Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Story of Identity

A dear friend commented that I should be updating this more often. So to honor that request, I will give it my best try by doing an entry right now! I can't promise each update will send you reeling with intense, provocative thought...but, I will say, I'm glad you still read it! It's enough to keep me going...

I prayed for a girl today in church who said she was struggling with comparison.

Afterward, I was thinking about it, and I realized how much I have grown in confidence over the years. The healthy kind of confidence. The kind that faces challenges head on and with much courage. The kind that fights back when thoughts of comparison try to seep in. Girls are notorious for struggling with comparison. And I'm not saying I never do any longer, but I am saying that I know who I am and what I've got to offer, and I know that I am of woman who is of great value!

What's the journey with confidence been like? Well in high school, I was shy. Very insecure around people who weren't my close, close friends. Mostly uncomfortable around people who were not like me, especially who did not believe in God, or who did not attend church. I didn't know how to relate with them, and I felt like I didn't fit in.

I often felt like I was awkward, never knew what to say, I didn't think I was very smart or cool boys liked me, I wasn't super athletic, I didn't have cool clothes, etc...and I didn't want to take risks because I was majorly afraid of failure. The biggest risk I took in high school was to be the Major, then the Captain of the drill team. I'm glad I did that, but it came with a cost that went deeper than just lots of choreographing and teaching dances and late practices. It came with ridicule, girls mocking my faith, people not listening to my authority, gossip and slander. And as far as body image, when I think back about the comparison I struggled with there...well, maybe it was because we had to wear spandex all the time!!!

In college, I found a mix of shallow and true friends. But the true ones were such gems. They were the ones who called out the good in me. The competitive edge I felt in high school friendships softened, and I learned to relax more in who God made me to be. But I was still living in a state of discontentment. I didn't want to be me most days. I didn't think I had enough. I wanted to be rich, not having to work. I wanted to be in a sorority, noticed by hot guys, going to parties instead of hanging out with my goody goody friends who didn't drink. I was so bored with the safe, Christian zone, yet I was too scared to abandon it.

Although I wanted to please God with my life and I knew he loved me, I also felt this urge of rebellious start to rise up in me. I wanted to be daring and stand out. I wanted desperately to stop worrying about what other people thought, yet I couldn't master it! I definitely wanted approval. At Baylor, everyone was the best of the best from their school. Most days, I just felt inferior.

Now, don't take this as the whole story. This is just the part where I am admitting to struggling with a form of self-hatred and comparison that really hindered my potential. I also had a lot of great things happen with my schooling, and did meet some cool people and experience moments of victory and fun along the way. Outwardly, I don't think my insecurity was obvious to most. But inwardly, it was a daily struggle and I felt like a wreck.

One of my current roomies asked me the other day, "So, you seem pretty confident in who you seem to do well and be yourself around new people, like it's not hard for ya. It seems to me like you are involved in a lot and can do just about anything! Would you say that's true?"

I kind of laughed for a second, thinking about my response...and feeling like I didn't deserve such a high compliment! I think I still to this day come off more confident than I really feel inside, so my answer was mixed.

The amazing news is, I know I am not the same person I was in high school or college. And most of my friends now don't even know those older versions of me! Some of my friends only know what I think of as the "Redeemed me." I say that because I have literally been changed by the love and acceptance of Jesus! I had to deny myself and choose His ways so that I was completely open to Him moving in my life. He has called me by my name, and called me His own. He has called me lovely, smart, entertaining, a joy to be around, worthy, talented, creative, precious, one who encourages others, wise, a good friend, a woman of character, etc. And because I am in this process of knowing God, I know more of the Emily he has created me to be. Coming into that skin wasn't comfortable or easy at first, and it did require me to put on the "mind of Christ" rather than the self-destructive mind from which I had previously operated.

But now, more than ever, I sense that I am a confident person who puts her hope in God. Anything good in my life is from learning the truth about who God is and receiving heavenly revelations of how He sees me. I no longer look to the world for a definition, a place, an identity, or a title of success. It's my heavenly father's approval I seek. He has won my heart and I no longer look to men for value. I have to remind myself of that often, being single still. It's easy to start looking around and get into that high school version of me who feels that godly, amazing, attractive men are out of my league, and that I will have to settle for a so-so dude and not for the type of man I really desire in a husband. I have to fight the battle of discouragement that I will be left behind and remain unmarried.

But for now, Jesus is my #1 man, and I vow to be content with that, and press into that relationship while I (patiently) await the day He brings into my life the man I will love forever!! :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Another day!

Hey friends!!

So today was just another day, but I feel the Lord's nearness, and I am so comforted by it. I don't have much of a clue on some things, but God knows it all! It's so amazing to know that He literally holds my life in the palm of his hand...while still managing the world's affairs and controlling things like the tide, the sun rising and sinking, and drawing men to himself. What a perfect King!

Speaking of kings, I heard a program on NPR today about how women in Saudi Arabia have been fighting for their rights for a while now. Of course, they have a monarch who is slow in listening to their concerns; they desire more job options for women, for the right to drive, to be more involved in politics, the right to work at lingerie stores (ya, really!), etc. And Saudi women are not shy nor are they uneducated! They are smart and bold, and want their voices to be heard.

I can't imagine a life with such limitations and inequality. While it is true that even in the U.S., men can still on average earn more income than women at their same position, (which is definitely unfair and frustrating), when I think about not being able to DRIVE...?? Ya that would not be even remotely cool.

I am so grateful for the ability to obtain education, pursue my own interests and be respected by most as an intelligent woman who has a mind, a heart, and a purpose in life other than to produce babies.

I've had opportunities to move up at my job with the VA, and I am now at the point where I am wondering what is next for me?

I am now at a place where I have said goodbye to some things and freed myself up for newness in my career, relationships, etc. It feels like a fresh adventure that is right around the corner. I am super excited about my upcoming trip to San Diego in September. I have obtained some ideas of amazing sites to see from my friend, Anthony, who has shared his experiences and passion for the city. I can't wait to jump into the Pacific and bask in the wonderful weather and just relax to the max...Maybe I will fall in love with SD and move there! Not only do they have an Antioch church plant there, but a VA regional office! Hmmm....;)

I miss traveling!! Seeing new sights and new people. Being stretched. Talking about memories I made in Madrid recently has reminded me of my love for "getting out there." Today, I parked in a public lot near the Waco Convention Center (and have parked there previously with no problems). But today, when I got off at about 5:15, the fence around the lot was locked with my car on the inside! I was wondering how in the world I was going to get in to get my car, but quickly my fellow classmate and I found a service person and got him to make a call for the combo to open the locked gate.

It made me think of various "hiccups" I encountered abroad...although this scenario was super easy comparatively, only because there was no language barrier! I remember lots of times when situations of crises arose in Spain or other countries, and I didn't know how to even communicate my panic/frustration/issues. What trying experiences those were. But I grew so much in learning to just deal with things as they come, use whatever resources are available, and do the best you can without wigging out!

I was talking to my favorite aunt, Aunt Judy (shout out!) the other day about life, and she mentioned that I was the most adventurous person she knows. I was kinda shocked and tickled to hear that comment.

When I asked for clarification, she brought up how I took lots of risks when she was with us in just give me the map and I will figure it out! Or...let's just check this out and see! I navigated us all around those twisted cobblestone streets of Venice. Ahhh, I loved that place. It was so beautiful, romantic and unique...and OLD!

I think traveling abroad that semester of 2007 definitely RUINED me for the ordinary. I am hoping whoever I marry carries that same desire for adventure/spontaneity/travels. It's such a bug that infects you...and once it bites you once, you are done for!

I would like to proclaim that I am a lucky gal. I am so blessed to be loved by God and friends and family daily. I think it's important to thank God every day for each little thing he's given me, as insignificant as some things seem. So I'm trying to stay in a state of gratefulness and praise God for each experience that has shaped me thus far and those that are to come.

Ya know, following God is super exciting! Because guess what? He has more dreams for me than I have for myself. He has a bigger plan and a bigger future for me that is prosperous and wonderful!

In lieu of that, I wanna share this:

"The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid?" (Ps. 27:1)