Anchors of the Heart

I’ve written about this before, but it’s after midnight, I’ve got a full cup of chamomile tea, and it’s on my mind again. So, here we go!

I just adore those times, so few as they are, when you know someone long enough, or deeply enough, to begin to see who they are in their appearance.

As an empath, part of my INFJ personality, I make quick judgements about people within minutes of meeting them. Not severe judgements, just things like “Trustworthy”, “Untrustworthy”, “Insecure”, “Hiding something”, pretty vague estimates, but enough to help me navigate my world and choose who I want to be influenced by, or who I want to be an influence to. I can feel, more times than not, the emotions of those around me. Certain people may have hearts of gold, but have such tumultuous emotions that I just can’t handle spending extended time around them. Others, thought extremely rare, exude a calmness that tames my own cloud of emotions. These are people I can spend hours with and never grow weary.

My favorite thing is when I meet someone, and my first impression is positive, but vague. Nothing really solid for me to build a foundation on to decided exactly how I feel about them yet, but it’s looking at the very least, not negative.

Fast forward. Now, I look at them and I don’t see their features, I see kindness in their eyes, a joy-filled smile, gentle finger tips, wise lips. Their features become anchors for their personality traits. It’s such a profound transformation. That is when you can really love a person for who they are, when you cease to see a body and instead see them. Who they are becomes their appearance when you look at them through the eyes of your heart. Gosh, it’s a beautiful sight.

Little Life Lessons

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Have you ever held a hermit crab? If you’re like me, you may have been too grossed out by their spider-like qualities to particularly enjoy them, but I have held one, and there is something interesting to be learned from their behavior. (Just totally ignoring that they occasionally pinch the living daylights out of you.)

When you hold a hermit crab, they initially withdraw into their shells, protecting their soft bodies by using the hard exoskeleton on their legs to block the little door of their mobile homes. But, if you hold them gently, are quiet, and don’t make fast or sudden movements, they will slowly come out, poke their little heads out and become curious. After they’ve started to explore, you can then move more and be less careful of scaring them. They’ve learned to trust the ground (your hand) that they’re standing on and aren’t afraid to check you out and see what you’re made.

As much as hermit crabs kinda freak me out, I can relate to them a lot. When I meet people for the first time, I tend to withdraw, barely participating in the small talk they offer me, often feeling a bit claustrophobic if they try too hard too fast to get to know me. But occasionally I meet people who sense my hesitation and back off a little. Still engaging me in conversation, but doing so more calmly, less demandingly, and sometimes even literally giving me space by going and talking to other people before coming back to me. And I love it when I meet people who do that. It seriously makes me feel so respected and understood.

At work, I can fake extrovert like a pro. I increase my volume, I start lots of pointless small talk conversations, I use witty comebacks and ignore when people invade my space. But it wears me out so much. By the time the end of the week comes, when I do most of my social activities with other Christians and people I would like to be friends with, I’m just out of it. I don’t have enough energy left to be a fake-tro-vert. And really, if I have to fake being SUPER outgoing just to make friends, what kind of friends am I really making?

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not trying to say “Look, I’m antisocial and rude and I don’t like talking but you should love me even though I refuse to talk to you.”
Heck. No. I’m very social, I love talking, I love people, I love being in social situations. I feel very badly when I have those days when it’s next to impossible for me to be truly myself with people, those days when people try to talk to me and I just don’t respond in a way that shows them how much I really do want to get to know them. It kills me. I lay awake in bed at night sometimes just angry with myself for being that way. I pray regularly that on days when I’m just emotionally drained, that He would sustain me and help me be that kind hearted person He’s made me to be.

I don’t want people to have to cater to my “social needs”. I want to be flexible and easy to communicate with. I want to be accessible. And sometimes, I’m not. And on those days, when God brings into my life those understanding people who can see through my hard, cold shell and say to themselves “I bet she’s a really cool person, she just needs some space and TLC.” Gah. I just love those people. I need friends like that. They rock. See, I want to be my best for everyone. But I’m way too human for that. I need people in my life who understand that I have days when they’re like “HEY, how are you!!!” and I’ll just say “Oh, good!” and don’t even ask how they are, not because I don’t care, I always care. But because I’m struggling, I’ve got ten thousand things going on in my head, my reply was an auto-response. Deep down I thought “I should ask how they’re doing too”, but I know that I’ve got too much going on to listen in a way that they deserve, so I don’t ask.

I don’t ask people how they’re doing to hear “Good, you?”. I ask only when I want to know how. they. are. doing. I don’t want an auto-response, I want a look into their life. So why would I ask you how you’re doing when I’m passing you in a hallway, with maybe 50 seconds of time to converse? What a waste of speech! I’d much rather smile and say “Good morning!”, a friendly greeting, but no obligation to express anything about what’s going on in your life when neither of us has time for that at the moment. Make sense?

Back to people who give me space… Sometimes, in that group, they may not see much result from the totally awesome respect they invest in me. But I remember them. Always. And next time, I will seek them out. Having shown me they are safe, that they aren’t going to try and pry me out into the open, I will seek them out in a crowd. They unwittingly become my anchor into the group. No matter how loud and demanding that group becomes, I know I can seek them out for a moment of peace. And if they spend one-on-one time with me, I will open up and talk and be social. I like to invest in conversations, and it’s really hard to do that in group settings. I don’t start conversations that I don’t intend to finish, but in groups, often times the topic will get lost as more people join in and make other remarks and it’s just… I can’t follow it. It’s annoying. Or someone will make a comment that make me curious as to why they feel that way, but before I can get a chance to inquire, the whole topic has evolved and moved on and it’s no longer applicable, so I just file it away for later. I think I freak people out a little, because sometimes I’ll send a text to someone, or come up to them and be like “So, this comment you made like two weeks ago during this group conversation, tell me more.” I’m not a stalker I promise… I just… I’m curious.. *toothy grin*

Anyway. That’s my piece on how I relate to hermit crabs. (I made hermit crabs way deeper than they actually are. 😀 ) Summary: I like real conversations, not small talk. I like one-on-one time best, but in groups I do enjoy listening and learning about people by observation. I’m not a hermit, I’m an tenderhearted person who genuinely wants to know you, but feels attacked when you try and force me out into the open. And lastly, to those of you who treat people like me with the kindness and genuine respect that makes us want to be ourselves, thank you. You make us feel like we can shine. It’s people like you who help us grow. You are the answer to our prayers.

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~TQG

Legacy of Bliss

After church on Sunday, my dad and I went to lunch with a lovely couple that we’ve known for quite a while. True, honest, real friends. Their last name is Bliss, and it’s the perfect name, they exude a joy and playfulness far beyond what you get from most married couples in their late 60’s.

Mrs. Bliss is a fantastic painter, her art fills me with awe whenever I get to see it. Stunningly beautiful portraits and scenes that look like memories stretched out on a canvas. And every bit of beauty from those paintings shines in her eyes and her youthful smile. She’s a classy, amazing, gorgeous lady. One of few people I truly admire and look up to. Though I’ve never told her this, and haven’t gotten to spend much time around her.

After we had lunch, she and I were talking, and she looked at me straight in the eye and said to me, “Now, I’m not just saying this, I really mean it! You know, I’ve known you for a while, and I’ve seen you growing up, and I have to say, you have just gotten more and more beautiful as you grow older. I mean it! You’ve matured into a beautiful woman, inside and out, and I’m just amazed by you.” And she did mean it, I could see it in her eyes that she meant every word with complete sincerity and honestly was amazed by me. 

I’m… really at a loss for words. I feel completely unworthy of that level of compliment, I’m humbled by it. I pray that I may be the kind of woman who will someday speak that level of loving encouragement into the life of younger women around me.

I am Brave

What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?

My estimate is that if you think long enough about it, you’ll see that the compliment that meant the most and stuck with you the longest was one about your character rather than your appearance or accomplishments.

As a human female person with human female friends, I’ve gotten a lot of compliments in my almost 21 years of life, but one stands head and shoulders above the rest and continues to brighten my day 2 years after it was first given to me.

Two years ago my best guy friend, who inconveniently lives something like 5 states away from me, came to visit for one week during the Summer. We’d never met in person before, and I’m just about the most awkward human ever (or at least I was at that time) so by the time he left, I felt like I had completely failed at everything. I was an awkward mess the whole freaking week (Or at least I felt as though I was).

(Several months before his journey to my neck of the woods, I’d confronted him about something via letter, this isn’t a super big detail but it will help you understand the next bit better.)

Shortly after he returned home, he sent me a letter on my birthday, and in that letter he replied to my confrontation, and told me exactly how he’d felt upon receiving it, and how God had used it in his life to change his heart. Then he said that I had been extremely brave to send that letter, not knowing how he would take it, and repeated beneath it “You are very brave.” and attached the ticket stubs from when we saw the movie “Brave” while he was here.

I keep this letter folded up in the center of one of my journals. I don’t reread it much, because I get really emotional when I do, and because I don’t want it to stop making me emotional. It feels good to have a soft heart, it feels good to let things touch you on that deep of a level. I feel as though my greatest weakness is fear, to be called brave reaches into that fear and proves it wrong. And it touches me still to this day.

I’ve been called pretty, beautiful, elegant, lovely, smart, funny, etc. But the best thing anyone has ever called me is Brave.

 

Tired & Torn

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Sometimes I’m tired of being brave.

Of going out into a world of hostility and putting on a good face.

I struggle to keep smiling when I have to fight just to stay me.

To keep myself from the habits of those surrounding me.

Staying on the higher ground.

When a word of profanity tickles my tongue and I have to bite it.

When a hostile attitude boils within me and I struggle to remember to Whom I belong.

At every turn, I see only obstacles.

I feel as though I clamber over them,

No one by my side.

Is it too much to ask for a friend who cheers me on rather than telling me to turn back?

We could help each other over the mountains,

Stroll through the valleys in unison.

Don’t tell me my fight is pointless,

Don’t tell me I try too hard.

Tell me to push harder, to strive to be more.

Tell me my quest is worthy,

Take my hand and join me.

Maybe we won’t scale every mountain,

Maybe we won’t always win.

But God is on our side, my friend,

And He has concurred sin.

Falling in Love

I posted a video of an hour(ish) long sermon a few weeks ago, I titled that post “The Definition of Love” if my memory serves. (And it may not, so I apologize.) It is a fabulous message and I really enjoyed it, it keeps coming back to me time and time again.

Today I was at work, nursing one of the many small injuries I acquired today–mostly paper cuts, guinea pig scratches and one bite from an angry Russian hamster (today was not my day) and thinking about not the definition of Love, the verb, the action, the thing you can and should act out with every person you come in contact with, but the definition of falling in love.

I was once waiting in line for a burrito bowl at Moe’s (one of my favorite places to eat) when I heard a girl say to her friends “I think I’m falling in love with him… I’m not sure, but I think I am.” It made me mad. Not mad with her, but with our culture. Maybe it’s just me, but I know when I’m in love. I don’t mean romantic, lovey dovey “oh he’s so cute and funny and he has a nice smile” thing, that is what’s called a crush. I don’t have those. I might occasionally meet/see a guy who I have a temporary interest in, but it is always a critical interest. Each time I come in contact with him I analyze him. What’s the point of having some kind of “thing” for a guy who is attractive, but deep down just a shallow jerk? It’s such a waste!

So what does it mean to fall in love, then? I honestly can’t say definitively. But I can say what it means for me.

Falling in love is when you’ve analyzed someone, quizzed them, tested them, and inquired of them until you know them extremely well. You’ve seen their faults, and you’ve seen their strengths. You’ve had a few disagreements, but you’ve worked them all out and come out better on the other side. You’ve watched them mature and grow closer to God, and they’ve helped you do the same. And suddenly one day you look at them and a quiet, calm, peaceful thought sprouts roots in your mind, it whispers “I could spend the rest of my life with them, and love every minute of it.” And you realize it’s true. That no matter what you faced, you would sacrifice anything to protect the beauty you see in them. Even if it hurt sometimes, you would strive, and you would love deeply, and you would give of yourself until you ran dry if you have to, because you love them. And you’re willing to commit to loving them even during those times when you don’t “feel it”.

That kind of love doesn’t go away. Even if it doesn’t work out for whatever reason, and one day you find someone else whom you feel the same way about, I don’t think that means you stop loving them. You’ve just resigned to the fact that your love for them has to be kept quiet. That you have to move on. And it hurts.

Better is open rebuke
Than love that is concealed.

Proverbs 27:5

Perhaps when you’ve finally found someone who returns that same love to you, your “previous” love changes form, into something that doesn’t hurt, a gentle and endearing friendship-love. I don’t know. I just know that I see almost none of this definition of love in the world. And it makes me feel alone sometimes.

I’ve allowed myself to become something of a hermit of late, for that reason. I just see so many extremes. Extreme immaturity, extreme “religiousness”, when all I really want is someone like myself, in the sense that I am imperfect, I sin, I do stupid things sometimes, make a fool of myself. But I’m changing, I’m self analyzing, I’m striving to become more like He who rescued me. I don’t see that in many people. I just want to be in the presence of someone whom I can relax with. Not worry about being ill influenced by them, and just laugh, and be myself. Sure, mistakes are made, and no one is perfect, so obviously at some point someone will say something the other disagrees with, be it a moral objection or just a personal preference. And that is okay. It’s how we grow.

It’s why I’ve secluded myself. I feel as though I am constantly pouring myself out on those around me, and I’m empty. I’ve run out of “it”, whatever “it” is. I need someone to pour themselves into me, too. I need someone who can give as well as receive. I suppose you could tell me that I won’t find that if I don’t go out and mingle. Perhaps you’re right. But tonight, it’s almost 2am, and I have a cold, and my finger tips are sore and injured, and I’m not feeling very optimistic.

Thoughts from Van Gogh

“One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul and yet no one ever came to sit by it. Passers-by see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on their way.”

-Vincent Van Gogh

This quote, from my favorite painter, embodies exactly how I feel about my singleness. But I know one day God will bring along a man who sees more than merely a wisp of smoke.

Architecture

Before I go into this multifaceted post, I have to say, I am honored. Lately I’ve gained several new followers here on my blog and gotten a few responses, and I greatly appreciate the support. If you’re reading this and following me, thank you.

While I was in the mountains of West Virginia, I took a walk. I had to bundle up to do so, it was something like 7 degrees outside, but once my body adjusted, I started to appreciate how incredibly beautiful it was.

The view through the picture window in our cabin.

The view through the picture window in our cabin.

Another angle from the window.

Another angle from the window.

At that time of day, a blizzard was chaotically swirling huge snow flakes all around me, and the mountains in the distance were veiled in a hazy coldness that just seemed perfect. Flawless. And my ride on the ski lift (seen in the background of these two pictures) was just as breath taking. I particularly enjoy being up high, and the view from there was amazing. God is quite the artist.

Recently, God revealed something to me. When I stop trying to “do better” or “try harder” and just commit myself to Him, He steps in and supports me in that commitment. I’ve been struggling with sin in a particular area of my life, and it seemed that no matter how hard I tried, how much effort I put into avoiding it, I couldn’t defeat it. It was breaking me, leaving me with constant guilt and depression. Finally, just about two weeks ago, I prayed a desperate prayer. I told God that I was done trying. Because trying wasn’t good enough. I was done with “doing my best”, because my best will never be good enough. I said, “God, I am committing this to You, that I will not fall into this sin again, and I ask that You support me in this commitment, and give me the strength it takes to keep it unbroken.” And my God has come through on that request in ways I never imagined. Several times since then, temptation has presented itself, and each time I’ve said, sometimes out loud, “I made a commitment.” and it’s as if God just takes the temptation completely away. It’s nothing I’m doing, it’s the gracious love of Christ coming in and helping me honor my commitment to Him. I’m so humbled by this. I don’t deserve it. I don’t understand why He loves me, but I’m so thankful He does. I am not defined by my sin, I am defined by His love.

When I arrived to my first day back at work this week, I was greeted by a completely unexpected surprise. I am the “Associate Of the Month” for the month of December! I’m very thankful for the blessing of a job where I am valued and appreciated by my superiors. It’s definitely encouraging, it motivates me to be even better at my job. Though it is kinda embarrassing to have my picture on the wall in the break room…

If you’re a detail oriented person such as myself, you are probably wondering “So… what’s with the title of this blog?” Well, my likeminded reader, it is inspired by a song that I recently heard on my favorite radio station (Air1 Radio), which I would like to share with you!

It was playing in my head the day I went for a walk in the mountains. Also, this song came to mind too, because I am a geek. 

I love mountains. They put me in a fantastic, majestic mood. They make me want to soar on wings like eagles.

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

~Isaiah 40:31

 

Duty Or Pleasure?

Morality or duty… never yet made a man happy in himself or dear to others. It is shocking, but it is undeniable. We do not wish either to be, or to live among, people who are clean or honest or kind as a matter of duty: we want to be, and to associate with, people who like being clean and honest and kind. The mere suspicion that what seemed an act of spontaneous friendliness or generosity was really done in duty subtly poisons it. In philosophical language, the ethical category is self-destructive; morality is healthy only when it is trying to abolish itself. In theological language, no man can be saved by works.

~C.S. Lewis

For reflection on Proverbs 5:21-23

Sometimes He Needs A Hook

My hook laying in my Bible just after finishing my reading for the day.

My hook laying in my Bible just after finishing my reading for the day.

Last night at my Bible study, we did iron work. Real, heat-it-up-till-its-cherry-red-and-beat-on-it iron work. We each got a long, straight stick of iron and we made these hooks. They’re designed to hammer into a wall so you can hang things on them.

Why did we do this? Well, it was an illustration about how God works in our lives. He uses the heat, and the pressure, and the beatings that life deals out to take us from our useless state and make us into something he can work with. Not always what we want to be, but what He needs. We can’t all be the fancy iron gates that open up to heaven, sometimes he just needs a hook. Something helpful, that doesn’t draw attention to itself, but draws attention to it’s maker instead. Something that serves him without making a fuss of itself.

This didn’t really impact me as much last night as it did this morning. God has been really trying to draw my attention to how selfish I am. How unwilling to serve I am. Not unwilling to serve Him, but blind to the fact that serving my family and friends is what it means to serve Him. My attitude is all wrong. When I hear my mom say “Honey, could you wash these dishes for me?” I’m hearing “Come waste ten minutes of your day when you could be doing something fun.” rather than “Hey, here’s an opportunity to to serve God.” And that is wrong. It’s sinful. It’s selfish. And now that I’m seeing this, I’m determined to change it. I started today by sneaking into the kitchen after breakfast and washing dishes without being asked. No one actually noticed, but being praised for being helpful isn’t the point. Our reward is in Heaven, and it’s far better than a pat on the back here on earth. I need to stop looking for ways to get praise for myself, and start looking for ways to praise God by serving Him.

Because, to be honest, I have a lot of free time. My job isn’t really giving me enough hours, and I have more days off than working days. I have a few things I do that I actually need to do, such as my Bible reading, and going to the gym. And a few things I make time for, like hanging out with friends or going to Bible study. But that leaves hours of uninterrupted time with which I do nothing of importance. I could vacuum the whole house, do laundry for the whole family, and keep dishes under control all day, and it would only take maybe an hour or two of my day, total. What have I been waiting for all this time?

That being said, I’m not writing this blog to pat my own back, “Oh look at what a good little Christian I’m becoming, bow down and praise me!” I’m writing it as a challenge. Examine your daily thoughts. How often do you consider your parents, your coworkers, your neighbors, that elderly lady trying to reach the bag of flour on the top shelf at the grocery store? How often do you wander through life, completely involved in your mind with what you want and what you need and how you feel? Now, your dreams, desires and feelings are all important. But they should not be your main focus. God should be. And after God, those He’s put around you for you to serve. God will take care of you, He won’t work you to the death of your dreams. But, He may delay your dreams until He gets you to wake up to His plan. Because if He gives you what you want before you’ve become mature enough in Him to handle it correctly, it will destroy you.

Just look at all the talented people in Hollywood. They have amazing skill, they have the ability to use it for good to impact the entire world. But so many of them are spiraling down in a vicious cycle of self destruction. They weren’t equipped to handle it. They didn’t have the foundation to keep them upright, they didn’t have what it took to lean on God and let Him carry them through. They thought they could figure it out on their own, but they slipped off the edge, and because they didn’t know Him, they didn’t call His name. He wants to reach out His hand and put them back onto their feet, but they refuse to humble themselves and ask.

Maybe, if they had trusted God, and let Him used their trails to mold them, they would be able to hook on to that edge and hang on, ride out the storm, and come out of it much stronger and more confident than before. But that’s just my two cents.

~TQG