Surrender

Friday again. :) I’m so so sleepy today. All of the work it takes to get through a week has tired me out and left me dragging a little today. The little boy I nanny seems to be tired from the week too. He also seems a little more set on testing me a lot today. He decided this afternoon that it was funny when he tripped and slammed his head into the carpeted floor. Evidently it didn’t hurt much because he started laughing and trying to recreate the experience for the next hour. I’m not kidding. I got books he likes out, I took him outside for almost 30 minutes (even though it’s absolutely freezing outside!!), I started talking about his ball and pointing it out, I even tried “no, stop that right now you’re going to hurt yourself”. (And let me tell you, this kid is a listener, he is very consistent in his ability to respond to the word “no” and move on in a different direction.) Nothing worked. I think if I wasn’t feeling so tired I probably would have gotten a video of this precious kid attempting to do something really dumb over and over again. But I could only sit dumbfounded and keep interfering before he actually bumped his head hard. I was shocked that he was focused on hitting his head on the floor again even after a long trip outside. It was one of the first things he attempted to do when we came back inside. Really, D? Really? Let it go, buddy. Let. it. go.

I do the same thing in my head some days. I run the same worrying thoughts through my head over and over and over. I emotionally run myself into the ground over and over by trying to wrap my mind around everything and try to feel like I’m in control. I forget to let. it. go.

I was reminded the other day that God doesn’t call me to worry or to think through worst case scenarios or to run myself into the ground in an effort to “get used to” the amount of negativity I might encounter in life. He actually says “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” Philippians 4 verse 8.

It’s a little ridiculous to spend so much mental time forcing myself into a situation that drains me and hurts me. I like that God can use the funny antics of a 1 year old to remind me of the truth He is teaching me. It’s going to require more than a trip outside, a couple books, and some distractions to keep me from playing this hurtful game in my head though; it’s going to require a step of faith, a choice to trust that God really is faithful, loving, and powerful and that He really does want me to have a mind full of good thoughts.

So, friends, on the way home from work tonight I will be intentionally  focusing on embracing surrender. To “let it go, Steph, let. it. go.”

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It’s Monday Time

Today is Monday. Ah the lovely day after a full weekend where Lindsey has to go back to work, I get focused on schoolwork again, and we both face the week ahead. (I know…it’s weird when I’m sarcastic, huh?) It’s not my favorite day for sure. I will say that this Monday it was nice to get up and plug in the lights on the Christmas tree we joyfully decorated yesterday together. It’s a lovely tree, and it looks great in our apartment. We also strung lights over the fireplace and such and put up the nativity scene, so our apartment is quite festive. I’m also keeping in mind this Monday that in 2 weeks we will be a few short days away from Christmas and a trip to Lindsey’s parents for the holiday. Normally I would be stressing out, but God is bringing me through a lot, and I walked through a particularly large refining fire this weekend that seems to have burnt off my tendency to worry about the future. We all know that this tendency could return, but I feel today that those days will take care of themselves. Also, as Lindsey so gently reminds me a lot, we’ll take one day, one moment, one conversation at a time.

 

Since today is Monday, I’m going to mix it up a little and post a video that I saw this past week. It warmed my heart and made my sweet Lindsey get all teary-eyed. Love is such a miracle, such a blessing to witness, to experience, to give and to receive…

 

 

numbers and letters

One ultimate question

2 words:

(important, little, involved)

I’m gay

3 word statement:

That is all.

(no dysfunction, no “falling away”, no drug use, no perversion, no giving up on my dreams)

4 word declaration:

I am the Lord’s!

(no matter what you say or what you think or what I do. no matter what.)

5 word question:

Can you still love me?

(no, really. Unconditionally, no agenda for change, absolutely and totally trusting in the power of God for your life and mine, learning how to live and love and understand as best you can despite the fact that you may not agree, finding a way to share life without sharing opinions…)

Can you still love me?

Circumstance

Last night I saw a movie that was one of those movies that resets your perspective in a very powerful way. It was about two Iranian women caught in a world I know very little about and can’t really even imagine experiencing firsthand. (You can check it out here https://www.facebook.com/circumstancethemovie ) I left the theater more aware then I was when I entered. Aware of how blessed I am to live in the country and city that I do, to have the church family that I have, to be privileged to the freedoms that I have, to know the Lord like I do, and to have a VOICE. Because, let’s be honest, I have a voice here in America….you have a voice…and even though we choose not to use that voice at times, we still have the freedom to use it, which is a lot more than most people in most countries around the world.

I will say that I don’t often think about the freedom and power that my own voice has. This movie changed that for me. In the movie the women aren’t allowed to have a free life….they have to marry when their told…they can’t love or marry the person they want….they can’t have different ideas….they can’t use their voices at all (and when they try, they suffer grave consequences). It was a sobering picture of a system to which many women are enslaved. I’ve always wanted to use my voice to make a difference in the world, but I’ve never thought so much about the privilege it is for me to have the freedom to use my voice. I have to face my own hardships for loving the person that I do, but I never thought about what it would be like if I could be thrown into jail for loving Lindsey. I love being analytic and thinking deeply and having ideas and making plans to affect the world (even just affect the people I come in contact with), but I don’t have to sit around fearing that those thoughts and ideas, hopes and dreams will get me beaten or imprisoned or even killed.

I am so thankful to have a loving, faithful, godly partner in life, but this movie also put into perspective how amazing it is to be with someone who loves me so much and would do anything for me. This really isn’t something to be taken for granted! I am not ashamed of that relationship. I am proud of it and incredibly thankful to God for it. What a gift! I realized while sitting in that movie that even though there are many people who don’t agree with my relationship, I will stand up and praise God for it because I know in my heart that it is an amazing gift from Him.

There’s something about watching someone else who is desperate for freedom and trying to fight for it. Not only does it make me want to fight along with them for their freedom, but it makes me want to fight for my own freedoms and claim with passion the freedoms I already have. Maybe this is just me, but I think and hope it’s true for a lot of us.

Are you fighting for your own freedom in some area? Keep fighting…even if it feels like it, you are not alone.

Are you aware of your freedoms today? Breathe in that freedom today!

Are you willing to fight for someone else’s freedom?

No really….are you?

Because it seems to me that freedom is meant to be spread. Jesus spread it. And I want to spend the rest of my life spreading it as well.

rainy day thoughts

thunderstorm
I think I’m starving to death
There isn’t any food in this place
All I want is you

So many thoughts on my mind
It isn’t easy being the black one
And blue
You make it better

I’m exhausted
And the boys keep trying to get my attention
But I don’t want any
Anything but you

He is everything
I know His presence
I’m not afraid
I see His gift in you

I want to watch a love story
It makes me think of you
As if I need any help
With that particular thought

I don’t know how to write a love song
I can’t dance
I don’t need a big affair
Just a little glance from your eyes

And there isn’t enough time
In the evening
But there’s too much time
Until I see you

There’s a stupid song playing now
About pretty girls
And picking the right one
I don’t need any help there either

I got you
You got me
You can hold my hand
We’ll walk into forever

On Monday

Today I pray for hope
For vision that gives me purpose
For perspective in the midst of hardship
For peace, joy, and strength for my friends and my family
For perfect love to cast out my fears
For renewal
For wisdom on when to say no and when to say yes
For our dinner with friends tonight to be full of encouragement
For Lindsey and I to spend the day closer than ever and filled with unconditional love
For my mind to be in a place that is still and knowing that God is God
For the love of the Lord to fill me and overflow to others
And for God’s will to continue to be done in me, around me, and through me

In Jesus Name, Amen

What do you want?

John 1:37 and 38
“When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

I want to be me
A person of authenticity
A lover, a friend
A family member

Adventurous
Traveling
Open
Aware
Creative
Hopeful
Real

I want to be kind
Gentle, truthful, graceful
Peaceful, wise

I want to be a selfless person
To be a great boundary setter
To be a safe place for others
Who consistently points to God
Points to love

I want to love
And to receive love
I want to be a vessel
Which pours out God’s unconditional love
On everyone around me
And accepts that love for myself

I want to make the most of every moment
To not be so hard on myself
To not lean on my own understanding of things
And constantly rest in the fact that I am saved by grace

I want to help when I’m needed
To open my mouth at the right time
And keep it closed when it needs to be

I want to be right sometimes
And be ok
I want to be wrong sometimes
And still be ok
I want room to doubt, wrestle, and question
And to always believe that God is bigger
And not afraid of my humanness

I want to live with purpose
To dream, to grow, to be
To affect and be affected

I want to soak in the truth of the Bible
To read it, to hear it, to run it through my mind

I want to learn, always learn
To be teachable
To see good change in myself and rejoice over it
To be gentle with myself

I want to be free
Free to feel
Free to know and not know
Free from my own judgmental thoughts
From guilt and bitterness
From the judgments of others

Free to live in the love of the Lord
Free from the pressures I put on myself
Free from the pressures other people put on me

I want to be governed by love, not fear
To love everyone for who they are
To trust that God is in charge of people
And their lives, and their hearts
I want to be the one who loves even when it costs
To be like Jesus more and more as long as God keeps me on the earth

I want to celebrate
I want to celebrate without anxiety
And truly embrace the joy of being thankful
To spend time being joyous over my life on birthdays
To revel in the wonder of Jesus birth
To get excited about new beginnings
To truly celebrate my relationship with Lindsey
And the church family that God has given me

I want to give
To give of my time, of our money, of my heart
To bless other people and the Lord
With my giving

I want to have fun
I want to be deep
I want all this and so much more
Most of all
I want to truly live
Because I truly am loved and love others

What do you want?

slowing down

So I’ve been quite sick since Wednesday. I’ve been reading about adrenal fatigue since I’m suffering pretty acutely from it, and it seems that this getting sick often and not being able to get over it quickly thing is normal when your adrenals are depleted.

I started out feeling incredibly frustrated that I couldn’t do a darn thing about the fact that I had caught some germ and was rapidly going down the path of sickness again. Of course, I was reminded of my last blog and the new mindset God has been working on in me, and though I feel terrible, the last few days have been much easier emotionally. I let go of my frustration and have just been…well…sick! I’m taking lots of vitamins and drinking lots of water and making chicken soup and trying to get lots of rest, but I’ve just been sick…feeling awful…not getting a lot done…and all the other things that go along with being sick. It doesn’t feel great, but just living in the life that I have /right now/ is great in and of itself…sick or not. Of course this is all new for me, and it’s very odd and anxiety producing at times to step out of the “comfort zone” of the way I’m used to thinking, doing life, and responding to things.

I can’t change the fact that I’m sick, though. So I figure I might as well learn from it and show up for my life despite it.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading in my “slowing down” time. I find the most amazing things to read. Some of them are articles online, and I’m reading The Lord of the Rings again, and Blue Like Jazz (by Donald Miller) in the Bible study we’re in. Today I came across some poetry on Andrew Marin’s blog that was so real and raw and mind-blowing.  You can check it out here… http://www.loveisanorientation.com/2011/electroshock-therapy/ Definitely put some of my feelings and experiences (and those of some of my friends) into words. I’m so inspired by the girl who wrote it, Karen Bowlby. She isn’t afraid to approach the stigmas that cause so many people to be shamed when they need to be loved.

So I’m sick, and I’m slowing down while I get better, and I’m feeding my brain while I’m at it. It’s not a trip to Disneyland, but I am learning a lot. And I get so excited about the learning that happens in the every day working it all out. The practicing, practicing, seeing things happen, feeling like it never will, living it out kind of change. It can only be done in process, and even though it doesn’t all feel awesome, I’m so thankful for the process that is life.

perfection, obsession, and letting it all fall apart

This weekend was full to the brim! Friday night I went to Dave and Buster’s for the first time to celebrate the birthdays of two of our dear friends. I’ve heard about Dave and Buster’s as kind of the adult Chucky Cheese….a place where you can go and play games and eat and have fun. The food was pretty good (I had a salad of course, since the restrictions on what I can or can not eat are pretty strict right now), and it was fun to be with my friends. My introverted self couldn’t really get in to the game part of Dave and Buster’s though. I don’t feed off of other people’s energy….in fact it usually drains me…so imagine a huge space filled with tons of people, loud games, and flashing lights. Yeah, my brain was on overload. I get so quiet in situations like that, and I tend to get pretty down on myself because I feel like I should be different somehow. We’ll come back to that thought.

On to Saturday! We had the amazing privilege of going to see U2 in concert on Saturday night. I entered the night feeling a little nervous because I was afraid I would have the same reaction to a lot of people and even more noise. I didn’t want to get quiet and feel the urge to withdraw. I wanted to experience the band and the music and have fun with my girl and my friends. I actually did better on Saturday night, the show was incredibly amazing and I loved being able to sit there and watch it.

I had a moment where everyone in our group had left for some reason or another and I was sitting by myself just watching the thousands of people in Invesco Stadium. At first I just lost myself in thinking about people and their differences and how much God loves everyone. Then the wave started. I’ve never seen that many people do the wave. The wave actually went around the whole Bronco’s football stadium like 7 times before it started to die out. That was pretty fun to watch. I found myself feeling amused watching the silly excitement of people, but I had no desire to join in. I had a moment where I wondered if this should be a problem…that I like to watch and analyze and take in and think about things so much more than I like to participate a lot of times. Again, I started to question my personality and wonder if my kind of personality gets people like me (or myself) anywhere. Of course then there is always the question of where am I trying to get myself and what’s so important about it?

On to Sunday. Went to church and thoroughly enjoyed it. After all the stuff I’ve been thinking about, just letting go and worshiping God with everything that I am was wonderful. It’s great to be able to take all my thoughts, all of the things I don’t understand, and all of my perceptions of myself and such and just lay them at the feet of the Lord. It was a precious time for my heart.

Sunday afternoon Lindsey and I got some Indian food and then saw the 4th Pirates movie. It was so good! On the way home we walked downtown a little to get to where we parked. While I was walking I was getting lost in my thoughts again. I was feeling weighed down by all the striving that goes on in my mind. Striving that looks a lot like a hamster wheel.

Over and over I think about where I should work, if I should work, when I should write, what I should write, what I should do, how I should do everything I do, on and on and on. I’ve always had this issue. This problem of obsessing about every little detail in my life because I think I need to be something or be doing something that is “other” than who I am or what I’m doing. Even though my life really is in the best place it’s ever been, I still deal with the same old crap I’ve always dealt with…..second guessing my dreams, putting lots of pressure on myself to be something that I can’t even define.

It really was like my eyes were opened, and I could see my life from a different perspective as I walking Sunday afternoon. I suddenly realized that all the things that have the most impact on me and my life are things that I’ve had very little control over, haven’t seen coming, or haven’t asked for (or even wanted!). I didn’t ask to go through a lot as a child, I didn’t have any choice in the family or time period I was born into, I didn’t ask to be or try to be gay, I didn’t plan on meeting Lindsey, I didn’t plan out my personality with it’s quirks and introverted analytical tendencies…..yet, these things effect my life in the largest ways possible!

I realized that the things that I “strive” over on my hamster wheel aren’t the things that “create” my life or who I am….I realized that trying to get every choice right and every day perfect and every situation ideal did nothing for my life at all. The question that came to my mind was one that asked if the things I try so desperately to control actually do anything for my life, actually change the course of my life, or actually create the life I love….and the answer was a resounding “no!”.

The things that have shaped me and continue to shape me into the person that I am are actually things that I have very little control over. I haven’t “made” my life happen. Life just keeps happening whether I want it to or not. In fact, life would keep happening whether I existed or not. Ok, so I know this isn’t rocket science, but this idea was like discovering gold in my mind. Do you know how much anxiety is created in us when we try to control things we can’t control? Or when we try to reach something that isn’t actually there? Like perfection?

The truth is that God is the author and perfecter of my life. Not me. Living my life doesn’t require a lot of obsessing, striving, worrying, etc. My life already exists…I can’t create it. What I can do is lean into the life I have been given. What I can do is “show up” (as my good friend, alison, says) for the life that God has created. I can’t do anything more than live today as the person I am, as the person He’s created me to be and is shaping me into. I can show up as that person and own who I am and enjoy who I am and love others.

I still can’t quite wrap my mind around this new idea. I’ve been so used to pressuring myself to be something I can’t even define, and I do it so automatically. I start a conversation with my sister…and instead of just being present and being myself, I start to obsess in my mind about saying all the right things and communicating love perfectly. It happens so fast and all of the sudden that in most situations I’m like, wow, I’m doing it again. I start writing in this blog and all of the sudden I’m not being myself anymore and I go into “must communicate what I’m thinking perfectly” mode.

But that’s not what life is about, and it’s certainly not the way I want to live my life anymore. So I would say that I’m on a different track, but that would just be feeding my old way of thinking. What I will say is that I’m listening and keeping my eyes open for God’s working of this change in me….keeping myself open to being aware of when I’m in perfectionist mode….and letting myself be a little raw…

I’m looking for signs of life in me instead of striving in my mind about how to create it.

I’m looking for a job as just a job and not a huge statement about me.

I’m leaning into my introverted, quiet, thoughtful personality instead of wishing I could play games with the best of them at Dave and Busters.

I’m enjoying my tendency to watch instead of worrying that I should be doing the wave with the rest of the people at Invesco Field.

I’m letting my writing be a little confusing and a lot of processing instead of trying to be the best communicator out there.

I’m embracing the things that I love instead of worrying about how to keep them special.

And I’m allowing myself to be imperfect so that maybe I can take my eyes off of myself and take in the view that God is constantly creating all around me.

I’m falling apart a little bit, so that maybe I can live from a place of wholeness that only God can create.

What does it look like?

So obviously the process of coming out to one’s friends and family isn’t an easy one. Everyone has an opinion. Some people keep it to themselves, and some people let me know what they think. Sometimes I’m blown away by the love and acceptance I see coming from some people, and of course, on the other side, I can become very drained by negative responses. I know that being a gay christian is controversial issue, but being a gay christian doesn’t mean I want to debate the issue. It’s interesting how because some people think you’ve “chosen” this, they also think it is your duty to debate the issue and defend yourself. I don’t think this is true. I believe it is up to each individual to take this issue and bring it before God and do the sorting out of it on their own. This includes the people in their lives with whom they don’t agree. You know that whole angle of trusting things to God? I really think that this is the only way that christians who don’t agree with me and other gay christians can stay in relationship with me and others. We have to believe that God is bigger than our interpretations of the Bible and our beliefs about theology. We have to believe that God will do what He says He will do, which is covering us with His righteousness, never giving up on us, and leading us into the truth by His Holy Spirit and love.

I hold on to that daily. I hold on to the fact that I have been seeking the Lord my whole life and that He knows my heart better than anyone. I hold on to the fact that His love is the greatest thing of all. I hold on to the fact that Jesus is who saves me. I hold on to the fact that He will continue to work in my life and lead me according to His will because He always has and the Bible says He always will until I go to meet Him in heaven.

So, I had a moment where I thought, what messages have Lindsey and I received that have meant a lot to us, that have let us know that the person believes in our individual relationships with the Lord (or just the bigness of God period!), that made us actually feel loved? What does that actually look like? I decided it would be a good idea to post some snippets of them here in my blog, not only to honor those people who have really communicated love to us, but also to look at (for myself and anyone reading this) some really great ways to communicate love to someone you may not agree with. (and no, this blog is not about a passive aggressive way to tell people in my life how I would prefer to be messaged….I’ve already responded at some point to every message I’ve received (whether negative or positive)…so I don’t need to do it here in this blog) This is all part of my journey right now and part of me living this journey with authenticity!

Why does it matter so much? Because you can’t change me (and I can’t change you), only God can. You can weigh me down and stifle me, but that won’t change who I am. We have to believe that God is bigger. We have to believe that He is in control. That He understands the people we don’t agree with and that He has a plan for them too. This goes for me as well. It’s so easy to become exhausted by the messages that tear me down, but I have to believe that God is bigger than those, that He will continue working in the lives of the people who don’t agree with me. It’s hard, yes, but, as I read in Mark today, everything is possible with God.

So what does a truly loving message look like? Here are a few examples…

(from an extended family member) “...who am I to judge? I will always love you no matter what , because you are my sweetheart of a niece. I know it was hard to admit it , especially in a family like ours. I’m sure you will get some flack for it, but I hope you know that you will always be loved.” 

(from Lindsey’s friend, Heather) “…the more that I have learned and seen some gay Christians and their pursuit of the Lord, the more it’s made me question the black and white belief that simply says you can’t be gay and Christian-end of story.

But I’ve become really convicted recently that it’s not okay for me to read scriptures or to tell those who ask me about my views on this topic, but just re-gurgetating what I’ve heard. The Lord has begin to show me that in general, I have become apathetic and lazy with my pursuit of Him. Because He WANTS me to search His word and search His heart, and not settle for just an easy answer. But so often, I settle for what’s the popular answer to hard questions, because it’s easier that way. It requires no discomfort, no tears, no late nights, no extensive praying. And God’s not okay with that. 

Basically, I don’t think it’s coincidence that you sent me that message last week. Because it’s something that I can no longer confidently say “the Bible is clear about”…because the Bible isn’t as clear as I thought it was. But it’s also not totally ambiguous either. I have recently realized that it is arrogant of me to think that I can speak truth into somebody’s life about something that it really between them and the Lord. Period. I’m prideful to think I have all the answers.

The only thing that covers all is Him and His grace and love. And I have to hang on to that. ….That’s just been on my heart recently, and when you messaged me, I felt like it was affirmation from the Lord that I need to humble myself and recognize that He is God and the only one with answers. He is not surprised by anything we do. He knows us.

I want you to know that you are someone that I have always admired and valued. And your sexual orientation does not change that. Your heart for the Lord and your pursuit of His love have impacted me dramatically, over the past several years that I’ve known you. I love you, and you being gay does not put fear in my heart. I don’t have clear understanding about it, but it doesn’t change who are to me, at all.”

(from a long-time friend and mentor of mine) “….All I want you to hear me say is “I love you”. You will always be Stephanie to me…the young girl sitting on my back porch in GA learning to trust…the young woman beautifully fighting through incredibly difficult seasons of life…the one I’ve laughed with and cried with. Whether or not I agree or disagree is not the issue for me. What matters most is that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I love you and that you will always, always, always hold an incredibly special place in my heart. We have been through so much together. I can’t imagine life without you, even if we don’t get to spend time together like we used to.”

What amazing messages to receive! None of these people said once that they agree with Lindsey or I, but the messages weren’t about agreement or disagreement. None of the messages were about changing either one of us. None of the messages implied a desire to debate or involved questions that asked us to defend. Each message was at the bottom line loving. Each message put emphasis on the people that Lindsey and I truly are….real people, God-loving people, special people, people worth loving. Each message left Lindsey and I feeling loved no matter what. Each message didn’t make us feel like gay people who the Lord is not with. We are a lot more than our sexual orientation. Our life is a heck of a lot more than all about our sexual orientation. Each of these messages treated us like that is true. These messages didn’t focus on the fact that we’re gay, but that fact that we are people who are loved by God and worth the time it takes to know us, to understand us, and to show us love.

I can’t begin to describe what a difference you can make in a person’s life by reassuring them of the presence of love and the fact that God’s love can reach anywhere. (gay or not!) This is how we make an impact in a person’s life. This is how we continue in relationship with them. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with their theology or not. Love is still greater and will still make a difference.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. I’m not a debater. I know this issue splits churches, friendships, and families. But I believe in the power of love. I believe in it’s power in my life, and I believe in the power fearless love can have in any person’s life and heart. I believe that God’s love is the biggest force out there. I’m going to keep trying my very best to live in this love. Thank you to all the people who have been voices of love to us during this process. I’m learning to let go of the messages that don’t make me feel loved because that’s what God’s love is doing inside of me. God’s love is taking me from a place of anxiety to a place of hope, understanding, surrender, and trust.

Though you can’t see it from where you’re reading, I just smiled. And that is good.