Thankful for…Community

It’s been difficult for me to make friends, and that’s my own fault.

I used to be a social butterfly, but as I got older–and had some bad experiences–I took on the mentality of “I have 3 friends; I don’t need more.” Throughout my marriage, my husband and I have moved every 2 years. Not for the military, but because we changed universities. When I first started college, I had a desire to make friends. I wanted to have those late-night, candy-fueled study sessions in a dorm.  I wanted to giggle with girl friends and walk to class with people and go on adventures with others. And for the first year or two, I did that. I made friends. We studied together, we did projects, we had Bible study, we went on weekend trips.

But then my husband and I moved. And I was devastated. Not at the move, but at the loss of my friends. There were nights I cried. There were nights I begged to go back. There were nights I insisted we move back to our home state because I knew I had friends there.

The move was for the best. We weren’t happy at the first university, and we wanted a different environment. My learning style required small classes, and I was about to change my degree from biology to English, and the college we transferred to was a small liberal arts school. But after marriage and the move, I felt like making friends was hard. Not because of any fault of my husband’s, but because I struggled to find people who could relate. I was young and married, so I was a bit of an anomaly. I also knew we would be graduating in two years, and I would be headed to graduate school. I also wanted to keep my head down and study to get the best grades I could.

So, instead of pressing in and trying, I stepped back. My husband became my best friend, and the only time I talked to classmates was really while I was on campus.

When we moved for my graduate program, that mentality didn’t change. I knew I would be graduating in two years, so I thought it would be pointless to make friends. I didn’t want to be distracted from my studies, and I thought having friends would negatively impact my grades. I even recall telling my husband once, who wanted me to make friends, “What’s the point? We’ll be gone soon.”

I had grown close to a few girls my last year of high school, and we have stayed friends. I always thought I didn’t need anyone else. What the issue really was was fear. I was afraid to make friends that would make it difficult to leave. I didn’t want to fall in love with where we were or who we were surrounded by because if we left, I would be devastated and feel alone, just like I did when we left the first university. I was protecting myself.

So I never thought I would again see a time that I made friends and was happy about it, regardless of what my future may hold. But now is that time. Thanks to my church.

I have become friends with a few girls from church, and I find that, for once, I don’t feel entirely defeated after spending time with them. I don’t get my energy from being around people. Social situations, especially ones with more than 3 other people, take an emotional toll on me, and I tend to have to go home and decompress. While where I get my energy from hasn’t changed all that much, I don’t feel completely drained after spending time with these people.

They have welcomed me with open arms when I was beginning to think no one would. I am fearful, I have anxiety, I’m uncertain, I love my pets more than most people, I have a pseudo non-traditional job, I often feel broken and unprepared for life…and yet, they have accepted me. They encourage me to grow and think and be myself.

And it is for that I am thankful.

I am thankful for the community I have found. I am thankful I know people who make me look forward to going to a small group every week. I am thankful for people who allow and encourage me to be open. I am thankful for people who accept me. I am thankful for new friends.

If you’ve struggled, or are struggling, to make friends, no matter the reason, take your time. Allow yourself to come to a healthy place where you would be willing to accept friendships. Be thankful for even that one person you trust. And if you blog, you have a welcoming community here. Because we all need community of some kind.

So, to my girl friends–all of you–if you’re reading this, thank you. Thank you for knowing me and knowing my struggles and accepting and loving me anyway.

And to this wonderful blogging community, thank you for following me on my journey and for helping me to grow not only as a person but as a blogger.

Today, I am thankful for community.

. . . . . .

What community are you thankful for?

The Connection Between Confidence & Independence

Independence changes you.

I’ve had the opportunity to become more independent in both work and outside endeavors, and it has really changed me. I go to work early in the morning, I go home to two cats and a dog, I do some form of exercise–whether it be Beachbody or running–and I prepare my dinner and give the animals theirs. It’s made me see that I haven’t been solely responsible for me in a very long time–if ever. It’s been an adjustment, but I think one that was needed in order for me to get back on track with myself and God.

I’ve said before that I feel I lost myself in my marriage. I had unconsciously replaced God with my husband, and it meant I couldn’t be the woman he had married. This has become my opportunity to find myself–and God–again.

. . . . . .

I feel more confident at work because I am confident in my knowledge and my abilities, something I was lacking in my first job. I know I can do what I’m doing and that I have the tools and the skills to do it well. I think that’s the first sign that I am doing what God has intended for my life. I’m not turning to work for my meaning anymore, but instead turning to my faith.

But independence has also made me more confident in who I am as an individual. I’ve found I can do things I didn’t think I could…and things I didn’t want to. I can save money on my own. I can cook for myself. I am working on making sure I don’t rely on anyone but God to fill a space in my heart.

It was once insisted that there must be something I like about being on my own. The truth is, there is. But it’s nothing about the tangible–it’s the mental. I like that I have gained my mental strength back. I like that I have a bit more confidence in who I am. I like that I have a better idea of what I want to do with my life. And I’m even more confident that my heart hasn’t changed.

For me, independence has boosted my confidence, and my confidence boost has made independence a little easier. It doesn’t mean I don’t still have bad days, that I’ve suddenly changed my mind, or that I’m an entirely different person. It just means I am working to get back to who I am.

God uses our weakest moments, the things that didn’t go “according to plan,” for His glory and to draw us nearer to Him. I never believed that until this storm, and it’s truth I am clinging to.

. . . . . .

Have you gone through something that has shaken you to the core? How did God use that?

Are confidence and independence linked for you? What has made you more confident or more independent?

 

Introduce Yourself

I almost didn’t go to small group this week. I have been tired from working a full time writing job and beginning another (and my last) semester of teaching. And a few of my friends had said they couldn’t make it. So my excuses were pretty abundant. But I went anyway, and I’m really glad I did.

My church celebrated our first birthday this past Sunday, and we shared a few videos of individuals who had found our church and what the year had meant to them. In honor of that, my small group decided to share our stories of how we came to find our church.

I have shared my story with friends and at my previous small group, and since a few people from my previous small group are in this group, I didn’t want to “bore” them. I also don’t want to feel like people pity me–I’ve felt that enough in the past year, and it makes me feel even more ostracized. But soon enough, one person sharing turned into another, and we were suddenly going around the circle. As the person next to me spoke, I kept thinking just say “pass,” but when she finished–and there was an appropriate pause–I found myself sharing.

As I listened to others’ stories, I started to realize that knowing their stories is a vital component of getting to know them. Sharing stories makes us vulnerable, and that can be genuinely tough and nerve-wracking because we are baring a bit of our soul, but vulnerability is a big part of establishing community. If we are not honest and open with our community, we aren’t really in community; it’s only a facade. Telling our stories is important–they are our testimony, they showcase our “why,” and give us opportunity to build honest relationships.

So, take some time to introduce yourself. What do you blog about and why? What gets you going? What made you want to blog? What does blogging mean to you? How did you come across blogging? Is it a career for you or is it just something you do to share your story and let others know they are not alone?

God uses our stories. What’s yours?

 

 

 

 

Whoever You Are

Why are you so far from me?
In my arms is where you ought to be.
How long will you make me wait?
I don’t know how much more I can take.
I miss you, but I haven’t met you.
Oh, but I want to. How I do.
– To Whom It May Concern 
by The Civil Wars

. . . . . .

Anytime I watch The Hunger Games I end up on a binge-listen of the band The Civil Wars.   Their music is hauntingly beautiful. They have 2 songs on the film soundtrack, one with Taylor Swift and one on their own, and I love both of them.

So as I began my binge-listen, their song “To Whom It May Concern” off their Barton Hollow album played, and it really stuck with me this time more than any other. While it could have a few meanings, the one it had to me is probably fairly obvious.

. . . . . .

Telling someone you recognize change and want to get to know them as they are shows understanding and grace. It can take a lot of emotional energy and patience. In the end, though, it’s worth it. You learn to love someone for who they are, not who you think they should be or even who you think they are–but who they have created themselves to be.

This is something I am learning and trying to practice. I had a terrible habit in the past of telling people what I think they should do, how they should act, who they should be. What I’ve realized is I was placing my own expectations on someone else, and that isn’t fair. Because we are different people. I cannot expect another person to do what I would do simply because they are not me.

I want to stop doing that.

I realize this means practicing patience. It means showing grace. It means constantly checking in with myself to see if these expectations are realistic or not. But it’s something I am willing to do.

. . . . . .

So, wherever you are at in life, whoever you feel you are, do not be afraid to be yourself. Allow others in. Do not make the decision to cut them out of your life for them, even if you think that is what “should” happen because of whatever predicament you are in. Allow them to get to know you so they can make the decision for themselves.

They just may surprise you.

. . . . . .

Dear whoever you might be,
I’m still waiting patiently.

(Not) Exceeding Expectations

“It is our choices that show what we truly are far more than our abilities.” – Professor Dumbledore

The Harry Potter novels are full of wisdom and life lessons, usually found in the words of Albus Dumbledore. There is meaning in most everything in the novels, and many people, myself included, have examined these meanings and written about the themes present throughout the series. All my best learning seems to come from Harry Potter.

Perhaps that is why my favorite podcast has become Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. Although this podcast has been around for over a year, I have just started listening, and I started from the bottom (Book 1, Chapter 1). But one session in particular made an impact on me: “Expectations: The Journey from Platform 9 3/4.”

The quote the session began with is what hit me hard and got me thinking (and crying) in my car: “Expectations are resentments under construction” – Anne Lamott

And it really got me thinking about the expectations I have had in my (short) life.

I was told that I sometimes make people feel like they’re just part of some plan I have in life. That hurt to hear, but then I realized that maybe there is truth in that.

I romanticize just about everything. (Not necessarily intentionally, and not necessarily consciously either.) In my Creative Writing course in college, my instructor told me he loved my story concept, and that I should keep writing it, but that I may have to end it in a way I hadn’t anticipated: with an unhappy ending. I gave up the story immediately because I love happy endings. I couldn’t put my character through the struggle I knew I would have to write because I wouldn’t want to go through it. I had an expectation going into writing that could not be met as I developed the character and the story. So I got upset and never wrote another word on it. Because I knew there was no way the ending could turn out any other way.

Choices show what we are, so what does this choice say about me? That I wasn’t ready to face the expectations I knew couldn’t be met.

I create these expectations of situations and people around me that no one can ever live up to. When those expectations aren’t met, I can become frustrated and angry, which only hurts the other person, me, and whatever relationship was there. It creates resentment because I just think “how could this expectation not have been met? was it that difficult?” And, of course, all that does is grow into a tumor of resentment in the back of my head.

I always thought growing up meant making all these plans and packing up ideas in a box with a neat little bow on top and presenting it, saying, “here’s the solution!” That’s what I expected from everything in life: school, marriage, a career. And that tumor would just continue to grow. But I’ve recently realized that isn’t the case.

If I learned just one thing in the seven years I was participating in higher education (and the one year I’ve been out), it is this: college is not reality. Do not base your expectations for life on what you experienced in college. Because in school, everything is packaged neatly: you have specific classes you need to take (with a few of your own choices scattered here and there), you have deadlines for assignments and exams, there are office hours with professors, you have a plan to lead you to graduation… That is all well and good, but life does not mirror that one bit.

I thought having these types of expectations for a person showed I cared, but, in reality, they breed resentment (remember the aforementioned tumor?).

Why?

Because no one can live up to romanticized expectations that sound like they’re out of a storybook, and life isn’t “once upon a time…”

When someone doesn’t meet those expectations and I become upset, it makes it seem as if I am trying to change that person or fixing something to be the way I want it to be, even if that was not my intention. It makes them feel as if they are just a cog in my machine of a plan of life and not the player or partner in it they should be.

My mom has often give me this little nugget of advice: don’t expect someone to do something (or act in the same way) you would because they are not you. Even if they began as good-natured expectations, those types of expectations will always breed resentment. Because you are expecting someone to act in a way that may not be in their nature. It leads to implications that their nature, who they are, is an inconvenience to you.

I have heard that a few times: that because I had the expectation of a plan, I was making the other person feel like an inconvenience. So these expectations can not only make us resent others, but they can also make others resent us.

Since hearing this perspective-altering quote, I have decided to adjust my perspective, to change my expectations. Sometimes, it’s best not to have any.

If choices show what we truly are, what does this choice say about me? I hope it says I am willing to recognize my faults and weaknesses and make things right when needed.

Who knows. Maybe I’ll go back to writing that story…