Freedom and Empowerment

Freedom and empowerment. These are the results of being responsible. 

I’ve been reading about boundaries in a book called…well, you probably guessed it. Boundaries. And I learned that I’ve been making one huge mistake over and over again. No, it’s not posting too many pictures of squirrels if that’s what you think. Actually, I’ve been making a fool of myself every time I try to blame my feelings on another person. The lesson for me has been very simple: My feelings are mine–which means I have own them and decide what to do about them. That is my responsibility. And, as it turns out, that is also my freedom and empowerment.

I really don’t have the energy or the inspiration to write anything else on the matter. I just thought it would be a thoughtful contribution to the blogging world. Responsibility. Boundaries. Freedom. Empowerment. Cool.

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Kinda Rich & I Kinda Like It

I went to the ATM machine a few days ago to withdraw some cash and…

Insufficient funds for transaction 

Excuse me, but doesn’t that only happen to characters in movies and books? Nope.

Thank you, life, for removing yet another misconception from my mind. I just have to face it; basically, I’m broke.

But a few days later, and after some serious reflection by my over-worked mind, I’ve also come to the conclusion that I’m rich. Very rich, indeed. And I kinda like it. Ain’t nobody got time for ATM machines.

I’ve come out of a difficult summer with some nifty little treasures—promises and people–and they add up to one big cha-ching. And that makes me very, very happy.

My heart is set on salvation and renewal.  And I don’t just mean that in the “Jesus come into my heart and be Lord” sense. I could say that when I was five. I’m not talking about becoming a Christian; I’m talking about becoming a Christian who is healthy and whole—a Christian who is a living, breathing, feeling, talking, walking, growing, squirrel-loving individual named Jessica. This isn’t just about fighting against sin. This is about waiting, waiting, waiting for God to replace hurt with healing and lies with truth. This is about having a new mind and a new outlook on life. This is a personal advent, an expectation for salvation worked out and shining through in my life. I might be rebellious, stubborn, and impulsive, but I can still hear God’s promise to make me new. Mind you, this isn’t something I’m making up. The Bible actually says “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Paraphrase: He’s making all things new.) And despite everything that makes me imperfect and broken, I am still so hungry to know the God who gave everything for my life…true life. And as long as I have the desire to rely on God’s promise (whether I understand it or not!), I’m pretty sure something as puny as an empty checking account can’t make me anything less that freaking, ridiculously rich with hope and joy. Man, I’m just so hungry to be whole someday. And every day, He’s showing me little by little (and sometimes in BIG ways) that He keeps His promises even when I do not. Thanks. Be. To. God.

And as if that’s not enough, I’m reminded again of the immense blessing I’ve found in the Tim Eshes and Dr Ks and Dr Ts and Ge’Ana Ellises and McKinzie Horohos (wow….look at all these shout-outs!) and moms and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins who can answer any question with love and who can use Facebook and texts and coffee and the Book of Common Prayer to remind me of the very promise I mentioned above—that He’s making me new.

I told you. I’m kinda rich, and I kinda like it.

I’m Sorry

When I started this blog a little over a year ago, I wanted it to be a place of truth, thoughtfulness, and challenges. I wanted Deep Words of Life to be…well, just that…deep, life-giving words. I used to write about funny things, happy things, smart things. But as I changed, I believe my writing changed too. Hear me out. I’m not apologizing for being different, especially because I believe I’m still in a transition phase of sorts. I might turn out ok after all of this is said and done. 😉 But I am apologizing for failing to make this blog a place that encourages, strengthens, and motivates other people. I’m sorry for failing to write about joyful things. I’m sorry for making this about me when I’ve always wanted this to be so much more than that.

So, to make good my apology, I want to write about happy things today. I want to make people smile and remember that life, though difficult, is a beautiful gift. We’ll keep this simple. 

1) Gerbils. I lost one of them recently, but sunflower-loving Ezekiel has a sweet little grave that my brother made him beneath the shade of a pine tree I used to play under as a little girl. And Peter is snuggled in his solitary nest as I write this. He misses his buddy, but I think having the sunflower seeds all to himself has made the transition much easier. So when things in my life get difficult, I always think of my gerbils and our ridiculous adventures through the last few years. Animals are loyal without realizing it, and they’re also really good teachers. Let’s just say I’ve learned a lot. And let’s just say you should adopt a few gerbils for good company. 

2) Time. I’ve got a ton of it. So much that I don’t even feel guilty about wasting some of it on YouTube or Facebook. Because when I get that stuff out of the way, there’s still time for the dishes or reading or _______. And, then after that, there’s more time to do nothing again. And then it’s bedtime, which could either be really early or really late. Two semesters of college taught me to cherish free time nearly as much as I cherish peanut butter and squirrels. When I use my time to complain about my life, I’m overlooking a huge blessing…time itself.  

3) Porch Swings. I. Love. Porch. Swings. Granted, it’s more than a little bittersweet because it was supposed to be a place for my parents to sit and talk. So maybe I sit there because I can think of that. But mostly, I sit there because it’s sunny and breezy and perfect for reading fiction and sipping coffee. The introvert in me loves the porch swing because I can sit there and feel like a part of the world without having to be around people. So. Nice.

4) Buick. I love getting to cruise around in my old lady car. I know that sounds like sarcasm, but it’s not! The seats are comfy, the radio gets as loud as I’d like it to be, and now all the windows roll down so I can blast Adele out into Greentown when I drive up to get me a cold pop (as Sweet Brown would say so enthusiastically). 

5) This. I really like this, what I’m doing right now. Sharing my thoughts with the little world at my fingertips. Sometimes I like to imagine that really smart people read this. I like to think this could someday matter in a big way, but then I remember that’s not really what I want. If I’m being honest, I’ll tell you that I really just like being real with people. I want to share my story in the hope that you’ll share yours, too. I like the idea that the person I’m becoming can encourage the person someone else is becoming. The reader/writer relationship is mysterious and unique. Cool stuff, for sure. 

I was talking to my mom on the phone recently and she was trying to help me think clearly again after a really bad experience at home. And I remember her telling me, “This is not your life, Jessica. Things won’t always be this way.” At first I thought she was talking about my future and how everything would be so different someday down the road. But I think she might also have been talking about today. The bad things that have happened recently aren’t my life. They happened, they’re still happening, they will probably happen again tomorrow. But I’ll still have a gerbil tomorrow. I’ll still sit on the porch swing and feed sunflower seeds to Peter. I might curl up with a good library book or watch some goofy YouTube videos. And those will be good things. Those things I can call “my life” just as much as any of the real crappy things. So I’m sorry, to all of you who read this, for my mistaking bad circumstances as a bad life. Because my mom was right. That stuff isn’t my life. My life was never supposed to be about how many negative things I can discover. And that’s not what I want this blog to be about either. So I’ll start with the simple moments that make up my days, name them one by one, and think how crazy lucky I am to be alive. 

Don’t Call Me “Sweetie”

In the last few weeks, I’ve given my readers a glimpse of the deepest parts of my heart. I shared about my brokenness, my family, my faith. And today, you’ll just have to excuse me if I go a little feminist on you. Because that’s a part of who I am, and I’m not ashamed to be a woman.

I was in Kokomo yesterday to visit a friend at the park. But I left home a few hours earlier to have someone try to fix the disaster that is now my hair. And since they placed me on a rather long waiting list, I turned the volume up in my Buick and jammed my way over to the nearest Taco Bell for a quick lunch. The line in the drive-thru was virtually nonexistent, and I always get the same thing, so I wasted no time in placing my order. But right away, I realized that this experience was going to be memorable not just because of the questionable food, but also because of the questionable employee baby-talking me through the drive-thru speakers. He must have called me “sweetie” 10 times, and threw a “honey” in there too. By the time I reached the window, I thought I was going to have punch this guy and his coworker. The “sweeties” kept falling out of his mouth, and he and his little buddy acted like my request for hot sauce was an invitation for them to feel me up. Never in my life have I had a male treat me in such an inferior way. In fact, I at first thought I was just exaggerating. But you can’t exaggerate a perfect stranger calling you “sweetie” because you have a vagina and breasts. My grandma? Sure, she can call me sweetie because I know she would also call my brother “sweetie”. But a perfect strange? Nope. A male stranger can refrain from calling me anything he wouldn’t feel comfortable calling a man (and even then, there would probably be room for him to clean his mouth out. I’m not a “dude” either.). I wonder how many male “sweeties” he served that day? My gut tells me…probably zero.

Things like this give me every reason to say that I’m a feminist. And I think even more so because I’m also a Christian. Jesus didn’t treat women any differently than He treated men. Obviously, women have the capability of birthing a child. Yes. That’s something that makes me different from a man. But seeing how I’m not interested or able to be a mom at this point in my life, I see no reason at all why I shouldn’t have the very same opportunities as any man my age. That also means I’d like to be addressed at the drive-thru respectively.

I remember telling my boss (a man) last semester that I wanted to go to grad school and then maybe get a PhD one day, and he proceeded to tell me that “women like me” tend to overlook marriage and children and therefore “miss out” on something. As much as I wanted to argue with him, I soon realized that he wasn’t the only voice telling me that. In fact, many of those voices come out loud and clear from churches all over the world. Somehow my first goal ought to be to marry and have kids. And if I pull the “I’m a feminist” card—shame on me. That must mean I hate men and hate kids. Actually, no. Quite the opposite. I do hope to be married someday, and then we can think about kids when we’re good and ready. But then again, I should have to tell anyone that. You don’t hear men assuring everyone that they love women and want to be a father one day so that they can pursue their goals and use their gifts in peace.

Maybe I’ve offended some of you. I’m kind of sorry, but not really. Because I can’t apologize for holding these views. My future doesn’t have restrictions on it because of my gender.  And as long as I’m a living, breathing, and voting consumer, I won’t settle for unequal treatment. It’s really quite simple; don’t call me “sweetie”. 

My Father’s Daughter

My dad and I were having another one of our “conversations” in the living room earlier this afternoon. We both sunk deep into the leather furniture aglow with the light of the early evening shining through the window, and things happened the way they usually do.  He was following his routine of talking, talking, talking and occasionally his voice took on that dreadful tone of stifled sorrow. I, being careful to pretend none of this was happening, was following my usual routine of staring at my right knee perching gently yet deliberately against the arm of the chair. It was like that knee was the only thing keeping me there. The only thing telling me I could not run away, I could not feel, I could not scream at him or hit him or anything else I was pretending I did not want to do. So he talked, and I looked at my knee. And we had a “conversation”. He tried to look like a father teaching his daughter a life lesson. I tried to look like a daughter listening to the advice of her father. And when we finished, I fled to the porch while the garage door clicked closed behind him. I had the strange sensation that my soul was throbbing, clinging on to the last bit of its life. I wonder if his felt the same way. But hey, we are both stunning performers in the little drama we call a “relationship”.

This unconvincing performance of ours happens a lot when we aren’t fighting. I almost prefer the fighting, as awful as it is, because I feel more like Jessica and not simply “my father’s daughter”. And though this is a horrible, tragic truth, I believe it also one that I must acknowledge and examine honestly and brutally because it marks the difference between love and the slow, ugly alternative called “emotional death”. 

The Bible is full of talk about love. 1 Corinthians 13 is a well-known, yet wonderful description of true love. And of course, Jesus gave a pretty clear definition of love when He went to the cross to save us. But you already know that, and so do I. Oh, how many times I’ve thought of these Biblical facts without really thinking about why God is so crazy about love, love, love. The answer of course, is obvious. 

Without love, we are dead. When Adam and Eve sinned, humanity’s ability to love God was seriously hindered. And with sin getting in the way of our love for God, we started to die. It looked like lust, idolatry, arrogance, or self-righteousness, but it was death. So He humbled Himself so we could receive love, and modeled a life of love for us so that we could stop dying and start living. It’s a good start for us to understand God’s love for us, but it’s pointless if we choose not to love the people around us. I’m not a theologian, so maybe I’ve got this all wrong. But I know for a fact that when I’m not loving other people, I feel like my soul is shriveling up and expelling its breath for the last time. 

So when I sat on the other side of the living room and stared at my knee while my dad said every damn thing that came into his mind, I started wondering if I could just throw out “my father’s daughter” and replace her with a loving version of Jessica. I wondered, is it possible that this person I want to be–this person I hide from my dad–can love despite her hurts and fears? Is it possible that I can choose to love him even if he doesn’t love me with 1 Corinthians 13 love? Is it possible to turn from the death in my soul and let the Lord teach me the way to love when it seems so impossible?

I slid deeper into my chair, and he talked, talked, talked from his seat on the couch. And through the almost inaudible screams of both of our withering spirits, I thought maybe, just maybe there was a voice saying we were both going to make it. That maybe I won’t have to be “my father’s daughter” forever and he won’t have to use his failed marriage as a means for giving me life advice. Maybe he’ll call me Jessica and give me a hug before I go to college. Maybe we’ll eat chips and salsa together and talk about Anglicanism. Maybe I’ll lift my eyes from my knee and sit next to him on the couch. Maybe I’ll discover that “my father’s daughter” is able to love her Daddy again for the first time in a long time. And maybe, just maybe, that will be the best day of my life. I’m not sure of many things, but I’m sure I’m ready to be alive again.

And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. –1 Corinthians 13:13

 

 

Calling It My Own

When my brother was having his birthday parties as a child, I remember watching him unwrap his gifts from my corner of the room and working it through my mind that those things were his, not mine. I knew a lot of phrases like “I want…” “I need…” “NO, that’s mine!” etc. And I think the fact that I’m the oldest played a great role in how quickly I learned that life actually isn’t about me. I guess maybe that started at his birthday parties. Obviously, that knowledge didn’t come without frequent arguments over toys in the dollar store. To put it simply, I was a little brat face for a good while in my younger years. But despite my resistance, I grew up to be a relatively humble and unassertive individual (often to a fault). I’m not above being selfish, but I sure do have a problem naming the things that are my own. 

I was shoveling weird tasting fried eggs into my mouth this morning and pondering (but mostly worrying) about the semester ahead. And suddenly this crazy thought jumped into my head that probably would have made egg come out my nose if I had been awake enough to have that sort of reaction. Here it is: the semester ahead is mine. I felt like those seagulls in “Finding Nemo”. “Mine. Mine. Mine.” (Pronounced ‘moyn’.) And almost immediately I had this warning sign go off in my head which read “Danger. Selfish. Danger. Danger. Sinful. Danger.” (It’s a really big sign, apparently.) I felt like needed to hold out my hand and have someone slap it to punish me for my naughty thoughts about my entitlement. 

But I also felt like smiling. Because I’m almost twenty years old, and I get to call this semester my own. 

Here’s where I stop to clarify before everyone (all one of you) misses my point. I did not pay for this semester. I cannot pay for all of my books. I didn’t purchase the car I will be using to drive my things to Carmin Hall. I used to let all of those things make me feel guilty and spoiled. I thought everyone in my family was disappointed that I would say “Ok, bye!” and leave for a semester. Truly, I spent a lot of time feeling disgusting.

But this morning I think I tasted some truth as I was finishing my buttered toast. Here it is: The year before me is a gift. The checks my mom and dad signed, the car I’ll be driving, the books I’ll be reading. Someone provided those things for me, and no, I do not deserve them. But that doesn’t change the fact that any other time someone gives me a gift, I claim it as my own with a smile on my face. So why would I feel guilty about the greatest gift my parents have ever given me? Why wouldn’t I just say thank you and set out to make the most of it? Beats me. 

I’m glad that most people think of me as a humble person. It can be one of my better traits. And I’m glad that I’ve had so many family members work hard to increase the amount of opportunities I would have as a college student. But I’m not glad that I don’t think I deserve good experiences like going to college at Indiana Wesleyan University. I’m not glad that it’s difficult for me to set out to do things for my own well-being and happiness. 

But to hell with those kind of thoughts. Let’s get a college education, and let’s grow up. I’m calling this my own. 

 

 

 

‘Piece’ of Mind

Earlier this evening, someone very close to me told me that while I may think I’m mature, the development of my brain will not be complete until I’m at least 25 years old. In other circumstances, I might have found this bit of information fascinating, or even important. But this person wasn’t interested in telling me about the latest studies on ‘adolescent’ brains for the sake of my enlightenment. Rather, this person was interested in discrediting my thoughts, feelings, and decisions because of my age. This person used a random piece of information to sway me into ignoring my own observations, emotions, and experiences in order to agree with a viewpoint that is quite the opposite of my own. This person used a little tactic called ‘manipulation’, and since I’ve had over an hour to move from “I’m really pissed off” to “let’s eat chocolate and write blog posts”, I think I’m ready to share a little piece of my immature mind with the world. Brace yourselves.

Now, this could of course be my own naivety speaking here. You’ll have to excuse my brain; it’s a work in progress and sometimes I don’t know what I’m saying (bitterness, sarcasm, frustration). But I’m pretty sure most of the world now considers an individual of 18+ years to be an adult. If my knowledge of numbers isn’t muchly mistaken, being 2 months short of my 20th birthday qualifies me as an adult. Let’s look at the obvious clues, folks. I’m starting my second year as a full time college student. I have a driver’s license. I am potty-trained. I can feed, bathe, and clothe myself (in that order). I don’t have bed times anymore. I don’t hold my mom’s hand when I cross the street….

If that isn’t enough proof, I’ve got more where that came from. I understand cause and effect. I understand the difference between spending and saving. I know what I can handle emotionally and what I cannot. I know when to ask for help and when to do things for myself. I’m learning to separate my identity as an individual from my identity as a member of my family. I’m thinking critically about my responsibilities as a daughter, sister, student, friend, child of God, neighbor, member of society, and individual person. I understand the importance of voting. I understand the importance of fighting to keep my faith when I really feel like giving up. I’m asking difficult questions about what I believe and why.  

So here’s my ‘piece’ of mind for you all: I don’t care what anyone tells me. I am an adult.

My thoughts, feelings, observations, dreams, hurts, fears, gifts, insecurities, characteristics, and thoughts matter. My almost-20-year-old self matters. And I will not let anyone tell me that I’m at fault for believing I’m old enough to start living like Jessica Dugdale…not someone else’s idea of who I am. I will not let anyone fault me for claiming to be the adult that I am. Those days are gone, and the adult me is here to stay…unfinished brains and all.