Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Love Journey Continues

On January 7, I went to Adore Him Creations studio to create a picture of my OLW: Love. Diane is a phenominal artist from my small group. I'm not the artistic type in the slightest. She's helped other artistically-challenged folks, so I thought I'd give it a go.

I was immediately faced with so many decisions that my head was spinning. What size board? What colors? What font for the letters? I wasn't prepared and I was making decisions on the fly - not a good start. From seeing her work, I knew that I wanted to use old hymns as the background. Two oldie, but goodie hymns came to mind: "My Jesus, I Love Thee" and "And Can It Be". The second one threw everyone for a loop because the chorus is "Amazing love, how can it be, that thou my God shouldst die for me." The title isn't Amazing Love as one would think. Instead, it's the first line of the verse. Diane immediately suggested Chris Tomlin's "Amazing Love", but that wasn't what I wanted at all. Yes, it's a lovely song, but I wanted the hymns! Thankfully we had the internet to help us find the real title and then some good ol' Baptist hymnals to copy.

My first task was to tear the copied hymn pages up. You read that right - tear as in shred them. I did it neatly as possible so I wouldn't tear off any important words. She comes over and says that I'm not doing it right. "Just tear it!" I laughed and explained that she was asking a perfectionist to tear up a piece of paper that is going on her artwork. It wasn't that easy for me. She explained that she struggled with that too, but there is something freeing about shredding pages that were meant to be nice and neat. The messier, the better. I relinquished. Slightly.

Not knowing what I was doing and seeing some of her other art really was an injustice. I thought that there would be layer upon layer of paint over my hymns to add depth and let the songs peek through, but I missed the step where the paint I was using was going to be the only thing I used to cover the whole background. Yes, I painted a little, but no where near the amount needed.

The letters were an adventure, indeed. Each letter is uniquely shaped and painted. Diane has tons of stamps, stickers, ribbons, flowers, butterflies, buttons, coins, mirrors, etc. to put on the art. I didn't know what options I had and seeing her other artwork, I wanted one of everything! It looked chaotic while laying it out on the table, but I knew that her art was busy, but brilliant. I was sure that was how mine would end up.

I painted each letter various solid colors and then Diane guided me with stamping them. She did some other technique that makes the paint raised and shiny after heat is applied through a hair dryer. Cool stuff!

Then came the crazy part - adding all the little fru-fru stuff. Remember how I wanted to add everything? I did. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. The end result? Organized chaos. We glued a butterfly to show that I'm transforming into a loving person. We glued a heart on a fuzzy string to signify - a heart. We glued a flower to imply - a flower. We glued a key because we needed something to hang a tag that says "journey" and also - our jouney is the key. We glued sparkles on the "L" because I'm supposed to shine.

To wrap it all up, there were words I wanted to stamp on it, but I didn't want to over-do it. Too late. The ladies kept asking me what aspect of "Love" I wanted to focus on this year. I want to consistently show to love to others, regardless of my mood. I want to be so full of God's love that it overflows to everyone I meet. So the words I chose were family, friends, grace, blessings,and forever. We found a spot and sure enough, the words got stamped. They are extremely faded (on purpose), but they are filling the seemingly blank space in the middle at the top.

What happened next still haunts me.

Since the piece is 3-D, I laid it on the front seat of my car for the drive home. I made sure not to make any sudden stops for fear I'd knock it off the front seat. As I drove, I got more and more upset. I couldn't look over at it. I was thinking of how I should have put more paint on the background. I shouldn't have added so many pages of hymns. I should have added something in the middle. I shouldn't have stamped so much. I should have just gone simple and stopped about 30 minutes earlier (to avoid the clutter). I wish, I wish, I wish...

When I arrived at home, I carefully carried it so I wouldn't have to look at it. I put it behind some things so it would be protected from my curious cats. Then I started crying. I literally fell to my knees and I confessed to God what I had been doing. I was tearing apart the picture and criticizing it so there would be nothing left for other people to say. I acknowledged that I didn't accept myself for the way I am, faults and all. I already knew I was a perfectionist, but the end result was that I didn't love myself.

It was heartbreaking to hear the words come out of my mouth without intentionally saying them. It was as if I was hearing another person speak. Yet, I felt liberated at the same time. I've heard the first step to overcoming an obstacle is admitting you have a problem. That's a big problem to own up to. My world wasn't auto-corrected in that instant. Rather, I was filled with the peace of knowing that I conceded to something that God has prepared me to face. I immediately asked Him to show me how to love myself.

Matthew 22:37-39 (NIV)
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

I know this part of the journey has just begun, but already He is helping me give myself mercy and grace. I'm forgiving myself more than I used to. I'm making my needs and wants a priority. I don't mean in a selfish way, I mean that I am learning that it's OK to just say "no". Much like in my last post when I learned that I get to pick and choose who I date. I don't need to go out with the first guy who shows interest in me if he isn't the person God laid on my heart to date.

I'm posting this a little late (this story was from January 7), but the first week of 2012 was so impressive that I had to share! I can't wait to see what the other 51 weeks teach me!

I have continually asked God to show me how to love myself. He laid it on my heart to put the picture in a prominent place to where I have to see it every day. This week (February 9th), my brother came over to hang shelves above my TV. I bought them several weeks ago, but in my perfectionism, I didn't want to screw holes into the walls without supervision. He hung them right where I wanted them, but as soon as I put the picture on the shelf I realized the shelves are too high. That's OK. I'm learning to love myself, high shelves and all!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Just Say "No"

In my last post, I declared that my One Little Word (OLW) for 2012 is Love. When I picked this word, my thought was that I wanted God's love to consume me to the point that it overflowed to everyone around me. My attitude will not have any bearing on how I treat others if I am filled with super-natural love.

This begins the journey of how giving God the reigns of my life can change my priorities and directions into so much more than I could ask or imagine.
Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

It's no secret that I'm single. I don't try to hide it, even though some see it as tragic as a fatal disease. I desperately want to be married, but God has gently shown me through my family and friends that marriage is not the answer to my lonliness. I've heard this all my life but God, in His infinite love and mercy, knows that I need to hear it, see it, and experience it many, many, many times for it to sink in. I am ever so thankful for His patience with me.

In late December, I felt led to write a prayer to continually give God my desire for marriage. I've been told to be specific for what I want in a man and God will give me every characteristic on my list. Instead, I chose to be vague and give it over to God. I know that He knows what is best for me and His list of what my future husband will posses is so much better than what I think I need. My prayer asked for me to recognize when this man comes into my life and for him to recognize when I come into his life so he will have the courage to ask me out.

The new year is always a reminder of how lonely I am. I usually dread New Year's Eve, but this year I decided to embrace it. This is going to be the year I finally achieve my goals. I wasn't going to get my hopes up for a last minute date and I looked forward to spending the evening with friends (even though most were couples). I was surprised at how much happier I was by deciding to enjoy myself ahead of time.

On January 2, a friend was flying into DC to drop his son off. The boy's mother lives in MD and my friend (we'll call him T) lives in Kansas.

Background story: T and I met at Regan National Airport after I returned home from vacation in July last year. He was dropping his son off after a summer visit and I was dropping my friend off so she could fly home to Ohio. Her plane was delayed for over 3 hours, so I started talking to the cute boy sitting next to me (T) while she talked on the phone to her boyfriend. He and I kept in touch over the months and while we talked about the possibility of dating, it never seemed feasible.

Thanks to him, I realized that I date unavailable guys. They don't have time for me, they hide me, they have kids that keep them busy in the evenings, or they live too far away. I finally admitted to myself that I want to go on dates. I want to be pursued. I want to snuggle on the couch and just watch movies on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I would never experience that with T. He led me on for a little while with the idea that he would consider moving to the DC area to be near his son. Subsequent conversations proved that he hates large cities and he borderlined on racism. Needless to say, Kansas held no appeal to me so that wasn't ever an option. He started school and being a recent college
graduate myself, I was very proud of him for pusuing his goals. When I made it clear that we couldn't be together, he thought it was just because of the time he spent at school. He couldn't fathom that it was because of the distance - no matter how many times I told him.

Now back to January 2, 2012. T's layover in DC was less than 2 hours, so we just met for lunch. We had a great time of talking and laughing. He even bought lunch for me. If it weren't for the nasty NY Rangers jersey he was wearing (just to spite me, a CAPS fan), I would have wished for a longer visit. Then the strangest thing happened. When he was walking to the security line, he slipped in the "L" word. I played it off as if I didn't hear it and/or he was talking about loving me as a friend. Then when he arrived at home, he was texting me non-stop for days. The attention was nice, but he must have thought whatever happened at lunch was so much more.

I blocked off the weekend of January 7 to organize my basement. I had no idea how impossible it would be to get the whole thing done in one weekend, but I made great strides despite my over-ambitious schedule. He was texting me non-stop and I came to the conclusion that I had to put an end to this. I wasn't the least bit interested in him. For whatever reason, he thought he was in love with me and I cared for him enough as a friend not to lead him on any longer. So, I pulled out the only card I hadn't played yet. God.

If you are a fellow Christian, you might find it odd that I hadn't brought up faith, God, religion, or beliefs before this point. It came up in discussion very early on, but it was abruptly shut down. He is a former soldier in the Air Force and during some of my interrogations of his past life and many trips to the Middle East, he told me, "There are 2 things you never ask a soldier: if he's ever killed someone and about his religion." When someone shuts off a topic this way, I try to respect their wishes. I also made the mental note that if someone refuses to talk about their faith, chances are, they don't believe the same thing as me.

So, while I knew that this would break the boy's heart, I let him know that we had to discuss our faith if he wanted to pursue this. As expected, it didn't match what I believe. He asked immediately if this meant that I never wanted to see him again. I let him know that I wanted to be with someone that shared my beliefs. Then he said something that really floored me. He never gets involved in politics or religion because all it does is cause wars, such as the war he fought in. I agreed and said that I didn't want to be at war with him. For the second time, he didn't understand, but he did respect my wishes.

Remember the prayer that I wrote in late December? I didn't realize until 2 days after the fact that the last line was asking God to give me the courage to say "no" when the wrong man asks me out. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but you may not know me well. I always give guys chances. I don't want to judge others before getting to know them. I give too many chances and renew chances until the relationship has dissolved into something beyond miserable and ends in a bloody battle. By God laying it on my heart (and me actually listening to His gentle leading), I avoided that whole mess by loving T enough as a friend to tell him, "no".

God gave me a miracle with my OLW the first week in the new year. He also is giving me direction and purpose, two things that were lacking in my life in 2011.

God is good. All the time.