10 Things I Know To Be True

I stole this idea from a blogger I follow. She’s pretty neat too so you should check her stuff out. Also, if I had been the original one to think of it, I’d love it if everybody started doing it. As long as they credited me. So, you do it too, but put a link to her post. Not mine. I didn’t start it.

Anyways, these are 10 things that I know are true as of Friday, February 19th, 2016 at 7:08pm.

1. Jesus died for me. I didn’t deserve it and never will, but he did it anyways.

2. My Lifegroup loves me like like no one else, with the exception of my second team on the World Race.

3. I miss that team even though I never talk about them, or anyone else from F squad for that matter.

4. When I get hurt(as in a physical injury), the more I laugh the more pain it means I’m in. Some people see me laughing and think it must mean I’m okay, but that’s not true. In Swaziland when we almost set fire to our hut, and the smoke was making me have an asthma attack, I was literally rolling on the floor laughing. Well, wheezing, because I couldn’t breathe, but everyone knew I was meaning to laugh.

5. I absolutely cannot eat cilantro or tuna. I can make myself eat a lot of things I don’t like, but those two I just can’t.

6. My mom is a superhero.

7. Nothing makes me feel more vulnerable than sharing my writing with anyone but Jesus. As much as I try to act annoyed that I usually get less than five hits per post, I’m halfway secretly relieved.

8. I’d rather write a thousand words than take one picture, and I’d rather read a thousand words than look at one picture.

9. My middle brother and I are twins born four and a half years apart.

10. I wish I was brave.

The man with the face tattoo

Two men came into Moe’s today.
One looked like our standard clientele around that time of the afternoon, business-y people on a late lunch break.
His friend had on an old t-shirt and ripped jeans and he never took off his sunglasses.
He had tattoos all over his arms and neck…and his face.

Across his forehead was the word FORSAKEN.

I was so struck by it that I probably stared for longer than was professional as I stood with my chip scooper in one hand and his burrito in the other, trying to remember the words “Will that be for here or to go?”
He answered gruffly, “I’m with him,” nodding in the businesslike man’s direction.
The businesslike man said more kindly, “We’re taking it with us.”
I couldn’t tell if the man with the face tattoo was looking at me, because of the sunglasses, but I felt like he was.
Forcing myself to smile and continue with my usual script even though I felt like crying, I asked if he’d like a drink.
“Doesn’t matter.”
The businesslike man told me, “He can have one.”
I rang them up and they walked out the door. The man with the face tattoo walked behind the businesslike man, not beside him like friends would.

I watched them get in a pickup truck and drive away, and one of my coworkers came over and asked me, “Did you see that guy’s face?”
Because I’m a terrible person and I make jokes as a defense mechanism when I feel vulnerable, I said, “I couldn’t really see it under all the tattoos.”
He said, completely seriously, “That man’s probably been in prison for a very long time. There’s no way he got those by himself. It’s sad.”
That seemed to make sense to me, and I wondered if the businesslike man was some kind of sponsor, not a parole officer but maybe someone volunteering to help ex-cons get used to freedom.

Sometimes I see people and remember the verse in the parable about the rich man, where it says “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”(it’s Mark 10:21)
I looked at the man with the face tattoos and I could feel Jesus loving him so much it made my stomach turn. And I wanted to jump over my register and give him a big hug and tell him so. But the bigger, more selfish part of me wanted to look away and go back to work and normalcy, so that’s what I did.

I know nothing about this man…except for this:
He is NOT forsaken, no matter what his forehead says, no matter what he’s done, whether he’s been to prison or not.
Jesus really really really loves him.
I’m sad that I didn’t say so. I hope he comes in again someday, and I hope my staring at his face for probably too long didn’t make him feel less lovable, because I’m sure plenty of people have already made him feel that way.

All I can do now is pray for him for a very long time.
And now that you know about him, you can do the same thing.

And hey, if you happen to run into a man that fits the above description, he’s probably him, so you can pass on the “Jesus really loves you” memo. Even if it isn’t him, I think anyone who looks like him could probably stand to hear those words.
I’m definitely numbing with humor again. I’m a work in progress.

What a wonderfully weird season.

Most of this post was written yesterday, but I mean all of it even more after what I found on my porch this morning…
spring 16 002
Those are from my Lifegroup. Gifts are tied with physical touch for my love language and I’d never even told anyone that. They’re winners.

Today is Valentine’s Day and I’m not sad.
Because God has given me so, so, many people who love me, and it’s beautiful, and I love my life. Again, at last.

The night of October 1st, I was on the phone with my squad mentor from the World Race because I wanted my life to end and I needed someone to stop me.
That was the beginning of the end of a very bad season. A dark, angry, isolated season where perfectionism was killing me. Almost literally.

October 27th was the end. Of that season. Not my life. “Obviously.”(if you read that in Severus Snape’s voice, we’ll be very good friends)
You know how when the seasons on the calendar change, it isn’t like a switch flips and there’s suddenly a night and day(or in this case maybe I should say, summer and winter) difference from one season to the next? It’s the same with life. The end of October was like the first day of spring. The cold hadn’t gone away, but now it was obvious that one day it would.
Because that was the day God gave me a new family.

All of them are married and most of them are older than me. My one request when I signed up for a Lifegroup was “18-25 is a crazy age bracket to be in, so please try to not make me the only awkward in-between who isn’t in college or married.” I guess God watched me type that and laughed.
That first night, I was so worried about not being able to find Michael and Lauren’s house that I allowed myself way too much time and ended up being the first one there. And as one couple after another walked in, I asked God over and over “Why am I here, God what are you doing to me, I feel like I’ve wandered onto Noah’s ark without a buddy…” and I couldn’t decide if I wanted to laugh or cry because this situation was so hilariously opposite of what I thought I needed.

Thankfully God is smarter than me. Because I love these people, and they love me so well, and I’ve never once felt like a 21st wheel, and I have ten Jesus-filled marriages to watch and learn from now.

So if you’d asked me a year ago, when I was sitting on the floor of a mall in Cambodia eating ice cream with my team and laughing at how awkward we looked, what my life would look like the next Valentine’s Day…I wouldn’t have said, “I’ll probably have a bunch of married friends and still be as single as can be.” And even if I had, I definitely wouldn’t have said I’d be happy about it.

But I’m SO happy. God gave me everything I needed when I wasn’t even looking for it. This isn’t me saying “I’m a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man and I will be SO. MAD. if I meet my future husband anytime soon.” Simply that God is so good to me and it stands to reason that the rest of his plan is probably just that perfect too, and I’m more excited for that than anything else I’ve wished for myself.

Last February was full of growth and rejoicing and healing. This one is turning out beautifully similar. God is just as present in South Carolina as he is in Phnom Penh.

Thanks Jesus…

I know what superpower I want.

Moe’s only plays songs by dead people. Most people don’t know that. It’s morbid and funny and unique and I love it.
There’s a song we play really rarely; I hear it maybe once every two weeks. Every time it comes on I stop and ask the customer in front of me what it’s called and/or who’s singing because I like it and I can never leave my register for long enough to catch a lyric to Google later. No one ever knows but they always say it’s catchy. But today it came on at a slow minute, and I yelled THE SONG IS PLAYING and ran out to stand under a speaker and listen. Everyone was very confused but I was too excited to care.

It turns out it’s Ugly Heart by GRL. I’d never heard of them before and wondered how on earth anyone in this band is dead, because they’re all really young. But as soon as I asked myself that, I knew.
I looked it up anyways, because I apparently enjoy torturing myself, and confirmed that yes, the band had broken up because one of their members committed suicide.

I read the story and I cried and cried, and even though I’d never heard of these people or heard more than one of their songs, I just wanted this girl to still be alive because she was a person who had a life and who people loved and now they have to talk about her in the past tense. And I thought about how I understand her and I wish I could have known her and found her and talked to her and sat in the deep dark hole with her until she was ready to crawl out, so she could have known that letting it swallow her wasn’t the only option.
And then I thought how I wish I could save everybody who feels that way, that there was a way to swoop in and be there anytime someone wants to die so I could tell them JESUS LOVES YOU STOP IT WAIT. JUST FOR FIVE MINUTES. Among other things…but that would be my opener.

Because that’s all it takes. You don’t have to know anything else to say, you don’t have to know why they feel how they feel, you don’t have to have a long-term plan to keep them from feeling that way again, you just have to BE THERE. It isn’t easy, but it is simple.

To cheer myself up I thought of what I’d answer the next time someone asks if I could have a superpower what I would want it to be. Probably with most people, I really shouldn’t say “I want a magical sense for when people are suicidal, and a way to teleport to them and help them stop it.” But it’s what I’ll want to say, because I just want it to STOP. I want to tell them that Jesus really, really, really loves them, and even if every other thing in life is horrible, that thing is good, and it’s just as real as the horrible things. I wish we’d work just as hard to cure suicide as we do to cure so many physical diseases, and I wish more people would talk about it. I know it’s sad and miserably scary, but that’s why it’s important.

Seriously. I’m unbelievably upset about this poor girl, because I know how she felt. And her poor band mates, because I know how they feel too. I hope they can talk to each other like my cross country team can, because this is a thing that never becomes totally okay. Easier, but never okay. And sometimes you need to be able to say “Hey, I know it’s been a year and eight months, but today I’m just sad about it again,” and then be sad with someone instead of being sad alone.

I just wanted to hear the dumb song again. I didn’t want to open Pandora’s box.

An easy sacrifice isn’t a sacrifice.

“GOD I’M NOT EVEN CATHOLIC PLEASE DON’T DO THIS TO MEEEEEEE”

This was my desperate, slightly whiny prayer this morning as I woke up and realized today is the last day before Lent.

When I was in middle and early high school, a lot of the girls I did ballet with were Catholic, so I started giving something up for Lent every year to be like them. I liked the challenge of living without something for 40 days. Back then we’d all give up really superficial things like gum or McDonalds or chapstick(that one was the worst idea ever and I gave up after maybe a week; it’s totally impractical to live without chapstick). I’d complain alongside them and they’d all say “You aren’t even Catholic, you could cheat all you want!” But I was still committed.
Even after I moved to Lexington, quit dancing and never saw those friends anymore, I’d still do something every year, and the older I got the more I saw the real purpose of it.
The point wasn’t to pick something I’d feel like I’d suffer the most without, or that made me look better than my friends; it was to make space for God to move in my life. I needed to take out whatever in my life was filling that space.
One year I gave up makeup, not knowing until then how much I depended on it to make me feel good about myself. Another year I gave up my bed and slept on the floor and prayed for homeless people every night.
Last year I completely forgot to give anything up, but I was already living without so many things in Africa, like internet and a bed and plumbing, so that was all right.

This year I was going to give up Twitter. I thought that was sufficiently challenging and horrible.
And then as I discovered in a depressive rage that Jackie Bradley Jr had come to visit USC and I didn’t go meet him and I felt like the world was crumbling, I knew exactly what God wanted me to give up.

The Red Sox are to me what Clemson football is to everyone at my church. Except probably worse, because college football only lasts for three months or so, and baseball lasts six to seven, and the offseason is just as consuming as the rest of the year if you let it be(which of course I do).

I tried to reason with him. He wouldn’t ask my mom to give up crocheting, why do I have to give up MY hobby? Well, because my mom doesn’t wake up earlier to have more time to crochet before her day starts, or cut her devotions short to do an extra chunk of whatever she’s making.
I begged and pleaded for days and days…but this is it. This is what’s taking up that extra little space in my heart and my head that God wants to fill with much better things. All the hours a week that I spend reading news stories and tweeting my opinions and poring over stats will have to go to something else.

Some famous person I follow recently tweeted something along the lines of “The sacrifices we want to make aren’t always the sacrifices God wants from us.”
I’d rather give him Twitter. He wants my team.

Okay Jesus. All accounts are unfollowed, all sites are un-bookmarked. Give me something good.
Hurry up Easter, I’m already panicking.

Edit: Funny story, I looked back and found that this “famous person” was actually Brandon…I read his book and followed his blog long before I came to Midtown, so I’m still not used to thinking of him as a real person. I told Kristi that once and she laughed. He’s still on a list in my Twitter feed of “Famous writer people,” among Brene Brown and Jenny Lawson and Donald Miller and others.

“Okay Jesus. Who AM I?”

I cried this morning. In a room full of people. I never even cry by myself anymore. But I cried for the last fifteen minutes of church today because I figured out why my post-World Race life has been a living hell and it was beautiful and I let my Lifegroup see me and hug me instead of hiding and telling them I was fine.

First we need to rewind to last May. One more time. I’ve already written a lot about it, but I promise this is a new angle. Hang in with me. This is finally a story that ends in a resolution, not a question mark, and it’s a Christmas morning happy ending too.

I was in a state of utter panic when F Squad left South Africa and started our multi-day journey home. At the time I couldn’t name it, what I was feeling, but now I know I was terrified of who I’d become over the past eleven months. I loved “New Linda” as I called her, I loved the freedom I’d learned to walk in…but more than anything I loved the friends who’d walked beside me as all of that happened, who’d loved me back to life when I was still Confused and Angry Linda Who Won’t Let Anyone Love Her.
I was afraid that I’d come home and disappoint people, that I wouldn’t be able to find another community like the one I was leaving…I was afraid I’d forget who I was, or just not be able to hold onto her, when I was no longer living life beside the people who watched me grow into her.

It’s been almost nine months since then, and coming back to America hasn’t exactly been Disney World. Almost every other post I’ve written since May 24th, whether here or on my Racer blog, will tell you all about that if you need a refresher.

Fast forward to today.
We’ve been talking about God’s design for sex and gender at Midtown, and today’s sermon was on biblical femininity. The entire thing was a gold mine and you should go listen to it as soon as the recording goes up Monday morning(edit: here it is), but this is the part where God took a baseball bat to the glass house I’d built around my heart to keep him out.
Brandon was talking, much more eloquently than I’m about to explain it, about how women want to know that they’re beautiful and worthy…and how God is the only one who can ever erase the question marks in our eyes and tell us who we are.
A question…that only God can answer…

THAT’S IT!!!!!!!(said like Lucy in A Charlie Brown Christmas)

I’ve been begging everyone but God to tell me who I am.

I came home and set out to find anyone I could to tell me that God really had changed me. That I could be that free, joyful, grace-filled person wherever I was in life. That even though I wasn’t a missionary anymore, I was important. That I was everything my squadmates had said I was.
And even when I finally found those people at the end of October…I didn’t believe them. Rather, I didn’t believe they’d always think those good things about me. Making sure they kept loving me basically entailed taking up as little space as possible, speaking only when spoken to, and never telling the truth when they asked how I was. I wasn’t even really letting them love me, now that I think about it, because I was so afraid to let them see me.

I didn’t trust their answer to my question because I wasn’t resting in God’s answer.

I was living exactly what the Oh Hellos are singing about.
But when you wage your wars against the one who adores you, then you’ll never know the treasure that you’re worth
and yet you’re far too beautiful to leave me.
I was too mad at God to listen to what he had to say, but too afraid of people to believe what they were telling me. And he was there, the whole time, patiently waiting for me to turn around and ask him what I’d been desperately asking everyone else.

So today, when Brandon dropped that truth bomb and my heart exploded, I said, “Okay Jesus. Who am I?” And I meant it. I was really ready to hear it now. But I wasn’t ready for the avalanche of answers God had for me. The list of words went on and on and the more he said the more I was crying, and by now we were singing and we got to my favorite line in almost any worship song ever that says

Why should I gain from his reward, I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart, his wounds have paid my ransom

and now I was laughing while I was still sobbing because THAT’S THE POINT OF THE GOSPEL and I went around the world telling people that and apparently totally forgot that it counted for my own life, and I thought I had to pay God back for all the good things he’d done in those eleven months, prove to him that I deserved all of it, but I don’t because the World Race wasn’t college and grace isn’t like a student loan.

And now that it doesn’t matter what people think of me because I remember what Jesus KNOWS about me, I can actually love them.
Although my impossibly wonderful Lifegroup already loved me from day one, even in the midst of my desperate ex-missionary need to be validated. Because they get the Gospel. And so do I, again.