Spiritual

Cold Water Kickstart (sequel to In the Cave)

So here’s the part where I explain the reason why my recent life has been like the cave at Enchanted Rock. I’m about to start a whine session…

I’ve been having a really hard time getting my life together lately. I graduated from a top-tier university within three years, and eight months later I’m still living with my parents because I can’t seem to find a decent job. I’m working around 25 hours a week to make around $420 dollars a month (that’s freelancing for you…) and my novel has been the only thing that I really feel that I have going for me. And of course, because I recognize that it’s the only thing going for me, I get an insane case of writer’s block. Meanwhile, my friends are hundreds of miles away and I’m too afraid to call them because I feel like every time I do I’m risking a huge emotional breakdown and spending the next hour sobbing to them about why I’m so dissatisfied with life. (In case y’all are reading, just be glad I haven’t put you through this….) Because of this mild rut of depression that I’ve fallen into, I’ve been lazy about my schedule. I get up at 8am, don’t get my ass into work until 10:30, and then I when I get home it’s a struggle to get my butt out the door to do my daily run. I’m basically dying inside from self contempt.

So the obvious response to all this whining is:

It’s only by the grace of God that I have a roof over my head at all, and at least I have the freelancing gig to keep me going and at this point, I’m in a great position to experience the pressures of life and the benefits of God’s unending grace provision. This is a huge point of spiritual growth and development for me, and I shouldn’t waste all my time feeling sorry for myself just because I don’t have a road map to tell me every turn that my life will make.

It’s true, I’ll admit it. But letting go of the wheel is probably my most difficult challenge seeing that I’m a major control freak, and eight months of not having a clue what’s going on in my life is probably one of the worst kinds of torture you could put me through. All my life I’ve known exactly where I was going, what I wanted to do when I got there and how I was going to make that happen. That’s how I graduated with my bachelor’s degree at 20 years old. Suddenly, I’m without a road map, and the only peace I can find is when I separate myself from my very confusing and uncertain life, aka, going on a hiatus from the world at Enchanted Rock.

That being the case, I’ve made a rather unusual decision. I saw a fascinating article on this blog by Joel Runyon that made me realize what I need is a huge kick in the ass. And nobody (except for God) can do that better than myself.

I’m going to take the cold shower therapy challenge. As explained in Runyon’s amazing blog, the idea of the cold shower is to psychologically shock you out of your comfort zone. When you’re in you’re comfort zone, you’re never going to do anything amazing with your life, and you’ll never achieve your goals. The only way to do that is be forcible, self-motivated change. And that’s exactly what I plan to do. Thirty days of starting my day with a run and a cold shower, paired with the revitalization of my job search and my writing.

Run, cold shower, go to work by 9:00 am, apply for one job, write two pages. Every. Day.

I know this method may sound a little odd, but I honestly feel that it’s the only way I’m going to be able shake myself out of the doldrums. I have never been the type of person to just jump face first into something and run with it. I admire those people. I’m a planner. And when I don’t have a plan, I feel lost. So this strange type of therapy is the perfect way to get the queen of planning out of her terribly uncomfortable comfort zone. I need to come to the complete realization that sometimes, the only thing you can do in life is to trust that God’s plan is far greater and far more precise than ours can ever be, and sometimes the best thing that we can do is to trust Him and jump into life. Right now, all that I can count on is that I’m doing ok, and I need to take advantage of this opportunity to get my personal life and my novel up and running, so for the next 30 days, I’m going to cold water kick-start my life.

I haven’t decided whether I’m going to blog about this challenge. I think I should, but it all depends on if I have enough time to do that along with my other self-assigned duties. I invite you to participate in this challenge with me. Kickstart your life!

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In the Cave.

So I promised a blog update about my trip to Enchanted Rock in March. As you can see it’s taken me quite a while, and it’s probably going to be a two-part treatise. The truth is, I didn’t want to write about it. For some reason that trip, as amazing as it was, seemed like it was rubbing me the wrong way every time I thought about it. I think I’ve finally realized why.

While I was at the park, I had the fantastic experience of going caving for the first time. It was a small cave; it probably only took me and my two guy friends around 20 minutes to go from entrance to exit. I’m going to admit that it was a pretty scary experience for me. We were clambering through the pitch black with nothing but headlamps and a general idea that we probably weren’t going to die. The cave was extremely slippery and on several occasions I hit my head, elbows and knees on rocks (yes, we were unprepared with elbow/knee padding and helmets. I’ll remember that for next time). I managed to keep my cool with the help of my friends Austin, who was very patient with me and Lee, who decided to spontaneously burst into an acapello version of Lil Wayne every time I would start to panic.

Now, I realize I may come across as kind of a wimp. Let me assure you, this cave was rather dangerous. There were plenty of tight spaces to squeeze through and slippery shelves of rock to slide down. The part of this experience that scared me most was that I was never completely sure where to put my feet. There was a lot of blind scrambling to find foot and hand holds and a little bit of unintentional sliding toward dark abysses.

After it was over, Austin said something to me on the drive back home that really made me aware of myself. We were discussing my first caving experience and he told me that every time I get into a situation of fear or uncertainty, I harden up and push through, no matter how scared I am. He was right, and I’ve slowly realized that the past eight months of my life have felt like a dark, slippery cave, and that’s why I’ve been so resistant to talking about Enchanted Rock. The geography around Fredericksburg, Texas is one of the most beautiful landscapes I had ever seen. Contact with the natural world and the experience I had there with my close friends was a powerful force of spiritual and personal revitalization for me.

Those few days were an amazing escape from the mundane. It’s like asking a man who’s spent the last eight months in a cave to talk about the three days he was released to see the sun.

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Letter to my 11 year old self.

Alex at 11,

You’re starting the sixth grade, at first you’ll get a little caught up in what’s ‘cool.’ Don’t waste your time. You’re only as cool as you aren’t, if that makes any sense. You’re going to make some great friends who remind you that silly and eccentric is a good thing. Cherish it, because high school is going to be rough, and you’ll probably forget how unique and creative you really are until you meet that guy in your university biology class. (Don’t worry, he seems odd but he’ll take you by surprise.)

Don’t stop writing. Write as much as you can. Nothing you write will be worth anything until you grow up a bit, but the best pay off will be perseverance, and you’re going to need that later when you start working on your first novel. Don’t give up on you’re dream, you’ll be a writer, it’s just going to take a while.

You’re going to keep a few of your old friends from middle school and the place where you grew up. You probably won’t call them or write as much as you should, but you ought to. Don’t forget them, they’re probably the best friends you’ll have for the next four years. I know high school will seem hard, being the new girl and moving into a whole new fish pond, but if you stick with your true self and remember what’s right, you’ll do fine.

Don’t forget your strengths. You have the God of the universe on your side, and He’s given you incredibly intelligence, a great sense of humor, and an amazing power of will. Don’t lose touch with how strong you are! Sadly, you’re going to lose a lot of your uniqueness. You’re going to want to blend in order to be accepted. Don’t. Just don’t. Being alone is better than forgetting who you are and what you like. You’re a very sweet girl and will want to people please, and sometimes that will become a problem. Don’t forget to protect your own interests. As much as you hate to admit it, some of the people you hang out with won’t be worth your time, and sadly, you’ll be too shy to make friends with the people who are.

I’m going to be honest, high school will be hell for you. Everyone will seem completely immature and irritating. You’ll have just a few friends here and there, and none of them are people who you can confide in. Just keep calm and deal with it. God has given you all the resources you’ll need. Besides, you’ll be finished in three years! Bet you didn’t think you’d get that lucky. You’ll work extremely hard and be halfway to crazy half the time. I’d say to try to not stress about it, but who am I kidding, you will. You’re going to develop this horrible habit of dating your friends. I really wish you wouldn’t. They aren’t worth your time and you ought to be a lot more choosy. You won’t fit in anywhere, but again, being alone is better than hanging out with losers.

You’re going to think you are in love. You aren’t, but it will take a while to figure that out. Trust me, you have no idea what real, God-reflective love is and you won’t for a long time. Remember what I said about that kid in your university biology class? Yep. (Even then virtue love won’t come quickly or easy, but that’s another story.) Hold on to your ideals and your morals very tightly, because they are the only armor you have against losing yourself. You’re going to struggle on your walk with God because you haven’t figured out how much you matter and how precious you are.

You’ll worry about what you want to do with your life. Don’t panic. You are incredibly smart and you can do whatever you put your mind to. The worst thing you could do is to underestimate yourself. Take full advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. When mom suggests you apply for that London writer’s camp, get your application in. I promise, it won’t be for nothing. You’ll learn so much about yourself if you focus on what matters. You’ll be distracted here and there, your spiritual growth will be slow and steady, but don’t worry, it gets better, and you’ll soon become the young woman God intended you to be.

After three years, you’re going to feel free. Go to Texas A&M. I know that the scholarship to UofH will be tempting, but don’t think twice. You’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t become an Aggie. During your freshman year you’ll struggle at first and you’ll forget your real mission in life. You’ll think you’re in love again and he’ll break your heart. Just warning you, it’s going to hurt. Badly. But again, he wasn’t worth the pain, and if you get distracted by it you won’t see the people who are right in front of you. Those girls from your creative writing and french classes are very special, and don’t forget your soul sister who has been there for you from the beginning, no matter how far away she lives, as well as that odd biology kid who seems to hang around no matter how much you snub him. These people are all priceless, and they will become the framework of like-minded friendships that you need on your walk with God. Don’t forget that they are just as faulted as you are, and they deserve your support when they fall on their asses just like they supported you when you fell on yours. You’re going to need to get over that judgmental tendency you have, otherwise you’ll never love them as much as you could, and you’ll never deserve their love.

I’m going to be frank. You’ll work your ass off from now until you’re my age, and it will be a long time before you start to feel like an adult. You aren’t smart enough now to see your childish ego, but in a year or two you will be. Don’t let it get in the way. Don’t get distracted. Don’t forget how strong you are. Don’t regret any of the mistakes that you will make, because they’ve taught you everything you needed and they lead to me, and believe me, you’ll be happy with me.

Love,

Alex at 21.

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Savage.

So yesterday I felt like I was going to tear somebody’s head off. I couldn’t focus at work, and it seemed like every fiber in my body was telling me to get up from my cramped little cubicle and run until I collapsed. I wanted to go outdoors and feel the wind and the heat of the sun, to feel my feet beating the ground. I wanted to scream and laugh and pull my hair. I wanted to be noisy and violent and unabashedly alive. It’s those kinds of moments that remind me I’m still fallibly human, that just because I’m a follower of Christ, a civilized, sophisticated being, doesn’t mean that I’m always demure and patient. I am always an animal, savage and primitive, and sometimes it comes to the surface, raging against the slacks and the laptops and the car washes and dog leashes and administrations. I was born an animal and I will die an animal.

Some parts of humanity must be embraced, and others suppressed. We are self destructive creatures, and all that God does is provide us the knowledge to see our self-mutilating tendencies and to stop them before we completely ruin ourselves. But there are parts of humanity that can and should be cherished. The senses for instance. They are beautiful and strong. If I want to stick my head out of the car window like a hound and mess up my hair just to feel it flying around my face like soft tendrils keeping me tethered to my own existence, you better believe I’m going to do so. And so I did.

This feeling of connectivity with motion and physics and the natural laws of the earth convinced me to pick up my bow again. It has been a long time since I have been an archer, and some part of me felt I may never be one again. But yesterday I dug in a box that sits in the corner of my room filled with all my old playthings, books, stuffed animals, carnival masks, and found my heartstring. I strung the bow and went into a field in the park and let arrows fly. And as soon as I heard the quick whisk of the shaft and feathers passing by my ear, I was calm. I had touched something that hasn’t been touched since men carved their stories into rock. I was stroking the small, previously dormant creature that purrs and grumbles beneath the shell of my makeup and designer jeans. A primitive, wily animal that has not forgotten where it has come from, or what it is capable of. And it sleeps, waiting for the moments when I remember who I am.

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When faith is your Job, You will never be Underemployed.

Lately I’ve been wondering why my life is in such a stasis. I graduated from college a few months ago and I haven’t been able to find a paying internship or permanent full-time job. It’s been getting pretty frustrating for me because I’m dependent upon my parents’ help since my only source of income is freelance work, which has been irregular. I absolutely hate being dependent. I am eager when it comes to starting my own life and getting on my feet. I hate using my parents money not because I don’t value their support, but because I know how much they have to sacrifice so that I can have money for gas, cell phone, etc. I’m freelance writing and working at a volunteer internship, but I can’t help but feel that I’m just another underemployment statistic.

Basically, I’m just plain feeling sorry for myself because of my situation, and I said several times, “God, why aren’t you giving me the opportunities I need? Why are you holding me back when I’m ready to move forward and take on responsibilities?” I was so desperate to get a full-time job that I had prepared for. I kept thinking, I didn’t work my ass off at college and work at several volunteer internships to take a part-time retail job and make $8 an hour, I wanted to make real money that I could support myself with and I wasn’t willing to consider anything except for a job that was “worthy” of me, or that I could be proud of.

As usual, God readily provided his response.

Today in a sermon my pastor reviewed the instance with Christ and Peter, and how Christ had to show his followers via the miracle of the fish that they can depend only on him for their needs in life. When following Christ, the disciples went from their jobs as fishers, farmer and laborers, to daily dependence on God’s provision for their meals. My pastor made these five points on following God:

1) In the Christian life, it’s all or nothing. You’re either following Him completely and wholeheartedly, or you’re not following Him at all.

2) Obedience to His plan is a mental attitude as well as a literal action. You can’t be obedient begrudgingly.

3) The promises of His word and the mental attitude of patient faith must proceed the action of obedience. In other words, even if you’re obedient, it won’t work to your advantage if you have a crappy and negative viewpoint.

4) Don’t be obedient for the wrong reasons, such as self-service or self aggrandizing.

5) Never doubt His provisions in your life.

I think that I was so interested in putting myself in a position that I thought I was ready for or that I deserved, whether for the black hole in my wallet or some form of self-gratification, that I was paying no attention to what might glorify Him. Maybe the way to glorify Him is to take a position that is “beneath” my qualifications and to continue to focus on His word, or maybe He just wanted to remind me that I’m not completely in control here.

Perhaps He wants me to see that no matter where I am in life or how much money I’m making, I will always be provided for. His grace is always present and active in my life, no matter what kind of job I have, or even if I don’t have one. Overall, I have to put faith in Him before I put faith in myself, and I have to never fear the circumstances I am in, no matter how difficult or frustrating they are. HE is the reason for my motivation, and HIS glory is what I should see in every opportunity I get, or don’t get, whatever the case may be.

In this case, I have to take a leaf from Peter’s book and say, “Yes God, I was afraid, but I won’t be. I trust you and I will follow you, wherever you lead.”

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A Covenant; My Ideas on Marriage

So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about marriage. Now, before I dig into this topic, let me state something that most people who’ve been around me for more than five seconds can tell. I’m not an emotional person. I’m pretty straightforward and unassuming when it comes to relationships. I haven’t dated a lot of people, and only felt that I really loved one person so far. I don’t like public affection, or pet names, most of the time other people’s’ relationships make me gag a little, and I’ve always been the girl who wanted to see the world before settling down in a marriage. But the truth is, a little over three years ago, God introduced an amazing man into my life.

It was completely unexpected, and not the best possible time for either of us. I was just realizing that I was nowhere near the woman God needed me to be, and he was nowhere near the man that God needed, or that I needed. Still, God taught me patience. Three years later, we’ve both grown and changed quite a bit, and we’re still growing and developing in our spiritual lives. We are also growing ever closer to each other, and are pretty much inseparable, even though he’s 100 miles away. I honestly cannot imagine that God has anyone planned for me who could possibly be a better fit. We’ve talked very seriously about marriage, but came to the mutual conclusion that it’s not the right time. I just graduated from college and still want to have adventures as a single woman, and he’s finishing up his master’s degree. I also think that at twenty years old (yes I graduated at 20… I know I’m jumping the gun on adulthood) I’m just not ready to make that very important decision of who I’m to spend the rest of my life with. We’re still dating, but trying to take it easy and give ourselves the time we deserve to grow.

We’ve both recognized that we’re not ready to make a covenant to each other. Because that’s what marriage is; a covenant. We’re both mature enough to see that we might not be mature enough.

The reason I’ve said all this is because I want the reader to know where I’m coming from when I start talking about marriage. Here’s the main point >>>

At Texas A&M, my alma mater, it’s common for devout Christian students to marry immediately following, if not before graduation. I think marriage post grad is a horrible choice, even for very spiritually mature people. The reason is because I see a lot of Christian couples going into marriages young thinking that because they share the same beliefs, that everything is going to be one big happily ever after. It’s not. Do I need to say any more?

I think the facts behind this trend relate to the differences between the Christian and the secular world. In the secular world, the average age of both the bride and groom is getting higher, and the divorce rates are getting steep (nearly 50%). There’s also the issue of couples living together. Hopefully, if you’re a believer who is interested in God’s plan, premarital cohabitation or divorce shouldn’t be viable options. (Obviously there are cases that call for divorce, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post, and my main statement is that no one should go into a marriage thinking, ‘Well if this doesn’t work out…’ etc, etc.)

This being said, Christian couples sometimes forget that simply being mature in your walk with God does not make you mature enough for a marriage. A lot of Christian couples feel that they will have good, healthy marriages simply because they have made other good choices, such as premarital chastity, and choosing a partner with the same beliefs. That’s not always true. Case and point, my parents who made these good choices still have had a hell of a time. They’ve gone from being fine and dandy to the breaking point and back. I would say that marriage is not always easy, but the truth is, it’s never easy. Many young  people, especially women, (and yes I can say that, because I am one, and don’t deny that you’ve been dreaming about your wedding for years, ladies…)  forget that marriage isn’t something where you sign the papers and your happiness is locked down for eternity. I often see couples that gingerly skip to the altar with stars in their eyes. Marriage isn’t something you have, it’s something you do. It’s something you work at every day, because your partner in life is not always going to be attractive, or nice, or considerate, or even likable. Sometimes they will fail you, sometimes they will fail God. And you will often fail them. There will be days when you hate each other and wonder why the hell you ever chose to bind yourself to this person.

Ultimately, being a believer and following God’s guidelines such as chastity do not make you 100% ready for marriage. Marriage is not solely about being happy and having a partner in your walk with God. In the Bible, marriage is described as a reflection of Christ’s love for the church. His love is completely incomprehensible in its power and expansiveness. He can love greater than any faulted human being can ever love another faulted and imperfect human being. The real question to ask yourself before getting married is, can I reflect that kind of love? Will my love for my chosen spouse be a good testimony to the love that Christ has? I know that I have a hard time showing grace to even my closest family members. Love is not something solely to be enjoyed. Love, marriage, is a job. It’s a duty that you must fulfill for the Lord just as everything else. If you fail in your marriage, you have failed Him as well.

I think so often young Christians forget that marriage is not just a human promise, it’s a covenant. A covenant; that’s the same type of promise that almighty God made to His people. It has the same magnitude, the same binding power. Are you really ready to make that kind of promise to someone? Don’t take it lightly.

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This is why we’re hot. (Repost)

Hey y’all. I’m doing some reorganization so I’ve moved this post from another blog. Original content!

Here’s a statement of my personal belief: Waiting for marriage is something beautiful and amazing, and I am a more attractive woman because my feminine graces are impossible to attain without commitment.

This is why I’m hot:

Firstly, it takes a lot of inner strength to have that kind of self-control. It’s also a confidence builder; it reminds you that you are worth waiting for, and you don’t have to settle for just anyone. It can help you weed out potential partners that aren’t strong enough to have some self-control, and aren’t motivated enough to see the benefits beyond the immediate. Just like an old car with mileage doesn’t compare to a new car, men don’t value women as much when they have given themselves to many different people in the past. Some may say they don’t care, but I would encourage them to look truthfully and see that it does, on however small a level, disturb them that they are not the first.

To men and women, if your partner won’t wait, suck up the pain and find someone else. Staying in the relationship won’t be worth the continual struggle you will have by having different viewpoints on such an important issue. It’s true that many people will look down on you if you are waiting, but only you can know what they are missing.

People often underestimate the psychological connection that sharing your body with someone forms. God made sex as a reflection of his love and relationship with each believer, so sex is supposed to be physical, emotional, and spiritual. When it’s not all of those things, its damaging, whether people admit this to themselves or not. Sex is meant to be shared between two people who are committed to each other, just like God commits himself to you, and without commitment, there is emotional scarring on both parties, because at that point, sex is all that you share. You haven’t given yourselves to each other in mind and spirit, only body.

In today’s instant gratification as society, many would argue that waiting is a “waste of time” or a detriment since you “may not satisfy the one you marry.” But honestly, how is devoting time and emotional energy to something more worthwhile, rather than physical pleasure, considered a waste of time? When did society decide that it’s better to please yourself physically than work hard for greater benefits later? And realistically, how would a virgin couple be dissatisfied with each other if they had never been with anyone else? That’s the beauty of it! You will appreciate your partner sexually not because they are “good in bed” but because this is something that the two of you share with only each other. Sex, when kept exclusive, forms the kind of special bond between people that is difficult to break. Studies say that 98% of virgin couples stay together for life. FOR LIFE. Isn’t that kind of devotion something worth waiting for?

Let’s admit something to ourselves here: Sex feels good. Very good. We all know that whether we have had sex before or not. And we all want it, that’s just the truth. We are designed to want it. But we must look past the immediate and see the lasting value of sex under the right circumstances. Within a union of commitment, marriage, sex is more MENTALLY satisfying than premarital sex will ever be, no matter how physically good it may feel at the moment.

So I urge everyone to take the time to think about these things and decide honestly which is more important to you, because in the end, you may be surprised at how much you are denying yourself by giving in to the moment. And for those of you who have made the decision to wait, no matter how many sneers you may get, remember that on your wedding night, it will most definitely pay off, and in the present, know that you are made more beautiful and valuable because of your choice of exclusivity. Look at the other people who’ve been used and say, “this is why I’m hot.”

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