Monday, January 19, 2015

39+366 days

Two months before my 30th birthday I woke up in a full blown panic attack.  A producer from the Dr. Phil show (I cannot make this stuff up) had contacted me wanting to know my story with getting ready to turn 30 and the fear that surrounded it.  I remember throwing around phrases like “life isn’t what I thought it would be” and “Great Aunt Wanda asks me why I’m not married every time I see her” and sweating.  Wait, sweating doesn’t happen until 47.  I errantly calmed myself down by saying, “It is ok. At least you aren’t 40 and God would never have you be 40 and single and not a mom.”  Sigh of relief.  The imagined sweats dissipated. Crisis averted.

I am typing this blog as my cab driver from Bangladesh weaves in and out of Manhattan traffic on a beautiful, cold and sunny MLK day, my 40th birthday, and I’m dressed like a string of colored Christmas lights. 

I’m remembering the first summer I lived in NYC - ironically I was 30.  My friend Chad and I ventured out into the city and we stopped in the middle of the sidewalk outside of Grand Central and opened up a map. In my mind we screamed tourist and were about two fanny packs shy of being mugged. I was scared to go out of my apartment by myself and the first time that I attempted I accidentally got on an express train and wound up in Harlem at night.  Man, did I think that was a good story. White southern girl hits the big city and lands in Harlem at night. I went to staff meeting the next morning to express my grand bravery (and ignorance) to the beloved New York Cru staff to which one said mockingly and hilariously, “Ohhhhh!!! So scary! Harlem!”  Harlem is amazing and the people are wonderful and rich in history and pride and beauty. I just had never had that perspective before because I had never been and obviously had no idea what I was talking about, just stereotypes and fear of the unknown. 

I have had a lot of time to reflect over the past six months as I have wanted to embrace this new season of 39+366days. Hashtag denial.  Many of you have written me letters about what you wish you had known at 40, over 50 of you took a day leading up to and on into next week to pray for me. Some have sent flowers and given gift cards.  My family threw me the most beautiful and fun party which 70 people gave up a holiday weekend to drive in for or attend. I have been honored in every way and am deeply grateful and I know that I am deeply loved.

I believe 40, similar to visiting New York, will require some confidence and guts.  I always feel small when I first enter The City - a little intimidated and surrounded by the unfamiliar.  People either love New York or they hate it.  You can look at it as overcrowded, rude, and dirty or you can embrace the culture, the different feel of each neighborhood and realize how much God loves people. This whole process of turning 40 thing will require me to keep looking at it honestly and through a different lens than my 29 year old self having a panic attack.  

As I was walking this afternoon, I stopped as I was passing Juilliard. Obviously photography is not my calling.  Juilliard was a dream of mine in high school.  I wanted to be an actress and win my first Oscar by the time I was 25.  Never mind the fact that I really can’t act, nor can I sing well and my attempt at ballet culminated into greatness the day I mastered the Running Man and Roger Rabbit.  

God’s dreams are always better.  You know what is fun?  When my dreams and His are the same.  Today I find myself NOT having panic attacks, but walking around the streets of New York singing and waving. Oh yes, people. You can take the girl out of the country, but not the country out of the girl. 

There are no false assurances today, only real ones. Real ones such as this:

When you enter in to the places you thought you would never recover from, you will find something solid. The lie is that there won’t be anything solid for you to stand on. Your fear will tell you to avoid, but when you “go there” you will find yourself more anchored and trusting.  You will learn about God and his heart for you and here’s the kicker, your heart for Him.  If you follow Jesus, he gave you a new heart.  This is the unshakeable foundation of your life - that no matter what does or doesn’t happen, He is trustworthy and has bigger dreams than you could ever dream for yourself, even in the midst of longing, loss, gains, and waiting.  Especially in the waiting. 

Thank you for sharing in my life.  I love you all so very much. 

Now consider this 40 horse beaten and dead. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Confession is healing

This past weekend I sat in on a conference about becoming a true spiritual community.  Sounds kinda weird, huh?  I did not do trust falls or yoga, but I did hear a lot of powerful content that brought about a much needed breakthrough in my desire to love people around me and to confess more of my junk.  

If you are reading this and you do not have a faith background let me introduce you to a commonly used word in the Protestant community: sin.  Sin has been defined for me as anything that misses the mark of perfection.  I believe that we all miss the mark of perfection and only God is perfect in everything He has done, is doing and will do.  This weekend the speaker expanded on sin and he said, “sin is a strong commitment to self.”  OUCH!!!!!!

Sin is a strong commitment to self.  

If this is true, and I believe it is, then we are always looking out for self.  One way of looking at “sin” - a strong commitment to self, is to look at what we fear.  Fear is a powerful and driving force that will direct our life.  If you aren’t real sure what your “sin struggles” are, look at what you are afraid of and you will see how your actions, interactions and thoughts are driven to live a life in which you avoid what you fear.

Living this way keeps us from entering in to one another’s lives in a way that is pure and good.  As I begin to see what fears drive me, I see ways in which I interact with people that are manipulative and self-centered.  Sometimes I can have the appearance of being others centered, but in moments of honesty and revelation through God’s kindness of his Spirit, I SEE and I confess and “it is all grace” as C.S. Lewis would say.  

Today would you join me in seeing what your strong commitment to self is?  Would you look and see what fears are driving you and keeping you from others-centered relationships, peace & trust with God?  It might be painful, but confession and repentance (a deep change of heart) will free you to love just a little bit more like Jesus.  Not only that, but you will experience God’s love to your own wounds, realizing you are too needy to not accept his gift.  Humbling and sacred.

WITH you in it, my friends.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Pick-up lines from *&^%

A friend of mine once asked a group of girls to be honest about being hit on.  She said, “I don’t care if a homeless man has just climbed out of the garbage dump, if he whistles at you, you still think, ‘Yeah, I still got it.’”  Many argued with her,  but I laughed and agreed.  #issues

Yesterday I was leaving a store after having been fitted for my 24th bridesmaid dress.  That’s another blog, but just know I’m trying to catch up with Katherine Heigl.  I walked out of the store and two men walked by and one said, “I like your trunk.”  I looked around because I was not in a car nor was I near my car.  The man grinned at me and I tugged my shirt down.  My friend Eric asked me if I had on an elephant costume.   Seeing as how I do not normally leave the house (or stay in the house) in my Dumbo costume,  the answer was “no.”
I started to think about other times I have been “hit on” or stories my friends have shared. 

Recently my friend Haley was hit on by an older man  in Thailand.  He asked her to come die with him.  Was this his version of The Notebook?

Let’s not forget the cross-cultural approach: the one-legged Russian war vet who asked my boyfriend at the time if he could borrow me for the night.  Um, no.  

Or what about the carload of guys who pulled up to me on campus and asked if I, “got down with the brown?”  Jesus, take the wheel.  

Here, however, is my all time favorite.  This is where my brother-in-law or fellow New York City Cru friends would say, “You’re an idiot.”  I spent a few summers in NYC with Cru and there was a lovely OLD Pakistani man who worked the front desk/entrance to the building.  Sweet old man.  First mistake was to think old=sweet.  He brought me gifts, asked me to dinner and I said, “Please bring your wife.”  (Here I will note that I almost said, “Please bring your wife, Papaw.”) He did not want to bring his wife.  He wanted another wife.  

It’s a jungle out there, women.  Stay strong and away from old men.

I would love to hear your best, “Did he just say that?” story, because we all need to laugh a little more.