The Jesus Lens

Although I would like to pretend that I am the same to everyone, it would be a big fat Greek lie. The fact is that while I obviously have some personality traits that are take-it-or-leave-it, I alter my behavior a lot depending on my circumstances. Seriously. You should see my DISC personality test. I am an enormously high C in both natural and adaptive circumstances, but upon the switch from natural to adaptive, I go from a secondary I to a secondary S. For those of you who don’t know what that means, it means that I try to be all chill and laid back and like “whatever man, I can totally roll with the punches you’re throwing right now.” when I feel like people are watching, while I am naturally freaking the eff out on the inside because CHANGE!

Bryan LOVES this about me. (No he doesn’t.) He thinks it’s adorable how I will be super confrontational and crazy person-esque with him, but then be a pushover and treat others with tons of respect and always let them have their way and consider their feelings first. Seems fair right?

All of this to say: I am really nice most of the time to most people. I bottle feelings, I relinquish my opinion, I will do things I don’t want to do, I always try my hardest to make sure I never make people feel stupid or shut down. Now with everything, I am sure I fail at this sometimes, but it would absolutely crush me to learn that I had hurt someone unintentionally with something I said or did.

If you’ve kept reading through all of the brag-fest, I commend you, because I’m really not bragging at all. It is because of this niceness and others-first mentality that I leave myself open to a lot of vulnerability. I am a huge baby and am very sensitive. Instead of being selfless with all of the traits mentioned above, I genuinely expect the same in return, regardless of personality, and will be very hurt if not. Now because we don’t live in that Perfect Town in the Walgreens commercials, you can see my dilemma. I am hurt a lot. It’s a little embarrassing how much I tend to take personally.

She knows I don’t like that and she just doesn’t care.”

He was there when I said that this was what I wanted and he’s doing something else anyway because he only cares about himself.”

And on and on and on and on and on.

Instead of being a mature adult who understands that every person in every city in every country on every continent on this planet is different from everyone else, I take things personally and willingly allow bitterness to take root in my very being.

As usual, I realized what a giant brat I am when looking at my behavior through the Jesus lens. How hurt would Jesus be if He allowed all the bullcrap I pull to get to Him? He gives and gives and gives and yet I seem to have zero problem with knowingly hurting Him or ignoring Him or putting myself before Him.

Ughhh Whyyyyyy can’t I just wallow in my self-pity and let my hurt fester without feeling all guilty and crap? Booooooo.

Anyway, this is what’s been on my mind lately. Sorry I suck at posting sometimes.

Does the Jesus lens ever make you feel like a ginormous brat? (I’m aware that it should and that Jesus certainly wouldn’t want it to, but it does.)

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Clothes.

clothes

I know, I know. This has taken me entirely too long. I’ve had all of my 7 stuff saved as drafts forever, but I keep having new thoughts and ideas and aaaaah! I have a lot to say, ok?

Anyway.

Recap: The girls in my Community Group took Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess and did our own experiment. No, not the one she orchestrated with another book on making your own experiment, because apparently none of us though to check that. So we did the extra work and made our own. Do we get bonus points for that? No? Ok. Sorry for all the links.

Clothes was the second chapter that we tackled in our 7 experiment. I didn’t necessarily think it would be hard, I just thought it would be annoying and a giant hassle. Let’s look at her rules:

  • 7 articles of clothing total, for 1 month
  • Undergarments do not count.
  • 2 pairs of shoes count as 1 item of clothing (leaving you with 6 more to choose)

Our rules:

  • The exact same, but for 2 weeks instead of 4.

Thaaaaaat’s right people! We got brave on this one and played by the rules. I should clarify. When I say “We,” I mean the majority of us. There were exceptions to the rules in some cases. For instance, Jen Hatmaker is a writer and speaker, but otherwise, a mom who works from home. She had the freedom to wear the same thing over and over without worrying about having to look (too) professional. Heather is a counselor and Raven is a graphic designer, so they still limited themselves, but had to expand their wardrobe a bit for work-times.

This happened to be the same week when my kidneys decided that growing E Coli might be fun times, so they gave it a whirl. I was home sick with pyelonephritis for half of the first week and in the hospital for the other half. I tried very hard to wear the 7-sanctioned casual clothes while I was at the hospital, but clothes get dirty (weird huh?) and the idea of trying to explain in my drugged up mind what I could and couldn’t wear to someone else seemed cruel for both of us, so I gave in. I rocked it the second week though!

So remember when I said I thought it would be annoying and burdensome? It wasn’t (aside from the *minor* hiccup there at the beginning) AT ALL! It was actually pretty awesome.

No having to decide what to wear.

No pressure of accessories.

No feeling like my clothes didn’t look good on me.

Best of all: No one asking me “Didn’t you just wear that yesterday?”

Wait, Whaaaat? I’m serious! I thought that people would notice and tease me about wearing the same clothes over and over, but my ego was forced to take it down a notch because NO ONE CARED. Even at work. No one even seemed to notice.

I think that was the biggest lesson for me. I get so concerned with what other people think of me, and that binds me to a lot of my materialistic tendencies. I want people to think I’m cool. I want people to think I’ve got great style. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I want people to be jealous of me and what I have sometimes, as if that will make my insecurities magically go away.

I realized that if I were to sell all of my clothes and keep only my favorite ones, no one would give a tiny rat’s you-know-what. That is so freeing. It’s also so humbling. This realization kind of forces you to get off your high horse and pay attention more to things that matter and less to things that–try as we might–will not last.

Next up: Stress.

Have any of you done the 7 experiment? Or just sold a bunch of clothes and had a panic attack about it? Tell me Tell me!

Here’s to a Crappy 2009

So I am in the process of reading the archives of a very funny blog I recently came to know (Jamie The Very Worst Missionary– for real, check her out! And do so before you make any kind of judgements about her blog name.), and I just got to her New Year’s post from 2009/2010. She had a really crappy year that she was happy to see end, and I have binge-read all about the reasons why within a couple of weeks.

That’s nice right? To be able to see a snapshot of someone’s life and learn in a day what took them a whole year to figure out. What if we could do that with our own lives? What if we could fast-forward or “binge read/watch” to see how it ends, or speed up the hurt and pain, or just at least KNOW THAT IT’S GOING TO BE OK IN THE END. Don’t we all feel that sometimes? I mean we know it’s immature, and impossible, and ridiculous, but sometimes the circumstances just have us wishing we could get to the “lesson-learned” part of the story. To know that the resolution will come soon.

The truth is, I remember my 2009. I remember that it sucked too. I remember talking with some friends that I still have today about how much 2009 seemed to suck for everyone we knew.

I was a second semester freshman/first semester sophmore in 2009.

I broke up with my first college boyfriend that year, the first boyfriend that ever truly meant something to me.

I had my first TERRIBLE roomate situation. I mean terrible y’all. They like, burned pictures of me and stuff.

I got a demotion at work (yes it was at a restaurant, but cut me some slack, in college-world, it was a huge deal!) which lead me to switch jobs from the first one I ever had since moving to NWA.

I was a pretty good kid, but the only phase where I sowed oats of any variety, it started happening in 2009.

Of course there are other things too, these are just the highlights. (Lowlights?)

I probably cried more that year than I had in a long time.

I wish I could go talk to that girl. I wish I could tell her that it gets better. SOON! I wish I could tell her that college graduation does come, that she survives the homework, tests, and teachers that seem like they will be the death of her. I wish I could tell her that next year, she meets the love of her life. I wish I could tell her that some of the friends that she feels like are all she has don’t last and she finds amazing ones that she could never have imagined. I wish I could tell her so much more.

In the end though, I learned from all of that. God tells us that we will go through trials. We’re supposed to grow in all of our hurts. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and all that stuff right?

But it doesn’t feels like that in the moment. It feels like we could just die right there because NOTHING will get better. The not knowing is the worst part, but later we can look back on the experience and grow. That’s what refinement is all about. If we knew the end of the story while we’re still in the middle, we’d never learn from the experience, and we’d never learn to trust God, and we’d never learn to CALM THE EFF DOWN and lean not on our own understanding.

Sometimes I think back to a younger Alex and how she thought that when she was 24 she would be so smart and successful and mature and wise. And then I laugh my head off. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this. Who thinks “When I’m *that* age, I’ll have it all.”

I learn a lot about my own faith and how little I have of it each time I go through something tough. I like to think that I have more faith at the end each time, but who knows. Hopefully one day I will have the trust for God that I should. The trust to get me through, knowing that God has sooo got this.

As I pray for some friends who have gone through something so gut-wrenchingly hard recently, I’m thinking about all of this. About how my faith will be tested next, and how I’ll need to remember that sometime in the years to come, a future Alex will look back and want to tell me that God has it under control RIGHT NOW. That it is ok in the end. If for no other reason than the fact that God. Is. There.

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On a lighter note, I dug up some photos of me from 2009 in honor of this post, and let me just say that I came across a slew of really embarassing selfies from 2009 that I apprently LOST MY MIND during because I ACTUALLY POSTED THEM TO FACEBOOK. I am so not plastering them on here, but they’re there, if you’re willing to find them.

Oh man. I feel like it would be hard for me to convince you that these ladies weren't my only friends based on this photo.

Oh man. I feel like it would be hard for me to convince you that these ladies weren’t my only friends based on this photo.

Just look at that skater hat cocked to the side. I mean I totally *don't* still have that hat...if you were wondering.

Just look at that skater hat cocked to the side. I mean I totally *don’t* still have that hat…if you were wondering.

Sqeezing out the Yuck, or Something Like That.

Before we got married, Bryan and I went through premarital counseling with our pastor and his wife. I’ll never forget how she described marriage on several occasions. She said that marriage has a way of bringing all of the yuck inside of you to the surface and then squeezing it out. Lovely isn’t it? Somehow, I love that analogy. Like it has a way of showing us all of our ugly parts and forcing us to either rid of them or call it quits, and we all know which one of those is the healthy choice.

So Bryan and I have been looking at houses. We are becoming all too familiar with the phrase “Catching the house bug.” We’ve caught it. Oh has it been caught.

We rent right now, and neither of us has ever owned a house, so we get to go through this little taste of hell adventure together. The problem is, we see this process very differently from each other, and it’s bringing out all of the yuck in me. I think I’ve made it clear how refinement and the realization that I am not perfect makes me feel.

Bryan has always lived in smaller houses and grew up not having a lot of money, so he sees every house we look at with such amazement, I swear he thinks he’s looking at the Wonka Chocolate Factory. He is just so grateful for the fact that a house like that is even in the realm of possibilities for us. It’s all so sickeningly charming.

I, on the other hand, grew up living in decent-sized, while certainly not huge homes, didn’t have a share a room for most of my upbringing, and am just generally a selfish person, let’s just be honest. I look at each house as imperfect and not something I could possibly settle for.

I knew that admitting this would not be fun, but as I type it, I realize just how much yuck I have in me.

Sheesh am I the worst. How much of a horrible a-hole can you be if you find ways to complain about something that most of the world does not have. Gross gross gross. I am officially disgusted with myself.

I hate that I can’t see things with as much contentment as he does. His grateful heart and the sheer thankfulness that he encounters with each house we look at is astounding, and it simultaneously makes me feel like a terrible person and makes me want to be a better person.

God is really showing me a lot with this process. I am learning how yuck-filled I am and how thankful I should be that the wonderful man, friends, and Family that I have been blessed with put up with the apparent ton of crap I put out in the universe. I am learning that my dream home can definitely wait, and that all of this is God’s anyway, duh. I think I need to take a harder look at the yuck in me and do a better job of forcing it out instead of harboring my negativity.

Besides, I could never forgive myself if I made Bryan as jaded as I apparently am. I love that he sees the world in a brighter hue than I do, and I am going to start trying harder to rise to his level instead of bringing him down to mine.

Oh the joy of finding new areas of life that need work. Sooooo much yuck.

Please tell me I’m not the only who needs a dose of humble pie. What about you? What areas of your life have you recently found that need work?

Alright, I’ve Fooled around Long Enough.

I told you about my New Years plans (I still refuse to call them resolutions), but not a lot of concrete change has happened. I know what you’re thinking: “Whaaaaaat? That NEVER happens with resolutions New Years plans!” and “But you’re so organized and self-controlled!” and “You always seem like you have it so together, though!”

Yes. All of this. BUT actually none of it.

I am failing, you guys. I’m tired of failing too. I am too competitive and too prefectionist of a person to put up with this crap. And by this crap, I mean my 20’s so far. When did I get so lazy? With my diet, with my household stuff, with just all of it.

The other morning I woke up early for some reason, and I always wish for that because that’s usually when I have the “want to” to get stuff done, but this morning (much like most times like this), the one where I actually woke up at 6:30 without my alarm clock, it was like “woe is me, booooo.” I kid you not: I started praying that God would give me the motivation to get up and be productive before work. As soon as I started, God was all: “You have got to be kidding me. You’re seriously praying that I will help you TO GET OUT OF BED.” That may seem harsh, but I make a practice of praying that God will give me the motivation to complete simple tasks that are so not a big deal and will take like 5 seconds. I have got to realize that grown-ups shouldn’t act like this and it’s time to pay the Piper and own up to my responsibilities.

This is such a balancing act for me. I feel like I’m either lazy as all get-out, or I’m super uptight perfectionist crazy girl. I need to find the healthy in-between of letting go and finding joy in spontaneity sometimes, and NOT GETTING THE HECK OUT OF BED.

So I have developed a highly skilled, technical (<– not that) plan for getting myself out of this rut:

For my diet: I’ve realized that saying “I’m going to eat healthy!” is not cutting it. I need a specific, guideline-filled plan for myself to succeed, so I made one. While we are at home, we are eating recipes and dishes that consist of only the following (and you may notice that it is reminiscent of the Food chapter in 7: An Experimental Mutiny on Excess, and that’s because we lost weight while doing it. Simple as that.):

  • two meat types: chicken and fish
  • all produce: fruits and veggies
  • one carb: Brown Rice
  • one dairy source: plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
  • eggs
  • seasonings: any dry seasoning (excluding sugars), olive oil, honey/agave nectar
  • drinks: water and coffee (Almond milk and sugar may be used in coffee only)

So this is the plan. I feel it is fool-proof because we are allowing ourselves to cheat when we eat out, although we are planning to try and eat better at those times too! You guys, yesterday, I ate at Mexican restaurant (<– my kryptonite) and ate fajitas sans cheese, sour cream, or tortillas. I EVEN SKIPPED THE QUESO! I am superwoman right now.

Look at that grocery supply! I am so proud of myself! The only boxed items are the rice and flavor packets for my water!

Look at that grocery supply! I am so proud of myself! The only boxed items are the rice, salad dressing, and flavor packets for my water!

For day-to-day crap: I am planning to try and rebel against myself in the will-power deficient times. I’m stubborn enough that I am determined to make a habit out of doing what needs to be done instead of being lazy. It supposedly takes 21 days to make or break a habit, so what if I made it a habit to get up earlier, to get out of the shower quicker, to finish one of the million project I’ve started, to get my laundry folded on the time-table of a sane person?

I’ve got to pull myself together. I’m over having breakdowns every couple of months because I feel so out of balance and ungrounded and out of control. Surely I am not the only one. I struggle with looking at other women who seem to have it all together and are able to juggle the thousands of hats they have to wear AND THEY HAVE KIDS! Oh my gosh what will I do when I have kids if I can’t even keep it together now?

What do you guys do? What are your plans for keeping yourselves sane? How do you overcome the lazies?

Great Gatsby Love

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Last night my wonderful husband Bryan and I watched The Great Gatsby for the first time. I’ve never read the book (I know I know, it was soooooo much better than the movie-blah blah blah) so it was a whole new story for me. If you’re a literary slacker like I am and don’t know the plot, I won’t ruin it for you, but it’s a doozy of a love story. I doubt I blinked the whole time, and my heart slowly rose into my throat as I fought back the inevitable cry-baby tears that were most definitely coming. I remembered exactly why I don’t usually do the sappy love stories. You can have your Jane Austen, your Nicholas Sparks, etc. I. JUST. CAN’T. HANDLE. SAP. I realized that there is an important lesson in all of this for me, and probably a few others.

The scene of our watching experience is pretty much the picture you can paint for most of our nights: both of us in sweats (If you can relax in jeans, I don’t think we can be friends), various junk food sitting between us on the couch (we are not cuddly people, y’all), a basket or two of laundry that is crying out to be folded, the list goes on, but I believe in my heart that we are on the same page. I was watching J. Gatsby in all of his shining glory stare into Daisy Buchannan’s eyes with such intense love that it made me squirm a little. I jokingly asked Bryan if he loved me that much, knowing he would very quickly say “yes of course!” because I married a brilliant man. I get so swept up in emotions. Looking around at our less-than-perfect life and comparing it to all the big, colorful, Baz Luhrman-y pizzazz is stupid, yes, but reality in my less-than-perfect state.

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This is how FIttins do, y'all.

This is how FIttins do, y’all.

I am so easily swayed by whatever “awesome” thing is in my direct view that I often miss the changing, growing life that God is fashioning in me RIGHT NOW. Trust me, I have a rolodex of very important lifestyle related issues going on at any given moment. My favorite mental distractions are fashion, food choices, working out, wanting my house to be pristine, and of course, my TV-watching obsession (Ask me about any show you want and I will give you an extremely detailed and I’m sure welcome opinion of it). Not to mention the actually important stuff in my life like work, my marriage, budgeting (Dave Ramsay, thank you very much!), both of our small businesses, family etc.

It’s too much! I like to pretend a lot of other people have it figured out and that I’m the only one faking it, but I logically know this isn’t true. I think a healthy step is at least admitting this to myself. Don’t let me fool you, every stubborn bone in my body is still in the “not admitting this” phase, but I’m trying. Ultimately, I like our kind of love. The sweatpants and candy kind, that is. I like the fashion-sense that comes naturally to me (The SO NOT daring sense-I’m just now getting comfortable with bolder lip shades, you guys). I know deep down that the grass is rarely greener, but I am resolving to work harder at admitting this to myself on a daily basis, and not beating myself up when the dogs have tracked grass all over our kitchen floor, Bryan forgot to wipe down the counters last night, and the laundry basket was apparently just too far away for his our socks.

I am learning myself, my true personality, and my identity in Christ. This is not super duper easy, and I can’t do it alone. There are a few main things I am trying to fill my life with that make it easier to be raw, genuine, joyful, me:

My mentor: I think it is so incredibly healthy to have a wise person in your life who will listen and give you kind, painful, challenging, complex advice and will REALLY listen and seek to know the person that sometimes likes to hide beneath a shiny smile. I meet with a wonderful woman of God often once a week BECAUSE I JUST NEED EXTRA LOVE SOMETIMES OK? (And definitely not because I have a flair for the dramatic.)

Spending actual time with God: I am slowly learning more and more what it looks like. I’ve decided that it does not look like me skimming the Bible and then scolding myself because I am so easily distracted during prayer as I sit there forever, getting back on track for the 5th time, trying to formulate “a good prayer.” I’ve been trying to pray shorter, more meaningful prayers throughout the day and not one long, admittedly less meaningful prayer at some random time. It also looks more like me reading a shorter section of the Bible and then reading a commentary on it and taking notes on my handy-dandy Evernote app, because otherwise I would lose whatever notebook I was using to take said notes.

Lastly, and this is a new development,

Recognizing and developing friendships with people who love me for me and are uplifting: It has historically taken me a long time to exit an unhealthy (in general or just for me) situation, whether it be a romantic relationship, a job, or a friendship. Once I make a decision, however, I am done with no looking back. I desperately need to find a balance here. Giving grace to those who hurt me, while distancing myself and not touching the metaphorical flame again. Sometimes it takes writing these people down and seeing their names in front of you, in truthful black and white.

So that’s what’s on my brain currently. And I encourage more people to take a step back and tell the nasty comparison-voice to take a hike. Not that I am doing this perfectly or even well right now. This is a how-you-say daily struggle. But it’s a struggle that will get easier with some work…or so help me I will freak out.