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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Coming Out of the Closet: How I've Been Living a Lie

Sometimes rooms are big enough to ignore the elephants living in them. But my counselor's office was small. Too small. Like a closet.

And, as we all know, if you walk into a closet with an elephant, there is no way you're ignoring that gray beast. No sense in even trying.

Even though I tried to cover it up, my counselor was able to find his way down to the bottom of my insecurity issues pretty quickly. Later, he told me he could tell that about me from the start. Not by my appearance, of course. Just by the way I crossed my legs in the plush chair and used a pillow to cover the bottom half of my stomach.

I've done that for as long as I can remember.

You see, it was there in that closet-room of healing that I discovered that my deepest fear of rejection, my hurt pride, the sense of not being good enough or well-liked comes from the elephant I've been trying to ignore: my weight.

For the past few months, I've really been focusing on writing to encourage women in alternate stages of life. I've been writing for the single girls who are dealing with job pressures and finding their purpose in the midst of struggling with loneliness or bitterness. I write these things because I so need to take my own advice. I write these things because if I don't, I'll be too absorbed by it all.

While my weight has been a no-no topic for me, even with my closest friends and family, I'm sharing it with you all today to talk about this insecurity that has held me back because I feel a little bit brave today.

Plus, how can I make it my mission to walk with other women 

about their deepest uncertainties if I'm not even willing to face 

my own?

I've been close to thirty pounds overweight for a long time. I was diligent at fighting the weight around my waist at first. And then it seemed like I was fighting a losing battle. Me against my mind, soul and body.

It just was a lot easier to pretend I was comfortable in my own skin than to actually work through my issues. It was easier to stay in a closet of clothes I wished were smaller rather than being up front with my daily fears.

My mind would constantly race with questions.

Am I the biggest girl in the room?

Is my lower back peeking through the top of my pants?

Are they watching me eat this slice of pizza and thinking to themselves that I should lay off and eat a salad?

Would they love me more if I were thinner?

Then, approximately nine weeks ago, I decided enough was enough. My feigned confidence wasn't going to last me the rest of my twenties. I have goals of book publishing, I have career goals, I have love and laughter to give.

What I mean is that I have stuff to do and I wasn't going to let those thirty pounds rule over me anymore.

So, at the suggestion from a dear friend, I downloaded the Couch to 5K training program on my phone (I highly recommend for anyone looking to begin a safe and manageable running program) and began running.

Well, okay. It was more like tip-toeing on a treadmill at that point, but I started.

One minute walking, one minute running. For eight minutes. Last night, after weeks of hard work and blistered feet and numb fingers and runny noses, I ran for forty minutes. Straight. Forty minutes. Me. The girl who was so comfortable hiding within her skin that she didn't see much use in trying to change anything about her circumstances.

The same girl who, a few weeks ago, was so nervous for her first twenty minute run that she barely slept the night before.

But when I got through it, I felt hungry. Not for food, but to continue going.

"Congratulations," the robot trainer voice said through my ear buds at the end of the run. "You've run for twenty straight minutes. You can call yourself a real runner now."

And I cried. Right there on the edge of that sidewalk.

Because with every step I was wriggling loose bit by bit of this capsule I never thought I would release from.

I cried for those years of feeling second-rate and worthless because of those extra pounds and two-digit dress sizes.

I'm not perfect, obviously. I still have a long way to go. But I will run my very first race next month. And the part of me that told myself I couldn't do things because I looked, behaved or ate a certain way is getting smaller.

This is what it looks like to escape uncertainty: the first step is to acknowledge it. You can do it. The miles that I run are living, active proof.

Happy Wednesday.

photo credit: San Diego Shooter via photopin cc

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

On Which I Announce My Big Break

No, I didn't get a publishing deal. I didn't land the dream job. No one in my life has popped the question. There have been no housing contracts. No new cars. No baby or bridal showers thrown in my name.

A tongue-in-cheek article I wrote about comparing cussing in front of your Christian friends to farting in front of a new boyfriend/girlfriend wasn't picked up by the blogger who has written all of the bestsellers. Understandably so.

Actually, I'm pretty sure that everyone must have some sort of anti-biotic in their system that prevents my posts from going viral.

Nothing remotely exciting or different has happened in my life. But, this week, I got my first real break:

I've realized that I am no longer the golden child.

I know to wrestle with this realization is a first world problem on par with committing a felony. And that maybe I should even keep this struggle to myself. But, I so liked being the busy graduate student. The girl who swarmed, who lived on coffee and carbs and left people wondering "how does she do it all?" in my wake.

That season is over now. And I should be thankful. I know I should. I don't envy the hectic life. Not one bit.

But, as a result of not living hectically, I also don't feel like much is happening.

The violent dogs that nip at my heels and growl about why I'm not more successful monetarily or maritally by now are becoming harder to ignore.

And what's worse is that I'm becoming a growling dog myself, rumbling loudly to others and complaining about all of the things that are not happening in my life. All of the news I do not have to report.

It's what I wrestle with in my head. It's what I battle in my heart. It's like holding an umbrella against the wind. And I want so badly to come inside from the elements. Even if it means my hair will be tangled and tasseled.

But, man. This wind is strong. And sometimes feeling as though I'm stuck in this life stage of going-nowhere makes me too weak to fight it.

Then I have to wonder if any of our favorite stories about the lives of those who have been a little too easy or accommodating? We don't root for the big dogs, we want the underdogs to win, don't we? So then, why am I striving for a life full of non-obstacles and non-heartbreak?

If my message is about being the Prodigal Sister, and this very blog, these very words are meant to create a space for women just like me to hash these uncertainties out, why am I trying to skim over them in my real life?

There is joy in being the misfit.

And it makes a much more interesting story. It doesn't make it any easier to let go of the desires I have to see the hustle in my day-to-day be recognized. But, you know? Even after all of my griping, I'd still rather be on this side of my dreams. I still want to be working toward them rather than cleaning up after them.

After all, I like to save the best for last. The fun things come after the hard work. The reward comes Like how I eat cupcakes: bottom first, then icing. That's really the only way, right?

At the end of it all, at the end of being happy on behalf of others and feeling stagnant, I have to be grateful that I'm still learning.

I'm learning, therefore I am alive. And I need to believe that is worth a celebration all by itself.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

25 Lessons for Single Ladies

1. Just because one woman at one church suggests that you use this "blessed" time as an unattached female to make good use of yourself teaching English in Africa doesn't mean that every woman in the Church looks down on you for being unmarried and un-with-child at the ripe age of twenty-five.

2. Your husbandless, childless life is in no way a reflection of your self worth. It's okay to ignore the people who try to tell you otherwise.

3. They don't give A pluses in day jobs.

4. Yes, you have thoughts and opinions on how God has shown you how He loves you. Listen when a woman in your Bible study tells you that she "never understood God's love until she had children." This is how the Lord speaks to her, don't shut her out of your life. You might learn something.

5. You'll remember this season as your "starving artist" years. And you'll be thankful for the time that you were able to pursue your craft without the pressure of having people watch.

6. Your story matters. Even if it has been told before in art, song, dance, rhyme or prose, it hasn't been told by you. Don't let the fear of comparison paralyze you from pursuing your calling. Ever.

7. The more selfless you are, the less people will notice. Take heart. Keep going.

8. Married people are sometimes lonely, too. Even lonelier if they have children.

9. You can be friends with married people. And you can have fun with their children.

10a. Cable is a nonessential.

10b. As much as you want it to be, the internet is not.

11. Just because a guy has a Southern drawl doesn't mean he will abide by Southern manners.

12. Your upstairs neighbors can hear you singing selections from Phantom of the Opera and Beauty and the Beast when you're home alone.

13. The lyrics to Great is Thy Faithfulness are the truest and most humble words of all time.

14a. When the Pizza Hut delivery guy says "This apartment looks familiar, have I been here before?" it's time to stop ordering medium, extra-cheese pizzas for yourself.

14b. Related, running isn't as hard as you believe it is. Neither is cooking for yourself.

15. The tips and extra cash you made at your restaurant job does, in no way, compare to what you've gained in your steady 9 to 5 job that grants you benefits, weekends and major holidays off, a social life and your sanity.

16. Sometimes the people who love you displace their fears, frustrations and disappointments from their own lives onto your current situations. Make sure that their advice is wise, and not tainted with bitterness before you let it turn your whole world upside down.

17. Nowhere does it say that you can't be true friends with your coworkers. Make them dinner. Invite them to your home. Get coffee with them. Create a web series with them. They just may inspire you to do things you've never done.

18a. The idea of Fireball Whiskey is far better than its consequences.

18b. Mexican food is this idea's only cure.

19. Only succumb to Stitch Fix if you are super organized and type-a enough to return the items you don't want within the three-day time limit.

20. People remember when you don't show up.

21. Unless you want to live in a perpetual state of self-pity, don't think of yourself too much when a friend announces she's engaged/pregnant/promoted or has achieved any other noteworthy levels of life. Something spectacular is unfolding every day. And these stages aren't always as easy as Facebook makes them seem, anyway.

22. Most of the time, when you're facing opposition it means you're doing something right. Don't get discouraged.

23. Always pick up the phone when a girlfriend calls you at 2 a.m. She needs you.

24a.No matter how much time has passed, or the state of the breakup, a friend's ex is off limits.

24b. So is your ex-boyfriend's roommate.

24c. So is the cute cook who works in your restaurant.

24d. The best men to date have beards, love Jesus, play the guitar and make you laugh. Hard.

25. Plateaus are boring, never stop learning or growing. Or making lists.

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

To Have Faith in the Harvest

The sky is always darkest right before the sun breaks 

into it each morning.

Similarly, I am always my craziest/most negative right before spring breaks into the atmosphere.

This is true of me for the weather, of course. But it's also true for this twenty-something stage of life. At least, it is for me.

You see, the early part of your twenties feels an awful lot like the land has been overcast. Not to sound emo, of course, it's just when you need/want the rain to come so that the harvest can hurry up and happen.

The years leading up to your twenties were the planting years. They were the years you spent in school, the years you earned a grade and figured out what you did well. They were when you moved up a grade and even a height level, if you were one of the lucky ones.

{Side note: my 5'4"-self was not one of the lucky ones}

You were going places just by getting older. You had purpose. You had drive.

But then the twenty-something stage happened and the rows we've planted are pretty permanent. It's pretty much up to the harvest now. Elements out of our control dictate how well we'll all maneuver ourselves at the end of the planting season.

And yet, we have to hope that there is something stirring underneath. Underneath the routine. Beneath the tilling and pulling of the dirt that comes with packing lunches, commuting to the sounds of NPR, arriving to the office at 8:45 a.m., and returning home by 5:45 each evening.

There has to be something burgeoning beneath the ground

we're tilling, right?

I've heard many of my friends and family call this season the "waiting room."

It makes sense. You see the row before you in the field. You've planted. You've dusted your hands off. You stick them in your overall pockets and you watch.

...Bloom yet?

...Bloom yet?

...Bloom yet?

But, maybe this "bloom yet?"-mentality is something whispered to us from the enemy. I think that sounds like something from him, don't you think? That he would have us believe that we were waiting.

Just waiting.

And maybe, when the sun isn't hanging in the sky one morning, or when the ground has snuggled itself into a cocoon of snow–when we're in this season of not-quite-harvest–we would be tricked into believing that our land was barren.

That because our rows haven't bloomed yet, they won't bloom at all.

This is the trap I've fallen into lately. Into thinking that I'm simply in a "waiting" place. In a room waiting for my number for my calling to be called.

There's a parable about this very same thing in the New Testament book of Matthew: the parable of the talents.

The man who simply sat on his money? Who buried his talent in the field? He waited. He lacked the confidence to work and invest.

And even though he was too afraid to do anything with the talent he was given, he still expected something spectacular to come his way.

Turns out, he was very, very wrong.

I think in this season of lent–a time when many of us let go of something–it would be appropriate to give up the mentality of waiting. To have faith enough in the waiting room to put down our outdated copies of People and Highlights (come on, you still read Highlights) to encourage others. We need to use our gifts, even in the waiting room. Even while we're waiting for the blooms to sprout.

If we're caught in a place where we focus so much on the ground, on our simple plot of faith where we expect our purpose to grow, we miss the sun. We miss the rain. We miss the circumstances and the air around us.

We can forget that we are in a place in our lives, even in our twenties, designed to make us better. We can get wrapped up in stubbornly believing we are born with a purpose and forget that we shouldn't lose faith that nothing will come up out of the ground during harvest time.

Because, while we're waiting, we're growing. 

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