Monday, March 24, 2014

feeling the disappointment [living life without expectations]

 As part of a new series I’m starting on expectations, one of the most unexplored places for me is disappointment. Understanding it, exploring it, and “sitting in the emotion” of disappointment and really letting yourself FEEL it.

One of the reasons I see this as being so important, though it can be painful to experience, is that I believe we can learn a great deal about ourselves if we choose to listen to what we are feeling. This is not about wallowing (I’ve been a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of girl my whole life, so ain’t nobody got time for that) but about exploring. Exploring the desires, wants, hurts and needs that are all wrapped up into expectations.

I remember sitting on a couch, facing my counselor, a week after a big breakthrough for me. She was asking the typical follow-up questions, and I was feeling fairly content. The breakthrough powerful and good; I’d finally connected two dots that desperately needed to be connected in my life and I was rejoicing that I had now named something crucial in my life. Not only was a happy about it, but I also knew it would affect me for the rest of my life.

She continued to push and I finally asked her what she was getting at. She said to me, “I think you are moving on too quickly. Have you grieved?”

“Grieved what?”

“The loss.”

That term had been floating around my house that semester… one of my roommates was in the counseling program, so it made sense that I would hear it. But without context, I didn’t know what it really meant.

When an expectation or desire isn’t met, there is, at the very least, disappointment. At the most, there is severe and deep hurt. For years, when I was angry or frustrated and didn’t understand why, once I identified why, it was a huge victory.  In short, I used to think that simply naming something was enough to help me move on.

It isn’t.

With a disappointment, there is a loss. Clearly, that looks different depending on the situation. But a loss is still there. And here is where I come back to my “boot-straps” comment. To grieve something, other than the death of a loved one, always felt self-indulgent and selfish to me. But I know better now. It’s part of the feeling process.

But we don’t live in a culture that honors grieving the loss. We live in a culture that honors “moving on.” It’s so born and bred in us, that when I started Downton Abby this season, I chided Mary in my head once I found out how long it had been since Matthew died and she was STILL wearing black.

I don’t believe in wallowing, but I do believing in feeling deeply. And feeling hurts, especially during a loss. Since I’ve first learned what it means to grieve the loss, I’ve experienced plenty of disappointment. And I’m still learning how to, but I am trying to feel that disappointment fully. It teaches me about myself. What I desire, what I expect. It teaches me about the other person, and in some cases, it’s even helped me confront the one who disappointed me, which has led to deeper friendship and love between us.

Feeling the disappointment seems indulgent. You don’t have to do it – life certainly moves one if you don’t learn how to feel the disappointment. But life is fuller when you do. It’s fuller because you are fuller. Self-examination is hard, but an absolute life necessity as a Christ-follower.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

a new series

I’ve been making a list. A list of all the things I want to explore and write about concerning expectations. So this is going to be my new series.

I haven’t done a writing series in a while, and I’m not that great at it. Because that means I need to be consistently writing. And I write a lot for my job, so to write on my days off is typically the last things I feel like doing.

But this is important. It’s a far too unexplored area of my life, and perhaps of our lives in general. And I’m rarely afraid of a challenge, so I’m going try it. So far, my list includes topics such as shame, detachment, feeling the disappointment, avoiding the heartache… I’m determined to find joy and redemption in this series, even though it doesn't sound like it from this list.

I’m open to ideas. What do you want to read about concerning living our lives with (or without) expectations?

Monday, March 03, 2014

loneliness and the white buffalo

It’s such a real feeling. It comes it waves… not tiny ebbs and flows but in huge, crashing, surfers’ dream kind of Hawaii-sized waves.

What do you do with loneliness when you are introverted?

It’s not the same… being a loner and being lonely. Or being exhausted by people and being lonely.

As I need to recharge by being alone, I am seeing more and more my desperate need for connection to those I love.

Have you ever physically felt heartache? …maybe I’m the only one. But I physically feel it. I feel my chest cave in, and a burn right in the center of my chest. I often end up placing my hand or both hands over that place. My shoulders turn in and my whole body leans forward. My chins hits my chest and I breath deeper, in an attempt to slow the pain.

It hurts.

It hurts because it’s more than just physical pain. It’s soul-wrenching pain.

I was always a sensitive kid, and since I have two much older brothers, my parents really did not know what to do with me (and they have admitted that to me as an adult). So they would say, “You’re being so over-dramatic” or “Will you listen to yourself? That’s ridiculous.” But it wasn’t ridiculous to me. I felt it, and for my tiny little world in that moment, it was all I knew.

There are few things that break my heart more than loneliness. My heart is broken by many things: how sin affects the world, social injustice, the pain of others, really bad coffee…  But because I am selfish, my own loneliness leads to the worst heartbreak.

I am most certainly afraid to own my loneliness. I’d rather just sit at home and ignore it than to actually reach out to feel less lonely. But part of that is in knowing that being with people doesn’t make me feel less lonely.

It’s being without certain kinds of people that make me feel lonely.

Remember this? I will forever mark that day down in my story as the moment when the biggest burden of my life was lifted from my shoulders. The moment I realized that God created me the way I am and it was intentional, and wasn't because of some sin in my life. Because I always believed, because so many others told me that I was so different, that it was my fault I was different.. and it was the result of sin in my life. But to change never felt right, either. So I just went on believing I was wrong. In every sense of the word. [Maybe even a mistake.] To finally know that I wasn't wrong for being who I was, that I was built that way by God... well, something shifted in my heart that day. And since then I have been on a journey to discover what being in relationship with people who don’t understand me really looks like.

But I’ve also learned there is the while buffalo for me. There is the person that understands me. Maybe not fully, but somehow, beyond all reason, they get me. These people are so rare, so few and far between that I hold them deeply close to my heart.

Right now I only have two people in my life like that. Two people that I can say anything to and know that no matter how crazy it sounds to the rest of the world, they will understand what I mean and may even feel that way themselves. And these friends are not friends who have known me my whole life. Sometimes I realize they've come to be that white buffalo after just a few short months. Longevity does not matter, and I realize that makes me outside the norm. Most of the people I know are very close with the people they grew up with. I am not. Years don’t matter to me. It’s getting me that counts.

I have been through seasons in my life without these people. And it was the worst time in my life. I never want to go back to those places, and so these two white buffaloes to me are so precious that I sometimes hold them too tight. Especially if I am not sure if they understand just how much I need them. Or worse, that if they did understand, it wouldn't matter to them. So I can become possessive and resentful…  and my expectations of them grow higher and higher. Then I stop communicating well with them, until somehow, I've ruined that relationship.

I think I will spend all of my life trying to understand this dichotomy of wanting to be known but also knowing I never will be.  I know that I have a deep fear of what people can do to you once they know you. They might leave. They might hurt me profoundly and that will forever alter me.  And I might have to search and search for another white buffalo, perhaps even fully believing that I will never again find one.

This loneliness, this searching, is my heartache. Even though I am surrounded by people who love me, I am not understood by them. That makes it so much harder.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

[o me of little faith]

When the time comes, I know. I sometimes jump too soon, but I try to trust my instincts more, as I’m told I often have good ones. So I jump. I jump while knowing it will end with a crash, hoping that I will be caught. You might even say it’s jumping with one eye open.

Sometimes it’s a mistake, sometimes it is not. Most often, it requires me to adjust my expectation.

I adjust rather than what I could do. Which is be vulnerable. Say what I need from them. And hope they eventually understand and maybe meet my expectations. But I mostly just assume that they won’t see it [me] as necessary [worth it].

*sigh* How long am I going to be here? In this place that makes me feel this way?

There is such fragile in-authenticity in this. Somehow it feels best, even easier, for me. (Though the tangle of emotions hardly makes it easier.) But my relationship with them is “easier,” because nothing is expected, because I don’t communicate. Nothing is expected because ultimately I believe I am wrong. I am wrong, my feelings are wrong, my fear is wrong. My expectations are too high. They are too much.

[i am not enough]

These are the words I am whispering to myself, my mind, my heart.

The heartache of not being part of something you wish you so desperately to be is REAL. Present. Consuming. Something I struggle to lay down. I carry it like a burden that can never be sent down. Perhaps because I am so stubborn. Perhaps because I can’t. Perhaps because I won’t. Perhaps because 

Perhaps because I don’t have enough faith.

Not in God, but in people. I don’t have faith people see me as worth it, as enough.  

So I  unfairly transfer the feelings I have about myself to those I am hurt by. Even more unfair is I don’t give them the chance to see it from my perspective, to make it right.

More unfair that I don’t give them the chance to be better. To learn from me.

[o me of little faith]

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

to be known

I had the privilege to speak at a women’s conference this last weekend, and in a way that only God could, he intervened on my topic. Which made me very nearly terrified.

The theme of the conference was “Patterns God is Weaving in Our Lives” and after going through several topic ideas, I realized I wasn't particularly passionate about any of them. I could speak on them, with some measure of authority, but I was fearful that it wouldn't come from the heart. (Which is a miracle in itself, because two years ago I don’t know that I would have been in tune with myself enough to understand the importance of speaking on a topic that matters to you – and how that makes your talk so much better.)

Enough with the suspense – my talk was Patterns of Love: Vulnerability and the Lavish Love of God. Now, of course, with the word “vulnerability” you have to know that BrenĂ© Brown’s material comes into play, though I used almost nothing of her’s in my talk. She mostly just inspired me to do the talk in the first place. Reading Brennan Manning’s The Signature of Jesus last summer and going through the Sonship study though World Harvest Mission also inspired me. But what was beautiful and appropriate was just how much scripture I was able to use. There was a lot of it, and there is a lot more in scripture that tells us just how much God loves us.

Here is probably the most important truth I’ve taken from this last year, as well as the most terrifying truth I’ve ever faced:

You are completely known and loved by the God of the universe (anyway), and to feel and understand that kind of love on earth you have to let yourself be known by others.

[can you hear my screams?]

Today I learn some information that is causing me to question much of what I thought I knew about a person, and a family unit. It makes me so fearful of what we can hide from each other just because we are afraid.


There is a lot about myself that I dislike. A lot. It’s not pretty, really. It’s shameful. And a couple of weeks ago, I was listening to a sermon that will haunt me for the rest of my life, but also reaffirmed everything I learn in 2013 about love. This was the money quote:

“Nothing drives shame away from the heart more than being fully known yet still delighted in.” – Matt Chandler

I am still reeling from the truth and consequences of this statement. Because I know it to be true after everything I’ve learned this last year.

So I’m trying to hard not to be afraid anymore. I’m trying to be more honest. I’m trying to very hard to let others know me. Because I don’t want this shame. I don’t want to live my life and after it’s over, have people wonder if they really knew me.

Back in college, I was introduced to a band called Waterdeep, and I became obsessed. The lead singer, Don Chaffer, put out a solo album before the band was formed and here are some lyrics from that album:

She said, "Aaron, I don't think
I've ever wanted as much
To be free as I've longed to be known….

I’ve never intellectualized, until this last year, that you would lose your freedom if you were known. I imagine the theory behind this is that you would be bound in being known because the weight of that truth would crush you. And perhaps that the world sees "freedom" in the control that we desire to have in letting people know only so much. Because it we were completely known, there would be nowhere to hide.

This is really what it comes down to, isn’t it? We try so hard to control what people know about us, partially because of the shame we feel about who we really are, but also because we have a pre-conceived notion that people will only like parts of us and not all of us.

…And of the things that I hate
As I look at my life,
The worst is my being alone.

This is the consequence of finding your identity in others, and not in Christ. Being alone as the only person who knows you, other than God, from whom no truth can be hidden.

…And as they headed home, neither of them could speak a word 
And they held their own spirits to blame 
But at the pulse of the waves, they both turned around 
Surely someone was calling their name 

God is calling us not just to know him, but to know each other. Because if grace and love prevails, knowing each other will not result in shame and judgment, but in, “I see you. Me, too. Let’s walk through this together.”

You can listen to Matt’s sermon here.

Buy the Sonship study here.

Buy The Signature of Jesus here
Listen to Don Chaffer’s song here.

Learn more about the conference here.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Expectations and Saving Mr. Banks

Unless you are living under a rock, you probably went to go see Saving Mr. Banks in the last few weeks. I was glad to be warned ahead of time that this was not a sweet and happy film about the making of a sweet and happy film I remember from my childhood. I was told it was long, sad, the main character was an awful human being and was told to bring tissues.

I’ve decided I prefer being mentally prepared like that, because I liked the movie, and I’m convinced it’s because I knew what I was getting myself into when I walked into the theater. So I was able to look closer, which is one of my favorite things to do at the movies, and find beauty in the mess. This time, though, I feel like it created a mess in my life. But I’m thinking it’s a mess that needed to be created.

When Walt flies to Europe at the end to see Mrs. Travers, he says to her, “You came to Hollywood expecting that I would disappoint you. And so I did.” This was my biggest takeaway. I haven’t stopped thinking about it in the last week since I saw the movie.

I starting working on a post about expectations two days before I saw the movie and now this line has me all twisted up inside. How often do I have an expectation of a person, while believing with my heart that they will disappoint me? Does it affect how I treat the person, how much I trust them? And does that affect the outcome at all? Walt implied that it did, in the case of Mrs. Travers. Though I realize that much of her expectation involved a desperate need for her to let go… and every situation involving expectations is not about letting go.

Or is it?

Welp. I think I just ran my thought process into a circle. So this just means I have to let go, right?

Here’s the thing with expectations, disappointment, and letting go. I feel like this would mean I would have to stop caring, too. Because caring is so very close to expectation (though they are certainly not mutually exclusive.) Would the absence of expectation also mean the absence of caring?

So – let’s really think about this. Caring vs expectations. Is there a difference? Does removing expectation from our life mean caring will cease? If we usually expect something from a person or a situation and we remove that expectation, is it possible to still care about the person or the situation? I’m not sure I have this exactly right. Because I think we can still love the person, but perhaps removing expectations means we become indifferent to their actions.

Oy. “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” –Elie Wiesel, Holocust survivor and political activist.

Still working on my word for the year… I just haven’t been able to settle on one. But I do think I will do a series on expectations. I have much more to say and am thinking about many other areas under this umbrella. The post I began working on before the quote from Saving Mr. Banks turned me all upside down will have to wait for another day. (Which is convenient, because it’s a painfully vulnerable post.) But I am going to be thinking and watching how my expectations of disappointment affect my relationships. Man, I just know this is going to be painful.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

the risk of excruciating vulnerability

I discovered this talk a couple of years ago and I watch it pretty regularly. Each time I take away something different. Which I both love and hate.

 “There is only one variable that separated the people who have a sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it and that was that people who have a sense of love and belonging believe they are worthy of love and belonging… the one thing that keeps us out of connection is the fear that we are not worthy of connection.”

What then, are we to do, when someone we desire a connection with doesn’t reciprocate? How do we NOT withdraw again, how do we believe that we are worth connecting with?

“We must be willing to invest in relationships that may or may not work out…”

“…to let ourselves be seen”

These may be my two greatest fears. I am willing to be excruciatingly vulnerable if I knew the other person would not only be ok with it, but would still love me anyway. (And not leave.) Yet her research showed that the way to live is with vulnerability, which is to stop controlling and predicting.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, love, Brown says.  So all the things I really want. But being vulnerable takes all of that out of you. At least for me, most of the time.

One of the greatest powers we are given as human beings is the power to reject others.  I know this because I have been rejected and I know the power it has over me. It’s incredible. We must walk carefully into this power with others, or we leave a wake of broken hearts behind us. I’ve been one of the broken hearts many times. I pray I have not been the one doing the breaking.

Brown also talks about how we cannot selectively numb emotions. She claims we cannot numb fear and rejection without numbing joy and love, too. I realized while watching this for the umpteenth time today how this is powerfully connected to expectations. If you decided not to expect anything (and I know people who try this) the claim is you will never be disappointed. But will you also end up never feeling joy or love, too? I’m thinking and wondering about this potential truth.

Because I want it not to be so. I want to come to a place in my life where I don’t feel disappointed  or rejected (note that I am I am not saying that I wish disappointment or rejection would never actually happen. I’m not that delusional.) But I really want to figure out how not to be devastated by it.

Usually when I work on a post the typing and words come fast and freely at the start. I may go back and do some serious editing, but the typing and emotions come running out so fast I can hardly keep up. This time I am typing with awareness and lots and lots of typos. There is a metaphor here, I’m sure of it. I am so unsure of what I am feeling right now (and yes, a particular person has caused these crazy emotions in me and it makes me want to cut them out of my life. I’m trying to decide if they are a blessing or a lesson right now.) But I am trying very hard to coach myself through it. When I need this, Brown’s TED talk helps.

Vulnerability is courage, Brown says, in another one of her TED talks. I’ve never seen it as a weakness, thankfully. But I do object to the way it makes me feel. Because vulnerability makes me feel known… and when that is rejected, it destroys me. Because I already have a very fragile belief that I am worthy in the first place.

This all boils down to risk. The risk we take when we allow someone to enter into our lives. The risk we take when we remove a wall, brick by brick, to allow someone else to see who you really are. And not just who you are, but also how you feel, and what you feel about them, too.

I’m fully aware that I am talking in circles. I’m just trying to figure out how I feel about all of this. Actually, no. I’m trying to figure a way out of all of these feelings. That’s clearly two different things. My heart desperately wants a way out of these painful emotions and my head is telling me that’s just not going to happen. Perhaps it should be the other way around, but I’ve never been one to do things normally.

I think this is why her second TED talk is about listening to shame. There is shame in rejection. There is shame in not feeling good enough for someone to want to be with you.  

As she says, part of shame is to walk through it and find our way around. I think that’s what I’m trying to do here. While I would prefer to go around the swamp in my soul where shame resides, I think it’s time to put on my boots and find my way around. Not looking forward to it. But my word for 2013 was “anything” and 2013 is still here. I'm now wondering what my word for 2014 will be.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

sentimentality and the death of Christmas idols

I’ve always been a particularly sentimental and nostalgic person, and it has increased significantly since moving away from my family, where this nostalgia is often born. Even as a teenager, I collected and kept things that represent memories and moments that are special to me. I have a keepsake box in my living room – it’s actually one of those old photo boxes you used to be able to purchase at craft stores, but since we no longer print pictures, I’m sure it’s an antiquated reference. However, I love to use them for keepsakes, and every so often I get it out and look through the odd little items from years and years ago and remember. The box contains everything from piles of letters from dear friends to a piece of a broken plate. Other random items: small plastic toy with a particularly funny memory, a sticker from another great moment in life... you get the idea.

 This kind of sentimentality is one of my favorite things about decorating my Christmas tree, as nearly every ornament is attached to a particular season in my life. I buy each one with intention or have received many as gifts from special people in my life, that remind me of them. The night I set aside to decorate my tree is sacred to me, including my favorite Christmas music and a great cup of hot cocoa from Trader Joes. 2013 is the first year of my life I do not get to spend with my family. They planned to come to Arizona early this year for their winter visit, but my dad’s doctors had other plans. While they determine the cause and potentially a course of treatment his irregular heart beat (which he was born with, so my dad is sure they will find nothing out of the ordinary) mom and dad are grounded in the cold Nebraska winter. They didn’t even put up a Christmas tree or decorate the house for the season. I think mom is just as disappointed as I am. I, however, have a full house decorated in anticipation of them coming, including brand new stockings for each of us hanging from one of my bookcases. I purchased a new Christmas tree, planned meals, made LOTS of Christmas cookies, some chex mix… the list goes on and on.

 I was preparing.

 I was already wondering how I would deal with an Arizona Christmas, as I’ve never had one before. But I’m not completely inadaptable to change, so this year I went back for Nebraska for Thanksgiving in exchange for them coming early. But now they are not coming at all. We will facetime each other this evening so we can at least “pretend” to be together this Christmas. Last year I remember being in the wrapping paper section at Target, and weirdly, finding an idol. This Christmas, with death, tragedy, people plowing into the relatives of my small group friends, causing them to be in the ICU, no mom and dad to spend Christmas with… well. It suddenly felt pretty much not like Christmas.

 And then I remember this:


 And I uncovered another idol.

What is Christmas, anyway? This is the hard question I've been asking myself these past several days. In the last 5 years, since I moved away from my family, Christmas has been about seeing them. It’s the only time I get to see most of them in the year. I'm close with my family and they mean a lot to me. I know this is rare for many, and that is perhaps why I cherish it so much. But the Christmas season became preparing to see them... making plans to see them... I got excited to see them. In other words, in my heart, Christmas hasn’t really been about Jesus. Ooof. It's very hard for me to admit that, because I don't believe I've forgotten the amazing gift of Jesus Christ. But I have not placed Jesus in the forefront of my own heart.

Two weeks ago I gave a message from Matthew 3, about how preparing for the Messiah looks like repentance and producing fruit. Well, as lonely as I will be this Christmas, I have much to repent of in my heart. Not my favorite way to spend Christmas, but certainly a way that will help me grow. Uncovering idols tend to do that. I hate it, but there it is.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

disappointment, love and being an INFJ

It’s been a while since I've talked about disappointment in a post. And I’m experiencing it in spades right now, so that usually means I needs to write about it. So I can figure out how I feel. Yes, this is how an INFJ works.

I have a friend in my life that regularly disappoints me. Not because of unrealistic expectations, but because he says he is going to do something and he doesn't do it.

It ranges from telling me, “I’ll call you tomorrow.” to “We are going to watch that movie together. I can’t believe you haven’t seen it.” To then things like, “I’ll come by and see you.” And other kinds of statements. Nothing huge. But little things add up to a lot.

Oh, there is that evil math again.

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. -1 Corinthians 5:13 (NIV)

NERD ALERT: I prefer the ESV most of the time, but with the Greek word, I think the NIV is a bit more faithful to the original meeting.  Logizomai means to reckon, count, compute. The ESV translates it as irritable. Keeps no record seems more faithful to me. But then again, I’m not a bible translator.

So I don’t want to keep a record of all the times he has said he was going to do something and didn't, (though, obviously I have) because we’re told that’s not how love behaves. But I also wonder about keeping my friend accountable, wanting to be his sister in Christ. I know he wants to be a better man, but I am also asking myself, “What is my responsibility here? What is the right thing to do?”

I am grieving today. And in the last 48 hours I've had to tell a number of congregation members about the death of an entire family that is a significant part of our church. There were dearly cherished and loved by many. So I grieve. But I've had to grieve on my own. I've had to be pastoral to those with which I’ve broken the news, and in the process have not been able to break down with someone with which I feel safe.

I recognize this is part of being in ministry. But that’s also why I cherish the small number of friends I do have, because I can be safe with them. These are the spaces I need to grieve in – in places of love and safety and comfort. Because my friend did not follow through with a promise, I haven’t been able to grieve with someone safe today. I am leading worship tomorrow, singing the matriarch of the family’s favorite song. I doubt I will get through it, and I was hoping that safe place would help me prepare. But my friend disappointed me today.

This is a wrong I’m keeping track of, and it doesn't feel like love. It feels like a sacrifice I don’t want to make. Sometimes I would like others to sacrifice for me. And when I ask for it, I try not to ask for too much. But I’m often let down.

“Consequently, most INFJs are protective of their inner selves, sharing only what they choose to share when they choose to share it. They are deep, complex individuals, who are quite private and typically difficult to understand.” (From the above link, profile of an INFJ.)  

This makes it really hard for me to find friends, which is why I am so careful with the ones I do have. This kind of turmoil is my least favorite kind, because I don’t know what to do. And I long to know what to do.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

when I get to guest post for Preston Yancey

Earlier this year, I was chosen to be one of 12 for a guest post series author Preston Yancey was doing while he finished his book this summer, Tables in the Wilderness, with Zondervan. After some extenuating circumstances, it is now on his website, but part of a different guest post series than planned. I am humbled to have been chosen by him, as his words are beautiful and real. He said he finds my words the same. What?!? Craziness.

You can read it here: so i had to bake a peach pie