That wasn’t me… Or Was it?

I reconnected with a friend of mine over a year ago and while we were at coffee he was retelling a story from an afternoon conversation we had in my back yard oh so LONG ago.  He spoke of my incredible faith and the confidence in which I spoke it.  The conversation was about worry and the future and what to do about both.  He says my response stays with him still today, “If I lose my job, God will provide another.  If I can’t teach anymore, God will show me what is next.”  Simple, confident and full of zeal those words seemed to me. So contrary to where I was in my life at this time, I asked him if he was sure that was me?  I mean there were a lot of Christina’s in the group back then, “Are you sure that was me?” He was POSITIVE he promised, that it was me.  He even gave detailed account of where we were sitting and the sunshine day that it was. 

Even though I politely, accepted his recount of the events; I still drove away thinking, “That couldn’t have been me.  I am sure he must have been talking with that other Christina. That just doesn’t sound like me.  It doesn’t sound like words I would say.  It definitely could not have been how I was feeling, because I don’t ever remember feeling that certain about anything.” 

As I retold the story to a few of my friends who still knew me from back then, one dear friend reminded me, “Yes that sounds like you.  Yes that is something you would have said back then.  I remember how you talked to us about God and life and everything.  Yes that was something you would have said.”  So here I was in quite the quandary.  I believed I had a very good grasp on my memories of things: me, places, people, ideas, etc.  But now I was having to try to reconcile my memories with his AND her memories of me.  I would have NEVER dreamed my idea of the past would be so different from others. 

This started to remind me of how much my life had changed from those days.  How when I moved to Seattle my world fell apart: my “family” went away, I experienced the “crisis of faith”, my friends disappeared, the confidence I once oozed out of my pores had evaporated from my soul, and I couldn’t build new real friendships in this strange silly place.  Who would have thought a simple move 3 hours north of my whole WORLD, would have brought such chaos and disaster into my emotional, social, spiritual, and physical life.  But it did.  And the consequences are still ever-present in my life today. 

As I was leaving that meeting with my friend I took a quick inventory of my life: relationship with God, Faith, Church, and the like and it was immediately clear to me, “I am never going to get back there.”  Back to that place where I had that faith and confidence in God like I use to.  That my WHOLE spiritual life would never return to a simpler, safer, securer time as I had back then. 

Then I signed up for CAMP – Royal Family Kids Camp – Tualatin.  The details and background on this are soon to come, but fast forwarding to a week after camp and I am talking with a friend on the phone.  And it happens, right there as natural as it was 15 years ago.  The statement of faith… “If that happens then God will just have to take care of the details.” And in a moment I was transported back in time to a place I had lost.  And through the shame, guilt, sadness, hurt, and despair, I had returned back to a confident place of faith that I thought was gone FOREVER.  And in that moment I realized that comment that was said so long ago… was me.  And now in this next step and in this next moments, it IS ME.

My Companion in this Life

The view we have looking at the events that have happened in life is spectacular.  My memory is not perfect, but I do remember details, pictures, situations.  And with this memory I have the ability to judge, evaluate, and cast an opinion about why or how come I did what I did.  So as I sit today, I can look over the last 10 months and realize I got off track.  I forgot who I was living for and why.  I got distracted by a boy who liked me and wanted to be in my life in every way.  Ironically, just like I had always wanted and just like I had been asking God to provide for me for years.  But upon looking back at that time period that he was in my life, I can see how out of touch with God I had become.  How my life became chaotic and confusing, full of noise and distraction.  How I could not hear my own self think let alone hear God’s still small voice?

But in the last 5 weeks, my life has seen a dramatic change.  With his exit from my daily life, I have returned to a place I like: a place of peace.  Life still exists and whirls around me at a lightning pace.  I am still traveling for work, going to church, attending friend’s weddings, and attempting to find time to do laundry.  But my mind is at peace and my heart is at rest.  My time spent at CAMP was a HUGE part of getting me here.  So as I returned home to continue my life anew, I found this blog post and believed it was worth a re-visit. 

After a few dreams and visions of God in my mind’s eye, I started to wonder what it would be like to have Jesus as my actual constant companion.  Having him actually walk with me to face every situation I encountered.  The ever-present wingman and advocate.  No matter what I was facing: boys, bars, my boss, unemployment, emotions, conflict, isolation, confusion, conflict, uncertainty, or lose.  It brought me heart-felt comfort to think of him with me and a remembering of how much I missed his companionship.  I saw him in various places in my life, where he had been there as a source comfort and courage in the past, but was wondering if he could be there in my life, again.  As I began to embrace these thoughts and images, the more real and alive he became.  He was no longer just an image in a painting, he was no longer just a good idea, or the concept of man who once was. There have even been moments I see him sitting in the passenger seat of my car, there to keep me company, provide support, and even instill that extra ounce of courage when I start to feel insecure. 

A friend of mine once shared with me a perfect illustration of what can happen over time.  He shared that often times (most of the time) we as Christians, get busy doing what we think we are supposed to do.  We rush into situations, run fast into the doing of life, and running of ministries or pushing ourselves into a busy frenzied; but then on Sunday mornings or on those times when we feel the most in despair we cry out, “OH GOD where are you?  What is your Will? What do you want me to do here I am so confused and nothing feels right.”  And it is in those moments when we need to stop and look around.  Look at where we are and find out where is Christ.  And if we are alone, confused, in chaos, or depressed it is likely that we have we gotten so excited about our own ideas and plans that we have literally ran to those THINGS and RAN RIGHT PAST CHRIST.  He was standing barely one or two steps in front of where we were and asked us to join him, but we got so caught up in what we saw ahead of us we just ran straight ahead to the goal.  We saw what we could do with this little idea or suggestion and RAN with it to what WE believed was the end goal.  But if we would just stop, sit, spend time, ask questions, and listen to his voice; we might realize all we are to do is one little thing.  One simple task, one step at a time, one serving moment, one gesture of good will not fill our lives with OBLIGATIONS and DUTIES.  And by taking the one step and not the 23 steps to the ACCOMPLISHMENT, we would allow him to help us in our struggle, stress, fears, and feelings because he would be right there WITH us, in the place he wanted us. 

With my do, make, create, accomplish, fix personality and over-compensating behaviors; it is so easy for me to get lost in my own plans and my own desires.  But after hearing this idea, I am trying to continually ask where is Jesus?  Is he by my side, am I spending the time with him to ask my every move questions?  Or am I so wrapped up in my own plans and purposes that I am in stress, chaos, drama, distress, and depression.  So in my mind, it has been so helpful to imagine him as a real person sitting with me, standing next to me, and at times hugging me as I ponder my purpose and position in life.  He really has become more of a companion, than just a bible story, ancient historical figure, or future figure-head.  There are times I still get lost, distracted, and am out there by myself; but my hope is that I will remember how his life, touch, comfort, and courage can resolve much more than my knowledge, skills, and experience can ever do. 

Where did all my friends go?

The more time passes the smaller and smaller it seems my circle of friends becomes.  I am now realizing the amazing privilege I had to be part of a college and career group that desired to be together.  That had the charisma and draw that seemed to bridge gaps and draw single people together like nothing ANYONE else had ever seen.  The dilemma with this is that life must go on, changes must be made, and people eventually move into different stages of life.  And as they do that their relationships and friendships change. 

Yet for me, I feel I am in the same stage I was back then.  I am single, working, serving, going to church, and living my life.  It doesn’t feel all that drastic from my life 15 years ago.  I know it is because my pay check is larger, I have my own paid off car, I live in a house, and I work in a place that respects my skills (most days).  But my contact list is smaller, my physical personal interactions are fewer, and I can’t seem to gather more than 10 people at a time in my house for free food and fun.  So this leads me to ask the question: Where did all my friends go?

I saw this snippet online and had to take this equivalent to a self-test, and wonder in my old age have I let my friendship skills slack? 

When someone tells me they have no friends and they are no longer in adolescence, I have a difficult time with that statement. Why? Because at some point, you have to offer people something. If all you’re offering is negativity, you will find yourself alone. If all you’re being is needy, you are draining the life from people. Asking the question “What can I do for you?” and being there for someone, you are proving yourself to BE a friend. That is the only way you GET friends. If you truly have ZERO friends, take a look at what you’re offering people. You’re offering people nothin’, so that’s what you got. Being a friend gains you credibility, and begins the process of building relationships. Please note: this takes time! Rome wasn’t built in a day! Don’t suffocate people. Simply BE the friend YOU would like to have, and you will never be lonely.

I have not asked that question lately and to be honest it is not a normal part of my vocabulary. I do look for opportunities to be there for people and offer up what I think I can give after I have decided what they want.  But I do not actually ASK them “what can I do for you?”  Such a simple shift in perspective from what can I get and what do I deserve and what am I missing… To an offering of self to be or do what another needs.  I know this.  I have done this. I believe in this.  I can do this again.  But I have spent so much time feeling the lonely, empty, vacuum of my hurt, rejection, and abandonment; all I have done is work on figuring out how to fix me, rescue me, redeem me; that I have forgotten that extending the gift of give, care, and empathy first is what makes the way for others and God to bring all those things into my life and fill me up naturally. 

Another clever quote I read:

If you wish “acquaintanceship,” BE RICH.  If you wish friends, BE A Friend.”

There is nothing like money to make you attractive and appealing to others. But, of course, the kind of people who are attracted to you only because of what you can do for them are most likely acquaintances, not friends. You may have many acquaintances if you become wealthy, but whatever your station in life may be, you will never have true friends unless you are a friend to others. Be very selective in your choice of friends. Choose to associate with positive people who like you for the person you are, who encourage you to be yourself and to be the best you can be.

I am beginning to understand more and more that it is not the sheer volume of people I have around me to call at any given moment.  Rather it is the quality of those people who will help define me as the person I want to become.  The people I surround myself with are the ones who will either embrace who I am and challenge me to work harder, be stronger, and seek God or they will be the ones who keep me stagnant, slothful, and stale.  I feel that I have been through the stagnant waters and I am done.  Bring on the new, fresh, exciting life ahead and with that I seek the strong old friendships and the positive new friendships; but most importantly focusing on the kind of friend I can be to those around me for their growth, improvement, health, and support.  That I may be the one offering “What can I do for you?” more than asking what can they do for me.

Mental Body Image – Creatively Active Imagination

There is this thing called mental body image… how do I in my mind’s eye SEE myself?  There have been discussions and discussions about girls, ladies, women and their low self-esteem or poor self-image.  That this battle between how they look and how they value that image in their mind’s eye results in eating disorders, depression, cutting, suicide, and many other destructive outlets.  So many of us discourage negative talk about our own bodies, and attempt to reinforce a positive self-talk about our beauty and value. 

But as I embarked on this journey of weight loss I challenged myself to look at my real body image, and I discovered something rather interesting.  For me I have had the same view of myself for years and years and years. I have pictured myself on the inside completely different from I appear on the outside.  For me the mental image, I have seared in my mind’s eye hasn’t changed in almost 15 years or longer.  It does not change with my weight, the fashions, my hair style, or even my skin tone.  My mind has the same picture representing who I am year after year.  It’s almost like I have created an avatar in my mind about who I look like and who I am. 

My Mind's Eye View

I can even see this character engaging in conversations with groups of people when I am trying to anticipate how a situation will go.  This same image appears when I dream (on the rare occasions) and when I fantasize about my future life with God, goals, and a guy. 

The picture on my blog is an illustration by one of my favorite artists, Ron DiCianni.  If you are not sure if you have seen his work, please click here for a sampling of his work Google Images.  And some how that image of that woman just stuck with me.  I think there may be adaptations in my head, but she is fairly close to the avatar I think my mind has created. I do not see myself as glamorous, hot, model status, but more average in almost every way; maybe what my heart believes I look like without the weight.  Or possibly the woman I have always wanted to live up to in what my psyche sees as attractive, good, presentable, sweet, and desirable.  But the fascinating thing is how this image doesn’t change. 

Even though I look in the mirror every day and I get naked to try on clothes; the reality of me physically in real life does not impact the image in my head.  Which I believe is why I can be so confident at times.  That I can forget about how my looks do not measure up, and stand tall with my minds image firmly in place to take on the world.  It is definitely not intentional, and I do not always see the image when I am being bold or fighting my insecurities.  But I do know at times this internal representation of myself has made it easier for me to present who I am to the world with confidence.  It has brought me a way in which to battle the ever clamouring voice of insecurity stating how I am not pretty enough, attractive enough, or even acceptable enough to be some place because of my outside looks.  So is it any wonder that I like forgetting what I look like as soon as I walk away from the mirror? 

I wonder at times if this is the reason I have not cared to focus on losing weight?  If my avatar is healthy and energetic and positive and pretty and that is who I see myself as… is there any wonder why losing weight has not been a deep-seated priority?

It also brings to mind a deeper question that in itself makes me worry.  If it is so easy for me to accept this avatar as the image of myself and it is a distorted view of reality (or is a complete fantasy not based in reality) in my head; how do I know for certain that I am not generating more wrong interpretations of reality?  How can I be sure anything else I interpret in my mind is TRUE in reality and not just a fabrication of my all to creatively active imagination?

Some Days a Dream is Just a Dream… Right? Part 2

Some where else in the town, I could see people talking about the small black cloud hovering over a small corner of the kingdom. The wise ones said it was because someone had used magic but not the way they were suppose to. Others thought it was a great invasion of evil into this preciously protected place. And all the people young and old alike started rushing around as if preparing for a great hurricane, closing windows and preparing rooms for some grand disaster. Somehow, I knew I was to blame, but I didn’t know what I had done. I tried to remember what I had said to get there, but I wasn’t even sure I knew where THERE was. 

As I wandered outside the classroom, things seemed calmer and most everyone was treating it like just another overcast day going about their lives as normal. I was truly in awe observing all the colors and clarity of this place, how peaceful and joyful it felt. As I seemed to glide down the street, I couldn’t help but notice I was in a simple, sweet princess style dress complete with ribbons, and ruffles. Something I would NEVER feel comfortable in here in reality; but in this place it was sheer beauty and grace. When I came upon the market, I was thrilled to see such pretty things, and to be honest besides cooking, my favorite form of therapy is the retail variety, so this market was a complete joy to see, especially with all the colors. 

I think I had just run my hand across the second table of items, when I heard a familiar and comforting voice, “You and

Purely for Reference

your pretty things.” With the grace and cliché of most fantastical stories, he put his arm around my waist and spun me around, sweeping me into his arms in an embrace followed by a dance step or two through the market. “It was you wasn’t it?” He asked with a knowing grin, and squinting eyes. “What…” was my only response, attached to a soft and innocent tone.  He was as close to taller than me, dark, and handsome as my imagination can create, but he looked strikingly like Skeet Ulrich (my brain does not usually dream up real people). 

“It was you that used the magic that brought in the darkness?”

With a sad and sorrowful look I replied, “I didn’t mean to. I just wanted to see you, I wanted to be with you, I wanted to feel you want me, again. I wanted to feel the smile I have when I see you looking at me.  I guess I just wanted it so deeply and so strongly, I didn’t realize I had wished it until I was here. And then I didn’t know what to do.”

“You know I want you to be here. You know I want to swing you in my arms all day long.” With two more turns he swung me to the other side of the market. “But you know it’s not time yet.  That this place is not ready to have you yet and it is not time yet for us to be together.  There are things you have to finish over there. You know there are things that you have to fix before we can be together.” My nodding was the only reply I could muster. “You and I will be together soon; but you must finish what you started first.” And with much pain and regret, I lowered my head with great sadness knowing all to clearly and confidently, he was right. 

As a parting statement he says, “I will take care of the darkness, but you need to return now.”

And with the closest of embraces, I closed my eyes and awoke from my sleep. And with the expression somewhere close to, “Oh wow” spoken in a sleepy amazed state, I tried to start my day. 

The feelings that enveloped me are hard to describe with my limited vocabulary; but if you have ever awoke from a deep sleep with a blanket of emotional warmth embracing you in a satisfied nurturing peace, that begins to describe my waking state.

Some Days a Dream is Just a Dream… Right?

I am not a dreamer. I don’t usually sit and retell the times when I had a dream about… My dreams are usually here for a flash, an instant, and glimpse into one scene, one picture, one feeling and then they are gone. I think I have had 6 dreams in my whole life that I remember the details (not that they made sense) and could retell them past the morning after. They have been incredibly strong their message to my soul and they carry over into my feelings even towards people in my real life. Even as I am pondering this, I know this is one dream, I really should write down. Because today while camping, I awoke with the most compelling dream I have had in a great great while.

What is it about dreams that you can never seem to remember the beginning? I am trying to grasp the beginning of my dream this morning and it is just not there, but the final scene is. I am walking through a small town market, like a Saturday market style place only smaller. I am walking with none other than Skeet Ulrich (yes I have seen my fair share of Jericho and the character they made him in that television show will forever be seared into my memory; but its been at least a year or so since my last sneak peek.) Regardless, it is him and we are a THING, walking hand in hand, laughing at things, basking in the sunshine, and absorbing what seems like magic in the air. When I pause for a moment and ask the all too important question I do in most of my dreams… How did I get here?

An Amazing View

It is in this moment, that I start to feel the sense of magic and fantasy as I look at the scenery behind me and realize I didn’t just show up here or walk there or arrive in a car, but I actually just appeared in this place-the town, the classroom, the market.  This whole place was a world set apart from the reality that I was from (that the dreaming me was from).   And as my dream-self was looking around past the tables and the trinkets of the market I began to see the scene unfold as if from Prince Caspian or Lord of the Rings and in this magical place my dream-self was not supposed to be there. I realize that I had done something… something I was not supposed to do.

I had made a wish. I had wished to be with him. My dream-self had been in that dreaded reality that was full of responsibilities, facts, jobs, work, pain, and loneliness.  And all I had wanted was to be in this amazing joyful carefree place with him again.  Living in that place where my laughs were heard by someone who cared ever so deeply for me and my heart.  I wanted to remove the feel of the real world and be amidst the magic and wonder that this other mysterious place always seemed to offer.  So I wished to be with him again, be where he was, feel his touch again, and feel the smile on my face as I look at him.  And in those simple thoughts and maybe even the smallest of whispers I wished it. And with that simplest of wants, smallest of wishes… I appeared there in that place. 

I began this walk in a classroom, wandering the rows of desks, being reminded of pleasant times teaching, with laughing children, and positive learning. I seemed to glide across the floor with each step, but not out-of-place from everyone else in this place.  I was not a foreigner here in this place, the people knew me, accepted me, and even welcomed my presence, unaware that I was NOT supposed to be there.  They did not know it was me that was wrong, but there was something wrong in this place.  And I knew as much as I desired to be here I was the one out-of-place.

To be continued…

A Word of Laughter

As I was exploring churches last year, I stumbled into a place that was full of the spirit and the expression of the Gifts of the Spirit were present at every meeting.  And as much as I was beginning to remember the church I missed so many years ago, I got lost in the worship time as I communed with God.  I really did ask him for direction in finding a church, life decisions, my relationship with him, and just a piece about knowing where I was at.  I was troubled with knowing where to go and what to do with my life.  I had been on a path of leadership and testing some of my theories alongside the teachings I had received in college, but in a few short months the whole group collapsed and dissolved.  How discouraging.  I was displaced and disillusioned about what I thought I knew about almost EVERYTHING. 

So there I was sitting in worship and among all the others in the room I felt a move of the Holy Spirit and I began to giggle.  And as much activity as was surrounding me it wasn’t a laughter that was noticed.  And I heard, let yourself laugh.  So I did.  An expression of pure joy and physical release I just laughed and laughed and laughed.  It became a form of therapy by expressing this laughter that resulted in feeling freedom and release. As this joy and relaxation covered my body, I truly felt as innocent as a child laughing as I ran through a park on a sunny day.  

Once the singing and laughing had calmed down, I heard these words in my mind and I reached immediately for my journal.  In years past, I was completely dependent upon the inspired words of others to be those heart piercing messages from God.  I had not felt God impart on me a special decree or specific word of knowledge to my own ears.  And here it was a specific set of words JUST FOR ME, TO ME, FROM GOD.   

My Laughter inside & out

Miracles happen in the context of laughter.  Your faith is standing right here with you right now!!! Christina, God loves to hear your laugh.  He is not embarrassed, he revels in the joy and music that is your laugh.  It is special and sweet, so unique to who you are.  It is touching to his ears and heart when you laugh.  Allow your laugh to resonate to the heavens; sing in your laughter as the joyful woman you are.

In that moment, I was touched, encouraged, inspired, and lifted about 5 stories from where I was emotionally.  This last week at camp, I had more than 3 people comment on my laugh being an important part of bringing joy to the campers.  They even prayed that the joy that was inside my laugh would fill each child I encountered.  I had never looked at my laugh that way.  I didn’t even think much about how I laugh or why.  I just know I feel it, so I do it. I know that I smile as a pure response to people looking at me because I want them to know I saw them.  I also find that laughing is a good response to just about anything. 

When I first visited the new singles group last year, I was playing speed scrabble for the first time and let’s just say I’m NOT so good with the spelling and such.  I don’t like crosswords or regular scrabble-did I mention I loved MATH? But as I was attempting to just have fun and play along with whatever was going on, I was just being myself.  One of the gals looks up at me and says, “You laugh at everything.  You make me feel like I’m funny.  I like you.”  What an amazing compliment.  My laugh in its natural state moved some one to like me, without much effort.  I had never had that honest a comment before. 

Such an amazing word, as well as a confirmation that who I am and what I do is a good thing.  Some days the natural does come through positively, ahhhh what a nice feeling – finally.