This is entirely raw and unedited. It’s my way of processing how I feel. I’m putting it here in the hopes that, if someone is feeling the way I am, they might find comfort in the fact that they aren’t alone.
I’m staring down a twisting, gnarled path lined with dark shadows and brambles. With each step forward, the ground behind me crumbles away. There’s no turning back on this journey, no matter how much I wish I could go back to what I knew, what was concrete and made sense. What’s ahead is so incredibly daunting.
Sometimes I think that maybe I’ve lost the correct path and find myself stumbling along a not oft traveled deer path that winds around and around and doubles back on itself. And then I enter a deep, cool valley, and just as I come across the well-beaten path I am certain is the right one, I look ahead and up see that it disappears behind the crest of the peak before me, and the rest of the trail is beyond where I can’t see it.
What if it dead-ends? What if it crumbles away beneath my feet, leaving me with nowhere to go? What if I’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere, which I’m certain I have, and this path leads to despair and suffering? I can’t see my destination, nor can I see the clear path I need to take to make it there.
I am frightened.
A little voice in the back of my mind whispers sweetly, “Trust.” But I’ve been trusting. All of those detours, those lonely, sleepless nights, I trusted. And where has it gotten me? To a ravine from which my ability to emerge and get back on track is uncertain; to a state of pervasive loneliness and jealousy and bitterness; to a depth of despair that I can’t even begin to communicate.
Trust has led me to uncertainty and to a point in my journey where I’m so exhausted from striving and searching and trusting and pleading and being quiet that I wonder if giving up, settling on a log on the side of the trail to live out my days, might be the better option.
Again, that little voice intones, “Trust.” I’m tired of trusting. I’m tired of blundering about my life as if blind. I’m tired of everyone moving on around me, of everyone making strides towards the purpose of their lives. I want that. I want to have at least a tiny little niggling inkling as to my purpose on this earth. Because surely it isn’t to simply wander, lost and alone, for the rest of my days.
I know He has plans to prosper me, but where are they? I feel like shouting to the heavens, “I am unhappy! I am not being prospered!” In fact, I often feel quite the opposite: like I’m a tiny, insignificant insect with an enormous magnifying glass focusing the trials of life squarely on my back.
“Trust,” the voice whispers. “Trust.” But I feel as if I’ve forgotten how. My feet are rooted to this spot, and my mind reels with the black void behind me and the towering unknown before me. My arms are like lead, weighing me down, and my heart feels heavy as a stone. I can’t go back, because there is nothing for me there. And yet, I can’t go forward, because there is a chance that there is nothing for me there, either.
The fear is paralyzing.
That single word echoes in my mind, and I struggle to lift my feet. Surely, whatever is before me will be better than the black, empty void behind.
My feet feel like boulders, and every slow, agonizing step I take shakes the ground and the trees around me. A bright red cardinal erupts from a nearby bush and soars high above the peak and out of sight.
My pace is slow, but at least I’m moving. Maybe I’m going in the wrong direction, and I still bear the weight of loneliness in the pit of my gut, but the little voice in the back of my mind has the right idea. Trust has gotten me this far, and though I can’t see the road ahead, I have always had places to put my feet and ways around obstacles.
I’m working on that. After all, not all who wander are lost.
I just completed my application for Africa Inland Mission‘s TIMO program and mailed it out this afternoon. I’m incredibly excited. Over the last few weeks, I’ve done a lot of reading about the Sakalava people and the ministry that AIM is trying to build with them, and the more I read, the more my heart aches to go.
I feel as if I’ve been answering the same question to all of my friends over the last couple weeks. Everyone is so curious to know what brought on my desire to go to Africa, so I thought that here would be as good a place as any to share the answer.
I’m not really sure how it started, except that I had been comfortable and content with my job and my quiet life and my home church, and then suddenly I wasn’t anymore. I was restless and discontent and this little seed of something—I hesitate to call it wanderlust, because that makes it sound fleeting and fickle, but I can’t seem to find another word more fitting—took root in my heart.
I reached out to my friends and family that Saturday night when I realized my restlessness. I think my exact text to them was something along the lines of, “I am so restless and bored. I feel like I need adventure and change. I’m not content.” The overwhelming response was to pray. After blogging about my restlessness (Clearly, I find that writing things out helps me to process how I’m feeling and identify potential reasons for those feelings.) I prayed and asked God to reveal the reason for my restlessness.
The next morning, my church welcomed back one of our own from her two years with her TIMO team in Africa. And that tiny seed started to grow. After the service, I spoke with her briefly, and then went home and started to look into AIM and their mission. I sought council of sorts from my sister, who has known far longer than I have that she had a heart for missions, and we went for a long, meandering walk through the quiet of the prairie path near our house, and talked for hours about Africa and God’s urgings for us to step outside of our comfort zones and find experiences that we never could have dreamed about. And the longer we talked, the deeper that little seed’s roots delved into my heart. After more prayer and soul-searching, I felt that I could say with relative confidence that Africa was the reason for my discontent.
I spent several weeks on my application, allowing myself time to reflect and digest the possibilities of all the places I might end up, and as I looked through some of the TIMO teams that AIM is hoping to send out within the next year, I felt incredibly drawn to the ministry to the Sakalava people of Madagascar. Maybe I won’t end up there; maybe God has plans for me to end up working with another ministry. But all I know is that Africa has taken root in my heart, and when I consider that by this time next year I might be six months into a two-year stay with a host group, my soul feels so light.
I’m so excited to see where the Lord is leading me, and I sincerely hope that soon I will be posting here to tell all of you that Africa is there, clear as day, on the horizon a few months away.
Over the last two years, my life has been quiet, and I’ve been content. Working, spending time with my family, writing, reading, connecting with my church and making new, amazing friends… Very quiet. It was just what I needed, when I needed it. But I think that time is passing.
It’s come on suddenly, this feeling of restlessness. One day I am content in my life and my place, and the next, I can hardly bear to sit still and stay here. It’s as if all of a sudden, I have realized that I’m no longer content with my job and with the way my life feels like all I’m doing is treading water. Up until a few days ago, I was perfectly happy here.
I find myself longing for an adventure, for something unknown. I’ve never really been impulsive, but lately, all I seem to be able to do is daydream about driving until my car breaks down and seeing where I end up. I don’t know where this need, this nagging desire for action and adventure and newness came from, but I can feel it smoldering in the pit of my stomach.
I want to meet people, all sorts of people, and do things that I’ve never done before. I want to experience life for all it has to offer, see all the wonders of God’s amazing creation. I want to get my feet wet. I want… I want something more. I don’t know what I want specifically, but I want something more than this. I want to drive as far as I can in one direction, and then pick another and keep going.
God, You’ve given me this restlessness for a reason, and I’m desperate to know what that reason is. And I’m so excited to see where it leads me.
God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.
Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Today has been a full day. It started early this morning with Focal Point, the class my church holds for those who are looking to become official ministry partners, and from there I went to the service, and then to the ESL tutor training course Community Fellowship is hosting in conjunction with Wheaton Bible Church. I came home for a grand total for half an hour for dinner, and then I went back for the college group/young adult group worship.
The message tonight was a strong one, and one that I find extremely pertinent to life today. We read the Old Testament and see moments like God in the burning bush speaking to Moses, and we wonder why it doesn’t happen anymore, why it feels that God is so far from us when He is supposed to be so near.
Our teaching pastor, Mitchel, proposed the God does show himself, He does give us burning bushes every day, we just need to pay attention to them. We need to make the conscious decision to see them, and to turn towards them. That person that you met in passing in the bathroom, that coworker you lashed out at, the person that sat across from you in class… They can all be your burning bush. You need only pay attention to the Spirit’s stirrings.
And then he asked us to close our eyes and think back over the last week and ask God if we missed the burning bushes he sent us. And there they were, clear as day, burning bright at the edges of my mind.
The coworker I snapped at out of a place of deep-seated jealousy and bitterness was there, convicting me of a dozen flaws, not the least of which are jealousy and bitterness themselves. The subsequent conviction to apologize despite my overwhelming reluctance was there, too, helping me to acknowledge that there are many things that I need to change. And the lightness of spirit I felt when I gave that genuine apology… What delicious fruit that was.
The woman I spoke to in passing in, of all places, the bathroom at church was there as well, preparing the way for the next burning bush to come, and pushing me to step outside my comfort zone and reach out to all of the people around me. They are all friendly and genuine, despite that niggling fear in the pit of my stomach that they will reject me or find me abrasive or boring or obnoxious. I just have to put myself out there.
And the wonderful woman who sat across from me today in my ESL tutoring class was there, a bright beacon reminding me that God is always faithful, and He does answer our prayers. He did hear my cries of loneliness, of listlessness, and of the incredible desire for friends, and today, He gave me an incredible blessing. She is very much like me, and I am so thankful to God for putting her in my path, and for making her one of my burning bushes this week.
What have your burning bushes been this week? Have you been watching and listening for them? They are there, believe me. You need only open your eyes and your hearts.
When I first saw this amazing paper several months ago when I was just starting Suburban Bird Studios, I fell in love with it. It’s just so bright and cheery, and it makes me think of retro 50s kitchens. (Maybe that last one’s just me…) When I picked it up off the rack, I had images of recipe books and foodie journals dancing in my head. You know the kind of ideas, the ones that seem amazing, but just out of reach. I didn’t feel like I had the skill to make a recipe book because I was making it more complicated in my head than it had to be.
So I bought a couple of sheets and for these last few months, they languished in my paper pile between some bright green florals and some drab brown mess that I’ll probably never use.
I came across it the other day when I was making journals like mad to replenish my Etsy shop, and again I dreamt of the recipe book. And again, I thought, “Oh, maybe someday.”
Then I started seeing some of my tweeps posting with the #afundforjennie hashtag. I didn’t think much of it. I had other things on my mind. Then I saw more and more posts with #afundforjennie, and eventually I came across a retweet of something by @bloggerswob. The name intrigued me, and so I looked into it.
When I read the story behind the hashtag, my heart just broke for Jennie. I won’t rehash the story again because I’m sure most of you are here from the Bloggers Without Borders site, and the story can be found here. But when I saw the food blogging community rallying around Jennie, I felt moved to do something.
I’m not a food blogger; I’m not even a consistent blogger. I don’t know Jennie, and I don’t have sweet treats or catered meals to offer, (but check those out!) but for once, I feel like I have something to offer up that might draw some interest.
So, in the spirit of the food blogging community, here is what I’m offering up for auction:
- One ring-bound recipe book filled with 30 3×5 lined notecards, perfect for recording your most loved recipes. The rings can be opened, so cards can be added or removed. The recipe book comes with 20 extra, pre-punched cards.
- One matching large (6×9) lined journal with 100 sheets, (200 pages) perfect for jotting notes or recipes to create or try.
- One matching micro-mini (3×4) unlined journal with 100 sheets, (200 pages) which is perfectly pocket and purse-sized. (Picture to come.)
Bidding starts at $50. Leave bids here in the comments. I will pay shipping, and all proceeds of this auction will go directly to BWOB for the Fund for Jennie. This auction will end on September 5th at noon CST.
In addition, for those of you who may not have enough money to participate in the auction, 50% of the proceeds from all items purchased from my shop between now and September 5th will go to the Fund for Jennie.
Happy bidding, and God bless!
Yesterday I delved into what has been my idol for seven years, (food) and how God used my health in a profound way to give me a kick in the butt to be a better Christian and to free myself from the chains that food had so tightly wrapped around me. Today, I want to share a revelation that I had about God while baking bread.
I’m sure that sounds silly, that something as simple as baking bread can spark a revelation, but God has really opened my eyes lately to the way that everyday tasks can reflect His spirit and His desires for us as His children.
Baking gluten free is a whole different animal than baking with all-purpose wheat flour. There are many different ingredients that have to work together to do the same job as just that one flour. There are an abundance of GF flours and starches that, mixed in different ratios, produce different flavors, textures, and densities. When you’re just starting out, it takes a lot of extra thought. But as you become more familiar with the different components, it gets easier and it becomes second nature.
Therein lies lesson number two.
On Baking Gluten Free Bread and Finding God
Baking GF bread is a lot like being a Christian.
Okay, okay, that sounds ridiculous, but hear me out. I promise, I have a point, and it makes sense.
The Apron (or, Physical and Emotional Armor)
When we enter the kitchen with the intent of baking, we put on an apron. (Okay, I know, not everybody wears an apron, but you know what I’m getting at.) We use it to protect ourselves from splatters and the like, and personally, I don’t like to cook without one.
Likewise, as humans, we wake up in the morning and put on our armor to protect our delicate self-worth: clothes to hide our perceived imperfections, makeup to make us feel pretty, and a carefully constructed facade to keep everyone else from finding out that we aren’t perfect. We cannot leave the house unprotected, because we fear that we risk grave emotional injury.
As Christians, God is our armor. However, as an apron cannot hide a terrible cook, God does not hide our flaws. He uses them instead to help us make connections with others, and to glorify Him through reaching out to those who share our pain. He delights in our flaws and weaknesses, because they give us the freedom to seek Him and share our hearts with others. (For a better explanation of this, head on over to Rebecca Thornberry: Artist and read her blog entry, Hem and Haw. She makes more sense of this than I do. Go on. I’ll wait here. You can read the rest of this when you get back.)
The Dough (or, Our Skewed Self Perception)
Regular bread dough and GF dough look completely different. Regular bread dough has a silky texture that makes it easy to knead. Instead of having a strong structure, GF bread dough is more like a cake batter. It looks like this:
If not for the sage advice of Shauna Ahern of Gluten Free Girl and the Chef, I would have added more GF flour to this dough in order to make it look more like wheat bread dough. The problem with that would be that it would have ruined the entire batch. This batch was perfect the way it was.
In the same way, we as humans try so hard to fit into the world, to look like everybody else, and to be just like those people we admire. But God, in His infinite patience, slowly pours into us until we can finally acknowledge that we are perfect as we are. He made us different for a reason. There is someone we must reach who we couldn’t reach if we were just like everybody else.
The Rising and Baking (or, Spiritual Support and Trial by Fire)
Gluten is what binds baked goods together. It keeps them from being overly crumbly and falling apart. This is exactly why cornbread is so crumbly: corn meal does not usually contain gluten, and most recipes do not have a high enough wheat flour content to make it more like wheat bread.
So, GF recipes need other binders, like xanthan gum, ground chia seeds, or flax meal, to give them a consistency reminiscent of “real” bread. They allow for that springy, high-rising structure so that people with celiac or gluten sensitivities can enjoy baked goods without ending up in pain or with permanent health problems. Without those binders, GF bread won’t bake right. It will end up dry and crumbly, and not like bread at all.
Like GF bread dough, we as humans can’t fully support ourselves. We might find something that seems to give us structure and support, but in the end, if we don’t have God, we fall flat. We don’t develop right in the fires of the trials in our lives. We try so hard to find that one thing that will bind us and hold us up, but we put forth all that effort looking in all the wrong places. All we have to do is look up.
The Finished Product (or, Where We Are Going and How We Get There)
Throughout the entire process of baking a loaf of GF bread, you have to gather up everything you ever learned about baking with gluten flours and throw it out the window. This is a whole other animal, and you have to take the time to learn the ins and outs of it without any preconceived ideas, or you’ll end up with a bunch of wasted ingredients and a failed loaf of what barely passes for bread. (Trust me. This is what happened the first time I tried to bake my own GF bread.)
Of all the steps in GF bread making, the only one that resembles its gluten counterpart is the finished product. All the others look so completely different that it’s hard to imagine it’ll all pull together and form something bread-like instead of something cake-like. Even seeing this whole thing through from beginning to end, it’s hard to imagine how it all turned out right.
As it is with GF bread, so it is with our lives. No one, in the midst of trials and tribulations, can imagine how their life is going to end up right. When you look around yourself and all you see is chaos and ruin, it’s almost impossible to imagine that it’ll end up right at all. It’s entirely too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that maybe where you are isn’t where you’re supposed to be, and that the pain and suffering you’re feeling have no purpose but to break you down a little further.
But God knows just how you’re going to end up, and He can see the entire process from beginning to end. He knows how we’re going to get from a sloppy ruin to a beautiful, finished life. All we need is to go where He sends us and have faith that He will steer us right, and that he won’t leave us in the fire too long.
My bread turned out just right. I know that with God by my side, my life will turn out just right, too.
Right now, it takes a lot of extra thought to trust Him to get me where I need to go, but every day that goes by, it gets a little easier. I’m looking forward to the day when it really does become second nature.
This last year has been a year of illness for me. I had my barely functioning gallbladder out in late February after living with terrible pain every day starting in August, and I had hoped that would solve the intestinal upset and other odd aches and pains that plagued me, too. Now, three months later, the pain from that organ is gone, but the almost daily intestinal pain, mouth sores, muscle and joint aches, and other unmentionable issues didn’t go away.
So, a few weeks ago, in a desperate bid to feel healthy again after close to a year of feeling sick, I started paying close attention to what I ate and what seemed to trigger those responses in my body. The culprit? Bread. Or, well, gluten to be precise.
Gluten is in wheat, barley, and rye. Wheat is in the majority of packaged food items on the market. So, just about everything out there contains gluten. This makes it very, very difficult to cut it out of your diet, especially when your family loves bread and pasta and they make up the staples in most meals.
Also, I love bread. And I love eating. Having to cut out gluten has made it hard for me to eat almost all of the things I love.
And, therein lies lesson number one.
Idols and Obsessions
Since about the middle of high school, when I really started to have serious issues with my depression and when I really started to pull away from God entirely, I started to eat. I no longer only ate when I was hungry or in need of energy, I ate all the time. I started to look at food like the panacea for all of my spiritual and emotional wounds. If I was stressed, I ate. If I was sad, I ate. If I was angry, I ate. If I was hurt or scared or lonely or overwhelmed or feeling directionless, I ate. And if I was happy, I ate, too.
When I left for college, that didn’t change. I had already made the damaging habits, and I was caught in a vicious cycle that I didn’t know how to break: happy, eat; depressed, eat; social events, eat; alone, eat. Eat, eat, eat. Even when I found my way back into the fold of the church and started to live out the faith I had always wanted, I ate. Food drove me. I thought about it all the time, and I was damaging myself as a result.
I gained a disgusting amount of weight. I hated the way I looked, and I was totally appalled at my inability to care enough to change. My life revolved around food.
It has taken a developing gluten sensitivity to realize that food has been my idol for seven years. Food has been the center of my life when only God is deserving of such a place. So, He gave me the choice to make room for Him.
I don’t look at this as punishment, not at all. God wants His children to be healthy and happy, and my love of food was destroying any and all chances I had of that. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. I wanted to shower with my eyes closed. I wanted nothing to do with my body. And, my weight was extremely unhealthy.
I feel that God has broken the bonds that my food obsession had on me, and in doing so, He has put before me the opportunity to become healthy again, to eat better and to develop a much healthier relationship with my food. Food sustains my body, and it’s okay to take some small pleasure in it. But if food is the center of my universe, my spirit and my soul waste away. I need food to survive, but I need God at the center of my life to live.
In just the few short weeks since I cut gluten out of my diet, I feel healthier. I’m eating better, and I’m eating more fruits and vegetables and lean meats. I’ve been forced to cut 90% of the junk food out of my diet because it contains gluten, and so I have started to lose some of this extra weight. And finally, God is where he belongs: right smack-dab in the middle of my heart.
A quick aside: I want to be clear that I’m advocating a healthy relationship with food here, not getting rid of it entirely. I tried to make that clear, but I feel like I might need this aside just in case. I am also not advocating a gluten free diet as a way to lose weight. It is a serious undertaking, and while I know there are current fads that say that everyone should cut out gluten and that it’s a good way to lose weight, that isn’t what I’m saying here. I am gluten free because, in order to be healthy, I need to be. My weight loss only has anything to do with cutting out gluten because I can’t afford all of the GF junk foods they sell, and because it’s given me a new awareness of what is in the food I put in my body as well as a new awareness of how much I need to eat to be satisfied and not over full.
It has taken all of my courage to write this, and even more to post it here for all to see. It’s long, but it is my heart. It’s time that I share it.
When I first began Suburban Bird and laid the framework for Suburban Bird Studios, I could feel God beginning to move in my life. I wasn’t sure in which direction or to what end, but I could feel Him guiding my path and urging me on in the right direction with those soft nudges like He always does. There were many times that I wanted to write about it, and share it with all of you, but I just couldn’t make myself do it.
When I wrote my first few entries here, and began to consider where I was going to take my business and how this blog was going to fit in with it, I warred with myself on whether or not I would share my faith here. I didn’t want to alienate anyone, or put someone off, or offend people. Quite frankly, I was only thinking of myself and what would be best for me. I wanted to hook and keep as many readers as possible, regardless of creed, and I was afraid to say anything about God or my relationship with Him for fear that I might scare off some of those potential readers.
How absolutely silly of me.
The fact of the matter is, God is as much a part of Suburban Bird as I am. I would not be here were it not for Him, nor would I have embarked on this adventure without His gentle encouragement. He put the desire on my heart to grow in the gifts He gave me, and to do so here where I might find accountability and support that I might not find elsewhere. And in those most formative weeks for this blog, He led me straight to those people who would unknowingly encourage me that it is perfectly appropriate to share one’s faith, and that I need not fear that the readers would not come because of it.
I really must give credit to the women who, simply through their blogs and their wonderful creativity, encouraged me to share what I’m sharing today: Lindsay of Aisle to Aloha; Laura of Along For The Ride; Rebecca of Rebecca Thornberry, Artist; and Jo Annie of Em Jay and Me. I doubt that any of them know that I exist, or that their words and their vulnerability to complete strangers have affected me as much as they have, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that, through some impressive link-hopping that I can no longer retrace, I stumbled upon these blogs and these amazing women who have impressed upon me the importance of being real. Because nobody likes people who are fake.
Which brings me to the point of this entry: I am not okay.
I’m slightly more okay than I was two nights ago (or, rather, three when this entry goes live) when I hit a very low point, and as I write this, I’m slightly more okay than I was even this morning. Things are getting better, little by little, and for that, I have to give credit where credit is due.
I am, by nature, a rather introverted person. I like my space, and I often enjoy my solitude. The problem I have run up against as I’ve gotten older and moved around from place to place is that, when I hit a low point for one reason or another, I’ve gotten far too good at distancing myself from others and pretending that I’m okay. This has left me very alone and very lonely, but I’m so good at faking it that nobody notices. I’ve also shifted away from God and have stopped looking to Him for help and instead looking inside myself for help that I’m not capable of providing. I am inadequate, and I am a disaster. I think I put it best on Twitter the other night: I am a ruin.
And too often, I have blamed God. I have abandoned Him, pushed Him aside, and cursed Him for all the things that have gone wrong in my life. I have raged at Him for the mistakes that I have made, and I have harbored bitterness towards Him for not speaking to my heart what my purpose is. I have been directionless for so long, and as my friends have slowly come into their own and have discovered God’s plans, at least short-term, for their lives, I have hated Him for not giving me the same.
But still He is faithful. When I stray too far, He gently reels me back in and reminds me that, even if I can’t see it or feel it, He knows what He’s doing. And every time I doubt His plan, He uncovers a little bit of what and whom He has purposely placed in my path and in my life. And there is nothing more powerful than that.
Two nights ago, I had one of those moments, and I cannot possibly even begin to communicate the difference it has made in just this little time.
Years ago, I can’t recall exactly how long now, I was wandering Facebook and came across a post on the wall of one of my groups that said something along the lines of, “I really just need someone to talk to, someone who will listen,” and listed an AIM screen name. I didn’t know this girl from Eve, and I didn’t know what I could possibly offer to her other than an understanding ear, so to speak, but I opened up my chat client and sent her a message that was probably something like, “If you still need to talk, I’m here to listen.” And it sounds lame to even type it, but that day, my life really did change forever.
That girl was my Bethie. You can find her over at Flicker of a Flame. We were both so different then, but we connected in a way that I had never really connected with anyone else. Between us, there was never anything hidden. From the very beginning, we bore each other’s scars to ease the pain, and let each other say anything that needed to be said, even if we couldn’t even imagine saying it to anyone else.
Over the years, we’ve both grown and matured, both personally and in our faith. And through that time, we’ve grown closer and closer. There have been times when we haven’t spoken for months at a time, but each conversation, on the phone or online, we’ve always picked back up right where we left off. We drifted apart a year and a half ago, but on May 20th of last year, I got an email from halfway across the world that, for the second time, changed my life forever.
It was unexpected to say the least, to wake up that morning and find an email from Bethie, who was in Mongolia at the time, but when I got to this part, I knew that it was exactly what I needed right at that moment:
I sat down on my bunk this afternoon with a piece of scratch paper and began to list the names of people with whom I would like to be friends forever. Not of the Michael W. Smith corny persuasion or even the Vitamin C nice-for-graduation-but-actually-means-nothing-and-doesn’t-last persuasion, but the oh-my-gosh-I-can’t-imagine-my-life-without-these-people persuasion. And, Carly, I thought of you. I thought of you, and I almost cried.
And that was when I started to cry. The email went on:
Regardless of the time we’ve been out of touch and even the weirdness after Christmas, I feel like we have an intimate connection…and I’m not willing to allow that to float off onto the distant shores of nostalgia. I want to know you, Carly. I want you to be a part of my life, because you have already been more of a blessing than I can express. It’s nothing that you’ve done or said, but everything about who you are and how we relate to one another.
That was so profound to me, to know that I didn’t have to do anything or say anything in particular to be loved, but just by being myself and being who God made me was enough. And even sitting here right now, fighting tears of joy, (my dad is in the other room and I don’t want to worry him) I’m making a connection and understanding a point that God was trying to bring home to me that I just couldn’t comprehend until this particular moment in time: being me is enough for Him, too. There isn’t anything I can do or say that will make Him love me; all I have to do is be me.
God works in such little, intricate ways that lay such strong foundations for the future. Every day, every word, everything that happens has a purpose, and it is so amazing when He peels back the layers and lets me see how He has planned things down to a T so that I end up where He needs me to end up.
But back to my story. After that email, and a whole slew of replies, Bethie and I grew even closer to the point that, even still, we insist that we are the same person. (Even all of the nicknames we have given each other sound similar and start with the same letter: Elphie and Ephie, Quails and Quaillykins, Birdie and Bethie…) And this woman who I have never physically met became my best friend. It just took me a while to realize it.
Two nights ago, I finally did. It was late, and I found myself sunk so deep into a hole of depression that I couldn’t see a way out, but I didn’t think anyone was awake to help me through it. Out of desperation, I sent Bethie a text that said, “Are you there? I need you.” And within the hour, she was there. She listened without judgment to everything I had to say, and said all of the things that I needed to hear but wouldn’t have taken to heart from anyone else. And she wouldn’t let me hide. (Even though I’m far too good at it for my own good.) And I’ve never had to hide with her. She’s the only person I’ve ever really had that with.
As I sit here now, writing this and reflecting on that almost three-hour conversation, God is revealing more and more of Himself to me through her. She loves me unconditionally, and she knows me inside and out. She draws me closer to God every time we talk, and even just one word from her can wipe away all of my loneliness. She is truly God’s hands in my life, and I can see in her a reflection of Him that I have longed to see for so long: that He is the dearest friend I will ever have, He loves me no matter what I do or how far apart we are, and all He requires is that I love Him in return.
I reiterate: there is nothing more profound and more powerful than that revelation.
So, this moment in time, these words that, for the last hour and a half have been pouring from my heart through my fingers, is a culmination of a thousand tiny moments, a hundred words exchanged, and one very, very dear friend. Bethie, there are so many things that I want to thank you for, but I can’t put them into words. But even more than that, I am thanking God that He knew better than I did how much I would need you. You reached out for help, and instead, ended up helping me. Isn’t it amazing how God works?
I may not be entirely okay just yet, but even now I am more okay than I was when I began this entry.
This is exactly why I warred so long and hard with myself over whether or not to be so open about my faith here. And this is exactly why God won that battle. He is moving in my life, and even though I still don’t know in which direction or to what end, I do know that it is a journey that I was always meant to share, and this is the platform I was meant to use.
My adventure is just beginning, and I am finally ready to embrace God’s plan for me and accept that He will always set my feet on the right path. All I have to do is trust that every pothole and unexpected ditch I’ll fall into along the way has a purpose, and He will always send just the right person to pull me out.
I am a firm believer that Etsy should invest in adding an “add to wish list” option below their little “favorite” heart. I add a lot of things to my favorites: things I want to find again; things I would, if I had the money, love to purchase; things that inspire me; things that make me laugh; and things that are just so beautiful that I want to be able to find them to look at them over and over.
But, things get lost in those myriad favorite listings, and there’s no easy way to show people things that I want for birthdays or Christmas or other gift-giving occasions. At the very least, I think that Etsy’s favorite listings should be able to be categorized.
Maybe I’m the only one, or maybe it’s something that Etsy just doesn’t see the value in investing in. Either way, I’m determined to make my own Etsy wish list, as much for my reference as for my friends and family. So, without further ado, check it out. There isn’t a whole lot on it at the moment, but there it is.
I’m so sorry for the lack of posts lately! I was sick, and then work kind of took over my brain.
I’ve made a couple more journals that are currently up for sale in my shop. I’ve had so much fun making them, and it’s nice to have something tangible that I can be proud of. And the knowledge that something I’ve made is in someone else’s hands, sitting on their desk, or in their purse, and it’s bringing them joy every time they use it. (The 10% off coupon is still available for my blog readers! Just enter the coupon code SBREADER10 at checkout.)
Now that I’m finally getting into the swing of (mostly) budgeting my time between work and making journals, I’ll hopefully be back to posting a couple of times a week. I really do miss the structure of doing 2-3 creative things a week for posts, and sharing bits of my writing.
Check back on Wednesday, and I’ll hopefully have something new for you! For now, I’ll leave you with a couple of photos of my most recent journals.