film comes from the character of John Keating, played by Robin Williams:

No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.

Whether you believe it or not, words have power. They have the power to build us up and they have the power to break us down, either in one fell swoop or in tiny bits and pieces, methodically chipped away over a period of years. And as loud as the words other people say to you can be, the words that come out of your own mouth — bubbling over from whatever is in your heart – are, strictly from a physical standpoint, the loudest ones. 

shh

The season of Lent began yesterday and, as you all know, I love to fast things for Lent — my hair straightener, all liquids except water, fried foods, the list goes on and on. But this year, I chose to fast something less tangible.

Words. 

Not cuss words, mind you. But certain words that I can’t write here on this blog. Words that, when strung together in lengthy, negative diatribes, damage my spirit. Words that break me down bit by bit. Words that change my world but not for the better. Words that, when flying out of my mouth, are the loudest in my own ears.

I hate hearing all the things Kay says about herself. It is heartbreaking and infuriating. But even more than that, I hate that she hears them. Because in this screwed up world, there are enough people who can say crappy things about ourselves. Why must we give them fuel for their fire?

I can hear you, Kay. Can you? Can you hear you? If so, could you stop talking about yourself for one minute and let me talk about you? And let me talk about how you know how to make anyone laugh. Let me talk about how you sing so beautifully it gives my goosebumps goosebumps. And let me talk about how you’re so stinking smart and capable and can do literally whatever you set your mind to.

I can hear me. Can you?

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some stuff i wrote.

Last weekend, a good friend of mine let me know that there was a free writing workshop being offered by an author who was in town to speak at a church. As you can tell from my dusty blog (hello cobwebs) my spirit hasn’t exactly been… um… pleasant enough for blogging…

Oh well — if you can’t be honest on the Internet, where can you? 

I’ve been in a major life funk lately.

There I said it.

And I hate blogging when I’m in a funk because it makes me re-feel all my funky feelings and, because I write on the Internet, it subjects all of you lovely people to my funk, too.

It must have been providential, then, that this workshop was titled, Open-heart Writing; like open-heart surgery, it is painful but life-saving.

The author gave us three prompts (one at a time) and gave us ten minutes to jot something down (on PAPER! with PENS!) And, despite the time crunch and my inability to edit, I kinda liked the things I wrote. So I’m gonna share them with you, the Internet, in lieu of a funky-feely blog post.

Cool? Cool.

PROMPT 1: Describe the room.

The room is golden, both in color and in ambiance. It doesn’t sparkle though, fighting a looming tarnish. The windows pour in a summery stream of mid-February, south Florida morning, as I sit between a Diane and a woman whose name will always be to me, Also Talks WIth Her Hands.

Laura sits at the head of our mango-colored table, adorned with silver rings on her fingers and around her neck, and her crooked smile and quiet voice reminds me of Erica.

PROMPT 2: The most important room in my life. 

Converted

Walking along the maroon, cracked tiles, the soles of my shoes always stuck a little bit, presumably because there was residual barbecue sauce forever festering in the pores of the tiles. The smell has gone, but the look of the interior of Mickey Andrews’ Barbecue Joint (was that its name?) would always linger in the church corporate gathering area.

It was in this dark, awkwardly arranged ex-restaurant where I was reintroduced to a guy named Jesus Christ who, contrary to everything I’d ever been taught as a small, loud-mouthed girl, loved me so very much just the way I am.

Being a converted barbecue restaurant, the dining tables exchanged for handmade wooden cafe tables and broken stadium seats, it doesn’t really look like a church. Maybe that’s why I loved it so much.

There were no stained glass windows, only dingy double panes dressed in cheap, plastic blinds. There weren’t any bad, last supper themed murals. Instead there was a thick coat of dark red matte and framed artwork by members of the community. Instead of a chancel with an organ and handbells, there was a rickety, slapped-together collapsible stage precariously cradling a drum set and a few acoustic and electric guitars, as well as a homemade stool for the pastor to teach from.

PROMPT 3: Tell the story in this photo. 

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The hot, sticky air disguised itself as that of mid to late May, but the calendar, turned to the twelfth month, called its bluff. Comforted by the shelter of a banyan canopy, sweating in long sleeves, you and I struggled to keep up with a smaller, more wild version of ourselves, who had just learned how to walk.

Stifled by both the south Florida winter’s heat and the reality that a toddler and a clock ticking seconds closer to nap time were a volatile combination, our appearance was remarkably pleasant. The perfect little trio, an enviable Christmas card, telling terrible lies to all its recipients.

“Things are beautiful and perfect here! We love our life! Cheese!” was what we said on the sandy path, our unruly boy trapped in the binding and protective embrace of a tired and frustrated father. Deep in our eyes, though, the truth was louder.

Sadness, loneliness, and betrayal leaked out of us onto the card as the cruel sun climbed higher behind the defenseless branches. But we are here, alive and robust in perspiration, together in a beautiful and clumsy dance of survival.

Like the Spanish moss to the stretching limbs, we are committed to growing and stretching upward, downward, and in spirals.

The end.

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2013 in maths.

Hi there! I realize I haven’t blogged in approximately a hundred years, so let me apologize for that first.

I’m sorry for not blogging. Really I am.

This post is intended to be partly a way to explain the reason for my silence as well as a wrap-up to 2013.

Yes, another 2013 contemplation post. A good 15 days into 2014.

I NEEDED SOME TIME TO PROCESS, OKAY? Sorry.

Today a friend/coworker of mine came over for a meeting about work/life/whatever, and while we were meeting, I drew a crude graph of what 2013 looked like for me in terms of how crappy it was. Observe:

Image

DISCLAIMER: I failed all of the math classes.  

The beginning of the year started out okay, but then we found out that we were going to have to quit our jobs and move with no foreseeable solution. And, as you can see from my oh-so-accurate graph, having a tiny mouth to feed with no real idea of how to afford that caused a spike on our suckage axis.

But in the spring, we got offered jobs in a fancy town called Naples, Florida, which brought our suckage down a considerable amount. Granted, I was still very sad to leave the support network we’d spent the better part of a decade building but I was hopeful for what was to come. So while there was still some suckage caused by the realities of packing up and moving away, it wasn’t terrible.

The summer happened and, while I didn’t have any real close friends in Naples yet and I was really shy and scared and Dan was always out of town working and it was roughly eight billion degrees outside everyday, it was still relatively good. Even the loneliest person (who I kind of was this past summer) can’t complain when you’ve got Naples sunsets on the Gulf to gawk at every evening.

The summer also included the worst Tuesday which was absolutely a frighteningly high suckage point but I didn’t include it in my graph because it was thankfully just one day (I believe in math they call that an “outlier”) and I didn’t want to throw the summer baby out with the febrile seizure bathwater. Plus, some people came to visit us in the hospital, proving to me that we did actually have friends already and that we weren’t as alone as I may have thought. It was also a good learning experience for us; now we know that even if Dax is running a low-grade fever we have got to be diligent about treating it. But seriously, it was literally the scariest thing I’ve ever gone through and I would rather yank my fingernails out one by one than ever go through that again.

But then…. the fall happened. And Dan got caught in some majorly sucky work-related junk that left us seriously questioning our decision to move to Naples. I won’t (and definitely should not) go into it here, but just know that the months of August, September, and October, and November left us feeling pretty hopeless and sad.

But we got pregnant in September! Which gave us lots of hope!

And then we miscarried in October. And all of the hope that was blossoming in my heart was stomped out by dirty, messy heartbreak and I became so very angry. I harbored the kind of anger you can taste in the back of your throat; a bitter emotion that, rather than dissipating, festers with every minute that passes by and spreads through your whole being in an infectious rage, eating away at every blood cell and oxygen molecule in your body until you feel like you have literally rotted from the inside out.

And it is for this reason that I’ve avoided blogging. The internet, quite frankly, is chock full of negativity and sadness. I didn’t want to contribute to that. I wanted to give myself some space to get into a better place so that I could use my blog to speak some life into this world rather than to suck the life out of it. I think we can all agree that there are already enough things in this world that do that.

*pushes up glasses* So. In light of that… this is the life I’d like to speak to you today.

As you can see from the graph above, the suckage points do start to fall steadily after the terrible autumn. Things at work started stabilizing a bit, and after the miscarriage I was overwhelmed by love and support from so many people — people I’d met, people I hadn’t met, people who I knew but never knew had gone through a miscarriage themselves…

Based on all the bad things that happened in 2013, I could have easily shoved 2013 out the door with a scowl on my face. But to do that would discount all the great things that happened last year; all the friends we have made, all the debt we have paid off despite our barrage of medical crises, all the dates we’ve gone on, all the new words Dax has learned, etc…

The best way I can put it is that 2013 tore my heart wide open with gaping wounds of pain, however these holes made room for real love to be planted within me. And now, I’ve just got to spend 2014 nurturing those love seeds and investing in the relationships we’ve formed and watch them grow.

So, all that said, as we look forward to 2014, take a look at my graph and see that for every sucky peak, there is an impending valley of peace. 

Listen, Reader: nothing is forever. As long as you’re still this side of the soil, no suckage peak will ever plateau. What goes up must go down. (That’s science. Which I also failed.)

So don’t give up. Don’t let what is currently sucky consume your whole life. Rather, let the hope of the future’s peace comfort you.

Happy 2014, all.

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thanksgiving.

As I stated in an earlier post, I went back to work full time a couple weeks ago. The transition has been mostly positive, but it has been a transition nonetheless. And, not sure if you know, but November is quite the busy month for church employees, so I’ve been run a bit ragged.

But it’s okay! Because it’s a huge financial blessing to my family that I’m working full time again.

So, on this Thanksgiving day, when I haven’t had the time or energy to post daily gratitudes like I said I would, I’m thankful for a great job, a great husband, a great kid, and a time of relaxation in a (mostly) great hometown.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

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