Obligatory 2020 Blog Post

Hi. It’s been a really, really long time since I’ve written on here, so I apologize to anybody who waited with enthusiastic anticipation for my next post and was greatly disappointed. (I don’t think that would be anyone, but it’s a nice thought.) I haven’t posted anything since June, and if I’m being honest, I haven’t really written much either. I had a couple of drafts on here from last year, and when I got on here this morning to continue them, neither of them felt relevant to me anymore. Posting them would feel inauthentic now, so I just pressed delete.

So, instead, I’m going to write a really cliche post about the new year, because everybody is doing it and I like to feel included. (I have MAJOR FOMO sometimes. It’s a shameful character flaw, in my opinion.) Here we go.

Continue reading “Obligatory 2020 Blog Post”

California Kids

For Memorial Day this past weekend, I had the privilege of returning to Southern California to see my friends and family. I’ve had a lot, and I mean A LOT, of thoughts about this trip, and so I think this post will be just a conglomerate of some of those thoughts. We’ll see if it makes sense, and I’m sorry in advance if it doesn’t.

First of all, when I wrote the first sentence of this post, I wrote “returning home,” but I changed it. The real and honest and kind of painful truth is that home isn’t California anymore. Technically, it hasn’t been since 2015, and for a few years I felt like I was homeless. Not in the sense that I didn’t have a house to live in, but homeless emotionally. I resisted calling Colorado “home” for a long time, partly out of stubbornness and not wanting to leave California. I tried calling Oregon “home” for a year, but it wasn’t out of authenticity; again, it was out of a stubborn desire to make my choice to move there seem “right.” (Whether choices are right or wrong is another post entirely, so I’ll have to satisfy myself with just putting that one in quotes.) I moved back to Colorado with, as I’ve said before, my tail between my legs and my pride knocked down several notches, and I’ve had to learn how to allow myself to embrace this state as home.

I’ve insisted for awhile that I’m going back to California eventually, that that place will always be home, and Colorado is temporary and it’s not where I’m really supposed to be and it’s just an interim phase of life. Of course, none of us know what our futures really hold, and we can plan all we want, but life rarely turns out exactly how we envision it to be. But out of stubbornness and a bit of rebellion and thinking I know what’s best, I’ve tried really hard to reject Colorado, but I think God has been trying real hard to communicate lately that this place is one where I can abide, whether or not it’s the landing place. It’s not just a place where I wait in the meantime, but it’s one where I can live and grow and thrive. We are put into seasons of “waiting,” sure, but we need to learn how to think of these seasons also as times of growth and learning too.

But second of all, this past weekend was jammed full of quality time with my friends (and quality time is my love language, if anyone was wondering). For somebody who needs recovery time after being with people, I’ll be honest, it was a bit difficult, but goodness gracious was it good for me. I have only a few friends here in Colorado, and so going back to a place where most of my friends still are is surreal. This weekend was filled with a ton of laughs, meaningful conversations and moments, and all the things that build relationships. California isn’t “home” for me anymore (the number of times I got lost in the city I grew up in was EMBARRASSING), but these people are. It’s always difficult for me to determine who to spend my time with when I go back to California, because I’m only there for a short period of time and I feel like I have to make the most of that time and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by not hanging out with them (as if my presence is valuable?). I’m grateful, though, that the people I got to see this weekend are the people who build me up, who invest in me and my heart, who wish the best for me. (This doesn’t mean that the people I didn’t see don’t do those things.)

I have a lot of thoughts about friendships and devoting time and energy to the relationships we deem most important in our lives. I think the hardest part about spending time with people who live in a different state from me is recognizing that, even with text messaging and video chats and the beauty of telecommunications, it’s really hard to invest in people who aren’t physically with you. It’s hard to foster and cultivate relationships when they aren’t literally in front of your face. It’s hard to remember everything that has happened to you in the past year, and even harder to articulate those things in the few hours you have with someone. Is it worth it? With these people, absolutely. But it’s still difficult and draining and an emotional roller-coaster at times. And it’s a little sobering and saddening to recognize the people who, for whatever reason, simply aren’t interested in investing in you or maintaining the relationship you share when distance comes into the equation. The realization and recognition of the people who are in it for the long haul more than makes up for that, of course.

Third of all, if you didn’t know this already, since December 2018, I’ve lost about 70 pounds. A few of the people I got to see commented on that weight loss. Compliments are nice, sure, but what I appreciated was that most of those comments weren’t about how pretty I am now. They were comments like, “You look so much healthier and happier and more confident,” all of which are true, and they are comments on the deeper psyche surrounding losing weight and not about superficial beauty. (The few comments I got about how pretty I look now were irritating too, so, consider this a PSA to not say that to someone who has lost weight.)

There’s another side to this coin, though, and that is the comment that I’m somehow more of myself now that there’s less weight. Somehow, my identity is more concentrated, more apparent. I look different, sure, and maybe for some people the change is disorienting, but these kinds of comments imply that I’m a completely different person now, that losing the weight makes me as a person better, beyond the fact that I’m actually healthier because I make smarter choices with what I put in my body and I exercise and I focus on sleep and other aspects of health. Because I’ve lost weight, only now am I the real me? Since now I’m at the weight I was when I was, like, 12, am I finally the authentic Meredith again? (By the way, 12-year-old me was a TERROR, so no, the authentic Meredith is definitely not the 12-year-old me.) Of course, I recognize that most poeple are not thinking these things explicitly, so I have grace for people who make these comments, but the message our society tells us is that we are not valuable unless we look a certain way. Media and advertising tell women in particular that without perfect hair and makeup and a slim body (but with curves, because that makes total sense!!!), we’re less than. These kinds of comments and attitudes perpetuate that message. Long story short, if you’re going to comment on someone’s weight loss, please be conscientious of what you say and how you say it. The number on a person’s scale isn’t their defining personality factor.

TL;DR: California was amazing and I already miss the people I was with, and I’m growing up in recognizing that California isn’t home for right now and Colorado is a beautiful place in which to grow and listen to what God wants to say to me, and it’s also really important to be conscientious of the things we say to one another, particularly in relation to physical appearance.

What’s in a Song: Anxiety (feat. Selena Gomez)

(This is completely unrelated to the rest of my post, but one of my poorly formulated goals is to one day create a song that has somebody like Selena Gomez attached to it. So, if anyone knows how to make this happen, I will gladly take that advice.)

Full disclaimer: there are some swear words in this song. If you’re sensitive to that, feel free to ignore the play button and just read what I have to say, I suppose?

Okay, on to what I actually wanted to talk about with this one. Well, if you’ll look at the time stamp on this post, you’ll know that it’s late, and I should be in bed asleep, and I should be getting plenty of rest, and I should be doing a lot of things. I’d be willing to bet that at some point my mother (or father) will pop her (or his) head in and tell me to go to bed/stop typing so loudly.

(I feel like it’s important to warn you all that this post might seem kind of all over the place and I might sound like I’m rambling at times, so, apologies in advance!)

But instead, I’m sitting at my computer and listening to this song on repeat because there’s something really soothing about knowing that other people might sort of get what I’m thinking and feeling.

Today at 7:30am MST marks the start of preparations for my 15th surgery. This time, it’s “minor.” It’s an outpatient procedure that will remove the titanium mesh plate screwed into my skull from my first brain surgery a year and a half ago and relieve some of the pressure in my head due to fluid build-up. Hopefully, it’ll also put a stop to the constant neck pain I’ve had for months.

So, I know I sound pretty casual about it. It’s “minor.” I get to go home mere hours after my neurosurgeon stitches me back up. Complications are few and far between. The time I’m on the operating table will be less than an hour total. Cool, right? Sounds easy, simple. I even have told people that it’ll be a breeze compared to my other surgeries, and perhaps to a certain extent, it will be.

These facts don’t stop my anxiety from shooting through the roof tonight. They don’t prevent me from spending a sleepless night writing a blog post and watching Netflix and playing my music and scrolling through social media, sort of all at once. The last several days have seen me spread thin, exhausted from the expanse of emotions I’ve felt trapped under.

The song addresses how we feel in these moments, stuck in the time we’re in now. It’s relatable, catchy, and it sticks in our minds because for some of us, we’ve been there. We’re there right now. I know I am. This song tells us that it’s okay to feel, and that our feelings are valid and important. It’s okay to feel trapped in our own heads and stuck in a rut. It’s okay to feel isolated, to feel different. It’s even okay to feel alone, to feel misunderstood, to think that no one will understand.

The amazing thing is, though, if you read the comments by fans and listeners, people do understand, on a fantastically deep and uncannily similar level. Other people do feel these things. We aren’t alone, trapped in our own heads. If nothing else, we don’t live on this earth disconnected, out of touch.

So this is what I want everyone who has ever dealt with anxiety or uncertainty or grief or stress or pain to hear, and especially what I want myself to hear tonight: we survive. When we look back on where we’ve been, we realize that we made it through. Maybe we have more bumps and bruises and scars than we did before, but we’re here, and those marks represent the growth we’ve experienced. Time doesn’t stand still, even though sometimes it may feel that way, so one of these days we’ll look back on this moment, just like all the others. We’ll see these hard times for what they are now, but also what they will be in the future: they’re a part of our pasts, a part of the experiences we have gone through. One day, we’ll look back on this day and know that we rose from this moment stronger, more resilient, more prepared to face the world. It’s really hard to see the other side of the mountain when we’re at the base of it. But that other side exists, it’s there and ready and waiting for us, and we just have to make the trek.

I say “we” because this isn’t a journey we take in isolation. We find those who are ready and willing to accompany us, supporting and encouraging us when anxiety jumps in and incapacitates us, freezing us in place.

So I’m ending this post by saying thank you to my travel buddies, to the people who stick by me even when I’m hard to deal with. My anxiety isn’t solved and eradicated, but it doesn’t mean that I’m stuck struggling with it all on my own. So, thank you to the people in my life who do know what it’s like. And if you’re dealing with these feelings too, find those people. (If you think you don’t have anyone, please message me!)

What’s in a Song?: “As You Find Me”

I’ll start out this one with some humorous honesty, because this one is heavy. (You’ve been warned.)

I’m not the kind of person to get in my car and turn worship music on. I don’t have many “Christian” songs saved on my Spotify account, and the ones I do have, I typically skip over. This kind of music isn’t my default. I’d much rather put on some Taylor Swift and dance around my room like I’m in junior high again, or drive with the windows down blasting Jonas Brothers’ new single, “Sucker” (a true bop if you haven’t been graced with hearing it yet), or, I must confess, rapping along to “7 Rings” by Ariana Grande. (Sorry, not sorry.) A friend of mine jokes that my music is “inappropriate” every time she gets in my car. (She’s only sort of wrong.)

But, this song was sung yesterday at church. I’d never consciously heard it before, and there’s no reason why I would’ve ever heard it accidentally (re: my confession above), but I could sing along. Somehow, I knew this thing like the back of my own hand, and I think it’s because it sums up so well how I feel about Jesus loving me.

We crave being loved. We crave being known, being wanted, being important to someone. I’ve spent a large part of my life feeling like the opposite of all of those things, which is silly when you look at my parents’ devotion to me and my brothers and sister, or my brothers’ and sister’s devotion to me. It’s almost comical for me to think of myself being unloved and unwanted as someone who was actively chosen to be part of my family. And yet, it’s a very real part of my story.

On the paperwork my parents received from their social worker during the process of my adoption, there’s a section that describes some of the parts of when I was born. About halfway down the page, there’s a little black box with some typewriter text next to it, checked off and marked, “Abandoned at hospital.” The first time I saw that, it was like in the movies when the camera zooms in on something and time freezes, and the character in the scene is paralyzed with emotion. Abandoned. Unwanted. Unimportant. Thrown to the wolves. Tossed aside like charred wheat.

My parents used to tell me when I was younger that my birth mom loved me so much that she gave me to them because she knew they could take care of me and love me where she couldn’t. It’s a nice story, and it built up this lovely narrative in my mind where everyone is happy and content and things are shiny and beautiful and nothing hurts. I don’t know if it’s the kind of response that adoptive parents are just encouraged to give when their children ask about their biological parents or something. I can’t tell you today if that story is the truth or not. I’ve never met my birth mother or birth father, and I have no interest in doing so, maybe because that would either confirm or shatter this pretty little narrative permanently.

I fixate on things. I obsess over things. I become consumed with inconsequential details. And this is one that I have never been able to set free from my mind. This fact, that my birth mother walked into that hospital, went through the pain and strain of labor, possibly all on her own, and then walked out of that hospital without taking me with her, is one that I have never been able to release. My birth father was probably not around. Maybe he doesn’t even know I exist. Somehow, my birth mom, while she chose not to terminate the pregnancy, still decided that I wasn’t supposed to be part of her story, for whatever reason. Whether it was money, or cultural shame, or lack of support, or fear. But of course, in my mind, I’ve come to decide that I’m the reason why. Something about me made her decide not to keep me. Me, a newborn infant, incapable of much more than crying and sleeping. Somehow, I’m at fault.

This is why this song hits so close to home. When you think of yourself as an accident, maybe the result of too many drinks one night or carelessness or recklessness, or, God forbid, an act of violence, when the little voice inside your head reminds you repeatedly of how disposable you are, when you subsequently think of yourself as someone who is incapable and undeserving of being loved, you spend a lot of your time and energy trying to earn love and attention from people. You try to please everyone around you and make everyone like you, often by sacrificing yourself in the process.

But then there’s Jesus, who loves us like nothing else compares. Who doesn’t shy away from the messy, broken parts of us. I’ve talked about this before, but gosh does this song stir this truth up. He doesn’t only want us when we’re strong and devoted and doing all the right things. He doesn’t give us more love or attention when we listen to him. He doesn’t pick and choose favorites because of how obedient we are. I can’t fathom why Jesus would want me, of all people. But, somehow, he loves me as he finds me. 

The Pursuit

Real talk: selfishness is one of my biggest character flaws. It’s a really strange paradox, because my heart is devoted to service and helping other people, and yet I am so guilty of choosing myself and my own desires over those of others a lot of the time. Even more so, I choose what I want over what God wants. My excuse has been that I don’t know what God wants for me. I don’t know what God’s calling is on my life. It’s hard to know what God really desires for any of us, right?

Man, am I wrong.

Sure, it can sometimes be difficult to see the individual plans God might have for each of us. It can be hard to see the end of the tunnel when we’re stuck in the middle of it. It can be a challenge to figure out where God wants us to go to college, or which job He wants us to take out of a slew of all of the possibilities. It can be hard to hear God’s voice in the midst of all the noises that fill our heads (or maybe it’s just mine that has all that noise, I don’t know).

But at the core of what God’s plan is for all of humanity, I think it’s simple. Jesus tells us to go into all the world, making disciples of all the nations. He tells us to love the Lord with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strengths…and to love our neighbors as ourselves. I’d argue that God doesn’t care so much about the titles on our résumés as much as He cares about what we do in the everyday. That doesn’t mean those things don’t matter to Him, but He isn’t consumed with titles and reputations and people’s opinions. God doesn’t love us any more or any less for the school we go to, or the job title we hold, or the company we work for. He doesn’t base His love and affection for us on how others see us, and thank heavens for that.

How freeing is that? How great could our God be that He doesn’t look at each of us and see a bundle of mess-ups, a collection of mistakes?

I look in the mirror every morning, not because I like seeing my own face, but so I can make sure I don’t jab myself in the eyeball when I put my contacts in. And when I do, most days, I see all of my flaws. Acne scars (and the occasional blackhead that rears its, well, head, with a vengeance). Double chin (which has miraculously diminished over the last three months, but it’s still stubbornly hanging out on my face). Eyes too small, lips too chapped, skin too red and dry. Uneven teeth in spite of having braces for a larger-than-normal portion of my life. All the things “wrong” with my body, like the pouches of fat on my body that refuse to leave no matter how many planks I do or miles I bike.

I look in that mirror and often, all I see is a girl who’s been beaten up a few too many times by life. A girl who’s made a lot of mistakes. A lot of them. A girl who regularly chooses the same episodes and movies on Netflix instead of Jesus, or community, or self-improvement. A girl who is comfortable with complacency and routines and the same old things.

But that’s not what God sees. He sees His creation, His beloved. This doesn’t mean He can’t see our flaws and our mistakes. It means that the core of who we are is rooted not in what we do or what our problems are, but rather, because of our identity as His children. If we have been created with the purpose of loving God and being loved, cherished, adored by the Creator of all things, my gosh does that take off the pressures of life. We don’t have to impress Him with our accomplishments or boast of our own successes.

So, I’m selfish. I choose myself over God more than I’d like to admit. I choose my own desires over God’s desires. I want things for my own sake, not for the sake of the Kingdom. And yet, God loves me. He pursues me relentlessly. He waits patiently, watching me run around on this Earth making all of my mistakes, and simply calls each time, Beloved. Return to me. Even when I reject God, choosing the things in this world that are terrible for me, making decisions for my own gain, and taking more than I give, He is still there, faithful and devoted. Even when I wake up hating every single aspect of myself (which happens more often than it should), God loves this girl He created passionately. And the thing is, God isn’t doing this for me and me alone. There’s nothing special or unique about me to warrant this kind of love. He does this for all of us. For you. For your families and friends and loved ones. For your coworkers. For your enemies. God’s love is so much bigger than anything we do (or don’t do).

So, what can we do in response to this radical love? We love Him with all of who we are and all we have. We love our neighbors. We follow Jesus with our lives and our words and our actions. We respond to devotion with devotion. And the coolest part about God is that He doesn’t ask us to live out a one size fits all type of faith. He doesn’t ask us to all do exactly the same things and behave in exactly the same ways. He has designed each of us with unique gifts and abilities to serve Him and others in our own ways.

If you’re like me and you love structure, such a broad and open-ended calling is overwhelming. It’s so much easier for me to use the excuse that I just don’t know what God wants rather than to actually serve Him with what I’ve got. It’s easier to avoid and deflect, because the alternative comes with risks. What if I fail? What if I disappoint God? What if I do something wrong? What if I make a fool of myself? How do I know if I’m really equipped to serve the Kingdom of God? What if what I have to offer isn’t really all that important or valuable or beneficial? 

To be honest, I don’t have answers to any of those questions. But here’s what I’m learning: I am created in the image of God, cherished by the King of kings, and shrouded in the love and peace and grace of Jesus Christ. I’m really, truly learning it. And I’m learning how to accept it. How to abide in it. How to turn to this truth before I turn to my anxiety and my flaws and my problems.

God is in pursuit of you. Relentless, passionate, unfailing pursuit. This is where I’m starting, and my prayer today is that this is where you’ll start, too.

Coffee Shops are Great for Introspection.

Image may contain: drink

As I write this, I am sitting in a new coffee shop here in Castle Rock, Colorado. It’s new to this community, but not new to me. In fact, it was one of my favorite coffee shops from my days in Oregon, and it almost feels surreal to sit here and think of those times, as though they were part of someone else’s story. In a way, they were.

I’m not the same person I was back then. I’ve written about the changes in previous posts, but I’m coming up on two years since I left, and the differences between then and now become sharper with each day that passes.

Then, I was scared. More than ever now, I realize how afraid I was, how much of my energy was wasted in fear. Scared of uncertainty, of being hurt, of being abandoned. Portland is a beautiful city, and I miss my life there in many ways, but my memories are scarred by the feelings I had of incompetence, of unworthiness, of pain.

Living in Colorado doesn’t mean I don’t have those emotions anymore, but it does mean that more powerful emotions have taken their place. Being surrounded by the love and support from my parents and siblings is irreplaceable. Being encouraged by the friends I have made here does more for my state of well-being than anything I ever got in Oregon. Even in the midst of dealing with surgeries, health problems, and pain (all things I have dealt with for the majority of my life), things feel different this time around.

So, I’ve been asking myself lately how I got to this point. How did I come to this place of being able to say I’m happier, I’m more content, I’m more satisfied in where I’m at, when two years ago, I was dreading moving to Colorado to begin with? How did I reach the conclusion that this is where I’m supposed to be, at least for the time being? How did I heal from the batterings and bruises that life seems to continually throw at us? My answer is simple in wording but so complex in meaning.

Jesus. It boils down to what He is doing in my life, in my heart, in my mind. It comes down to whether I’m willing and able to give myself up for the sake of the Kingdom of God, whether I want to surrender myself as I am for the person God has made me to be. It’s all about whether I am ready to take up the yoke of Jesus, to take my own trials and tribulations, hand them to God, and take up Jesus’ instead. That doesn’t mean that I am ignoring the struggles in my life, but rather, I am approaching them with the mindset of Jesus.

So what does that mean, exactly? Let’s take my health as an example. If you follow me on social media (or even read my previous posts on here), you’ll know that I have had fifteen surgeries throughout my lifetime. Fifteen times that I’ve dealt with humanity-inflicted pain and discomfort. Fifteen times that I’ve had a problem within myself that needs to be addressed, and by specialists who have devoted their lives to solving that problem. I could (and certainly have, in the past) approach this problem with groaning, whining, complaining. I could face these challenges with a victim mentality, asking, “Why me?” Just the other day, I started experiencing stronger headaches and pain in my incision on my head, and I immediately thought to myself, “Can’t I get a break for just once in my life?!” But, a stronger voice spoke up. It didn’t shut down what I was feeling, but it restructured it. Instead of, “Why me?”, how about, “Why not me?” Instead of, “Give me a break!”, how about, “Teach me something.”

On the night that Jesus was arrested and given over to crucifixion, He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42, ESV). Here’s the thing: bad things happen all the time. Uncomfortable and painful moments come our way too many times to count, and in our humanness, we want to avoid those things. We avoid things that hurt, that are uncomfortable, that make us lose confidence. How often do we ask God for things to make our lives easier, to take away the struggle or the challenge we’re facing, to give us booster seats and extra padding for when life gets rough? What if, instead, we simply ask God to walk with us through the fire? We approach the situation at hand with Jesus’ mindset: God’s will, not mine. God’s plan, not my plan. As we start doing this more and more, what if God’s will becomes mine? God’s plan becomes my plan. The Kingdom of God becomes the Kingdom of all of us, where we sit at the feet of the High King, not as disgruntled, reluctant servants, but as precious children who are eager to learn, to serve, to grow, to thrive.

Two years ago, I was the servant, frustrated with where God wanted me to be, irritated that God could possibly have a greater plan for me than my own, hurt that God allowed such bad things to happen to me. I’ll admit: I was angry. I was ready to throw in the towel. Having to move back home with my parents, go back to square one with the job search, suddenly be single again after over three years of companionship — what a major hit to my pride. It stung to realize how wrong I was about so many things and to come to terms with what I felt was a major moment of failure. Two years ago, I felt lost. I didn’t want to come home with my tail between my legs. I didn’t want to admit my faults and failures.

Here’s the thing about God. He doesn’t shame us for those things. He doesn’t look at us and see broken people. He doesn’t keep track of all of our mistakes. He looks at us and sees his children. He looks at you and sees his beloved, for whom he has given his Son. How cool is that?

So, two years later, I’m sitting in this coffee shop, experiencing flashbacks of doing the same thing in Oregon… but I’m not the same, and Jesus is responsible for that. And honestly, I’m ecstatic to see what he does in me, in you, and in the world in the next two years.

Don’t Pray for Me.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m kind of a sucker for drama, hence the title of this post and the fact that I haven’t written a blog post in almost a year. Bear with me, though, because I hope that what I have to say in this one resonates with at least one person.

First, let me tell you what this post is not. It is not bashing prayer by any means. I think prayer is super important, and it can do amazing things in our hearts and lives, and it is how we communicate with God. So, please don’t walk away from this post thinking that I don’t want anybody to pray, ever.

On another note, it is not about me. This isn’t about me throwing a fit over not getting something I want, or alternatively about me actually secretly wanting attention but not wanting to come out and say it. This is not a post whining and complaining about the actions of others directed toward me (although that certainly sparked what I want to say). I am a firm believer in taking responsibility for your own actions, emotions, and reactions. Yes, this post is a conglomerate of my thoughts and opinions that have accumulated, but I hope that you’ll agree with me that this post isn’t just me spewing my thoughts, but a call for all of us to move in action.

Okay, now, let’s get into it. Like I said, prayer is awesome. I firmly believe that prayer warriors play a vital role in bringing forth the Kingdom of God. I absolutely believe that when we pray for ourselves and others, God listens, and he is moved by our intercession, and he answers our prayers in his time and in his way. I absolutely think prayer is really important in times and in situations beyond our control.

There it is, though. Beyond our control. If all we ever do is think to ourselves, or even pray out loud, about what we want, nothing is going to happen. If I pray for safety driving home, and then drive like a maniac (or don’t even press the gas pedal and sit motionless in the middle of the road), chances are that someone’s going to hit me or I’m going to hit them. If I pray for friendship and companionship (something that, I’ll admit, has been at the forefront of my prayers for the last 20 months of my life in Colorado), and then hide out in my room all day and avoid everyone, there’s a good chance that I’m just going to continue to sit isolated and never meet anyone new. (If you’re wondering, yes, that has definitely happened.)

My point is this: yes, prayer is important. Yes, we need to be in communication with God. Yes, we need to pray for others, particularly when others are struggling with problems with their health or are under distress. Yes, we need to pray for provision and protection for the orphans and widows around the world who are helpless and without a voice. But if all we ever do is pray, and we don’t act on our prayers or work to help those around us who need it, nothing is going to happen. God doesn’t just want us to talk to him; he wants us to be the hands and feet of Christ, to go forth into the world. Not just think about it. Not just talk about it. But be actively involved in it.

I started this post with the title, “Don’t Pray for Me,” and let me explain why I added the “for me” part. I don’t want someone to only pray for me if my issue is something that is directly within their realm of control, and I don’t want to only pray for others if I can do something to help them. If a person tells me they are in need of food or need money for a necessity, I’m not going to say, “I’ll pray for you,” and then walk away. To be honest, chances are, they’ll never cross my mind again. Instead, I’m going to buy them a meal, or two, or pay for their groceries, or put gas in their car for them. Then, of course, I’m going to pray for provision for that person, but I could do something to help, and I took advantage of that opportunity.

I have certainly been put in positions where I can’t do anything else but pray. For example, I’m not an oncologist; I cannot directly help somebody with a diagnosis of cancer. (I could totally help to ease some of the unexpected financial stress, or offer my time and energy in another way that might be helpful, and I encourage people in situations like this to try to find ways to help in a productive and beneficial manner.). But ultimately, in a situation like that, my prayers for that person are the most powerful thing I can offer, because that person is in God’s territory. If someone passes away unexpectedly (or even if it is expected), that kind of grief and loss is in God’s hands, not mine. Again, I personally can’t do or offer more than my own comfort, perhaps my own experience or empathy, but I can pray for the peace that transcends understanding. I can pray for God’s comfort and ease of grief, but I can’t give those things to that person myself. So, like I said, please continue to pray. Lift up the things in this life to God, particularly when you know that your own hands are not enough. Don’t get me wrong; I am not trying to suggest that we on our own can do things without God. But, God prepares us and gives us gifts and abilities, and we need to use them.

So, let’s start moving. Let’s start acting. Hands and feet aren’t meant to sit idly by and watch the world spin on its axis and do nothing. God doesn’t ask us to just think. He asks us to do. He asks us to move, to serve, to bring forth the Kingdom of God. We absolutely need to think about what that means, and use the brilliant brain that God has given each of us to do so, but the brain is not just a thinking machine. It is the organ in our bodies that commands every other part. So, let’s use our brains to their maximum capacity, and use them to move.

Time is a strange thing.

I realize I probably could not have named this post with a more cliché statement, so I apologize for that, but I have a somewhat decent reason for doing so. (Maybe.) First, though, sorry for the extremely long delay in writing on here, and thank YOU for taking the time today to read this!

Three years ago today, I boarded a ten-hour flight and returned from London, England to Los Angeles, California. I left behind what seems to me now to be an entirely different person in a lot of ways. I left behind a city that still occupies my visions at night and my dreams during the day. I left behind rows upon rows of old books, cobblestone streets, mysteriously painted butterflies on side roads, and endless cups of tea and coffee that, by their very nature of being British, were infinitely better than any American cup I’ve ever had (sorry to my American barista friends).

Now, three years later, my life isn’t anywhere close to where I expected it to be, if I’m completely honest. I graduated from college, but I’m kind of unsuccessfully navigating the confusing waters of post-grad employment and graduate school decisions. I’m facing the disappointment of being rejected from my choice of graduate school. I’m still coping with the fact that I have a (benign) brain tumor and I had major surgery less than five months ago to try and get rid of it. I’m re-learning how to live at home with my parents after a long time of being on my own. Nearly a year later, I’m still trying to figure out how to be single again and, more importantly, how to love myself and how to be loved by God.

Twenty-year-old me was a lot different than twenty-three-year-old me. I’m probably a lot more cynical now, a lot more sarcastic, maybe more jaded in some ways. I hope, though,  that I’m also more compassionate, more forgiving, more ambitious, and more courageous. As I think back on the past few years and my time in Oxford and the things that have brought me to this point, here’s what I want to tell myself back then and what I want to tell you today:

The most important thing in life isn’t that anatomy paper you’re stressed about writing. It’s not that boy you swear you’re gonna marry one day, even if everyone else says you shouldn’t. It’s not the schools you attend or the résumé you have. It’s not the letters that follow your name, or the zip code in which you live, or the types of people you post pictures of on Instagram. The most important thing in life is Jesus. Follow Jesus. It’s not easy, things won’t magically always fall into place, and life (and people) will disappoint you. But follow Jesus.

Counting Down

I love setting up countdowns on my phone. I love the feeling of anticipation, of waiting for something exciting, something great. I like that feeling when it comes to Santa Claus bringing gifts on Christmas, or when I’m counting down the seconds until I get to see someone I love. I set up a countdown on my phone to the exact moment when I landed in California and got back to my sister-in-law last month. I even set alarms on my phone to go off at the exact moment Niall Horan’s Flicker and Taylor Swift’s reputation go live on Spotify.

But the problem is, I don’t like the feeling of anticipation when it comes to things like tests or deadlines or stressful situations, and lately it seems that I’m only counting down the days until these bad things. Waiting until the moment of taking the GRE yesterday was nothing but stressful and anxiety-inducing. Graduate school application deadlines are all over my bedroom, and while graduate school might be exciting, the stress of getting things done is not. The surgery to remove the tumor in my head is in seven days, and I’m not sure how anyone prepares for that or the aftermath.

I’ve been learning recently that feelings of dread and feelings of anticipation aren’t as polar as we imagine them to be. We have just as much to learn and glean from waiting for a good thing as we do in waiting for a bad thing. In fact, in the moments of preparing for something we might be dreading, God might just be planning on using that time to teach us something. I admit I’m not the best at listening for those moments. I suffer from an anxiety disorder, and so my nature is to avoid situations that make me anxious. My instinct is to run away from moments in which I feel trapped in my own anxiety and in the unknown, because they are scary and undesirable and simply aren’t fun.

In a culture of instant gratification and the encouragement to avoid things that are unpleasant or difficult, these feelings seem to be tossed out the window in favor of smaller joys and smaller happinesses. Why wait for something great, exciting, beautiful, and perfect in the distant future when you can have something good yet mediocre now? When put into words like that, I think we’d all agree we would choose the former, but all too often in real life, we choose the latter. If there’s anything I’ve been learning in the last few months of waiting and wishing and wondering, it’s that sometimes we have to hold out for the best thing, even seemingly good things cross our path along the way. It’s easy to excitedly anticipate things in the near future that are tangible and that we can see. It isn’t so easy to do the same for things in the undefinable or even the unforeseeable future, without a set day or time with which to set up a countdown. We have to learn how to wait for those things with the same eagerness.

What’s in a Song: “From the Dining Table”

Harry Styles’ final track on his debut album, “From the Dining Table,” speaks of what he wants to say to a girl as if she’s sitting across from him at the dining table, even though she’s out of his life. It’s a slow guitar-plucking ballad that brought tears to my eyes the first time I heard it, because his album was released right after my relationship ended, and I knew exactly what it’s like to want to sit across from someone at a table and say all the things you missed out on saying.