Friday, September 17

the exclusionist

i was in fifth grade. we were sitting around our table at lunch when i found out that the girls i ate with every day had been getting together on the weekends. without me.

it's a scene that has played out for me what feels like a bunch of times in my life in a variety of settings, places, ages, etc. exclusion.

being excluded hurts.

it can make you believe you're not worthy of friendship, that you don't fit in, that there's something wrong with you, that you don't belong, that you are not loved, and even that you are incapable of being loved.

it's made me a person who puts up walls, who is afraid to get to know others, who would rather sit alone in her apartment than call up a potential friend to go out for a cup of coffee, and who enters new friendships without hope and angry because she believes the lies above.

this mind battle has again reared its ugly head as i find myself (once again) in a new town. i hear the same thoughts in my head, the ones that stemmed from and grew out of that day in fifth grade.

no one really cares about you. she doesn't really want to hang out with you. she would only say ok because it's the nice thing to do. you're not a person people want to spend time with... be friends with... care about.

in a brief moment of being able to take a look at my life from the outside, i realized that the biggest problem in believing these things is really that being excluded has caused me to become an exclusionist. i exclude the people around me from my life. i don't let them get to know me, and i don't make very good attempts to get to know them.

all because of presumptions.

enough is enough.

my purpose in life is not to make friends. it's to share God's story.

it is scary to make those first steps, to open myself up, and to sometimes be let down. but my value doesn't lie with others. the love that i need is not going to come from people. being known by God and opening myself to be loved by God is the source of my value.

i hope that God blesses me with good, deep friendships along the way. but that can't become my idol. my fear of being excluded controls the way i live. it casts a shadow that isn't mine. it takes over my thoughts, actions, and identity. it puts a weight on me i was never meant to bear.

while He walked this earth, Jesus loved the ones that everyone loved. He loved the ones no one else did. He loved the ones that are hard to love. He was an inclusionist. and i've been called to be like Him. despite my past, my insecurities, and my fears. i can only do that by asking Him to carry my hurt and allow me to open myself up to loving others, without needing their love first or last. unconditional love.

Saturday, September 11

(in)courage one another

a week or so ago, i signed up at (in)courage to receive 10 free cards from DaySpring. in exchange for the cards, the recipients were asked to write a blog post today on the National Day of Encouragement. how could i say no to that? i mean, i'll do almost anything to experience the thrill of getting a package in the mail. done. deal.

the cards arrived just three days ago, and as i looked through each one, i found i had to talk myself out of just keeping them for myself. you know how some greeting cards are completely generic? cheesy? don't say things you would actually say or think or write? these cards were the exact opposite of all of that. each one is written with words of true thought, care, and encouragement. 

the first one i am sending is to jaime, a friend who recently moved from my hometown in new jersey to outside of cincinnati, ohio. she is a teacher and felt the Lord calling her out of the comfort zone of home. with a heart in love with God and bent on full obedience, she is beginning this academic year in the midwest. i do hope the card brings her encouragement in this time of transition; however, this particular card tells the story of so much more...

jaime and i became friends about two years ago, when we started attending the college/career group at our church. one day she asked me if i'd want to grab coffee with her sometime. i had recently moved back home and didn't have many close friends there. i got excited thinking about the potential of getting to know her, but was full of fears that she wouldn't see that same potential after she got to know me.

what followed that first cup coffee was two years of panera dates, sushi dates, volleyball playing, multicolored hair wearing, event planning, prank pulling and all-around shenanigans. little by little we opened up and found a safe place, a place of understanding, a friendship. she'd share something with me and it would be like she was speaking the words that were in my heart. we found laughter, silliness, and the freedom to just be ourselves, as goofy or nerdy or super organized as that may be. 

the depth of our friendship is not one that can be found in every season of life. 

even though we're now separated by many miles, in different seasons of our lives, i am so thankful for my season with jaime. her friendship taught me what a friend is, and why it is so worth the risk to open yourself up to another person. the love, understanding, and encouragement that you can find in and give to another person becomes a truly beautiful thing. it gives me hope for the season i'm in right now, where i'm finding again that i have to be open to really get to know the people around me. deep, meaningful friendships can be waiting for me here. 

it just might be my turn to ask someone out for coffee.
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