Tagged: women

Four Reasons I Talk About My Fiancé Behind His Back

11076401_778612602206901_1034754178_o

I talk about my fiancé, Grant, behind his back. Sometimes I say good things about Grant; other times I say less-than-good things about Grant. And despite popular belief that this is a big no-no in relationships and marriages, I’d like to give you four reasons for why I feel the need to talk about my fiancé behind his back and why I believe our relationship has been better for it. Maybe by the end, you’ll start wanting to talk about your significant other behind their backs, too.

Four Reasons I Talk About My Fiancé Behind His Back

Reason #1.

Talking about Grant with my therapist has enabled me to become a better partner to Grant.

When I first began weekly therapy sessions with my professional therapist back in October, I was nervous. I was afraid that if I told Tonya everything that was going on in my life, including the nitty-gritty details of my relationship with Grant, I would be judged or labeled as “the troubled one.” I already knew I had control issues prior to seeking counseling; I didn’t need someone blatantly pointing out all of my perfectionist tendencies and anger management problems.

But once I began talking about Grant with Tonya, I quickly realized that this was something I should have done many months earlier. This is because no matter how hard I try, I cannot solve my issues on my own. Healing isn’t something I can force in my own bedroom. I need someone to help me pick through some of the rubble in order to salvage the good and make something beautiful. And despite how helpful Grant tries to be, there are simply some things that I need to hear from another woman. And from someone who, frankly, just knows what they’re talking about.

Because I have shared my insecurities about my relationship with my therapist, I have been able to better understand where those insecurities originated from. When I describe the way Grant and I communicate and handle conflict, she coaches me on how to be someone who fights fair. I have even brought Grant with me to see Tonya more than once so he and I could work through our anxieties, arguments, and miscommunications together. And the fact that she shares our faith and values makes her counsel even more relatable and impactful.

Having a professional give their opinion on your relationship might sound intrusive, but I truly believe it’s one of the best things I could be doing for Grant and I, especially considering the season we are in. There’s no way Grant and I would be this mature and better prepared for marriage (notice how I didn’t just say prepared because, let’s face it, we’re still not ready) if I didn’t start seeking guidance and counsel from someone as wise, understanding, and experienced as my therapist. By the way, I’m also an advocate of seeking mentorship from other couples within your church, Bible studies, family, or your community.

The point is that it’s not bad to talk to a professional about your significant other and your relationship with them. It’s actually the opposite of bad; it’s tremendously helpful and healthy. And the best part, in my opinion, is that you don’t have to feel guilty about talking about your SO behind their back (because how could they possibly get mad at you for seeking help on both of your behalves)?

I talk about Grant behind his back so I can be a better partner to him. And honestly, I should be getting brownie points for working this hard. Therapy is some exhausting, hardcore stuff — like kickboxing, only you have to use your words.

Reason #2.

Talking about Grant with family and friends helps me appreciate the role he plays in my life.

I love when people ask me how Grant and I first started dating because it gives me a chance to brag on this man’s faithfulness to me. I friend-zoned him, completely rejected him from the get-go, but he persisted. And a year later, when my eyes were finally opened to see the nerdy stud that he was, the fact that he was still smitten with me and willing to pursue me gave me a glimpse of just how special this man really was. And it doesn’t stop there.

Every time my friends and family talk to me about Grant, I’m given another opportunity to brag on how good he is to me. But no matter how much I have to brag about, I also feel the need to be honest and share our weaknesses and struggles, too. Like the fact he gets on my nerves. A lot. That’s something I probably shouldn’t hide; otherwise, people would ask why my eyes sometimes seem to be permanently glued to the top of my head and my mouth looks more like a scowl than a smile. I also like to tell people that Grant is a passive arguer, but that just does me more harm than good because they then realize I’m the true culprit of probably ninety percent of our arguments and conflict.

The more I give people little insights into our relationship, the more appreciative of Grant I become. Because at the end of the day, I am able to say that he is still one of the hardest working, most faithful men I know. No matter how berating and stubborn I can be, he is still always willing to hold my hand and wipe my tears. No matter how hopeless things sometimes seem when I feel the weight of my sin nature within the context of our relationship, he is still encouraging us to keep praying and pressing on. Being able to share these things with people not only helps them see the role he plays in my life, but it helps me see it, too.

I talk about Grant behind his back because when our relationship sometimes feels routine and things get hard, it’s nice to be reminded that he is my faithful partner who’s stuck with me through thick and thin. And the best part is that he actually wants to keep at it for the rest of his life. That’s impressive. No other man besides my daddy can boast of having such a love for me. And it’s that kind of love I am willing to talk about with anyone who will listen.

Reason #3.

Talking about Grant through my writing encourages others in their relationships.

The first time I wrote a post about Grant, I expected to be tagged as mouthy and over-sharing. My mom tells me that the more I talk about Grant on my blog, the more ammo I give other women who may want to try to get between us. And she has a point. Grant just gets more handsome by the day (I’m in love and dead serious so don’t laugh). But I don’t want to live in fear of what my writing could do to our relationship because I enjoy seeing what it’s doing for other people in their relationships.

I love that I was able to have a Skype call today with a woman I met over Instagram who, like me, is engaged. After reading my blog post on my fears concerning marriage, she related to it so much so that she actually wanted to talk to my boring, weird self and offer me some much-needed encouragement. I had no idea that this stranger would somehow become my friend and speak into my life after being spoken to through my blog. Once again, I was reminded that our writing can transcend our expectations if we let it.

I love that people seem to be more willing to talk about the hard things now, too. I feel like I see so many married couples who stray away from confessing struggles or issues that they have because they fear the negative affect it could have on their marriage. What I believe is that honesty can be harmful if you’re not careful, but it’s important nonetheless. Take risks, but risk wisely. If you know that someone could grow and benefit from hearing your experiences, I think it does more harm than good to remain in silence and hide away. In case you haven’t realized, I’ve quit hiding (for the most part). I want people to see the real me so they can love me and support me and maybe even relate to me. And they have. For the same reasons, I want people to see Grant and I for the real “us.”  I don’t want to endanger my relationship with Grant in any way, and it’s for that reason precisely that I sometimes open my big, fat mouth and blab away. I trust that God is giving me discernment and also protecting us along the way. And don’t worry — I do have limits.

I also love that when I wrote about the things no one tells you about being engaged, I saw many people jumping out of their seats, saying, “ME TOO.” Like holy cow. If more people had just told me that they were also experiencing these things and that my feelings are completely normal, I PROBABLY WOULD HAVE BEEN SO MUCH MORE PREPARED FOR THIS. Thanks a lot, guys. This is why we need more people talking about their fiancés behind their back.

I talk about Grant behind his back so others can be encouraged and built up. This world needs more authenticity when it comes to the realities of relationships and marriages. I praise God for the books on marriage sitting on my bookshelf because they were written by authentic authors. Their willingness to share their experiences and hardships have enabled me to better prepare for marriage and grow into the partner I sometimes fear I can’t be. My hope is that through my writing, I am having even just a fraction of that impact on somebody out there who feels afraid and alone at times, just like me.

Reason #4.

Talking about Grant with God does more good for our relationship than all of my feeble efforts combined.

Some of my most honest, heartfelt prayers have been prayers concerning Grant and I. And I’m not talking about the “Lord, please protect my fiancé because I love him so much” prayers. I’m talking about the “Lord, I’m at my wit’s end. I freaking hate everything that is happening. I honestly don’t understand why you created men. If you could just help me understand, then maybe Grant and I could have a chance. But I’m losing it! Can’t you tell I’m losing it? Lord, how many times do I have to scream and cry for you to do something? I can’t do this. I’m going to quit. I have no idea of what I’m doing. I don’t know how to love. I don’t know how to be loved. This sucks and I just don’t know if I can keep doing it” prayers.

What happens when I pray these prayers is that I learn to see God for who he is just a little bit more than I did before. And the reason this happens is because I am also seeing myself for who I am just a little bit more. And here is who I am when I am on my knees, crying out to God: a woman desperate for something more beautiful than what she could make with her own hands and free will, a woman so lost and confused that she knows she’s going to have to lean wholeheartedly on God, a woman so fed up that she’s finally willing to die to self and surrender all.

When I resurface from these prayers, I usually run straight to Grant, wanting to make things right (because odds are that I was responsible for something gone wrong). I also am somehow willing to forgive again despite being hurt by the same thing for the hundredth time and there not being a single solution in sight.

The thing about prayer is that it isn’t designed to change God; it’s designed to change us. And it has changed me. It’s made me into a fighter, a warrior. It’s opened my eyes to the work of God.

I talk about Grant behind his back because we need someone bigger than us fighting for us. The enemy has tried so many times to divide Grant and I. And there have been days where he probably thought he was successful. But the fact we are still standing and still moving forward proves that there is a higher power working on our behalf. The lies of the enemy are no match against the truth of God. And every time I cry out to God in prayer, I’m allowing myself to believe in that truth once again. When I pray, I am reminded that I can do nothing without God. He is my everything. He is our everything. He is the Rock on which Grant and I stand. 

And if that’s not enough reason to start talking about your man behind his back, then I don’t know what is.

Advertisements

When All of My Flaws Are Laid Out One by One

7977383344_00461c6204_o

Photo by Liliya via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/d9Wb99)

When all of your flaws and all of my flaws

are laid out one by one

The wonderful part of the mess that we made

We pick ourselves undone

“Flaws” — Bastille

There’s something about vulnerability (okay, A LOT of things) that I still don’t understand. Like why it’s so dang hard.

Today I was asked why I want to get married, and instead of giving the shorthand answer, “we feel like it’s the next step” or the hyper-spiritual answer, “because God says it’s not good for man to be alone, etc,” I gave the real one.

I want to get married because I know I can’t do as much on my own as I can with Grant. He brings the best out of me (and sometimes the worst) and I bring the best out of him (and sometimes his worst). We are compatible — not because we are the same and we perfectly relate, but because he and I are amazed at how many ways we are able to complement each other.

But for some reason, despite the truth of this statement, there’s still so much holding me back in my relationship. I can see the fruit that comes from being vulnerable. I have experienced the warmth of his support and encouragement in times of honest communication. Yet there are some topics I deem “off-limits,” some things I veer away from.

I was discussing how difficult it can be for me to be vulnerable with Grant with my counselor today, and she pointed out that I don’t usually feel this way with my girlfriends. I love sharing all things with my friends; I can be messy and explicit and wear my heart on my sleeve with those people.

With Grant it’s a different story. And it’s a different story because romantic relationships and marriages seem so much more risky to me. They’re risky and frightening because they’re supposed to be permanent, but sometimes they aren’t. Like the time I was dumped by my ex-boyfriend when I thought we would soon be getting engaged. They’re scary because you want them to last, but there are some things out of your control. Like the times I thought Grant and I could instantly resolve arguments and we could both wake up as new people who would stop hurting each other.

I’ve always had the philosophy, “friends come and go, but relationships are forever.” And I know that that’s counterintuitive to those who preach “bros before hoes” and “chicks before… well you know.” But that’s just the way this hopeless romantic has always felt. I’ve always put romantic relationships above friendships. I somehow understood the sacred nature of marriage long before I really knew God’s intent for it.

And here I am — about to get married, about to really put those philosophies into action, about to commit myself to what I deem permanent.

And I’m kinda, sorta terrified.

Because yes… this is for forever.

And what if that thing Grant says he loves about me he no longer loves tomorrow?

What if the stuff I tell him today he uses against me next week?

What if the issues I have now that he says he will support me through will one day end up destroying what we have?

What if the things I ask him to fix for us he never ends up fixing?

But here’s what I’m needing to be reminded of: I will never be able to see my vision for marriage — that beautiful union where each partner learns to bring the best out of the other — if I do not let Grant see ALL OF ME.

How can we grow together in our walk with Christ if I remove him from all things pertaining to my walk with Christ?

How can he encourage me to become my best self when I’m only showing him the parts I think he’ll like or the parts that mistakenly slip out?

If I’m really going to benefit from this union, if I’m really going to have the best marriage I could possibly imagine, I’m going to have to make a choice day after day.

I’m going to have to choose to be seen.

My friends, I know that there are so many secrets we are still holding onto, so many fears we’re still afraid of sharing. We’re embarrassed to admit our weaknesses and we cling tightly to our flaws instead of bare them in front of the ones we say we love.

But how can people love us if they don’t know who we are?

How can people support us if they don’t know where we are weak?

How can people lift us up when they don’t know that we have fallen?

Vulnerability does not come easy for most of us, but it IS possible.

I have to believe that it’s possible; otherwise, why am I getting married? It would all be for nothing. Because no glory can come to God through two people promising partnership when there is no actual partnership. No Christ-like love can be shown through a marriage that is still comprised of two people hiding behind defense mechanisms.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22).

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… (Ephesians 5:25).

I am making the commitment to submit myself to Grant. This does not mean I am a servant to be stepped on. This does not mean I will no longer be seen. It’s the exact opposite, actually. I submit myself to Grant by allowing myself to be seen, by making myself vulnerable and trusting that he will not harm me.

And if Grant will hold up his end of the bargain (which I believe he will), he will love me with the same unconditional, all-knowing, grace-saturated love that Christ loves me with.

This is what I want our marriage to be founded on — this idea that we can love and serve each other boldly and with vulnerability.

But I have to start making the choice to do so now.

Will you please pray with me as I venture into the unknown, as I lay down my pride and fears and allow my partner to see me as I am?

And today, will you please allow yourself to be seen? Will you let yourself believe that you have things to offer this world, and the world has things to offer to you?

Because life without love, or rather life without vulnerability, is no life at all.

And I want you to live. I want you to live with all you have, with all the gusto you can muster. Love boldly. Love unashamedly. Love wisely. And let yourself be loved in return.

When You Don’t Feel Good Enough

Photo by Cameron Russell via Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/camkage/5443790466)

Photo by Cameron Russell via Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/camkage/5443790466)

“You’re not a failure,” he reassures me.

“I know I’m not a failure, but I feel like I’m failing.”

There’s a difference, you know.

I know deep down that there’s a reason I’m here. And it’s not to have a simple career with a simple marriage and a simple life. My purpose is more complex than that (with a sprinkle of passion, too).

But what do you do when you feel like you’re so far from reaching that purpose? When it feels like you’re constantly wandering away from what you thought you cared about, when it seems like everyone has something to say about where your life should go?

The truth is I struggle with feeling good enough for anyone and everything. I want to please them all, I do.

Get the help you need, she says. You don’t need that kind of help, another tells me.

Let him be there for you, I’m told. You’re asking for too much, I hear again.

Focus on what’s right in front of you, they say. Don’t wait to chase down that dream, the others say.

All I can think is, I’m letting them down. I’m letting myself down. I’m letting God down.

I know I’m not a failure because I keep showing up to this thing called life. I know I’m not a failure because I keep putting one foot forward. But I feel like I’m failing, or maybe I’m just constantly falling — constantly falling in and out of love of different ideas thrown at me on how my life should look and what I should try to be.

While people are telling me to do this or that, what I’m hearing is, you have to be perfect. Or at least better than this.

And that word — ‘perfect’ — has been haunting me for many years of my life.

 

I have often looked to the one who loves me and surely must know me best, and I have said, I don’t feel good enough. But none of his reassurances have really done it for me. They don’t settle the chaos in my gut. They don’t stop me from searching and fumbling and hurtling and screaming. If anything, they just give me ideas in my head of how much better he is for me than I am for him.

So I’ve been learning, slowly but surely, that I have to stop always looking to that one. He’s ‘my everything’, but he’s not my everything. He holds much of my heart, but he’s not the one who can mend it.

Jesus.

Yes, yes, I need Jesus.

Because even though I come to the Cross with a trail of mistakes, all Jesus sees is me. And the way he sees me is unlike what other people see in me.

The world praises me for my performance and gifts and the good things I’m working towards. Meanwhile, he rejoices in me simply because I am his.

And if that doesn’t sound like the most beautiful of romances to you, let me break it down for you.

I am in Christ, and therefore I am no longer just myself. I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). This new creation isn’t an improved version of myself; it’s a version of myself that is unlike myself. It’s like Jesus (Galatians 2:20).

If the idea of no longer being ‘yourself’ and all of a sudden being like Jesus doesn’t sound too pleasant, let’s take a look at who Jesus is.

Jesus is victorious. The conqueror of death. Blameless. Holy. Pure. Perfect life. Perfect love. Perfect.

Why yes, I would love to be more like Jesus. Because have you met me apart from Jesus?

I myself am a hundred thousand miles from being perfect, but in Jesus’ eyes, I am all I need to be because I am his. I am perfectly his. I am perfect in Christ.

All those things he is — victorious, conqueror of death, blameless, holy, pure —  I now have resting in me. He let me in on the mystery of the gospel. And the mystery is this — Jesus came to save the lost and restore the broken. Now that I know, I can’t un-know. Now that I am brought into his kingdom and have been chosen to be his holy and blameless daughter (Ephesians 1:4), I can’t not be that woman.

This is the truth I hold onto when I start to hear those taunting words, you’re not good enough.

They’re right, you know.

I’m not good enough. I’m actually even better than that.

I know that these things I’m saying aren’t particularly profound. They’s actually just foundational truths of Christianity. If you don’t think they are, then maybe you’ve been too picky with your Scripture.

The reason why I’m even sharing these things is because I know that you question if you’re good enough.

And I want to be the voice — no, I want Jesus himself — to tell you, yes, you are.

And for once in your life, I want you to believe it.

Yes, you might feel like you’re failing and falling and every ugly thing in between. But look at WHOSE you are, not just who you are. You might feel overwhelmed and trapped by these varying ideas of how to find that perfect life and be that perfect person, but you can be freed by the knowledge that you are perfect in every way in the heavenly realm already.

It’s a process and a pretty long one at that. I think it’s called sanctification, which I kind of see as a constant, never-ending journey to the dumpster. We always have more to dump. There’s always something to rid ourselves of (and we usually have to rid ourselves of the same things over and over again).

For today, let’s start by dumping these lies that we have to live up to everyone’s expectations and be this perfect person for people just as messy and lost.

If you need help dumping those lies, it might help to imagine you shoving them into Jesus’ scarred hands and screaming, TAKE THIS BECAUSE ONLY YOU CAN. It sounds a little forceful, but I think those lies could use a good shove.

And when you start to make some progress in this whole dumping thing (because I trust that you’re not just going to read this, close your browser, and walk away), take some time to remind yourself that it’s not you making this progress. It’s the Holy Spirit in you. It’s the work that’s already been done on the Cross, the victory that’s already been secured for us.

Don’t dump the pressure to be perfect and then make yourself feel better by thinking that you’re closer to being perfect.

You’re not closer to being perfect, at least not here on earth. You’re closer to being free and you’re closer to looking like Jesus, which are two things infinitely better than getting everyone’s approval (including the approval of your own perfection-seeking self).

And when all of this is said and done, live out the rest of your day and prepare for another fight. It’s okay that there will be another fight because you are a fighter. I know you’re a fighter and not a failure because you keep showing up to this thing called life, as do I.

We need to keep doing this. It might get easier. It might not. But THIS is our purpose, the reason for why we’re here. We are here to live as Jesus calls us to live — free. Free to love. Free to dream. Free to fight. Free to hope. Free to live a godly life. Free to seek the Lord.

We were never meant to be enslaved to approval-seeking. We were always meant to be his.

What I Didn’t Know about Guarding My Heart

Photo by Tatenda Nyamande on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/cdb8tW)

Photo by Tatenda Nyamande on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/cdb8tW)

This morning I began thinking about what it means to guard your heart. I hear it all the time, I’ve seen it in God’s Word, I know it’s what is expected of me, and I’ve been told that men have something to do with it. But I have to admit I’m just as clueless about what guarding my heart means as I am clueless about what the heck is going on in Lost.

So I did what I do every now and then when I want to get a better understanding of something God has said. I went back to the roots. I looked up the Hebrew translation of “heart” from Proverbs 4:23 (above all else, guard your heart), and what I found was enough to get me thinking long and deep.

heart = inner man, mind, will, understanding, thinking, resolution, determination, a seat of appetites, a seat of emotions and passions, a seat of courage

My heart is complex. I knew that already. And God must know it, too, because He sees it better than anyone.

But I didn’t know guarding your heart could have so many connotations. If my heart is all these things: understanding, resolution, emotion, passion, courage… then how can I guard each of them? Apparently protecting this complex heart of mine means a lot more than what this verse in Proverbs first lets on.

For so long I thought guarding your heart just meant protecting things from coming in. Now I see it also means protecting some things from coming out.

I say this because it’s so obvious how my heart has been very much at play in my relationships. After all, my heart is where love is found, like my love for Grant (forgive me for putting so much emphasis on my relationship with Grant, but this is where I’ve been doing a lot of learning and growth this past year). Many miscommunications, disagreements, and fights that I have with Grant are stemmed from something inside of one or both of our hearts. For me, it’s usually fear, insecurity, fleshly passion, or lies.

If I’m not guarding my heart, those things can come spewing out and hurt him. They have many times. I realize now that satan wants my heart to be unguarded because it gives me the opportunity to throw this crap up all over Grant (which he surely doesn’t need or enjoy). Satan wants me to feel like “anything goes,” like it doesn’t matter what I feel or how wrong I may be; I HAVE to act on them and force them onto the poor guy sitting across from me. I let those suckers control me and make way into my relationship. This makes the enemy very happy. After all, his goals are always to steal, kill, and destroy.

The only time these harmful things inside of me are rightfully coming out is when they’re being laid before God for him to deal with. My deep insecurities do not benefit Grant. I don’t want them spilling out before him because they only bring destruction to us. And Grant is not and never can be the true healer of my wounds. That doesn’t mean just letting them stay there and hiding what is really going on, though. I MUST bring my deep insecurities to GOD so HE can bring destruction to THEM. And the same goes for all else that is wrongfully taking place in my heart.

But here’s the other side to guarding your heart: there are things that need to be protected that are good.

My resolution, my determination, my God-given passions and emotions, my courage… these are beautiful and worthy of being protected. I must fight to hold onto these things and not let the enemy distort them or misuse them.

And because Grant has taken up the task of guarding my heart, it means fighting the enemy’s attempts to steal, kill, and destroy alongside me.

It means standing up for me when I feel too weak to get up. It means praying for me and declaring truth over me when I’m facing attack and lies. It means continuing to pursue me even when I argue that I’m not worth pursuing. It means pushing me to believe again when I’m losing my faith or trust.

This isn’t something that is necessarily laid out in God’s Word. There’s no manual for exactly when and how a man should fight for a woman’s cause. But we are given a why: because Jesus fought for his Bride. Men are charged with the task of treating women with that same love and ferocity.

Guarding my heart is a task I myself must face, but I am thankful that I do not have to face it alone.

This is what I gathered from my morning venture into Proverbs, and I know I need to continually bring this to God for better understanding and application. I’ve been too careless with my heart too many times. I’ve seen the catastrophic effects. But PRAISE JESUS that I’m healing and my heart is being restored. I am being renewed through intimacy with God. And that growing intimacy with Him only enhances my intimacy with Grant.

Show me how to guard my heart today, Lord.

This is my prayer. And this is what I’ll keep praying, what I’ll keep waiting expectantly in. My heart is loved too much to be left unguarded. It’s too precious to be ignored.

And this isn’t just true for my heart. It’s true for yours.

The Scary But Necessary Truth

 

I’m wrestling with what it means to be authentic.

Because more often than not, I’m giving off a false impression of myself.

I’m not that calm, collected girl who walks into class with her coffee and combat boots, no care in the world. I’m not that wise, oh-so-godly girl who sits in Bible studies and leads worship because Jesus is all she thinks about and lives for 24/7. I’m not that confident, positive girl who just likes to laugh at jokes, meet with friends at coffee shops, and wear yoga pants (because they’re by far the comfiest things in the world).

I might try to look like that girl. And I might even succeed. But she’s not me.

Truthfully, I’m still figuring out what kind of girl I am. I’m still discovering my interests, likes and dislikes, and personality. I’m learning that I’m a lot like my mother, which brings into question how much of me is really me. I also know that I often mold into my friends, putting on a different mask to be around different people. And I know better than anyone that I’m a messy, complex person who is one way today and then a totally different way tomorrow.

Can the real Jessie Nyland please stand up?

In all of my wrestling, I’ve been learning a lot about myself, the world we live in, and God.

And here’s one of the most important things about being authentic that I’ve seen and am now believing: it begins with telling the truth. 

You’re not going to destroy all those false images that have been built up around you overnight. You can’t dismantle all those lies just by saying to yourself, “okay, be YOU now.”

Odds are that if you have been pretending long enough, you’ve started to believe that girl is really who you are.

So authenticity has to start somewhere, and I believe it starts with telling just one truth. One scary but necessary truth.

And after that truth gets out there, you tell another one. And another one. Until eventually, when people see you, they don’t just see the girl with the nose ring, combat boots, and cool blog. The one who keeps to herself and seems to have her life together.

They see the truth.

They see the girl who’s insecure, weird, moody, and confused. They see the girl who’s struggled with perfectionism all her life, but is learning how to keep that under control in her relationships and everyday life. They see the girl who loves God, but has nowhere near all the answers to living a faithful, godly life. They see the girl who has no idea what she’s doing.

The art of being authentic is telling the truth so people can stop seeing one thing and start to see another.

And in seeing you in this new light, you are somehow given permission to keep being yourself. After all, once the truth is out there, you can’t really take it back. Might as well keep unraveling.

I think this is why I write the way I do, why I’m becoming more and more honest about who I am. I’m tired of the lies I think people might believe about me, the lies that say I’m fine and I love my life and my faith is on point and I don’t need help.

(and I’m also a little tired of the lies I believe about many of YOU. There’s nothing more crippling than the insecurity that comes from seeing someone in this perfect, Instagram-filtered life and knowing I could never be that)

Authenticity needs to be more common. I’m pretty sure I need it if I’m going to stay sane.

I made an Instagram like four days ago and I’m already considering deleting it because I’m OBSESSING over what filters to use, to hashtag or not to hashtag, and why-oh-why is this girl so drop-dead gorgeous and perfect while I’m…. not?

You see, this is hurting me. The lack of authenticity and vulnerability I see all around me is hurting me.

It’s why I took so long to tell anyone about my loneliness or sadness. It’s why I don’t ask people out for coffee or invite anyone to come over to my house. It’s why I feel awful after watching a movie with beautiful, stick-thin actresses. It’s why I feel like a failure in every aspect of my life.

I believe that everyone else in the world is pretty and perfect while I’m pitiful and pathetic.

And that’s not healthy or even true.

We’re ALL really good liars. 

And I’m so tired of being one.

If we’re going to have healthy relationships with others and with ourselves, we have to start telling the truth. Yes, the scary but necessary truth.

And if we’re going to have a healthy relationship with God, we have to start believing the truth about who HE says we are, too.

This is my new philosophy and it’s taken me many years to get here.

Here’s my truth for today: I’m far from feeling secure in who I am. But I so badly want to be. And I’m clawing at these lies as fast as I can, hoping to reach the point where I can look into the mirror and say, “this IS you.”

I don’t think I want to be that perfect, happy girl in my profile picture anymore. I want to be a real girl. An honest one. And even though I know you might be holding onto your own false images, I hope you can feel just a bit more comfortable being yourself after seeing the real, honest me. I want to invite you into realness, too.

Can we please, for (literally) the love of God, start telling the truth? You and I both, hand in hand. Just pushing those truths out there into the blinding public eye so the lies can leave us in peace to be our true, beautiful selves.

All it takes is just telling the truth. One scary but necessary truth at a time.

No-Shave Summer

Image by Eliric on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/6V6mkn)

Image by Eliric on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/6V6mkn)

Some of the guys I’m working with have joked about initiating a no-shave summer. You know, a summer where you just let your facial hair grow and get all long and manly and unkempt? Some can make it work. Others… not so much.

Well, a few of us girls thought it’d be funny to pretend like we’re doing a no-shave summer, as well. In Clarkston, it’s actually not too difficult to pull off. When you basically have a dress-code of wearing jeans and a t-shirt all summer long, it’s not hard to justify putting down the razor. I mean, let’s be honest: shaving your legs is a drag and just a tad unnecessary if no one can see them anyway. Am I right?

But in a moment of complete honesty, I AM doing no-shave summer. Ladies and gentleman, I am not shaving… my upper lip.

Yes, I have hair on my upper lip!

(Men, ask around and you’ll realize most girls do)

There’s this stigma surrounding the idea of girls having hair on their upper lip. I mean, girls don’t really want to be associated with mustaches. Especially this girl right here. I swear I’m like part Italian, part ape. My hair is so thick and long and dark. It’s just always been that way, and the hair on my face isn’t much of an exception.

But shortly before I came to Clarkston, I decided to stop trying to mask it. Why?

Because I was spending so much time worried about what I look like when the truth of the matter is that PEOPLE DON’T CARE.

I stopped including shaving my upper lip in my weekly maintenance schedule, and no one noticed.

The only person to mention my sudden growth of a mustache was my boyfriend. And he doesn’t count because he’s a lot more acquainted with my face than most people.

Not only that, but I stopped tweezing every week. How many people commented? None.

And then I stopped wearing as much makeup. Who told me I was ugly? Nobody.

Then I decided to wear my hair back in a messy bun just about everyday, cutting down on the time and stress that maintaining this wild mane usually required. And guess who cared? No one.

And I don’t think it’s because people are being nice. I’m at the point with my roommates where I know they’d say something if they noticed an obnoxious uni-brow growing on my face.

The truth is that I have spent a good majority of my life trying to make myself look perfect when I could’ve just let those things go and nothing would have changed.

I would still have the same friends. I would still feel just as pretty.

And please know that this security I have only came through practice and persistence. I was pretty horrified when I looked in the mirror the first couple days after letting the hair on my face grow back. But I stuck with it. I was THAT tired of caring.

Yes, I’m still tempted to hide all these imperfections. I want to smooth down my hair and pluck my eyebrows and get rid of my girl mustache. I want to keep my nails painted and get rid of the calluses on my feet. I want to lose a few pounds and whiten my teeth.

But the longer I hold off, the more victorious I feel.

In a way, I feel like my persistence is my way of standing up for the women who feel like they have to hide behind acne treatments, diets, and tweezers. This is my way of fighting the fear that us girls have of our NATURAL beauty. And I don’t mean the kind of natural where you use a nude lipstick and a gold-shimmer eye shadow. I’m talking about the unshaved, unmasked kind of natural. The natural we only let our pets see.

I’m tired of being insecure around anyone and everyone who isn’t my dog. I don’t want to feel like I have to hide my under-eye circles or leg hair just to go out in public.

And I certainly don’t want to shave my darn mustache.

Girls have hair on their upper lip. Deal with it.

It’s no-shave summer, baby.

P.S. I’m fully aware that people are now going to start noticing it more. WELL, GO AHEAD AND STARE. At least I called it first.

 

Clarkston Life

Clarkston, Georgia is the epitome of diversity. If you ask me, it’s comparable to being at the airport, the Olympics, or a United Nations meeting. There are people from literally all across the globe. But the thing about Clarkston is that here you find people of all ages from all different countries living in the same CITY. In the same apartment complex, even. When I step outside of my apartment, I can run into a Nepali man in a colorful wrap skirt, an Iraqi woman wearing her burqa, a Somalian family piling into a worn-down sedan, and a swarm of barefoot Eritrean kids within just a few yards. This is Clarkston life.

Clarkston is this way because it was chosen a while ago to be the relocation center for millions of refugees coming into America. These refugees come from lives of chaos, danger, persecution, and rough conditions in countries such as Iraq, Iran, Bhutan, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Afghanistan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Uganda. And they’re squeezed together into this one square mile south of Atlanta.

A lot of the refugees here aren’t fluent in English or even know the alphabet. They struggle to find jobs and pay rent. Homesickness is the least of their worries. They come here with nothing and are expected to thrive when the most they can do under this pressure and in their situation is simply SURVIVE.

I’m spending my summer in Clarkston (for the second time) because 1) these refugees need love, and 2) these refugees need Jesus. I’m working with an organization that strives to provide those two things in the form of ESL classes, summer camps for kids, gardening, prayer, and day-to-day conversations.

But not until today did it occur to me that they have something to offer me, as well.

This morning, my roommate Hannah and I stumbled across a scene we had never seen: an Iraqi woman with her young daughter, an Eritrean woman with her special needs son, and a Nepali woman with her infant… sitting on the same bench and conversing. We approached the three women and joined in on their conversation to the best of our ability. Do you know what they were talking about? How much our apartment complex stinks. They’re unhappy with the complex manager and how they’re treated. With kids in lap, through broken English and thick accents, they were engaging in a dialogue about these irritating and discouraging experiences.

And there was something beautiful about the way these three very different women were taking turns shaking their heads in disbelief, nodding in agreement, and sharing these burdens. Never mind the fact they come from various war-torn countries and different faiths and backgrounds. They just wanted to sit together and bond as next-door neighbors, as mothers.

In that moment I felt like I knew nothing.

I’m a not-even-twenty-year-old who has much to learn about independence, financial burdens, marriage, and raising a family. If I were to sit with two women of my choosing, it’d be women my own age who have no children, no real responsibility. Our greatest burdens would be choosing a major or dealing with our protective parents. And I don’t say that to talk down those burdens. I say that to show how much I have left to experience and learn.

Who am I to think that I’m here in Clarkston to solely teach and to change lives? No. I’m also here to have MY life changed by these refugees.

Image by Leonid Plotkin on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/j4t1oc)

Image by Leonid Plotkin on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/abzFKN)

I don’t want to let my pride prevent real friendships from forming while I’m in Clarkston.

I want what those three women had: common ground forged in even the mundane trials of life.

I want to knock on that Iraqi woman’s door and ask her to show me the way of motherhood. How do you raise three children? How do you carve time for your marriage? When you’re a stay-at-home mom, do you struggle to find purpose?

I want to sit down with that Eritrean mom and hear her experience of having a special needs son. Were you scared? Are you still? How does it change you? 

And then I want to spend time with the Nepali woman and her infant son and see how a love for a newborn grows from the start. What was it like when you first took him home from the hospital? What are your dreams for his life?

And then I’d ask them all about living. Not just living as a refugee, but day-to-day living. Is it hard to pray and pursue God in the busyness of life? Do you have unrealized dreams and how do you cope with that? How do you get stains out of clothing? 

I know nothing. And these women know something. Instead of trying to teach, I think it’s time to learn.

And while doing that, perhaps I’ll be opening up doors for giving them the two things I still want to offer: love and Jesus.

I’ll keep you updated on how this goes. I’m nervous, but excited. Maybe I’m on the right track here.

Image by Alex Saurel on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/j4t1oc)

Image by Alex Saurel on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/j4t1oc)