Tag Archives: Faith

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. 🙂

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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.

 

What Veruca Salt, That Guy Who Cut Me Off In Traffic, And My “I Want” Syndrome Have Taught Me About Love

23 Jul

Love is patient.

Wait until the clock strikes 12.

I’ve been reading a lot about love this week. It’s funny because at this prayer series we’re doing at church, we’re studying 1 Corinthians and I was asked to read 1 Corinthians 13 aloud to everyone in the group. I smirked.  This was a week after being inundated with everyone’s opinions about what “love” is everywhere I go. Through a new song from one of my favorite band’s (Stars), I’ve heard “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It.” Or, from another song introduced to me by Love and Respect Now, I’ve been pondering the question, how do we not idolize romantic love or the thought of feeling known in community? (Another blog to come).

Or, another idea of love from one of my favorite ministries, The Living Room:

“Love is more than words spoken from our mouths. It must be lived out in the patterns and actions of our lives.”

According to the Bible, to love means to be patient. I find that interesting that it’s mentioned as the first characteristic of love. Maybe because patience is so difficult for us?

Patient is: “bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like.”

Two of my favorite kids wait in anticipation for a wedding ceremony their father is performing to begin.

Wow, I can honestly say I haven’t figured this out yet. At all. I want what I want and I want it now. I want people to know me, I want things to work the way I want, I want my boyfriend to read my mind, I want work to be fulfilling, I want to live happily ever after, I want my friends to think I’m awesome, I … I want, I want, I want. And NOW.  (On bad days, I’m kind of like that girl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who wants the golden goose.) My “I wants” have become insatiable of late… More food, sleep, time with loved ones, meaningful moments, recognition at work.

Waiting isn’t easy, as I’ve mentioned here before. It’s tough and most of the time, I fail at it. But I’m learning. Last week in traffic I didn’t swear at all when I got cut off! It was a small victory, considering a few weeks ago I actually made my hand into fist and almost raised it yelling something about picking a lane and the fact that driving a Ferarri under 60 on the freeway should be illegal.

Who would want to hang out with this girl? Thus, learning patience is a top priority.

So what about this patience? What does it look like? Here’s what I think:

-It looks like waiting for an unfulfilled dream even if you doubt you can muster even a little seed of hope.

-It looks like being patient with a child that has overwhelmed you, when you’re tired beyond belief.

-It looks like trusting that although you might not be in your dream job, you can keep praying and actively looking without just jumping into something else without cause.

-It is not putting the cart before the horse in romantic love, letting a relationship grow and develop. Trusting that with patience, much will be revealed at the perfect time.

-It’s about not trying to have control, but instead giving ample time to those who might not go as fast whether that be in traffic or in life.

-Patience means hearing someone else out, not interrupting, not needing to be first. Having it not be all about me and instead letting others shine even when I have the bright idea first.

-Patience is sacrificial. It might mean not getting your own way. It could look like delayed gratification (another area I struggle with) or believing that something good could come out of the time spent.

-Patience could mean acceptance that things have not gone the way you’ve planned. Getting back up when you’ve fallen and trying again, knowing that you’re not quite there yet, but you’re getting closer.

-For me right now, patience means knowing that I don’t have all of the answers and that question marks are okay for now. It’s being aware of the fact that I’m in limbo in some areas. It’s not trying to force a false sense of closeness or intimacy with friends, family, community, or in close relationships, but instead letting them play out and being present to a greater reality that I am not in control.

If patience is an action, I may have a lot to learn. So in those moments when I feel the need to control or give up or move too fast or break down, I stop. I ask the question, am I being patient right now? And I remember that I’ve grown in this. There is grace for me. I’m not perfect. I don’t have to somehow master patience. But I can move closer to trust. And to a God who knows me and my impatience and loves me anyway.

What about you? Do you think love is patient? How has this played out in your life recently?  Feel free to leave a comment. 🙂 I’ll be continuing this series on what love is in the coming days.

Completely Honest Thoughts at the End of A Long Week

30 Jun

I’m up too late again. But maybe not. Maybe this is when all the traffic and noise has gone away and I can finally be free to think and feel and process.

I’ve had a lot to process but not much space to do so. With all this change happening, I haven’t really been able to ask myself a key question: “How do you feel?”

It’s easy to go through life and be numb. Emotions are too hard. Relationships take too much time and investment. And if I’m honest, lately I don’t really want to engage, I just want to coast. I want God to show up and I don’t want to have to work for that relationship. I want friends to call me and somehow know that sitting in traffic is lonely. Looking at a clock and wondering what time I’ll make it to that appointment all the way back in Pasadena when I’m in Beverly Hills stresses me out. I long to run with friends, have events already planned, and the permission to just have fun. Not talk deeply, persay. Maybe pick up a golf club and drive some balls. Maybe bowl. Maybe hike or run. Or finally, through some vigorous exercise or something get to the bottom of this nagging feeling that something is left unfinished and all I can hear are the whispers: “How do I finish it? ”

In those moments, I reject all that I have learned and it’s like I put my earbuds in and tune out to the world. I can see people around me, just like the cars on the sidestreets in LA (especially on San Vicente near Olympic and Fairfax at about 5:42 every night). I can watch police pull people over. I see wealthy men yelling at a homeless guy for no apparent reason other than that our world is a broken place and who really knows why people are jerks sometimes? Elsewhere a woman gives a dollar and her last piece of bread to a different homeless guy. What does it all mean? I feel a cool breeze you can only really feel on the West Side of LA because the East Side feels more like a hairdryer but without the wind. It’s just plain hot.

In the midst of all of this change, I’ve numbed myself out. I’ve been turning to food for comfort. I’ve never done that before. But something about salt and vinegar chips spells comfort. Reverting back to the fast food of my youth soothes me, if only for a second. And then I start to wonder, what hunger am I trying to feed? What pain am I trying to avoid? What would happen if I said no to myself again when it came to stopping by Mcdonalds for a midnight sundae? In those moments I feel a sense of rebellion because I got away with something (breaking my plant based diet) and yet a sense of shame knowing that I’m trying to cover something up but not really aware enough to put my finger on it.

These could be anxious ramblings at the end of a long week. I could need to give myself grace to eat some fries once in awhile. I don’t know what appetites I’m trying to satisfy but I do know that when all of this feels up in the air, all I can keep turning to is Jesus. He is my sole-provider. No friend, no person, no conversation can ever take the place of who he has been and will be in these moments of uncertainty. He is my security and my life. He is my fortress and my shield. I shall not want. And I shall be thankful for all the things he’s brought me through.

Troubles, pain, sorrow, uncertainty. I long for a day when the brokenness I feel is completely restored. It will never happen in this life and yet, I ask God for the grace for some of those broken places to be brought to him. ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus

I hope to remember that the next time I’m feeling numb and disengaged. Trust is a process. It’s an active process. But before I reengage with that fully, I may just follow the advice of someone I trust and go to a quiet place and just read a book. No striving. No self improvement. Just me and words on a page that will melt off of it into my head stringing into happy thoughts, songs of a life that isn’t mine. Situations I don’t really have to face because I’m just reading about them. Time to just get away…

My Phone Is Smart But What About Me?

18 Jun

People with smart phones often come across as distracted. I see them in the elevator at work, in the lobby, walking down the street not paying attention to traffic. Eyes glued to a screen, squinting, often looking perplexed. It’s for this reason that I’ve avoided getting a smart phone for so long. In a culture that has us traveling at a break neck pace toward individualism instead of community, we can easily create our own little worlds with our favorite music, background, photos, apps, contacts, Facebook page, blog, and more. And in that attempt to connect us quicker with our favorite potential Amazon purchases, we lose a piece of ourselves. That is concerning.

And yet today, after years of postponing, I got a smart phone. I did it in a way that I’m proud of because I bought a used phone at a cheap price and I got a plan where I can get everything I need for less than I was paying for my dumb phone and still have no contract. It’s not an iPhone, but I’m using my new Windows phone as a training ground for now. And I feel good about my purchase. Except for my hesitation. What if I lose my awareness and become a drone hooked on the piece of metal and gorilla glass in my hand?

I just came off of a weekend where I spent a ton of time talking to people in face to face conversations in the car. We talked theology and played games. We told heartbreaking and heartwarming stories. We hiked the Grand Canyon and didn’t fall in. We discussed this hypothetical guy named Bob and wondered aloud about his soul in different scenarios.  I saw live elk and watched them eat leaves off of trees in our campsite for 30 minutes. And at no point when I took that self-induced break from my computer and phone did I feel like I was missing something more important than the moment I was in.

And that’s just it. As I embark on my new journey of having a smart phone and trying not to get obsessed with it, I want to remember to take time to step away. I re-learned yesterday in a moment of humility that God is so much bigger than I am. Than all of the little pieces I try to control. Bigger than the Grand Canyon. Bigger than the stars in the sky and our questions about aliens or angels. Bigger than our feeble attempts to control our little worlds. Even if we can do it in the context of our hand held computers, God is ultimately in control. And that is very comforting for someone like me who likes to pretend I am when I can make my background purple or download a panorama app to take amazing pictures.

So here’s to owning a smart phone but being smart about that ownership.

Here’s to taking time out to notice the little moments and continuing on my journey of awareness.

New Beginnings…

14 Jun

Change can be good. Especially when it’s done with friends at your side!

It’s June.  Almost the summer solstice that I am about to mark yet again. I’m in a different space this year than last.  Rather than heartbroken, I’m giddy. Rather than stuck, I’m exploring.  Rather than holding tightly, I’m along for the ride. There have been so many changes over the past 10 weeks that I don’t completely know how to process them.

New JobPrayers answered. I’m on the brink of something really great here at my new job. Here I get to interact with a whole new set of people. I’m working for four men instead of two women, and that dynamic is definitely interesting. Rather than talking breast pumps and pregnancy, I schedule lunches and people in suits who want to meet with my 4 bosses. I dream in Outlook calendars rather than T-ball games. I work in one of the most well-known cities in the world versus a tucked away town outside of LA that doesn’t want to be discovered.  I drive through Koreatown, downtown, and midtown to get here. It takes awhile and I’m trying to get used to the drive.

But in the midst of this change is a promise. That I could be about to be a part of something bigger. Something forming in me since I was 15 years old and first started to date. That maybe all of these relationships that I’ve had, all of the gamut of emotions – the turmoil, the hope, the loss, the fear, the anger, the sadness, the deep love I’ve longed for, the letting go, the breaking off, the taking a breath, the serial monogamy, the years on my own when I really started to grow into who God has made me to be…maybe all of that will come to a much bigger purpose than I ever imagined. After all, I work at a company that is all about dating.  We’ll see. Like I said, along for the ride…

 

New Move– Not me, my parents. It’s sad to see your family leave. A year and a half ago, all three of them were here. We had automatic plans on Sunday holidays. At Christmas. Birthdays. While my parents aren’t going far and they’ve done this before, I can’t seem to help but think this is a sad end to a California dream. They are excited to move to AZ, but at the same time, I’m wrestling again with what “home” means to me.  More movement. More shifts. When I got so good at sitting still and listening, people around me, even my own body is being forced to move. To grow. To change and shift. It feels uncertain and yet I am reminded to trust, once again.

 

Taking pictures when you don’t have a photographer

New Possibilities – I’d be remiss to not say something in this about the change I’ve experienced in the last 10 weeks due to a special someone. J How do I even explain what it means to suddenly have someone in your life who wants to know you and grow with you in what you’re going through? In the midst of all of this craziness and change, I met a guy that I am quite excited about. Not because he’s the same, but because he’s different. From me, from the others I’ve dated in the past, and from some of the preconceived expectations that I’ve had for the next guy I would date.  He’s solid, he has a great character, he loves Jesus. He’s a Sunday school teacher and a welder.  He’s introverted, I’m not.  He’s funny, but gentle.  He gets me even when I have trouble getting myself.

 

It’s early, I know. I’m doing my best to take my own advice and date in community, take risks when I’m fearful , go slow and trust God with it all. After all, the timing in this seems too strange to be me trying to force a relationship.  I met him in April during my 3 day church-wide fast. I had just led a chapter in life group about trusting God.  And here’s the crazy thing: I met him on Christian Mingle, the dating site where I also now work!  I didn’t know I would meet him. I didn’t know I would get this job. I am just along for the ride and all of these new beginnings!  Thanks, God, for hearing my prayers during the fast. Things haven’t been the same since in so many ways and I’m thankful.

How Do I Stop Being Awkward Around The Person I Used To Date Or Around The Person They Are Dating Now Part 2

14 Mar

A sign saying "awkward"

Awkward has become a word that people like to throw around. “That’s awkward” is used for all kinds of situations ranging from a wardrobe malfunction to something blurted out at the wrong time. But I can say this from experience. Very few things are more awkward than having to stay in community with someone you’ve dated and then watching them date again.

As I mentioned in Part One, I’ve had this experience several times and it’s never been pleasant. But I’m at the point where I have to accept it for what it is and trust that it’s not always going to feel like this.

There will be a point when most of the awkwardness passes. 

A friend of mine has literally watched her first love date and get married while she remained single after they’ve broken up. I’ve seen her go through the grief and then actually welcome her ex-boyfriend’s fiance into our community through a difficult but loving conversation. It was insanely hard but that one conversation has shaped her character in so many ways and changed the advice she gives about this topic. My friend had to pray a lot before this conversation. And when she felt the nudge to go and talk to the fiance, she didn’t ignore it. She could have. But she chose to step into the awkwardness.


So that’s what I do. I step into my awkwardness every week at church. It’s just a given. The guy I dated has a new girlfriend. Do I run away? Sometimes, I have, honestly, when I’m having a less than stellar moment. It’s just been too much and I get all Prodigal Son’s brother and start asking the “Why not me? I’ve done everything right” questions. As a result, I’ve avoided parties that they were going to likely be at. And then I stopped doing that because especially in the case where it’s my good friends hosting the party, I don’t want to miss it! I’m a social person. What if I meet someone new at one of these parties? It’s not my job to own the awkwardness and slink away from it. It’s my job to acknowledge it and step into it.

My friend, Merlin, does the best "awkward" face of anyone I know!

Stepping into the awkwardness means a lot of things which I’ve narrowed down to three for the time being.

  1. Giving yourself a pep talk before you might encounter the awkward situation.  For me this has to involve prayer. Even if it’s a quick one just saying that I need strength and courage, I pray. I’ve found peace in these prayers and probably grown more in my faith when I choose to go into situations with people I’ve dated that many would think I was crazy for walking into.

The pep talk can also be done in a mirror, in the front seat of your car, with a friend, and as a reminder that the relationship wasn’t right. My ex dating again doesn’t say anything about my value. And then I tell myself the truth about who I am according to God, not according to the automatic negative thoughts that are swirling in my head at that moment. Without badmouthing the guy I’ve dated and the girl he’s dating now, I’m able to walk into the situation more confident than I might have been. When I forget to do this, all bets are off and I’m a victim of my own awkwardness with sputtered words, strange looks, and hurt feelings.

2. Grace for yourself. This is important! Sometimes you’ve just had a bad week and the last thing you want to do is see the person you’ve dated again just when you’re wound is starting to heal. Then you happen to see them and something inside of you is triggered and you forget why you broke up in the first place. Or you have a case of “sideways glancing” and you start to do a little romantic revisionist history and suddenly your relationship seems amazing to you again. This is when it’s time for a reality check. As one of my favorite books says, “It’s called a breakup because it’s broken.” Some days it will be easier to deal with his/her new relationship than others. Have grace for yourself but don’t lash out in anger or revenge in the process.

(Mostly tips for girls in this section) If you find yourself doing that, go hang out with a friend in the church bathroom for a few minutes. Or write down your issues in a journal. Or do some yoga or high impact aerobics.

Take a breather.

One time months after my breakup was long over, something was triggered. At church a song was played that just wrecked me. I was a crying mess. I had to run outside to just let it out, which I did. Luckily a friend followed me and just stayed with me there. This is permissible. When the guy I dated started to date someone else, I made sure to surround myself with good people who can give me a reality check and the love that I need to co-exist in community with him on a weekly basis.

3. Grace for him and her. 

This one is difficult. It’s hard when the person you’ve dated is now on cloud 9 and you’re trying to figure out how to love, honor, and respect them from a distance while being single and wondering why you’re not dating, too. In my worst moments, I cry about it. In my best, I smile at him and especially her when she passes. Once I introduced myself because we have many of the same friends. Another time  I was friends with a girl a guy I dated  decided to date and so we figured out a way to walk out how the whole thing was supposed to work.

Suppose I’m not friends with the new girl, why would I not be friendly to a woman who I consider my sister in Christ? Aren’t we supposed to all love each other? Despite the fact that our culture says that the woman who dates “our man” is a backstabbing-choose-a-degrading-term-for-a-woman,

Jesus says something different.

He says love those who persecute you, he tells us that we should lay down our lives for our friends. He never says that following Him would be easy. Laying down our lives means sacrificial love and in my context, that means being happy that the guy I dated who I once loved and who I let love me is happy. It’s wanting the best for him and his new girlfriend. I’m not saying this is easy but when is love ever easy?


I’m not saying that I’m ever going to be best friends with the guy I dated or his new girlfriend. That’s unlikely but future interaction considering our overlapping friend groups is inevitable.  Had we the opportunity, it would be nice for us to all acknowledge one another sometime. It would be nice to exchange a few words to know that we’re all still members of the same church. That we all want the best for each other. And for me and him, acknowledgment that I’m not just some face in the crowd. But that we spent time together learning and growing and discovering what it meant to love both within the context of our relationship and beyond it.

Final thoughts: I don’t think that love ends when a relationship ends. Rather it’s the opposite. I’ve found that when a relationship ends, that’s when the test begins.

Will I love this person well even though we’re not together? Will I treat them with dignity and respect? Will I refrain from talking trash about them to my friends? Will I decide to not welcome and actually discourage comments from my friends about her?

Because the reality is, those comments could be said about me or any of my friends. And we’re not backstabbing. We’re just girls who want the chance to date in our community, just like the girl that the guy I used to date is currently dating. We want the opportunity to see if one of the guys in our church could be a good match with us.

By giving him and her grace, I’m giving the entire community permission to date and breakup without judgement. I’m allowing for love to reign over my fears that I’m going to be single forever. I’m allowing for God to intervene in the hard places. I’m choosing, once again, to trust.  And that’s not only good for me, but for all of us involved in this crazy, messy, amazing thing we call community.

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