Innocent

Ever since I can remember, my peers have called me innocent. And I don’t mean in the sense that one is either innocent or guilty. I mean in the “you’re so innocent, you’re stupid” connotation. The only person who had ever said it in even a remotely loving way was my husband. When he said it, it was usually followed by a kiss on the head or cheek.

As an only child, I was sheltered in some senses. My parents did not see a need to worry me unnecessarily about world events I wouldn’t understand anyway, unless I came to them worried. On the other hand, because of this status of only child, I was around adults more, and I was privileged with knowing and understanding more information quicker than my peers. That information, though, was usually not something important to my age group. Instead, I began early to understand appropriate speaking times, conversation skills, listening and feedback, observation…Basically, all the things I ended up going to college for.

I was also taught to never stop learning. To question. To be creative. To have childlike wonder and childlike faith. And sometimes those things are considered innocent and naive.

As I’ve been partaking in therapy, it is something I have been forced to deal with, because it is something that has greatly affected the way I view myself. As a writer, my way to “deal” is to write. So, I wrote a poem.

As I’ve been learning about myself and doing things I enjoy, I have come to one conclusion: innocence is okay. After all, the things happening in this world suck sometimes, so maybe we need a bit more childlike wonder.

Integrating Faith

“Maybe we haven’t seen the power of God because we haven’t acted like we believe in it.”

These words really struck me the other day as we began a new series at church, titled Integration. This made me analyze the way I integrate my faith into my daily life, and I realized I definitely don’t do it enough.

I had stopped acting like I believed God could perform the miraculous because, deep down, I stopped believing in His power. And vise versa. It’s a terrible cycle, and, for me, it just leads to depression. I begin to question everything in my life, and I fail to see the things I should be thankful for.

So, I’m going to work to integrate my faith into everything I do, from the daily mundane to my writing. And I am going to begin to act like I believe in the power of God. Because I truly do.

What does it mean to you to integrate your faith into your daily life? What does the power of God look like to you?

I’m not the same person. And that’s okay.

“A lot has happened…I’m not the same person.”
“I’m not either. And that’s okay.”

I very recently had an opportunity to speak my truth, and I learned something about myself in the process.

I’ve changed; I’ve grown. And that’s okay.

We can’t expect people, especially those we love and who have shaped us so deeply, to stay the same. We can’t even expect ourselves to stay the same. Life changes us; experiences change us. Our faith changes us.

A year ago, I would have been screaming and crying. Now, I can calmly respond with genuine interest. And I honestly found my interest was genuine. For the first time in a long time. I apologized for the way I acted in the past, because the things I said and did were not okay. This time, I said it out loud. And I realized my apology itself was genuine.

I had previously made excuses about my behavior–I was angry, I was hurt, I wasn’t feeling well, whatever. The truth is, no matter how I feel I have the ability to control my reactions. In an odd way, I’ve learned to do that. I’m not saying I’m perfect at it–I most certainly am not–but I’ve improved.

I have had students tell me they have Googled me and have informed me, usually in a tone suggesting nervousness at even mentioning it, they found my writing and/or my blog. I have had students tell me they have seen my Writer Interview with the writing group I write with and edit for, Coffee House Writers. A year ago, this type of conversation (if you could call it that) would have stopped me in my tracks, freaked me out so fully I would have been thrown off the rest of the day. The thing is, though, God blesses us all with gifts, and writing and editing are mine. Why should I deny a gift He has given me? I’ve now had an opportunity to hone that gift and to use it to speak to others. Isn’t that what His gifts are all about, connecting to others?

A year ago I would have told you I have faith, and things always work out, that I’d never had reason to doubt God, so I don’t. Here’s the thing I’ve learned, though: it is so easy to have faith when things are going fine, but it’s hard to maintain that faith when you don’t see evidence of hope. I have doubted–big time. I have yelled at God. I have cried out to God, literally sitting in a ball, tears spilling down my cheeks, speaking out loud. I have silently prayed. I have written my prayers. I have started and stopped (and started and stopped) Bible studies in an attempt to bring something, some feeling, back to my heart. I admit that in these moments, I have lost faith. But I have also found a church that has been helping me to slowly restore that faith through community, connection, and honesty. I have realized brokenness is real–painful, but real–but that God can guide us through it. I have realized we pray and worship in different ways, but God hears all of it. He designed us; He knows how we function. Because of that, He knows not only what will break us, but also how to heal us.

“I am, by nature, a positive person. I can’t change that about me.”

That much has always, and probably will always, be true. Even in the midst of pain, I hold dear to the things I choose to see as positives. Even small victories. I managed to feel well enough to give Belle a longer walk today? Yay, me! I wrote something for my novel? Score! I worked myself up for the absolute worst case scenario, including inducing tears, and the worst case scenario didn’t happen? Yay! (Don’t you love anxiety? Not!)

The point is, I may not be the same person I was a year ago–I may have experiences that have changed me, been able to reflect on things more fully, been able to dig deep and look at myself honestly–but the core of who I am has not changed. I’m a reader, writer, editor, crazy cat lady, crazy dog mom, crazy animal lover, Harry Potter nerd, lover of education, enjoyer of the outdoors. I indulge in afternoon naps and too many sweets. I love coffee and tea (I know, weird!). And a whole slew of other things. But I’ve also learned new things about myself. I used to hate running, but, now, it’s not so bad, especially running with Belle (though it still brings a bit of knee pain). Exercise isn’t entirely ugh-worthy (though winter definitely adds to the ugh-factor). I want to travel. In fact, I wouldn’t mind not being entirely stationary. I want to experience things. I want to write articles for magazines, I want to publish a book, I want to take lots of pictures…I want to have adventures. And I’m okay being by myself sometimes.

I’ve spent time getting to know this “new me.” I’m not entirely sure who she is yet, and I’ve had moments that I’ve been scared to death about it all, but, again, we can’t expect anyone–even ourselves–to stay the same forever.

So, if you’re worried you’re not the same person, don’t be. There’s always an opportunity to get to know the new you. (And be sure to let others get to know that new you, too.) If you’re not worried you’re not the same person…well, you’re braver and more advanced than I am, and more power to you.

“My philosophy is that worrying makes you suffer twice.” — Newt Scamander

In moments of distress, we all turn to something–alcohol, a drug of some kind. I have a tendency to turn to the world of Harry Potter. Yes, I know, I should really turn to my Bible first, and that’s definitely something I am working on. Harry Potter allows me to get lost in a story and to, therefore, forget, at least momentarily, what was distressing me. At the very least, it forces me to step away from the problem and come back to it. The world of Harry Potter, though, also offers some good insight, especially in those moments of distress.

Tonight, it was Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. There is a scene where Newt and Jacob, the No-Maj, are trying to get the Erumpet back into Newt’s case of magical creatures, and Newt puts Jacob in some protective clothing. Jacob asks Newt something along the lines of doesn’t the situation worry him. Newt responds: “My philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice.”

As one of my “resolutions” is to not to try to make sense of things that don’t make sense, this line felt particularly timely.

While the scene in which the line was spoken was one of humor, I definitely felt it was fitting to other instances. And it’s true–worrying does make you suffer twice. You suffer through the state of worrying, then through whatever situation it is you were worrying about. You could even be amping yourself up over absolutely nothing. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I know what that’s like.

It also seems vastly similar to the Biblical idea to “be anxious for nothing” because God has our lives under control.

So, as I continue along this journey, I am going to continue to reiterate the commitment to myself to try not to worry, to not make myself suffer more than is absolutely necessary. I don’t know what this next week, month, or even year will hold, but I have to trust that God is looking out for me, and He will hold me in my worry and distress.

No need to suffer twice.