August 25, 2012

Stream Of Consciousness: Wriggling In

I've been back at school for a week now; thus far, things have been both awesome and overwhelming at the same time. I absolutely love and adore my new apartment; it's a lot more spacious and definitely reflects more of my personality than my other place did (there's a beach/Disney/Comfort theme going on here). I love being closer to campus and being able to get to class within ten minutes as opposed to thirty or forty-five. 

It hit me on the first night I was here in regards to how unbelievably blessed I am; I came home after seeing a movie with a friend, and as I walked though the door, I felt enveloped by a sense of peace.  Dirty Dishes were placed rightfully in a dishwasher rather than piled up in a sink. My living room was filled with the scent of lilacs instead of mildew, tension, and overall disrespect. It was comfortable. It was mine

Upon that realization, I turned on the classic rock station via Pandora and danced around the living room like a little kid during Christmas. 

 This may not be a big deal to those who live with one or more persons, or those that have been living by themselves for some time already. It's not just the physical space that brings me joy, but the \emotional freedom as well. And for anyone that has had the experience of watching a damaged person continuously run into a brick wall, you know what that kind of freedom feels like. 

Deep down, I was a little afraid; not about coming back to town, but to get excited about this school year. On the outside, I made it clear that I was moving forward and that everything that happened during sophomore year didn't matter anymore. However, every so often I would have obscure nightmares about having to live with my friend again. I don't think it was me trying to live in the past; in a way, the previous circumstances  might very well have had a psychological effect on me. I don't know why. Perhaps it cut me deeper than I realized

The weekend before classes started, I participated in a sort of welcome-back retreat for Intervarsity. One of my close friends explained something to me that brought clarity that I had been longing for throughout the summer; instead of wanting to shrink back and guard myself from a person completely, I should reach out to them and treat them like I normally would. It's not forcing them to be best friends, but not allowing our differences to get in the way of interaction. In other words, it's loving boldly. Right now, I don't understand all of what that means, but it's refreshing; especially whenever the other alternative would be trying my hardest to avoid pain, which almost never works. 

My second goal is to be intentional with my words, and not allow potential reactions to say what I need to say. Simply put, I don't want to beat around the bush anymore. If I want something, I need to ask for it; it doesn't mean that I'll get it, but it's better to have an answer than to speculate. 

I'm not going to make any predictions about what this semester will bring; it's so much easier to embrace things as they happen, and not put too much faith in people or circumstances for the sake of happiness. I do think that I am entering into a new season in my life, one that I don't have a whole lot of previous experience with. It'll be interesting to see how I grow as a person and where God takes me in that time. 

With that, here's to junior year, and all the blessings, lessons, and growth that will come with it!

August 09, 2012

What About Now? Part 1

I did write something very similar to this a little over a year ago, about the questions and uncertainties surrounding my beliefs. In that year, I took a lot of time to think, pray, discuss, and ultimately grow. Although it's already evident in my other posts, I felt moved to share more about my journey in a much deeper way, particularly in the wake of celebrating seven years of being a Christian. My intention is not to tell anyone what to do or how to live, but rather, to share what I have discovered and learned up to this point. And believe me when I say that it has been a lot! While the following may seem somewhat repetative, it goes a lot deeper into things that I wasn't ready to share the last time.

For starters, I'm starting to think that it wasn't so much God Himself that I was questioning; rather, it was the Church and whether or not I was "good enough" to belong in it. But in order to explain that, let me back track a little bit.

 From eighth grade and all through high school, my youth group and church activities were how I associated with God; in other words, when those activities were going strong, my faith was strong. When I would come home from a retreat or just from a weekly get together, that euphoria would fade and the frustration would set in.  I hardly knew anything about how reading the Bible or prayer played a role in it; at least compared to what I know now.

Two years later, I became aware of a different side to Christianity; the kind that said if you did not hold conservative ideals, you were not a true Believer. It was both a mixture of church gossip, Catholic high school education, the wonderful world of social media, and pointing fingers. 

 While my parents had (and still have) their own opinions about important issues, neither I or my siblings was raised to have a specific stance on any of them.  My question was, do I just go along with what everyone else around me says, even though I may not agree with them? Or, do I voice my concerns and risk being made a complete outsider?

And I'll be honest, watching my close friend go down a dark path did effect my viewpoint as well. Or maybe it was everyone else's reaction to my feelings about the situation; it seemed like a lot of people looked down on me because of how I was hurting. Then again, hardly anyone knew about the conversations we had, or how much of a positive influence he had been on me. Throughout that time, I felt a whisper, as though God was telling me "love him the way he loved you when you were at the bottom." I think our Moms were the only two that genuinely understood that.

It all got to be too much for me to handle; on the outside, I appeared fine. But on the inside, I was going into a spiritual coma.

Yes, my prespective of things at that time was a little skewed; I was sixteen, still struggling with self-esteem and often falling into many depressive funks from 2006 to 2011. Yes, it would have been a lot easier to sit down and get everything off of my chest, but I was too afraid. I didn't know if I could take rejection from those whom had one professed to care about me. I wanted to be loved an accepted, something that I hadn't gotten at school or any place else. 

It was at this time that I should have come to the conclusion that I was not fully healed; that I still needed to learn how to love myself, and be content in God's love for me before I asked that of others. That healing would not begin until late 2011, early 2012, and is still an ongoing process. 

A few weeks after I started college, I mustered the energy to start trying some of the faith-based student groups on campus, two of which were recommended by those I knew from home. I did my best to have an open mind about it, and the encouragement from my Mom definitely helped.

Yet, I couldn't shake the fact that neither of them felt right for me; there was little or no time for personal connection, because they took place in these big areas with mass amounts of people. Second, there was so much emphasis put on being different, or being on one side versus the other. But the one thing that put a knot in my stomach was that many of the people in those groups didn't seem authentic or genuine; in other words, everybody seemed perfect or damn near close to it, and that intimidated me a great deal.

I don't mean to say that those organizations are bad or anything of the sort. But I was at a place in my life where I was trying to get used to so many things all at once, and I was also curious about the nightlife culture. I was wrestling with many questions that for a long time I was scared to ask, and needed a safe place in order to ask those questions. I just didn't feel safe within those groups.

For the next six months, I put it on the backburner. I wrote letters to God in my journal, which is something I still do today. There were many nights that I spent praying to Him about what was on my heart; more notably, my first (and thus far, my only) serious crush that I've had in college.

And there were also many prayers lifted up through teary eyes and a confused heart. I had moments where  I had to let go of people that I had met and grown close to; some were only for a little while, others were for good.

However, I won't pretend that I didn't do anything crazy in the midst of all that. Most of the time, it was either to satisfy a curiosity or to forget how stressed out and frustrated I was. What I did was actually not as bad as what I thought about doing. Some nights were actually fun, others not so much. I'll get more in depth about it in the second part of this series.

What I didn't know is that God was leading me to a place that I could not have imagined going; and the catalyst of it all would happen in the form of a roommate situation gone completely down the drain.

It would be the most stressful experience I've had in the last two years. But it was a much needed wake-up call.

August 04, 2012

Stream Of Consciousness: Between Seasons

Near the end of July, I moved my furniture and most of my things into my new apartment. A couple of days ago, I finished up with my summer class. In about two weeks, I'll be heading back up to school to begin my junior year at college. 


Lately I've been feeling a mixture of both excitement and reserve. I realize that I shouldn't allow my past experiences (or relationships) to determine what is current, and/or what will be in the future, and that is not what I intend to do. However, I would be lying if I said that sophomore year, or even the last two years, had somewhat of an influence on my way of thinking. They were tough. They will filled with more stress than I originally anticipated. But they also allowed me to experience and learn about things that have enabled me to become the person that I am right now. 

Which is why I have to remind myself that I do know more than I think I do. And even though my insecurities do come out every once in awhile, that's OK. It's OK to not have a plan about how I'm going to go about the semester or what is going to happen. When I'm only able to see what's right in front of me, I stop being dependent on my circumstances or the people in my life; instead, I have faith that I am where I'm supposed to be, and that everything happens both for a reason, and when the time is right. 

And if nothing else, that's my goal: to stop wanting so much, at least to the point where it becomes unrealistic. Freshman year was the year of experience, and sophomore year was the year of learning. If I could pick a word for this year, it would be embrace; embrace what makes me who I am, as opposed to trying to appear to be someone I'm not. To cherish the people that I truly feel comfortable with and vice versa. To just find joy as life unfolds, rather than try to plan and figure out what's coming next. 

I am in between seasons, where I've realized that I am only in control of so much. While I'm not going to make any predictions at the moment, I do have a strong feeling that it's going to be full of things that I haven't done before, or at least not a lot. 

Right now, I my life isn't being dominated by school work or a to-do list. It's at a pause, and for the next two weeks, I'm going to enjoy it.