On Christmas Eve I was thinking about Mary the mother of Jesus and how at that 1st Christmas she might have thought “Wow…life changes so quickly and sometimes things you could never imagine happening, just do.” I made a quick mental list of things that might have been different for Mary that 1st Christmas as opposed to 12 months earlier:
A year ago she’d been a teenage girl planning a wedding
….now she was married and a mother
A year ago she’d had a good reputation
…now she was likely whispered about regularly in her hometown
A year ago she’d had very little in common with her cousin Elizabeth
…now they both had newborns who had been born with a special life-plan
A year ago she’d been part of a nation of Jewish people waiting for Messiah
….now she was the mother of that Messiah
A year ago she’d likely had head knowledge about the promises of God
…now she was nursing and changing the diapers of The Promise of God
This made me think about how much has changed in my world over the past 12 months. Some of it good…and some of it not so good. Some of it expected….and some things I never could have imagined. I jotted down a quick list of the things that are different this Christmas for me.
A year ago I was on month 7 of being out of work and was feeling like a failure
…now I’m on month 6 of a job I love and am really good at
A year ago I was in year 13 of living in New Mexico and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else
…now I live in Denver and feel confident that I’ll never live in New Mexico again
A year ago I was seeing someone new and was toying with the idea of “settling”
…now I am so grateful that didn’t work and believe again that I deserve someone amazing
A year ago I was decorating my house through tears because I was fairly certain that I would lose it
…now that home has become a rental property with someone else’s decorations filling it (sigh)
A year ago I was regularly surrounded by and couldn’t have asked for a better set of girlfriends
…now I’d KILL for one really great girlfriend to grab coffee with on a regular basis
A year ago I was still very much rejected by my biological brothers
…now I couldn’t care less because really for the first time I have “brothers”
A year ago I ate meat at almost every meal
…now meat and animal products are not a part of everyday life
A year ago I had two healthy Dwelling groups meeting in my home and I was writing regularly
…now I don’t lead and don’t write (yikes!)
A year ago I was 55 pounds heavier, living under a huge weight of obligation and failing to do for myself
…now I’m 55 pounds lighter, not doing anything out of obligation, and put myself back on the list
A year ago I was baffled by God’s plan for my life
…now I’m baffled by God’s plan for my life (laughter and sighs)
There are so many more things I could list. Including a list of vampires that have moved out of my life and a list of new life-giving friends that have come in to take their places. I could go on and on about where my head has been (good and bad) emotionally over the past 12 months but instead I just know that even when I have doubts, God has not forgotten me. And I have not forgotten me. My natural instinct to survive kicked in last year and survive I did. Some would say I’ve even gone beyond survival to thriving…and on a good day I would agree.
This year I am going to remember that things can change so quickly. Just when you are convinced that nothing will ever change and that you will always be stuck in whatever situation you are in or that things are going to turn out badly…CHANGE HAPPENS. LIFE HAPPENS. GOD HAPPENS.
Just watch and see…
I’ve been on 5 dates since I moved to Denver…and finally there is one worth talking about.
Now before you get excited…let’s be clear…I’m not sharing because I met a great guy who could be “the one”. But because for hours now every time I think of this afternoon, I just laugh. And I don’t mean chuckle. I mean LAUGH!
Let me start by saying that I have had one decent night sleep all week. I slept almost 4 hours on Wednesday night but all other nights since Sunday have been close to 2 hours each night. Furthermore, you should know, I have very very poor judgement when not sleeping well.
So…this guy I met online called me last night to ask me out for a drink Friday afternoon. I said yes…even though I’m exhausted. So the plan was that I would leave work a bit early and meet him for a cup of coffee or a drink. When he called he said “Why don’t you just park in front of my house and we’ll walk around the block to a place for a drink?” Tired Leah said “Sounds good” and drove over.
This is where things go downhill…
He meets me on the sidewalk and says “I’m having the worst day ever. My basement is flooded. I’ve got to figure that out before we go anywhere or before I go to meet my family for dinner.”
Me: I can go and we can meet up another time.
We go into his house and he takes my coat and says “Want to see the basement?” (RED FLAG!)
(WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME!?!?!)
He grabs a hose (RED FLAG ON THE HOSE ALTHOUGH I’M NOT SURE WHY )and opens the door to the basement and says “Go ahead.” (RED FLAG GOING DOWN THE STAIRS FIRST!)
In a show of even further stupidity…I took my shoes off because I thought “If I have these heels on I’ll have a harder time getting away from him.” (AGAIN I SAY…WHAT THE HELL!?!?) My only bright move was that I picked up my phone. But you KNOW you are making a bad decision when you pick up your phone and immediately open the contact information for your body builder friend..JUST IN CASE! I honestly had the thought “Oh my gosh, this guy is going to be sorry when Cuyler gets here.”
AND THEN I STILL WENT INTO A STRANGER’S BASEMENT!!!!!
We get down there…me barefoot…and there are 2 inches of standing water. So at least he hadn’t made the flooding up. He looks at me and says “Well…you can’t really go any further without your shoes so why don’t you wait on the stairs.” He moves to unplug a few things for fear of the cords being in the water and he turns to look at me and says “You look terrified.”
I said “Well…going into a strange man’s basement isn’t the best decision I’ve ever made and now I’ve got a bit of an adrenaline headache.” (BECAUSE NOTHING SAYS GENIUS LIKE PLAYING ALL YOUR CARDS!)
He says “We’ll go back upstairs just as soon as I unplug the freezer. At least that way you won’t think I’m going to put your body in it.”
A little nervous laughter and I immediately headed back up the stairs. You gotta give the guy credit for making a “body in freezer” joke at just the right moment…or was that the wrong moment??
That’s the worst of it…but just so you don’t think for a second that maybe I’m not giving this guy a fair shake, below is a brief summary of a few of the things that were said or done over the next 60 minutes:
1. He belched as if he were one of my gross older brothers. And while I realize burping is a natural function…ever heard of first impressions?
2. He touched my hair…before getting permission and before washing his basement clean up hands. MY HAIR!
3. About 30 minutes into my visit he leaned next to me by the sink and said “Do you think you want to be my girlfriend?” (RED EFFIN FLAG! I’m a relationship runner…you don’t say crap like that to a commitment phobe! )
4. He chews tobacco…and when explaining that it was a habit he was giving up asked me “Don’t you have any addictions? You know? Shoes? Handbags? No wait…I know. Your addicted to sex aren’t you?” (CLASSY!)
5. During the course of the time I was there he was draining the basement into the upstairs sink and tried out every possible hose joke. “Would you like to hold my hose?” “Is my hose drained?” “Do you like the speed at which my hose empties?” Do I seem like a girl who would laugh at that the 3rd time you said it??? The first time..maybe. But the third? Nope!
6. Roughly an hour into my “visit” he reached into a cabinet in the kitchen and said “Do you smoke pot?” When I said no he said “Oh, because that would make this afternoon even stranger and more fun than it already is”
7. He compared himself to George Clooney. And while he is exceptionally good looking…I think maybe George would hold off on the HOSE jokes until at least the 2nd date.
8. While I appreciated how much he appreciated my looks and complimented them…he said a few things that I can’t even bring myself to repeat simply because it makes me blush. I don’t mind a few blush-worthy comments from a man now and then…maybe a few dates in…but making lued (though complimentary) comments about my anatomy the day you meet me might not be the best idea you ever had. Just sayin’
9. Despite all of this weirdness he asked to kiss me before I left. He gets points for asking. But then immediately loses those points for sticking his tongue down my throat before I even got my eyes closed. But no points for ME because I let him kiss me!!!! (Again…I repeat…WHAT THE HELL??!?!?!)
10. He said the words “I need to see you again” emphasis on the word NEED. RED FREAKING FLAG.
In conclusion…I am grounded!!! I am not allowed to date when I’m this tired. I might not be allowed to date at all if I don’t have more sense than this.
Special thanks to Chad Lowman for texting with me throughout to help me keep from LOSING IT and for texting “Glad you are still alive” and making me laugh!
EXTRA special thanks to Cuyler Jones for being ready to come get me! With backup like that I dare a skinny George Clooney lookalike to try ANYTHING! Best text from Cuyler “Mental Note: no basements with strangers…” Such excellent advice…so pathetic that I need this said to me at 35! 😉
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear. –Mark Twain
So I’ve never been afraid of spiders, snakes, the dark or heights
I get a little itchy (my word for anxious) in enclosed spaces but nothing too dramatic
I am not afraid of the dentist but I’m terrified of the eye doctor
I don’t mind public speaking and have even sung at weddings or other events…but karaoke makes me uncomfortable…for other people and for myself
I’ve coached dozens of births and even assisted with a delivery in a bathtub. I am unflappable as a Doula
I swim in the ocean and mostly frown at others who tell me they are afraid of swimming in the ocean (including my dad’s brilliant weekend trips to swim in the Bloody Triangle off the coast of NorCal)
I don’t freak out in an emergency…as a matter of fact I get eerily calm
I’ve offered to pray with drug dealers at dusk in The Projects of a pretty sketchy city (admittedly not my brightest moment Kenny)
I am not afraid of dying…but I’m often terrified of living.
From a very early age I was not afraid of dying because heaven sounded like a decent escape from this world. My religious upbringing made this world out to be a place you just had to ‘survive’ so you could get on to the next thing…the good thing. The list of things that could keep me from getting to heaven was so long that even as a young child I would try to write them down just so I wouldn’t forget. I was terrified from my earliest memory of going to hell for every infraction. And apparently my mother was the decision maker of my destination…to that I say…well played Mom!
When you couple that sort of thinking with the tyranny of abuse I was going through, you have a cocktail for a little girl who grows up into a woman who is often afraid of living.
The list of things I’m afraid of is silly…and long. It includes things like:
Being loved by a good man
Not being loved by a good man
Falling for a bad man (this one I have done so very well! haha)
Dancing (I said SILLY!)
Being invisible to others
Being in the spotlight
The feeling I get when my mind races
The slowness of my brain when I’ve been drinking (which cures the racing)
Brushing my teeth with my eyes open
Never being alone
Asking for help
Crying in front of people (Lord I wish I could be MORE afraid of this in Denver…I’m an idiot in front of the guys at work regularly)
Having my writing read by others
Never publishing a word
This list could go on and on
I’ve kept my fear at bay over the years by playing the “What’s the worst that could happen?” game. I am very good at this game. It’s like an epic game of ‘Would you rather?” played in my head…with no other players.
To often I’ve chosen the thing that feels safer…the thing that doesn’t feel risky…the thing that seems quietest. Really…the thing that my child-mind thinks will slide past the God-radar and still allow me to slip quietly into the better place.
I want to play the “What is the best possible thing that could happen?” game instead. I want to have other players in my life and even in my head. I want to take risks and start living like this is a planet that God intends to redeem instead of a planet that I’m waiting to escape. I want to live like I see others living. With laughter, adventure, and dancing…coupled with compassion, productivity, and values.
I know it’s possible. Some of my favorite people live fearlessly. 🙂
A mode of conduct, a standard of courage, discipline, fortitude and integrity can do a great deal to make a woman beautiful.
Recently I was given advice from someone I’ve come to trust. The advice was “Leah, you need to be YOU. Be yourself.” I was both grateful for the advice and bummed that once again I was at a place in my life where I had to be given that advice.
So I started thinking…what are the elements of being myself? Being Leah? And if I opened up about those things honestly would it help me to be a better friend, a better leader, a better person? So over the coming days/weeks I will tackle one element of being myself per blog until I either get tired of doing it or feel like I’ve covered the majority. I will try to be honest with and kind to myself in these blogs while demonstrating integrity for you as a reader.
BEING LEAH–I AM RELATIONAL
Just this past week I was talking about how important building relationships is to me at work. A co-worker said “Not all of us are good at being with people like you are Leah”. The same week with the same co-worker I was trying to describe how I believe that in order to be a leader you have to lead at a micro level and trust that over time it will help with macro changes. Again this co-worker said “I’m not really a micro person. I’m better at macro level stuff so I have to push change from there.”
I knew then that this person beleived that the things I was saying and the way that I choose to work was something that just came naturally to me. That I just wake up eager and ready to build relationships every single day. And of course as if to put a giant exclamation on their perception I then proceeded to win the “SOCIAL BUTTERFLY” award at the office Christmas party later in the week. (OH THE IRONY!)
One of my truths is that my base personality is a bit of a hermit. I am happy to be alone with my books, the cats, and the occasional tv show on DVR. I often refer to myself as an extroverted introvert. I have a long history from childhood of hiding with a book in a quiet corner to avoid chaos. As a young child this ability…to be in a room and go unnoticed…made me believe that I could honestly make myself invisible by just believing it. If you scratch more than the surface the idea of being invisible is both precious and carries some scary baggage with it.
Another of my truths is that I do love people. I love to watch people. I love to see the way people process information, how they choose their words, how they move through life. I love facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice, and body language. This too comes from a place with baggage but has turned into a habit/skill that I adore! I have used this tendency to watch people to my advantage in life sometimes but have also had it be a disadvantage when I’ve known someone wanted to hide something from me. But admittedly watching people is very different from choosing to engage with them.
To be in relationship is very hard for a person with my past and who lives with PTSD. For me it is often my default response is to shut down and close people out when I see the first sign of being too engaged or loving them too much. It takes energy and effort for me to be a person who shares myself and who purposes to engage a person in relationship. But oh it is worth it.
I’ve come to a place where I can’t imagine workdays without laughter with Mark or a hug from Tyler or engaging in a plan with Chris or a brief discussion of mission with Mattias….and so many other exchanges with other folks. Maybe these exchanges are more important to me because I worked alone from a home office for several years. Or because I was on the road way too much for 18 months of my last job. Or because I was out of work for most of 2010. Or because my last two companies were full of people who hated their jobs and the company’s leadership. Maybe it is because I live in a new city and have no foundational friendships to fall back on. Or maybe because I’m finally willing to admit that I don’t just like to watch people…I like to be with people and be liked by people.
Likely it is all of these things combined.
So what does this mean in terms of “being myself”?
I think it means:
…not worrying about what those who are not good at building friendships think about my ability and desire to do so
…trusting that I am a likable person
…acknowledging the good in most people and trusting my ability to spot an emotional vampire now and then
…believing that I have something to offer and that I can accept with joy what the other person offers as well
…offering myself the kindness of knowing that not everyone is going to like me, without that meaning that there is something inherently WRONG with me
…a willingness to examine and consider changing parts of myself that are not beneficial to either me or my friendships
…not trying to change the parts of me that are fundamentally ME and bring me peace and joy
…embracing both my relational nature and also the fears I associate with building relationships
…enjoying people and enjoying who I am when I am with people
Next Up: Part 2–Being Fearful
So a while back I attended a mega church where the phrases “Grace-Giver” and “Truth-Teller” were tossed around quite a bit. Often as though those two things were mutually exclusive. The people in my life at the time were VERY clear that they thought I was a Truth Teller rather than a Grace Giver. And really…I couldn’t argue.
Now that I’ve noodled on it a bit and in light of my hatred of CHURCHY language…I hate these labels.
The grace-givers in my life won’t believe this (and I’ll extend them some grace for that) but I couldn’t count the number of times as a truth-teller I have bitten my tongue and NOT said what needed to be said in an effort to extend grace. Sometimes it was necessary and needful. Other times it was cowardly and weak. I also know of times when as a truth-tell I believe I actually was a grace-giver because while speaking the truth I refused to walk away or demonstrate anything other than an extension of loving grace over the person who needed correction or redirecting.
Here’s the deal…
I think grace-givers and truth-tellers can both do a MAJOR disservice to others…Christians and Non…by holding deeply to a belief that they are one or the other. What ever happened to attempting to be like Christ rather than taking one of his characteristics and saying “I’m going to master THIS one and then claim it to be superior to all of his other characteristics?” I call BS on that mentality.
It is my observation…and others may/will disagree…that the church has women cornered into being grace-givers (GGs) almost to the complete exclusion of being truth-tellers (TTs). And I call BS on that as well.
I listen to my friends who have been GGs for their entire marriage and they are at a point of feeling like they either have to keep putting up with their husbands crap (aka extend grace until their darling hubbies can get their crap together…even after 15 years) OR get a divorce. I say…how about changing the dialogue? How about a little truth-telling endeavor? Oh it’s too scary? You don’t know how he’ll react? If you are going to consider divorce or misery as your only two options you have not done the work necessary to declare either of those two options a foregone conclusion. I think doing the work involves being honest and being communicative…EARLY AND OFTEN…even when it’s difficult.
I also think we do a disservice to our children when we do not tell them the truth. And I don’t mean by saying hurtful things. I mean by making sure that they understand our expectations and by telling them WHY they can’t have everything they want or WHY they can’t talk to people rudely or WHY we believe what we believe and are sometimes considered jerks out in the world. I think kids should get to be kids. But I also think kids are smart…and when you feed them a diet of 100% grace when they are seeking truth…they begin to question your trust-worthiness. Particularly if you start changing the story when they turn 10, 12, 15. Did I mention honesty and communication? EARLY AND OFTEN?
How about telling the truth to our parents or siblings once in a while? How about next time some vampire in your life tries to suck the life out of you, you stop being a GG for a minute and say “Hmmm…I think what this situation calls for is a dose of TT.” Then speak the TRUTH IN LOVE. If they can’t handle it and are beleivers…point them back to Jesus and go on your merry way. If they can’t handle it and aren’t…offer them some additional grace but do NOT give in to their vampiric ways.
Listen ladies…I adore you…and I want to give you some grace by telling you some truth.
Your husbands and children and parents and siblings are the people who this Truth-Teller works with every day. They are the people who look at me with astonishment when I speak the truth in a situation or call them out of their mediocrity, bad attitude, or just plain stinkin’ thinkin. If one more man looks at me like they are suddenly concerned I’ve grown a penis simply because I tell them the truth, I’m going to be all out of grace to give. And if one more woman or HR person uses the words “direct communicator” like it’s an insult, I’m going to scream…and not in a grace-giving hallelujah kinda way. 🙂
STOP CODDLING THE PEOPLE IN YOUR LIVES AND TELL THEM SOME TRUTH!
You can do this with kindness. You can do this with tact. You can do this with love. You can do this with a soft tone and a gentleness that will lead them right to the place where they need to go to have real lasting change that will improve their lives. Remember truth is not the same thing as JUDGEMENT. It is not the same thing as being a JERK. If you speak truth in a way that the person only sees YOU and not the message you are delivering, you are probably not doing the balance well between Grace and Truth. Said another way…you might be being a douchebag. Reset. Apologize. Try again.
And if you still can’t find the will to speak truth…follow these steps:
1. Get up
2. Find Mirror
3. Tell YOURSELF some truth
4. Offer YOURSELF some grace
5. Repeat until you are able to speak the truth in love over someone you love who needs to hear it from your gracious lips and gentle heart
4 And no one can become a high priest simply because he wants such an honor. He must be called by God for this work, just as Aaron was. 5 That is why Christ did not honor himself by assuming he could become High Priest. No, he was chosen by God…
Just last week I said the following to a friend…
“Do you think I don’t know how much easier it would be if I were just a nice traditional Christian woman? With all the normal and acceptable (to the church) gifts that women are SUPPOSED to have? Don’t you think I know that life would potentially be less dramatic and frustrating if I wasn’t gifted both professionally and spiritually in ways that push me to leadership and compel me to speak truth? But that is NOT the reality of who I am. It is not the reality of the gifts I’ve been given. And to deny that fact would be disrespectful to God and unkind to me.”
Then today I read the Hebrews passage above.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not delusional. I don’t think I’m a “high priest”….at least no more than any other believer (1 Peter 2:9). And I would not even begin to compare my life to the saving work of Jesus. But hear me out…
No one chooses her gifts. We don’t wake up and say “Today I will be a prophet” or “I think I’d like to use my gift of healing now please.” It doesn’t work that way. Similar to what the author of Hebrews indicates….we don’t get a gift simply because we want the honor.
Instead we are called. We are given a gifting. And while I can’t speak for others, once I knew what my gifting was, there was no doubting it or replacing it with something more suitable. There is no denying the gift even in the face of opposition. There is no pretending you must be mistaken. It is not a question without an answer.
A time or two over the past several years I have cried out to God and said “I’d like a trade please.” I’d like to trade boldness and the ability to teach for something..umm…perhaps more traditionally acceptable to the church. I’d like to trade leadership and intuition for an affinity to teach cradle roll. I’d like the gift of hospitality to come naturally to me the way that the gift of wisdom does. Then I could have people over without worrying about the food and perhaps without doling out advice that hits so close to home that I seem creepy. Maybe a nurturing nature or the desire to be someone’s mommy instead of the ability to shepherd. If only I could write and teach for an audience of women exclusively rather than knowing that the things I write about are not intended for one gender. I wish the idea of planning a ladies retreat didn’t make me feel itchy while guiding decision-making sessions in a church business meeting is as natural as my curly hair.
But…what I hear the author of Hebrews say is that I do not get to pick my own gifts. I cannot pick that which I think would bring me honor. Or even pick that which would just allow me to fly under the radar.
For better or worse…I have received a calling.
I’m pretty sure God smiles every time I use my gifts…even when everyone else around me calls it sin, feminism, or a mistake. And let’s be honest…wouldn’t we all rather worry about eliciting a smile from God than about receiving one another’s approval? I know I would!