To be known specifically not commercially. 

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I’m going to be taking a break from posting to this blog for a while.

It’s silly that I even feel the need to announce it. But I do. I want to focus on some ideas that I think would do better fleshed out in fiction or poetry (trite, I get it). I’ll probably come back to this for those nights that I need to hash an idea out in attempts to make my thoughts linear and relatable. Sometimes I don’t know my humanity well enough and will allow myself to be discoverable via public forums as an attempt to understand myself objectively. I know it’s foolish.

I guess I feel as though I’m sort of outgrowing this forum as much as I feel like I’ve outgrown using a personal IG. I just don’t want to put my creative efforts into broadcasting my life in the ways that I have anymore. Image-based social media is weird, and I really just want to talk to people. I want to have a conversation. Not notions of it. Not inklings of it. Not substitutions of it. My thought life and personal life has become more and more valuable to me and it seems as though I’m having a hard time retaining that value when I just sort of lay it out there all the time for the world to pick apart in the form of photos and vsco-cam filters.

I think the goal has always been to express that there’s more to be discovered in every case of our human lives. Non-fiction art forms can be tricky when what you want to give to the world is this sense of awe/wonder/mystery without making other people feel small. Sometimes it outlines things too easily, which can make much of what you say untrue. It condenses thoughts too cleanly. Unless you’re posing really good questions, leaving the thoughts open ended and entirely steeped in longing… Conclusive thoughts, bragging, and live updates can only do so much without making people feel inadequate for not meeting some sort of social standard. My goal is to show people what makes situations valuable, not prove it. It’s a very fine line to walk.

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My desire is to protect my humanity by making things that allow people to actually understand the nuances of my character and possibly see where we can intersect. I don’t want to make who I am 2-dimensional. I want to talk about “why” I am and understand why you are. Sometimes, I’m sure, it will still be in nonfiction. However, I know that story-telling, poetry, and music do something else in the brain that I really want to try to hone. I really want to know what it’s like to be known specifically and not commercially. That’s very important to me right now.

Maybe you’re asking why don’t I just post my poetry and stories here? And the answer is, quite simply, that I want to preserve this blog and keep it more as a time capsule to a way of thinking that might feel foreign to me down the road. It’s the same reason why I have so many different accounts to so many different things. I like to stay as organized and streamlined as I can with different modes of expression so that I can understand what my creative limitation is. When there are too many options my strength can go on uncontrolled and scattered. It keeps me from being able to focus and I only end up making something when I “feel” it. instead of having some work ethic behind it.

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It’s going to be hard closing the door on “blogging” even temporarily because it’s actually a very easy way for me to feel like I’ve done something productive. Even now. I’m going to go about my day feeling as though I’ve made some sort of art piece. What a shame! I’ve been blogging since I was in highschool, and it’s been a secret pleasure of mine for so long. However, I am excited to see what happens in place of it. There’s much to learn!

So, for those of you that read this blog. Thanks for bearing with me in the unorganized chaos that has been these series of writings. I’ve really appreciated the conversation, the feedback, and even the places where I’ve got to meet some of you. It’s been a real treat. My hope is to come back to blogging having more creative/business endeavors successfully under my belt so that these posts serve more of a purpose than my primary creative outlet. We’ll see what actually happens, though!

Much to discover. Much to see.

Abbey

“The process of discovering or finding another person is the process of losing oneself. This is certainly not a loss of identity, but only of the false identity that is founded upon self-will. Human beings are the presence of God in the world, and by drawing so close to one of them that we enter willingly into the fire of their judgment, it becomes possible for our own selfish will to be illuminated and cauterized. Intimacy is thus a fire of righteous purification, a fire we could never tolerate were it not for the assurance that we are loved.”

I think it’s about knowing someone deeply.

I think the tragedy of being alive in this day and age is that there are so many things that need to be recovered and healed in order to know God or people well. There are so many things that are keeping us afraid of the surprise of people and creation; and instead of allowing it to keep us in wonder, we stay safe inside ourselves. Which, to me, is the opposite of gratitude.

I think we’ll spend most our lives chipping away at all that’s false to be able to discover just how loved we are and how much [more] love we can give.

I also think it’s utterly possible to be living in Gratitude and Communion while we’re still broken and unavailable. You just need something the size of a seed to break through concrete; callouses and self-deception. A small prayer, a bit of hope, and some sort of blind leaning into what-could-possibly-be. Oh, and people. People that know where they belong, too.

Work with what you’ve got. Don’t run away. Don’t quit.

I think that’s all.

You don’t lay pavement when it’s raining.

I love the idea that you lay a foundation in repose…

Or, rather, on good days; and you let the storm pass on bad, letting your work be put to the test then.

It’s really easy to be hard on myself when my days grow sour or tiresome or without reward. I tend to have pretty dramatic language on these days and overwhelm myself with the negative narrative I’ll swing. Especially in particularly emotionally charged moments.

I want to get better at not being too alarmed or overwhelmed with my life when the storms are passing overhead. I’m starting to learn that there isn’t too much good I can actually do when I’m feeling a lot, so a huge part of learning to be an adult has been waiting and letting go of my need for control. Which, maybe in those instances would be called “finding resolve”.

Basically, I’m trying to acknowledge that I need to get better at waiting for the other side of the smoke and then assess what areas I can grow in from a place that is powerful and proactive [instead of reactive]. I’m just not there yet. But I’m thinking about it now, on a very good day…
When bad days come, I’ll let the foundation (my weltanschauung, my character) rattle with the bad, knowing that it’s ok to be shaken up and see the false parts of me die. Parts that, maybe, I once had stakes in.

Note to self:
Then, you see what still stands when things have gone awry.

Then, you ask yourself what you want, instead of what you’re afraid of.

Then, you see the progress that you’ve made since the last time a storm came through and celebrate.

When I’m being confronted with the darker sides of me, the sides of my that are ungrateful, that compare, that try to hide shame, I want to see that I have a foundation that can withstand all of the bullshit.

You hear me?

And, instead of moving from fear- pausing, and letting it pass over me. Trusting that my tether (faith) is going to support the weight of my being in this stormy universe that shakes the persona, the falsehoods, and shame away.

I absolutely abhor the idea that anything could be isolated, sanitized, and be made “perfect”.

It’s completely unjust to me.

We’re all like good bacteria in a body. And I simply don’t believe that believe Christ acts as an antibiotic. He’s more like a probiotic. He’s more about things living wildly, reproducing, being “fruitful” and multiplying. He’s more about the surprise of creation. Not the death of our human nature.

Christ died so that we can be in connection with him, character flaws included. Our specificities included. All of it included.

I earnestly believe in Christ and what he’s done for us. I believe in the Resurrection. But I also do not believe God is in control. I want people to know this about me.

I don’t think God /wants/ to be in control.

He does not operate from fear like the rest of us.

He gave us equal agency like good parents do. He gave us the ability to build trust and to become noble on our own volition – not because we’re obligated to.

He doesn’t work on a debt system. The debt system is gone now. Jesus did that for us.

We’ve been given the ability to question Him, we’ve been given the ability to say “this isn’t good enough for me”, we’ve been given the freedom to toil with the contradictions of life and tragedy. Let Him hear it all. He wants to know the “surprise” of /your/ truth, and only you can bring that to Him like you would a friend.

That’s the lovely truth of the Gospel, to me; an honest interaction, the ability to let Love flow between two autonomous beings and be wildly transformed by it.

When love is fully actualized in a person, it creates real justice. When we’re able to fully empathize with humanity and move from the desire of connection and freedom: Justice is an overflow.

The opposite of Justice is control. And love the does NOT control. It guides, protects, comforts, connects, and teaches.

Love is tender and fierce and empowering. It’s filling.

It’s never been afraid of you or your screw ups.

It wants YOU, now.

I need attention. Badly. Is that ok?

I’m learning that being an adult has been more about figuring out what my needs are and how to find them in a healthy way.

*As opposed to figuring out how to not need anything*

Right now I’m learning that I’m in need of attention and the way I’ve been reacting to this need is by suppressing it, and acting like I’m above it.

This has conversely made me look down on people who openly look for attention.

Now I can see that I’m just like them! My competition for attention is just way more subversive and manifests in ways that might be more manipulative.

Addressing my needs is making me more compassionate, kind, and willing to team with other people who have needs. I like that.

Question your sensitivities and defenses.

I’ve been a solitary thing, enjoying my time being alone, not having to be attentive to much else. Not fully, at least. These days: I get anxious when things need something from me and I’m not good at staying connected heart-wise when something “does wrong” by me.

I try my best.

I’m thankful to have people who take this and laugh with me about it, especially as they see me realizing it. They know and see it, too. It helps me feel above it somehow. Like I can reach past it. It’s like laughing together at a mole you have or something.

You can laugh at the things that you know don’t define you. Question your sensitivities and defenses.

At that, people can love and respect despite deep character flaws and still see the you that’s going to get over it. That’s pretty liberating feeling. I hate feeling like I have to walk on eggshells to try to protect someone’s dignity, including my own.

People are dignified, regardless of their shortcomings, I think.

More iterations of the same thing…

Before I got lost in the spookiness of the charismatic churches, I learned about Jesus and fell in love with him in the quietness of a home. It was called a “word centered fellowship” and was basically a group of families that got together and broke down the bible word for word within their special contexts. I really loved the way they taught me how to study, and I loved that I was “brought up” with the King James Bible. Since then I’ve been in and out of the typical church experience: I went in enthusiastically, came out with a lot of bitterness, resentment, and disappointment, then came to terms with the fact that Jesus [God] wasn’t either of those isolated experiences, good or bad. Jesus is a sort of stand-alone truth that speaks for himself.

 

It’d be too easy to say that all my good experiences must have been what taught me the most about Jesus, and my bad experiences were some sort of force trying to keep me from him. It’s extremely hard for me to believe that now. I think that there are plenty of “good” experiences that one can have in their life that doesn’t necessarily mean God has much to do with it. And, conversely, I don’t think that every less than enjoyable experience doesn’t speak on a truth about Jesus… let alone how present he was in the midst of that “bad experience”. We can’t use our feelings, our bias’, and our limited lens’ as a way to put our stake in the ground and say “I know God”. To me, that’s nonsensical and incredibly ungrounded. It’s this sort of thinking that leads people to believe that their spiritual experiences are communion with Truth.

 

I can experience something or someone in the most real sense, but that doesn’t mean I have a working relationship with them/it [at all]. This has caused a lot of problems for me because the primary way that I’ve come to know myself or other people was through my own, personal experience. I can’t be fooled enough to believe that the accumulation of experiences is what brings you close to anyone. All that to say: I’m still hashing out what intimacy and real connection truly is. If I can use my imagination, it is a lifetime commitment to understanding, knowing and loving another person. I think that intimacy, real intimacy, requires longevity. It requires consistency and maintenance. It requires you to mindfully create and recreate iterations of selflessness towards another person. It means you’re earnest, it means you can feel the movements of the other person, it means you’re actively building something beautiful.

 

Not just the church, but everything in my life has taught me that it’s the experience that we live this life for. It’s about feeling something. It’s about being happy. It’s also about proving to everyone [in a visceral sense] that our lives are full of experiences. And this is what affirms us. It results in our investments going to things that will give a temporary “rush” and leave us more hungry than ever. When I look around I don’t see people who are grounded in a rich intimacy. I don’t see people with conviction. I don’t see people who really know who they are. I see people desperately grasping at something that will prove to themselves and the world that they’re alive, and alive for good reason.

 

I want to rise to an occasion. I want to have a sort of pride that is not sustained by my constant maintenance, the sort of pride that is deeply rooted in belonging somewhere and to Someone. I want to be completely rid of a consumerist life (this is the biggest work in progress, I think). I want to know someone in a way that won’t be fleeting, and in a way that won’t break. I want to be free of the paranoia of abandonment. I want to be committed. Not charismatically. But fully, unapologetically. I want to know the stand-alone truth of love while embracing happiness, goodness, and endurance where I may. I want to study it and distil it so as to see all my experiences clearly.

 

Just as it was- in the quietness of a home.

Homolovi State Park

 

Since Patience and I have moved out of our families homes we’ve, separately, circled the country several times and for the first time, we’ve been able to travel together. We’re best friends of 23 years and have pushed the boundaries of how far we can wander. This tour has meant more to me than I think anyone could understand because of this. I weep today because I realize that my only fear in life is being tamed. I weep now writing this. It’s the same as death to me. Knowing this woman, this person, my sister gives me hope that we won’t ever caged by obligation, societal expectations, or by any power structure that contradicts what we’ve known since we were little. The boldness we carry together comes from being completely convinced of what we desire. This is a shameless brag on what we’ve found because there is no more shame in our nakedness. See it. Witness it. And find it for yourself.

This morning is so sweet.

I’m reflecting on the last 9 months that I’ve spent away from home, and finding it a little ironic that my time away has lasted as long as a human pregnancy. I’m so excited to have bee reunited with the people who know me the best, to the lifestyle that I’ve learned most about myself in, and to be here, in this small town I’ve fallen in love with. I’m being ushered into this South TN Summer by first touring West with 3 of the best people in the whole world. I’m already losing my mind. (Queue “All My Friends” by LCD Sound System)

I originally set off to Florida to fix up my van so that I could spend a good amount of time living with my dog on the road. I think I knew that I needed an escape from something, I just didn’t know until the 2nd “trimester” that I was my own problem. Removing myself from the thing I was “addicted” to sobered me up really quick. I heavily depended on being depended on; on being respected; on needed to be seen as perfect. There’s no way I can convey the value I have for my undoing these last few months. Maybe one day I’ll write a fictional novella on all of it.

Now I have a deep respect for people who’ve seen themselves in really dark places and have climbed out for hope of a fulfilled desire. The people who were wild children. Reckless, almost. People who have really questioned whether or not it’s worth being alive. People who had the nerve to fail and be disobedient for the sake of finding truth. Maybe “truth” was just finding them? Many of us chose not to be that child after a certain point in our young lives… And then carry on to being good, sexless, and unquestioning. I’ll tell you, though, the truth crept up and broke through the concrete and found me, too. I’m a lot more stubborn than I thought.

I’ve been in a sort of renewed, weepy, and broken place. Maybe you relate? I like it, though, because I feel kind. More human; like I can smell things better. I feel akin; like I belong. I think, subconsciously, people used to disgust me and scare me. Probably because I was deeply afraid of being disgusting or out of control. But, for some reason, I feel happier having seen my darker sides. My prayers have been answered. I’ve been able to look at the side of me that’s downright selfish and ugly and self-protecting and come out the other side feeling like I’ve found good fortune.

I think excepting our humanity is one of the hardest things we’ll ever have to do. Some people are forced to do it sooner than others.

(They’re the real lucky ones.)

Perfect Practice.

I recently got a new lens and have been having a lot of fun practicing with it these last few weeks. I recently decided to start dumping the photos I can’t use on to a blog space called “Perfect Practice” and you can check it out at the current working URL, here. (There’s also a link at the top of the site.)

Enjoy.

An Understatement.

I remember it pretty clearly. And I remember telling my mother, too. “Mom, I’m a woman now, I’ve decided.” She just sort of smirked, half distracted, and said, “Oh, yea?” “Yea.” [Very serious 18-year old voice]. I thought if I didn’t decide I was a woman, no one was going to let me know when it would happen. And I wanted it to happen. Saying it out loud was going to help me believe it, I was sure of that. After my declaration, I took wide strides back to my bedroom and probably wrote about my new feat in a journal as dinner was being cooked for me. It was a simple as that. “I’m a woman.”

The journey of my personhood has been a lot more broken and clumsy-looking than that short, easy walk back to my bedroom. I never really felt like I “arrived” because of it. It has, in the years between that moment and now, seemed to have looked more like a cat who got really good at sticking a landing after a progression of totally failed jumps and flips and then acted like she meant to do all of it. I wouldn’t let myself feel bad. Which, still, makes me laugh. I’m trying to figure out if this ignorant pride is endearing or annoying. If you’re a cat person, I think you’d’ve liked me very much. If you’re a dog person, on the other hand, know since, I’ve turned into a well-rounded dog who freely gives eye-contact, wants to play with everyone and feels guilt when they’re supposed to.

 

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A Self Portrait.

 

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to be good enough, even for myself. I’ve dealt with a great deal of pride, assuming that if I hoisted myself high enough, I’d be worth admiration and closeness with God and people. I’ve worked really hard to sustain other people’s dreams and self-development, especially so, that they’d appreciate and look up to me. I’ve expended my energy on trying to cover the looming fact that I’m deeply afraid of being replaceable or void of meaning. In today’s society, there’s a lot of pressure, to and from both men and women, to be perfect or reach certain ideals. We’re fooled into believing we have a choice on the matter because we get to define how we’ll commodify ourselves; be it talent, self-awareness, looks, success, social acceptance, etc. We’re still using some exchange or currency that proves our worthiness.

I’m about to turn 25. I am actually a woman now, and after my last tumble, I didn’t want to pick myself up because I was too tired to. After smelling my proverbial soil, I’m learning that I get to redefine what it means to be where I am, presently. It’s odd to look at how I’ve defined womanhood over the years and to see how I have not met my own standards, can still look at myself and see I am, indeed, still a woman. It’s comically relieving when I look at how others define womanhood (even other women) and see also that I fail to rise to their standard. I am still, in fact, a woman. When I fall and when I stand, I am who I am. The funny part is, now that I’ve “arrived”, I feel less and less enchanted about the definitions for any sort of personhood. Including being a woman. Sure, there are things that are inherently feminine, but I don’t think that striving to become those things bring about an honest form of being.

I’m growing in some realizations: I am feminine, I don’t have to try to be. I don’t even have to think about it anymore. I don’t have to define, prove, or strive for [even my own] unrealistic expectations of who I should be. I don’t have to measure myself up to any societal norms. I’ve not failed in the development of my personhood; I’m still developing. I like the messy, emotional, clumsy person I’ve become thus far. I like how vision-oriented, passionate, and empathic I am as well. I still desire excellence, to be a leader, to see big things happen in my life. But I think this is going to ride on the coattails of self-acceptance and letting go of the need to be worthy of everyone’s investment.

I’ve experienced my own small oppression and wasted a lot of years with false maternalism (feeling responsible and protective for everyone around me), undercutting my potential by choosing supporting roles, and letting other people’s powerlessness rule the direction of my life. I’m choosing to shed these things as they erupt into my daily life, almost like an addict would. I guess it’s a work in progress. Leaning into all of this has saved me from those solipsistic moods and has generally made me a lot more fun and willing to be with imperfect people as a peer/fellow imperfect person.

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Praise report to all you fellow youth groupers: Things are not perfect, but I generally feel less heavy, less entitled, less like I need to control how people perceive me, and less unhappy about who I am today; an understatement. I feel the most myself I’ve ever felt in my entire life.

Cheers.
Signed,

Abbey The Blogger

Shame loves secrecy… and social media too.

One of the things that I’ve noticed that can start to get really weird is when people spend a lot of time with themselves and the internet. That same sort of pattern has been a temptation of mine. And it’s certainly an easy one to slip into. Sometimes it’s just easier to hide behind a persona. You know? As social beings, we tend to feel like our survival depends on how well we connect to those around us. And that makes total sense to me.

Thankfully, (for whatever reason) I’ve generally attempted to be more honest with myself and honest with those around me as I’ve gotten older. It has forced me to face a lot of the contradictions of posting anything to the internet; especially if the goal is to be “authentic”. Whatever that means, here. It’s really hard to do anything authentically or wholeheartedly when it’s so tied a consciousness of how we’re being perceived publically. In a generation where we’re well branded, well curated, and crafted, It’s REALLY hard to be honest. If not, impossible.

That to say, I’m not above the temptation to win people over. I think that’s a part of my personality, actually. Which makes social media more of a tricky thing for me. I like being a connecting point for people. I like being a catalyst for inspiration and movement towards peace, joy, and connection. But, I also know that this isn’t me all the time. Sometimes I wake up on the not so pretty side of the bed and am annoyed with where I just let my thoughts just wander. Sometimes i wake up and I’m downright depressed. Inspiration and things of that nature are far from me in those moments and that’s when I’m tempted to lie. Or, rather, give testimony to that persona that I’d mentioned earlier.

Social media gives us the numbers to let us know how well we’re doing. We’re able to critique ourselves based on those numbers, and then improve accordingly. It’s pretty easy. Emphasis on the word easy. Especially since, seemingly, there’s no real conversation happening with other humans. (It’s harder to talk to real humans in real time). I think it also makes some of the weirder things that we present a little less questionable. How can you question it when the numbers show people APPROVE? Sort of like the idea behind the story of the Emporer’s New Clothes. It tricks us into believing that we can be what we want to be… even when we’re not actually being that thing.

It’s so interesting, to me, to watch myself reach for the internet for a daily dosage of approval when I’m not doing so well. Sort of like a comfort food or a drug. The difference between those things and social media is that it’s tied to how people see me. However, they’re both very easy to become dependent on. I can lie, and I know that no one is going to question it. They’re just going to “like it” or move on. Rarely will someone tell you what you’re doing is just a facade to cover up your issues. No. It’s more beneficial to lie to you, so it seems. Because people don’t really care that much about how I exist in their app, and they’re just getting by too. In those moments, that’s just sterile enough for me to handle when I don’t feel like really looking at myself. This is why shame loves social media.

Shame has been a silent killer for me, and I’ve only recently started to recognized it’s symptoms and track how far down the parasite/sickness has traveled. Social media has, up to a point, been one of the things that I’d cover my shame with. It’d been very easy for me to get into a cycle where I’m existing TO post things on the internet. Which, eventually feels like eating too much sugar. There was a  very specific time where, at base… or on a whole, I didn’t feel good enough. So I set myself out to be the best version of myself… and attempted to do so from the outside- in.

I’ve come to realize that shame really loves secrecy. It loves when you try to hide the fact that you fear, at your core, you’re unworthy of belonging or love. Most all my life I’ve tried to be everyone’s hero. I tried to be self-sufficient. I tried to be the best for those around me. I mean, in some ways, I’ve had to. (Definitely had developed some codependent tendencies at that time). So I had (and am still working through) a long list of personality traits and defense mechanisms that have “protected” me from ever feeling that shame or letting it bubble to the surface where I can see it. It kept it a secret. I guess I always thought, subconsciously, that if I were the best for those around me that I’d be worthy of love and admiration.

I think this has slowly translated itself into my social media persona. I think I really believed that if I had enough people (numbers) admiring me that I’d somehow feel more worthy of love. BUT what really ended up happening was I started to feel like an imposter. As honest as I was trying to be on social media, I knew that my inner-life was not at all matching what I was expressing on the internet. To add, when you feel like an imposter, you feel brutally self-conscious and unstable. I kept telling myself to buck up and be an inspiration despite the fact that my insides were crumbling. I started [the old version of] this blog (which is now all left in the graveyard that is Tumblr) and attempted to write through the pain and be more than I thought I was at the time. Perhaps that’s what I needed. We’re all in process, so who can say?

What eventually ended up happening was that my desire to be centered and [truly] connected with people kick-started my way to uncovering the deep-seated shame I didn’t know I was carrying. There came a moment where I had decided I’d rather have the respect of those closest to me before I ever accrued “respect” with numbers… And that it was more important to have a self-respect that was not based on public opinion but how I actually saw myself. I wanted to be brave. It was actually pretty scary for me, but, for more than a few reasons, I paid about $200 to have all my photos printed and deleted my Instagram. I told myself that I’d get an Instagram again when I felt that I was connected with myself, the things I was doing, and the people around me in an honest and unshakable way.

I naively thought that’d cure my desire for social acceptance. Which is funny looking back on it. I don’t know if there’s an actual cure to this enchanting process of social approval, especially when you’re using it’s medium that has a point system. However, I’ve definitely found that there are things you can do that will keep you from feeling like an imposter. Confidently saying, here, that it’s not about removing the temptation of social approval or social media itself… it’s about actually having respect, accountability, and an affectionate intimacy with the community around you and yourself. Having people around you that will uncover the shame you’re harboring (this is actually [usually] a really scary and painful thing) and being compassionate to yourself about your darkness is like shedding light and air on an infection and letting things finally heal and die off. (Thanks, Chris, for that analogy).

The people I’m known by help me choose to be brave… And I do, indeed, choose it. Or at least try to when I can. I’m not brave or strong or inspirational in and of myself. I know that much. Especially seeing and experiencing first hand that I can’t bring all my darkness to the light, as much as I can try. But, it’s because of those specific people, I chose and choose into wholeheartedness in a million little ways and in a million different conversations as much as I can. Slowly but OH SO SURELY dispelling shame and it’s effects in my life.

YOU CAN TOO.
Signed,

Abbey The Blogger

DREAM BETTER

I’m really interested in a sort of “feminism” that’s not reactive to the patriarchy.
It’s the sort of feminism I relate to the most. I come from a family of strong women, so I’ve never felt less valuable than a man. Really, ever. That said, I think the goal shouldn’t be to combat thought structures of other people… but to combat our own.
It’s honest to recognize where we’ve been treated “less than”. But what’s more powerful than knowing how we’ve been victimized is to seek to understand who we are as unoppressed people. We must seek to understand our “true selves”. Which, I know is trite to say.
Anyway, I think that starts with imagination. Seriously!
It’s sort of like asking the question “If you had a million bucks, what would you do with it?”… If you were unoppressed, what would you do as that unoppressed woman? Call me naive, but, I have a feeling that you’d probably be able to do exactly what you want to do.
So maybe instead of thinking about how incapable we are, I want to see more people telling about what they ARE capable of doing NOW. The reactionary stuff is starting to feel really directionless and boring, to be quite honest. I just want to meet women who are in love and not women who are so DAMN offended.
I’m annoyed with the hyper-awareness of how we “can’t”… instead of dreaming and getting vision for what we “can”. Because the truth is, no man has ever kept anyone from dreaming of beautiful things. Even when we were oppressed. I state my annoyance from a stance that sees how capable women really are and observing how distracted we’re getting.
It’s a beautiful dream that keeps people alive. It’s a beautiful dream that helps us push through. It’s a beautiful dream that people can follow.
It’s a beautiful dream that makes true leaders.

The Gospel?

This morning I’m revisiting some of the more rudimental truths about Christ.

“…if you were the only one on the planet who needed to be redeemed… He would have died for you just the same.”

To be completely forthcoming: I’ve sort of lost focus. Well, not “sort of”… I have. Entirely. Being a 20-something Christian socialite, I’ve been in so many different social spheres and sub-cultures which have told me what life is “supposed” to be like for a believer. (As an aside, it’s sort of hilarious what we’ve Christianized… things that have no relation to Christ at all.) I’ve had my own personal critiques about these things, especially since most of it felt pretty impractical or unrelated to how I understood my actual relationship with God. It’s sort of felt like “My relationship with God is real and here…” and “religious practice is over there”. There was never a synthesis of the two.

All things considered… I haven’t really known how to apply some of the elementary things of my Faith. So, here’s to trying. Here’s to talking about it. Here’s my attempt to really understand these things for myself, while welcoming y’all on this seeking and inviting you to potentially see a truth that I’ve heard can set you free. While also confessing to the world that Christianity is not what has been exuded from my character fully. I’m working on it. Now, I just want to see how Christ and His simple truth works in me (specifically). I think I’m, simply, tired of the excusing myself by pointing out how everyone else is wrong. I’m probably going to sound really trite in these next few posts. Bear with me, if you so desire.

I’m probably going to sound really trite in these next few posts. Bear with me, if you so desire.

The simple Gospel:

Gal 4:4
-7: But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.

When the scripture talked about being born “under the law” it’s talking about a time where God had no way to bridge the gap between themselves and man because of the offenses that man made towards God. We’d made it impossible for Them to be in intimate connection with us because of a choice (and many after that) that betrayed Them. However, They’d made it clear that if we were sinless… if we’d followed a set of commands, and if we’d made a sacrifice to cover our shame, we’d be able to enter into There presence. This way of life, a life “under the law”, existed for hundreds of years, and it was actually impossible. This way of life was not sustainable. And it was not what God desired. It seems to me that they were working with what they had…

The mystery of God’s plan was perfect. And They’d made a way to restore relationship back to us. They made a way to forever remove shame from our lives. How? They found a way to change us from the inside out. Instead of the constant, humiliating and tired scrubbing of our humanity. They made up for our offenses, died as a Man, and made a way for us to be in intimate communion with Them all the time. They sent their Son, the only man who lived sinless, as a was to bridge the gap between us and our original design, which was to live a life with our Creator and to carry their Spirit so that we may all be “gathered together” in Him. The same Spirit that Jesus had, the Spirit that recognizes God as a Parent. Jesus made adoption available to all of us.

There’s not one person in this world, no matter what you identify yourself as, that is disqualified from this romantic truth. God, through Jesus, can make a home in you. Jesus can restore your sense of wonder, purity, and child-like goodness forever. Jesus can replace your fear of not measuring up. He can replace your fear of dying alone. He can replace your fear of being “bad” or shameful. You can live unapologetically free. No more striving or anxiety. Discovering a life that knows acceptance, creativity, connection through vulnerability. You can know what it’s like to call God, from you inner-most being, Mom or Dad. Jesus did that for you. And if you were the only one on the planet who needed to be redeemed… He would have died for you just the same.

I know it’s really over-used in Christian-America… But there’s a reason why we’ve, for so long, provoked people to pray “the prayer”. Accept the Lord Jesus Christ into your heart. Let Him live in you. Let his truths be written on your heart and mind. Let that set you free.

 

 

“I’m shook.”

I don’t know how to write about this right now, but I can say the last week or so I’ve been swept up in torrents of emotion (that are not hormonal-based), that I don’t seem to fully understand. I guess I’m attempting to unpack it here. The general feels: grief and resentment and weakness; dually thankful and hopelessly hungry to rid myself of everything I understand about life so that I can embrace, fully [wholeheartedly], a life that is good and pure and noble. I’m undone. I recently came as close to not believing in God as I ever have in my life, and as scary as that was, I’m glad it happened.

I’ve started reading “The Gifts of Imperfection” after having thrown myself into a conversation I overheard with Dawn and Leann Raqmore who is obviously so set free, present, and joyful. I loved the words coming out of her mouth and the way she said them. I could feel the child-likeness dripping from her heart, I could see her humanity, I could see her simple love for Christ. The rest of the day I felt so bare. And I didn’t like it. It caused me to feel anxious and annoyed with myself. The dust had been kicked up. I’d been shaken. Especially confronting the anger that I felt towards God and myself.

I’ve been trying to both be present with everything that I’m feeling while also being slow to figure myself out. At base, and at this point in my life (like most points), I think what I want is to be in control of everything. Especially myself. I’ve never been one to repress my feelings, but I’ve always been one to use my feelings as a conduit to becoming more perfect and more self-aware. It’s necessary for someone who finds their worth in the people around them… I’ve been mostly a very dutiful person. Clinging religiously to what’s best for the people I’m around. Selflessly giving all that I had/have for the sake of the greatest good. Feeling the deepest shame if I ever hurt someone.

Those things can sound really altruistic at first glance. The nuance of my struggles seems insignificant as I write them out. But the parts of this that deeply bother me are the parts that show me that these things are counterfeit. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be at such unrest or with so much resentment or anxiety. I wouldn’t be so crushed about my short-comings. I would have an evidential self-love. No shame. No regrets. No fear. The movements of a desire for greater truth is loud, and I can see that a lot of things might change really drastically, especially as it pertains to my worldview. But, honestly, I’m so ready to throw away everything I believe for the sake of finding actually Truth… that actually sets free.

Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. -Timothy Keller

Reasons I don’t like to call myself a Christian.

I often wonder if it’d be more practical to tell people that I don’t believe in anything, that I am an atheist, and just do what Jesus told me to do…

Sometimes I wonder if that’d be more honest, anyway. I wouldn’t be wearing a title that’s short-hand for “conservative, close-minded, judgmental and dull.” I’d be able to speak without any predispositions hindering me and I could actually just be a “Christian”… someone that has a working relationship with Christ. My social identity wouldn’t be tied to a culture that I didn’t produce. And if I were to be called a Christian, it would be by other people, not by me (which is how the term came about anyways).


If an atheist posted scripture for the bible it would be taken from a literary and logical standpoint. In my opinion, it would end up being more intriguing and impacting to the audience because it wasn’t already expected. Whereas when someone “of faith” posts scripture, it can (and usually does), serve as a tool to remind other people of their social identity. And sure, the verse could be beneficial in and of itself. And sure, it can be an earnest expression from that person. But, because of the obvious bias, it’s likely to be over-looked (depending on the audience) due to its trite nature.


I like the idea of not having the term ‘christianity’ being tied to how people understand me. People would be interacting with the person, Abbey, who loves Christ. Not the Christian, who happens to be named Abbey. There’s a difference. And you can feel it in those conversations. You can tell when someone is interacting with who you actually are and when they are interacting with a caricature of you that they made up in their mind.

(Side note, most people in the church wouldn’t consider themselves or their church counterparts close-minded or dull. I usually don’t either. But they’re not a part of the conversations that exist in places like the communities of Alston, Massachusetts. Where Christians are the minority. And Christianity is the comedic relief to a heavy conversation.)

So, I’m not talking about my interactions with other Christians (though Christians objectify other Christians all the time, too). I’m talking about everyone else who might have an assumption about who I am based on the title of my beliefs. I just want to be free. Telling people that I’m a part of this loud belief system is a quick way to put a wall between me and them. It seems like an easy way to lose a connection. Sometimes I feel as judged and objectified as people claim to feel in the LGBTQ, black, and (perhaps) the feminist community.

I don’t feel like a person. I feel alienated. I feel unequal. And I feel misunderstood.


There have been many extreme people and events that have spoken loudly on Christianity’s behalf but I did NOT give them permission to speak for me. There were people who took things into their own hands and marred how most of the public interprets what I find so freeing and inspiring:

There’s the very dull and unimpassioned church folk who took pastel t-shirts and ironed on crosses thinking that was a good idea to hand out as a gift for first-time guests of their church. There are the charismatic kids flopping their egotistical power-prayers onto who ever walked passed them (not realizing they’d “evangelized” to that same person 4 times in one month and this person was already a believer in Christ). The rockstar worship leaders. The flaky and half-hearted people who “love” you, you gem. The singles who think you might be their future spouse without knowing you at all.

It would be trite to say “well, not all Christians are like that.” Because of course they not all like that. The point is, those are the people and events that end up writing the loudest reputations for us. Meanwhile, the people like me who are cringing and hoping that they will meet people who will look past the awful and humiliating behavior/lack thereof and see the person who is standing in from of them.

I just don’t want to be lumped into that culture. I want to see and be seen as a person. I want to be like Christ. And, perhaps, make better the reputation accrued since A.D. 1.


If someone’s going to call me a Christian, it’s not going to be me. 

This isn’t a denouncing of my faith. It’s the honest confrontation of where the term “Christian” came from:

“The term ‘Christian’ was used to describe a follower of Christ in terms of the world, from the world’s point of view. The pagans at Antioch called the apostles “Christians” first and used it derogatorily because the apostles didn’t follow the commercial world of the pagans. “Christian” is an adjective, not a noun. The substance is not in the word “Christian”, the substance is in the heart of the man it is attempting to describe… Christ never called himself a Christian, Christ never called his followers Christians. The apostles never called each other Christians.”

I want to be known as Abbey, and then I want to be discovered as a follower of Christ. Not because I told them, but because they can see and feel the effects of Christ.

If someone is to call me a Christian I want to trust that they have an understanding of what that term really means and detach it from the culture that I actually (really) dislike right now. If someone is to call me a Christian it’s because they have a relationship with me and have witnessed what Christ might be like through me, and have not just witnessed a Facebook post.

Isaiah 43:16-21

Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
    rivers in the badlands.
Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’
    —the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided water in the desert,
    rivers through the sun-baked earth,
Drinking water for the people I chose,
    the people I made especially for myself,
    a people custom-made to praise me.

Onward.

A branch from the same type of tree I climbed much as a child; a brazilian pepper corn tree.

Not too long ago my childhood best friend and I were sitting amongst our friend group and we were both asked what it was like growing up together. A lot of our childhood felt like a grand adventure which has well continued into our adult lives with copious amounts of traveling. In that moment, however, I became brutally aware of the fact the two of us were the only ones in the room who’d grown up in very poor homes.

The vast majority of my life I’ve been surrounded by friends whose families could afford meeting their needs. Not many of them could have said that they grew up on food stamps, or remember their parents having to boil water to give them warm water to bathe in (on the occasion they couldn’t pay a bill), or lived in a home that was less than 1000 sq ft with 8 other people. This doesn’t even touch on the horrors that my friend had experienced growing up…

Everyone one of my friends in that living room grew up in comfortable living situations. Their parents could afford to pay for several of their bills including their schooling. Every single one of them had a car that their parents purchased. While I was thankful for the things that my parents did provide for me, I was never afforded that sort of support. I’ve had to pay for every car that I’ve owned. I’ve paid most all my bills since I was 16. I’ve paid for all the schooling I’ve ever had. I’ve had to work very hard for the last 10 years of my life to get by.

As the eldest sister of 6 girls, and being heavily depended on by my parents, I’ve lived in a state of co-dependence since I was little. Both my parents have very colorful backgrounds which resulted in a lot of emotional baggage. Most of my life I’ve been called an “old soul” which, I think, actually means that I’ve been willing to take on other’s people’s baggage as my own. I’ve built up a lot of relational patterns that have made me a very good emotional processor, while also a very jaded individual. The childhood that I once loved so dearly was slipping away from me fiercely. I think I’ve been fighting pretty hard and for a long time to protect it.

The powerlessness that I was confronted with as I child has resulted in developing the relational coping skills of a survivor. I tend to take on the older sister, counselor, or maternal role when I see that someone has issues that I think I’m supposed to help. When confronted with victims I tend to take on their problems and dedicate my life to helping them. This leaves me susceptible to being neglected in all my relationships. I’ve typically been the “your needs are more important than mine” girl… which has perpetuated my perfectionism and seriousness in life. It’s continued this cycle of losing my connection to what Jung calls “The Divine Child”… my true self.

On top of all this, subscribing to Christianity added to the confusion. It tends to spiritualize co-dependence. So, while the real thing… Jesus… gave me freedom, the subculture I was a part of perpetuated the thing I struggled with the most. With that, my “religion” created a sort of shame to the idea of ever fully acknowledging my weakness, so I didn’t have the tools to get over it. It felt like if I did put weight to my story that I was choosing to be a victim rather than living out the “victory”.

I didn’t want to trade it in for the identity in which I found so much empowerment: being a New Creation in Christ.

Honesty time: I have been victimized. I do have a little more inner work to do because of the deficiencies of my upbringing. And… well, that’s OK. I’m having to tell myself this everyday. There is no shame in being honest about a circumstance that I had no control over. Now I’m in the place where I’m actively trying to recover what I think I’ve lost all these years trying to be a hero: my childhood and my ability to see life romantically. As opposed to seeing it through the lens of obligation, duty, and perfection.

In Christ I am not a victim, I am a new being. I am free from having to identify with the things that make me feel out of control, misunderstood, or disconnected with people. I get to experience life past my triggers, the things that have victimized me, and false identities that I could have easily taken on as a child that grew up they way she did. It’s taking me to look at my mess in a real, honest way to get to the point where I’m even ok to let the world in on how “not normal” I am.

I don’t feel so fragile.

I desire to continue to practice child-likeness. I desire to see more clearly. I desire to live entirely un-oppressed by anything. I want to discover what a truly unhindered woman looks like in this world. Living wildly, honestly, unapologetically, and winsomely. I’ve been working real hard to make this a reality, and I’ve got more work to do – for sure. My prayer has been that God would make up for what I didn’t have as a child. And I believe he already is.

I’m looking forward to 2017 proving these resolutions true. I’m looking forward to seeing what this honesty will breed in me.

So, If you ever look at my life and see something that’s admirable (or even the least bit normal), it’s important to know that it’d rode in on the back of a once very broken girl who’s tried to live life past the dysfunctional patterns she’s inherited. If you see any sort of child-like freedom in me, it’s because I’m consciously choosing it over the life I’ve been patterned to know. I’m actively bringing all myself back to the truth of my identity in Christ instead of being trapped by the truth of my upbringing.

Sincerely,

Ending Cycles in Jesus’ name.

Cheers.

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. – Ephesians 2:12‭-‬13 ESV


I think because one of my primary love languages is ‘touch’ this specific verse is really important to me. I have been brought near. No other gesture could show me that I am loved more than when they’ve pulled me in tight with no other desire other than to be near. It melts my heart.  It lights me up. It makes me present. I want to exist in the moment that feels like being pulled into an embrace. I think that’s exactly what practicing the presence of God should be.

 

Chicago pt. 1

Well, here I am, Chicago! I sort of don’t know what the hell I’m doing. However, I’m excited to figure out how to use the transportation, plan out all the places I want to go, and set out to discover whatever it is I will find as I’m traveling by myself.

It’s kind of an interesting situation to be in. You really get to see what you do when you don’t have the familiar around you. For instance, I find myself reaching out to something to preoccupy my ears. I like to listen to podcasts or sermons. I guess it sort of feels like it justifies the time going by. “At least I’m learning something”.

Sometimes I like to catalog the moment by listening to a song over and over that way next time I listen to the song I remember the space I occupied when listening to it last.
Right now I’m not busying my ears with anything and that sort of scares me.

This is the only time I’ll ever hear this combination of sounds; the man’s voice next to me, the women whispering behind me, the buzz of the funneled AC, the body of this plane crashing and falling into miles of atmosphere and wind. I’ll likely never be able to return to this moment again unless I record it with my phone’s mic and hoard it away like someone who is afraid of the finality and quietness of death.

The snapshots of my sentimentality kind of make me laugh. A laugh that attempts to acknowledge the absurdity of being alive at all. Or being able recall memories/self-reflect… In addition to the absurdity of knowing there will come a day that I might not be able to recall anything in this sleeping bag of a body.

Today, on the trolley at the airport, for the first time I really started to think about the idea of being a pilgrim in this place. What made me think about this was seeing parts of the airport (that at one point I was very familiar with) start to change and undergo heavy reconstruction. It felt like I was being ushered into some sort of dystopian future.

It sort of heightened the amount of detachment that I’d already felt. “I guess I’m really not a part of this world” was kind of what that moment felt like to me. That sort of logic starts to unravel as I think about the human hands that were art a part of our progression. We’re not pilgrims to progress… we’re pilgrims to the different structures that are built to try to make us “live” forever. We’re pilgrims to towers and idols, etc.

I guess “pilgrimage” has always sort of been one of those Christian truisms that people say. It was short hand, to me at least, for people who tend to act like they’re victims of life. You know… the sort of people who experience the first world discomforts of not having fast enough wifi. “I’m just a pilgrim, waiting for my savior to come…”.

I remember there being this moment in time when I really realized that I was alive and that I got to swallow air and pump blood (through veins that I’m borrowing) and grow hair that solidifies on my scalp and contain a brain that thinks about all of it and operate a body that can communicate that parts of me that are invisible. I GET to feel sad. I GET touch my hands and let them touch me back. I GET to write run on sentences…

Pilgrimage… well… I don’t fully understand it now. But I do know that because of it I have no stock in the things that I try to collect, build, or prove. Because of it, I’m left with moments like this where I can’t save or archive or protect the collections of sounds and smells. Moments where I have to confront the finality and quietness of death as well as the unfurling of life and abundance and addition. I guess you could say that I’m scared. In the words of Kat Porter… “if it’s fear than I want to be afraid”.

The fear is keeping my eyes wide open and in wonder at what they’re seeing.

Having a hard time sleeping tonight.

These are typically the sort of posts that I inevitably feel [minorly] annoyed with myself for publishing at this time of night. Yet, here I am, lost in my thoughts, and not really knowing which one should be given my full attention. And, honestly, I’m kind of exhausted at the thought of having to sort through much of what I’m thinking about. I have a feeling, though, that if I don’t attempt to write about it that I’m not going to be able to think about much of it linearly. Or worse, not be able to sleep.

Today I woke up in a van next to one of my best friends. We went to breakfast with two of our other best friends (one of them being her husband). Bought some supplies for our Sunday. And then set out for Tucker and Lauren’s wedding in a Georgia town called “Rising Fawn”. This is when I got a text from my sister letting me know that my cat, Huxley, had just unexpectedly passed away due to something that he ate. I immediately burst into tears, then quickly allowed myself to be distracted, so as to keep the air light before the wedding.

For those who know me well, they know how important this cat was to me. And I’m pretty sure this is the closest to losing a family member or friend that I’ve ever come.

There’s something to naming things. Ascribing them meaning, personality, and purpose. You can’t simplify this task. Once you give it a name, it says that you intend to create history with it. It sparks hope for love and language. The more those things transpire (love and language and history) the more attached you become. The friendship grows outside of you, yet tied still, and is now a collaboration between you and one who was named.

This gives you a sort of double-sided delight. One side of it speaks on the choice you made towards the one named. And the other is being able to know the one who is named in their specificity. You get to know them in their chosenness. You get to see how they relate back to it. You get to see what your love offers them. And what they express in return. Is it freedom? Is it condemnation? Is it affection? Is it torment? Is it peace?

It makes me wonder about God, and how They’ve* named us. It makes me think about the act of becoming someone’s companion (naming and being named). It makes me think about adoption and child-bearing. It’s all so beautiful. It gives you the potential for a hope fulfilled as well as one of the most hollowing pains you’ll experience in your life.

The power of naming things seems to have been given to us. This privilege is abused by most. But for those who know it’s power can choose their intent for creating such a bond. It has to be obvious: naming something doesn’t always mean love, but it can mean love. This can only be tested with time.

I can’t help but feel hyper-aware of all the names I’ve given and the effects it’s had. I’m definitely more guarded than ever. To give a name, to start a relationship, to commit to anything is a holy act. It seems like it’s something that should always be followed up with a commitment to an ongoing, creative, and wonder-filled love. It’s not something that should ever be thrown around.

To name something is precious.
To name something is life-changing,
especially so for the one who is giving the name.

Well, I think that’s all I have for tonight.

I was just growing up.

End of Summer 2012 I moved to St. Pete from Orlando and lived on a sailboat for a couple months. Most everything that I loved about my hometown, with the exception of my family, was there. However hard with the sort of isolation I’d experienced, the wonderful chap I starting dating was living with me and processing through quite a few things from his recent past years, I found room for delight and gratitude.

footboot

I was simultaneously working at a local tea shop and at the corner Starbucks. Both were a short walking distance from the boat. Most days were sunny and breezy. I didn’t have any limitations on time, space, or resources. I knew a lot of the locals, and a lot of them knew me. The situation I was in would have been perfect by many standards. If I am to be honest, though, everything in me felt like it was breaking. I was very lonely. Life circumstances [and the lack of tools I had to deal with them] kept me hurting pretty badly. I had more than one internal battle going on; taking hits from underneath my armor.

I was figuring out how to be sufficient in everything, especially for my special someone. Their battles kept hitting me pretty hard, and I didn’t fully let them in on that at the time. I was exhausted. I scarcely felt like I was fully myself. I didn’t know why I was waking up in the morning. I didn’t know what I was working towards. I didn’t know what I wanted. I didn’t know how to be settled in my own skin again. I didn’t know where my inner strength went. I couldn’t remember who I was.

I was Nineteen. Forgetting how to be in child-like wonder. Forgetting how to be simple, and how to rest. Relational circumstance was definitely punching me in the heart, but I was also seeing the issues that I already had in the midst of it. I didn’t know how to deal with any of it.

March 2013 I had the rare occasion of having a day off from both jobs. I decided to try to find some alone time and wandered over to one of my favorite coffee shops around the corner. There I ran into an old friend, Billy, who used to be a sort of support for a church I went to a couple years back. He asked me how I was doing and for the first time in a good while all the issues that I’d been so good at repressing just kind of fell out of my mouth and onto his lap.

The redeeming part of that conversation was he and his wife had previously been praying about bringing a girl into their home. He immediately offered me a place to stay seeing that my living situation was not helping me. Two weeks later I moved into their home; sharing a room with their 9-year-old daughter. The solemn months I lived at this home passed quickly and quietly. I got very sick on a few occasions and really only remember (if I can use very simple terms, here) being sad during that time. I can say, while this was one of the most difficult parts of my young life, it was a turning point.

footbill

Up to this point, my experience with Christian churches always had a tinge of dissatisfaction. Especially when I could never find the connection or commitment that I was looking for. I always wanted to feel like I was truly connected and collaborating with a team of people who had the same goal as me. After moving in with the Mitchells (Billy’s family) I found myself welcomed as a little sister. A part of the family and their family goals.

They never offered me counsel that I didn’t ask for; they were just there. There when I needed to talk. There when I needed to listen to someone else’s life. There when sweeping the kitchen was the most therapeutic thing I could ask for. They let me be a part of family events. They gave me space in their lives to contribute. They were the best thing to happen to me in a really long time. And, to make things even better, they became the people that I could call my “church home”.

Every Sunday we would get together with one other family (The Gerkes) and tell stories about Jesus- the kids included. We’d all discuss what the stories said about God, ourselves, and the world. We’d talk about how to apply it all out our specific lives. We walked and prayed for our neighborhoods. We’d actively strategize on how we were going to love well; about how we were going to bring what we had in this home- to other homes. We prayed that in a year things wouldn’t be the same and that we’d all [hopefully] be bringing peace, joy, and relationship with Jesus in other homes.

This was Christmas for a girl who had no good answer for life without family/community.

We met like this for nearly a year before the Mitchells had to leave for Oklahoma. This departure wrecked everyone in our little community. But we all also knew it was an answer to a prayer we’d prayed a year ago. It was time to bring the freedom that we gave to one another into other places, bring a sense of community and commitment that breeds rest, and support others as they find their way back to their identities in Christ.

These people and their investment changed everything for me. They gave me the strength I needed to see clearly. Reminded me of who I was. Challenged me. Built me up. They stood up for me when they saw I wasn’t being cared for. Brought me “truth” when I couldn’t find it myself.

They left me with the tools that I needed to bring the same sort of hope to people around me. Setting a high standard for honor, boundaries, communication, and seeking the Lord with people who are committed to knowing, praying, collaborating with/for me. They helped me decipher where to invest my time, resources, and energy simply by knowing them and having them in my life. A friend of mine told me that even my voice was different and that I seemed to have a backbone again. So, it seemed, in the process, in community, I won back my sense of self. My trust. I started to see in child-like wonder again. I started recovery and remember what is was like to be simple, to rest, and to seek out exactly what I need to be my healthiest self. These people lead me back to a freedom that I used to be so familiar with.

Usually, when I talk about this portion of my life, I’m tempted to go into detail about all of the hurt I’d experienced and try to forcefully piece together a narrative ends with “happily ever after”. An “…and everything is all better now because… Jesus”. This isn’t or wasn’t the case. Life didn’t continue on with a “happily ever after”. When I look at the things that I learned from this vignette, it’s pretty clear: I was just growing up. Learning to deal with heartache was just a part of that. (I don’t even think I learned the lesson perfectly well). But, instead of a happy ending, I’ve found an Identity. And with an Identity, I feel wholehearted… even in my issues.

Now I’m left with an unwavering standard for community and connection that I’m very happy with. I may not have a very wide reach of friends, but most all my friendships run very deep. I have little need from people I don’t trust and, conversely, am happily interdependent with people that I trust a lot. My “love tank” is rarely empty and that frees me up to simply give to those around me from a place of abundance. Life’s not perfect but in brokenness, in transition, in becoming I feel capable of handling what may come my way due to the fact that I’m fully supported.

I don’t take that for granted one minute.