An Open Letter to My 16-Year Old Self

16 candles

Teenage years.  UGH.  No amount of money could convince me to go back there.

Unless it was over a million dollars….. Which I would promptly invest in Yahoo.  Then go hide under a rock during highschool, become a genius, and emerge a semi-functional billionaire adult.

Let’s face it, there’s no solid ground under your feet when you’re a youngster.  Everything is shifting, constantly. Hourly, daily, weekly.  Friend groups, facial acne patterns, curfew rules, personality traits, and just about everything is a fluid concept at that time in your life.

7 things I would say to my former-awkward self:

1. NOBODY. FREAKIN. CARES.  They’re not looking at you.  They’re not counting the pimples on your face.  They’re just counting their own in the mirror, worried about what everyone else is thinking.  They are, however, gauging a general vibe of confidence.  If they sense a crack, they’re going in for the kill to divert the attention from their own pizza-face.

2.  SHUT YOUR MOUTH.  You don’t know anything.  You hear me?  A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G.  Sorry, but it’s true.  You have guts for days, kid, I’ll give you that, but you don’t know squat about yourself, people, or the relationship between the two.  That’ll change.  Just shut up and listen for… about 5-10 years.

3.  SMILE.  People pay attention to people who smile.  It’s the single most easy way to get noticed, in a good way.

4.  READ YOUR BIBLE.  In order to get to know God better, you must spend time with Him.  There are only 2 ways of doing that.  Prayer is the easiest.  So sit down, and build a habit of uncovering all that He gave us through His Word.  It will never return void.

5. THAT BOY, HE DOESN’T REALLY LOVE YOU. But your Creator does, and He, in fact, invented everything about you that’s cool to begin with.  Don’t waste all that you’ve been given on Captain Cool-Car.

6. SCHOOL IS IMPORTANT.  The purpose of homework is not so much to teach you something specific that you’ll use daily in adult life, but it’s teaching you how to LEARN.  How to absorb information.  And it’s building discipline that you will most certainly need in any area of life.

7. CALM DOWN.  When you’re little, (and I don’t mean just in stature, but also in maturity,) you’re closer to the ground, so small things seem big.  Huge, even.  GINORMOUS!  Don’t freak out.  It’s only huge to you, AND remember that everything is changing hourly anyway, so just wait. It’ll go away. And if it doesn’t, wait another hour.

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Happy “Thanksgibing” back….

It’s Thanksgiving day people, not TURKEY DAY.  Yes, many people eat turkey, I get it, I eat plenty of it myself.  But this was a day set aside to give thanks to God for all of his blessings.  A day started by a group of people who had seen the worst kind of heartache, and for a extended period of time.  And still, they had been provided for, and recognized that.  And were deeply thankful to the One who had given them life.

So HAPPY THANKSGIVING everyone.

And “Happy Thanksgibing back.”

The Project-Friend

A new friend of mine asked me recently if I had picked them as a “project friend.” I knew immediately what that meant, I’ve just never been asked that question before, point blank.

 

The “project friend”: a person one takes on for an undisclosed amount of time to guide them through, convict them of, and teach them things that they genuinely couldn’t receive anywhere else.  (*sarcasm)

 

The “project-friender”: a person who frequently chooses to surround themselves with people who they perceive to need their help, and proceed to give their help throughout the relationship.

Project friender

 

 

Everyone loves a good project friend.  

Rephrase, us first-born, type-A personalities love a good project friend.  We get to boss them, pinch them, squeeze them, and watch them grow.  And sometimes, just SOMETIMES, we stay friends.

 

I’m a fixer.  It’s what I do for a living.  Think Olivia Pope of ABC’s “Scandal”, with a slightly less-fabulous tan. People pay me to boss them around, essentially.  To tell them what’s wrong with the situation, and tell them what needs to be done to fix it.  I give advice, compel people to action, and challenge them to find what’s buried deep down within them.  How on earth does one keep that from permeating other areas of life?

 

Wrong question, lady.  OF COURSE it’s going to seep through the cracks of one’s professional upstairs floor and end up all over the living room couch, but you can certainly control who sits on the couch, can’t you?

 

The right question is, how do you view your friends as peers?  Equals?  With each of you bringing to the table strengths and weaknesses that build, sharpen, and encourage each other?  The right question is how do you do this for at least PART of the time.

 

Well, to start off with, ask the Father to SHOW you their worth. He gave His son to be murdered in their place, (and, need I remind you, your place as well) so I’m fairly certain that they mean a great deal to Him.  What, that isn’t good enough for you?

 

There will be times when advice is needed of course, and God will put you in front of them, with the experience to give the advice, at that moment.  Everyone is messed up, each in our own ways, and to varying degrees.  You might need the advice next.

 

Another right question: WHEN DO YOU SHUT UP?  Just because you have great advice to give (whose advice doesn’t sound perfect in their own heads, right?) might not necessarily mean that you need to deliver it yet, or ever.

 

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-7  ESV

 

It’s God who gives our words fruit, meaning, and a responsibility. Our advice is useless, unless God, in His infinite power, makes it effective.  And so often, I myself become gravely convicted, taught, or encouraged myself through the giving of advice, whether it goes on to “help” the other person or not.

 

When my friend asked me this question, my reaction was so strong, I had to take a break from the conversation.  WHY?

 

Hellooooo conviction.  I do have a tendency to fix my friends.  And what else is that skill than using your friends to make yourself seem or feel more relevant/powerful/important?

 

It’s PRIDE.  At its simplest, and yet its deepest.  As if I couldn’t possibly learn anything from this clearly inferior person.

 

Think back, to “that person” or “those people” in your life, who have been the most influential.  Was this person or these people trying to fix you, change you, judge you?  Not usually.

 

It was the person who was THERE FOR YOU.  Just… there.  Listening, giving advice when asked, and being open to what God was showing THEM through the experience.

 

That’s the kind of friend I want to be.  That’s the kind of friend I’ve asked God to turn me into.  That’s the kind of friend that I, just a few days ago, realized I am nothing like.  Yet.

 

Please. Don’t. Leave. Me.

Child crying

When I was 8, we lived on a 20-acre farm.  Not a working farm, more like a wannabe farm.  We had chickens, and a garden, but other than that, the farm served no real purpose except for secluding us from the rest of the world. Not exactly sure why we lived there, I’ll have to ask my parents about that one day.

 

I am the oldest of 7 kids, and we were all homeschooled at the time.  My Dad, a Contemporary Christian singer, built a working recording studio in what used to be the chicken house. He called it “Hen House Productions.”

 

Even at 8, I had major abandonment issues.  Not really sure why, but for whatever reason, there was always this fear that people would forget about me.  Leave me behind.

 

The worst of these moments I remember like it was last week.  This story makes me cry, TO THIS DAY.  I have tissues at the ready as I type.

 

My Dad had invited me on a “date.”  Which, when I was eight, looked more like a trip to McDonald’s or the video store.  BUT, for a homeschooled girl with a phobia of being left out of the loop, it was the epitome of excitement and importance.  Papa wanted to be… WITH ME.  Alone.  Just me.

 

The day finally arrived, I put on my best calico, and presented myself to Papa in the driveway.  He told me to meet him at the bottom of the hill by the mailbox.  He had to drive the half-mile down the hen-house studio to get something.  He would pick me up on the curb.

 

I grabbed my “purse” which was full of quarters -about 5 dollars worth- and strutted down the long gravel driveway, awaiting my Prince Charming at the mailbox.  After what felt like ages (to an 8-year-old) I saw the family vehicle coming down the road from the hen house.  I flashed a smile and waved.  “Here he is!” I thought.

 

My Dad, a talented practical jokester, decided to pretend that he couldn’t see me, keep going, and stop 10 feet down the drive.  To this day, neither him nor I are sure why he thought it would be a good idea, but, nevertheless it was the plan he carried out.

 

As I stood there, striking a pose to impress my date, my worst nightmare unfolded.  The car passed me up, and the driver, looking straight ahead, seemed oblivious to my frantic waving.  He neared closer, and I waved with more desperation.  The car passed me, and I, knowing that I had been forgotten, reacted in utter terror.  Screams escaped my lips, tears began to flow, my hands began beating on the back side of the car as it swept past me.  It was imperative that I get Papa’a attention.  I CANNOT BE LEFT BEHIND.

 

By the time my Dad had caught on to my anguish, it was far too late.  The damage had been done.  He stopped a little short of his originally-planned 10 feet, and I frantically threw open the passenger door and climbed in before he could get away.  By this time, my small 8-year-old frame had been taken over by waves of tears and despair.  I was hysterical.

 

Even now as I write this, I’m affected by the memory.  And today, I’m far more secure in the fact that my Heavenly Father will never leave me behind.  That He will never forget about me, nor forsake me.  That He, too, desires time with me, just me.

Today, my fear of abandonment manifests itself very differently. There are less tears, less desperation.  But if I text you, and you don’t text back… heaven help you.

 

 

“LISTEN, Lady….”

I am fairly convinced, at this point in my life, that Walmart exists for the sole purpose of reminding me that I am not God.  To remind us mortals exactly how broken we are.  To test our patience, and our ability to love and deal with annoying people.

 

The retail giant has developed quite an impressive reputation for its ability to attract the scum of the earth. Sounds harsh, but you know it’s true. So why do I shop there you ask? Well, for all you know I could be the scum of the universe as well. That’s why this anonymous blogging thing is so exciting. Kind of like internet dating. I could be anyone.

 

So I’m in line at Walmart the other day.  A lady walks up to the cashier who’s ringing me up -who is already moving at a glacial pace.  The woman bears a bag full of merchandise.

 

“This was left in one of the buggies,” she says to my cashier.

 

(You see, here in the South, they’re not called “carts,” but rather “buggies,” which I believe is a truer representation of their dixie souls.)

 

My first thought was: how sweet of this lady to bring it back, rather than just run off with the free stuff.  Maybe there is hope for the People of Walmart.

Mad Walmart smiley

 

The cashier, who obviously would rather be in a dentist’s chair than at work that day, replied with attitude, “well, I can’t do anything with it, you’ll have to take it down to Customer Service.”

 

The woman, who appeared very proud of herself for bringing back the lost goods, threw her hands in the air at the suggestion of a greater inconvenience.  She huffed.  She puffed.  She stood there in disbelief that further action had been requested of her.

 

Then, muttering something under her breath about “just trying to be nice and do the right thing…” she stomped over to the trash can, rid herself of the abomination, and stormed out of the store.

 

Come on.  I mean, COME FREAKING ON.  Listen, lady.  I’m sorry that you didn’t get your expected gold stars, but don’t volunteer to “be nice and do the right thing” unless you’re willing to, um, actually do it.

 

Nobody held a gun to your head and forced you to turn in the goods.  You volunteered of your own volition, and heaven forbid you be asked to follow through with it.

 

Why did this outrage me so much?  Was it ridiculous? Yes. Was it selfish? Yes.  Did I feel convicted?   Hmmmm.  Possibly.

 

How many times have I done something like that?  Against people.  Against my God.

My relationship with God is a beautiful mess.  He’s the beauty, I’m the mess.

 

I, too, am inconvenienced at the thought of having to follow through with something that I know and believe is the “right” thing, and perhaps have already volunteered to do.  But how DARE anyone actually hold me to it.  Or the circumstances hold me to it.

 

Don’t you know…  I’M God.  I make my own decisions.  I can’t be bothered with things as troublesome as service, selflessness, or generosity.  And if so, it will be on MY TERMS.  In MY time.

Come on.  I mean, COME FREAKING ON.

 

 

 

 

The 7-year Itch

THE FOLLOWING IS A REPOST IN HONOR OF MY 7th WEDDING ANNIVERSARY, WHICH IS TODAY.

“We’ve heard tell of the 7 Year Itch, and its nasty effects on unsuspecting marriages everywhere.  But honestly, unsuspecting?  Really?  You’re telling me that when half of marriages end in divorce today, you didn’t EXPECT it to be difficult?  Husbands, wives, expect it.  It’s going to happen.  You’ll be tempted.  You might even indulge.  You’ll get bored.  You’ll get hurt.  You’ll inflict pain.  (And if you disagree with that last one, you’re in deeper doo doo than you think.)

Itching

People, it happened to me.  I’ll spare you the horrid details, but the general outline is this: I’m a sinful person, married to a sinful person.  We both sinned.  It was epic.  We shattered what we had.  It was in a million little tiny shards all over the floor, and now digging into our bare feet.  And at the time, I was shattered along with it.  But now, years later, I see that it was a part of the plan.  God’s plan.  He allowed us to shatter what we had, knowing that if it had only been broken in a few places, we would have tried to fix it ourselves.  Someone get the Krazy glue.  Anyone who has ever been in any relationship with anyone, KNOWS that you can’t fix it.  WE CAN’T FIX IT.  People have been trying for eons.  There are countless books, movies, blogs, and entire religions based on the frustrations of trying to fix it.  I should have received a medal for how hard I tried.

But you can’t fix something that wasn’t designed to be fixed.  We are sinners, married to sinners, children of sinners, shuffling about, bumping elbows with other sinners.  And this makes it oh-so-clear how much we need the wonderful, beautiful Grace of God.  Hear that?  You can stop trying now.  The great hamster wheel.  You’ve haven’t even been going anywhere.

In my marriage, this lesson was YEARS in the making.  It’s still in the making.  But, it’s much more habitual now than it was right after the epic shattering.  Then God created something completely different for us. Isn’t it funny how we were trying to put this thing back together, as if it was the end-all.  But HIS plan was so much better than what we could dream up for our own marriage.

So, back to the 7 Year Itch.  It exists.  The rumors are true.  Be prepared for it.  And you know, there might even be an itch at year one, or two, or three.  Or anytime really.  But instead of allowing the magnetic pull to break something in your marriage (even if it seems harmless, it will break trust) turn the end of that magnet towards your spouse.

My 7 Year Itch has given me a new passion for getting to know my husband.  Something IS unsettled in me.  Something IS bored.  Something IS wondering if there’s more.

THERE IS.  And it’s right in front of me.  Drinking a beer on the couch. There are millions of questions I haven’t ask him yet.  There are millions of things he doesn’t know about me yet.  We’ve never played Truth or Dare in a crowded restaurant.  We’ve never made out in a movie theater.  We’ve never been to the circus together.  There are places we haven’t been, positions we haven’t tried, and things that we still can’t read in each other’s minds. There are spiritual breakthroughs yet to be had, prayers yet to leave our lips for one another, worship songs yet to be sung.  Knowledge of God’s faithfulness yet to be demonstrated through this man.  Through me.  Further evidence to be discovered that God’s ability to love us perfectly is mind-boggling.

There’s so much more.  More intimacy to be found.  And I’m going hunting for it.  My husband is in for it, Lord help him.”

PUBLIC DISPLAY OF PROTECTION

“Will that be all, hon?”

Trying to blend into the floor, I hung my head and mumbled a response.

“Mmm hmm.”

The cashier grabbed the box of condoms like it was nothing more than your average gallon of milk.  But to me, she might as well have been spelling my name out with fireworks. “SHE’S BUYING CONDOMS.”

Condoms

Oooh nooo, I realized.  Wrong size.  Having just become sexually active, (with the man who would later become my husband) I didn’t know the rules.  Will he be offended if I get the wrong kind?  I’d heard that guys were very concerned with size, and I didn’t want to unwittingly emasculate my new (and inaugural) boyfriend by getting something too small.

“Um, I’m sorry, I think I got the wrong ones.”

“Oh yeah, which ones do you need?”

“Probably something a little…er, bigger.”  I couldn’t believe I was saying this.

“No problem, Al will grab them for ya.”  She swiftly fetched the walkie-talkie from her belt and barked the order.  Her deep southern drawl formed a chorus with the other walkies in the building and echoed off of every surface.  “AAAAL!!  This here young lady needs help with the CONDOMS!  Can you grab a couple boxes of larger sizes and bring them to register 2?”

Thanks.  I’m never shopping here again.  EVER.

I paid for the contraband and left the store, feeling a whole new wave of conviction about what I was about to do.  Sex with someone who I wasn’t married to was wrong, I knew it and believed it.  But it wasn’t enough of a reason to stop me, at that time in my life.  I spoke fluent “Christianese” but had not pursued a relationship with the Father.

Two years later, both my boyfriend and I began to feel the tug of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We became convicted about our sexual activity, and became celibate during our 9-month engagement.  (Hardest thing I’ve ever done, AFTER having given this man my virginity.  But the Lord was faithful and we made it to our wedding night.)

A few weeks before the wedding, we were at the apartment that we would later share, setting up some things.  My fiance had moved in by himself a month earlier.  There was a knock on the door, and a package delivered to the doorstep.

It was addressed to him, but without thinking I sliced through the tape and pried open the cardboard flaps.  Inside the box were several other containers, about shoe-box size.  I opened one.

CONDOMS.  Hundreds of them.  More than I had ever seen in my life.  I was mortified.

My soon-to-be husband came around the corner from the bedroom and saw me, stunned, with a handful of rubber.

“Oh.”  He stammered.  “I ordered some condoms online.”

“Some?”

“Yeah.  Well, we don’t want to run out!”

“No, I guess we don’t.”

“And you know, it’s always so embarrassing when you buy them at the drugstore.”

THIS MAN.  He’s a keeper, I thought.

We had condoms coming out of our…. cabinet for years.  YEARS.  By the time we wanted to discontinue use of contraceptives, we still had two boxes left.

It was around then, our second Christmas as a married couple, that we received the invitation to our friends’ house for a “Dirty Santa” party.  It was the perfect setup.

I carefully wrapped the box of raincoats, topped it with a bow, and we left for the party.  The hosts of the shin-dig were our friends from church, who were only a few years older than us, but had 6 kids.

I placed the present under the tree.

Half-way through appetizers, I panicked.  My husband saw the look of trepidation, followed me to the Christmas tree, and caught me red-handed trying to remove the gift from beneath its branches.

“Leave it!  It’s going to be hilarious.”

I wasn’t convinced, but he assured me he would take the blame if the prank fell flat.

Presents were opened, and one “steal” was allowed.  Number 9 was called, and our box, with a big “nine” written on the top, was selected and presented to its new owner.  The only teenager at the party, whose mother was in the home group with the large family.  I nearly died as the 16-year old boy ripped the wrapping paper, and lifted the lid of the box.

Those darn fireworks seemed to go off again.  “THEY BROUGHT THE GINORMOUS BOX OF CONDOMS!”

A few people laughed awkwardly, but the real punchline was about to land.  The man of the house and father of 6, drew the number 10.  Instead of choosing a new gift from under the tree, he marched decidedly over to the teen, glaring, and snatched the box from the boy’s fingers.

The entire party erupted in laughter, as the irony of the decision sank in.

As I caught my husband’s eye, we smiled at each other.

“Public display of protection,” I whispered.