Tagged: friends

What Happened This Summer

Photo by Katie Shelton via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/78y7jZ)

Photo by Katie Shelton via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/78y7jZ)

As many of you may know, I spent this past summer in Clarkston, GA as an intern with an organization aimed at aiding refugees in the area and showing the love of Christ. As an intern returnee (I had spent a summer in Clarkston two years before), I was sure this summer was going to be grand. After all, I had been there before and came back with more joyful and God-filled memories than I knew what to do with.

But this summer was not fun for me and I want to explain why.

I should first start off by saying that I didn’t have many meaningful interactions with any of the refugees, which was my own fault and responsibility. I didn’t feel like I contributed very much, except what was expected of me and the little things that needed to get done for the team. My best work was setting out lunch for the outreach teams every day. And I felt a little pathetic as I watched them come back sweaty and exhausted and with good stories to share because I knew that by choice all I did was roll up lunchmeat and cut up carrots. There, I said it.

You see, something not good was in me. Something that didn’t want me out in the community. Something that didn’t want me to give this my all. Something that just wanted to be as far away from where I was as possible.

I was homesick like I’ve never been homesick before. The kind of homesick where any mention of someone’s mom brought tears to my eyes because I missed my own. The kind of homesick where I would go home any chance I could get and then cry when I would have to return.

Don’t get me wrong. Clarkston is an AMAZING place. There’s no other place like it. And God moves in this city. Prayer covers this city and wild things have happened.

But the most wild thing that happened involving me this summer was just how badly I missed my home.

. . . . . .

When I returned home at the end of July, I had a lot of people asking how my summer was. Because I didn’t really know how to explain what happened to me while I was there, I usually just mentioned being homesick and how I was glad to be back.

But here’s the more complete version:

While I was there, I saw myself for who I was.

I saw a daughter deeply longing for her parents and the comfort of home. I saw a romantic counting down the days until she could be back in her best friend’s arms. I saw a girl whose heart was rooted someplace else.

I didn’t know before I left that I would miss my family, my town, my job, and my boyfriend the way I did. I didn’t realize until I left just how precious the things I was leaving behind were. I had no idea that my heart had changed that vastly; it went from wanting to move on from these people and this life just a couple short years ago (maybe even months ago) to wanting to preserve the goodness of it all and never let go.

As I wept for the absence of my mom, I realized I have fallen more in love with my family.

As my soul leaped for joy on the Sunday I was able to visit the middle schoolers I had been leading and loving for two years, I realized I have grown into a ministry of my own.

As the man I love supported me throughout the summer and pushed me to persevere like I never had to persevere before, I knew I have found a good man.

You know that saying, “you never know what you have until it’s gone”?

That was me this summer. And even though most of this summer felt like a waste as I wished for things other than what was in front of me, it also felt like a reminder of who I was.

I am a blessed girl with a heart full of beautiful people.

. . . . . .

But there’s more to the story than just that.

I didn’t just see myself for who I was; I saw my calling for what it was.

I didn’t tell many people why I ended up coming back to Clarkston this summer, but I’m telling you all the truth now: I returned just in case.

I wanted to be sure that there wasn’t a future for me somewhere in there. Maybe that inkling of a missionary’s calling would resonate in my soul again and all would be clear as day. I used to dream of living in the Middle East, swapping stories with women in Arabic and dedicating my life to the heart restoration of the region’s people.

Two weeks in and I already knew — This is not the calling God has for me.

I’ve been afraid of voicing that to people because if you had asked a former version of Jessie, she would say hands-down that that was where she was headed. She was so passionate and determined. I didn’t know how to tell people that it felt like my dreams were changing and God was leading me in a different direction.

I didn’t know that I could be passionate for those things without feeling called to those things.

I know now. This past summer in Clarkston revealed that to me.

Do you want to know where I think my future is headed now?

I believe God has been molding me more and more into a storyteller. A writer.

All summer long I felt the urge to write. I was being inspired left and right and it felt like I didn’t have enough time in a day to make something out of all that my mind and heart was churning with. I longed for peace and quiet, a moment of solitude to get my hands to work so it could craft stories. The writer in me was so anxious, I didn’t know what to do.

(And I just want to take a moment to thank my readers for reading some of the things I birthed during this difficult summer as I was away. I use the verb “birth” because writing required me to push like I had never pushed before. And the result was beautiful. I especially loved receiving feedback on what became my most popular post to date: Christianity Didn’t Fix Me. This summer, I also produced my first post featuring my current relationship and a very important person who you now know as my wonderful boyfriend, Grant. You first meet Grant in When Relationships Are Hard.)

This summer, God continued pushing me towards writing, and after years of guesswork, I finally began seeing more of His calling for my life. And it doesn’t involve a plane ticket; it involves a pen.

. . . . . .

The last thing I want to address about this summer is the stuff that began to surface shortly after I arrived.

I realized while I was in Clarkston that I am a woman of a multitude of wounds. I knew it before, but it had never felt so clear to me until I had nowhere else to run.

Back in January, I knew that this year was going to be a year of healing for me. God said enough is enough. And I guess I finally acquiesced to the idea of letting Him take care of some of this. No more harboring this crap.

And no, in case you’re wondering, being in Clarkston didn’t heal me.

It just showed me how badly I needed it.

It wasn’t pleasant at the time– seeing my weaknesses spread out before me and not having a single idea of how to move past them. Lord, I need you. I painstakingly prayed every day. I didn’t want to look at my wounds in the eye, but I knew it was what I had to do.

And I did. I finally did. Part of facing my past hurt was writing about it, which would explain the darker nature of my posts from this summer. If that made you sad or uncomfortable, I hope you can find joy in knowing that God has been preparing me for greater things and beginning to heal me in several areas. If I hadn’t been in Clarkston this summer, away from my comforts and my home, I don’t think I would’ve been able to see just how badly I needed God to step in.

And He has stepped in.

God did something good with this summer. I couldn’t see it at the time, but it’s becoming clearer now.

. . . . . .

We are in the ninth month of this year. I just celebrated my twentieth birthday and am a month into my third year of college. Time has been passing quickly and there are now things coming up ahead.

I’ve reflected on my summer and now it’s time to look forward to the future.

I don’t know where God is taking me, but I know where I’m hoping it’ll go– a book, an engagement, a full-time job. But regardless of whether these things come to pass this year, I will hold onto this truth: God is good.

Guys, He is so good. I didn’t know if I would make it out of this summer. I knew I’d survive it. But I didn’t know if I would come out of it with my heart still intact.

Well, guess what. I did. And I know God used this summer for His purposes. Sure, my stubbornness and selfishness stood in the way of some potentially great things, but there’s grace for that. I was still meant to be there. I don’t know where I’d be if I had chosen to stay home and not go at all.

I certainly wouldn’t be here writing all of these things now.

Friends and family, thank you for your love and support while I was gone. I truly did miss you.

I wish I had more to offer to you than just this. I wish I could have a handful of awesome stories to share with you about this summer. I wish I did more. I wish I pushed myself harder. Not just for me, but for you. You were cheering me on and I was too depressed and homesick to hear it.

But I hope and pray that after reading this you can understand what this summer meant to me and how it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I’m writing this to show you that I made it. I’m back. I’m alive. I’m different.

And there are good things ahead.

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Expectation vs. Reality

How I Wish My Day Would Go:

Wake up without an alarm, feeling completely refreshed and ready to face the day.

Have a heavenly breakfast: sunny-side-up eggs and buttered toast.

Sit down to have my alone time with God–  a fresh cup of coffee in one hand and my journal in the other.

Blog about all the cool things God is teaching me.

Look up at the clock… time for lunch.

Eat leftover Chinese food in bed while watching Gilmore Girls.

Clean my room to a pristine condition.

Go to the mall to buy myself a new outfit to be worn later.

Talk to best friend on the phone for two hours.

Meet up with a friend at Starbucks– or better yet, one of those off-brand coffeehouses.

Have lively conversation about life, philosophy, and God.

Go home to get ready for a hot date. Get to take a bubble bath with plenty of time to shave.

Have my hot date (A.K.A. my boyfriend) pick me up and take me out for sushi.

Coldstone Creamery afterwards. Duh.

Beautiful walk around the neighborhood, holding hands.

Say goodnight and part ways.

I climb into my familiar bed with my dog snuggled beside me.

Fall fast asleep.

Rinse and repeat.

How My Day Really Goes:

Wake up by an alarm, feeling like I could sleep for another twelve hours.

Break my sunny-side-up eggs in the pan.

Sit down to have my alone time with God and realize that I actually only have fifteen minutes.

Get so stressed out by the time constraint that I can’t even focus on what He and I need to be talking about.

Have an awesome blog idea come to me that I forget about later.

Look up at the clock… class awaits me.

Leave class wondering what on earth I just sat through.

Have lunch in isolation. No Gilmore Girls.

Come home to dishes in the sink, laundry to be folded, and an unmade bed.

Try to schedule a phone call with my best friend, but it doesn’t work out.

Ask friends out for coffee. No one can go.

Realize I’m broke anyway.

Get ready to go out on a hot date. Hair not cooperating. Break out into a sweat just trying to pick out what to wear.

Have my hot date (A.K.A. my boyfriend) come to pick me up.

I’m inexplicably moody. Total buzz-kill.

Eat and feel bloated.

Date interrupted by reminders of having to wake up early for work and mother wondering when we’ll be home.

Say goodnight and part ways, not really wanting to leave.

I climb into my familiar bed, dog nowhere to be found.

Have trouble sleeping.

Regretfully rinse and repeat.

What I Gather From This Information:

Life does not go the way I want it. Eggs crack, schoolwork gets burdensome, and moods shift quicker than I have time to adjust to.

I don’t feel like I have enough time for myself or the people who matter to me. I certainly don’t feel like I have enough time for God.

Everything is rushed. Stressful. Unnecessarily difficult.

But every day is different. And that means there are new opportunities to find beauty and joy. New opportunities to make the most of hardships. New opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them. New opportunities to seek God and His will.

It’s okay that life doesn’t go the way I want it. It’s normal, expected.

And every once in a blue moon, I do get that ideal day. It comes and it goes, but I enjoy it nonetheless.

I’m waiting for the next one, but trying not to ignore the good stuff in my other days, too. Which is easier said than done.

But hey, time goes by a lot faster than we realize. And the hard day today could become a beautiful one tomorrow. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

God’s showing me more and more of what it means to be content and fruitful even in what looks to be the crappiest of days.

So here’s to trying again in the morning.

 

Confession of a Lonely

I first want to preface this post by saying that this is not the original.

The original was going to be posted days ago yet I held off because a part of me was worried that I was going about this the wrong way. I wanted to be sure I wasn’t writing out of a bitter heart. I want my motives to be right and my intentions to clearly come across.

After prayer, repentance and reconsideration, I came up with this.

I am sorry if anything I say offends you. Yet I am not sorry for anything I have written. There’s only so much I can filter before I start to feel dishonest. These convictions and these feelings of mine should not have to remain hidden, and I pray that they are well-received.

Here goes.

Photo by Michiel Souren via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/5wDQUG)

Photo by Michiel Souren via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/5wDQUG)

CONFESSION OF A LONELY

When I sit in the dining hall on my college campus, I can’t help but notice the lonely people.

You know who they are. They walk in alone with their plates, they choose a small table for one, and then they sit down to begin their hour-long meal in silence.

Sometimes they will pull out a laptop or a book or an iPod. But even with their distraction, there’s a certain air of sadness about them. They’ll look up from their book or phone and kind of scan the room, and not because they’re looking for someone. No, they are secretly longing for the community that everyone else in the world seems to have. They are longing for a friend.

Two days ago, I sat across from this girl who spent thirty minutes scraping food around her plate and staring at people around the room. She wasn’t holding a book and there was no laptop in front of her. She didn’t even have earphones in. She was fully aware of her surroundings and yet was taking no part in it. There was no one to take part in it with.

From the looks of it, she was a lonely.

It is apparent that there is a distance between “the lonelies” and the rest.

And I call these people “the lonelies” because they aren’t loners. The word “loner” in our society has a connotation of choice. But no, these people are different from loners. They are lonelies because their lonesome status is neither chosen nor desired.

I feel like I notice these people so frequently because I am a lonely too.

It’s taken me a long time to write these words because I’ve been afraid of what people would think or say about me. And I am silently rebuking any lies that I’m believing about the worth of what I’m going to say next. I have been trying to write this post for months and it’s finally time. This does matter. I’ve had enough of this longing in silence.

I am writing this on behalf of all the lonelies:

There’s a word buzzing within certain communities of believers: “family.”

I have gone to Christian gatherings, house churches, bible studies and the like, and this word tends to be brought up a lot. “Guys, we are a FAMILY in Christ.” “We are brothers and sisters in Christ.” “We want to be a place where everyone feels like they belong and they can be open and honest– because we are a family.”

I know that that is a beautiful picture: a group of people who are not related by blood or legality yet still commit to regard the group as a family in which there is love and closeness and open communication. I do believe that this is one of the most important roles of the church. I do believe this is how God intended things to be. But I also believe that there is an element of miscommunication and misunderstanding within these families, at least as far as the lonelies are concerned.

Here’s the problem that I see: the majority of people long for family and close community, but it is often only a special group of people that actually gets to experience it. The special group of people I’m referring to are the people who are social enough, energetic enough, cool enough, extroverted enough, outstanding enough, or thought of enough to be included in the family.

Why do I believe this? Because I’ve seen lonelies begin the scary journey of finding their way into this “family” only to be overlooked or dismissed. These people are overlooked or dismissed because they don’t stand out. They aren’t regarded as cool or interesting. And no one will actually say or directly think these things about them, but many of their actions imply them.

The lonelies will be invited to events over Facebook but no one will say to them, “Hey, I wish you would come. I want to see YOU there.” The lonelies will be greeted at these events or gatherings and perhaps meet a person or two, but no one will say to them, “Hey, what are you doing tomorrow? A couple of my friends are eating lunch in the Commons. Want to join?” The lonelies will be recognized around campus and someone might wave or ask how they’re doing in passing, but there’s not enough time allotted to the lonelies for them to even begin formulating a true answer.

The lonelies are often hurting. And yet no one wants to help them get out of that hurt. People just assume that because the invite is extended, the job is done.

But being part of a family of believers requires more than a general invitation.

If you want to see a lonely join your family, then you have to realize that these lonelies may be so used to their isolation that they don’t even understand what joining would even mean. They are afraid to risk vulnerability. They are afraid of going to gatherings and not knowing anyone. And they are hurt when every interaction is surface level and no one actually wants to take the time to dive into who they really are. They want intentionality and personal invites and inquiries into their lives, and they don’t understand why no one offers.

I hate saying this, but this is what I’ve seen and how I feel: there is an unspoken standard that people are required to meet to be part of these “families” of believers.

And yes, I am implying that there is favoritism within these communities. I have enjoyed every Bible study, gathering, house church, and event I have gone to, but there is a subtle method of favoritism within most. It doesn’t mean these communities are failures or mean or ungodly. It just means there’s something lacking, and that lack unfortunately is often only noticed by the lonelies. The outsiders who always remain on the outside. The newcomers who always feel new.

This is a harsh statement but I MUST say this if there is to be any introspection or change:

From a lonely standpoint and outsider perspective, these families often look like cliques.

And it would be dishonest of me to not admit that I have carried this opinion and perspective around with me for quite some time.

I have observed these families and even began to turn up my nose at them because all I can see is this clique-like element that I can’t stand.

As a lonely, I feel as though I’m on the outside of everything. And there are numerous reasons for this: I started working more and realized I needed to rest and retreat for some time. My best friend moved away and the other few friends I had became really busy. I live at home with my parents and commute to school. I’m an introvert and have a hard time engaging in activities or feeling included.

I wasn’t always a lonely. I was once very much a part of these communities and I did feel included. But because of the before-mentioned circumstances, I had to take a step back. A part of me thought that even though I was swamped by other priorities, I would still be thought of.

Yet when I stopped going to these things, I realized that no one seemed to miss me. I don’t get invited to hang out. I don’t get the opportunities to sit down with people and explain my struggles, wounds, and hopes. I’m overlooked. Or if I take the initiative to try to make plans with people, I get vague answers and nothing happens. “Yeah, girl! Let’s get coffee sometime!” I’m still waiting on many coffee dates.

And I know that this might not make sense to everyone because there are events all over Facebook and there are nice greeters at every gathering and from the inside everyone seems really accepting and nice.

“Jessie, if you want to be part of the group, then you just need to jump in. We’re a family. We do want you!”

No.

This is the most important thing you could possibly learn about the lonely mentality: We don’t just want an invitation. We don’t know what to do with an invitation. We need PERSONAL and INTENTIONAL interactions.

And if this doesn’t start happening, then more and more lonelies will become loners. They will CHOOSE to be alone.

Instead of longing and striving for that social interaction and close-knit community, lonelies begin to like being alone and withdrawn. They’d rather be by themselves than feel like people are forced to be in their presence.

I’m confessing right now that that’s where I’m at. I’ve become a loner. I know that I tend to be standoffish and aloof. I’m ultra quiet and pensive besides the few witty or sarcastic remarks thrown here and there. I may even come across as intimidating. But people assume I choose to “do my own thing” because I’m just independent and well-off when in reality, I’ve been FORCED to be alone and now don’t know how to be otherwise.

But the loner Jessie is not the real me.

The real me loves the idea of being a part of something more. I want a family of believers where I can feel welcomed and appreciated and loved. I want to have that core group of girls who actually care about my life and would enjoy having lame sleepovers with me. I want it all, the whole college experience. Yet the college experience is not lived by everyone.

There are lonelies all around you and they come to your “families” expecting more only to end up leaving disappointed. Community is not meant to be a once-a-week thing. And if you make it that, then you’re going to keep unintentionally excluding until all of the lonelies stop trying.

Just like I’ve stopped trying.

And please believe me when I say that I’m not just trying to play the victim card. As a former “family member”, I was guilty of the same exact thing. I am sorry that I so often overlooked lonelies and never thought twice about their desires or needs. I had so many opportunities to personally invite and truly INCLUDE these amazing people, but because they didn’t meet my standard of “cool” or it required too much effort to be intentional, I chose to stay comfortable with the friends I already had.

For those of you who have been hurt by my distance or lack of effort: I am sorry. I am working on being intentional and I know I’m far from perfect. But I love you and I don’t think you or I ought to be lonelies anymore.

I know I can’t fix the entire system, but perhaps writing this is a start.

Before I bring this post to a close, I would also like to say that I love everyone who is reading this, whoever you are, regardless of whether you feel as though this was intended for you. I am never going to name-call, point fingers, or judge you. I have no right. I am just as guilty of everything I have spoken against in this post. This post is not intended to condemn, but rather to offer a new perspective.

I DO believe that believers can form a beautiful family rooted and established in Christ, and I do believe that many groups and communities have already done an amazing job at doing just that.

At the same time, I know there is still much room to grow for many. My hope is that we ALL become more inviting, inclusive, and intentional.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Jessie’s Step-By-Step Guide to Being Alone

This is a how-to on being alone.

I’m a second-year college student and have been discovering the beauty behind being alone for the past six months after struggling for several years with immensely painful loneliness. There is a difference between being lonely and being alone, and this is my attempt to describe my ongoing quest from point A to point B. After starting school in August 2012 with few friends shortly after a rough break-up, having to live at home with full-time working parents to save money, being thrust into independence without mental preparation, saying goodbye to some good people, and then experiencing another heart-breaking break-up a year later, it’s safe to say that I have been in the process of being taught a grandiose lesson on the art of being alone.

Have I mastered this so-called “art”? By no means. I still experience fits of “woe is me”, have periodic breakdowns, and feel enough loneliness to write a 70-page book of lamentations.

But things have changed for me, slowly but surely. And I know I’m not the only one who’s been feeling this way for so long.

Thus, I am glad to introduce my first how-to, which I have mulled over for quite some time. Enjoy, and be freed.

Jessie’s Guide to Being Alone

Step One: Make sure that you are indeed alone before you wallow. I cannot explain why it is so easy for me to feel lonely despite the knowledge that there are people, friends even, in my life, but it happens. Despite knowing that some great people are just a phone-call away, the lack of physical presence (or should I say the lack of constant physical presence) gets to me. I can experience a great night out and then come home to just feel… empty. Like someone should be there but no one is. It’s easy to believe that no one cares or understands because of course everyone should just be mind-readers and see my absolute need for companionship.

The problem with people is that they’re often pitiful creatures, myself included. Many people sincerely enjoy wallowing in self-pity. It’s something that can’t be fully comprehended, at least by me. I’m sure some fancy psychologists could use fancy words to analyze this sad, sad thing. To me, it’s just a stupid part of human nature that we can at least chuckle at (when we’re not crying). In all seriousness, this happens way too often: we believe that we are completely alone and no one in the world is there, when really a part of it is our own fault. We are blocking people out, not the other way around. There’s an all-too-easy-to-believe lie implanted in our heads that convinces us that being alone is how we ought to be. And that’s when the loneliness hits- because no one really deserves to be alone.

We were created for companionship, designed to experience friendships and family and relationships. When we shut these connections down and choose to isolate ourselves, whether it’s because of fear or shame or pride or some other heart issue, it’s no wonder we find ourselves racked with sorrow. Loneliness can sometimes actually be of our own doing. So step one is this: before you decide to wallow in loneliness, be sure you are really alone and not just forcing yourself to be.

Step Two: Do one thing by yourself and force yourself to enjoy it. I mean it. This is literally one of the most important things you can do when combatting loneliness. Confession: I used to hate, even loathe, the idea of eating by myself. I have cried numerous times over having to eat in the dining hall on my campus by myself. The idea of being surrounded by hundreds of people who don’t know me and most likely don’t care to know me scared me to my core. I have begged friends to eat with me, friends who actually have class and important things to do, just so I wouldn’t have to face a plate a food by myself. I have forced my previous boyfriend to stay on the phone with me as I eat dinner in my room just so I don’t fall apart and get tears in my spaghetti. It’s pitiful. I would do anything to avoid eating alone. So when I began this journey of learning how to be alone and conquer my loneliness, I had to do the one thing I dreaded doing. I began eating alone.

For the past couple months, I have been eating lunch by myself on campus and periodically spending long hours at Starbucks to get used to the idea of being by myself as I eat. And it’s strangely become easier and easier each time. I’m now at the point where I actually turn down offers to eat lunch with groups of people. You know why? I forced myself to do this thing, this awfully terrifying thing, and then I forced myself to enjoy it. That sounds harsh, but I really did. I made myself watch funny videos and laugh. I forced myself to journal and think about things other than how lonely I am. I watched sermons when I was feeling down. I worked on homework I would otherwise do at the last minute. That might sound simple to some, but it was actually extremely difficult for me at first.

For the first couple weeks or so, I sat down in Starbucks by myself only to find myself frantically texting everyone I know just to find someone to join me. I would isolate myself on campus to do my homework only to end up on Facebook five minutes later, hunting through my chat list for someone to talk to, searching for things to do with people I know. Thankfully, I don’t do this anymore, and the only way I got to the point I am at now was by practice. I practiced doing this one thing by myself and I had to keep telling myself it was a good thing until I actually believed it. And I genuinely do still believe it. As I’m typing this, I’ve been at Starbucks for a little over three hours, having fun by myself. Fathom that. I turned one thing I hated doing alone into an enjoyable and productive activity that I prefer to do alone.

I honestly believe step two is vital for anyone wanting to overcome the fear or sadness that comes from being alone. Try step two and find that one thing for yourself. It doesn’t have to pertain to eating. Maybe you don’t like watching movies by yourself or going shopping alone or spending hours in your room reading. Just pick one thing, do it ALONE, and force yourself to like it. It won’t come naturally at first but that doesn’t mean it can’t become natural. After a couple months of practice, you will find that it’s okay to be in your hermit shell.

Step Three: Get out of your hermit shell. This step must be completed after step two because if you just immediately leave your hermit shell, you might not actually know how to like your hermit shell when you find yourself back in it, which would pretty much negate any progress you’ve made. It is imperative that you complete step two first. With that being said, it is now time to discuss step three, which is scary but also a great tool for growing self-confidence.

Get yourself out there, you crazy party animal.

I don’t mean flock “to da club”, but at least plan to do something exciting and new with acquaintances. Yes, there is a reason I’m specifying that this must be done with acquaintances rather than friends. The thing about friends is that we get way too comfortable way too fast, and in a way, our friends become our hermit shell. We think that we’re being pro-active and social when really we aren’t doing anything new because we’re watching the same TV shows and eating the same pizza with the same friends. There’s nothing wrong with being close to people and having that awesome rat-pack (I most certainly have mine), but it’s vital that you allow yourself to branch out. When those friends leave town or get busy with projects and tests, you’re going to wish you knew how to talk to other people.

The next time you get invited to a movie night or out to eat with people you sorta-kinda know, accept the invite and go. You’ll wish you had your wingman by your side, but it’s not the end of the world to eat a meal with new people while striking up new conversation. Do this as many times as possible until you realize that some of these people you sorta-kinda know are now sorta-kinda your friends. Making new friends might not sound all that exciting, but if you think about it, pretty much every best friend you have now started out as an acquaintance. Think of what might have happened if you never branched out and met them.

Don’t ever stop putting yourself out there. Let yourself be vulnerable. It sounds scary, but it can actually be a freeing experience. And just to make you feel better, I’ll let you in on a secret: I suck at this. So if you struggle with step three, you’re not the only one.

Once you get to the point where you are comfortable doing this, you won’t be so panicky when none of your friends are around. You’ll know how to make new friends and how to be as cool as a cucumber in uncomfortable situations, and that’s a great confidence booster. If you stay in your shell forever, you’ll never really learn how to be alone, so please don’t hold yourself back from trying this. It’s something that is always hard at first, but it’s not the end of the world.

Step Four, Five, Six, etc: Lean on God, the friend who is always there. This sounds so cheesy, but really it’s the best thing you can do when you find yourself in utter loneliness. Even though I listed three steps before this, this step should actually be performed before, after, and during all other steps. Why? Because God supersedes any feelings that our mind convinces as us truth- feelings like fear and loneliness and shame.

I will be transparent here. I do not always believe that God is enough for me. When I’m feeling my worst and dealing with sadness, it is very rare that I actually reach out to Him right away. I do know He’s there, but because I cannot physically see, hear, or touch Him, I sometimes wish He wasn’t there at all. I sometimes feel like God fails at being a good friend to me.

But you know what I’ve learned? There will NEVER be another friend in my life as good as He. I have amazing best friends who encourage me, pray with me, push me to pursue my dreams, make me laugh and have fun, but none of them know every facet of my being. None of them are truly treasuring every word I speak and every tear I shed. None of them are actively opening up doors in my life, gently pushing me to their carefully planned wonders of my future. They don’t always answer phone calls or completely understand what I’m going through. God is the one who unlocks mysteries and pursues my heart every second of every day. Not them.

So when I’m lonely, why would I think that God should be my last resort? Why would I ever doubt His love or the freedom I have in Christ when it’s been so evident in years past?

Sometimes sadness feels so powerful, leaving us weak and defenseless. But are we really? Or have we just chosen to believe that because we don’t have the eyes right now to see otherwise? For years, I had my eyes closed to the goodness of being alone and even being in a community because I felt like anything other than constant companionship was a sign that I was unwanted or unloved. Loneliness was crippling my life, and it was all just because of lies- dumb lies that the enemy has been feeding me since I was a child. And these lies I can only reveal and conquer by faith. This is why the most important step is to lean on God. He’s the only way anyone can truly escape this maze of searching and yearning and unbearable loneliness.

Hi, I’m Jessie, and I’m a recovering lonely girl.

And you have now finished reading Jessie’s step-by-step guide to being alone.

A Slap across the Face

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

To Kill A MockingBird

I don’t think I’ve ever really been able to apply the phrase, “walking in someone else’s shoes”, to my life until now.

For the past year, I’ve been watching a lot of people around me strolling down the wrong path. They’re headed for nowhere. Worst part is that when I try to tell them to turn around to get back on the right track, they just don’t want to listen. It hurts me a lot, seeing them struggle and ask why the world’s filled with nothing but suffering. They don’t know what I know, that Jesus can transform the darkest and saddest life into one filled with meaning and the highest satisfaction. They don’t see what I see, the miracles happening everyday around us, or the way a person’s face glows while worshiping their Savior. I want to shake their shoulders, slap them across the face with truth, and shove them into God’s open arms. I feel helpless as I watch them spiral even more downwards than before.

The worst part is knowing I used to be just like these people- careless, ignorant, oblivious as to why I wasn’t happy. I put my friends and family through the same thing I’m going through now. They tried to talk to me, but I just wouldn’t listen. It took me years to realize what was missing from the equation, the reason why I was so discontent. I needed Jesus. I needed to feel the joy and love that was missing from my life. I needed to be slapped across the face with His offer of forgiveness to finally feel the pure bliss that comes from knowing our One and Only Savior, the One who rescues. Thank God for a friend who finally did slap me.

Knowing that my life was changed because people stuck by my side for all those years and never gave up on me, makes me want to stick by other people’s sides that much more. It’s never too late to be saved, never too late to jump into your Daddy’s arms, and it is our job to spread that news. Don’t think that you can’t make a difference, because that is truly the only thing that ever has- a person willing to slap someone across the face with the knowledge of who is responsible for anything beautiful in this world.