What is My Worth?

It’s fairly safe to say I won’t be opening my heart up for awhile.

I’ve been in two relationships, and both of them were emotionally abusive in their own way. Both of them played deeply into my present anxieties and trust issues. In the first, he didn’t even want me to call him my boyfriend. He was there for me when it was convenient to be there, and he acknowledged me when he was lonely. But other than that, I’d go days without hearing from him. My second relationship was too good to be true. He was very protective and very jealous – and very stifling. After four months, he decided that he didn’t think he could marry me, and he did what he promised he’d never do – he left.

I cried my eyes out over both relationships. I’ve had massive anxiety attacks over both relationships. And both of them have made me scared of opening up again. Why would I do that if it’s just going to lead to another heartbreak? Why not just block myself off and never love again?

Well, that’s not what love is for. Fortunately.

Oftentimes, we find worth solely in our earthly relationships. Maybe it’s not even a romantic one. We find worth in the love of our parents, or our friends, or our kids. They are our “world,” as some of us like to say. And they can be, but they’re better off as a part of a whole and not the entire thing. Because making someone your world is a lot of pressure – on you and them.

Maybe for you, it’s not people – it’s things. Your worth is found in the number of figures on your paycheck. Or what your boss says on your annual review – or what you say about your employees. What car you drive, what house you own, what you can afford to do and not do.

The common denominator is that all of these things can be taken away. Money can be gone in a flash (2008, anyone?) Spouses can up and leave. Children move away, parents pass on. Your boyfriend tells you he doesn’t love you anymore, or even worse, he’s found someone else. Just like that. Where is your worth now?

I’m making it sound easy to detach yourself from these things, but it never is, is it? I haven’t given birth to a child, so I don’t know the true strength of a mother-child relationship yet. I know how easy it is to become so attached to someone that your worth depends on them. And I know how it feels when they get taken away, and boom – there goes your worth. When both of my relationships respectively ended, there were times when I thought of doing the unspeakable. Literally thank God for my friends, who were there when I needed them the most and talked me off the ledge. It shouldn’t be that way. We shouldn’t be believing we are worthless just because someone left us. Because that’s simply not the case. No one is ever worth telling you how much you’re worth. 

Because that’s just the point – in this life, people are going to make you feel worthless sometimes. When you’re six months out of college and still haven’t found a job, you might feel pretty worthless after rejection email after rejection email floats through your inbox. When you’re twenty-six and attending the sixth wedding you’ve been to that summer and can’t seem to get even one date, you’re probably not feeling super worthy.

It’s great to have people who make you feel worthy – in fact, you should have people in your life that remind you your worth. I’m not saying you should detach yourself from all human emotion and relations. I’m actually saying the opposite. Just remember where your true worth comes from. It’s not your children, your job, your boyfriend, your anything. It doesn’t even have to do with you.

Your worth comes from a God who loved you so much, despite your shortcomings, despite your “unworthiness,” that He drank a deadly cup and died for you. He endured unimaginable pain so that you might taste grace. That worth is paramount to all else. That worth doesn’t depend on anything you do or don’t do. And it certainly won’t change with the wind.

Jesus doesn’t leave you because He’s “just not sure anymore.” Jesus doesn’t only give you attention when He’s lonely. He’s not going to move away, or disappear, or think you’re worthless because you didn’t get that six-figure job. He is your world, and He wants to be your world. 

People come and go – that’s just the truth of this broken world. An unfortunate truth, but a truth nonetheless. But the Love of the Lord remains forever.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

Advertisements

The Gracious Breakup

I’ll be the first to admit that I was full-tilt crazy after it all went down. But who isn’t when something that significant happens? When one day someone is there and the next day they aren’t? When it seems like everything you had with that person means nothing at all?

Take it from me, it can make you crazy.

Whenever your brain has something to think about, it will think about it. And a breakup gives you plenty to think about. It revolves mostly around the age-old question – what went wrong? And sometimes, you don’t get a definitive answer. It just went wrong, and that’s it. Not much you can do.

But then comes that fun part called “moving on.” I know we all love that. Trying to go at least one day without thinking about them, without checking up on their social media, without being…well, not over it. Maybe you want to get back together, or maybe you’re just angry or sad. But whatever it is, it ain’t easy to just “get over it.” Whether the relationship lasted two years or two months, it hurts. Because something that was there isn’t there anymore.

I honestly don’t think there’s such thing as a clean break. I think it just hurts – and it’s supposed to hurt. That’s what makes us human. But the key is not to let the hurt consume you. I’ll admit, I let the hurt consume me (not just in breakup situations, but in other “heartbreak” type situations, if you know what I mean.) I wanted to talk about it. I wanted to talk about it so bad that I did some really stupid things. Things that I regret. Don’t let pain do that to you. Honestly, it’s not worth it in the end.

Then of course, comes the Taylor-Swift-ex-rage phase. Where you brush it off and pretend you never had three emotional breakdowns in the last week, where you put on your best red lipstick and pumps and devil-may-care attitude. Everything becomes his fault. He was the jerk. He let it end. He’s probably a sorry sap right now.

I honestly think that fault is usually on both sides. A lot of times it’s communication, or lack of time spent together, or difference of opinion, or all of the above. Whatever happened, one or both parties decided that it wasn’t worth it anymore. Sometimes it’s no one’s fault other than you weren’t compatible. Playing the blame game usually doesn’t make things go any better. It just causes more anger and resentment. And I don’t think you want that after all you shared together.

It’s really easy to compare post-breakup. Who’s moved on faster? Who’s finally happy again? Am I doing better or is he? It almost becomes a competition. Well, if I’m doing all these things and accomplishing all this, they must be failing at everything. They’ve got to be, because they let me go.

It’s certainly okay to be mad. Just don’t get bitter. After I was sad, I got so mad. The anger was almost all-consuming. It leaked into other parts of my life. My days were spent swimming through negativity and cynicism. Honestly, I’m not over that hump yet. I’m mad at everything that happened. I’m mad at the situation we found ourselves in at the time of the breakup.

But don’t let the anger become bitterness. Because that’s a lot harder to heal than a little bit of righteous anger. Bitterness puts layers on your heart, like concrete that hardens over time. It makes it a lot harder for healthy relationships to happen in the future.

So, is there such thing as a “gracious breakup?” 

Probably not. Simply because the nature of a breakup is, well…breaking. And breaking isn’t a fun thing. Like, ever.

But is there such thing as moving on graciously after a breakup?

Of course there is. A good first step is not being too hard on yourself. Of course you hurt, whether you were broken up with or the one who did the breaking up. You can hurt. Because something’s broken. Broken things hurt.

A good second step is letting yourself feel everything that comes along with the breakup. Hurt, sadness, pain, anger. It’s not healthy to keep that inside. Let it out. Vent it to someone. Journal. Throw darts. Do what you have to do. Even if you feel like you aren’t “getting over” it, that will come with time. There’s no set time limit for getting over someone. But it will happen eventually.

Finally, move on graciously. It won’t be a magical switch-flip, though. Healing something broken takes a long time. You’ll have setbacks. It’s all in how you handle it. If you’re feeling sad, don’t text or call them (guilty party here.) Talk to a loved one instead. If you’re feeling mad, don’t broadcast it all over (also guilty.) Write it down and rip it up, or go for a long run and listen to angry music. Getting through it is what will help you get over it.

And friends, I know it’s not easy. But I do know that whatever is waiting for you on the other side of that pain is good. I think I’ve finally found my Good on the other side of the pain, and it was definitely worth it. So be patient with yourself. Keep waking up in the morning. Keep telling yourself that someday all of this won’t matter. Keep going knowing that you are worth far more than one breakup or misstep.

And that alone is worth knowing.

a. w.

Palms Open, Ready to Recieve

O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory,
What bliss, till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.

How are you feeling this week?

This week, we are following our Lord to the cross. We just celebrated Palm Sunday – a time of great jubilation for Jerusalem. But, petty as the human race is, that joy will not last. At the first sign of danger, we flee. We turn our backs. We deny Him three times.

How can a week begin with such great joy and end with great terror? I think you know how. Have you ever had a day begin with great joy and end in sadness? Kind words are spoken one minute, and the next you can barely speak because of the anger you feel?

This week starts with palms – beautiful, fresh branches cut down to be lain at the Savior’s feet. This week ends with the palms of our Savior bleeding out, the tendons ripping, our Christ in unimaginable pain.

How do you approach a week filled to the brim with unimaginable pain and unspeakable joy?

With palms open, ready to recieve.

To fully know and understand the sacrifice of our Lord for our betterment, we must also fully know and understand his anguish. Savor this Holy Week and all the flavors it provides – joy and celebration, death and betrayal. Denial. Hope.

Even our Lord begged for His cup to be taken from Him. But He surrendered, and He suffered so that we might be bathed in the blood of salvation and be with Him in glory.

He endured that pain so that we may never have to taste it in its fullness.

It was for you. Recieve that gift.

Greet pain with palms open, ready to recieve.

Greet joy with palms open, ready to recieve.

Remember during this Holy Week the suffering of our Lord. But remember also His glory.

a. w.

you called me

You tried to call me

by something

I wasn’t.

You tried to call me “love.”

You tried to name me.

You tried to

fit me

in a place

you thought

I belonged.

But soon,

you called me “too much.”

Or “too little.”

But you never called me

“Enough.”

I fell short.

I needed

to

“calm

down.”

You tried to name

my passions.

You tried to name

my plans.

And for a while

for a while

(oh, my dear)

for a while,
I believed you.

I did.

I was content

in a cage

singing for you

and

being fed

my name.

But when I became

too much

when my song

was too loud

you covered my

cage

to make me

sleep.
I slept.

One day,

(graciously, now I see)

you set me free.

And I didn’t

know

how

to be
free.

(Oh, dear.)

I did not have someone

to name me

so

who
was I?

I could’ve been what you named me.

I could have been “Love.”

I could have been what

you called me.

But that’s not

me.

Oh,

that’s

not

me.

You gave me crowns,

oh

such crowns

you crowned me

with tinsel

and soft words

and roses

and gentle

promises.
But all of those things

broke.

Tinsel crowns

fall off.

When I bowed my head to listen to you

it

fell

off.

So I forged my own crown.

A crown of hearty metal.

And it won’t slip off

because I won’t

look down

at you.

I won’t look at the

sandcastle

of names

I used to be called.

I call my own name now.

I name myself.

I arise and sing

like a bird uncaged.

So forge your own crown.

Wear it, and don’t let it slip.

Call your own name,

oh

call it until someone responds.

And if they don’t,

keep singing your song.

Oh, darling,

you may have to sing

alone

but

please

sing. 

Sing. 

Sing. 

Someday,

they may try

to call

again.

Call your own Name

before

you

answer.

poetry

a. w.

tasting our bitter herbs.

13924950_10205338208013194_9205363003786206301_n

In a traditional Passover meal, it’s common to partake in bitter herbs. A seder often includes an herb called maror, which literally means “bitter.” The word bitter comes up a lot in the book of Exodus, probably because the Israelites don’t really look back on Egypt with a whole lot of fondness. But they looked back on it nevertheless. And thousands of years later, their descendants are still honoring it, still remembering.

Why would they remember such a terrible time? Their entire race was enslaved by a powerful kingdom that was unbending when it came to labor and punishment. They had all but given up on God after their own newborn babies were killed in front of them. Even after Moses led them out of Egypt, the Israelites wandered around the desert for a heckuva long time. Probably not a lot of happy memories.

But every year, generations gather together and partake in a meal of six parts. A lot of times we eat food to enjoy, but this meal is eaten to remember.

How often do you think about something you’ve done and it brings a bad taste to your throat? If you’re like most people, it happens often. We as humans like to carry around regrets. We like to look back instead of look ahead. And looking back – remembering – is a good thing to do, if you do it right.

See, the Passover meal isn’t shared and eaten in order to wallow in self-pity. While the meal does involve saltwater to represent the tears and anguish the Jewish people have suffered (as well as other foods that are eaten symbolically, not out of enjoyment,) it’s not a pity party where everyone cries woe is me, woe is us, nothing has gone right. 

It’s a meal to remember the goodness of the Lord.

After Moses delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, they were far from grateful. Although they were free from bondage, they had no idea what was going to happen next. They got scared. When humans are scared, they do things they regret. The Israelites muttered and complained and lost faith in God almost altogether. They wanted sign after sign to know that God was still with them. And even when he did send them a sign (i.e., manna from heaven to provide food for them) they still got scared and stored as much of the food as they could because they didn’t trust that the Lord would provide the next day. The same thing also happened with water. Most of the Israelites literally wished they’d have died in Egypt.

Not very great memories for a people to have, am I right? “Hey kids, want to hear about the time me and your mom were so hungry we wished we would’ve died in slavery?”

So why do families gather together every year and eat a meal that represents the mistakes and suffering of their ancestors?

Because remembering the bitter times reminds us of God’s goodness.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to wait on the Lord. I hope that doesn’t sound like a complaint. I’ll tell you right now, 2018 has not been an easy year for me so far. Things have happened that have caused me to plunge deep into self-searching. That self-searching easily turns into self-doubt and then self-pity. Every day is a struggle to wait on the Lord.

And lots of people have gone through way more adversity than I have and remain faithful to the Lord. How? By partaking in a feast of bitter herbs.

There is a fine line, however. Remembering can easily become a pity party. At least I know that’s true for me. If I think about my past mistakes, I end up wasting the rest of my day by wallowing in my own suckiness. There’s no hope for me. I’ve made too many mistakes, too many regrets. 

There’s a difference between regretting our bitterness and remembering our bitterness.

Have you ever noticed how if you regret something, it really doesn’t help anything, other than making you feel terrible? Yeah, me too. Remembering is different. Remembering is feasting on our own bitter herbs, tasting the ugliness of it –

And remembering what God did to restore us.

Remember your bitterness, but also remember the grace of God that came alongside it. Remember your faults, but also remember how God has filled in the cracks of your imperfection with his love.
Remember the badness, but remember also the goodness of the Lord.

I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Psalm 27:13  

Think about your bitter herbs. Be specific about them. A lot of people see the Lenten season as a time to give up something earthly, like sweets or social media, but I also see it as a time of deep (and sometimes painful) reflection. What is preventing you from approaching God on His throne? What needs to be purged from your soul so that you may open your soul to God?

You will experience bitterness in this life, in some way, shape, or form. It may come from an oppressor on the outside, or it may come from within. If you don’t confront and taste your bitterness, you will remain locked in a cage with the key in your hand, complaining about how there’s no way out.

How have the Jewish people been able to survive for thousands of years even in the face of adversity after adversity? By tasting the herbs, and remembering the Lord.

How will you, as a Christian, be able to stand the darkness of the world and still keep your faith? By tasting the herbs, and remembering the Lord.

Remember these bitter herbs. Taste them. And then remember Who was by your side all along.

a. w.

Dear Young Christians: Stop Chasing Romantic Love.

18486104_10207230873248642_3293217751124237189_n

It’s a boy-meets-girl world.

We crave tangible affection. We crave it in different ways. Oftentimes, we crave a love that is romantic – long-walks-on-the-beach and long-talks-after-dark romance. Sometimes (oftentimes) we crave it so much that it becomes an ideal. Or an idol. This isn’t a new conversation.

We have expectations for the way our lives should run based on what we observe. We grow up, we go to school, we get a job. And somewhere along the way, we expect Mr. or Mrs. Right to come along. That’s how it happened for our parents, our grandparents, many of our friends and relations. Love happened. You might expect to meet in college, or during your summer job, or at a work party. You expect that somewhere along the way, maybe after a few duds, it will happen for you.

But sometimes it doesn’t. Either it doesn’t happen when you think it will, or it doesn’t happen at all. Not everyone finishes out their life happily in romantic love.

We’ve all grown into these expectations. When our circumstances don’t line up with our expectations, we begin to worry. If I don’t have a partner, something must be wrong with me. I must not be doing something right. As a result, we have incredible young single men and women believing they’re not enough, saying self-degrading things like they’ll be a crazy cat lady or a 40-year-old virgin – “forever alone,” like one popular meme. They’ve stopped seeing value in themselves because someone else hasn’t seen it.

And that ain’t right. Our value shouldn’t be found in that.

I’ve had a lot of interactions with single Christians, having grown up in a Christian environment. It’s implicitly part of the Christian algorithm to get married. If it wasn’t, churches wouldn’t have marriage retreats and Christian Mingle probably wouldn’t exist. In my opinion, this mentality causes desperation and devastation. If I’m not in a relationship/married by now, then something must be wrong with me. Christian men and women become desperate for companionship, and bad stuff happens when someone is desperate.

It seems to me that the church shouldn’t spend all its time and resources on those who are married. Marriage retreats and relationship self-help books have their place, but there’s only one kind of love that the church should be stressing above all others.

Agape. 

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 13.58.07
Media from dictionary.com

Agape might sound like “friendly” love. Or “friendzoning,” if you will, because it implies a brotherly love. But what else does it imply? Unselfish. How often do we pursue romantic love to get something out of it for ourselves? In all honesty (and speaking from experience,) our need for romantic love rarely comes from an unselfish place.

There’s a reason agape has those three main definitions (I’ll get to the fourth one in a second.) Agape is vertical, horizontal, and plural. Agape reflects the love God has for us. Agape reflects the love we then show to others as a result of God within us. Agape should be present in all our personal relationships. 

Agape is how we should live our lives. I know it’s impossible for humans to be completely selfless, but what would an agape world look like? Single men and women would not feel desperate, needy, or “forever alone.” They would be filled with agape love. That love would overflow into every pore of their lives.

The world would be a love feast. 

What the heck is a love feast? 

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 14.04.01
Media from dictionary.com

Who doesn’t love a good meal? Even better, a good meal shared with the ones they love? A shared meal directly correlates to companionship. What if we lived in a world where churches hosted meals, not specifically for the married or the single, but for everyone. An agape feast!

I am not married yet. I would love to someday be married and have children to raise with the love of the Lord. Marriage has sometimes (often) become an obsession for me (you should see my wedding board on Pinterest.) I yearn to live my life with someone by my side – a husband, a father, a companion. I will not find that by being desperate, by swiping through a dating app, by going to a singles’ group thinly veiled as a 20-something church group.

I’m well aware that I am not promised a happy marriage. None of us are promised romantic love.

Do you know what we are promised? Agape love. If you need a reminder of that, read John 3:16.

God does not promise us romance. To think that our end-goal as a Christian is romance cheapens the idea of love. God has promised that we have a bridegroom in Christ. A husband or wife is merely a bonus – and if you are privileged enough to have one, you’d better treat them as one of the greatest gifts you’ve been given. Marriage is a gift from God, when it’s rooted in agape. But He gives other gifts that are equally as valuable.

Set your heart on things above.

And go forward in agape.

a. w.

Ode to the Girl

10353046_10201883285482290_3324054851303375118_n

She was a late bloomer.

When the other girls wore mascara in 7th grade,

she zipped up her favorite hoodie and wondered why.

(She looks back on pictures now and knows why.)

But she didn’t care.

She wanted her books and her music and her laughter,

not the attention of a prepubescent boy.

Some people said she “just did her own thing,”

which some people said as a compliment,

and other people didn’t.

She wasn’t the It girl in high school.

She didn’t draw attention to herself,

she watched the quintessential high school drama unfold

but still she just

did her own thing.

And that was okay.

But she did bloom, the shy bud.

She bloomed into herself.

While she wasn’t the one that all the boys chased after,

she had a beauty of her own that lay beneath the skin.

If anyone were to wade into

the deep waters of her mind,

they’d see a rare loveliness

not found in many girls her age.

But sometimes those deep waters were rough.

And dark.

Her thoughts would crash against the rocks

and she would

doubt.

She doubted her beauty, her goodness, her worth.

She would wilt under the stress of the world

and the power of other’s words on her soul.

She started to feel

Different

and she didn’t like it.

The soil beneath her was rocky. She couldn’t thrive.

Until one day,

she realized

that if she wanted sunlight

she had to be the sun.

She couldn’t count on anyone to tell her what she was

(or what she wasn’t.)

If she needed rain, she would be her rain,

and she’d dance and laugh in the storm.

And

she

bloomed.

More radiant than before,

with that same deep beauty

that takes time

to bloom.

Wildflowers pop up

and disappear

in a day.

They’re pretty, but that’s it.

She was an orchid,

priceless and patient.

When she bloomed, people noticed.

Instead of plucking her,

they admired her

and nurtured her

so she would grow

brighter.

And like the orchid,

she bloomed alone,

not among a field of poppies.

They wondered how she did it.

She smiled and said,

“I just do

my own thing.”

a. w.