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A Non-Trivial Update on My Pursuits

15 Jan

I’m checking in after a half a month of adopting my word for 2014, “pursue.” I think it’s important to assess once in awhile. How am I doing with pursuing things? In no particular order, I’ll evaluate.

 

PURSUE friendships- It’s been rough going back to LA to see my friends. While it’s great at the time and it’s so easy, I’m finding that going home again is never the same…I think they say that because eventually, you have to leave. The reality is Los Angeles is not my home anymore. I’m painfully aware of this every time I see great job postings for LA and I ask if I can telecommute. So far, the answer has been no.

 

Biking at Hermosa BeachPursuing friendship means determining how to stay in touch with my old friends and investing in them even though it’s hard sometimes. I know that part of the grieving process means that at times I’ll feel angry, upset, and annoyed at the way things are. That manifested itself last Sunday after I returned from a small birthday party on Friday night and a fantastic beach day at Hermosa on Saturday with many of my good friends.

 

Pursuing also means seeking out new friends. I’m asking old friends to connect me with people they know here. It’s almost like being set up on an awkward blind date, at times, but I continually am trying to reach out. I’m realizing that unlike me at the moment, most people are busy. Even in San Diego. So, I’ll keep reaching out. Asking questions. Engaging with others. It’s definitely better than it was. And this way I’ll get to know ALL of the coffee shops around, not just Starbucks. 🙂

 

Pursuing Marriage

Pursuing Marriage: Photo by Daniel Schwartzkopf

PURSUE God- Mark and I have finally decided to join a small group together! I’ve never been in a co-ed small group, but I thought it was important for us to join one so that we would be intentional about our spirituality together. Pursuing God means pursuing a good marriage, too, so it being me, I’ve been reading a lot of books on marriage and trying to incorporate prayer into our daily routine. I’ve also been reading a lot of people’s blogs and I think we’ll start a couple’s devotional together on a weekly basis so that we can be on the same page.

 

Pursuing God is tough when you are going to a new church. Things seem unfamilar at times and we haven’t completely settled on a church forever, but we’re trying things out, going regularly, and meeting new people there to see if it’s the place where God is calling us. After that, we’ll pursue serving there in some capacity.

 

PURSUE writing. I joined a group called 500 Words put on by Jeff Goins. I’m writing 500 words a day for the month of January in hopes of developing a regular writing habit. So far, doing it in the morning seems tough, so I usually squeeze it in at the end of the day. I think I’m doing that because writing seems scary to me. I hope for the next few weeks to make writing be a top priority.

 

PURSUE employment. Prayers are starting to be answered as I see a lot of possibilities on the horizon that weren’t there a few weeks ago. I’m hopeful and have been meeting a lot of new people due to friends connecting me with others they know. I’m hoping to be gainfully employed on a full time basis very soon! Meanwhile, I’m trying to trust God with the details of our finances.

 

I could go into more, but it’s time to hang out with Mark and PURSUE a good marriage. 🙂

Asking Coldplay’s Question, “How Long Must I Wait?”

4 Dec

Jesus in a Manger Luke 2:7

It’s the season of waiting. Advent. Waiting for Jesus to come and dwell with us.

And I’m not going to lie, part of me is a little bit perturbed.

For the past almost 8 months, I thought that once I got married, the whole waiting thing would be over. I’ve been single for years, waiting for the day when I could wake up next to my husband. When I met Mark and we got engaged and I figured out he was actually going to be my husband, I waited until we could be in the same city. I waited until my job could be done so that I could plan my wedding. I waited until my wedding day with much anticipation. I waited for marriage until we were able to consumate it. By the time I thought all of the waiting was all over, I breathed a sigh of relief and settled into a few weeks of wedded bliss I was through waiting. For good. Or so I thought…

Illustrating the fun part of marriage.

Illustrating the fun part of marriage.

The honeymoon is done, the dress is back from the cleaners and we’ve settled into the life you would expect for newlyweds as they learn to be husband and wife. The big smiles we exchange when he gets home from work. The nights spent cuddling on the couch watching “Sherlock.” The date nights. Getting our first Christmas tree together. And some of the not so fun things…the burnt meals as I learn how to use stainless steel pots and pans and our weird electric no-burner oven. The sleepless nights of “I’m cold, can you give me some blankets?” and  Mark’s restless legs which wake him up around 3 or 4 which means I wake up at 3 or 4. The harsh words we sometimes exchange when one of us is too tired or too hungry or when we just need a way to accept all of this transition but don’t know how to tell one another.

It’s all a lot of newness and as I learn how to be a wife, I’m still waiting.

What for?

Well for one, I’m waiting for my driver’s license with my new name to arrive.

I’m waiting for someone to call me back for an interview after I’ve submitted my millionth resume. 

I’m waiting for friendships to blossom. 

I’m waiting to fully settle into a church.

I’m waiting to get used to the silence in my apartment that is not accompanied by the strangely comforting helicopters on police searches, the techno music blaring through the floor below… (although now we have a pitter patter of a dog’s feet most days and every other Sunday a child who likes to pretend our ceiling is a trampoline while her parents are…where are they?!) I’m waiting for them to repremand her.

I’m waiting to figure out who I am apart from Melissa Mills. So I bought a website. MelissaBlakey.com. I’m going to be transferring my blog over there soon. I’ve been writing pages daily just to write because Melissa Blakey is a writer, a wife, and while she’s not employed currently, she’s wrestling through the waiting period known as transition. It happens to coincide beautifully with Advent. Sometimes I think God has a funny sense of humor and he proves points to me constantly with it.

It’s like He’s saying, “Melissa, I’m still God even when you have to wait.”

And so, I wait. I’m not always happy about it.

Some days, I’m really down about the waiting.

But I’m trusting that the God who once made it possible that I would miraculously win a claim for $4000 with my dental insurance will show up.

Me, at 7

Me, at 7

I’m hoping that He who saved my life at age 7 when I had a kidney problem will not let me down.

I’m here. Grateful for my husband, my life in San Diego, the friends I still have in LA, the friends I soon will have here. 

I’m believing that God will come through:

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” -Psalm 130:5

What about you? What do you find yourself waiting for this season? 

When Will The Rhythm Come?

14 Nov

For weeks I’ve been trying to write something to completely capture my various emotions throughout this season, but I’ve come up short. Through engagement, moving, wedding planning, the wedding, honeymooning, and now returning to my new home, I’ve felt everything from extreme happiness to complete shock. I’m navigating through a fantastic, fun, but also lonely season that no one really talks about in marriage books. I’m in a haze. I don’t have a wedding to plan and I’m trying to get used to a man sleeping in my bed.

But here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

I’ve gained a husband and a new apartment. I’ve gained a great new city. I have a lot of great stuff for my kitchen. I go to the library again. I’ve learned to snorkel and zip line and ride unconventional buses in Mexico. I’ve watched more than one World Series game. I had the best wedding ever. I’ve mellowed out in a lot of ways because I’m not sitting on the 405. I get to start things over. I’m thankful. Truly.

But I’ve lost my rhythm.

These kind of look like the shoes I have

These kind of look like the shoes I have

When I was a kid, I had this dream of being a tap dancer. I actually still have new tap shoes that I keep to remind me of that dream that never materialized. In retrospect, I never was great with rhythm in terms of dancing. I was off beat, insecure, and always felt the other people in the classes I took were better than I was. But in other areas, I had great rhythm. I was an excellent student who thrived in the confines of school and rose to the occasion when teachers gave me assignments. I also thrived in ministries. I showed up, I figured out what to do and how to do it with gusto. Since 2008, I’ve known exactly where I was going to be on Wednesday nights. It’s kind of nice.

A few months ago, my friend, Sarah, who is one of the most creative people I know, mentioned the word “structure.” I shuddered a little bit. Because I like to be unconventional and rebellious in my own way, I have hated to think I need a routine or a structure. I’ve always thought that I was too creative for that. My mom keeps telling me I’m wrong…when Sarah told me structure is good, my jaw dropped open and I secretly wondered if she had been taken and replaced by someone else.

The more I thought about it and the more I’m still considering “structure,” I realizing that I feel like I’m tumbling head over feet in a wave of newness, looking for something familiar so that I can put my feet down on solid ground. Like Sarah, I need to find my structure, or rhythm. I was listening to an unfamiliar jazz station here on the radio when it hit me.

I wonder if I’m like a good jazz song.

Right now, it seems like there’s no reason and there’s a lot of instruments making different sounds. But as you listen, it starts to make sense. The familiar notes start to repeat but at different speeds and in little bits and tastes instead of the way it is in traditional music when you hear the same verse over and over. Maybe I’m like that. Finding different parts of myself in a new way. It just takes time for the undercurrent of the rhythm to take hold.

I started thinking of that song lyric, “I’ve got rhythm…I’ve got music, I’ve got my man who could ask for anything more?” Well, I’ve got the man but the other two are kind of hazy at the moment. I have more questions than answers at this point, but I’m glad I’m putting some of these thoughts down into writing.

Instead of being impatient, I’ll just keep asking questions and reminding myself that transition takes time and I decided to do three huge ones at once. What does my rhythm look like? I don’t know quite yet. So I’ll keep feeling the feelings, writing them out, and asking God to lead me, even in the mundane. Hopefully as I start to be more intentional about my days, the rhythm will come. And it will be a sweet sound when I begin to dance.

The Dirty Little Secret That Engaged People Don’t Talk About: How I Realized I Needed More Grace Than Ever!

2 Sep
While our photographer captures beautiful moments, no one knows the story of how Mark repainted my nails right before this or how we were totally stressed out driving to Newport Beach that day, or the fact that parking was a nightmare...the truth behind the engagement pics! :)

While our photographer captures beautiful moments, no one knows the story of how Mark repainted my nails right before this or how we were totally stressed out driving to Newport Beach that day, or the fact that parking was a nightmare…the truth behind the engagement pics! 🙂

I recently read a blog from a friend, Stephanie May, where she made a terrific point about relationships that then turn into engagements. No one talks about how hard it is. I’m not complaining and saying “Oh whoa is me, I’m about to be married.” I’m just wanting to publicly recognize that being engaged and making no less than three major life changes at once is really tough. At times, trying to figure it all out, trust God, keep my physical, emotional, and spiritual needs in check, and enjoy the process is not nearly as easy as everyone makes it out to be.

 

When I was single watching others do this, I heard some horror stories and saw a few knowing looks exchanged between recently married couples that I really didn’t quite understand until now. But I’m starting to realize that engagement doesn’t equal immediate bliss, happily ever after, fun and games. It’s hard. It’s work. It’s trying at times. There are tears and frustrations, words that can’t be taken back, tension headaches, and at times I just want to elope to avoid all of these decisions!

 

I love Mark very much and I can’t wait to be his wife, his teammate, and the person closest to him who gets to witness first-hand who God is creating him to be. I seriously can’t wait! But the part where I have to plan a wedding living 100 miles away from him, figure out finances, and apartment shop with him has been trying. I’m not going to lie.

 

Before we were engaged, Mark and I would squabble about little things like where to eat or logistics of navigating a long distance relationship but mostly, we just enjoyed hanging out and being together. We had new adventures every weekend and while it was annoying trying to figure out the 100 mile distance, it wasn’t impossible. Now that we’re engaged, we fight about the usual stuff and everything else in between. Our words are sharper. We are more on edge. And although we’ve always both been very genuine about who we were from the beginning and we’ve been dating for 16 months, we’ve both wondered at times during this engagement process if this person we’re marrying is actually a total stranger!

Sometimes the word “bridezilla” takes on a whole new meaning to me, even though it’s really not as much about the wedding as it is about all of the emotions that go into quitting my job, moving 100 miles south away from my amazing community and friends, and moving in with a BOY! I seriously had a nightmare the other night about learning how to share a bed…

But before you swear off marriage all together or dismiss me as ungrateful, let me explain what good is coming out of this process.

I’m realizing how much I have to grow.

Every time I say something harsh to Mark, I feel it. I know it like you just know when you’ve done something wrong. It sticks with me, like a little pin. After awhile, the pins have built up and it becomes really uncomfortable. I realize how wrong I am, and how much I’m hurting the person that I’m marrying in less than 50 days. It’s completely crazy.

 

I think: “Why am I doing this? Did I REALLY just say that? When did I become so mean? Why am I so defensive? Mark’s not the bad guy! “(I’m so thankful that I was in counseling for so long so that I could learn some of these techniques). So when I find myself engaging in this process, I try to stop, take stock of the situation, ask myself what I’m really upset about, and breathe. Sometimes, it actually works. Especially when we’re face to face. Other times, we hurt each other, there are tears and then forgiveness, and I’m reminded again how much grace I need and how much I need to extend.

In these moments, Tim Keller’s book, “The Meaning of Marriage” comes alive and I recognize it when he says,

“Here is why you can say to your spouse who has wronged you, “I see your sin, but I can cover it with forgiveness because Jesus saw my sin and covered it.” It is because the Lord of the universe came into the world in disguise, in the person of Jesus Christ, and he looked into our hearts and saw the worst.  And it wasn’t an abstract exercise for Jesus– our sins put him to death.  When Jesus was up there, nailed to the cross, he looked down and saw us, some denying him, some betraying him, and all forsaking him.  He saw our sin and covered it.”

 

I start to understand my own sin. My own fallenness. And I remember that God loved me first, and out of that place, I can choose. Do I hold tight to my conviction that I am right or do I let go and love Mark where he is at? Do I say what’s on the tip of my tongue or stop and let that little jab stay where it should until I’m reminded that I shouldn’t say that to my future-husband who I love and am about to pledge my life to?

 

Ah the days when dropping my ice cream was my biggest concern! :)

Ah the days when dropping my ice cream was my biggest concern! 🙂

How did engagement do this? Is it the refining process? Is it a way that we’re tested before we make the biggest committment we’ll ever make to one person? I don’t really know, but I do hope and pray that on the other side of this when Mark and I are hanging out in our apartment after the wedding gifts are opened, the champagne has lost it’s bubbles, the dress is sold on Craigslist, and we are just us trying to figure out how to love each other well that we’ll look back on this time of testing and know that we are stronger because of it.

 

Until then, it’s time to find wedding bands, pick the DJ list, plan a move, get me a new job, and do our best to work together to navigate these uncertain waters. We will both have harder choices than these in the next 47 days. Will we choose sacrificial love? Grace? Words that will build up and not destroy? I hope to. I really do.

 

Quitting, Leaving, New Beginnings, And All Of That

22 Aug

Beach walkWell, I did it. I quit. Why did I quit my job, you ask? With less than two months before I get married, it’s time to make this transition and fully focus on the bittersweet process of leaving my old life and starting my new one. Some of you I’ve told in person, others may be finding out for the first time…I’m sorry if I haven’t had the chance with all of the craziness to talk to you all one on one, but at the end of September, I’m moving to San Diego County. I’m not going to say this has been the easiest thing for me. In fact, it’s been incredibly hard. But I think it will be good for many reasons. And it’s not like I’m moving to Djibouti.  It’s two hours away.

I’ll soon be entering into the unfamiliar territory called marriage and in order to do that well, I need to give myself time to process my life here in LA and all that this has meant for me. I need time to fulfill this bucket list of things that I’ve never done but have always wanted to do. Taping of Jeopardy anyone? A visit to Sprinkles? Touring some of those incredible looking churches on Wilshire I drive by sometimes? Also, most importantly to my soul at this point, I need to not sit on the 405 for three hours a day anymore. So, I’m leaving my job.

I’ve been in LA since 1998 and I’ve wanted to move to here since I was 10 years old and had the dream of becoming a “performing artist”, as I liked to call it. I even did a report on this when I was in 7th grade. My freshman year of college at USC, I made part of this dream a reality and I moved out here. Then I fulfilled another dream  of learning about film and television and got into USC’s film school. Not knowing what to expect, I fumbled my way through my freshman year as a Midwesterner public school kid in a California private school. I figured out how to write college papers, made some surface friends and then later some real friends, and learned a ton. I also became a Christian, which completely changed my priorities.

Upon graduation, I had several fun but crazy jobs in entertainment, I co-wrote a screenplay, wrote a play, worked on several TV shows, and realized that what I wanted most in this crazy city was a place of belonging. So I joined a women’s life group and a church and faced the world, relationships, breakups, unemployment and disappointments with others by my side.

I love LAI’ve grown to LOVE Los Angeles in many ways. I know it. It’s familiar. I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere. It’s eclectic, diverse, interesting, never boring, urban, suburban in parts, and it’s the city where my dreams turned from superficial ones where I would become the female Steven Spielberg to where I learned how to follow Christ with all my heart, love justice, be a friend, serve, love, be broken, and be rebuilt again. It’s where I learned that money wasn’t everything, friendships could be fought for, and sticking to my true values in romantic relationships was more important than the feeling of being loved that I was so desperately chasing. LA has shaped me. I have so many memories here. As my time comes to a close, I hope to write about some of them and share what I’ve learned. I hope to end this chapter well and on my own terms so that I can enter my new life with a healthy outlook, spiritually grounded.

When I joined ChristianMingle and “smiled” at Mark, I did not know where San Marcos was. I thought it was a lot closer until I looked it up on a map.  We’ve been doing the 100 mile drive almost every weekend since April 2012. That’s a lot of miles. We’re both ready for that to be over and can’t wait to actually come home at the end of the day and get to be together.  With that happy possibility looming, it’s making my departure from the LA life brighter. I have hopes for the future. I want to be able to drive to the beach in 15 minutes. That will be awesome. I’ll hopefully be able to go to Mission Bay frequently and meet Shamu, finally. I hope for new friends, a new dream, and to fully launch my writing career that has been birthed out of my time here in LA.

Lots to do. 58 days till my wedding. 10 more work days, 20 more commutes. I’m doing this!

My Teeth Are Falling Out: Coping With Life Changes The Best Way That I Can!

19 Aug
Photo by Daniel Schwartzkopf Photography https://www.facebook.com/danielschwartzkopfphoto

Photo by Daniel Schwartzkopf Photography https://www.facebook.com/danielschwartzkopfphoto

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. I’d say life has gotten in the way. I’m attempting to make a huge life change…well several life changes. Not only am I getting married for the first time, I’m also leaving the single life that I’ve had a love/hate relationship with for quite some time. Not to mention, I’m attempting to find a new home in a new place, I’m leaving my job, and launching myself into the Unknown. Needless to say, the stress of these new changes on top of planning a wedding has left me little time to process. But after a dream I had on Saturday night, that’s all about to change.

You know how there are dreams where you feel they are so real that you wake up in a fright? That’s where I was Sunday morning when I jumped out of my bed in a cold sweat. For the better part of an hour,

I couldn’t shake the feeling of the dream.

Although the topic was pretty standard, I thought it was so real that I had to check the mirror three times before I realized that it was just a dream.

My Mouth TodayI dreamed that my teeth were all falling out one by one, crumpling in my hand and the more I tried to put them back in together, the more that fell out. Soon, not only pieces of my teeth were falling out, but wires I didn’t realize were even in my mouth were falling out! It was scary! Later that day, I Googled it to see what it could mean. I’m not huge on dream interpretation, but when I read the positives and negatives of the dream, I was shocked. They all seemed right on the money!

What does it mean when you dream about your teeth falling out? This symbol has both negative and positive meanings that can help refine your interpretation.

Negative meanings
  • Insecurities, especially about a personal loss  (YES! I’m leaving my life and starting something new. Leaving singleness, which is known for married life, unknown).
  • Anxiety about sexual experience (Without getting too TMI, I’ll just say yes)
  • A compromise that is costly to you (Yes, see above)
  • Life changes and “growing pains” (HAHA. Again.)
  • Fear of becoming older (Eh, not really.)
Positive meanings
  • Signs of personal expansion (WHOO HOO. Yes. I hope to expand personally! Always)
  • Wish or need to nurture yourself more carefully (Yes. I’ve been thinking that once my job is over and before I move, I’ll go get a massage. Wedding planning is rough).
  • An invitation to explore feelings of loss and personal growth (Yes, that is why I’m writing this blog)
  • A call to look at your support system (Yes, I miss my support system. It seems in all the commuting too and from work and the exhaustion that goes along with it, I’ve not reconnected to my support system lately. Definitely need to do that.)
  • The Jungian interpretation: Times of renewal and “rebirth” (Yep, Yep. Excited about that, also a little nervous)
Photo by Daniel Schwartzkopf Photography https://www.facebook.com/danielschwartzkopfphoto

Photo by Daniel Schwartzkopf Photography https://www.facebook.com/danielschwartzkopfphoto

So, as it is, I’m feeling all sorts of things at the moment. Rather than stuffing them down until they turn into me lashing out against the nearest person and then breaking down into tears about it, I think I’ll go back to old faithful–journaling and blogging. Praying again. Getting in touch with the God that I so want to trust through this process. So, if you’re so inclined, follow my journey on the blog as I make the biggest transition of my life! Maybe you’ve already made this transition? Leave me advice in the comments! I could use it! 🙂

Taylor Swift Thinks We Should Fall Into Love. Without Being A Cynic, I Disagree

25 Oct

Goofy picture. Really goofy. My idea. Good one? I look ridiculous.

I recently became a high school leader at my church’s youth group on Wednesdays.  Last night, I had the distinct privilege of getting to hear thoughts on love from a group of smart, in-tune, and vocal 14 year old girls while they discussed our culture’s idea of romantic love.

I’m not an ageist but the girls’ remarks were surprisingly self-aware and wise!

What I learned from this conversation, took me years of counseling and several dead-end relationships with unrealistic expectations (on my part) to discover and they are only 14. I was impressed.

While I don’t remember the exact quote, I do remember the girls excitedly talking over each other about how popular culture tells them that love means ball gowns, princesses, and “forever”. One girl reminded me that Sleeping Beauty got married after one kiss.

“ONE KISS!” she cried. “And she was asleep!”

Another girl assured me that she’s been through “all of that” (love) and believe it or not, it’s not the way it turns out. What?! What the heck was I doing at 14? Oh yeah, still playing house.

While I was intrigued by the girls’ realization about romantic love in this day and age, I realize that knowing something in your head and then following it through in your actions are two different things.

These same young girls who seem to know that Disney princesshood is not real also read Twilight and scream when a Taylor Swift song comes on.  And who could blame them? I have an annual pass to Disneyland and I like TSwift just as much as the next girl. I sing her songs at the top of my lungs in the car with my roommate. I’ll probably sing some tonight since my roommate just bought “Red.”

But I have to call TSwift out.  Taylor’s philosophy on “love” is a little off the mark:

“The way I look at love is you have to follow it, and fall hard, if you fall hard. You have to forget about what everyone else thinks,” she said in a Rolling Stone interview.  “It has to be an us-against-the-world mentality. You have to make it work by prioritizing it, and by falling in love really fast, without thinking too hard. If I think too hard about a relationship I’ll talk myself out of it. …I have rules for a lot of areas of my life. Love is not going to be one of them.” –Taylor Swift

Oh Taylor, Taylor, Taylor…you’ve done so well to make millions off of these beliefs. I give you credit for being someone who has profited more off of failed relationships than just about anyone I can think of. You’re only 22. I felt like you did when I was 22 but I’m not sure you realize what you’re doing to your soul when you buy into that methodology. Or what you’re doing to the souls of your followers, 14 year olds worldwide who may not be as wise as my young friends.

I’m all about giving yourself to something you believe in, but going into love blindly is just stupid. I say this because I’ve done it. My  friends have done it.

You can’t just check your brain at the door when it comes to love, or you’ll end up hurt and embarrassed quite possibly making decisions you regret for the rest of your life.  

If Taylor doesn’t believe me, then why does she get so freaked out when Ellen parades her ex’s pictures in front of her?

If anything, you need to start thinking MORE when you decide to get in a relationship. I’m not talking about neurotic insecure overthinking that women especially can sometimes tend to do.  I’ve also been that kind of girlfriend.

You need  to think about the kind of relationship you’re getting into before you fall into it. Is it wise? Do you have friends and family keeping you accountable to staying grounded? Are you a better person when you’re with the person or without them?  Does this person treat you well? How do you treat them? Are you even ready to be in a relationship or do you need to maybe take a break and try to determine what patterns you have when it comes to dating? Are you making being in a relationship an idol, believing that a guy/girl will make all of your dreams come true?  A song about these questions might be boring but most of us are looking for healthy relationships, not a serial dating history.

I just found out that Taylor and Conor Kennedy are kaput. Am I surprised? He was a high school senior, only 18. She was jetsetting around the world making a ton of money on songs about her ex-boyfriends. It wasn’t really going to work out anyway, was it?

Friends and Taylor (if by some crazy chance you’re reading this). Take stock. Sit with some of these questions. You need to ask the hard questions if you want to have a healthy, lasting, and mature relationship.  That’s part of becoming and being an adult.  You have to think about your decisions and ask yourself, “Is this wise?” If it’s not, don’t even go there.

My young friends don’t need more examples of fairytale endings that aren’t realistic or breakups that could have been prevented. They need examples of good, solid, low-drama relationships full of love, acceptance and grace.  But that might not sell records. And I’m okay with that.

It’s Not About The Pants!

25 Oct

I got the opportunity to guest blog for “A Beautiful Mess” awhile back. Many of you read it, but I thought I would post a link here in case you missed it! Thanks for reading!

Read it HERE!

Saying Goodbye To One Who Knew Me Well

21 Sep

I knew her once and well, but not lately.

Her small, lingering laugh.  Her bright eyes that lit up with emotion.

Her gray fluffy hair that I had long ago seen dark brown like my mom’s.

She smiled big and said “Well,” in a knowing tone.

She liked to explain her thoughts and I liked to listen.

She was small in stature but not in heart.

She had it rough, but she lasted longer than all of them:

The Depression, the Second World War, graduating college with a degree in Latin, 4 children (including twins!), 50 plus years of marriage, her battle with early hearing loss, his battle with cancer, his battle with polio, her battle with cancer, 8 grandchildren, moving to separate rest homes, his death, her friends’ deaths, 4 great grandchildren…she lasted 92 years through it all. A feat in its own right.

What was unique about her was that despite her hearing loss, she still heard me.

My Grandma, Elizabeth Vandersall Hanks

Despite her eyes going, she still saw me. She understood far more than they thought.  I sometimes wonder if she went through life behind the scenes, never really getting all the credit she deserved for all she endured. She was quiet like that. A servant.

I tried to take the time to hear and see her back. She felt blessed but wanted more for her family.  She hoped they would understand joy and our family’s deep traditions that stretched back to her father’s love for God, mission, and country.

She voted. She worked at the church. She believed. She instilled that in me in a deep way without having to say many words to do so.

I am bittersweet because she is gone, but only sweet because I know where she is.  Without a doubt, I know.

My Grandma is in heaven. She can hear. She can laugh. She can see clearly now. She feels no pain. She is sitting at the feet of Jesus and he is delighting in her up close.

He surely said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” and he is so proud of her. So proud. 

In the church we often say that we don’t know people’s hearts.  Only God can judge who will spend eternity with Him. But from what I know about God and what I know about her, she is there with him. I don’t know very many people I can say that about for sure, but she is one. And so I’m happy for her.

She taught me how to persevere. She taught me the fruits of the spirit including peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. She taught me to keep going and I learned not to quit from watching her. She taught me just by being.

Elizabeth Vandersall Hanks , my grandmother, one of my first spiritual influences, went to be with Jesus last weekend. I’m grateful. I’m sad. I miss her.  But most of all I’m determined and committed to continue the work she started here and carry on the legacy she left us.  She was first and foremost a follower of Christ.  So I will cling hard and continue on. I will follow. I will tell others, just as her father did and she did after him.

I love you, Grandma. I know you’re happier than our wildest dreams now. More than anyone I know, you deserve this.

Philippians 2: 2-4 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

 

Where Were You September 11, 2001? Here’s Where I Was…

11 Sep

I was living in the heart of Los Angeles on the USC campus. It was my senior year.

The phone rang. I was in bed on my top bunk, so I had to reach to grab it. It was my mom. The first words I remember her saying was “I think we are being attacked.”   It was mass confusion as I jumped down from my bed and ran into the other room to turn on the TV. She kept blurting out words like “New York City” and “plane.” Something about “World Trade Center.”  Just as I turned on MSNBC, I saw the replay of the plane hit the World Trade Center. My tired mind couldn’t compute. I thought I was watching “Die Hard” or “True Lies.” How could this be real? Reporters were trying to hold it together but I could see the confusion on their faces. They didn’t know what to report. Was this an accident? Just then, the second plane hit and it became collectively clear that this was planned. My mom was right.

We were being attacked.

My throat clenched tight. I thought immediately of NYU, where my boyfriend at the time was attending school. His apartment building was a mere 4 blocks away from the World Trade Center.  I had to hang up with my mom so that I could call him. “Was he okay? Were they evacuating him?” In the confusion, I woke my roommates up. They were just as befuddled as I was. I was hysterical and started to cry. I was scared, but didn’t know of what. I prayed but it was like I forgot the words. I didn’t know what to say to God in that moment. I was too panicked to ask why. It was a more “what can I do all the way here in Los Angeles?” question.

I couldn’t track my boyfriend down for a few hours. All the lines were busy. I called his parents in Vancouver. They hadn’t heard but would call me as soon as they did. At one point, one of my roommates realized that one of our friends was in Boston and was supposed to take a flight out that day back to LA. Was he on one of the planes? We didn’t know.

That pretty much sums up that day. We just didn’t know. We didn’t know why. We didn’t know what we could do from so far away. So we prayed. We cried. We huddled together and erected a mock vigil for the victims and their families. The next couple days were a blur but I remember buying a flag and going down to the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights and waving it as people drove by, joining others who wanted to do something to say

“We’re still here. We love America and we will not go quietly.” The smiles and honks validated us.  People were nicer for a few weeks. The sky was eerily quiet for a major metropolitan city. Yet, we were all in it together.  I wanted it to stay that way forever. Why couldn’t we drive like we did on the days after September 11th? Why couldn’t we all be so united? Why did it have to take a national tragedy to remind us that we can be kind and decent to one another? These questions stayed with me…

My boyfriend was okay, my friend wasn’t on the plane, but September 11th shook me to the core. It made me question my life and purpose in the world. Several days passed and others around me started to unexpectedly lose people who were close to them. A parent. A best friend. A beloved grandmother. All of it was too much for me to handle and it brought me to a crisis point. I was 21 and about to be graduating college into a world that I no longer understood.  A world where death was the norm. People could be there and then gone the next day. Life was truly fragile.  What was I to do about that? How was I to respond? How did I trust God in the midst of that uncertainty?

In December 2001 I got the chance to visit Ground Zero.  Although it was in a devastating sense a graveyard for thousands, there was something about Ground Zero that remained hopeful. Candles still burned there.  And passersby remembered, as did the cleaning crew that was still sorting through the remains.  The images of the smoking buildings, the tattered flags, and the crying relatives had stuck with me. But being there brought a sense of relief that I wasn’t crazy. Whereas many of my California friends had moved on from the events that occurred on September 11th, I needed validation that we wouldn’t just forget. I had been marked by it and I needed to see it up close to somehow understand that we would recover.  In those quiet moments where I replayed the events in my head and looked at pictures of the missing who weren’t coming back, I asked God to show me how to remember.

After September 11th, I started to see a therapist. It was a free service at school and while I thought I was dealing with my issues around the day, I really started to deal with deeper, core issues about myself. Was I going to make it? Was I going to be okay after I graduated? If life just offered death unexpectedly, what then could I do? 11 years later I have a better idea. I can keep holding on. I can keep hoping. I can remember and believe and trust. I can hope. It’s September 11, 2012…11 years later. I still think about those feelings I had. The fear. The uncertainty. The sadness in knowing that our country would never be the same.  The knowledge that it is okay to heal and that grief is a part of life. That God is still good even when we don’t know that he is. Despite everything.

I will tell my children where I was. I will offer stories and try to explain. I will keep traditions and grieve well. I will invest my passions and efforts into others because on that day I learned that heroes wear badges and suits and business casual, not always capes.

I want to remember. 

I hope to never forget.

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” Micah 7:7

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