Surrendering To Love

At the beginning of this year I was asked to prepare a mini-sermon for my class. The theme I kept encountering was on surrender. Funny how I never anticipated for this to be the theme of my year…

A couple months back I had a housemate ask me a startling question. She looked me straight in the eyes and asked: “Are you upset?” Taken back by her question I  really didn’t know how to respond. She quickly countered with: “Upset isn’t the correct term. You just seem restless.”

It’s been a few months since I’ve written. Mainly because I’ve felt conflicted writing about depression when I felt like I was in the midst of it. How could I help someone else, when I was full frontal facing it myself. This season had hit me to the core, often feeling dazed and confused about the predicament I found myself in.

Twenty-six has been a year of detoxing. Intentionally listening to the narrative I cultivated, and the self-worth I believed to deserve.

My wilderness has taken place in the beautiful country of Australia. Where I’ve fought kangaroos, conquered cockroaches, survived on chicken broth, dislocated ligaments, gotten into a pricey car accident, and wrestled with doubt and shame. It’s also where I have been surrounded by an incredible community. Where I have gained tenacity and grit. A wilderness that has softened me, making me even more compassionate and gentle. Less self-centered, less worrisome, and a whole lot more brave!

The process of surrender has done its magic. Unfortunately surrender didn’t come easy,  but it has brought peace, and liberated me to love the process I was currently in.

“Surrender your anxiety! Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God. I am the God above all the nations, and I will be exalted throughout the whole earth.” Psalm 46:10

Surrender isn’t passive. It’s actually an active verb of giving over or yielding to. For me, it’s been a process of deliberately taking moments to pause. To reflect on the goodness within my life, to take deep breathes and remember to watch the leaves in the wind. To be compassionate towards myself in the process. It honestly takes a whole lot of mindfulness. Surrender is an invitation to smile. Surrender means accepting what is, and letting go of what isn’t. It’s acknowledging and loving every imperfection, every struggle, and every heartache. “Empathy and connection require us to know and accept ourselves before we can know and accept others.”(Brene Brown) How sweet that my God has never asked me to be perfect in order for him to use me. He loves our humanity.

As I’ve been reading I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) by Brene Brown, she synthesizes it so perfectly. “Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. To let fear soften us rather than harden into resistance.”… “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and wounded, but between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

So here I am, 7 months after I spoke on surrender. And I am so grateful that I got to learn to become more compassionate towards myself.  To learn to smile even in the confusion, to ask for help even when I wanted to isolate. To trust the pain was only temporary and that God would revive what felt dead. I’ve gotten to experience His goodness firsthand and relearn to trust my Creator. To love myself fiercely, and to be vulnerable, to truly be authentic with the process. More importantly, I am learning that I am so much more resilient than I dared to believe and He will never leave or forsaken me.

Thank you to every angel that accompanied me on this journey! I am eternally grateful.

 

Identity Stories

In the more recent days, I’ve been playing this tiresome tug of war with my value. Do I believe to be worthy of great love? Am I significant to my friends and family? Do I value my opinions, the thoughts I have and the way I look?

In a world where humans let others define their worth, dependent income brackets, hotness levels, their productivity or charm, it can be incredibly difficult to feel valued when we fall short. Therefore I’ve been purposely shedding “value layers” that society has placed on me, in order to really know my worth and value for myself. Because of this, the timing of this topic couldn’t be more perfect. 

If you’ve ever been intrigued by mythology, you’ve probably come across the more common Greek origin stories. Personally, I never spent much time reading mythology until we were prompted to look at the Egyptian, Babylonian, Canaanite and Greek Origin Stories. Once I sat down and actually read them,  I noticed the similarities and vast differences. In comparison, it made me appreciate the Christian/Hebrew Origin Story so much more.

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Most research on Egyptian Creation Myths dates back to 2780 – 2250 B.C.E, which are considered the Old Kingdom times. Similar to the Bible, the Egyptians also believed that in the beginning there was only water and chaos. The sun god, Ra rose from those waters and procreated with himself and spat out Shu (god of air) and vomited out his daughter Tefnut (goddess of moisture). When both of his kids lost themselves in the chaotic waters, Ra (Sun god) sent out his eye to find them. Shu and Tefnut returned to Ra and when Ra wept with tears of joy, humans grew from the earth.

It’s a sweet story, but nonetheless, it clearly expresses that human life wasn’t intentional. Humans were mere byproducts, even if it was caused by a joyful occasion. This comparison may seem far stretched but hear me out. I believe there is a deep innate desire in every one of us to be loved and desired. Unfortunately, I’ve had friends who’ve struggled with knowing they were unintentionally conceived. It’s crazy how this could shift your perspective of being unworthy or unloved and embed a strong belief of inconvenience and even insignificance. I’m sure the Egyptians didn’t feel or believe that they individually had much significance towards their creator. 

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This origin story is considered some of the oldest known to man. Apsu (or named An), god of fresh water, and Tiamat goddess of salt oceans basically mate and have two new gods. Ea (or named Enki) and the other grandkids become extremely disruptive and difficult to deal with, so Apsu tells his wife that he wants to kill them. Ea (the river god) hears this and decides to put a spell on Apsu that “kills” him, but basically makes him inactive. So then Ea has a son called Marduk, who fought battles for Ea and requested that he may become the god of gods. Later on, when he did become the main god, the Gods complained that they had to serve Marduk and do the labor. So plan B for Marduk was to create mortals (humans) out of clay to be the laborers instead of the gods.

Again, we have an origin story with water. This story takes a bit of a different turn- meaning I want to shift our focus to the deity.  If the gods were wanting to kill their offspring and having to rival for power and authority, how much power can they really be possessing? I don’t think I need to even address the moral issue here…

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Chaos and water (AGAIN- see a theme here?!), chaos had the name of Baad and Arapel was the god of cloudy darkness. After a lengthy line of mating with each other etc. Teshuqah is a god that wants to rule, reign and create. Through this process, different gods were made for different purposes: heaven, earth, time, sunrise etc. Eventually, all these gods arise and fight each other but the strongest one of them all is named Baal. Baal essentially wants the earth to be beautiful, so he creates humans and animals to inhabit it.

Very similar to the Mesopotamian Origin Story, with the deity struggle.  Therefore again my actual struggle is with the gods. But at least Baal created humans and animals to make the earth beautiful.

 

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According to the Bible God created Heaven and Earth. Darkness covered the earth and God said: “Let there be light” and there was light. For 6 days, he speaks to water, he speaks to the stars and the sky, he speaks to vegetation and birds etc. God continues to be pleased with creation but it isn’t until the sixth day that God says “Let us create man in our image, according to our likeness” and then there in Genesis 1:31 “God saw all that he had made and it was very good indeed.”

Genesis is such a rich book and one of the most difficult to understand. But I believe when it comes to value, there are two important things to remember from the Christian/Hebrew Origin Story.

  1. God created us in his image
  2. God was incredibly pleased with how he created us.

Both are extremely difficult concepts to grasp. It doesn’t matter how often I read and reread it, I don’t think I’ll ever understand the fullness of what those sentences mean. Throughout the Bible, there are verses that say that God himself thought of you before birth, before time and wanted you to be a part of this life. That means that you and I weren’t merely an accident or created to amuse a God. But even crazier than that, God himself was and is extremely pleased with us! In scripture, it says He knows every detail about us; our specific laugh, our individual physical attributes, even our hearts desires. That doesn’t just apply to a particular race, age, or gender. No this applies to every human being that has walked the face of the earth! So essentially we could literally do nothing, or even worse, mess up in every aspect of our lives and still- YHWH, my God, would still love me unconditionally and say I was worth every second, minute and year spent on this earth.

It’s honestly a bit daunting to believe this truth when I at times can so viciously pick myself apart. Entertaining thoughts of inadequacy and failure. There are definitely days where it becomes unwillingly difficult for me to like myself. This is where the creation stories come together, our values, our beliefs of why we are here and why we exist actually play a major role in how we see ourselves. If we believe that we are sheer accidents, then why would it matter that I value myself or others? Why would it matter what I think of myself? What’s crazy is that what we think of ourselves actually makes a world of difference. It determines what our relationships look like, what type of job we have, how much money we make, even how happy and content we are with our lives. I can’t stress enough that our beliefs about our value will and can shift everything, either negatively or positively.

It’s my prayer that you would grasp just how incredibly essential you are. That you were created with purpose and significance. You are a mathematical walking miracle that is surrounded by one hundred billion galaxies! I believe that He is very pleased with you and God thought the world would miss out if we didn’t have YOU in it!

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Detoxing

One moment I am standing on this metaphoric mountain of joy. I feel like I’ve conquered all my demons and life is at an all-time high. A smile so big you can’t see my eyes. I laugh at myself for ever having worried. I feel so certain that I’ll never get off of this “high” on life.

Literally the next day…

Why did I leave my comfortable job?! I can’t stand this heat! Why am I breaking out?! I’ll never find my hubby with this skin. Where’s the hidden stash of chocolate? Why am I being so emotional? Is this dramatic? Why did I ever agree to stop drinking?!

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Have you ever had those days that completely blindsided you? A moment where you felt you had conquered the world, just to realize seconds later how unstable you really were?

This literally has been a preview of some of the more recent moments within the last months.  Granted I’ve been doing some heavy inventory of my past, rehashing emotions, abandoning certain beliefs. While simultaneously acclimating to a drastic change (moving to Australia), and living on a rather tight budget and schedule.

That’s when it hit me- I am purifying myself. I’m transitioning.

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I truly have been gifted with such a precious season of reflection, rest and discomfort. A season of spiritual and mental growth, of dreams, friends, and purpose. But being gifted with a season of growth means I’m having to actively give up comfort.

My life has so drastically changed that I hate to admit, but sometimes I secretly still crave a cigarette. Even though I stopped smoking years ago. The craving is purely emotional, thinking I gave up every bad habit, and now need to balance out this cleanse I’m in.

Going through a cleanse can be a Kickstarter. We cleanse our homes in the spring, we cleanse our bodies after the holidays but do we actively seek to cleanse our minds?

Here are 4 things that have helped me during my cleanse

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Since moving to Australia, I have seriously downgraded! Everything from my clothing, to the books I have, to the car I drive. I never really understood the advantage of downgrading until moving here. But it’s made me less concerned with my appearance, it’s helped grow anticipation for things I really want/desire and it’s brought value back to the things that I have. On top of that, my room never looks cluttered, which has made my room a safe haven for me.

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My environment has changed drastically as well. My friends are all on a path of self-discovery and desiring to achieve their highest potential. This has really helped push me forward when I’m having a difficult day. They pick me up and help me continue my race even when I am throwing tantrums. So often I’ve felt alone in my journey of bettering myself, but here I have a plentitude of people that are on a similar journey as well.

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If you’ve been to Australia, you’d get the joke that we are 10 years behind in this country. Personally, I LOVE it! If I watch TV, which has been seldom, it’s rare that I’m bombarded with hyper-sexualized ads and the music I listen to is more often than not kid-friendly. You may be thinking that that’s incredibly boring. But honestly, it’s so refreshing. The media does influence our thoughts and behaviors. If you believe to be ugly and incredibly discontent with your looks- take notice of what you are watching and who you are comparing yourself with. If you believe this is a violent world- take notice of how much of the news you watch or read. It’s ridiculous to believe that media doesn’t have an influence on our thoughts and actions since psychology is a key component of the media. Ever drive faster or more reckless when listening to a particular song? Newsflash, they do alter your behavior.

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Mindfulness is an essential practice here. I want to be a responsible creator with my life who is mindful with how I impact others as well as myself. That means taking responsibility for my thoughts and feelings by selecting, shaping and being in tune with them. It’s a muscle that either gets used or lost. Mindfulness can be practiced by noticing if you are hungry or rather thirsty. What thoughts do I feed on and why? Was my response appropriate? Do I really mean what I say?

These are just a couple of things I’ve noticed that have dramatically impacted me. I don’t recommend you do all at once. But pick one to focus on for a season and I promise you, you change your life positively.

Ps: The picture is to represent the emotional and physical fatigue I go through while detoxing. Trust me, it’ll take you on a rollercoaster.

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Lonely by Default?

Moving as much as I have, and let me tell you, it’s been A LOT! I’ve had to learn how to tackle loneliness. Loneliness presents itself in many shapes and forms, but I’m sure we all know what it feels like to either feel left out, to not fit in, or simply not know who to call when in trouble. Loneliness, especially while I was wrestling with depression, often whispered lies of inadequacy, failure and rejection.

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Here are some very simple tips how to nip loneliness in the butt and quickly feel more connected.

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In a day and age, where we barely acknowledge other’s existence, I believe it’s crucial to greet people. It’s a simple act and a vital one. If you are crossing someone’s path it’s a kind gesture to let them know that you see them. Sometimes even a smile is sufficient. It’s letting them know they matter and is often the first step towards social interaction.

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Small talk is essential to helping fight loneliness. Yes, it may seem superficial at times, and honestly it takes some practice getting good at it. But if you genuinely try to care, people will notice and respond. Small talk with your cashier, Uber driver, coworker,   waiter etc. these are all people that we tend to forget about. I mention this because often we disqualify the people that are offering us a service or product, but even the smallest of interactions can change their day and in exchange ours as well.

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Often I would have a difficult time reaching out to someone. I’d come up with excuses like “I don’t really know them too well” and “They’ll probably think I’m weird” or the classic “They’ll think I don’t have any friends”. I still struggle with these thoughts from time to time, but they boil down to stupid assumptions. First off, if the person does think those things then A) you probably don’t want to be friends with them and B) the majority of people don’t think that way. For example if you hear someone needs help moving, offer your help. Or if they need help with a project etc., these are easy ways to get plugged in without coming across as too eager. Sometimes we have to become vulnerable in order to gain a friendship. So reach out! Be supportive, be kind, be caring, ask questions and invest time! Friendships take time and persistency.

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This is honestly a hard one to learn and one that I am still learning. But let’s get this straight. The world doesn’t revolve around you. As brutal as that sounds, it’s the truth.  Taking things personally is a belief that is attached to fear. It’s important to think rationally and to understand that people’s responses to you are ultimately a reflection of themselves. This takes some confidence and discipline too. If you tend to overthink and analyze people’s reactions, try and become busier. Become more productive with your time, either reading, working out, or cooking etc.  The more downtime you have to dwell on things, the greater the stories you make up in your mind reasoning why everybody is against you.

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I often can have this ideal imagery of what my friendships should look like. I imagine having 10 friends around the campfire and us being this perfect clique that does everything together. We’d have our inside jokes and long list of memories, and we’d all be these ride or die homies. At times this mindset has forced me to subconsciously disqualify people that didn’t fit my ideal version of what my friends should be and look like. Incredibly shallow, I agree and even more eye-opening, this loneliness was self inflicted. Most of my best friends have been people I didn’t necessarily agree with or even have the same interests. However, it proves my point that my superficiality and wrong expectation have been a cause of loneliness.

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