Five words I’d rather you not use to describe me…

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Don’t mind me! I’m just a religious, churchy, thick, photogenic, intimidating girl!

I started writing this post a few days ago. I had no clue how to start it, so I skipped the intro and saved it for last.

And then, the day after I wrote all about the five words I do not like to be labeled, one of my male co-workers called me TWO of the five words in one conversation.

“You just always look so happy. All your Facebook pictures are nice, you’re always doing stuff and going places. You’re super photogenic.”

Grrr… that was the first one.

“Most guys probably don’t want to go out with you because of all you’ve done and all you do. Nobody wants to try and measure up to that. You’re too intimidating.”

Grrr… that was the second one.

He also said if people don’t know me personally, they might think that I think I’m “high and mighty.” But that if you get to know me, that’s not the case at all. “High and mighty” borders “religious” and “churchy.” So he pretty much mentioned four of the five words I’m about to explain.

Here are the five words I’d rather you not use to describe me:

Word #1: RELIGIOUS

Definition: of, pertaining to, or concerned with religion

I’ve heard it often, especially from my non-Christian friends. They consider me to be very “religious.” I don’t identify myself with my religion. I am not a product of Christianity. I am a product of Christ. To me, there is a huge difference. Christianity is flawed, and I think God Himself would agree with that statement. Why would I want to identify myself with a flawed religion, as all religions are flawed? I find my strength from Christ. My faith is in Christ. I believe I have eternal life because of Christ… it is not because of my “religion.”

Word #2: CHURCHY

Definition: adhering strictly to the prescribed form in ecclesiastical matters

For some reason, if you’re a weekly church attender, follow Christ and talk about God, you’re considered “churchy.” This is different than “religious,” as it suggests you strictly follow the church “code of conduct.” To me, “churchy” is an insult, and people don’t exactly think it through when they say that about someone. I believe a “churchy” person is somewhat standoffish, judgmental, and closed-minded. I would hope that no one thinks that is a good way to describe me. I believe even the most involved person at church doesn’t have to be “churchy.” I don’t even consider my pastor to be “churchy.” Society has tied negative connotations to words like “churchy,” and unfortunately, sometimes I can see why.

Word #3: THICK

Definition: not skinny, with meat on your bones

I had to jump over to Urban Dictionary for this one. It’s a term I really pretty much only hear from black men. White guys don’t call girls “thick,” because to them they’re just fat or big. I guess because of the word’s double-meaning (which is often attractive in the eyes of one race, but not another), is why it bothers me. At least in Uganda they are outright with it. I have a number of friends who were told, “You look fat!” And it was meant as a major compliment. However, I think the word “thick” is insulting. If you like how I look, just tell me I look good.

Everyone be intimidated! I washed feet in Africa!
I washed feet in Africa. Apparently this makes me scary.

Word #4: INTIMIDATING

Definition: to overawe, as through the force of personality or by superior display of wealth, talent, etc.

I am so sick of hearing how “intimidating” I am, and I know a lot of other educated, well-traveled women who are tired of it, too. Sure it’s a copout for men sometimes, but even some of my male friends have told me that if they just knew me on the surface, I would be way too intimidating for them to ever ask out. It’s clearly not my looks, it’s everything else. I’m independent, I’ve done mission work, I volunteer, I’m educated, I have a fulltime job, I pay my own bills… all qualities one would THINK would make me desirable to the opposite sex, but instead it has only hindered my dating life. I’m not scary. I promise! Please stop saying I am intimidating. It is NOT a compliment.

Word #5: PHOTOGENIC

Definition: forming an attractive subject for photography or having features that look well in a photograph

This label has been thrown on me way before Instagram gave us filters that make our skin glow. Ever since high school, people have commented on how photogenic I am. If you have ever told me this, there’s a chance you’ve heard my canned reply of, “Pretty in pictures, ugly in person!” I know that’s not what people mean, but I like to see their reactions when I say that back.

If you’ve ever called me any of these words, don’t worry. I’m used to it by now. And I won’t go cry in my bedroom if someone calls me any of these things in the future. Luckily, the Bible doesn’t say I’m any of these words. But I’ll happily take some of the things God says I am, like forgiven, redeemed, born again, accepted, free, and loved.

Yup. I went and got all “religious” and “churchy” on you there.

Life is not a word search… stop looking for love!

I was just starting to dig into my adult mac-and-cheese when the 23-year-old sitting across from me sighed.

“I just don’t know where to go to meet a guy. I’ve tried church, the gym, the bar scene, everywhere! I can’t find anyone!”

I remember being in her shoes. I remember that ten years ago I used to feel the same way. Almost everything I did was in hopes of meeting a guy. My friends were getting married, starting families, and all that other stuff you’re “supposed” to do in your early to mid-20’s, and then there was me: single.

Ten years later, and that’s still me: single. But oh-so-much has changed.magnifying-glass-967211-m

My young friend’s frustrations with being single reminded me of how so many women are missing the boat on finding love. We can’t force it to happen, and we certainly can’t live our lives constantly in search of it. Life isn’t some giant crossword puzzle where we’re all looking for the word, “Love.”

“They” say when you stop looking, that’s when you’ll find love. While that hasn’t happened for me yet, it’s not changing the fact that I live life for other reasons now. I don’t do anything simply to meet a guy. And I’m completely ok if it hasn’t “paid off” yet in the form of a boyfriend or husband.

When I was in my 20’s, practically everything I did was in hopes of meeting someone. Not just any someone, but someone who would transform my life, make me happy, and give me butterflies! I tried different churches, joined the gym, went to trivia nights at the local pub, joined a “Christian Single’s Group” in town, etc. etc.

Obviously, nothing came of any of that.

And why would it? No guy wants some chick who is spending her entire life waiting on him. Guys want a woman who is living her own life, without him, because he’s likely been doing the same without her.

I go to church now because I want to stay close to God and learn more about His word. I go to the gym to work out because I know it’s good for me. I watch football at Buffalo Wild Wings because I love football (and wings!). I volunteer at the homeless shelter because I love helping people- not because I hope there will be a cute, single guy volunteering with me.

Single ladies- just live your life! Stop looking for something that you can’t make appear. You can’t rush God. He won’t bring the right guy into your life until HE says it’s time. So in the meantime, why not love the life you have? God has lots of great things planned for you. If you’re living in His will, He won’t let you miss out on that perfect guy because you were too busy and not looking.

sand-heart-2-1421655-m“If it seems slow in coming, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”
Habakkuk 2:3

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
Psalm 27:14

“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Psalm 37:3-4

Not good enough for some, but good enough for One…

The maker of this beautiful Ugandan sunset loves me despite my many flaws.
The maker of this beautiful Ugandan sunset loves me despite my many flaws.

“Does he have a girlfriend now?”

My stomach did a flip-flop as I looked at the picture my friend sent me on Facebook. It was a picture of the guy who had a tight grip on my heart for more than two years… and his girlfriend. The guy who didn’t even want a girlfriend was looking as happy as ever in a selfie with a beautiful, petite girl by his side.

I once again realized what I knew all along: it wasn’t that he didn’t want a girlfriend; it was that he didn’t want me as a girlfriend.

It can be a tough pill to swallow. The thought that someone can be so attracted to you, enjoy your company so much, and can trust you with anything, but yet not love you in a romantic way, is quite a mystery.

I’ll never understand it. My friends will never understand why he and I had such chemistry and yet he didn’t want to be with me. It boils down to his selfishness and being shallow, and me not being the “ideal” woman for him to be seen with. He has admitted this.

I accepted the truth more than a year ago, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. And until August, I thought I had at least escaped the hurtful situation with a lifelong friend (silly me). Then some information was presented to me by a mutual friend, and I learned that even our friendship was a lie.

It’s all a reminder that people will hurt us. Not to say that you shouldn’t ever trust anyone, but you should never trust someone more than you trust God. You should never put all of your heart and soul into a person, only God.

For years I’ve allowed this guy to hurt me, to make me feel terrible about myself and to remind me that I’m not the poster child of the perfect-looking girlfriend. But guess what? I’m also not the poster child for the superstar Christian. I’m damaged, imperfect, flawed, defective… every word you can possibly think of that makes me not worthy of God’s love. He loves me anyway.

So while this guy from my past has made it clear that I’m not good enough to be his girlfriend, God has made it clear that I am a child of His and that He will always love me, no matter what. Only God’s love is perfect, and that’s all the love I’ll ever need.

“…nothing will ever separate us from the love of God…” Romans 8:39

The makeup-less “hero”…

Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, dogs and cats, and anyone else who reads this blog post: I want you to know that I am about to become a hero.

maekup

There. See that picture of me with my hair in a towel? That’s fresh out of the shower. I’m not wearing any makeup.

I’m waiting… are you clapping? Are you preparing my award? No?!

Lately there’s been this “movement” all about not wearing makeup. Women are going weeks or months or even an entire year without makeup to show that they are OK with themselves. They refuse to hide behind the makeup anymore! A friend of mine posted an article on Facebook about a woman who went a year without makeup. One of her other friends commented on it and said, “Bravo for this brave woman for seeing the joy in her own internal beauty!”

Since when did not wearing makeup make someone a hero? I see people putting these “non-makeup wearers” on some sort of pedestal calling them “brave” and “confident.” I read a story a few months ago about these girls in Texas who were “taking a stand” and not wearing makeup their entire senior year or something like that. Wait… what? A stand for what?  Instead of not wearing makeup for a year, why don’t these girls volunteer somewhere? Why not show the importance of inner beauty by working with young girls at a group home or something?

I found this article, “Women Goes Without Makeup for a Year”  and the very first sentence threw me off:

“One brave woman is doing perhaps what most females wish they could – forgo all make up, trips to the salon, and beauty products for an entire year.”
 
Most females would love to not wear makeup? Not go to the salon? My friends and I love going to the salon, putting on makeup, and simply being a woman! If not doing those things makes you brave, we must be a bunch of cowards.
 
Don’t get me wrong, I “get” it. We’re all to appreciate our natural beauty, what God has given us. My friend Catie pointed out that makeup actually accentuates what God has given us. So what’s wrong with that? Nothing. I’m sorry if I’m not buying into this whole, “no makeup” movement to prove to people that I’m OK with myself. I am OK with myself, whether I’m wearing makeup or not.
 
moie
I don’t wear makeup to hide who I am. I don’t wear makeup because I feel uncomfortable without it. A few weeks ago I went to see a movie with my niece, I didn’t wear any makeup, and I even posted a picture! Apparently to some people, that would make me a bit of a hero.
 
In general, I love makeup. I’m by no means a pro at putting it on. I really don’t wear a ton, and I don’t even know the proper techniques for putting on three shades of eye shadow. But I love buying makeup, putting it on, and trying new looks. It’s one of my favorite things about  being a woman.
 
And when it comes to dating and marriage, of course I want a man who will love my natural beauty, but I also want a man who sees me dressed up and wearing my favorite lipgloss and appreciates the fact that I took time to look extra special for him.
 
If there are women out there who need to go through a self-discovery phase by not wearing makeup, then that’s fine. Good for them, but I don’t think it needs to be such a huge deal. There are bigger things women can do to promote having self-confidence and a healthy self-esteem. I also don’t think women who do wear makeup, and enjoy it, should be torn down or called insecure because they are “hiding” behind the makeup.
 
I’m simply a woman who loves girly things. I thank God that I am a woman, and there’s nothing insecure about that.
 

What you might be shocked to know about my trip to Zambia…

Two weeks from now I’ll be flying over Africa somewhere, headed to Zambia where we will serve God at Lifesong for Orphans. What’s really awesome about this trip is that Janeth, one of my best friends, will be going on the trip as well! But there’s something you don’t know about our friendship.

Let me tell you about Janeth. Janeth is amazing. Although just a young grasshopper, she doesn’t mind being friends 488122_3188445239546_496056400_nwith an old woman like me (she’s 24 and I’m 32). Never once has age stood in the way of our friendship. She always makes me laugh, and since we became friends almost a year and a half ago, she’s been there for me whenever I’ve needed her.

Even though Janeth is in Texas and I’m in Indiana, she’s managed to be my rock this past year, especially when I had my heart broken. Her advice and prayers got me through some pretty rough times.

What I love about her the most is that she’s such a Godly woman. She is so spiritually mature for her age, and I have learned so much from her beautiful heart for God and her passion for humanity and the earth in general. She is, quite simply, one of the most amazing people I’ve ever known.

Janeth is also the reason I even know about the trip to Zambia! The day she suggested I go was one of the coolest things ever. I’m so excited to serve God on this trip and to do it with one of my best friends.

Here’s what you don’t know…

Janeth and I have never met.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

No, we didn’t meet on FriendFinder.com (is there such a thing?), or some sort of Christian website. We met right here, on WordPress.

A few years ago I had a blog that none of my family or friends knew about. It was very personal, and for some reason, lots of people found it interesting. Janeth was one of those people. She followed my blog, I followed hers, and one day in February 2012 I posted a comment on one of her posts. She sent me an email with the subject: “Hi from Texas :-)”

We were both going through some heartache at the time, and her words in that email were so comforting and helpful. She was very open about her relationship with God, and what she was going through. Little did I know that a little more than a year later I would be going to Africa with her.

532521_3195916786330_513696476_nWhat’s weird to think about is that GOD knew. He orchestrated this entire friendship. I have never been so sure of anything in my entire life. God has used Janeth in a major way to help me grow as a Christian. I believe He’s used me in the same way for her.

Janeth and I will meet for the first time in London when I meet the rest of the group going to Zambia. We’ve text and Skyped before, so we’re definitely not complete strangers. Like I said, she’s one of my best friends! We talk pretty much every day!

I know plenty of people will find this all rather bizarre, and that’s OK. I think it’s all pretty awesome that God would use someone so far away to help transform my life. Just one of the many amazing things He’s done for me!

This verse definitely sums up my friendship with Janeth:

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Thank you, Janeth! Can’t wait to serve God together in Zambia!

No more “Summit City” for Summit City Single?

I woke up out of nowhere at around 4:30 a.m. on April 24 and couldn’t get back to sleep. I decided to check my email HeritageLogoand there it was, an email from the principal at Heritage International School in Kampala, Uganda.

“I am writing to offer you the position of High School English teacher at Heritage International School, beginning in August.”

I think I blacked out for a second. I was excited. I was horrified. I was one huge ball of emotions all at once.

Yes, it’s true, and I’m now making it public. I’m moving to Africa for two years, and if God so calls me, possibly longer.

I’ve Tried this Before

When I moved back to Indiana after about five years in Georgia, things didn’t go as I expected them to. Probably the number one reason I moved home was to be with my Grandma Shideler. Sure enough, almost a month after I moved, she died. I was devastated. My heart broke. I instantly began to question my decision to move back to Indiana.

Things weren’t going well. I wasn’t making friends, teaching at North Side made me miserable, I missed my grandma, and I just wanted out. But for the first time, I taught a unit on Africa and genocide in my World Literature classes. It was something I knew little about, even though I have always been fascinated by Africa. My fascination grew as I studied Rwanda with my students. That’s when I decided- I would teach in Africa.

I looked daily for jobs. I applied everywhere. But… nothing happened. I wasn’t particularly close in my walk with Christ at that time. I was actually pretty bitter about God taking my grandma away from me. I look back now and realize why things didn’t work out. It just wasn’t time.

4788_103254166572_3645889_nGod did, however, work it out that I could spend two weeks of my summer in Niger, Africa with Jesus Film Ministries. While the work we did there was good, and I was filled with the Holy Spirit as I shared the gospel with Muslim Africans, I’ll admit, I was more caught up in “being in Africa.” It was a dream come true, but too much of my focus was on the cultural experience I was having, not the GOD experience I should have had.

The Next Few Years

My dreams of moving overseas obviously didn’t work out, so I let it go. I figured maybe God just wanted to see if I was willing to go. I got over my anger at God, and  figured He was ready to introduce me to my husband, I would start a family, and all would fall into place. So when I met my boyfriend in 2010, I was so sure- this was The One.

Needless to say, he wasn’t. I was heartbroken and devastated for almost an entire year.

Somewhere in the middle of that year when I was still spending a lot of time with my ex, I went with my church to Nicaragua. My mind was right this time. I was focused on our mission. My heart caught on fire with a desire to do mission work more often. One week every year or so just didn’t satisfy my soul. I needed more.216059_10150151389976573_735678_n

Sure enough, the organization we went with, Food for the Hungry, said they needed a journalist to work for them in Nicaragua. I have a degree in Journalism. How perfect! But my selfishness kept me away. What if things were going to work out with my ex? I could never leave him! I could never leave my family! They mean too much to me! I didn’t even meet with one of the leaders from Nicaragua when they came to our church months later. Even though my heart wanted to do it so badly, I couldn’t follow through with it.

2012

Ever since Nicaragua, I’ve felt that God has been nudging my heart, “Go.” I didn’t know where or in what capacity, but I felt like He was saying, “Go.” I knew I needed to talk to someone about my feelings. I needed to ask, “How do you know, for sure, that you’re being called to serve God overseas?” But I didn’t ask anyone because I knew what they would say, “Read the Bible and pray.” And I didn’t want to do that because I knew what would happen. God would tell me, “Go.”

So I avoided it. I continued to grow in my faith and my walk with Christ, but there was always that one area I avoided.

549779_10151265482271447_332404794_nIn November, my heart began to stir. I really wanted to go back to Africa and to keep my focus on God’s work. Long story short, I signed up to go on a mission trip to Zambia with my friend’s church in Texas. (You can read more about how God worked all of that out here.) So I was thrilled to be going on the trip, and I thought for sure it would satisfy my desire to serve God overseas.

March 2013

Although super pumped about Zambia, my heart wasn’t content with just another 10 days in Africa coming up in June. Then one day in the middle of an email from one of my Christian mentors she wrote, “I really think that with all of the unconditional love and mercy that you have for people, you need to be in another country…. It is not what I think that matters, though. It is between you and GOD.” I’m no dummy. That information came straight from God.

But I freaked out. I have student loans to pay off! I’m 32, can I really just enter the mission field now? What about all my furniture and stuff? I was still doubtful that it could all work out.

As if that nudge from God wasn’t enough. About a day later I got an email from my old small group leader in Georgia. He wanted me to read a blog about a couple who went into ministry in Africa. He concluded his email with the following: “When I read their story I thought of you. Let me know what you think after you read it. God can make a way! WOW! Can He make a way!” I broke down when I read that. Could God really be any clearer? I don’t think so. God was telling me that He will work it out.

And He did.

em0a5r7u5px09u4lhfwpI didn’t know where to start, where to look. A family friend had connections at World Gospel Mission in Marion. I checked out their website and flipped through the many openings they had for various positions around the world. One stood out to me: “Secondary English Teacher, Uganda.” I read about the job and it just seemed too perfect for me. There was no way it would be that easy for me to find something that quickly.

The Present

One month. I answered God’s call by saying, “I will go where you lead me.” Within one month I applied at Heritage International School, had a Skype interview, and was offered the position. One month. God made it all happen in one month.

I’ve never in my life felt more at peace with God’s plan for me. This is MY life. While I will miss them dearly, I cannot live my life for my parents. I can’t live my life for my friends. I can’t live my life for my nieces and nephews who I adore so very much. I have to live my life for God and the plans He has chosen for me. Some people don’t understand that, but I can’t let that hold me back. Some of the best wisdom I’ve received has come from Richard Stearns’ “Hole in our Gospel.” That will be another blog post in itself.

ugandaThe excitement I am feeling extends far beyond anything I’ve ever felt before. It’s a satisfaction that fills my heart with joy, more joy than any job, man or experience has ever brought me up until this point.

I know it will be a rocky road at times. There’s money to be raised, plans to make, the fear of entering what could become an unstable country at any given moment, leaving my friends and family, etc. etc. However, I trust God will take care of me.

I’ll write another blog post about all I will be doing in Uganda. This post is long enough already, but in case anyone was interested in how I got to this point, I wanted to share. I can’t wait to continue to share with you the awesome things God is doing in my life. And please, let me know what He’s doing in yours!

“I know Who goes before me. I know Who stands behind- the God of angel armies is always by my side. The one who reigns forever- He is a friend of mine. The God of angel armies is always by my side.”
– Chris Tomlin “Whom Shall I Fear?”

It’s not about the giraffes…

When we stepped out of the Niger airport into the hot African sun, I was brought to tears.

I’m in Africa, I thought. I’m really in Africa!

I spent the next two weeks in awe of God’s beauty in Africa that managed to shine through the poverty and suffering. Everything I did, I realized I was doing in Africa.

I’m brushing my teeth in Africa!

I am eating breakfast in Africa!

I have a headache in Africa!

We did some amazing things while I was there. We saw giraffes and hippos in their natural habitats, we toured government buildings, we took boat rides, and we ate at fabulous restaurants. It was all a big part of my first African experience.

But I’ll be honest, I was pretty caught up in being in Africa, and not caught up in the work God sent us there to do. It was 2009, I was in a job I hated, in the middle of a terrible relationship, and getting away was a big focus of my trip to Niger.

Don’t get me wrong, I saw God do some awesome things in the middle of Muslim villages and neighborhoods while we were there. But I think what was missing was that human interaction. I don’t speak any tribal languages. I don’t even speak French! Not only that, but we were with different people almost every day. No real connections were formed.

I leave for Zambia in less than three weeks, and things are drastically different for me now. It’s not about the giraffes. It’s not even about Africa. It’s about our mission: to show Christ’s love to the people of Zambia. More specifically, to show it to the beautiful children at Lifesong for Orphans.

When I look ahead to this trip, my heart gets so excited about meeting these kids and getting to know them. Many are orphans because their parents have died of HIV/AIDS, and many of them carry the same fatal disease. I want to love on them all I can while we are there. I want them to know that I love them, and God loves them.

521785_4406504770273_1281097728_nI’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about seeing Victoria Falls and the safari we are taking. It’s not uncommon for mission trips to have a few days built-in for sightseeing, and naturally I am stoked about seeing more of beautiful Africa. I’m not a crazy person! But I realize this time that it’s not about all the things we will see. It’s the things we will experience and share with the wonderful people of Zambia.

My friend Janeth is returning to Zambia for the second year in a row. Look at this picture of her, her friend Liz, and a bunch of the orphans. Is it really any wonder why I’m so excited to meet these kids and do what we can to help them out?! This time it’s not about the giraffes. It’s about showing God’s love, and I simply cannot wait to do so.

The curse of seeing someone’s potential…

1237608_trophy“Potential has a shelf life.”
– Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye

It’s typically thought of as a positive thing, to see the good in everyone. I am one of those people who instantly recognizes someone’s potential. In all honesty, it’s both a blessing and a curse.

If potential were a trophy, I see almost everyone I know carrying it. The problem is, not everyone is lifting that trophy up, some aren’t even looking at it, while others are kicking it around on the ground with no plans to ever pick it up.

Seeing the potential in people can be heartbreaking when they don’t reach that potential. It’s a dangerous road to travel when you see potential in the wrong people and when you let it consume you. I’ve experienced this heartbreak as a teacher and as someone who has been in relationships with guys who have so much “potential.” Right now I’m struggling with the latter.

Seeing potential in the opposite sex

Seeing someone’s potential as a future husband or wife can be very dangerous. Seeing what someone “could” be is so intensely different from what they actually are. When it comes to dating, I have learned that you must see someone for what they are at that present time.

I’m not saying you might not meet someone who just needs a little encouragement or support. I’m talking about the jerks, the players, the non-committers, or some other type of guy or girl who has qualities that make them a poor choice for a life partner. You can’t consider their potential. You must consider the present, and if it isn’t good, move on.

Potential… according to who?

There are two specific guys from my past that I have always believed have all the potential in the world, but they refuse to grow up. I see they have the potential to be two of the greatest guys in all of Fort Wayne, quite possibly all of Indiana or even the entire country, but both of them refuse to live up to this potential I see in them. They are nowhere near reaching their full potential as professional, beautiful, outstanding men on this planet!

They might not ever reach their full potential. But “potential” according to who?

According to me.

 If their potential is just my opinion, the only one they’re really disappointing is me. Why am I so concerned about them reaching what I think their potential is, especially when it’s only disappointing me? Probably because I love them both way too much. It’s not a situation of being “in” love or wanting to be with either of them, I just plain love these two guys with all my heart. When you love someone, you want them to succeed and be the best version of them they can possibly be.

Letting go of potential

If you’re like me and you see the great potential for someone who isn’t interested in reaching it, maybe it’s time to let it go. Pray for that person, but stop letting it tear you up inside that they aren’t what YOU think they should be. If someone doesn’t want to be a better person, that’s their choice. You can’t force them.

It’s a beautiful thing to be able to see people’s true potential, but I guess I need to just see that potential and then let it go. Otherwise, I’ll continue to fall for guys and their awesome potential, not who they really are.

What about your own potential?IMG_20130504_232645

I think people like me get so caught up in other people’s potential that we forget about our own. I’m sure if I asked God if I was living up to my potential, He would say I’m not. I imagine He would say no one is. Who knows, maybe there’s a guy out there who wishes I would live up to my potential.

If seeing someone’s potential is tearing you up inside, let it go. Spend more time worrying about your own potential. There’s a good chance you’re not reaching yours either.

Think I’ll stop drinking rat poison…

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.”
– Anne Lamott

574986_poisonI have to be honest. I’ve been drinking a glass of rat poison every day for the past year or so. I’ve been waiting for the rat to die, but instead I’ve only been killing myself.

My spiritual gift is mercy, and I’m quick to forgive. We’ve all had to forgive people for hurtful, heartbreaking things they’ve done to us. But for some reason, there’s someone I just can’t bring myself to forgive.

It’s not the guy who broke my heart a few years ago after he claimed to love me and wanted to make me his wife someday. I’ve forgiven him. It’s not the guy who ripped my heart out of my chest repeatedly in most of 2012 and kicked it around, stomped on it and tore it to shreds. I’ve forgiven him.

It’s an ex-friend who deliberately deceived me for the year or so that we were close, close friends. It wasn’t one event that ended our friendship, it was more of a situation of, “I saw the light.” Others had warned me repeatedly that her motives are never, ever pure at heart. There’s always something in it for her. I didn’t see it at the time, but now I look back and see how incredibly manipulative she was with me- how our entire friendship was a lie.

Guys can be jerks. They break our hearts, that’s what they do. Our best girl friends? They are not supposed to break our hearts, but she broke mine. Once I learned many of the lies she had told me throughout our friendship, and the lies she told other people about me, I felt stupid. I felt like a fool.

Is it obvious yet that I am holding on to a lot of hate? I’ll be honest. I am. I couldn’t tell you anyone else on this planet who gets me more worked up than she does. I haven’t been able to forgive her. I can’t let go of that hate.

We are studying Joseph in the book of Genesis at Bible Study Fellowship. Last week we studied how Joseph forgave his brothers even after they tried to kill him, threw him in a pit, and eventually sold him into slavery. He forgave them because it was the right thing to do. It was what God wanted him to do.

941127_chained_loveI’ve felt chained up and trapped since the friendship ended. I read stories of people who forgave those who killed their family members or abused them. There’s no reason I should be holding on to this hate. No reason to not forgive her, even if she can’t see that she did anything wrong. I’m drinking the rat poison day after day expecting it to kill the rat, but it’s only killing me.

After Bible study I talked to one of the leaders about my situation. She suggested I pray for the ex-friend I can’t forgive.

Wait. What?

I flat-out told her, “I don’t want to pray for her.” 754548_lamb_of_god_1

She told me it’s not a matter of what I want to do. It’s a matter of obedience and what God REQUIRES me to do. If I pray for her, maybe I can eventually forgive her.

And it makes sense. Why on earth should God forgive me of my sins if I haven’t forgiven this person?

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins.” – Mark 11:25

I’m done drinking the rat poison. I know I don’t have to like her, I don’t have to be friends with her or even talk to her, but I do have to forgive her. Hopefully I’ll reach that point by praying for her instead of holding on to all this hate.

Life Without a Home

We were there to help, to lend a hand, to show God’s love. But before we could do any of that, I was approached by a boy who looked to be about 10 years old.

“Can I pray for you, ma’am?” he said to me.

I was caught totally off guard.homeless

“Uh… of course we can pray,” I said.

“I’ll find you later,” he said and went to hang out with some of the other boys at the center.

About a dozen of us from my church went to Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) to serve a meal and spend time with some of the residents this evening. I think it’s safe to say they probably touched our lives more than we touched theirs.

The families there were homeless without the help of IHN. But IHN gave them a place to live while they looked for jobs and went out on their own again. I can’t imagine life without a home. Having a place to stay is something we take for granted. We just assume we’ll always have a home.

There were about seven families there, different races and different ages. They were all so appreciative of the giant Pizza Hut pizzas we brought, and the smiles on the children’s faces were some of the biggest I’ve ever seen.

One family in particular really stood out. It was a mother and a father, a few sons and a daughter. The daughter looked to be about 13, but she was severely handicapped. She would repeatedly slap herself, make strange noises and could barely walk, even with the help of leg braces. Her mom and dad’s faces told a story of great struggle and of pure exhaustion.

I wondered what their story was. Could they have been made homeless because of medical bills? Was their darling daughter like this from birth or was she in an accident? I didn’t know the specifics, but I do know that it broke my heart, and I will be praying for them.

After we served dinner, some of the kids asked me to play Ninja with them. It’s basically the hand-slap game where you try to move your hands before someone else slaps them. We had a great time, and of course, I was almost always the first one out. Need to work on my reflexes I guess!

I spent some time with a little girl named Peyton who insisted that I wear one of her rainbow-colored beaded necklaces she had made at school.

I talked to one teenage boy who is finishing high school by taking night classes and plans to attend Ball State next year. He’s not sure what he’s majoring in, but his face lit up when I told him how cool it was that he wanted to go to college.

Eventually I ended up with a beautiful two-year-old girl in my arms. Her hair was beaded in pink, purple and white and her big brown eyes made me want to never have to put her down. She loved my jewelry and played with my earrings and rings for as long as she could.

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Pastor took some pics at IHN. Here I am, ready to serve some pizza!

The little boy who wanted to pray for me ended up having to leave early, but the fact that he wanted to pray for me at all was enough to make my night totally worth it. We were supposed to be there for them, for the homeless, and here was a boy who wanted to pray for me.

Jesus said we’re supposed to help the poor, and that when we do, we have served Jesus. But what about those who are poor? Who are they supposed to help? I saw tonight that they can help those of us who aren’t poor by asking to pray for us, or simply allowing us to come and serve them a meal.

I’ll be praying for the people at IHN, and as I learned tonight, at least one of them will probably be praying for me.