Monday, April 22, 2013

A Series on Struggles: Comparison & Worthiness

Number Four:
Comparison & Worthiness

I've written about the idea of comparing myself to others a lot. I've written it into the ground, in fact. Yet, in spite of that, here I am writing about it again.

My current, and ongoing, struggle revolves around comparing myself to others and letting that comparison determine my worthiness or my self-worth.

This is vain, but my whole life I've dreamed of being beautiful. And I don't just mean nice-looking or pretty, but drop dead, make people stop and stare, heart-stoppingly beautiful. I don't know why I've always wanted to be that, but I have since I was a little girl. I know in large part it's due to the media and how people (both men and women) are asked to perceive themselves, but it's also due to the fact that I personally put value in looks. I'm not proud of this, but there it is. I feel like if I'm not beautiful like that, then I'm worth very little.

If you're my friend on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, or Twitter, you know I post a lot of pictures of myself. You may even think I'm super vain and think I'm super full of myself because I post so many pictures of my face. In reality, I post those photos because I'm in a continual state of desperately seeking approval and affirmation. I take photo after photo until I find one I don't absolutely hate, then I edit it to remove any flaws that I can, then I post it and wait for someone to tell me that I am what I wish I was: beautiful.

Why don't I think I'm beautiful now? Because I'm constantly comparing the way I look to the way others look. I'm constantly comparing different features of my face, my hair, and my body to my friends, to celebrities, and to strangers and finding that I am lacking. I've learned to hide it better than I used to, and I even don't think about it as much as I used to (which was always), but it's still there, and I still do it.

I went on an amazing birthday trip (blog post to come soon) that my husband planned this past weekend. We did so many fun things and took so many pictures. And yet, when I looked at the pictures today, all I could think was, "I should have stayed behind the camera, because being in these photos nearly ruins them." I took photos of my brother and his girlfriend, and they both look so great. Then they took photos of my husband and me...My husband is so handsome, I feel like it's a shame that I had to ruin the other half of the picture with my face or my size (which is, again, ever-so-quickly increasing). I couldn't get past the fact that I looked bad in the pictures and just appreciate the fact that my amazing birthday surprise weekend was documented to look at later. All I can see is how the way I look really, really upsets me.

Generally I try to end these blog posts with something that turns the way I think around, and I want to do that now, but emotionally I'm in a place that just won't let me say the things I think I'm supposed to. So instead I'll end with this:

I don't like the way I look, and that makes me severely unhappy. I don't want to be vain; I don't want my self worth or my perceived worthiness to be based on the fact that I don't like the shape of my head, or the way face and hair and body look; I don't want to compare myself to the women around me and feel like crawling in a hole afterward; I don't want any of these things, but they're there. My solution? I don't know yet...I need to love myself for who I am, but I also need to learn to let go of this desire to be out of this world beautiful. I think I'll stay behind the camera for a while, instead of trying to get positive feedback by being in front of it. Maybe if I don't put my face out there, I won't have to feel less than worthy if I don't get the feedback I secretly want. Maybe I'll learn to appreciate the positive things about myself and forget about looks for a while. I know I'll never be beautiful like I want, and I have to learn to be OK with that.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Series on Struggles: Hyperactive Emotions

Number Three:
Hyperactive Emotions

Since I was little I've been a very emotional person. If something made me a little sad, I'd probably cry. If I thought something was a little mean, I'd probably get angry. If something was the least bit happy, I'd probably get really excited.

This can be good and it can be very, very bad. As I get older, I'm leaning more toward it being a very bad thing most of the time. I mean, is it good that I can be happy for people easily? Yes! But more often than not, I get my feelings hurt, I react poorly to something someone says or does, or I misinterpret things and react with my emotions before my head can catch up and it causes pain to either myself or the person I'm interacting with.

I'm starting to hate being this emotional and this sensitive. I keep asking myself why I'm like this. I don't want to be like this. Rather, I want to be able to take a joke and roll with it. I want to be able to brush off insults (imagined or real). I want to be able to be in an exciting or happy situation and not act like a moron. I don't want to cry all the time. I don't want to be this emotional roller coaster, because frankly, it's starting to make me nauseated. All the ups and downs and loop-de-loops are starting to wear on me in a very real way. I'm constantly afraid that I'm going to react to something someone says in the wrong way, and that makes me more tense, which makes my emotional sensitivity that much stronger. It's cliche, but it's a vicious cycle that I can't seem to find my way out of.

I like that I can experience emotions...but I feel like, more and more, I don't just experience them, I let them take me over.

When I was a teenager, I got dumped a few times. Every teenager gets dumped, but I felt like I was dying. I was told a few times that I was acting insane. In retrospect, I was. I was definitely experiencing those emotions fully, but should I have felt them so strongly? Should I have let them have such control over my body? My mind? My interactions with others? That was a decade ago, and I still let my emotions control me that much, if not more.

When Vince and I argue, again, it often feels like I physically won't survive it. Our arguments aren't generally that bad, but if I let the reins on my emotions loose, even a little bit, it's all over. I feel like it's the end. I'm aware of how crazy that sounds, but in those moments, those emotions are true.
Are they valid?
Are they reasonable?
But are they there? Are they almost tangible for me in those times?

It all just makes me very tired. Ninety percent of the time none of this is an issue, but those times in the ten percent range--where my emotions pour out of me like lava spewing from a volcano--are so overwhelming and uncontrollable (even the good times) that I know it has to stop.

Recently I've been able to calm myself sometimes by using breathing techniques I learned in yoga. I sometimes practice my ocean breath (ujjayi pranayama) and my equal ratio breath (sami vritti) during times when I feel like sadness, or anger, or panic threaten to overtake me, but a lot of the time my emotional reaction takes me by surprise and causes upset and turmoil in my life.

I hope to use some things I'm learning in yoga (to help calm me down) as well as prayer and creative outlets to help offset these emotional time bombs ticking away in my head. Writing about it helps a lot, even if you all think I'm nutso now. Maybe, now that this too is out there in digital limbo, I can start working toward being a calmer, more rational human being.

Monday, December 31, 2012

A Series on Struggles: Holding on and Letting Go

I have a really hard time letting go of my past. I don't know why I can't just move on from things. They stick in my brain like boots stuck in thick, goopy mud. I could get the boots out if I pulled really hard, but then I'd have to carry them far, far away from the mud to sit them down. Every now and again, I succeed in pulling the boots out and feel victorious, but I never carry them far enough from the mud, and they always sink back down into the sticky abyss.

I've mentioned in a previous blog how I sometimes make up facts and then choose to believe them, or I let my imagination go a little crazy, and the stories that I invent become reality for a few moments. This also applies to "my past." I like to think I remember things accurately, but more often than not, I'll remember an event, and then remember the emotional reaction I had to that event, which is always coupled with the "story" I add to the event (of what could have happened to cause the event, of what I don't know that really happened, etc.). Because of this, past events are generally more potent than they should be in my brain. This causes the mud to be stickier. Goopier. Harder to break away from.

I've struggled with this my entire life (or at least as long as I can remember). Generally, the struggles revolve around whatever is most important to me. I constantly worry that whatever it is that I love (my husband, my family, my friends, my pup, my writing, my knitting, etc.) will somehow reject me. Now, I know that writing and knitting, things I have control over, can't reject me, but I can really, really suck at doing them, which in my brain is a form of rejection. I'm always second-guessing the love of others toward me. Because of that, I'm always second-guessing their intentions, their words, their actions. I want to hold on to the things I love SO tightly, because I'm scared they'll vanish.

So, I hold on to things I love and the things that cause me pain (past things, silly things, imaginary things, misunderstood things), yet, I need to let go of those things that cause me pain, and I need to, if not let go of, loosen my hold a bit on the things I love. You know that old saying: "If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they're yours; if they don't they never were." (Richard Bach)

I need to learn to trust that the people I love, who love me back, aren't going to fly away if I let them go. I need to trust that I don't have to be perfect, that I don't have to apologize for every imagined slight, that I don't have to try so hard to make them love, because they already do.

By that same token, I need to learn to let go of things that don't need to be held on to. I need to rip my proverbial boots out of the mud and take them far, far, far away. Then I need to wash them, dry them, and wear them only on solid ground.

I think it's important to remember your past. I think it's important to know your limitations and the things that set you off, but it's just as important not to let those things have power over you. I want to be able to look at the things that make me feel bad, make me feel powerless, make me feel like I won't ever amount to anything, and walk away, because I want to know that those things aren't truths.

Tomorrow begins a new year. I want to begin that year walking away from the mud. I want to walk beside the people and things I love, and trust that, just because I'm not holding on to them as tightly as I can, when I turn to look, they'll all still be there.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Series on Struggles: Vanity

I write a lot about my struggles, but generally it's in the context of something else. As a form of self-therapy, and as a way to really confront my demons in a setting where I can't lie to myself or hide from truths, I plan to write about them, one at a time, over the next few weeks.

First up: Vanity.

I can't speak for every little girl, but a lot of little girls dream of growing up to be princesses. I never dreamed of being a princess really, but I did dream of growing up and being beautiful and tough (the kind of girl who was no doubt stunning, but could also kick your butt if the need arose).

I distinctly remember, when I was very young, trying to imagine what my adult self would look like. Would I be tall and thin? Would I develop womanly curves? Would I have a face--big eyes, big lips, the perfect nose--that I thought the ideal woman should have? I worried that I would grow up with none of these features. I was really, really scared that I would grow up and not be beautiful.

That was at least twenty-years ago, but I still carry that baggage. I still look in the mirror, and some part of me hopes that the features that I so desperately wish I had would somehow have appeared. I think that if I eat the right things, exercise the right way, put on the right makeup (not too little, not too much), and wear the right clothes, then maybe this dream of "ideal beauty" will become a reality. Sometimes, if I don't look in the mirror too often, I even convince myself that something has shifted and it's become a reality.

But, always, I do look in the mirror, and I see all these things that I'm not happy with. (I want to say that the things I'm about to say are NOT so that people will try and compliment me. If I'm going to deal with these things, I'd prefer it if people didn't refer to them at all. But I think it's important for me, if I'm going to really deal with this, to be transparent, even when it's unpleasant.)

I don't like my profile. My nose often looks nonexistent and my chin slopes down to my neck so that it looks like I don't even have a chin. Straight on, my face is very round. Due to some nerve damage as a baby, my face is just uneven enough to be noticeable. I can't control the muscles on one side of the lower half of my face at all. When I smile, I'm all teeth, and my lips all but disappear. If I stand up really straight, and pull my belly button toward my spine (like I'm told to in yoga), I'm sometimes almost happy with my body, but the minute I see a photo where I'm not actively doing these things, I cringe. I'm not nearly as heavy as I once was, but I'm all squish. And even with the weight loss, my hips and shoulders are wider than I'd like, since I'm so short. Even my fingers are short and squishy, making it hard to wear pretty jewelry, because I don't want to draw attention to my hands. I have a very short torso, which I've been told by many people is an extremely undesirable feature, and my legs are round and short. Even my hair (now that I can see what my natural color is after years and years of dying it to make it better) is a color that I've been told is like "dirty dishwater." Some people aren't even sure what color it is, it's so bland. It isn't straight and it isn't curly. It isn't thick and it isn't thin. I'm pale in a way that looks a little bit sickly and showcases dark circles and red marks easily. Overall, the only part of my body I like is my feet...

I don't need anyone to tell me why any of these things aren't true, or don't matter. People have tried to tell me those things my whole life, and while I really, really appreciate the encouragement and love that people have poured out on me, what it really comes down to is what I believe. And I believe what I wrote about myself, even if I shouldn't.

All of this pain that I've put myself through for twenty plus years is because of how I view physical beauty. I wish I could be the kind of person who doesn't put that kind of thing on a pedestal, who didn't think that looking a certain was desirable or important, who didn't think about her appearance all the time, but right now, I am. I'm a vain person who wishes with all her heart that she could look different...could look better.

I'm writing this not so that anyone who might read it will tell me that I'm pretty. I have amazing family and friends who try to build me up in that regard almost on a daily basis, and I love them for how much they pour their love out on me and try to build me up. Rather, I'm writing this so that I can see, verbatim, just how vain I really am, and by seeing it, start reshaping the way that I think about the way that I look and the way that I want to look.

It's scary, because for as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be beautiful. Now, I want to want to not care about that. I want to not think about how I look when I laugh (which, right now, I don't like). I want to be able to stop worrying if I look fat by sitting a certain way, or holding my head a certain way, or wearing the "wrong" thing. I want to be comfortable in my own skin, and I think to do that, I have to let go of this desire to be beautiful.

I'll never be a different person. I'll never have a different face. I may have a slightly different body (through diet and exercise), but it'll still be the same basic structure. These are things I can't change. It's time to stop wishing that I could change them, and instead work on changing the way I think about beauty.

I'll never be beautiful in the way that I've wanted to be beautiful for my whole life, but maybe I can realign the way I think so that that doesn't matter so much anymore.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Gentle Tongue is a Tree of Life

The older I get, the more I realize how little I really know about how things are supposed to work. Each year, I look back and see all the things I knew and how that knowledge was shattered and replaced with something that I was sure was false.

Recently, God has been working on my heart in a serious way. In recent months, He's pushed me in ways that, left to my own devices, I would have run the opposite direction from. Every day, with little things--a comment from a friend, a conversation with a stranger, reconnecting with someone in a small way--He is showing me how He wants me to live my life.

I used to think that God wanted me to be a big writer that wrote powerful, inspiring blogs, and someday books, for His glory. I thought, "This is why He's given me this passion to write. So that I can really do something with it." What I didn't realize at the time was, by thinking that, I was really only wanting to glorify myself. I want to publish a book or two and I want my name to be known, but now I think that that kind of stuff doesn't matter so much to God. Maybe He gave me this love of writing as a gift just for a way to glorify him by creating stories and transferring ideas and drawing pictures with words, even if I'm the only one who ever reads it. Maybe He gave me the passion to write, simply because He knew I would like it.

I don't think God wants me to live to be a writer. I don't think He wants me to live in a certain city, or a certain type of house, or have a certain amount of money. But I do think he wants me to live my life, my whole entire life, intentionally loving people.

I've blogged a few times about what I think love is. I don't think it's an emotion we feel, but rather, how we treat people. We can not like someone and still love them...but we have to intentionally show that person our love, despite our feelings.

There have been two things that have happened lately that really made me think about this.

First...I'm a very emotional person. I'm also a person that lets my imagination run wild. Because of this, I often let an emotional cue in my life grow from a feeling, into a fictional tale that corresponds with said feeling, before it settles as some sort of twisted reality in my brain. 9.9 times out of 10, there is zero truth in this false reality that I've created. I know this, and yet, I let it live in me.

Recently, I've reconnected with an old friend. I won't go into the details of what happened, when, and why, but I will say that over time, having no contact with this person, I had created a false reality in my head that told me that this person would forever hate me. I believed this so much that I would get angry just thinking about it...but this was anything but true.

God often has a way of making us turn and face these falsehoods in our lives. I'm so thankful that, despite how uncomfortable I felt at first, and despite how scared I was, He pushed me so hard that I couldn't help but turn and face this fiction that I'd created and see through it to the true story that lay beneath it.

When I went to this person, fighting back this crazy, irrational thought that they hated me, I was met with warmth, gratitude, and peace. My fiction was anything but even close to truth.

I know, without a doubt in my heart, that God was the one who brought me to this place with this person. It's like He's holding my shoulders, facing me toward this situation, and saying, "See? Do you see what I have for you? Do you see what I have for all of you? I want you all to go out and love each other, no matter what. That's all."

I didn't want to go to this person. I didn't want to love this person, because I was sure I would be met with rejection and pain. But God kept pushing me. GO. And when I did, look at the gifts He had waiting. Peace, healing, and love.

The second thing isn't quite as pleasant, but it's just as important.

Anyone who knows me know that my husband is the most important person in my life. I would do anything for him. He's my best friend in the whole world. Together, he and I have been through a lot. Because of this, you might think that loving him would be as easy as breathing...and it is, unless we're having an argument.

When I say "loving him," I mean actively showing him that I love him. In an argument, if you feel mad, or sad, or hurt, it's hard to reach out and show someone else love. It takes a really strong person to do that...And even though Vince is the most important person in my life, it's often really difficult for me in an argument to tone down my anger, or my hurt, or my sadness, long enough to stop and think, "How can I show him love? Because in this argument, he's hurting to." More often than not, I think, "Why is he hurting me this way? Why can't he comfort me?"

It's always hardest to love someone else when all you can do is look at yourself. And when I'm hurt, or sad, or angry, or irritated, or anything but happy, my eyes immediately go inward. Me. Me. Me.

Near the end of most fights, Vince walks over (and I know he's still upset, because we haven't come to a conclusion yet), and puts his arms around me, and holds me. He lays down his negative emotions in order to show me that he still loves me. I'd like to say I instantly become repentant and show him love right back...but I don't always. Sometimes I stand there, stiff, unwilling to show him that I love him too, knowing it hurts him, but unwilling to lay down my selfishness to take that pain away.

Why is it that I'm so willing to reach out in love to someone I'm not very close to, yet so unwilling to lay down myself for the person I care for more than anyone on this planet? Perhaps it's because I know, at the end of the day, Vince is going to love me and I'm going to love him. But that doesn't make it OK for me to take time outs from my desire, my duty, my privilege to love him.

We're all going to get angry. We're all going to get our feelings hurt. We're all going to lash out in anger. What God is teaching me isn't that we aren't allowed to feel these ways, but rather, to be aware of the way our words and our actions affect others.

I want to be able to hold back the words that my emotions tells me to say when I know that they'll hurt someone. Even if I just have to bite my tongue until my emotional state calms enough to say something I won't regret. I want to be able to do what Vince does, and push aside what my negative emotions tell me to do, and instead reach out in love. I want to be able to reach out to a stranger and show them love just as easily as I reach out to my husband in an argument, because even if I know at the end of the day that he's going to love me forever, I want him to be shown my love, no matter what.

"A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseneess in it breaks the spirit." 
Proverbs 15:4

Monday, October 1, 2012

Emotional Epiphany

I often let my emotions dictate my actions and words. Excitement, joy, sadness, anger, contentment, whatever it is, I let what I'm feeling decide how I'm going to interact with the world. (Anyone who follows me on Twitter can follow my moods based on the kinds of things I post. My apologies.)

My husband tells me that being a person that is intensely in tune with my emotions is a good thing. Some days I agree--others, I beg to differ.

My whole life, I've thought that there was something wrong with me because of the intensity with which I felt things. I thought there was something broken in my brain--some synapse that fired incorrectly--that caused me to feel so much so often. Whether it was feeling like I was going to die, because a boy broke up with me, or feeling like nothing could ever be wrong again, because my cat had kittens and I was as happy as anyone could be--I felt too much to be a rational, sane human being. Often, these emotions only lasted short periods of time. If a boy broke up with, I was sure my heart would stop beating...and then a few days later, that seemed ridiculous. It was, after all, just a boy, and really, I didn't like him that much. If the kittens overflowed my heart with joy, I was sure nothing could be better. But then, someone I knew would get married, or have a baby, and suddenly that was the pinnacle of joy.

There's no apparent rhyme or reason to my emotional state a lot of the time. It goes up and down with force. As I said, I believed my brain didn't work like a human brain should.

Last night, my husband and I talked about all this. He told me that my ability to feel things so acutely was one of the things that drew him to me initially. (I countered with the fact that my emotional reactions often cause arguments, but I want to focus on the positive words he spoke into my life right now.) When he told me that, for the first time ever, I started to think that maybe I'm not defective...maybe the way that I feel doesn't make me crazy...maybe it's a gift, and maybe there's a purpose for it.

I've always believed that God creates each of us with individual talents, interests, and passions. I've always believed that each person I meet is unique and beautiful. But I've never applied those thoughts to me. Though I believed wholeheartedly that everyone was unique, special, and beautiful, subconsciously I've always thought, Except me. I'm not those things. I'm broken. Maybe I'm crazy, too. Then I'm blessed with this amazing man in my life who says, This thing that you see a defect is something beautiful to me. I love this thing and I love you for, and in spite of, it. 

It shook me.

Perhaps God made me the way I did so that I could experience his full range of beautiful, heart-shattering emotions, and in so doing, be able to empathize with others when they experience these things. Perhaps I this thing that I've seen as a downfall, a major flaw, has always been a blessing that bloomed very slowly. Perhaps this stockpile of emotional baggage that I've added to and carried my whole life is there so that I can draw from it and in some small way, help someone else deal with their emotional stuff.

I don't think I'm the only person who feels things intensely.
I don't think I feel more than everyone else.
I don't think that without me the people who talk to me couldn't get by.
But, I do know that I feel things, in the core of me, when the people I care about feel them.
I do know that when I feel something, I feel it as a real, tangible, physical thing.
And I know that, if I let God work in me, that He can use this as a tool for His glory, 
as a way for Him to love.

My God made me an emotional, empathetic woman, and He made my husband and logical, loving man. My husband's logic helped me to see that the way I am isn't wrong. I can't let my emotions control me, but I can be thankful for the ability to feel things so deeply, and hopefully to be able to use those emotions and the knowledge that comes with them to help someone else. 

I'm thankful for the ability to feel, even when it's hard. I'm thankful that I have such a kind, loving, rational husband, who helps me by encouraging me and not coddling me (despite what my emotion-driven-self demands of him). And I'm so very thankful for a God who loves me enough to make me who I am, and who loves you enough to make you who you are.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

We're All Hungry for Something

If you read my last blog post, you know that lately, things for me haven't been great (emotionally). I've had a lot of down moments and down days, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out what it was that was causing it. I should have been able to figure it out, but I'm stubborn. Often, I keep my eyes closed tight when I know I should open them wide, because I know that when I open them it might sting.

Tonight, Vince and I went to Lexington to attend 608--the church service held at Southland Christian Church for college-ish age people. The pastor, Jon Weece, talked about running from things and running to things. He then told us the story of a woman who was abused as a child, and ended up turning her life toward things that were harmful to her and to others--sex, drugs, alcohol, and self-injury. The story ended when after this woman had run from her past for years--from all that hurt she endured as a child and then allowed herself to endure as an adult--until she ran to someone that opened up their heart to her and loved her. This woman wasn't judged for the way she'd lived her life. The word sin was never used. Rather, this woman was described as someone who had been hurt, who was hurting herself and others, and who, in the end, was loved simply because she needed to be loved. That love healed her brokenness.

I'm not doing this story justice. We got to hear the woman, via video, tell her story from beginning to end, and it broke my heart. She talked about her drug and alcoholism, her prostitution and career in the porn industry, and about her broken childhood with a mother who introduced her to many of these things. This was a woman who was broken in so many ways, and who in the end was healed by the love and grace of Jesus. This story is miraculous. It's miraculous because Jesus' love, through people, helped this woman heal, but it's also miraculous, because, despite what I've seen from people for so, so long, the people in this story never made this woman seem like she was less. 

I've been to many different churches, and I've talked to people with varied beliefs--Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhists, Baptists, Catholics, Jehovahs Witnesses, Methodists, Mormons, Muslims, Wiccans, you name. These different groups of people have vastly different views of God, religion, and the world, yet there's one common thing that ties most, if not all, of them together. The idea that what they believe is right.

What stood out as different to me about this particular service, about this particular story, was that I never got the impression that the people of this church thought of this woman as any less than them. I never got the impression that they saw themselves as being better than her. They weren't going out and loving her because she was lost--they went and loved her, because she needed to be loved. No questions asked. No holds barred. They just loved.

Pastor Weece told another story about a young boy, a second grader I thing, that was a pretty violent kid. Once, he took a swing at a teacher, and Jon had to pull him away. The boy bit him, and when Jon got his hand free, he pulled the boy into a gentle bear hug and took him to see the principal, holding him the whole time. As they walked, the boy fought against Jon, still full of anger. When Jon got him to the principal's office, she saw him, went back outside, and brought the boy a peach. He ate as if he hadn't eaten in weeks. Why did he act so violently? So angrily? Because he was hungry.

We're all hungry for something. The woman I talked about before, she was hungry--desperately hungry--for love, for a sense that she was important, that she belonged. The child was hungry for food, so hungry that all he could do was be angry. I'm hungry for things, things that I may not even realize I'm hungry for. I know that you're hungry for things too.

As I said in the beginning of this, emotionally, things have been rough for me lately. I've lashed out at my husband, at my family, and at my friends. I wasn't happy. If I'd opened my eyes up, I would have been able to see that it was because of how hungry I was. I've been starving for Jesus, and I didn't recognize those hunger pains for what they were. I've been hungry for God to move in my life, and what I didn't see was that I was also hungry to go out and live my life for God, and to share the love that He so freely gives me.

I'm not trying to idolize Pastor Weece, or Southland, or the 608 service we went to, but I do want to say that tonight's message opened my eyes and my heart in a way that I haven't experienced in a long, long time. The message made me realize that a little bit of love, the smallest thing, can set in motion a chain of events that might change someone's life. And if it doesn't, that little bit of love can at least make a person happy for a moment. The message made me want to go out and love.

Vince and I talked about the service after we left. We felt refreshed, renewed, and excited to go out and live our lives, and our marriage, for God. The entire service was centered around not who was right, who was wrong, and how we (the "right" ones) can correct the thinking/beliefs of the "wrong" ones, it was centered around the need the world has for servants--for people who go out and love others no matter what. In the story about the little boy, the principal and Jon loved him and gave him food, not because he was angry, but because he was hungry. In the story of the woman, she was shown love by the people at Southland not so that she would believe what they would have her believe, but because she was hurting and needed to be loved.

My heart broke tonight in a way that it hasn't in a long time. My heart broke for myself when I realized that I'd gone for so long not living my life loving and worshipping Jesus by loving others. My heart broke in a beautiful way when I realized that there are people that are living that way right now. My heart broke in a refreshing, exciting way when I realized that there are churches out there right now that are going and doing the things that make life beautiful--they're out there spreading the love of God. There was no political agenda, or church agenda, no secret, hidden reason for why the people of this church are doing this--it just is what it is, and what it is is beautiful.

Jon challenged us to go out this week and do for one person what we wished we could do for the world. To go out and show one person love. What a beautiful opportunity, and what a beautiful way to live, to go and give someone love, and to do so not in order to change the way they think, or the way they act, or the way they are, but simply go and love because we all need to be loved.

31..."The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches." 
-Matthew 13:31-32