Hunting Unicorns

“You are far more complex than I realized.”

I shrug in response to the statement. “People are complex.”

“No,” he says. “People are not that complex. You are.”

But people are that complex. Every single human being that walks this earth consists of many layers, multiple facets. Whether we are lovers of fairytales who are the furthest thing from romantics (Who, me?) or admirers of magic living in an ordinary, mundane world, we are all walking contradictions. Some of us just don’t realize it yet.

Me? I’m a writer—an artist, if you will—and artists tend to delve deeper into life than most people dare to go. That doesn’t mean the others are not capable of such feats; it simply means they haven’t been curious enough to explore.

Sometimes I consider how simple my life might be if I had never left this town. I have tried (and failed) to wrap my mind around what it would be like to have gotten married right out of high school and given birth to those six kids my childhood self thought I wanted. What would I think and feel and believe had I settled for what was right in front of me and never explored the expanse of the world?

I think I could be quite happy there, in my simple life, not knowing any different. Because, you know what they say: ignorance is bliss. I, however, never afforded myself that luxury. I reached for something bigger, deeper, different.

I got a taste of the world and now I cannot go back to being a small town girl. It’s a beautiful thing; it’s a terrible thing. It’s where I am right now.

And last night, my current predicament led to a long conversation with a middle aged man about how I am a genuine, one-of-a-kind, there-is-no-one-else-even-remotely-like-me-in-the-world. Despite my protests that I am not “looking” for anyone, thank you very much, he insists that I am looking for something that does not exist. There are no such thing as unicorns, he says.

At this point in the conversation, I am still more amused than annoyed, so I smirk. “You think I should settle for a horse and just glue a piece of antler on his head?”

Herein lies the real problem with people who tell you that you need to lower the impossible standards they imagine you to have: they are never clear about where the mysterious line is drawn. What is the perfect amount of compromise? Where do my standards switch from high to impossible?

I am still trying to figure out why in the blazes that if what I want is this…

unicorn-dimensions-unicorns-17788267-1024-768

…I should have to settle for this?

grinch2bdog2bfallen2bwith2bantlers

(I’m sorry, Max, that’s not fair. I love you. You are my favorite. But you are not a unicorn or a reindeer. You are a dog—the very best of dogs. Keep being a dog.)

I’m going to be honest here. I don’t think I demand anything unreasonable out of life. I want to write books, but they don’t have to be number one bestsellers (although I obviously would not complain if they were). I want to bounce around the world for years to come and maybe have a flight experience where nothing is delayed or cancelled or otherwise complicated. And if I ever do get married, I just want it to be to someone who thinks and feels about the world the same way I do.

If I am looking, it is for someone to share in an adventure. I don’t want a small life. I don’t want safe, comfortable, or conventional. I don’t want the shallow, the superficial, or the daily grind. I want to always search bigger, dig deeper, and see beyond what most people dare to dream.

Perhaps what I want is unreasonable after all—a life lived entirely Beyond Reason. A life fully abandoned to faith. And trust. And perhaps a touch of pixie dust.

Honestly, I’ll be okay if I never find a unicorn, so long as the journey is magical.

Where is God?

Wednesday night Bible Study. We talked about how easy it is to read some books of the Bible and how difficult it is to push through the others, but how necessary both are.

“Right now I’m reading 2 Samuel,” my friend said. “People are slaughtering each other and it’s hard to find a loving God in that.”

I think it must be a very hard thing to read the entirety of the Bible if you are just looking for love. If you are looking for all of the traits of God you already find familiar. If you are trying to summarize Him, to tie Him nice and pretty with a bow.

“God is Love.”

You’ll find those words on wall plaques and church signs. You’ll hear them tumbling off the lips of Christians near and far. They’re the words we use to win others over—the first introduction to our beliefs. While they are not untrue, they are not the whole truth either.

Yes, God is Love, but that is not all He is.

Way back in the book of Exodus, God introduced Himself to Moses as I AM WHO I AM.

Not I AM LOVE. Not I AM JUSTICE. Not I AM PEACE or LIBERATION or FREEDOM THROUGH THE AGES. When the Creator of the universe elected to introduce Himself to a human being, He chose the title I AM.

It means nothing. It means everything. Even after years of pondering that statement, I struggle to understand it. I’ve never met anyone else who could introduce themselves simply as I AM.

But God is. He encompasses everything. More than love. More than justice. More than peace or liberation or freedom through the ages.

Today, as I consider the conversation from Wednesday night, I cannot help but think of how well my friend’s words fit not only 2 Samuel, but the world in which we live today.

“People are slaughtering each other. It’s hard to find a loving God in that.”

Maybe it’s also to find a just God or a peaceful God or even a God of liberation.

Maybe it’s just plain hard to find God. Period. Where is God in all of this?

My neighbors talk of the end times. They tell me I should be afraid. Afraid to go to concerts or conventions or, really, even to work. It’s a crazy world out there. Crazy people. Anything could happen.

But I’m not afraid. Even though I “should” be.

“For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

So if you’re asking where God is, He’s right here. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell among His people.

Christians, you are not allowed to ask where God is in all of this; you should already know. He should already be present in your heart and in your home.

You don’t get to be the ones sitting inside, trembling in fear. You get to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a broken world. You get to be Love. You get to be Justice. You get to be Peace and Liberation and Freedom Through the Ages.

You get to be I AM.

And if the world still can’t see that a loving God exists, then we have failed them.

So, where are you taking God today?

Breaking Up with Social Media

It is really hard to cut a person out of your life. Even when it’s the right thing to do. Even when it’s necessary. Even when you believe with all of your heart that it’s the best thing for that person in that moment.

And especially when that action of walking away from a single human being severs your connection with others.

Once I went through a breakup and watched his family unfriend me on social media sites one by one by one. Something about that still stings although nearly a year has passed—being so intentionally unloved by people I love to this day.

But I think that’s the problem. The way I keep people. The way I want to cradle the whole world close to my heart. It’s a question I’ve been asking for years. Long after I was too old for the asking. With every stranger I make the briefest connection with: “Mommy, can I keep him?”

Sometimes I can’t. In fact, more often than not, I cannot hold people the way I want to hold them. So I love the whole world from a distance, all the while wishing for a deeper connection than the tenuous thread reality has to offer.

More, I think. We were made for more than these meaningless motions we go through. We were made to keep people for real.

So I tried. And I failed in the most monumental of ways.

I’m going through somewhat of a breakup. It feels strange to call it that when there has truly been nothing there, at least in my mind. Working in a restaurant, especially one that has a bar, puts you in a position to invest in the lives of people who frequent that place on a daily basis. Apparently it also puts you in a position to become something toxic to a marriage that has been struggling for years.

I didn’t think it would be this hard. To step back. To create some much needed distance between myself and the man I’ve been casually chatting with at least three days a week for the last couple of months.

It’s hard when habit leads my feet in the direction of his table. When he comes in with his friend I haven’t seen in sometime and it hits me like a sucker punch to the gut when I realize I can’t stop by to say hello. It’s amazing how the disappointment crumples me.

Yes, it is hard to cut people out of your life, but sometimes it’s all too easy to let them go.

That’s what I think about as I attempt to distract myself with another dirty table, another stack of dishes, another drink that may not actually need refilled.

It is all too easy to drift in and out of someone’s life without actually taking the time to make a connection. Oh, we fool ourselves into thinking we are connected. What with Facebook and Instragram and Twitter. We push “friend” and “follow” and convince ourselves that, through these shallow glimpses into another person’s life, we somehow know them. As if we don’t realize how misleading social media can be.

Last night, a complete stranger said to me, “Do you dance? You have the body of a dancer.”

And I laughed because this lady does not know how truly uncoordinated this body can be. While I may be slender as a ballerina, you will never find me in a pair of Pointe shoes. Because my body lies.

And so does my newsfeed.

Nowhere amidst the Fearless quotes and the pictures of babies and the endless raving about extraordinary books does social media say, “I’m struggling here. I’m fighting an uphill battle and I’m losing so hard.”

Social media never provided anyone with the opportunity to say, “But how are you really doing?”

I find myself missing those days in which I sat in my co-worker’s office as he asked me what I was doing there and how long I was planning to stay and what did I actually want out of life. I always found myself unmasked in that office. There is something so freeing about letting the pretenses fall away.

These days I find myself believing the lies social media offers. It’s easier that way.

Sometimes I comfort myself with the knowledge that the nearest person is only a phone call, a text message, an email away, but I can’t remember the last time I capitalized on the opportunity to actually grab the phone and pull them a little closer for the day.

I have the phone number of an old friend. It has been sitting on my bookshelf for three months. I’d say she is waiting for me to call her, but she has probably forgotten she gave it to me by now. Life probably keeps her so distracted she hardly cares either way.

I entitled this post “Breaking Up with Social Media,” but I’m not declaring an internet fast. I’ll still be on there just as much, sharing the pretty pieces of my life. But I hope to be more intentional outside of the internet. I hope to ask the hard questions. I hope to finally make that phone call. I hope to be strong and keep avoiding that table, but never stop trying to keep people. Just keep them.

Close to my heart. Close to my mind. Closer than the internet allows them.

Yes, I’m breaking up with social media, looking past the lies, and scavenging for something real today.

The Justice Side

I spent the summer working at a day camp for elementary aged children. People who know I work with preschoolers assume this must have been easy for me. It wasn’t. There’s a big difference between a four-year-old and a nine-year-old, and while the former can solve just about any conflict with a hug, the latter can hold a petty grudge for a week. Or a month. Or a summer.

Sometimes that building felt like a war zone, grenades of hateful words being thrown back and forth. Girl to boy, boy to girl. Then the division would start in their own camps. Sometimes the ultimate bomb went off and left just about everyone in tears. And this whole time I was trying to keep the peace, often working to interfere before any major catastrophes could happen. It was exhausting.

One day I was standing on the sidelines of a kickball game, offering my services as referee. As I declared one of the boys “safe,” his competition turned on me and spewed, “It’s no fair. You’re on the boys side!”

My co-worker (who, by the way, was on the boy’s side) rushed to my defense with the dramatic exclamation, “She’s on the side of justice!”

I laughed at his antics then, but six months later, that’s a phrase that sticks with me.

“She’s on the side of justice.”

I don’t know about you, but the word “justice” often turns my mind to things like sex-trafficking and child slavery and all number of other atrocities taking place in the world. People who are “on the side of justice” are people who fight for the end of these horrors. But while I certainly don’t agree with any of those things, I don’t take an active role in vanquishing them either. So am I really on the side of justice?

Yes, I am. Because justice is so much more than abolishing slavery and taking a wrecking ball to the red light districts of the world.

Justice is, quite simply, the quality of being just, impartial, or fair.

Justice is admitting that the little guy did make it to first base when an entire team of girls is saying he’s out.

Justice is saying you can’t lock a kid out of the girl’s room for the sole crime of being younger than you.

Justice is evenly distributing the beanbags when the older girls want to sit on a mountain of them.

Justice is the little things.

And justice is hard.

Because it’s so much easier not to argue. It’s so much easier to let the masses rule and to find a new niche for the child who is bullied. But it’s not right. It’s not just.

So I hope it can always be said of me that I’m on the side of justice. I hope I’ll always be the one raising my voice and righting the wrongs.

Because the world needs a few more people on the Justice Side. And we’ve got to burst into it Red-Rover style. We’ve got to hold firm and catch people in the net of it until they get all wrapped up in Justice’s arms.

Won’t you come over? Won’t you come over and join the Side of Justice today?

Fall for Him ~ A Book Review

Up until about a month ago, I had never been asked to write a book review. But when I got an email from Brenda Rogers asking if I would look over her e-book, I couldn’t refuse. Especially when I hopped over to check out her book website and found the words, “You do not have to recover from singleness. There is a better way.”

Yep. Hooked.

So I told Brenda to send me the book. After all, it’s only natural for an author to be curious about someone who wrote about the same subject from a completely different angle. …And that’s where the whole review thing got hard. Not because I didn’t agree with what she was saying, but because I couldn’t relate with what she was saying.

The subtitle should have given it away. Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single. I am not—and have never been—a recovering single. There are girls who say, “Woe is me. I’ll never find Mr. Right. Just call me an old maid.” And then there are girls who are all like, “Whoo! I’m single! Footloose and fancy-free, that’s me.” *happy dance*

Now, those are two extremes, but on a scale of Sobbing to Celebrating, I’m doing a moonwalk on the C. I’m happy with my life as it is. I’m truly content to be single until God brings the right man into my life. And if that’s where you are, then this book isn’t for you.

But… what I saw in this book is a lot of what I was seeing when I decided to write Beyond Waiting. Because there are girls who struggle with their singleness. There are women who are struggling to find contentment regardless of their relationship status. And Brenda does a better job connecting with them than I ever could, because Brenda lived there. Brenda knows what it is to long for marriage more than she longs for her Savior.

And while Fall for Him was written for a woman much different than me, I was still able to pull out a few very profound truths.

fall for himLike, Brenda rocks that verse about God giving you the desires of your heart.

She reminds us that, marriage and talents aside, our only true calling is to bring glory to God…

And that community is essential to any human being…

That “shame is not present in holiness”…

And (preach it, sister) there is more to being equally yoked than just being saved.

So if singleness is a struggle for you, I’d encourage you to check out Brenda’s book. It may just change your outlook on life as you know it.

 

Word of the Year

If I’ve established anything in my two years of blogging, I hope it’s that I don’t exactly go about things the typical way. I’m the girl who trashed my list of what I want in a future husband. I’m the girl who doesn’t believe in five-year plans. And when it comes to New Years resolutions, I laugh in the face of 2013. Because there is only one thing I know about this coming year: It won’t be anything like I would expect it to be.

I know people—several people—who assign words to their years. One year they will focus on joy and the next, courage. It’s a great idea in theory, and it seems to be working out for them. As for me… Like I said, I’m not typical.

I took a look through the journals that document this year of my life and was surprised by what I found. Because I had expectations for 2012, and I didn’t find them in the pages of this year. In the midst of  unrealized dreams being realized and falling in love with a new job and discovering Hannah Brencher *squeal*, I also found that birthing dreams is hard and messy and not at all like I once imagined it would be.

“Every day is different,” I find in January. “As fickle as the emotions of the four-year-olds I work with. One moment they’re spitting at you; the next moment they’ve wrapped their arms around your hips and nuzzled their face into your side.”

There was a dream coming into being, but there was also opposition and confusion and heartache and goodbyes.

“God, it wasn’t supposed to be like this,” February claims. “I don’t know how it was supposed to be, but certainly not like this.”

Because if I could have chosen a word for this year, it would have been something about stepping out. Something about dreams coming true and hopes being realized. It would have been the year my purpose unfolded and my ministry skyrocketed. And it did. In so many ways, all of those things were true. But God was doing something deeper beneath the surface. Something I didn’t realize I needed until it threaded its way through the pages of my story and, eventually, onto the face of the internet.

Vulnerability.
Approachability.
Trust.

Those were the words God would give me this year. Words I didn’t even realize were missing from my vocabulary until He whispered them into my heart. Those words lingered beneath the surface of my reality, begging to be fully realized.

I had finally allowed entrance to those two crazy guys who only ever wanted to befriend me, but it took a little longer for me to understand that there was more to letting them in than finally agreeing to go to their stupid Christmas party two years ago. That’s where it all began—the vulnerability, the learning to be approachable, the willingness to open myself up and trust that they’re not going to hurt me.

“Here’s to becoming approachable,” I wrote in June.

“Here’s to being vulnerable,” followed in September.

And November hit me with the weight of it all: “I’m going to put myself back in the arena. Open myself to more wounds, more scars. And more grace.”Here's to becoming approachable.

It’s not what I would have thought—what I would have chosen—for this year, but it is what I needed. And I have no idea what my story will be in 2013. I have no words to define this year I’ve yet to know. But I’m certain that it’s going to be something far beyond what I would ever dream for myself. Because God… He’s awesome like that.

Here’s to another year of walking hand in hand with the God who knows me better than I know myself.

Something About Dating…

So, I wrote my third guest post for Devotional Diva. One thing I really love about guest posting for Renee is that it is always challenging. I’ve had to step outside the box and/or delve into some issues that I don’t spend much time talking about. First she had me write about becoming approachable… which I’m not—I’m totally not. Then she had me addressing some issues with my skinny little body… which I tend not to talk about because most people don’t understand that “skinny” isn’t a good thing. Today, I’m talking about dating… which is laughable.

But, you see, someone asked me how I felt about not being allowed to date until I was sixteen and, for the first time in my life, I actually thought about it. And the answer I came up with was really quite beautiful. It made me want to hug my dad (and I probably would have if he weren’t 450 miles away).

So here’s my thoughts about dads being involved in their daughter’s dating life: Get all up in the middle of it, please. Even if she tells you she doesn’t want you there. Because she’s lying. And here’s why I believe that.