new beginnings.

hey my friends,

i’ve missed you.

it’s been too long. tell me how you’ve been, i want to know.

i wish we could sit down together and exchange stories about these last few months. i’d love to hear about what god’s been teaching you and tell you what i’ve been learning, too. there’s so much for us to talk about, i know.

so much. 

i’ve wanted to come by and talk to you a few times, but then i just didn’t.

or couldn’t.

the truth is, i just haven’t been free to write over here, to tell you my stories.

sometimes life just happens in a way that can’t be explained in words on paper.

or on blogs.

sometimes life-stuff requires a full pot and a comfy couch and a box of kleenex between friends. so we can look in each others’ faces and speak the language only hearts speak that can’t be translated through a keyboard on a screen.

that’s the kind of life i’ve had in the last few months while you haven’t heard from me.

stuff of real life. stuff that can only happen in real life.

and so it makes my heart sad to tell you that i don’t know when you’ll hear from me again after today. my life is changing. it’s turning in such a different direction than one i’ve projected here. i’m changing. i’ve changed. god is changing me on a deep soul-level and i just have to go with it now.

i’m being set free in ways i’ve been in bondage for so long that i haven’t even recognized as bondage.

i’m dying a little bit more each day, in all the right ways.

using my roar has taken on an entirely different meaning than what i thought it meant at the beginning of the year. i know now, though, that god set it up that way and i’m sure there’s more to that than i even know right now.

i joined my church and have even started singing there again which, you all know, are both huge milestones for me.

also, i got engaged. for years i’ve said i was just “waiting for my cowboy” and phillip just showed up one day. in a wheelchair. i’ve learned ours is one of those stories that can only be shared in person. i wasn’t holding out on you, by the way. one night i was the girl in the green dress and ten days later i became a fiance. i didn’t even have time to tell anyone i was dating someone! he’s awesome. i love god and want more of him because of phillip. i can’t believe god loves me so much that he would partner me with such a precious man and amazing jesus-warrior.

who is also very much a rugged and sexy and confident cowboy.

ye-ow-zas.

some things can only be learned relationally. and some things can only be un-learned relationally. through friendship, definitely. and then some parts of life and heart and mind are meant to only be learned through that one relationship you’re only going to have with that one person for the rest of your life. i obviously didn’t know that until now because i hadn’t experienced it until now.

so, i don’t know entirely what god is doing, but i know that it’s all good. hard, but good. necessary, but good.

because god is always and only good

i need to hide myself in jesus now. it’s one of those seasons when i’m doing a lot less talking and a whole lot more listening and journaling. one day i’ll be free to share these stories with you, too. in the meantime, i can no longer rest on the laurels of my past to get me through these next days.  what i once took for happiness and contentment, and what i’ve previously understood as peace, is no longer enough. i have to daily find myself in jesus now in order to be fit for this next leg of the race set before me.

and it’s time to put this baby to bed now.

new folks continue to stop by and read parts of their story here, so i won’t move out of the neighborhood as long as god continues to use this address. the thing is, the stories i’ve told here…the person of those storiesis just not who i am anymore. god’s writing a new story of my life a story of my new life now, one that i didn’t expect he’d tell through me at all. kinda like a part two. or maybe part three.

so i’m going to let him.

i love y’all very much. the friendships forged in these quiet/loud pages over the last year-and-a-half have meant the world to me and have sustained me on the darkest of my days. we have laughed a whole lot together, too.

i hope you’ll continue to email me and leave comments here and tell me about your lives. i care deeply for you and would be moved to tears if you and i could maintain the friendships i didn’t expect to begin through these pages.

what an honor to be called your friend. for this, i’m thankful to the god of the blogosphere. i do not take lightly this responsibility and privilege. i will continue to pray for you as god brings you to mind, and would count it such a joy to know more specifically how i could go to god on your behalf.

thank you for being a part of my life and allowing me to be a part of yours. only heaven knows what has been set into motion in my life for eternity through you.

love you.

xo

rugir. (or finding my roar.)

a few weeks ago, i said, this is what i want. i can’t afford less than this. and that was the end of that. literally. 

i could have settled for what was being offered, but it was table scraps and i am worth more than that.

so i found my roar.

on sunday, i woke up and deleted from my phone without thinking he who had occupied way too much head-but-not-heart space over the last few months. (and this time i can’t remember his number.) 

it would be like me to wait and wonder and hope and cry and pray and wish upon falling stars but i don’t have {any more} time or energy to waste or lose.

so i used my roar.

my sister had been encouraging me to take a financial class that she had taken at our church, where she received much freedom and success.

i stepped into the first meeting of the season on sunday night.

and there i roared.

and there was also that time when i realized i am 9 months away from being 5 years away from my life being half-over. 

so i am learning to {use my} roar.

per my one word 365, each of these are the very distinct opportunities i deliberately chose to use my roar in january. i recognized my other options, those of being agreeable and not standing up for myself; the ones of self-pity, false humility, pride & ego; and those of making others responsible for me.

i took my power and my choices back from myself, for myself.

i put my foot down at myself and said no more on behalf of myself.

and, instead, i used my roar.

when was the last time you used your roar?

would you recognize the sound of your own roar if you heard it?

(mine sounds like a foreign language.)

(and evidently that language is spanish.)


mirror, mirror.

thursday, january 12, 2012

i am very much a daily person. i can’t tell you what i ate for breakfast yesterday or what i’m wearing tomorrow, but i can pretty much tell you where i’ll be from one moment to the next today. i have a hard time committing to plans next week, but call me today (or text because i’m not really a phone person) and i’m yours.

unless i’m not.

(okay, so you might have to give me 24 hours but then…i’m all yours.)

as someone who has adapted to a one day at a time-sort of life, i rarely (read: next-to-never) look toward the future. i believe very much in grace for today and our mercies being new every morning. i know we are only guaranteed today – this day.

the thing is, i don’t really plan for the future at all. as in…it’s probably a problem.

was. was probably a problem.

i was cleaning my bathroom tonight when i caught a glimpse of myself and it suddenly occurred to me that i will be 35 this year.

i am not even halfway there, and yet i am anticipating my next birthday. 

not only that, but i became acutely aware that i am that much closer to forty. when i turn 35 in 9 months, i will be five years from forty.

but what surprised me most, and most emphatically, is that for the first time in a very real way, i realized i am an adult at the exact same time i actually felt like an adult. you know, a grown-up.

as in, my body and my brain and my heart and my mind and my soul aligned and i suddenly didn’t feel 13 or 26 or like i’m a kid trapped in an adult-size body. i finally feel like a life-size adult.

i am not freaked out by this. in fact, i couldn’t be more excited. 

i have been crippled in life by fear and the feeling that i am the broken child of my family, most certainly the black sheep, and that i’ll always be dependent on someone in some way.

but today…tonight…that…changed.

in an instant. while i was cleaning my bathroom.

and it warrants change.

suddenly everything came together and i realized for the first time in a long, long time:

no one owes me anything, and i don’t owe anyone anything, either.

i don’t have to ask permission from my family and, while it would be nice, i don’t even have to have their blessing.

i am fully capable of making responsible decisions about my own life.

i have everything i need. anything i want is up to me to get or achieve.

i answer wholly and solely and only to god.

most folks on my dad’s side of the family do not live past 80, though i am banking on being the one who will bury everyone else. plus, my mom’s family lives long.

but if, by chance, i am five years from my life being half-over…and the revelation that my life is entirely and only up to me and god…then what the bleep am i doing with myself? 

how do i really want to spend the last half of my life? i live now as if i’m an old, married person when i’ve actually been given a unique gift of singleness to live out however much longer god sees fit. (maybe forever, who even knows anymore.)

i’m still sitting with all of this but i’ll tell you, change is a’coming, folks. and it’s good, so good. and it’s god, too.

and i will not be afraid anymore.

i’ll keep you posted.

meanwhile, i’ve started a leap list and i’m calling it 40 x 40. (i’ll post it when i wake up this morning, after this post has posted.) it’s nowhere near full, so i welcome any ideas you have of adventures to live, books i should read, people to meet, things to do, places to see, movies to watch or life moments to savor before i turn 40.

but, think quick.

i only have five years and nine months to get it all together.

have you had any a-ha moments lately?

for what it’s worth.

i started this post on friday night and continued to edit it on saturday. on sunday night, sitting on the floor of my closet going through clothes for my sister’s yard sale, i heard in my spirit:

mary kathryn, what’s wrong?

is it because you told your story?

(sigh.) yes, lord. (tears.)

mary kathryn, do you trust me?

yes, lord. you know that i do. (recalling a similar conversation during the same time-period mentioned in the story when i said, ‘i love you, lord. but i just don’t trust you.’)

and how did you learn to trust me?

through this story.

through. this. story.

our story. not your story, mary kathryn. our story.

i was there with you, the whole time,  just as i promised.

this is our story, mary kathryn.

use it, lord.

* * * * * * * * * *

tamara tweeted at me last weekend:

1.) hello, i’ve been thinking about you.

2.) i bet you have something to add to the ‘worth’ collection. :)

now, i’m a big fan of tamara but, as it happens…well, i had no idea what she was talking about because i have yet to catch up on my rss-feed in full, but went over to check out what i was sure would be explained in one of her equal-parts paunchy & poignant and always awesome blog-posts.

it was.

and it also pointed me to the one she wrote first at a deeper story.

what she had no idea of knowing was that, just. that. morning., i wondered if it was time to tell ‘that’ story…the very one she would ask me about a few minutes later.

the one about how i learned my ‘worth’ as a woman.

and i hesitated even so.

especially in light of what god is doing in my very heart & soul these days, which i will tell you about in coming days, my heart responded to the confirmation tamara offered that, indeed, perhaps it really is time to tell my story.

that story.

but because of the what and the who and the how, i have been sitting on it for the last week. it is always my intention to leave out any impertinent details that could hurt anyone else and only share what is necessary to illustrate my own story of the journey to discovering my worth.

(fyi, i just let out a huge sigh.)

it does not make me proud to tell you this part of my story, but i am not too proud to tell it. still, to talk about it now is like talking about a different person all together. it is unfathomable to me that the person i am about to talk about is the person of my own story.

i have done, and continue to do, the work to receive the forgiveness to get the freedom we all need from the parts of our lives we wear like stains.

* * * * * * * * * *

i gave up my virginity when i was 27 to a childhood friend in a drunken one-night stand after a party when we both realized we wouldn’t be going anywhere the rest of the night. it was actually right around this time of year.

i literally remember thinking ‘eff it.’

‘what have i been waiting for all this time?’

i had waited all that time, having been taught that sex was a reward for waiting for marriage but given little other reason to hold on to my purity.

it wasn’t even good. it certainly wasn’t worth it.

he didn’t know it was my first time, and i feel certain it wouldn’t have made a difference to him because it didn’t make a difference to me. we went out on an obligatory dinner date the next week (so i wouldn’t think him a creep, i’m sure) and it was so unbelievably uncomfortable. we didn’t talk after that. as it was my first time, i could only feel shame over the whole experience.

this tryst occurred right around the time i first started seeing karen, which was at the first of two of the lowest points in my life, when my depression was at its worst. as such, i had started drinking pretty heavily that summer but was yet teetering on leaving my crazy church.

it has been my experience that on your way down to the bottom,

and even when you’re on the way back up,

life usually gets worse before it gets better.

over the next few years and more of the same, i chalked it up to, ‘eh, it happens’ and pretended like it didn’t bother me until eventually it really didn’t, but only because my heart had built such an angry wall of bitterness and resentment that i just stopped caring.

that is, i couldn’t feel the caring anymore. my heart was so calloused.

each time it happened, another one-night stand, i would hear in my spirit,

i’m going to turn away from you now, mary kathryn, because light cannot fellowship with darkness. 

but i will be here for you when it’s over.

i couldn’t afford to consider any longer that i was breaking god’s heart. the weight of it was too much for this depressed and angry soul to bear, so i would drink all of that away as best i could.

* * * * * * * * * *

you need to know that when i did the fourth and fifth steps with karen a few years later, that i immediately felt was free from all of this. when i think of these events or talk about this time in my life -if ever i do, which is next-to-never- it’s as if i’m talking about someone else. i don’t remember names or even faces, much less events, anymore.

i burned the list i brought with me to karen’s that day and moved the electronic version to the recycle bin on my computer. and then i permanently deleted the contents of my recycling bin, never to be recovered or recalled.

that person can no longer be found, not one shred.

when i walked out of karen’s office that day, i knew for the first time my slate was literally wiped clean by the blood of jesus. i know that sounds christianese-y and trite, but there’s no other words i can find to describe it. i confessed before god and another person my wrongdoings and knew i was free. immediately. i was no longer, nor would i ever again, carry the weight of the world of those secrets i bore.

i haven’t and i won’t because i know i don’t have to.

they’re gone. forever.

because of the cross of christ.

i will not apologize for my past again, nor will i ever again live in shame from it, because i have already received sufficient forgiveness for it from The One whom it mattered most to receive it,

The One against whom my crime was committed.

* * * * * * * * * *

i started having sex due to the mixed cocktail of confusion, self-hatred and rejection drowning in a broken heart.

i was neither mistreated as a child nor a victim of sexual abuse. i have never been raped or molested. (thank god.)

i was very loved in my home growing up, but there was a lot going on in our house that kept anyone from being completely available to anyone else.

my parents were and remain wonderful people. but like we all have and do, i know now my parents were living with their own brokenness and they did the very best they could by us as young parents. (i was 7 by the time my mom was the age i am now. when i think about how young they were…)

i do not blame my parents for my bad choices.

(and, mom, my bad choices are not a reflection of how well you raised me. in fact, it’s not a reflection of who you and dad are/were at all but a manifestation of my own brokenness, i hope you know that.)

but along the way, i learned that a.) my value would be found in being a proper southern wife and mother, providing a happy home for my family and if that didn’t work out, then b.) the only other thing a woman would be good for would be to give herself away.

to prostitute herself. 

and at 27, when a. hadn’t happened as i had planned that it would, i pursued plan b. in spite of myself.

not for money. (not really, anyway). but i had boyfriends who met needs in me, or so i thought, even if only temporarily. they would say the right things, take me out, buy me things, treat me well. (for the most part.) and then there was the expectation that we would go home and play house, which i of course thought was fair at the time.

p.s. i take full responsibility for myself in all of this. i don’t blame, nor am i angry, at any man from my past. i don’t feel like a victim or ‘poor me’ over any of this.

it is what it is and what it is is over and forgiven.

(and i want to tell you that it’s true for you, too -and it is- but i couldn’t have received the freedom i have from it now without confessing out loud every dirty detail to the person i trust most in this world. we’re only as sick as our secrets, as we say in aa.)

what’s most funny (funny-strange-funny, not funny-haha-funny), is that the  men i set out to punish with my resentment -the ones who occupied time & space & i paid for by the hour in my therapy- i never even entered into a relationship with at all. any sexual encounter i had -most all of them drunken, mind you- were fueled by anger at one of these two men in my life.

in certain beds (including my own), i found myself thinking (as best as i could think when i couldn’t think at all) one of two things:

a.) really, (specific person i’m lashing out at)? this is what you’ve taught me i’m worth? fine, then. i’ll show you. watch this. aren’t you proud of me now?

or, b.) you don’t want me, (different specific person)? well, this guy does. see how desirable i am? i’ll show you.

(clearly, my plan worked. i really showed them.)

i was very much trying to fill a need in me that was not otherwise being met, and was only temporarily met at the time at best.

i didn’t know my value as a woman because i wasn’t, nor had i seen, the women in my life be valued properly and i projected what i could see with my sad eyes onto the god of my wasted heart.

i sought my worth everywhere but the only place -rather, in The Only Person- in whom i could find it. even though a christian, i was very broken inside and hadn’t wrapped my heart around the message of who he says i am.

and, you know…perhaps this is the real reason my heart wants to minister to women. because it can. because it understands.

because it knows.

but, woman-to-woman, i think this healing can only take place in the deepest parts of our hearts with our god alone. that is, i think it must only be addressed with god alone. even with the help of the most well-meaning friends, my best help came from the combination of god and good therapy. (i will ever say, even though i was raised in a family full of ministers, karen is the singlemost person god has used to change my life.)

but then (and only then) can we be made right for any healthy covenant-relationship we were meant to have on the earth. anything less is counterfeit, which is also why i’m not resentful to not be married now.

because god’s continuing to lead me from feeling worthless to knowing heart and soul that i’m worthy in a way that only he can.

because i don’t want to look in another’s eyes to discover my worth but The One who gives me worth because He created me.

i cannot tell you that i’ve arrived anywhere too special in this regard yet (we’re working on it), though i have learned a few things about my worth since those days. like knowing in my knower (and almost in my heart) that I am:

more precious than rubies. (proverbs 31:10)

a lily among thistles. (songs 2:2)

altogether beautiful in every way. (songs 4:7)

created in his image. (genesis 1:27)

fearfully and wonderfully made. (psalm 139:14)

and i wish i could tell you that i became a “born-again virgin” as soon as i walked out of karen’s office after i did my fifth step that day. but the sad truth was, even though i was free from that faded list of blank names of faceless men, i was not yet free from the belief system that my worth could only be found as either a wife or a prostitute. there was still a hole left there that needed to be filled with god’s truth.

when my dad died 2 years ago, i broke up with someone shortly thereafter. i didn’t date again until last summer, but it was short-lived because i just wasn’t ready (not to mention, we just weren’t a fit). i haven’t dated anyone seriously since then, much less compromised myself or pursued pleasure at the expense of my integrity. as a matter-of-fact, i have taken a vow of celibacy ’til death or marriage, ‘whichever comes first’, as leigh says.

and i wasn’t going to bring this up, but just in case you’re thinking it, i’d rather tell you…that, yes. i was (and am no longer) in a position of church leadership during the time i was still trying to figure all of this out and unsuccessfully trying to make best choices.

* * * * * * * * * *

i recently started reading redeeming love by francine rivers (which, incidentally, i haven’t been able to put down). ever since it was written 20 years ago, i have been encouraged to read it. but i’ve never been much for fad-books, especially christian ones, so i only picked it up for the first time last week.

if you’ve been around these parts for a while, you know it’s not the first time i’ve seen myself as a prostitute redeemed by a sacrificial love. (every parent’s dream, i know).

i am still on the journey to understanding on a deeper the deepest level my value and worth as a woman as god defines.

it is not lost on me that my whole marriage-rant is related to this which, again, you’ll learn more about soon. because perhaps, like angel in rivers’ story, i have used and abused and i have felt used and abused and why waste my energy? and what do you really want from me? and, quite frankly, i’ve dated more duds than studs and just don’t have the time or energy for it anymore if that’s what it’s going to look like and maybe this is why…

maybe this is the reason i built a fortress around my heart.

maybe this is why i’m gunshy.

(there, i said it. i know you’ve been thinking it. but, so you know? i won this.)

because i want to be seen into and not through.

because i want to be beautiful, not just sexy.

because i want to be adored for who i am, not only for what i can do.

because i don’t want to be needed or wanted in the wrong ways again, nor do i want to become codependent again myself.

one last thing? not. one. time. did i give my heart away. not once. i thought i was in love a few times, but no one ever had my heart. even despite my recklessness, it was The One Thing i knew i could not, would not give. it was The One Thing reserved for my Bridegroom and my bridegroom.

for this, i give thanks.

* * * * * * * * * *

to the men with whom i had angry sex, forgive me. for projecting onto you needs only god could meet, i am so sorry.

to the women who would become their wives, i’m so profoundly sorry i slept with your husbands.

to the god i love and am falling more truly, madly, deeply in love with, thank you.

for redeeming me.

for redeeming in me a heart that is meant to be romanced, pursued, adored, loved, chased, betrothed…

to be committed to and enjoyed…

to be safe in the arms of unconditional and relentless love…

thank you, thank you. you give more life to me than any life i’ve known.

for not holding against me my own bad choices and wrongdoings caused by years of both circumstantial and self-inflicted pain and abuse.

you have done this for me.

i am my beloved’s and he is mine.

and to the man who has yet to find me, i am waiting for you and you alone.

because we’re both worth it.

the joy of cooking.

so, the irony isn’t lost at me, not one bit, that the second to last one word for the just write! campaign would be wedding.

and then that the very last one-word for the just write! campaign would be

(wait for it…)

oh, believe me, i know. go on and laugh, make your jokes. it cracks me up, too.

you know what’s especially ironic?

when i was falling asleep the other night, i heard in my spirit, ‘i want you to take a sabbatical from talking about singleness.’ and so i will. but then i pulled this word and so i guess the sabbatical starts tomorrow?

i fried eggplant tonight so i can make eggplant parmesan for dinner tomorrow night for my sister, hanners, and my friend julie before we go to a revival at a hispanic church down the road.

and i’m sitting on my couch in a crazy mix of mismatched flannel and polka dots in a sea of paper i went through last night for the classes i teach. i made some new educational bingo cards, too, for my old-people class and i went to bed at 2 a.m.

tonight might not be much different and i’m not real sad, nor do i care too much, about that. i’ll wake up tomorrow and those papers will still be sitting on the floor where i left them until i decide to pick them up (which will be later today because it will drive me bonkers).

and i don’t know why -not all the reasons, anyway- i don’t wish to be married. not that i wouldn’t want to be…but that it’s not my heart’s deepest longing right now and hasn’t been for a while. as if that ship has sailed. or something.

(believe me, i think there’s something wrong with me, too.)

i actually like sleeping alone better than i ever have sleeping with someone.

i really appreciate that i don’t have to answer to anyone or ask permission to do anything. i can up and go whenever and wherever without having to consider someone else. call me selfish, but i can’t really help it since, well, i’m just me and all.

truthfully, i can’t think of any of my couple-friends who make me think ‘yes, THAT. THAT’s what i want.’ in fact, several couples i know make me think, ‘oh, hell no. not me. not ever. no way, no how.’ and, among those…well, the grass is or isn’t always greener.

i haven’t had a boyfriend -not one single one in my adult-years- who has made me want to be married more than i enjoy being single.

and i would rather be single the rest of my life than married to the wrong person.

but there’s something amiss, i realize. and whatever it is, god is working it out in me.

truth? i’m nervous that i’m one of those people that would just be better off not getting married and i wonder if that’s okay by me. i wonder if it would be okay for my people if i was one of those people.

which, right now? signs point to a resounding ‘yes’.

because i can’t imagine getting married just for the sake of getting married because any idiot can get married and that’s the unfortunate gospel-truth.

it’s thundering now so i’m going to spread out like a star in my bed and sleep real well alone because that’s what i do.

oh, and just so you know,

i burnt the first batch of eggplant.

ack! i looked at my timer because i was just write, write, writing away, waiting for it to go off, and apparently it had already gone off. (which is strange because i have been sitting right next to it this whole time.)

thanks to everyone who has participated in the just write! campaign for the month of september. we will continue to pull from the jar on occasion, but in the meantime, i have a couple of blog-ideas for the coming weeks so it seems our experiment worked for me!

it’s been a pleasure, y’all. 

xo

crenshaw hall.

oh really? this? this word? HOW DID I GET SO LUCKY.

so, this weekend i caught the bouquet at my cousin’s wedding.

i normally excuse myself for this event on account of it being slightly mortifying to be fighting a handful of 13-year old girls for the game of ‘who gets to play princess next?’ also, because, hello…it’s not exactly the biggest selling factor to potential suitors that i’d be this old and unattached yet…and fighting over a bunch of flowers.

I PREFER TO COME ACROSS POISED AND COLLECTED.

you know, cool and casual.

calm and collected.

like i can’t be bothered.

unaffected, if you will.

and i will say it again that it doesn’t bother me that i’m not married, not one bit. but it’s not something i really enjoy drawing attention to about myself, either. i certainly don’t want anyone else to notice it about me, as if a character flaw or defect.

in all, though, my dear cousin’s wedding was lovely and so much fun and, when it came down to it, we were all dancing and laughing and singing at the top of our lungs and, quite frankly, i just couldn’t have cared less what it looked to be the oldest in a preteen sea hoping to catch the bouquet because it was more about experiencing the moment than being the one who won.

and then i heard,

OHPRAISEJESUS!THANKYOUJESUS!HALLELUJAH!THANKYOULORDJESUS!

(thanks, mom.)

my mom’s oldest sister, the bride’s mother, told me a few times over the weekend, ‘this is your year, mary.’ and another cousin i sorely admire said to me after quite an obnoxious catch (because i never win anything so it was equal-parts shocking and exciting), ‘it’s your time, mary.’

and so it is. or isn’t. or whatever. it is or it isn’t.

for one night, though, it was.

CONGRATULATIONS, MR. & MRS. STANFIELD!

if your wedding is any indication of what your marriage will be like, i know your life together will be full of so much fun and laughter. jeff, welcome to our big, crazy family. you could not be more loved here.

you were a positively radiant bride, becky, and i couldn’t be happier for you. i love you very much, cousin-mine.

xo

{i fully expected this post to be about the wedding of the bride and our Bridegroom, so someone else have at that. please.}

this is our second-to-last just write! campaign post. for the month of september, members of the beauty for ashes community have been conducting an experiment called the just write! campaign, in an effort to unstick those stuck creatives among us. (for those who recognize the idea, our inspiration came from the gypsy mama‘s five-minute fridays. all praise and glory to lisa-jo.) for more information, please read this post. to catch up to previous words of the day, you’ll find the ‘just write! campaign’ category to your right.

say my name.

Kristin is a part of that club I told you about the other day, the one that Keri started, but we discovered over Twitter a few months ago that we have other things in common; namely, boys.

We have also realized that parts of our lives are similar, which I think offers us true kinship as well as a certain understanding of one another.

One thing I really love about Kristin is her humor. This girl just makes me laugh, with her quick wit and dry/wet humor. (Maybe it’s because she reminds me of someone I know. Ahem.)

Another thing I so admire about Kristin is her gift to turn an every day moment into an opportunity to learn more about God and His character, usually through a funny story.

{She is also The Professor in our funny little Gilligan’s Island family.}

Treat yourself to Kristin and her blog.

I think you’ll find she’s like ice cream on a hot summer day.

* * * * * * * * * *

Having been single (divorcing or divorced) for over two years now, I’ve gone on a few dates and even had two real relationships that each lasted over 6 months. The first of these was with a hunky guy who had a good job and I met while… he was my student. (I teach college! It’s ok! He’s older than me! I didn’t date him during class! I promise!)

Six months after he finished the semester in my class, during which I encourage all my students to call me Kristin, because it’s my name, we started dating. We dated for 6 months, and in that time, the man never, ever, ever called me by my name. That means that from the time I met him on the first day of class until now (we’re still friends), he has never uttered my name in relation to me at all.

He’d ring me with “Hey you!” and, when speaking to me in person, would just make eye contact and start talking. In the places of a conversation where someone would insert the name of their girlfriend, he instead called me by a nickname, Pixie. I was listed in his phone as “K.”

I found out the scoop: he had been married before, to a woman named Kristin. To him, my name was problematic. It held pain and self-loathing for the way he had treated his former wife. It was a reminder of the life he could have had, if only he’d been a better husband, put her wants and needs above his own, went to bat for her. By the time we met, she’d already remarried and had a child, but the name still held power.

In retrospect, that should have been clue #1 that this relationship wasn’t going to work out. Names are important. To be addressed by one’s name creates intimacy. Think about how much better your service is at restaurants where you know and use your server’s name. Think about what it means to be on a first-name basis with someone.

I’m so grateful that my heavenly Father calls me by name, knew it before I was ever born. I’m so grateful that I can search the scripture and that his Word reveals his name to me, I Am. YHWH. The one true and living God.

I’m so grateful that I heard the name Jesus. He is Emmanuel. He will save his people. I can call upon that name and be saved. I have intimacy created through his name.

My name means “follower of Christ.” There’s a relationship inherent in that name, too. My name points the way to Jesus.

What’s your name? What does it mean?

Please tell me you have heard a dating story weirder than this one? Share?

Kristin is a 30-year old single mom to two rather sweet, often rowdy, incredibly cuddly girls. She loves words. She loves scrabble. She loves to read. She loves Jesus. She loves her girls and her family/friends. You won’t find her cooking in the kitchen, but you can find her at her blog, Messiah Mom.

love potion #9.

i’m not sure how it’s happened but i have recently filled my dance card with invitations.

of the dating variety.

i know.

i guess someone didn’t realize she was drinking the potion but has suddenly found herself in the company of a few different suitors.

(and she’s definitely not complaining.)

(and by ‘suitors’ i mean ‘friends for now but let’s see what happens’.)

so, in the case of all, let’s qualify ‘dating’ simply as this: one guy + one girl = date.

and without getting into further detail about any one of these social engagements in coming days and recent past, i broke down with lisa over the weekend three dynamics of what might turn date one into date two into dates three-five into let’s do this life-thing together forever. (isn’t that how it works? wait…isn’t it?)

above all, there has to be a spiritual connection. i want to be on the same page theologically. and i don’t just mean he’s a christian and i’m a christian because we all know that just because two people love god doesn’t mean they’re meant to be together. at this point in my life, he has to be stronger in his faith journey than i am, especially as i walk out god’s purpose for my life. i’m not interested in leading someone else in their walk of faith. there just seems to be something misaligned in doing it that way (for me). i did the whole ‘missionary dating’ thing early on and, let’s just be honest, it doesn’t work. and for those whom that has worked (because i know that will be the first comment made), would you describe that as an easy journey? simply put, i can’t afford not to be equally yoked with someone in this way. (i mean, can you? be honest.)

second, there has to be a human connection. i know guys who really love god. like, REALLY. love. god. but they’re weird socially. they just are. they can’t laugh at themselves, they super-spiritualize every. single. detail. of life. it just makes everything awkward, don’t you think? you have to be able to relate -rather, i have to be able to relate- to someone on a human real-life level. oh my word, i have stories to tell of some of these weirdos but i’ll refrain out of respect for their faith-walk.

lastly, attraction. i’m a firm believer that it’s possible for someone to become more attractive as the first two dynamics line up. that is, while i may not be attracted to a guy in the beginning, that can easily change the more i get to know him. but even if the first two line up, if i cringe at the thought of kissing him, it’s a good indication we won’t be a match in the end. while it’s not The Most Important Thing, it is certainly important, wouldn’t you say?

for me, being attracted to someone becomes a snare when it’s the first thing that draws me to a person. (because in most cases it ends up being the only thing.) he may be hot, but he’s dumb as a brick. or waffling in his faith. yeh…just not going to work out. similarly, i’m easily charmed by someone with a quick wit who gets along with everyone. but his jokes soon get old if he can’t earnestly engage in a conversation about the lord.

so, there you have it. as i plunge back into the dating scene, i’ve deduced that relationships can be put together successfully when these three aspects align.

and also when all of these things do.

see? simple.

would love to hear your thoughts and/or experiences in the dating world.

especially if they are stories that can make the rest of us laugh.

man-hater.

{i need to tell you that I HAVE BEEN IN A FUNK lately. really, since all this started with what i told you yesterday and what i’m about to tell you now. i am really trying to press through my slump and making myself write, despite my lethargy. please bear with me.}

by wednesday of that dreaded week of the detour, i had been with jesus who showed me that i was left holding the bag in each of my break-ups. i martyred myself instead of giving them back their schtuff and owned their part as well as my own because they weren’t going to own it themselves. because i took full responsibility for both their and my own contributions, the message that i allowed to be placed on me just so i could get out the door was that i was the crazy one.

and that is the message that threw me into the well two weeks ago. not necessarily because i believe i’m crazy (at least no more than anyone else), but because that was my experience for so long, i have become fearful of any new relationship.

this was where i landed on wednesday night during time at (in) the well with jesus.

then, when i was falling asleep thursday night, my heart was devastated when it became clear to me:

i’ve become a man-hater.

now, listen. i know that sounds extreme. and do i really hate men? no. no, i don’t.

but anger is the mask fear wears until it either becomes a monster of hate or a puddle of clay which only christ can mold and fix and change in his own image.

i suddenly had this swirl in my mind of interactions that had happened in the past 36 hours when i noticed my biting snarkiness and overall disrespect toward most men. each example might have been too subtle for anyone else to have noticed, but i reflected on different responses and reactions i had given in a short amount of time and realized they came from no sincere or kind place.

i was crushed to realize this. when i finally talked to lisa on friday (because i had been avoiding people all week), i just wept. how in the world did i get here? i don’t want to be a man-hater! truly, it devastated my heart to discover this about myself.

but i have hope.

because when jesus can inconvenience my life with something like railroad construction in order to call something out in me that isn’t supposed to be there, i can trust that he is going to be faithful to help me work through it.

unfortunately, i haven’t really known what to do with this information and have yet to see karen about it. this is the point when i need her tender help to guide me out, and i know jesus will use her to do so.

meanwhile, i’ll just allow the comfort of his touch to soften my heart to his own, and to bend my ear to his. and i’ll rest in knowing i’m not alone down there and he’ll get me out.

i have to tell you a tiny bit of irony in all of this: i spent that saturday night with my dear, old friend catherine and i was able to tell her about this whole experience when her kids went outside to play following breakfast sunday morning. i tell you what, there is nothing better than an old friend who knew you when and knows you still. such little explanation for anything is even necessary.

to catch her up on the whole story, i told her this detail, which i left out of my post yesterday:

so, in the neighborhood where i once spent time there is a house which was donated to the a-hole who donated it to the church. those of us who were there in the first days of the ministry would meet there early every saturday morning and just hang out on the wall and the front porch. we talked to prostitutes walking home, drug dealers (and/or users) passing by, children on borrowed bikes. we had no agenda, we just wanted to know our neighbors. some of us would worship upstairs in the ‘upper room’, as we called it, while others would pass out honey buns.

and water bottles.

and while i didn’t even make the connection, it was not lost on catherine the significance of where i am now and where i was then, and i am thankful to her for pointing it out:

that i would be there on the wall

giving water at the well

to all who were thirsty

only to find myself at the wall of my own well now.

{Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!” -john 4:13-15 (the message, emphasis mine)}

i know this is my game-changer. i have every confidence that, once this part of the rubble is cleared {read: bulldozed}, the rest is just pebbles and stones.

and who doesn’t appreciate a few of those on their path unpaved?

 

bottom-dwellers.

{i started this post on friday, march 11 to post on monday, march 14. then i learned of the tsunami in japan and then i went to jury duty for a capital case and suddenly this just wasn’t important anymore. i unplugged when i went to jury duty, which i will tell you more about later, but i wanted to finish what i started first.}

i was cranky last week, largely because they were repairing the railroad so the main road that runs through our town was closed right in front of my work, which meant most of us had to find alternate routes at the beginning and end of the day. for me, this was duly-frustrating because part of my job includes running errands -bank, post office, you name it. very few times has it ever been necessary to turn left onto the main road from my office; most of my errands require me to turn right. however, for three days last week, i had to turn left and go around town in order to get to, for all intents and purposes, the other side of the track which literally runs right behind our building.

i. was. CRANKY. just on the inside, though. i think i did a fairly good job of not letting it show, except that i didn’t go to bible study on wednesday because i didn’t think i had it in me to pretend to be nice so i went home after loving on my friends and their newborn because, really, how can you be in a bad mood around a baby?

i knew jesus was beckoning me to spend time at the well that night, so i did. and oh, what happened there was rich. (quick, which classic movie did that last line come from? come on, you know it.)

part of my detour last week took me around an area of town my church refers to as the ‘redemption zone’. it is poverty-stricken; prostitution and drugs are commonplace. i used to spend a lot of time down there.

and, no, not as a prostitute or a drug dealer.

AHEM.

driving back and forth through these streets for a few days brought to mind a relationship that ended a few years ago.

and, no, he was not a prostitute or a drug dealer, either.

(that i know of.)

(although i have dated a former crackhead. great catch.)

(WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY PICKER!?)

we were doomed for the start; the whole thing was a recipe for disaster from the very beginning. and yet i somehow thought maybe it wasn’t.

but, believe me, it was.

(love is blind, you know.)

(and sometimes love is also just plain stupid.)

and when it ended, it ended badly. as in…it. was. HORRIBLE.

{for the record (though whose, i’m not sure) the relationship that ended six weeks before i met this guy also ended terribly, only with that guy there wasn’t deception or manipulation or an ex-girlfriend who reappeared via facebookjust codependency, which is equally awesome.}

it didn’t take long for it to occur to me that there were reasons for my crankiness other than the detour. it also didn’t take long for me to realize that the lord was using my physical detour to bring to my attention an area of unresolved anger. it has been almost three years since i even met the a-hole; one would think i might have gotten over his mistreatment of me by now.

so, when i finally went to see jesus about it all on wednesday night, he helped me see through to the heart of the matter. (because isn’t that what he does? ugh, so sweet. thank you, jesus, that you will even orchestrate road construction to get us where you want us to be.)

as i sifted through the wreckage of my past, and identified the relationships that left the most devastation, i realized in every. single. case. not. one. person. owned. their. stuff.

what’s funny is, did you see my bachelor vlog last week? in it, i mention this very thing -this exact thing!- but i hadn’t connected the dots yet. the lord knew this is what we would be talking about when we met at the well two days later, him and me.

because of my codependent nature (that i would like to think i’ve left behind), i martyred myself at the demise of each relationship. not only did i own my own part, i accepted full responsibility for the ruin of each one.

for me, it isn’t a matter of hearing ‘i’m sorry’ – because, god knows, i have heard those words a time or twelve. i mean hearing someone say in earnest, ‘i was wrong. i’m sorry i didn’t treat you the way you should have been treated.’

i wish i could tell you that there were only a few cases of this. sadly, i came up with 9 different relationships in which this was the case. (hey! i’m 33! i’ve had a few boyfriends! sheesh!)

only ONE time did an ex come to me a year later and say, ‘i was struggling at that time and i want you to know it was also me.’ (we had a dialogue over text when i remembered this because i wanted to thank him. such an awesome guy.)

looking at all of this from outside of the well (where i normally envision myself and jesus) actually sent me into a cavern at the bottom of the well, which i see now is where i’ve been relationship-wise for the last few years. i’ve been hiding there. it’s safe there, if not damp and cold. no one knows to look for me there. i haven’t considered that anyone would really go looking for me but i also haven’t really wanted to be found.

seeing myself sitting against the wall of the cavern with my tired head laying atop my arms slung over my knees and realizing it’s where i am and where i’ve been for a while, i found i wasn’t alone. seeing this in my mind’s eye for the first time, jesus sat with his arm around me. ‘we can stay here as long as you need to, mary kathryn,’ i heard in my heart. ‘and i will stay here with you. but i will not let you stay here forever.’

with that, light shone down from above the well.

a friend was down there with me and jesus, just looking on. he’s the one who held up the mirror a few months ago, so he shows up from time-to-time.

i wish i could say this is the point when i started climbing out of the well.

but it’s not.

everything just sort of ended that night sitting with jesus and bob in the bottom of a cold, dark well.

and the next day i found my heart devastated. utterly, truly devastated in the ugliest of ways.

being at the bottom of the well has landed me in a place i never expected to be but, for the sake of brevity, i’ll save that part for tomorrow.

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