Themes That Have Been Running Through My Mind

Don’t praise me.

I know it’s because of my insecurities with my body, but I hate it when people praise my efforts to lose weight. When I come home from the gym and my mom says, “I’m so proud of you for going to the gym!” I cringe and don’t respond. I don’t tell people when I’ve lost weight because I don’t want to hear them say, “Wow! Good for you! I’m so proud of you.” I know it’s strange, but I hate it because it brings attention to my large body and the fact that I need to lose weight. I’ve spent a lot of energy trying to ignore this fact, and a person bringing it up, even in a positive way, bothers me a lot. People generally wouldn’t tell a thin person they were proud of them for going to the gym, so why tell me? Because I really need to go to the gym, right? But everyone needs to be active to be healthy, not just people who are overweight. When people praise me for working out, they think they are encouraging me to continue a healthy lifestyle by recognizing my efforts, but I’m not doing this for them or for their recognition. I’m doing this for me and my future. I don’t need or want their praise, especially if they are treating me differently than others (i.e. thinner people) who are behaving the same way. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for their concern or affection; I just don’t enjoy receiving that kind of attention.

How you spend your day is how you spend your life.

This theme was inspired by me watching the last Hobbit film this week, which wasn’t completely disappointing. After watching the movie, I remembered how obsessed I was with Lord of the Rings when I was in middle and high school. I devoted so much of my time and energy reading and learning about everything that had to do with LOTR and Tolkien’s universe. For what reason? Having an encyclopedic knowledge of LOTR made me happy. It was all I talked about and all I watched; it brought me into a community, it entertained, inspired, and motivated me. But in the end, this obsession didn’t really do me any good besides encourage a love of reading. Now I can’t help but think, what if I devoted the same amount of time and energy to something more worthwhile? Not my career or education, but Jesus Christ? What if I had an encyclopedic knowledge of Him? what He said and did? What if I made Him my inspiration and motivation? joined a community just as obsessed with Him as I was? How would my life be different? It wouldn’t just make me happy, it would give me real joy. It’s not quite as easy as all that. I need to work through my misgivings concerning the church and my own stubborn resistance to Him that we all share. But, reading and learning are things that I enjoy doing, and it’s not so much that I don’t find Jesus interesting as I’ve been desensitized by a lifetime of hearing the same standardized sermons over and over. So that’s where I’ll start, reading.

I need a new job.

On a much more practical level, I’ve been thinking and rethinking my situation and decided to seriously look for a better job. Earning minimum wage is terrible; earning minimum wage in a retail position is not worth it. I had a bad experience last week when I was sick and needed to call out. But even before last week, I applied to a handful of temp agencies in Raleigh. So far, I have not heard anything from them. I’ve also applied and have an interview for an AmeriCorps VISTA position at Fayetteville State University. To be honest, it’s not paying much more than what I’m making now, but it is in my career field and would help me develop my professional skills. There are two things that prevent me from being super excited about this job. 1) It’s an hour away from Raleigh so a lot of time and money would be spent commuting. 2) It requires a one year commitment that I may or may not be able to complete. The job runs from Feb 2015 to Feb 2016, but I’m planning to start grad school in the fall of 2015. I would be willing to defer enrollment for a semester (which would take me to Jan 2016), but an entire year? That’s a long time. Since nothing is set in stone for grad school, I’m going to the interview next week, but I don’t know what to do! My gut feeling, and my Mom, tells me to let this job go and attend grad school this fall, but what if I give it up and don’t get in? At the same time, I can’t stand the thought of working at Starbucks for another eight months before grad school.

I know things will work themselves out. In the meantime, I’ll just bake some cookies.

Merry Christmas!

Beck

Life is Beautiful

Graduation

Who is in charge of speeding up and slowing down time? Whoever it is, you’re fired, because the past two weeks have sped by in a moment. When I was a kid, I remember my parents telling me that time would pass faster the older you get; they weren’t kidding. I wonder why it’s so hard to slow down and make the most out of enjoying the moment.

I graduated 12 days ago. It was a beautiful day. So much happened that weekend, it’s hard to process! I just remember smiling so much it hurt. I wanted to stretch each second out like taffy, so it would last as long as possible. When I finally drove away and realized I didn’t have any excuse to go back, it was a bittersweet feeling. That day I felt invincible, because I had accomplished something really hard, something not many others get to do.

My invincibility didn’t last long though. My car didn’t care that I had to drive to Raleigh that day; it still blew a tire. It turned out to be a nail. It was Memorial weekend though, so I had to wait until Monday to get my tire patched. A small hiccup in the day’s festivities, but a sobering one for sure. The rest of the day I spent driving 50mph on the highway for more than two hours trying get everyone where they needed to be.

The next day, my parents renewed their marriage vows and we had a celebration at church. I woke up early, got out my nicest salwar kamez, and headed to the church with my family. In our usual fashion, we were more than 30 minutes late, but what can you do when your entire family is wired for Indian Standard Time? We ate a cake with one of my parents’ cheesy wedding photos printed on it, and hung out/took naps in the afternoon. That night, we headed to an impromptu dinner at The Pit in Raleigh.

On Monday, I said goodbye to my hilarious Uncle and Mississippi friends who travelled up for the weekend. I also traveled down to Charlotte in order to spend as much time with my sister before she left for home in Seattle. I dropped her off at the airport yesterday. I miss her so much already!

What I’ve written here is basically a summary of events that I’ve participated in over the past two weeks. What I haven’t written here are the crazy ups and downs, dramatic arguments, and frustrating obstacles that my family and I have worked through in this short amount of time. The marriage vow renewel ceremony was also a family renewel ceremony. My family has been apart for so long, and we are just beginning to be knit back together. I am getting used to having my Dad around, referring to his judgement, and receiving affection from him.  At times, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s a discomfort I welcome, because I know it is good. We’re all having to relearn how to trust, rely on, and be there for each other. I may have come from a broken home, but it is no longer broken; for that, I praise God.

Beck

Quote

Don’t be afraid.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson, A Return To Love

Sex and Love in That Order?

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There’s something I’ve noticed about loves stories in movies and tv shows that has been bothering me for a while: People fall in love by having sex. Or they don’t realize they are in love with someone until they have amazing mind-blowing sex with them.

Think about it. How many tv shows and movies have you seen that revolve around a couple having sex and suddenly realizing they’re meant to be? Chandler and Monica from Friends, Harry and Sally from When Harry Met Sally; the friends with benefits story arc is well known and the list of examples could go on forever. Sometimes there’s a PG version of this when couples kiss and things change, but for the most part, I feel people jump right to sex and fall in love.

What bothers me about this is that it’s a completely unrealistic expectation and is a harmful model to follow when beginning a relationship. I know this is a plot device used to escalate the falling-in-love process in film, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s unrealistic to think that just because you have sex with someone you like, or are even in love with, that they will suddenly fall in love with you. People, men and women, don’t “call back” all the time, probably most of the time. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, I’m not saying this doesn’t happen in real life occasionally, but I think the whole “why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free” adage applies here. Why be in a relationship if you can have sex and sleep around without any consequences? People are selfish, especially college students, and will seek relationships that will benefit them and not you. If you buy in to this fairy tale that the media sells us and expect “true love” after having sex, you can end up getting hurt physically and emotionally (sexual assault, STDs, unwanted pregnancy to name a few).

Your milkshake may bring all the boys to the yard, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to stay there and love you or marry you.

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Sex changes things. Your body releases hormones that make you form attachments to the one you sleep with, which can make you fall in love or at least become infatuated. (That’s why being friends with benefits doesn’t work most of the time.) I’m not saying women can’t or don’t enjoy casual sexual relationships, I just think it’s difficult to do so without getting feelings involved eventually. When enough of these failed experiences occur, it can make you feel insecure, desperate, and unworthy of a healthy relationship, which further perpetuates the potentially harmful behavior. That’s why I think keeping your pants on before marriage is a good idea. I’m a Christian, so this belief originated from my knowledge of the Bible. But even if I wasn’t a Christian, I would still want to wait until marriage, because like I said, sex changes things. I wouldn’t want to form a strong emotional and physical connection with someone who won’t be there when I wake up. It damages you, even if you don’t or can’t realize it now.

I’ve never been in love or had sex, so I don’t speak from experience, but I have witnessed my friends go through horrifying and damaging relationships/non-relationships throughout college. It pains me to see them go through things like that. I’m not saying everyone needs to convert to Christianity (although that would be awesome). I am saying people need to have realistic expectations when they begin a physical relationship with someone. Ask yourself if you are okay with them walking away. Because they probably will. If not, zip up your pants and find someone who wants to stick around. If you are okay with them walking away, that’s a whole other issue, because you deserve to have someone stick around. Everyone deserves to be with someone who loves them, not just someone who wants to get in his or her pants. I’m okay with waiting for that person, because I know I’m not missing out on anything except a lot of heartbreak and bad sexual souvenirs.

Beck

PS: I was going to name this post “Great SEXpectations” but I talked myself out of it. Haha

 

A Stranger Buys Me Tires

Coming in contact with the power and love of God is overwhelming. Having knowledge of His love is one thing, but seeing it in action is a humbling and transformative experience.

I woke up early this morning to drive my sister to work because her car wasn’t starting. On my way back, my front left tire blew violently on the highway just as my gas light came on. I freaked out, put my hazards on, and quickly merged right to get off the road. I felt the adrenaline so fiercely it made my stomach ache. (Ironically enough, Ingrid Michelson’s “Be Ok” was on the radio as this happened.) The first thing I did was email my professor on my phone to tell her that I probably wouldn’t be in class today. Then I texted my sister and Mom to tell them what happened. I closed my eyes, sat in my car and thought about how much money a new tire would cost and how much I couldn’t afford it. I can’t even afford an old used tire. I was on hold with AAA when I saw a brown wagon-sedan pull up behind me. I felt relieved as I hung up the phone and rolled down my window.

He was an older man with a thin face and kind blue eyes. He asked if I had a spare tire that he could put on my car. I said yes and popped the trunk. While he changed my tire we asked each other’s names and a few other questions. His name was Kevin. I told him I was leaving for school today after visiting my sister over the weekend. He told me he was on his way to visit his mother along with a few others who lived in the area. He was driving beside me when my tire blew and saw me pull off the road. He got off the highway and turned around so that he could see if I needed help. I did need help, but he didn’t stop at just putting on the spare. He told me to get off at the next exit because he knew there was a tire shop nearby. I didn’t have my purse with me (or any money anyway) but he said not to worry about it. I couldn’t believe my ears. I thought I had heard him wrong because the cars passing by were so loud and we had to shout to talk. After finding a Tire Kingdom, he bought me two new tires, told me to have a blessed day and left.

Accepting help from a stranger leaves an uncomfortable feeling of helplessness and gratitude. I felt helpless because there was nothing I could do to get myself out of the situation, and because I knew there wasn’t any way I could ever pay him back for his kindness. I felt grateful that someone did stop and help. He didn’t have to go out of his way to help me at all, let alone buy me tires, but he did. All the while, I felt unworthy of his attention and that I didn’t deserve to be so completely taken care of by a stranger. He treated me as if I were part of his family.  I felt God’s love through this experience. I cannot save myself from sin and can never repay Him for His faithfulness and redeeming love. I am grateful He would notice and take care of me, insignificant in the grand scheme of things as I am. God didn’t have to save us; He wanted to because He wanted to be with us, because He loves us. This kind of love is not something you can walk away from, because it changes everything. This morning was an amazing experience to remind me of that.

Kevin Ford is the senior pastor at Belmont Foursquare Church in Belmont, NC and I look forward to visiting him on an upcoming Sunday. If you live in the Charlotte area, I suggest you visit him too.

Beck