perfect only in her imperfections

Valentine's Day came and went. This year we opted to order food from On the Border, eat at home, and watch Couple's Retreat. For years, I imagined Valentine's Day as one-half of a couple to be a romantic, albeit over-the-top endeavor. I dreamt of gorgeous bouquets, fancy dinners, new clothes, and diamond or pearl jewelry presents. And to be honest, a nice, relaxing night at home is much more appealing.

This year was only our third Valentine's Day together. Our first was a mere two months after we first began dating, and our second was a mere 5 months after we married (and 1 day after our belated honeymoon to Costa Rica). The first Valentine's Day we saw Definitely Maybe, and the second Valentine's Day we saw He's Just Not That Into You.

Our lives are, in many ways, like Valentine's Day in that we are quite predictable. On Monday nights, we watch Big Bang Theory, One Tree Hill, 24, and sometimes Life Unexpected (if Big Bang Theory is not new). On Tuesday nights, we attend a C-Group through Frontline Church. On Wednesday nights, we catch up on shows saved to the DVR and sometimes watch Life Unexpected (if Big Bang Theory was new). Thursday nights bring Grey's Anatomy. Friday nights we often go out. (When I say "we", it is often just I who watches the more girly television shows; he puts up with them.) Saturday and Sunday are relaxing, uneventful, and filled with cleaning and laundry. Every other weekend, I am alone during the day while my husband works. Our dogs entertain themselves outside on the weekends and come inside only to sleep and recharge.

I never thought I wanted a predictable life. I assumed I would be on the go, hardly home, and working long hours. I used to be like that, as a social worker and also as a college student, and a life of unpredictability and long hours is exhausting. I'd much rather be at home, talking about what to make for dinner and yelling at the dogs, than running around and living off of diet coke.

Lately, I've been thinking about all the twists and turns life has taken me on. Nothing about my life is the way I planned or expected for it to be. While I am a planner at heart, I'm thankful for all the changes and thankful that life didn't turn out the way I intended; God knew much, much better than I.

If things had gone as planned, I would be living in New York City (or somewhere equally ambitious) and spending every night out. I would work as an editor or have a novel on the best seller's list. I would be forever single, going out with someone different whenever given the chance. I would shop as much as I could. I would be doing several other things that now no longer appeal to me.

How do these changes occur? How does life suddenly become nothing like we expected? And how do we accept those changes?

It's take me months (and to be honest I am still working on it) to accept the changes in my life. My marriage was easier to accept because I married my best friend, a man who is opposite from me in every way imaginable but also compliments me in every way imaginable. My changing jobs was easy to accept as well. The good things have been easy to accept; it's been the difficult and not so good things I struggle with.

But it is also the difficult and not so good things that have (and will continue to) defined me as a person as well as defined my faith. It's in times of difficulty that we walk in faith, that we say several prayers and step out onto a branch and sometimes into nothing, trusting that we will be held up and not fall. Sometimes we do fall, and then it is time to pick ourselves up, treat our wounds, and continue on.

The past several months have been ones of falling and picking ourselves up. We have struggled financially, but God has always been sovereign and provided for us. We are still struggling financially but trusting God to bring us through. We have waited and prayed for a new full-time job for my husband. We continue to wait and pray for a new full-time job for my husband. Currently, we are praying for one particular job, and we will know, by the end of the week, if our prayers have been answered or if there is more praying to be done.

Prayer is tricky because God will always answer; the answers just are not the ones we want. So often, if the answer is not the wanted one, it is assumed God did not follow through. I've thought that way. I struggle not to feel that way now. But I know He answers every prayer, every single one; often we just don't listen to His answers. I am guilty of that as well.

Through these struggles, I've learned how to walk in faith. I am still learning, but I am getting closer to understanding the process. For that, I am thankful.

So much of my life is like Valentine's Day. Simple is always better. My previous beliefs no longer apply, and the reality is so much better than the fantasy.

Thank God for His plans winning out over mine.

(title from "beautiful disaster" by jon mclaughlin)


and all i want to do is live my life honestly

I graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication. My specialization was in Professional Writing. According to the university's website, a spot on the New York Times Best Sellers list or an Academy Award for Best Screenplay could be in the future of a Professional Writing student. The Professional Writing program in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication prepares students for a variety of employment options. Along with careers as novelists and screenwriters, they may also work as publications specialists, assuming responsibility for various publications of a company or organization; as editors, reading and recommending manuscripts for a publishing house; or as columnists, writing critiques, reviews and columns.

I have always dreamed of a spot on the New York Times Best Sellers list. I still dream of a spot on the list. I will likely always dream of a spot on the list. But the truth is that I have been afraid to even attempt to make the dream come true. At least, I have been too afraid to truly attempt to make the dream come true.

I have purchased several books on writing the next best seller. I have also purchased books on how to get published. I've even read most of those books. But I have not had the discipline sit down daily and write the novel that might actually make it onto the list.

Fear has kept me from pursuing my dream. It is a fear of failure and of rejection. It is a fear that my professors tried to take away from us. My professors told us to expect rejection and to wait for rejection and then to use that rejection as fuel to our fire. But I have never been good with rejection, and so after college (and after I had to write for a grade and for my degree), I allowed the fear to win.

But fear is a lie. Fear is a lie because fear tells us we are not good enough. Fear tells us that someone else is better. Fear tells us that we will fail. Fear tells us that it's not even worth trying. Fear tells us that it is better to just blend in rather than stand out. And none of those things are true.

My husband and I attend Frontline Church in Oklahoma City, OK. It is a church whose mission is to Love God, Love People, and Push Back Darkness. It is a church that preaches the truth, a church that reaches out to others, and a church that does not let fear win. It is a church that loves the arts and prays for passion. It is a church that believes everyone has talents and gifts.

And it is a church that tells people to use their talents and their gifts. Every time they speak of talents and gifts, writing is listed as a talent, and every time, I feel God calling to me and asking me to push away the fear and write. Every time, I want to listen, but most of the time, I remind myself there are better writers than I and that I am busy with work and my family.

Last Sunday, our lead pastor did not speak. Instead, he asked someone else to speak. The message was powerful, honest, and inspiring. In it, the speaker said that we should always try and trust God to help us. He said that just because someone else has done something (and done it well) does not mean we should not do it as well. He used the gospel of Luke as an example as Luke was written after other gospels had been written.

Needless to say, I was convicted. I felt as though I were wasting my talents and gifts. And I hated how powerful the fear was, hated how I felt as though I were not good enough to even attempt writing. 

I'm not over the fear, yet. I'm still fighting it. And I didn't start writing again until this afternoon, until after returning from watching Dear John with a close friend of mine. It was Dear John that made me want to write, made me want to tell a compelling story of love, family, redemption, life, and everything else. 

And so I am. I am back to working on my novel, and this time, I am going to finish it.

Maybe I'll even end up on the New York Time's Best Sellers List.

(title from "days like this" by kim taylor)


planets are in motion and galaxies are bright

In the past, when I visited my parents, I would often talk of life as a social worker. I would not give all the details, because that would be illegal and go against the idea of confidentiality, but I talked enough about the line of work that they had a small idea of what I experienced. Life as a social worker was anything but glamorous. It was heartbreaking, challenging, sad, frightening, and... well, a lot of other things.

My dad would usually say "you've seen a different side of life." And he was right.

Growing up, I knew nothing of hardship or struggle. I thought I did, but I was a teenage girl; and the things I experienced as that teenage girl were not exactly hard. The only real struggles I saw and experienced came right out of a Lifetime made for TV movie, and those struggles are more for entertainment than anything else.

Without hardship or struggle, I began to covet material possessions. It was not, by any means, something my parents assisted with. I never received a Coach bag or Abercrombie and Fitch blue jeans I loved so dearly. If I had any of those items, it was due to my earning and spending money. My parents did their best to show me that material possessions weren't the key to happiness or success, but I was a teenage girl and therefore did not listen.

After all, at 15 (and 16, 17, and 18), I knew best; they did not.

It took me several years to even begin to learn that material possessions mattered not at all. When I would begin to understand and grasp the listen, something would happen, and I would turn right back to the world of "stuff." 

It was a empty way of filling myself up. I knew it, and so did the people who mattered most to me. But it seemed to be the only way I knew how to fill myself up. I called it retail therapy and jokingly stated that it was cheaper than actual therapy, which is not true. At least with real therapy, you can pay for it with non-taxed money in a Flex Savings Account; Target does not offer a tax free charge card.

And so now, after years of filling my life, my closet, and my drawers with clothes, shoes, books, and DVDs, I am finding it increasingly hard to bid farewell to material possessions. As I strive to not desire more stuff, I find it harder to turn away from sales and coupons.

I've realized just how little material possessions matter. After all, the material possessions are why my husband and I have credit card debt. The material possessions are part of the reason we do not have the extra money to fix our house, and the material possessions are part of the reason I feel (at times) stuck inside of my house due to a lack of finances for going out.

We own a 80+ year old house. It is a home we rushed into purchasing last January, a home we walked through and instantly felt at home and then ignored some rather large warning signs regarding why it might not have been the best purchase.

I'm learning to accept that our foundation is cracking. I am learning to laugh and then sigh (and then grit my teeth but force a smile) at the cracks in our walls. I am striving to be thankful that we have 1600 square feet of a space and a mortgage we can afford, even if the windows are drafty and need to be replaced. There are so many people without a roof and four walls that would love this home. It's because of my past relationships with material possessions that I struggle with our home now.

It's not just that I want a home, but I want a wonderful home, one with no problems and no shortcomings. I want a wonderful home that costs both an arm and a leg (and probably another body part) that others will fall in love with and be jealous of.

I want these things, and I can't say why exactly. It doesn't matter that the house is perfect. It doesn't need to be. I am 24-years-old; I can not have everything I could possibly want just yet.

But I have always been the sort of person to purchase what I want when I want it and then deal with he consequences later. Right when things would get tough, I would hold up my hands and repent, but months later, I would be back where I had started. Sometimes it wouldn't even take months.

So this time I am gritting my teeth and cutting up my credit cards. I am biting my tongue and not shopping online. I am staying away from Target, other than getting the necessary groceries, and I am deleting most of the emails I get from my favorite stores, regaling my with their sales. It's working, for now, but I can feel the itch of an empty hole to fill.

I'd rather make sure my home was safe and enjoy my life with my husband and our two dogs. I want to be faithful with my finances and my giving so that it will multiply. God has been faithful thus far with our finances, even without our being completely faithful, and how wonderful it will be to see Him be faithful to us when we are faithful to Him.

And it will be wonderful. I just wish it weren't so hard.

Of course, if it were easy, I'd probably not appreciate the smaller and simpler things in life as much as I do.

(title from "you're beautiful" by phil wickham)


all the waves of time are crashing and our innocence is gone

February 7,  2010 marks one month since my last day as a social worker. I began my work as a social worker on May 23, 2008, fresh out of college and days before saying yes to the life-changing question of "will you marry me?"

I had attended the University of Oklahoma, starting with a major in English-Creative Writing and then switching to Journalism and Mass Communication. I was full of ideals and plans for my life. The plans included moving to New York City, writing a best-selling novel and also a television show (the next Dawson's Creek or One Tree Hill) simultaneously of course, never getting married, and shopping as much as I could. Of course, those plans often changed. I considered Boston or Philadelphia over New York City, even jokingly made plans with a friend to move to Boston and liv together. I exchanged writing both a best-selling novel and television show for teaching and writing a best-seller.

And yet, God had much different plans for my life than the plans I considered to be of the utmost importance. He called me to a life that I was not prepared for and am still, two years later, struggling to grasp and understand and live to the fullest. I say two years because it was just over two years ago that I met my husband of now 16 months, and meeting him (and subsequently falling in love with him) set into motion a sequence of events that altered all my plans and forced me to yield to God.

I'm still working on the yielding, and I imagine I will never be the best at yielding. I've never really been a fan of not having things my way and not planning out every step and then executing those steps. But with God, I've found (and continue to find) that if you plan He will often go away from your plans completely just to prove to you that He knows best. Which He does. He has always known best in my life, even if I did not.

And it was because of Him that I began my work as a social worker fresh out of college. It was because of Him that I spent 16 months serving others, working late nights, struggling to turn my mind off, building relationships with children and adults, crying uncontrollably at times, and often begging for a way out of that particular line of work.

It was a stressful position, to say the least, and it zapped me of any extra energy I might have had for writing. At least, I let it zap me of ay extra energy, and not just for writing but for everything else. 

I considered the position to be my calling. And it was, for that season of my life. But I let the calling take over my life. I let the calling dictate my emotions, my joy, and my energy. I became consumed with the calling and let the Caller fall to the wayside. When it got to be too much, I prayed for a way out, for a new calling, and while it did not happen as quickly as I wanted, God provided a new position for me.

The position is still in the social services field, but I am not responsible for making the decision of when a child will return home (or if they will return home) or removing a child from the place they consider home to place them in a stranger's home. I no longer take on so many other responsibilities, emotions, or worries. Now, I can place those on God, where they have always belonged.

By doing this, I now allow myself time to spend time with God. I allow myself time to laugh with friends. I allow myself time to enjoy my husband. I give up my worries and anxieties and sadness. I fill myself up with love and hope.

I should have done this while working as a social worker, but I became obsessed with the actions instead of the reason for the actions. It has been a difficult transition, one that February 11, 2010 will mark one month of, but it has been one in which I have seen the glory and promise of the Lord.

As I continue to embark on this journey of life and navigate my way through this season of my life, I hope to write and document the lessons learn. I hope to share the love of God in my life through this section of cyberspace.

(title from "hope" by alli rogers)


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