Toxic

I see a lot of stuff out on the internet about how ridding yourself of the toxic relationships in your life will make you a happier person. I guess I understand how that could be true. I have some relationships that others would probably consider toxic, and I guess in a way they are. I sometimes daydream about what it would be like to be able to just completely wash my hands of certain people and situations. The outlook would be a much more peaceful life.

But cutting people out of your life is a two edged sword, at least for me. I think that a lot of the time, we are predisposed to thinking of everything in black and white. For example, I have a person in my life, we’ll call her Donna, whose temper is just completely out of control. This is a big issue for me, especially when it comes to her spending time around my son. I grew up in a house with a lot of screaming, cussing, and yelling, and it did a lot of damage to me emotionally. It’s taken a long time for me to heal, and I’m determined that my child will not be around that type of behavior. But at the same time, Donna’s  poured a lot of good into my life. I’m the person I am today, some good and some bad, because of her influence in my life. She would (forgive the cliché) give me the shirt off of her back, even though she’d probably cuss me out for it later.

I can’t just cut her out of my life. For one, it wouldn’t go over too well with some other people I know. It would make certain get togethers and formal functions really uncomfortable and weird. And secondly, and most importantly, God has called me to love Donna. (A little disclaimer here: I am not advocating for anyone to stay in an abusive situation. Just in case I’m not being clear, I am only talking about difficult relationships.)

There are others in my life that have cut Donna out, and they are clueless as to why I make an effort to have a relationship with her.   Does her temper bother me? Yes. Do I think she gets out of control sometimes? Absolutely. When people ask me how I stand it, I simply tell them that I’ve learned to set boundaries. When Donna gets all crazy, I get up and leave. I appreciate the good that she brings to my life, and I forgive her for the ugly. I try not to let her angry outbursts get me down too much, but when it does, I look to the One who can heal Donna. I say this a lot, and I think it may be turning into my life slogan: Christ is enough. And how’s Donna going to know that if someone isn’t being there for her, telling her and showing her?

We’d all do better to remember that down at our very core, we are all dark and twisted. Sin makes our heart a toxic wasteland. That’s why we need a Savior.

Life (?) In Pictures

When I was in high school, Myspace was the chosen mode of social media for the masses. I’m actually surprised that it went out of vogue the way that it did; it was much easier to lie about who you were on there than it is on Facebook. That’s probably not the right way to explain it because people lie on Facebook all the time. What I really mean is that it was easier to create a persona on MyspaceThere were just all these tools at your disposal. There was a large assortment of wallpapers to choose from and you could basically pick any song in the known universe to play whenever someone dropped by your page. You could write a mysterious sounding bio, and if you learned a bit of HTML, you could really spice things up with how things were arranged. You were able to pick your top eight friends, thereby letting the world know just how hip your squad was, and filter your comments to only show the cool things you were up to.

It was fun. It was also fake. I may have looked totally edgy with my inky black hair, staring dreamily off into the distance, but in reality, I probably just finished a huge pile of english homework and I was off to do my algebra next, while my mom constantly reminded me that she’d asked me to put the towels in the dryer six times now (They’re going to mildew, Emily!). Sounds like a super rad existence, doesn’t it?

I liked Myspace though. I was very much a loner back then and a bit sheltered and it opened a big wide world of all these different people to me. Myspace is also where the selfie was born. And boy, did I take about a million back then.

I am not much for the selfie these days. Don’t get me wrong, I do take them occasionally (I have a selfie in my About section), but it’s rare. I try not judge people who do take them, but it’s hard not to when you see someone post about a million a day on Facebook. What kills me the most is when it’s obvious that they just had an impromptu photo session in their car. I mean, come on! How can you possibly have time to do that? My thoughts while I’m waiting in line at the bank or the pharmacy do not start with, “Well, better take some sexy, glamour shots of myself while I wait!” and it absolutely blows my mind that other peoples’ thoughts do. It all just feels so incredibly self involved to me.

I also don’t feel the need to document every single moment of my son’s life in pictures. I do take pictures of him, for sure, and in the past I’ve even been guilty of snagging a few for the express purpose of posting them on Facebook just to show everyone how beautiful he is (and he is beautiful). But there are just so many moms out there that I feel may have had kids just so they could brag on Facebook. I know that sounds ridiculous, but is it really that far out there? People do all sorts of things for attention, and having kids has always ranked somewhere on the list.

This is one of the biggest reasons I hate social media. It feels like it exists for people to “humbly brag” about their lives and I think it encourages us to think too much about ourselves. When your world revolves around what pictures you’re going to post on Facebook today, that’s when you know you’re not really living. So put down the phone. Enjoy your moments. Not every one of them needs to be documented with a photo. Some of them are just meant to be lived.

The Age of Dr. Google

The ease of accessibility of information in our day and time blows my mind. We literally have the answer to any question we can think up at our fingertips. I’m part of what I like to call the “transitional” generation, meaning I can clearly remember the time when the only computer I’d ever seen was in my third grade class room and it took floppy disks the size of dinner plates. And cell phones didn’t even exist. I remember using a big bulky set of books called the encyclopedia. I remember when the internet was such a new and fanciful concept that you couldn’t quote any information you found there as a reliable source on an essay.  And no I’m not, like, a hundred years old or something. I’m not even thirty.

It’s strange how quickly things can change sometimes and how easy it is for us to adjust. Healthcare is pretty much unaffordable these days, so I’ve adjusted to being Dr. Google for my family. That means that whenever someone in my house is sick, I immediately google their symptoms to see if it’s serious enough for a doctor visit or if it can be treated at home. Natural remedies often abound at my house, not because I’m one of those crazy people who gather plants in the woods and mistrust modern medicine (my child will be vaccinated), but out of necessity. My family can’t afford to pay two hundred dollars every time one of us sniffles.

It’s sort of funny though. I’ll just about bet that the nurse at my son’s doctor’s office rolls her eyes when she sees us coming up the hall. I usually already have a diagnosis, and ninety nine percent of the time I’m on the right track. I’m at least a self professed Dr. Google, and I never ever pretend to know more than my pediatrician. She’s a super awesome lady and I think she appreciates that I’m self informed. I also appreciate the fact that she knows that if I’m there, I’m seriously worried and I expect her to do something. Don’t send me home with the advice to feed my son popcicles (Yes, I actually received this advice in an emergency room on New Years Day. It’s the most expensive advice I’ve received to date). If all you can do is get out your prescription pad and treat his symptoms so that he can rest or breathe and heal, then do it. I know that a lot of doctors don’t like to treat symptoms and I get why that is, but I like that our doctor understands that it’s sometimes necessary when a child is too young to understand what is happening to them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining (Well, okay, I am a little. I wish it wasn’t so expensive to stay healthy), I’m just exceedingly grateful that I live in such a time when knowledge is so accessible to everyone. I’m thankful that it enables me to care for my family. I know I can’t possibly be the only Dr. Google out there.

Last Resort

Struggle. No one wants to do it. It’s difficult and no fun, but a guarantee in this life. We have no choice in the matter unfortunately. We’re gonna go through seasons of it. I’m going through a season of my own. I’ll spare you the gory details (I wouldn’t care to share myself; it’s only that others involved in my imbroglio might not feel so keen). I finally reached out to my pastor this week and set up a counseling session to discuss it with him. I am hoping he will offer a fresh perspective because I am all out of ideas. I’ve honestly been feeling as though my situation has been DOA the past few months. I’ve really lost hope.

All of this makes me think about Jairus and his daughter, and the bleeding woman. I’ve thought about him in particular this past week. Matthew tells us that he was a synagogue leader. That means he was involved with all of the adminstrative tasks that concerned running the place of worship; He looked after the building and ran the school housed there through the week. He also supervised worship and scheduled rabbis to speak on the Sabbath.  He was a planner, an organized person. He had to be in order to do his job. But what strikes me most about Jarius is that his focus and all of his day revolved around serving God and his house. So why did he wait until his daughter was dead before he sought out Jesus? Why did he come to Jesus when it seemed all was lost?

I do this all the time. I wait and wait and wait until a situation is the worst it can get. I allow God to be a last resort much of the time instead of my first line of defense. Sure I pray about it, but I’m disgusted to admit that during these times of desperation, my prayers come out sounding like an almighty wish list instead of loving communication with my Almighty Father. And then when I take into account everything He has already done for me, I feel like a whiny adolescent and that telling God about my problems is the equivalent of complaining about having to do my chores or go to school.

I don’t want to be Jarius or the bleeding woman. I don’t want to wait until it’s too late or suffer for years before I take my problem to God. I’d rather be Jehoshaphat, facing down a massive army and the surety of annihilation with a prayer. I pray that God will help me anchor my life on Him instead of my own strength. I can’t do it on my own. After all, I mess things up time and time again. I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself.

Jarius and the bleeding woman give me hope though. The bleeding woman had been sick for twelve years before Jesus healed her. This woman was probably in a pretty dismal place, thinking that she would live her life being considered unclean and untouchable, until she placed her faith in Christ. It just goes to show you that God can heal situations or people that have not changed for a really long time.  And Jarius. It was too late for him, but Jesus raised his daughter from the dead.  God can restore what is broken and save what is lost. I knew this already, of course, because he saved me, but I’ve been spectacularly failing at living this truth. It’s funny how we trust God to save our eternal soul, but we won’t trust Him with our problems and our tomorrows.

I am learning.

Stories Left Unfinished

It’s been quite some time since I wrote any fiction. Well, let me rephrase that: it’s been quite some time since I finished any fiction. My first novel scared me off of writing for a while. Like years. It’s unpublished and for good reason. It’s really awful. I know this because I gave it to an old english teacher who didn’t have the courage to tell me just how bad it was; she just stopped talking to me. Can you say ouch? I used to be embarrassed about it, but I’m not anymore.

Everyone has to start somewhere.  When I placed my tushie in the computer chair and my hands on the keyboard determined to write that first book, I knew absolutely nothing about the craft of writing. I had only passion and determination, and it drove me through a plotless fifty thousand words of flat, lifeless characters and thinly veiled references to my own life (I feel no shame about admitting it because I think all authors start out a tad bit on the autobiographical side).

It’s been about five years since then.  The road from there to here is littered with half finished manuscripts. I’ve learned a bit about the craft and I’ve imitated other authors’ voices as I’ve struggled to find my own. I’ve had a lot of stops and starts and I am just now starting to feel confident. I feel like now, after five years, I am finally coming into my own.

And I haven’t finished a manuscript in five years. That’s okay. I know all the writing advice out there always says to finish what you start, but like all writing advice, I don’t think this is true for every writer, especially the beginner. Every single story I started and didn’t finish, with the exception of one, mayyybee two, I left unfinished for a good reason. It might have been a thin plot, a terrifically awful protagonist, or inconsistent tone. These stories were unfixable for me at the time. I didn’t have the necessary skills to even recognize what was wrong with them. I just knew something wasn’t working. With the exceptions I mentioned above, I think it was probably a lack of courage and discipline. The fact of the matter is I can look back now and say with certainty that I learned from those experiences and I’m a better writer for them.

If you’re following my blog (I have a handful of readers at the time I’m writing this), you may have noticed that I’ve started posting less frequently, once a week instead of twice. The reason why is because I’ve been working on a novel that’s finishable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s going to need several rewrites, but all the main elements are there.  It works. The characters have depth. The plot flows along. The tone is pretty consistent.  It’s exciting for me and I’ve been dashing towards the finish line. It probably won’t be publishable, but it’s a pivotal moment in my writing life. For the first time, I can see how all the elements of fiction writing fit together and play off of one another.

Here’s to finishing the next one. and the next one. and the next one.

 

 

Verb Love

My husband and I have been together for nine years. Nine years. It’s flown by at a breakneck pace, at least for me. My husband may tell a different story. Sometimes we’ll be sitting around in the evening reminiscing and laughing about something, like how we got into a knock down, drag out fight over a crooked piece of wall art in our first apartment, and it will hit me all of a sudden that we have so much history together. I can’t believe we have so many memories to share.

I was twenty when we met and he was twenty-three. I look at pictures from way back when, and my eyes get all misty and I get this funny tickle in my throat. We were just a couple of kids, so young looking. We thought we had it all figured out, when in actuality we were only on the cusp of adulthood. I think back on that time quite fondly. The night we met. The long distance relationship angst and the euphoria of finally seeing one another.  It was wonderful and exciting. It was fight and chase each other into the rain. It was intense, in a way that makes me feel exhausted now.  It was so easy to love each other, in spite of the turmoil we sometimes faced (and caused) in our relationship with one another because we didn’t know our Holy Father.

Things are a bit different now. We’re older. We’re more stable, both financially and emotionally. We bought a home and we have a child. While I sometimes look back on our earlier days wistfully, I don’t think I’d want to go back and relive them. There is a lot less turmoil these days, but sometimes it’s more difficult to love one another. It’s hard to divert time to just spend on one another. And our definition of love has changed.

Love isn’t just a feeling anymore, the highs and lows of infatuation. The world believes that infatuation is love, and they sell it that way through television and magazines. They use the two interchangably, but it’s not true. Love is a verb. It’s something you do. All you have to do is crack open your Bible and take a peek to find out where this kernel of truth came from. It’s there, from the front cover to the maps. Verb love is Christ like love.

See, if you’ve been married for a good chunk of time, you know that marriages go through seasons of struggle, apathy, or even straight up dislike. It’s normal and to be expected, although the world will tell you differently. The world tells you that you should get up and leave the moment you feel unsatisfied or if things get a little tough. But there’s beauty in sticking it out. There’s satisfaction and growth. And you get to see real love, in action; The kind of love that says, “I’m going to do this thing for you, even though you’ve been really selfish lately. Even though you’ve been neglecting our relationship this month. Even though you’re a tootie head. I’m going to go out of my way for you. I’m going to do something that I’d rather not. I’m going to make sacrifices. Even though you don’t deserve it.”

That’s the kind of love that Jesus gives. It saved my soul. It’s kept my marriage afloat.  Let me practice it more like You, Lord. More and more and more.