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Yes, I realize that we are more than halfway through January and I am just now getting around to writing this. I’m busy, people! The time I spend on the internet is much, much, much less than it used to be (but we’ll get to that later).

2009 was quite a year for a myriad of reasons. I made many mistakes and it has made me grateful for 1 John 1:9. But I hope that I learned from those mistakes and was able to grow from them. Time will tell.

In 2009, I continued with my education at IUPUI. During the Fall semester, I took a full load for the first time since Spring ’08. I came through with 2 A-minuses, a B-plus, and a C. (The C was in Sociology which was one of the most boring classes I’ve ever taken. Hard to learn when you’re counting the holes in the ceiling.) This is better than I did the last time I had a full course load and without a “tutor” so I was quite proud of myself.

Shane took me to my first ball. This was for breast cancer awareness. Hence all the PINK!

I completed my year as treasurer for The Moving Company.

My parents got divorced and my mom and sister moved to Arizona. While this was tough on all of us, I do think that it was in the best interest of everyone’s happiness. Joshua, Shane, and I just got back from visiting in AZ and we had a wonderful time.

I made many mistakes in my dating life and have many regrets. People were hurt who shouldn’t have been and for that I will forever be sorry. That situation taught me a lot about needing to speak my heart, even if it’s going to hurt someone’s feelings, and not letting anyone but myself and my significant other have control of the relationship. Ladies, if you have met someone who likes you but there is just no chemistry for you, you need to flat out tell them. They’ll probably be hurt, they might get angry, they might not want to be your friend anymore. But that is better then letting them think there may be a chance when you know there isn’t because you want to spare their feelings. Do not lie to them or yourself.

I freed myself from 4 years of being caught in a spider’s web of manipulation, guilt, emotional blackmail, and lying. I now consider April 18th to be my own personal Independence Day. That is when I finally told someone the truth about what had been happening and made it end. I never thought that the words “You are dead to me” could bring me such joy. Since then, I have learned that I am not crazy or over-dramatic when I stand up for something. I know that I am not a bad friend because I don’t call or otherwise contact someone every day. I know that I don’t need to feel guilty when I need time to myself. I know that if my school work, spiritual life, circle of friends, and church all revolve around one person, there is something seriously wrong. I know that someone who truly loves you will do what is in your best interest. I know that no one “has to” know where I am every second of the day and that if somebody wants to, they are probably trying to control me. I realize that all of this may seem like “duh” to you. But when you are slowly pulled into a relationship like this, you don’t realize what is happening until it is too late. This entire situation has given me so much compassion for people. As Shane Fuller always says, “You are one person, one choice, one event away from making the same mistake you vow you never will.”

As for the spider, they are out of my life for good. I am working on forgiving them, not for their sake, but for mine. Right now I swing back and forth between wishing them well and hoping they rot in hell. But through the strength of my Father, I will forgive them and I will one day be able to love them. From a distance. Toxic people have no place in my life anymore.

Author’s note: Please understand that I am not blaming this person for my actions and responsibility to make it stop. I should have ended it when it first began. I had decisions and choices and I made bad ones for a long time. That person did inhibit my ability to make good choices by lying to me about certain things and making me feel guilty when I did try to take a stand or make changes. In trying to keep the peace, and in fear of losing my friends and church, I allowed bad things to happen for far too long. But I also made them end and for that, I will forever rejoice.

On a lighter note, this year I finally learned how to cook. Shane has been a huge help in this endeavor. We bought a magazine that gives recipes that make enough for two people and this took a lot of the stress out of cooking. Math is not, and never will be, my strong point and having to figure out how to halve 2/3 of a teaspoon makes my brain want to explode. I have made a number of meals and have been expanding to recipes outside our magazine lately. I am actually enjoying cooking!

Don’t I totally look like I know what I’m doing? 😉

After a brief (yet all too long) absence from The Dwelling Place, Shane and I were able to return in October. It has been a spectacle having to juggle going to two different churches but we are so grateful for both of them that we don’t want to leave either. Both helped us walk through a difficult time in different ways and both are dear to our hearts.

Shane and I joined a small group at Trinity called JustFaith. It is a group specifically brought together to go through the JustFaith curriculum which focuses on social justice. It has been extremely eye opening and I highly recommend the curriculum. It does entail a lot of reading though, so if you are a slow reader, you may want to read the books on your own. We get assigned about 100 pages of reading a week and it’s tough on the slower readers in the group.

I turned 25 and wasn’t dreading my birthday for once. Shane completely spoiled me, as did the rest of my friends, and made that whole quarter of a century transition so much easier. 😉

Shane and I took our first vacation together to Los Angeles. We didn’t kill each other so I suppose that’s saying something.

I took Shane to his first ballet and he didn’t hate it.

I took him to his second ballet and he didn’t hate that one either. So far so good!

Shane and I hosted my family’s Christmas dinner. That was my first time being in charge of a family holiday gathering and while it was a little stressful, it was also a lot of fun. I may not have Martha Stewart quaking in her orange jumpsuit but I’m working on it.

Most importantly, I fell in love with the most amazing man I have ever known.

These are just some of the highlights of the year. Some good, some bad, all working to shape me into who I am supposed to be. As Douglas Adams said, “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I was meant to be.” 2010 looks to be a promising year. May it be covered in God’s blessing and redemption. May we all strive to go where we are meant to be and to become the children that God created us to be.

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Listening: ‘Books Written for Girls’ by Camera Obscura

Reading: This would completely eliminate some peoples Twitter accounts.

Thinking: Being a Christian means that the cycle of violence, hate, and retaliation stops with you. And sometimes that *really* sucks. But in the end, I know that it is right.

How to Annoy Me: Act like you are above someone simply because you are more skilled at the task at hand then they currently are.

How to Charm Me: Be the answer to my prayers without even knowing it.

Quote of the Day: It is more important who they are as people and only then is it important who they are as dancers. – Marcia Haydee

…knowing that you are going home and that loved ones are there waiting for you. (And I don’t mean a house or blood family in this case.)

…seeing a yellow butterfly while you’re out on a walk and smiling up at the blue sky to say “Thank you, Papa”.

…quietly holding the hand of the one you love while you drive, knowing that no words are needed.

…having two of your best friends agree to go on a donut run with you for your birthday.

…knowing that you don’t have to have the latest gadget or fashion statement in order to be exactly who you are meant to be.

…having a friend who is willing to help you in a class you are struggling with.

…dancing.

…having the power to let go and forgive people who have hurt you.

…being surrounded by people who love and forgive you, no matter how grievous your mistake.

…knowing that eventually, it will be okay.

…having your prayers answered.

…reading a good book.

…sharing a laugh with a friend.

…hoping and trying, everyday, to become more like Jesus.

I have had a bit of an epiphany (again. Where were all of these brilliant thoughts 4 years ago?) I’ve realized that, like many (or most…) Americans, I have a serious problem with boredom. I am so used to constantly being stimulated that lack of that stimulation drives me crazy.

This is one of the reasons I *hate* driving myself places. (The other being that people behind the wheel are idiots. But that’s a blog for another day.) Sure, I’ve got the radio. But half of the “entertainment” in that is me trying to find a radio station not playing ‘Gives You Hell’ or ‘Poker Face’. If I have a new cd to entertain me, it lasts for awhile. But pretty soon I want something different and find myself bored again. I would so much rather have someone drive me places so I could read on the way.

I can’t even go for a nice walk without my headphones or a book to read. (Yes, I read while I walk the dogs. But I don’t listen to music at the same time. Because then I don’t see *or* hear the cars.) This is one of the reasons why I’ve been so lax about going to the gym for all these years. It’s boring. Now I have Shane to go with me and I’m willing to make a sacrifice on the “fighting my adversity to boredom” front since the benefits of going to the gym outweigh that.

This is a big part of what got me into trouble. It wasn’t just my lack of discipline. It was my inability to drive to school or walk across campus or drive home without someone to talk to. It was my inability to “be still and know that I am God”. I’ve been wanting to go on a silent retreat for quite some time now but I have to wonder if I will be able to pull it off. I’m sure the first 30 minutes would be fine….maybe. But now I’m even more determined to do this. To go somewhere and completely unplug and just….be still. No music, no computer, no phone, no books. Maybe my yoga mat. (I like to do the “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” prayer along with my breathing while I do yoga.)

I need to learn how to be okay with quiet. I need to learn how to be okay without stimulation. I need to learn how to listen for God.

Okay, so I have the discipline of silence and maybe meditation. Does anyone have any other (or better) ideas? Also, does anyone have a recommendation for books on dealing with boredom? (Shane F. and Rich, I’m looking at you.)

Listening: ‘Why I Am’ by Dave Matthews Band

Reading: ‘Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation and Guilt to Manipulate You’ by Susan Forward (Oh how I wish I had read this 4-5 years ago!)

Thinking: Between my Sociology class and our JustFaith curriculum, I may become permanently depressed.

How to Annoy Me: Have a HUGE sign proclaiming Pumpkin Spice Lattes and then not have had the foresight to order more in anticipation of the holiday so you run out. (And yes, I realize that this is totally a First World problem.)

How to Charm Me: Sit on the couch with me all weekend watching NCIS because my medicine is making me sick.

Quote of the Day: Love is willing the good. We love something or someone when we promote its good for its own sake. What characterizes the deepest essence of God is love – that is, willing the good. – ‘Revolution of Character’ by Dallas Willard with Don Simpson (I have an entire blog on this quote floating in my head!)

Listening: ‘She is Love’ by Parachute

Reading: ‘Surprised By Hope’ by N. T. Wright

Feeling Guilty: For having a donut for lunch. Somehow I doubt that is on the list of good foods to eat.

Thinking: I will make my way back. Someday.

How to Annoy Me: Drive 10 miles under the speed limit, don’t pay attention at stop lights, and swerve all over the road while obviously looking for something in the passenger seat. Pull the SUV over and find whatever it is, DOCTOR, before I call the cops on your ass.

How to Charm Me: Call me and invite me to the state fair so we can finally indulge in our elephant ear craving.

Quote of the Day: What we say about death and resurrection gives shape and color to everything else. If we are not careful, we will offer merely a “hope” that is no longer a surprise, no longer able to transform lives and communitites in the present, no longer generated by the resurrection of Jesus himself and looking forward to the promised new heavens and new earth. – N. T. Wright

1000 Words: P1171584

I am not perfect. Nowhere near it. But that is okay.

I make mistakes. I fall flat on my face. But that is okay.

I say the wrong thing. I make the wrong choice. But that is okay.

Because it isn’t the falling that matters. Everyone falls. Some people do it quietly so no one notices. Others set off a 21 gun salute so that the entire world sees their shame. Everyone lies. Everyone breaks promises. Everyone finds themselves doing things they swore they never would. Everyone hurts other people. That’s part of life and part of allowing other people to come into contact with you. Because we are all broken.

I am a glorious ruin, just like every other person who walks this planet. None of us is perfect. But at the end of the day, it is the people who get back up and try again who earn my respect. That is the type of person I want to be. Not the type of person who wallows in her guilt and continues to let others tell her what a screw up she is. But the type of person who stands back up and says “I messed up and for that I am deeply sorry. But now we have to keep on moving.”

I am not proud of decisions I made in the past. But I am proud of how I have handled myself since then. Making me feel guilty for things is not hard. There will always be something I could have done better and if any of those things is pointed out to me, I tend to beat myself up for them. But I have realized that that helps no one. I have realized that just because I am not groveling and whipping myself with chains that it doesn’t make my repentance and sorrow any less real. I don’t have to prove to people how sorry I am by completely putting my life on hold and staying in bed for weeks. In fact, I think that these things are merely putting on a show.

Repentance means doing what you can to ensure that the bad thing you did doesn’t happen again. And that is what I have been doing. I have been working to become the type of person that is strong enough not to let the wrong person near her. Who is strong enough to say “no” or “get the hell away from me”. Who is strong enough to risk hurting someone’s feelings or making them mad in order to do what is right. Who is strong enough not to allow alcohol to cloud her judgment. Who is strong enough to know when she is being lied to.

My identity is not in what I have done in the past. My identity is who I am – and am becoming – in Christ. I will not let past mistakes or labels define me. I will not let other people’s opinion of me become my reality. I *will* get back up and try again.

Why do we fall? In order to learn how to pick ourselves back up.

Listening: ‘July, July!’ by The Decemberists

Reading: ‘Revolution of Character’ by Dallas Willard and Don Simpson

Thinking: I have faith that, in the end, this will work out. Not because of the human beings involved but because God can and does work miracles.

How to Annoy Me: Go wandering off when I am getting ready to walk out the door so that I have to go hunting you down.

How to Charm Me: Fight for me.

Quote of the Day: The greatest friend of truth is time, her greatest enemy is prejudice, and her constant companion humility. – Chuck Colson

1000 Words: P1171581

They played this song at New Paradigm on Sunday and I cried and cried and cried. I love the part about dancing though.

A year ago today, I wrote this post. Today Shane and I went to Trinity and I didn’t realize what day it was until I looked at the bulletin. I cried through communion. I cried on the way home. I am crying as I write this. Nine years of trying to follow Jesus and this is where I find myself. Away from the church that I love because of a mistake that I made.

I know that God isn’t confined to a building or to the people who attend my church. There are many wonderful people at Trinity and they seem like very kind people. I think Todd has greeted us personally every time we’ve visited. But they aren’t my family. I miss the Dwelling Place and I wish I could have been with them last night to celebrate my 9 years as a Christian. But I made choices and those choices led me here.

May the next 9 years be better than the ones previous. May they be more honest, more authentic, more full of love. May I be open to the Holy Spirit and His proddings. May I become more aware of the pain around me and more capable of healing it. May I cause less damage than I help. May I learn from my mistakes and continue to grow. May I become less so that Christ can become more. May I love those who hurt me. May I forgive those who would do me harm. May I see blessing in my suffering. May I become more and more like my Papa, in the way of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Thank you to everyone who has walked with me on this journey. I know I have wandered from the path at times. Thank you for helping pull me back. Thank you for teaching me to love. Thank you for loving me despite my failings.

Blessings and courage, strength and honor,

Lauren

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