Wednesday, March 8, 2017

My Feelings Are Not My Reality.

I have social anxiety.

There. I said it.

The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Right?


Because it really only starts the conversation. Do I have social anxiety? I don't know. Maybe I don't. People with REAL anxiety might look at my symptoms and scoff at me. So maybe I'll just admit that I have mild social anxiety. I mean, I can look at the world around me and see others who have severe social anxiety. So maybe they're the only ones who can say it.

So maybe I have mild social anxiety.

But I don't answer phone calls from people I don't know. I don't make phone calls. I'd rather ask someone else to do it for me because in order to make a phone call, I need to have a good cry and find myself with no other options... like writing an email or sending a text message. I have more control over written mediums. I can read it over a dozen times and ask someone else's opinion about how I phrased it.

I was in charge of an event once. But I made a mistake and other people noticed. So I found an excuse to leave my own event so I could talk about it with someone safe. They agreed that my mistake wasn't intentional, so all I had to do was remember to do it differently next time, go back to the event and keep going.

I had a good cry first.

Did I tell you I'm really good at smiling?

I can wipe my red eyes, take a few deep breaths and keep going. All the while my mind is abuzz. It's like I can't turn it off. Yes. Remember to do it differently next time. Move on. But what about my job? What if people don't trust me after this? Will my mistake hurt my credibility? I don't always make mistakes, but what if this one turns out to be a really big deal?

BUT I'M HUMAN. We're all human.

But that doesn't mean people always give me grace.

But I would have given them grace...

But they might not give it to me.

There was someone else listening when I got called on my mistake. How will this affect them? What are they thinking right now? Maybe they sympathize with me.

Or not. Especially if this one little thing ruins the rest of the event. Stains it. Taints it.

But that's not rational. It'll probably be fine. I just need to stop obsessing. Spiraling. No one else is probably thinking about it. But I would be thinking about it. If I were in their place. I would feel so bad for the host. I would feel awkward. Do they feel awkward? I really hope they don't feel awkward.

When someone starts talking to me, I have a tendency to listen with one ear. I take in what they're saying, all the while coming up with a response or reaction. What is the most appropriate, wise thing to do? If I get this right. Everything will go well. I can totally handle a social event if everything goes well.

I'm not completely agoraphobic. I can go out in public. I do it all the time.

But I'd rather be at home.

The people at home have to love me whether I'm perfect or not.

God loves me whether I'm perfect or not.

Ok, Emily... think about this. GOD LOVES YOU. It will be okay. Adapt. Things didn't get off on the right foot, but if you just adapt, it'll be all right. Laugh it off. Learn. It'll be fine.

There we go. God loves you.

God loves you.


Can you hear the music? That's a nice song.

Look, they're laughing. They seem to be having a good time. It'll be fine.

Reality check. God loves you.

Deep breath. You'll wake up in the morning, and everything will be fine. There will be more days. And people's opinions aren't formed in a moment, they're made over a series of moments. Just breathe.


Reality check. My feelings are NOT my reality.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

God should have broken up with me years ago.

Perhaps you are nothing like me - or maybe you're my double. But it seems to me that humankind as a whole thinks and behaves in extremes.

Lately, I've been feeling far from God - for a whole myriad of reasons I won't get into. But much of it has to do with my own shortcomings. If you are like me, you pull back when you come up short. You distance yourself. As if, after being covered in God's grace you could still smudge him somehow with your dirt. He is a holy God, after all. And what does righteousness have to do with unrighteousness? (yes I know that verse comes from the marriage passage [2 Cor 6], but I'm trying to make a point here)

That however, is only one extreme.

The other, is in order to feel close to God, despite our failures, we lean on the love and grace of the gospel so much, that conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ Phil 1:27 looses all meaning. It becomes a gospel that is no longer transformative.

And since we don't live by a gospel of mere works, and we can't change scripture so that we ourselves don't have to change - then where are we left?

I wrestle with this all the time.

Because you see - God's grace blows my mind.

No really, it does.

I grew up as a pastor's kid and felt the pressure to be perfect - to set an example 1 Tim 3 - very heavily. It was easier to keep up a veil of perfection than really engage the gospel as something that transforms you. Because in order to be transformed, you have to start off as something else. And that's a tough one when you said a prayer at 4 years old.

I didn't do drugs. I didn't drink. I didn't sleep around. My life was pretty put together.

Even from an conservative standpoint, my life looks good. I don't even dance (shout out to the baptist heritage... well, actually, I have northern baptist roots). But that's more lack of talent.

Still... I've lied. I've stolen. I've said unkind things and disrespected my parents. My thoughts aren't always that great. I've insisted on my own way and acted ungraciously.

That's quite a few commandments right there.

On the one hand, it is by grace I have been saved through faith in Christ, and not because of anything I've done to earn it. I don't have any reason to boast Eph 2.

But I'm also a new creation. Dead to my old life and saved into a new purpose. Sometimes I really wish God would bend his plans to my own agenda (I really like my agenda). But if God is as perfect as I believe him to be... then... well... I have to surrender.

I have to stop backing away from him because of my own doubts and fears.

Regardless of how messy I am - he paid an awfully be price to be in relationship with me - so basically, all my excuses are out the window.

I need to draw near to him.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you James 4:8

And whether I'm equipped or not to participate in his plans, He is my strength Isaiah 41:10

I don't know about you, but I'm ready to stop pulling away. Forgetting what lies behind - my past, my expectations, my comfort - I press on towards a new life in Christ. One where I know my needs will be met, my joy will be full, my purpose clear and I will be loved completely.

I just need to stop expecting that because life is a little uncomfortable, God has abandoned me. Or perhaps I've failed him and therefore he has abandoned me. Because in reality, his grace is all I need. It is when I am weak, that I am strong.  His power is made perfect in weakness 2 Cor 12.

God chose the weak and the lowly so that the whole world would know just what an incredible, miraculous, loving creator holds the world in his hands.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Stages of Life

When you hit your twenties, things begin to change. Suddenly, life events you longed for and dreaded come to pass. In many ways - there's an excitement and anticipation. At twenty, you feel like a true adult, not just legal in the eyes of the law (though maturity may or not be in supply). Then comes twenty-one and twenty-two, etc.

Your friends start getting married
You finish your education
Then come the babies.
A career

I can almost mark my life stage by what my friends are posting on Facebook.

But among the engagement, graduation, wedding and baby pictures, there's the occasional post that I react to or like because it's important,, but don't always resonate with.

I remember when one of my friends posted about the death of their grandpa. I remember thinking, "Oh, that's so sad." But the real weight didn't hit me until I received a text this afternoon.

"Gramma is with Jesus," it read.

I sat back in my chair and ugly-cried.

When someone who has lived a full life (marriage, kids, grandkids, retirement) dies, often you see it coming - their health declines, they become housebound, move to a care facility or hospice comes. You prepare yourself, knowing time is short.

But when that text came... the air wooshed out of my chest and I just felt empty.

Behind the person that was my Grandma are dozens of memories with my cousins - museums, tea parties, plays, dress up. I said goodbye to those when we got her diagnosis, but the finality of that text  just broke my heart. She's really gone...

Oh, to all of my friends who lost a grandparent recently, my heart breaks for you - it's so much more than the token sentimental picture posted to mark their passing... it's an ache that wasn't there before, and an empty place in the family.

It's knowing your future children will never know this person who mattered so much.

It's smiling when you think of all the stories you'll have to tell.

Monday, October 24, 2016

INFJs Won't Lock a Slammed Door

I remember, about two or three years ago, a friend and I were walking back to my apartment when she proceeded to tell me about this thing called the "INFJ Door Slam" - a friend of hers does this. Funny thing though - I'm an INFJ, and I'd never heard of it. I couldn't even quite fathom what it meant because I hate hurting people, and I couldn't picture myself shutting someone out, even a person I didn't like. It just sounded so cruel. That is until I found myself doing it.

Some have described it as a self-preservation mechanism - an on-off switch or a pair of scissors that severs all emotional ties. Indifference.

I read one article that said after an INFJ slams the door, all interactions that follow are characterized by strange begrudging behavior. Often callus and rude.

But I would hope that other types would understand, this isn't necessarily true.

INFJs believe the best in people, often assuming that conflict in a relationship is because of something they did wrong. They try to justify your actions, rather than take issue with you. However, if your actions create a trend that suggests lack of thoughtfulness or consideration and understanding towards the INFJ, they will feel deeply hurt and rejected. It will take time for the INFJ to even consider the possibility that you did something intentional.

Once that reality sets in however, the INFJ will want to distance themselves not from you, really, but the hurt they're received. However, you caused and remind them of the hurt, so to protect themselves from such unpleasant emotions or ugly thoughts, they withdraw. Further interacts will likely lack previous depth - small talk. They probably can't make eye contact with you and conversations won't last very long.

Still... the INFJ doesn't stop caring. They can love you from afar, often asking about your well-being through mutual friends.

Aplologies go a long way, however, especially if you show repentance - truly making an effort to show understanding and sympathy. A door slam doesn't have to be permanent, but you have to knock. Be prepared for a deep conversation to follow. They've probably been stewing over the problem for a while and have a lot of thoughts on the subject they'll need to share and want you to understand.

Monday, September 26, 2016

I am the Lord thy Dog.

One book I read said that dogs naturally look to their humans as a leader simply because the human is the food dispenser. This happens regardless of that human's good or bad leadership. Even if your dog seems to be wrestling for control, they're just trying to figure you and your rules out. 

But according to almost every dog training book you will ever read, you'll find a line that says something to the effect of: teach your dog that you are the most important thing in the world. That's rule #1.

Now, in essence, this means whenever they encounter a distraction or you ask something of them, they turn their attention on you. Always you.

I'm starting to wonder if perhaps, training a dog has spiritual implications.

Three weeks ago, we brought home a dog from the pound. Her name is Lucy and she has absolutely no manners whatsoever. Housebroken? No. Sit? Stay? Come? Nope. Nada. Nothing. A blank slate it ever there was one. So I've been attempting to teach her. But perhaps I'm learning as much as she is, if not more - she's still figuring out how to walk on a leash.

Training Lucy, I'm reminded of that hymn... Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace. When we walk down the street and another dog barks, she always strains at the leash and whines. It's nigh unto impossible to get her attention back until we round a corner. And whenever there's a sound outside, she goes into a barking fit.

What Lucy doesn't understand yet, is that I've got her best interests at heart. Judging by the barking dog's manners, I know the meeting wouldn't go well. And those noises - I know whatever it was, it's not going to hurt us. If only she would listen to me, everything will be okay.

She drags when we go for a walk. At least for the first few blocks until she grows tired. I can stop, tell her to sit, and refocus her attention, but she'll go right back to tugging once we begin walking again. As the dispenser of all good things (i.e. treats) I reward her whenever she heels. But she forgets when we initially begin our walk. Pulling doesn't get her anywhere.

I think that we too forget that our master is the most important thing in our lives. And he is the giver of all good things. But in the moment, we surge ahead. I can help you God! Do you hear that noise? We should do something about it!
Man makes his plans... but God directs his steps (Prov. 16:9).
God is sovereign, there is nothing that is out of his control. Nothing he isn't already aware of.
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).
So, if God is in control - if he looks after us so perfectly - then why do we strain, so eager to get ahead, when his timing so so perfect?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight
(Prov. 3:5-6).

Monday, September 5, 2016

Tears at the Altar

I'm not one to cry. But oh how I was fighting the tears as I saw her enter through the back door on her father's arm. There were diamonds in her eyes. And in that moment, I knew everything was about to change. And I saw it coming months ago.

I remember sitting on my couch back in May, our heads close together as we talked about the ring. He'd only just ordered it and all their plans for the future were still a secret. Heat flooded my cheeks as we spoke and I couldn't help but smile. I was so happy for her... So proud of her.

I remember after we graduated, when he popped the question. I couldn't be there, but she sent me pictures. I don't even have words for the heartfelt sigh that escaped my lips.

Then came the wedding invitation. The engagement photos were everything I could have imagined after seeing her reaction to his first, "I love you." I showed all of my friends those photos. I couldn't contain the joy I felt - the pride in knowing her.

And then the bridal shower. I drove five hours to be there. There was this urge to be as close to her as I could for as much time as I had. I wanted to relieve whatever stress I could and help her enjoy this time... this process... if I possibly could. And yet, I knew things would be different after the vows were said. She would be apart of a package after that. So there was a bittersweet need to savor our time.

I drove up two days before the ceremony, and when I saw her at the rehearsal, there was anxiety in her face. Of course she wanted everything to go smoothly, but smoothness doesn't come easy. So I lent her a smile and reassuring words. With diamonds in her eyes... no one would care about the details.

So finally, when I stood at the front, watching her come down the isle, my eyes were watering. Everything was about to change... But I couldn't have picked a better man for her. He loves her as much if not more than I do. He treats her like the princess that she is.

One of the guests went on and on later about how she refused to cry during the ceremony. The other bridesmaids expressed their anxiety, walking down the isle. But in the blur of it all, I can only remember the trembling of my lips and the smile that took over my face. Truthfully, I wasn't at all certain if the tears would remain at bay or not. When the vows were said, my cheeks were wet.

But there's no shame in wedding tears.

I have never been so happy for anyone in my life. It doesn't even seem real. Whatever may come next, any changes, it's all worth it to see the anxiety-turned-joy I saw on one of my best friends' face. And the look on his face when he saw her in all her bridal regalia confirmed it.

I've never been so proud or joy-filled.

My cup overflows.... with happy tears

And to my great surprise - I caught the bouquet. She told me, "you're next," as we exchanged our last squeeze of a hug before she left on her honeymoon.

All my best wishes and love, friend.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Less of Me

Tonight, I felt distracted while singing the somewhat routine words of worship. It would take a novel to truly explain everything God has been teaching me over the last several weeks. But within the lyrics of the song, my ears caught the line, "More of you and less of me," I began to wonder if my generation truly understands the meaning of those words we insert into so many of our worship songs.

I'd like to begin by saying I don't mean to address the world. I mean to address my brothers and sisters. Because you see... We've been adopted into this incredible family, not because of anything we've done, but because of how much we're loved. But after entering into the family, we take on an identity.

There is a part of me that wonders if perhaps being a Christian is somehow trendy? If there is an image that we put out intentionally so that others will look at us and think, "Wow, he/she must be really close to God." We make a show of our Quiet Time with Christ. We post pictures from mission trips, VBS and service projects so others will see our humility. And we wear modest clothes that are still with the times because we want the rest of the world to know you can honor God and still look good. And we love praying out loud and talking about how God has moved in our lives so that others will see us and dare I say it... Admire us.

Less of me, more of Him.

"Beware of practicing your righteousness before others in order to be seen by them. For then you will have no reward from your father who is in heaven." Matt 6:1

It's been a long time coming, but it's becoming evident to me that my faith can't be about me. No matter how badly I want that Christian guy to look at me across chapel and see my hands raised in worship. My faith can't be about me.

Because my faith is about bringing glory to Christ. In my brokenness... The one who sees my secret brokenness loves me. And in true humility... on my good days... I want others to see the fruit of my faith and not see me, but see and desire God.

"When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that your giving may be in secret and your father who sees in the secret will reward you." Matt 6: 3-4

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross." Phil 2:3-8