Tuesday, July 26, 2016

My Life... Currently.

I never thought I would be sitting down to write a post like this.  I never thought it would ever get this far.  The absolute worst part about social media is the image we portray.  The happy, joyful, look at this yummy food, look at my makeup, look how awesome my family/husband/wife/kids are, look at all the best parts of my life.  Facebook, and social media, is used solely for the crescendos in life.  The times when things are up.  When things are easy, joyful, and we feel satisfied.  But there's so much more to us, to you, to me, than what we show on social media.  This isn't a pity party/poor me blog post, it's a final effort to be open, honest, and vulnerable with my friends and fans.

I have been so ashamed to admit how much I was falling apart inside until I can no longer fake it.  Until the depression is too deep or strong to deny.  My life fell apart in 2014 beginning with my marriage all the way to the health of my dad, who was my biggest rock.  From there, it was one blow after another after another.  The deaths of 15 people.  The struggle to make ends meet in two industries (esthetics and photography) that is not easy or for the faint of heart.  The time away from my son, who is my entire world, hurts more than I could put into words.  The baggage God brought out for me to deal with in the middle of my residency.  The unexpected expenses and financial burdens.  All of it is to the point that it's too much.  I am to the point that I am struggling to reach out and love those who have reached out to me.  I am struggling to connect with others in my life.  I am just struggling.

I know what God says and how He views me.  I know what His plan is for me.  I'm drawing closer to Him than I ever have in my entire life, and will continue to.  I don't need a sermon and I don't want pity.  I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me.  This is life.  Every single one of us has our ebbs and flows, our highest points and our lowest.  This is just one of my lowest right now, and this blog post is to apologize to those I have hurt in my 2 year long low point.  Those who feel like I don't care about them anymore, who feel ignored, neglected.  For friendships that have fallen to the way side.  I apologize for my silence in my business.  For my inconsistency in all of it.  I thought my grief, loss, pain, was something I could shove to the side and ignore, and continue to work hard.  I was wrong.  I have slowly been unable to shove it aside any longer.  And here's the thing I struggle with the most to say...  I deserve time to be able to deal with these things that hurt.  I should be able to deal with them without grief from others.  So in an effort to be completely transparent, I am going to take some time for me to deal with this grief.  I apologize now, for the past hurt my silence has caused and for any pain the silence might cause in the future.

I need time to mourn.  I need time to cry.  I need time to confront the pain I feel in my heart over the loss of loved ones and the struggle I've been in.  I need time to dig it all out, clean it up, and put it all back together again.  I don't have a clue how long this will take.  The weight I feel right now can't be described in any word in any language.  It's just going to take time.

My heart, the deepest desire of my heart, is to love others with everything I have.  To be in a place where I can't seem to give much love because of my pain feels like total failure.  And I am sorry.  I need to heal.  Depression is a dark pit, and right now, this is the pit Jesus needs to meet me in.  So fellow Christians, please, if you're going to tell me to get over it or snap out of it, if you're going to tell me I'm not walking in the truth that He lays out for me, if you're going to judge any of it, save your words and your breath.  I just ask for understanding, patience, and grace.

Romans 12:9-16 - Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope. patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord's people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 - There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tea down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stories and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.  What do workers gain from their toil?  I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.  He has made everything beautiful in it's time.

Monday, September 21, 2015

At once the Spirit sent Him out into the wilderness... Mark 1:12

My life has often felt like a desert.  A whole lot of wandering, fighting, searching long and hard for water, shelter, rest.  You wander too long, and you start to feel crazy.  Things become overwhelming, you have hopes for things that aren't really there.  We've all seen movies where dehydration creates delusion, and how true that is for real life.  Simply with the lack of nourishing rest in our busy every day lives often lead us down paths of disappointment and heartache.  June 14th, I experienced the love of God like I had never known before.  I became apparently aware of my brokenness, and my deep need for Him.  I began seeking Him daily, and it was then He continued to bring me to the New Testament where Jesus was called into the desert to fast and pray in preparation for the calling on Him that was ahead.  Sure enough, God placed a calling of ministry on my life.  It was something I didn't see coming, especially living in this cloud of shame.  Divorced, single mom, struggling to make ends meet, nearing 30 years old with no college whatsoever.  I knew God was calling me out into a desert so He could meet with me.  What I didn't realize was that this desert would be literal.

So here I am, sharing with a friend my need to experience God in a radical way, who recommended Zion.  Utah?  Awesome.  Never been.  Lots to see.  I can do that.  Booked my ticket for 3 days.  Over the course of a month, I would extend the territory I was going to see to all over southern Utah, and extend my stay to 7 days.  I boarded that plane on September 11th with not a clue what God was going to do in my life, but I knew two things He wanted to work on.  My fear of being alone, and my need for control.

He did just that, and so much more.  He brought so much more to the surface for me to tackle.  As I confronted, fought, and conquered these issues, He started replacing the strongholds these agreements had in my life with peace, joy, confidence, strength, and knowledge.  He laid this incredible foundation on who He says I am and who He has called me to be, not who the world sees and who I've known myself to be.  I could write an entire book about the different things God showed me in Utah, and maybe I will, but there's one specific thing I wanted to share today.

The fear of being alone.  So many friends and family members were terrified when they heard I was going to explore Utah alone.  That fear increased when the horrid news came in on Monday of 7 hikers missing in a canyon at Zion where I had just been.  I am overwhelmed at the amount of people reaching out to make sure I was okay.  The families of those who lost loved ones in Keyhole Canyon are in my prayers, as it is an awful tragedy.  It was a humbling reminder of how fleeting life is, and how we are not invincible to the forces of nature.  A reminder of why we, as humans, crave companionship.  Men crave their ezer kenegdo (Genesis 2:18), and women crave their companion in an adventure.  While confronting my brokenness, I knew I needed God to be my ezer kenegdo and my companion in this adventure.  I needed to be somewhere completely dependent and in harmony with Him.  I needed a spiritual re-awakening.  A revival in my heart for the role God desires to have in my life.  Boarding that plane I asked God to meet me, to radically change me, and He far exceeded my expectations.  I woke up on Sunday in Zion surrounded in His total peace.  Not once the entire trip did I ever feel alone, did I ever feel like there was something missing.  He filled every need, plus some.  Sure, there were a few people I missed.  Desperately.  But never once was I alone.

Sunday, I was going to hike Angel's Landing.  I had my dad's ashes to scatter at the top.  I knew it was going to be a grueling hike, but I didn't have a clue just how much it would take.  God is funny, because He brings people into our lives at the moment when we need them.  I had met a gentleman the evening before while shooting the sunset that I had the privilege of teaching astrophotography to that same night.  He texted me Sunday morning as I was arriving to the shuttle to head to Angel's Landing wanting to join me on my hiking excursion.  So without knowing each other aside from the brief conversations we had the night before, we set out to hike what would be a very close second to the most monumental day of my life.  With my huge pack on my back, all of my camera gear, lots of water, and sore legs from the day before, we hiked 1400 feet up the side of a mountain, along an extremely narrow ledge the last 0.5 miles, to the very top of Angel's Landing.  I can say, without question, that hiking this was more challenging than natural childbirth.  Terrified at moments, nauseous and dizzy at times, it took a stranger to see in me what I doubted all along, and to push me past what I thought I was capable of.  God gave me incredible strength to face my fear of heights, of death, of loneliness, of strangers, and because of Him I made it to the top.  Only at the top, I was faced with this deep ache I've had in my soul, which is caused by holding on to things when God is saying "let go and let Me."  On top of Angel's Landing, after conquering what I thought I couldn't do, I let go of some of my dad's ashes.  That might have been harder than the hike/climb to the top.  Instant peace overcame my soul when I saw his ashes fall and scatter to the side of the ledge I was sitting on while my feet dangled 1400 feet above ground.  Almost instantly, directly in front of my dad and I, a little cell with a pretty strong updraft started forming.  A small rain shaft, some lightning, I sat there on the ledge in awe watching this.  I had no doubt it was a sweet reminder that God has me in His arms pressed against His heart, and that He has my dad.

Often times in life, we're faced with things we don't want to face.  Things that are taunting, scary, steep, challenging, above our skill level.  And most of the time, we feel like we're facing them alone.  Which is exactly where God wants us.  It's taken me a long time to see that at moments when we're faced with such difficult tasks, He wants us completely dependent on Him.  To take that first step with a "Yes, I will be dependent on You.  You are everything I need.  I trust you, Lord.  Completely."  And that at the exact moments He knows we need that extra push in these mountains of life, He sends others into our lives to walk along side us.  Some for moments, others for a lifetime.

I came down off that mountain a completely changed woman.  He answered the number one question I have struggled with my entire life.  I know how strong I am, because I know the foundation for which He has laid for me.  The foundation that I am enough because He is enough.  I am enough for whatever He brings me to because He is enough to bring me through it.  I am enough for whatever mountain He calls me to climb because He has enough strength for me to climb it.  I am enough for whoever He brings into my life because He is enough for me.  He is all I need.  All I'll ever need in this life.  And if He, the King of Kings, can declare over me that I am called by Him for a role in this grand adventure of life, then who am I to question the ability He has given me?

My father and my mother cannot validate who I am as a woman.  My sister, and the close family I hold dear cannot validate me as a woman, either.  The amount of followers on Instagram, friends on Facebook, the amount of likes or comments this blog post will get, doesn't validate me as a woman.  The amount of fans that have my prints hanging in their homes doesn't validate who I am as a woman.  The amount of men pursuing me, or the man I'm dating, or the man I marry, cannot validate who I am as a woman.  Knowing the foundation and promise for which God calls me to stand firm and secure on is what validates me.  Knowing that He is enough for me, makes me enough for everything in this life.

When you understand the foundation we're given to stand on, loneliness doesn't exist.  We exist to have an intimate relationship with the Lord.  When we press into Him for that intimate relationship, He lays that foundation.  When we stand on that foundation, we are not alone.  We are powerful.  We are strong.  We are capable.  We are enough.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Tinder Social Experiment

Anyone divorced can tell you... entering the dating world after a divorce is the most unnatural, awkward, scary, and downright confusing thing following such a life changing event.  I was with my ex for 6.5 years.  I didn't date and didn't kiss anyone but him, for 6.5 years.  From the time I met him (working in a bar), to when my divorce was finalized, things had radically changed.  Gone were the simple days of posting my poetry on Xanga, talking on the phone with your crush, meeting someone at some random place or social gathering.  It was now Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tinder, Plenty Of Fish, OkCupid, Match, so much social overload.

My first night going out with my brother after the divorce, I had a guy come up and ask what my username was on Plenty Of Fish.  I told him I didn't have one, to which he looked at me funny and walked away.  I went back to ask my brother what Plenty Of Fish was, and he opened my eyes to the current world of dating and apps.  Oh, the many apps.  About an hour later, a 2nd guy came up to ask me the same question, to which I replied, "I'm not on Plenty Of Fish, but I'm standing right here in front of you.  Ask me whatever you want to know."  He looked at me, shocked, and didn't have a word to say.  What the heck was going on?  Why did someone need to check you out on an app before having a conversation with you to get to know you?

The first guy I dated following my divorce was an ex.  I dated this guy a year before I met my ex-husband.  We reconnected and picked up where we left off, which ended.  A few dates here and there, and then in January I met a guy while out that I dated for a while.  We were both in different places in life with different dreams so I ended it.  Same story with the next guy I hit it off with.  Absolutely incredible man, just wanted different things.  Tried things again with the first ex after my divorce, and that was a mess.  I made a commitment to be single, to enjoy life, and travel with my boy.  I just wanted to knock out life with the support of my son, my family, and my friends.

Being single, especially a single woman, has so much social stigma.  It drives me mad.  Why can't a woman be happy and single?  Why can't a woman travel on her own?  Why can't a woman protect herself?  Why does a woman need a man to keep her warm at night?  Tip: Heating pads & heated blankets work just fine, and you can turn them off when you're not in the mood for them... hahaha, pun intended.  I can easily get off on a rabbit trail about why we desire companionship, but that's another blog post for another day.  The point is, I had so many friends (you know who you are) that continued to give me a hard time about not dating.  "You need to date, Liz.  Casually.  Just meet people.  Go have fun.  See what's out there.  Figure out what you want."  So in an effort to shut those friends up (love y'all), I saw a social experiment at my finger tips...

Google Play, Search > Tinder, Install, Open.

Tinder is a simple app - 6 pictures, 500 words to spill your "I like long walks on the beach, candle lit dinners, pink roses, my friends say I'm amazing, and I never nag" b.s. resume.  You can also link your Instagram to it.  Then the first picture shows up.  A profile, of however many pictures they chose to post, whatever they chose to write about themselves.  Swipe left if you don't like them, swipe right if you do.  If/when they swipe right on your profile, you get a "Match" notification, where you can choose to message them.  There's only one problem with this... it's a human buffet.

In the two times I've ever gone through men and swiped, there's been several matches.  I've met some serious douches on there (I mean... I won't even go there), but I've also been pleasantly surprised by meeting some pretty awesome dudes.  A few photographers, Christians, those new to the area wanting to meet people, etc.  But there is something so wrong with this app.  And with other apps like it.

Fundamentally, people desire companionship and to be happy.  If you ask most people what their greatest fear is (I try to ask everyone this at some point), it's almost always a resounding "ending up alone" or "loosing someone and being alone".  This drives us to find a husband/wife, someone to share moments with.  To dance this beautiful ballad of life with, with all the twists and turns, the fast and the slow, the dips, spins, lifts, the closeness, the intimacy.  But the thrill of landing a hundred matches in a day, of seeing a gorgeous man who also swiped right, it releases dopamine which is a neurotransmitter that plays a huge role in reward-motivated behavior.  It also plays a roll in controlling the release of other hormones (which explains the extreme emotional highs and lows behind modern day social dating).  Ironic that addictive drugs also triggers your body to release dopamine?  It's all builds together to create a psychological pattern of behavior.

So then what happens when you hit it off with someone?  Or when you hit it off with several?  How do you choose when you have 20 conversations going at once?  The grass is always greener, swipe more, see what else is out there.  "Oh, this guy looks incredible, I'd like to get to know him."  Swipe right.  Match.  Great conversation.  "What else is out there?"  Swipe, swipe, swipe... "Oh, he's even more gorgeous!  Impressive resume.  CUTE PUPPY!"  Swipe right.  Match.  Great conversation.  When does it end?  Where do we stop?  How can you possibly find your "Match" while looking at a buffet of thousands of people having conversations with several of them while they do the exact same thing?

Here's what I learned from my first failed marriage.  You will never find a perfect relationship.  Or a perfect partner.  They don't exist.  There will be so many joys, and believe me that having that daily intimacy and partnership is worth every bit of sweat and tears you put into it.  But there are many downs.  There are times when you question your sanity when you agreed to marry this human laying beside you snoring loudly.  There will be times that you miss your single days, days where you could be selfish and not have to think of anyone else.  And here in lies the danger...

In a marriage, you have to be satisfied with the person you chose.  You don't always feel satisfied, but you cannot go out seeking satisfaction from anywhere but in your marriage.  If we, as young adults and singles, create these psychological patterns of seeking out a constant dopamine rush, then how does that effect our marriage when it hits hard times?  When instead of a dopamine rush, it's an adrenaline rush.  How do we get that dopamine rush?  It's the same concept as porn.  It effects the brain the same way.

Proverbs 5:15-19 - Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well.  Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares?  Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers.  May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.  A love doe, a graceful deer - may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love.

Maybe I'm just old school.  I prefer to meet people organically.  Meet for coffee, drinks, watch the sunset.  I believe a man should date/court/pursue a woman exclusively if he is genuinely interested in her, or clearly friend zone her if he's not.  But I believe intentions from both sides should be known.  And if you're swiping left, left, right, left, right... then when do you decide that what you have is enough?

Those who know me know my heart.  Having tried things my own way originally, it's not something I want to do the second time around.  If that's what God wants for me.  To the cool dudes I have met on Tinder, sorry if you feel used for a social experiment.  But you have my information to stay in touch because I still think you're pretty awesome. :)

In conclusion about my Tinder Experiment:
Did I meet my future husband?  I don't know.
Did I meet my next hookup?  Nope, that's not how I roll.
Did I meet some men I could date and give things a shot with?  Absolutely.

However, Tinder, the human buffet app, appears to do nothing but feed the parts of our soul that corrupt a good thing when we have it.

Google Play, Search > Tinder, Uninstall.