Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My Story: In a Nutshell

On my left arm, from shoulder to elbow, I have a tattoo. My tattoo took three hours to complete and a good chunk of my savings at the time. In script, sandwiched between roses at both top and bottom, my arm reads, "For I know the plans I have for you, [declares the L-rd,] plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Though the design is beautiful, over the following weeks, I struggled with the decision I'd made to get this large tattoo. I think a piece of that struggle had to do with what prompted the tattoo in the first place.

When I was eighteen, I fell in love. Shoving all my logic and my reason aside, ignoring the code I'd created for qualities my future mate must have, and blind to all but my feelings, I quickly got engaged. Over the next three years, I missed sign after sign that this relationship was not meant to be and I slowly lost sight of who I truly was and what I truly valued. Though I didn't think I was altering myself to please him, who I was changed subconsciously. College is a time of great change for most people and that was very true for me. At the start of freshman year, I was completely in love with the wrong man and only marginally faithful to G-d. As my collegiate career progressed, through the influence of my friends, professors, and classes, as well as the calling of the King Himself, I changed. I started to fall out of love with my fiance and draw closer to G-d. I may have realized the second part but it is only in retrospect that I can understand the first.

Before my King pulled me to Him, I ran away. I got scared I think and I wasn't ready to sacrifice the major life changing decision I'd already made, to give my life to this man, for a far off Creator who I didn't feel very close to. I felt my life could both serve Him and hold to the decision I'd made. Worse than that, I fell down a rabbit hole. I made some very large mistakes and I gave myself to him before I gave myself to Him. In the name of love, I broke the promise I'd made when I was nine years old. I had sex before I was married.

Only four months after I initially made that decision, G-d started to convict me. He laid it on my heart that what I was doing was wrong. But after talking out my confliction with a close friend, I tried to make things right with both G-d and my fiance. The resulting conversation was the worst fight I have ever been in. The heartache I felt that night, the number of tears I cried are something I wouldn't wish on another. Somehow, we put a band aid on our relationship and lasted another nine months. It took six months for him to be all but done and another three for G-d to fully work in me.

As my first relationship fell to pieces, I clung to G-d. I clung to His promise and His truth. I knew that He had plans for me that I knew nothing of. I knew He had a future for me and that He knew who my future husband was. I got my tattoo while I was still healing from my heartbreak. I took His promises and I had them engraved on my body. I struggled to come to terms with my tattoo at first. I wondered if I'd ever look at it and not think about my heartbreak. I wondered if I'd ever get over what went wrong in my life. I wondered how that story would affect my future. Then people started asking about it. I started encountering people outside of my circle, who didn't know my story. They'd see flowers poking out of my shirt and they'd admire the beautiful artwork. Inevitably, they'd be surprised at such a large tattoo on such a little girl. And they'd ask. They'd want to hear the story. Where are those words from? What made me chose that?

The tattoo on my arm started as a way to heal, a reminder of the promises He made and why I'd chosen to end my relationship, to sacrifice that part of myself. These days, it's so much more. On a regular basis, I have customers at work ask me what it says, admire the roses. I'm able to share an abbreviated version of my story with them. I'm able to tell them that all my plans fell apart but that I trust Someone else has better for me. And today I sit here, in Ohio for the first time in my life, my head resting on the arm of the man who now means the world to me. I know G-d has better plans for me. And today, I'm able to start living them. What's past is past and my future sits beside me. No matter what lies ahead of me, I know that G-d has a future in store for me and my tattoo is one small way that He reminds me of that on a daily basis.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

G-d: In the Details

This summer has been so very full. So much has changed. I feel more fully me now than I did at the beginning of the summer. I'm closer to my "true name" now. I feel comfortable in my own skin and I feel closer to being an adult. A real adult.

One of the things that has changed this summer is my relationship status. It's impossible to make anyone else understand this but three months ago I didn't know Wesley and now I'm head over heels in love with him. I truly believe we have a future together. This relationship is something that G-d put together. They say nothing is like first love and I do believe that. Nothing will feel quite the same as falling in love the first time. My relationship with Ron was unique. And I did love him, truly. But it wasn't what G-d wanted for my life. Decisions I made were made outside of His will and somewhere in the back of my head, I knew things were wrong. I knew that my life was going in a path that it wasn't meant to.

This relationship, already, is like nothing I've experienced. Before we were even official, Wes decided he wanted to pray with me. Our relationship started rooted in faith, in G-d. I prayed that if G-d wanted Wes and I to become an "us" that He would open all the doors, and if not that He would slam them shut in our faces. We're like nothing else. I'm confident that he is what G-d wants for me. The way I feel about him is hard to put into words.

I remember asking Auntie Lori about how you knew you were ready for your first kiss years and years ago. (I think I was about 15 at the time.) She told me you just know. And honestly, I do believe that. I also believe that I just know that Wes is the one. It's impossible to put into words how I feel about him. Just like you can't explain what it feels like to be ready for your first kiss, you can't explain how it feels to know that G-d is writing your love story. I feel completely secure in this. Yes, things are going fast according to typical standards. But they don't feel fast. Camp, like college, gives things a jump start. Just as I was super close to my roommate and the girls across the hall within a few weeks of school starting freshman year, just as Emma knows things about me that friends I've had for years don't because we lived together, or as Emy and I got close enough to share a bed within about a month and a half of knowing each other in London, Wes and I got started being trapped in canteen together for seven hours a week into the summer. Things have moved fast because they've been put into a sort of crucible. They've melded together, fused together quickly.

Today seems like a day that G-d is making Himself known in the little details, the little choices of my life. I've had three job interviews in two days. Two for one place and one for another (that one was a second interview; the first was on the 9th). I didn't really want to even apply at the one that I've had two interviews for. I did it to please my dad. After the first interview, I really didn't want to go back for a second interview. I didn't get a good vibe from it. But to please my dad, I went to the second interview. I waited for 20 minutes before they finally saw me and then after a 10 minute interview was basically offered the job. I asked about benefits and pay rate. They're both worse than at the other place. Yay for my gut feeling being backed up by facts.

Afterwards, I met Wes for coffee and bagels and then we walked home. When we got to the pond, I chose to go the long way around. I hadn't been that way in forever and it's prettier. Halfway round, I look across the pond and see someone walking a dog. Ron. I haven't seen him since before I left for Europe. Didn't know where he was living, if he was even still in state. (Frankly, I had suspected that he was still in the area. His motivation and his work ethic were not up to the ideas he had. But I assumed he wasn't living with his parents.) I was surprised to see him. If we'd taken the short way back, we'd have run into him. And I'm glad we didn't because I'm glad he's not part of my life, I'm not sure what I would say to him. To quote Blake Shelton, "Not only [I] don't love [him], but [I] don't hate [him] anymore." It was the way I'd feel running into a friend from high school, the way I felt when I used to run into Lindsay at Jo-Ann's before we patched things up. Awkward and unsure of how to act. I would have had the same reaction if Wes wasn't there. And I was startled to see him. In the same way I was startled to see a comment from Reigna on an old FB photo. I'd forgotten she might show up there and her presence shocked me.

But if we'd gone the short way, we would have run into him. It was right about even with how far we were. And the fact that I chose to go the long way today seems to me like a little detail in which G-d is showing Himself. The reassurance that I am making the right choices with my life now, that I am happy and that my past is truly my past... I see G-d working in my life, orchestrating the details. And I am so glad my G-d is so big, so strong, so mighty. There truly is nothing my G-d cannot do.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Vulnerability in Pre-Camp Prep

The theme for this summer with the camp I'm working at is Close Encounters. I'm supposed to think about encounters I've had with Christ and get ready to share them. The time that I've felt G-d's love most clearly was during the six months surrounding my break-up. But to share that story, I feel like it's so complicated. And if you've heard me tell stories, you know that I get long and rambling and try to tell all the little details. There are details in that story that I don't want to share right now. There are details in that story that I don't think are necessarily public information. Honestly, I don't even want to share the fact that I was engaged. I feel that it adds to the failure I suppose. If you've gotten that far with someone and you couldn't make it work, isn't that a sign on you? Never mind the fact that he gave up working on us before I did. Never mind the fact that it wasn't G-d's will in the first place. Apparently ending my engagement makes me a failure.

Consciously, I don't think this. But apparently my subconscious does. Because she doesn't want me to share that. I also feel like it will make me less desirable to men. Like my past will scare them off. So my ex-fiance has become simply "my ex" and I am going to choose to leave out the wedding planning and the proposal unless it's absolutely necessary for the point I'm going to make. (If my point includes my sexual past, then my engagement will probably be mentioned as well. But does my sexual past need to be included in every discussion? No. I'm no longer broken. I'm over it. Unless it makes sense to become that open, that particular struggle is going to remain private. My closest friends know. Everyone who reads this blog knows. But do my coworkers need to know? Nope.)

Because of my tendency to try to include every detail, the story of how I encountered G-d so closely and so tangibly would be very very long. But if I bear it down to the essentials? (Or is it bare it down?)

We grew apart. We grew up and as I got closer to G-d and he did not find Christ, we fought. Our priorities were misaligned. I was unwilling to admit that we couldn't make it work, unwilling to give up my first love, and I was unable to see that I was more emotionally invested than he was, that I was more serious about us than he was. He was done fighting for us, wasn't willing to work on us any longer. But I was stubborn. And I wasn't ready. So we made an agreement not to decide until I was home from finals. During that three month period, we would work on us 110%. During that time, G-d worked to show me I had been romanticizing and that my view of where we were was very different from where we really were. Our issues were bigger than I thought they were. G-d showed me that Ron was already out of the relationship emotionally. He showed me also that it was never in His will for me to be with Ron and that my relationship had become more important to me than my G-d. I moved from unwilling to let go to tentatively willing but praying with all my heart that I wouldn't be forced to. Finally, I saw that I had to. And in that three months, in all the chaos that was going on in my soul, I knew that was the right thing to do. I knew it was so difficult because I was so resistant, because I was so stubborn, and because I had fought against it for years, if I'm truly honest. G-d gave me the strength to call it off and He gave me comfort in the aftermath. Both through Himself and His love, through the reassurance that I was doing what pleased Him, and through the support of my family and friends in ways I never imagined.

When I bear it down to that, even if it's still not a short explaination, it's much shorter than the rambling story of why that I could give. And it's much more reasonable and less scary to think about sharing.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Excuses, excuses...

Hello, folks...

Long time no see, eh? For a bit, I was using my journal a lot more and didn't feel the need to use this. Then for a bit I've been avoiding writing. First because I didn't want to confront leaving Europe, leaving my girls, moving on and then because well I'm avoiding delving into my psyche. I'm sure there's a lot going on in there regarding leaving and coming back and no longer being an ex-pat and trying to figure out where I fit in. It's easier to leave the door closed. There's stuff in there too about how I feel about my Poppy (my almost 95 year old great-grandfather) moving to a nursing home and how I feel about my kitty being 15 years old (which is one year shy of when we lost my oldest cat, my Smokey).

There's irritation at not being able to get around on my own thanks to the lack of public transportation and there's distance between myself and G-d that I don't want to confront.

Honestly, that's the biggest one. When there's distance between G-d and me, I don't blog. I don't journal. Doing that makes me confront the distance and the sin and the issues I've let crop up. I've read my Bible the last two days (after skipping nearly a month) and I'm feeling convicted but I haven't prayed. And that is what's going to get me back in touch with Him. So I need to do that and I know it but I know that will take time and emotional energy and it is just so much easier to watch TV than to drain myself like that. Today though I'm going to the gym (actually I'm leaving in about fifteen minutes) and hopefully I can use some of that time during my run to get in touch with G-d. I guess we'll see though.

I leave Sunday for camp and will have limited internet access so I'm not sure how much you should expect from me until August.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Romans 12: A Revelation

I have never fit in. It's a simple fact of my life. I was never popular and I've embraced the idea that I am weird. In fact, someone told me a few weeks ago that I was normal and I argued with him. The idea of being normal to me is tied up with the idea of fitting into a box and being a cookie cutter Stepford wife. Or whatever the equivalent is for a single twenty-something. So when I came across Romans 12:2 at Circle C Ranch years ago, I immediately clung to it.


Right there, in black and white, in the first three words of this verse, it says, "Do not conform". I clung to that command. Do not conform. Do not be like this world. It's okay to not fit in. It's okay to stand out. It's okay to be your own person.

I still believe it's important to be yourself. Later on in the chapter, Paul talks about using your own unique gifts and how each person ought to use his own talents in a way that pleases G-d. My gift is not money management. I am not meant to be the treasurer of my church's board of directors. I am not meant to be an accountant. My gifts lie elsewhere and I need to be true to them. (That's part of what I'm doing in writing this, frankly.)

The problem with the way my thirteen-year-old self interpreted this verse though is that she stopped after the first eleven words. Oh she had every word memorized. But the first three were what she clung to. When she was bullied for not dressing how everyone else did, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world." When she was accused (as if it were a bad thing) of being a lesbian since she'd never had a boyfriend and she had joined the Gay-Straight Alliance, "Do not conform".


She missed what the other three quarters of it say. To paraphrase, "Do not conform. Rather, be transformed mentally." She was so glad to cling to the idea that she wasn't supposed to look like the rest of the world that she forgot that she might have to change. She wasn't required to be clad in American Eagle from head to toe and listen to Top 40 radio but she also shouldn't remain static in who she was. The changes that should have overtaken her were more mental than physical and had nothing to do with popularity. She needed to learn how to relate to her parents without screaming. She needed to learn how to be a follower of Christ and not a fan of Jesus. She needed to learn how to seek His face daily. And she needed to learn how to start her journey towards being the godly woman He wants her to be.

If she had realized that, if she had moved past the acceptance she found in the first verse and if she had realized the transformation that G-d was trying to work in her, she might have found the promise found in the second half of the verse more readily. If she had learned how to be transformed in light of His desires, she might have realized how to find His will sooner.



She didn't learn that. But I am. At thirteen, I needed to be accepted and I found that in Christ. I found Someone who didn't think I was weird and didn't want me to change in order to like me. I found someone who never fought with me over stupid things and who only wanted my best. I found someone who loved me. At thirteen, I needed that. But I wish that I'd revisited that verse with fresh eyes a few years later and realized that G-d was not calling me to a life of doing what I wanted. He was not calling me to a life of doing what made me happy. He was calling me to place my life on His altar. He was calling me to offer my body as a sacrifice to Him (Romans 12:1).

My life is supposed to be lived in a way that pleases my King. If I follow in His will, my life goes so much easier and I am happy. It might result in temporary discomfort but in the long run what He wants is best for me. If I let Him change me, I realize what He wants much sooner and I am able to say with conviction that I am living in a manner that is good and pleasing in His sight. I am able to say that my life is being lived in a way that brings glory to my King. I wonder what my life would be like if I'd learned this lesson before. That's a question I can never know.

What I do know is that I am learning now. And G-d has been good to me. He has arranged for me to have this amazing year, to return to the city where I left my heart four years ago, to make a friend there, and has lined up my next job, my next step. I don't know what comes after that. But I know I can trust Him. After all, He's gotten me this far. And if I keep letting Him change me and work in me, I have no doubt that I'll be able to see His will for what comes next.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Idolatry Today

I've been reading the major prophets for the last two months and one thing I keep coming across is the idea that Israel has forsaken G-d for the idols of the other nations. It would be so easy to glance over those verses, to ignore them.

This is the twenty-first century. We don't have idols anymore.


Our idols may not be of the "bow down in front of them to worship" sort today but that picture actually has a lot more to do with idols than you might think.

For the observant (and geeky) among us, you may notice that picture is actually from Doctor Who. Yes, that is Ten with his TARDIS and Donna from their trip to Pompeii. Today, we don't worship gods in the way the people of Israel did. We don't leave food in front of a statue so that the rain will fall and the grains will grow. Instead, our idols come in the form of "what do you value above G-d?"

Any "good Christian" will tell you automatically that they love G-d, they worship Jesus. But that's not what I asked. I asked what is more important in your life than the Most High?

Before you give me that kneejerk reaction, really think about it. Now I'm not saying I'm perfect and I'm not saying that I know what I'm doing. I'm sure there are "idols" in my life that G-d will reveal to me. Things I need to work on, things I'm putting above him. What would you rather do with your free time folks? Do you read your Bible? Do you attend worship services? How often during your honest, deep conversations does G-d come up?

I'm not saying you can't watch TV or read non-Christian books. I'm not saying every word out of your mouth needs to be praise to the King. We are complex people and there are various assets to our lives. But if my day ends and I spent three hours watching Supernatural but only twenty minutes in the Word of G-d, what does that say about my priorities? And even now I want to justify that. I want to qualify that with "But while I'm watching Supernatural I can be knitting my niece's blanket! And my niece is important!"

(Left, Right-my own)

Yes, Emilia is important. And I love that little girl more than is rational. Her blanket is important and it's something I spend a good chunk of my time on. But that's not the root issue. Because I could be watching the sermons I've missed instead. I could be listening to KLove. I could be praying. I choose to watch Supernatural. What does that say?

It says I'm addicted to TV and to the internet. For Lent, I reduced the amount of time I spent on social media sites. But it wasn't enough. It wasn't a sacrifice. And I can justify it. We are so good at justifying things. I can give you twenty reasons why what I did was OK. But how many of those are completely truthful?

Idols these days can take many forms. If there's anything in your life that you would hesitate to get rid of when asked to or prompted to by G-d, that might be an idol in your life.

Does that mean we can't enjoy things that aren't directly connected to the church or to G-d? I don't think so. I enjoy watching TV. I enjoy reading books. Even books that are fictional, that have non-Christian characters.

Even things that are good in your life can become idols. I've mentioned my ex before. I don't think I've mentioned how I was putting him over G-d. My engagement had become an idol in my life. I wanted Ron more than I wanted the Will of G-d for a while. Leaving him should not have been easy. And it wasn't. But it also shouldn't have taken me so long to realize that we weren't right together. That relationship never should have started if I'm honest.

What are your idols? What are you putting ahead of Him? Is it your love life? Your finances? Your entertainment choices? What is it that you tell G-d, "Not this. You can't have this."? What don't you trust Him with?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Photo Dump

There are a bunch of pictures clogging up my desktop so what better place to dump them than my blog?


(I took this screenshot of my stats the other day. It amused me how everything was multiples of three.)

 ("Good morning world" in Gallifreyan. Source got lost in the shuffle. Sorry.)
 Screenshot of my captcha a few weeks ago


Part of the knitting chart for a TARDIS hat I did as a Christmas gift for a friend



Sorry, I know that one is huge. It's the instructions for the blanket I'm working on for my aunt's unborn daughter

.The first 3 rows of my niece's blanket

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Deep in the Hundred Acre Woods...

I've been fairly stressed out the last day or two thanks to some nagging health problems (minor but irritating) and tonight was a rough bedtime shift. So tonight, I'm going to do some posies.

This is my 100th live post to this blog. (Hence the title)

Belgium is famous for French fries and there's a shop located between my family's apartment and mine that sells them for a decent price.

Caffeine free Coke Zero to wash down my fries

My knitting projects are going really well. I'm 85% done with my niece's blanket and will easily finish up this week. (A bit behind schedule but I didn't expect to have these health problems!)

Rory is fixed! My baby lives again!

Netflix.

I love the way I feel in my black v-neck shirts and a pair of jeans.

This morning while I was packing, KLove played some great music that I got to dance to.

Ellie is interested in Doctor Who.

Being able to get a few hours of sleep before catching the train

Hot showers

Books

Friends who are there to calm you down when you really need a week on a beach

People willing to answer ridiculous questions

When something you've been waiting for arrives

Getting a response back from jobs

My G-d loves me! (And He loves you too!)

I'll be in London less than a month from now.

The ficlet I texted Mary Beth about returning back to London together

Tea

Jaffa cakes


And I think that's it for tonight. I want to get this posted before we leave Belgium and well my alarm goes off in 7 hours to wake me up and get going.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Morning Post

I am not sure why they let me in the kitchen sometimes. And by they I mean the synapses in my brain that fire and say "This is a good idea" or "This is a bad idea".

This morning, before my alarms went off, housekeeping knocked and because I was still asleep, it took me a few moments to respond and alert them to my presence. No I do not need you to clean. Of course, I couldn't go back to sleep so here I am 90 minutes later. I've caught up on most of my blogs and had a kitchen adventure.

I turned the water on for coffee (instant but what are you going to do?) and the burner on for my eggs. I nearly threw away the eggs I hadn't cracked into the (too hot) pan instead of throwing away the package from my sugar. Of course in this little kitchenette there's actually no freaking spatula so I made my scrambled eggs with some funky flat spoon thing. Then I tried at the same time to cut open my kebab/pita bread. So my pan sits on the stove cooling and getting crustier and crustier.

I haven't finished my first cup of coffee or my breakfast sandwich yet.

This is going to be a long day.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bittersweet Uncertainty

On the one hand, I’m excited to go back home. I’m just so tired. I love my girls and Kathrin is amazing. I could not ask for a better host mom. (Daniel’s been gone a lot this month and he works a looooot so though I don’t have a problem with him, I don’t know him half as well as I know Kathrin or the girls.) And even though I am off at the end of my day and Kathrin’s good about making sure the girls know that I’m not responsible for them and giving me a way out if I’m trying to write or knit or chat with people, there’s still a part of me that I feel like I can’t turn off. I feel guilty if I don’t help out and clean up or if I don’t play with Ellie or calm the crying baby.

It’s just part of being family I think. When Sami was little, I felt similarly. Except that really was home. (I hate that sentence. Because this is home. I'm happy here and I feel welcome and loved and I'm never going to have another family like this one. But the sentiment behind that statement, I hope you understand. That this home is one I've made whereas the one with my little sister and my mom is one that was naturally created in my life without any effort on my part.) If I was sitting around reading and my mom wanted my help, she’d yell for me. Kathrin’s too polite/generous/something for that. She’s almost apologetic when she tells me some mornings, “Vickey, I didn’t get to the dishwasher yet. Can you do that this morning please? It doesn’t have to be right now. Finish your coffee first.” Yes, the woman lets me drink my coffee before I start doing any real work. That’s not to say that she never asks for my help when I’m “off duty”. Occasionally something happens and she asks me to help with this or just make sure that kid doesn't climb out of the high chair for a minute. But even so, it’s asking not, “Victoria get your butt in here and help me with the dishes.” There’s just somehow a difference. I think knowing that Kathrin won’t ask makes me feel guilty if I don’t do it. Because if I don’t do it, she’ll do it all herself. And she never complains about it. Seriously, this woman deserves a medal. (And Kathrin, if you’re reading this, I mean every word of this. You are fantastic.)



So because there’s a piece of me that’s on most of the time, it’s hard to kind of recover. And you would think when I go out that then I’d recharge. But I’m such an introvert that going out takes a different kind of energy. Yes my social meter gets filled up but something else gets drained. There is a very fine balance within me to keep all of my meters reading “OK”. I need to be with friends a certain amount, I need to be alone, I need to be with the family, I need to be outside, I need time with G-d, I need time to be creative. I need so much to be optimal. And I don’t even know what the amounts of those things are. I just know when they’re out of whack and I typically know how to fix them. After about ten months of trying to fine tune all of those different things, you can imagine I’d be worn out.

The thought of having to start over again in just two months is almost more than I can handle some days. Which leads me to “on the other hand”. Yes, I’m excited to go home, but I don’t want to leave. I’m going to miss the ability to walk to everything I need. I’m going to miss having little girls throw themselves on my back for piggy back rides. I’m going to miss “What are you watching?”. I’m going to miss “Oh you’re coloring your Bible again? Wow that’s a lot of ‘G-d’ there.” (Noemi knows anytime I mark my Bible in purple it’s a name of G-d.) I’m going to miss Beck’s Green Lemon and Mezzo Mix and I swear to you the Nutella is better over here. I’m going to miss my little room and chatting with Kathrin after the girls go to bed. I’m going to miss “Vickey will you draw me a wizard?” There is a lot that I’m going to miss.

(Artwork: Noemi)

And there’s a lot I’m unsure of in my future. I don’t know how I’m going to fit back into the family structure. I don’t know how I’m going to fit back into American life. I don’t know what I’m going to do for a job. I don’t know how to be in America and not be in school come September. I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do. I don’t know when my love life will change or when my living situation will. I don’t know when I’ll find my purpose in life, the job I’m meant to have, the ministry I should be involved in. I don’t know how long I’ll be in Rochester. I don’t know a lot of things.

As someone in one of my Facebook groups said this week, “I know He's got it under control, but the planning part of my brain is going crazy right now”. And that’s exactly how I feel. I know He’s got plans for me. I know He’s got big plans, plans I could never dream of. But I don’t know where to start! I don’t know what the next step is. G-d’s word is a lamplight unto my feet… A lamplight. Not a floodlight. (Thank you to one of my wonderful Londonerd TA’s for that.) 


If His word shows me the next step, what do I know? What am I certain of? I’m certain I need to go home. For a bit at least. I’m not sure how long I’ll be there. I need to get my license and then a car. I’d be good at event planning I think. And I’d like to pursue that a bit more. Aaaaand that’s all I got. I also know I need to find a church to get involved in. Both somewhere where I’m getting fed and where I’m feeding. That feels like so little to go on. I really feel lost some days.

If you’ve stuck with me that long, congratulations. Seriously I feel like you deserve a cookie. I tried to divide this up into a couple different posts (because I’m nearing two thousand words right now) but I think a lot of it’s too interrelated. It makes sense how I went from one thing to another and ultimately this is my space to write. If there comes a day when I write solely for the readers, this blog will have become soulless and I will give it up.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Belgium: The First 36 Hours

If anyone tells you traveling is easy, I would like you to point them to this post. Even though it is not the hell of all experiences, it was a typical excursion I think and that just makes it clear that getting from Point A to Point B does not always go smoothly.

Because my host dad is in Antwerp for work and Munchkin has two weeks off school, we headed off on a trip Friday afternoon with two adults and three little girls. My morning started off pretty easy. We needed to do a few last minute things so I got sent to the store for milk and to the post office to mail my German train card back. When my list was cleared off, I headed home with a sleeping baby. That made my schedule so much easier. Instead of organizing my suitcase in the half hour in between getting off work and going to pick up lunch, I spent my morning shift folding and packing and organizing.

(Sorry for the crappy quality. I snapped it with my iPod.)

I finished packing and then got to do my Bible study before I headed to pick up lunch. Around 1, I went to McDonald's, ate lunch, and hung around in limbo for a bit until we left. Munchkin had fallen asleep so we got to deal with her tiredness. (When she's tired and there's the slightest cause for worry, she gets whiny and teary and though I do sympathize, it doesn't help anything get fixed faster. Unfortunately, as you continue to read this post, you will see this behavior had several reasons to come up.)

When we headed out, we got to the first train station and... our train had a five minute delay. (Setback #1) Luckily we would still have ten minutes to catch our train from the main station to Amsterdam.

That train then had a ten minute delay which increased to fifteen and then to twenty. (Setback #2) Unfortunately, our next transition time was only twenty minutes so there goes that connection.

We got on the train anyway, hoping it would make up time or we could catch a different connection, etc. But, Kathrin's train card had somehow been left behind. (Setback #3) This was actually discovered while waiting for train #1 and was the cause for Noemi's first tired whine. (Please understand I don't mean to complain about this and I don't mean it as negatively as the word "whine" sounds. It's simply a very high pitched complaint including tears that shows just how sensitive she can be. She pays attention to what's going on around her and if she thinks there's a possibility that something won't go as planned and/or as she wants it to, then this comes out. It's nothing above and beyond what other kids do; it's just so out of character compared to most of her behavior.)

Luckily, this train card issue was quickly dealt with and we were on our way. We settled in and everything went smoothly for a while. At least as far as I was concerned. Noemi and I colored in pictures and I listened to some music. The train guys told us the best course of action to take was X, then came back a few minutes later and said it was Y. Well Y meant that we had to get off at the next stop. And the baby was asleep (setback #4). We got everything together post haste and got ready to get off. All along the way, any time we had to get on or off there were nice people helping us with babies and kids and luggage. We were very blessed in that respect.

Sadly, the connection between our next two trains was quick. It was supposed to be three minutes. (Setback #5). They held the train an extra ten minutes though and we made it on with time to spare. And at this point we were in a first class car.

Let me repeat that. We were in first class.

We got settled, they gave us food, and we relaxed for a few minutes before getting to Antwerp. The one problem happened when Goose said she needed to go to the bathroom but wanted Mama to take her. Well Mama was in between Sweet Pea and Munchkin and was helping them with food. So I picked up a screaming three year old and carried her to the bathroom through the otherwise quiet first class car. Oops. Better that than pee on the seats, right? I hope they appreciated it.

The train finally arrived in Antwerp and we got off (but not without admiring the rear end on the porter who helped us disembark...) (Setback #6 was...) Our ride, Grandmama, wasn't there yet so we had to wait on the platform. When she did get there, she told us we were going back to her apartment. Which was, in my opinion, setback #7. Grandpapa got there after the rehearsal got over but Daniel wasn't with him (setback #8). When he finally did get there, he ate then took me to my apartment before going to get Kathrin and the girls to theirs.

(My apartment, viewed from the door)

(Plus bathroom...)

(And kitchenette)


So what's happened since then? I woke up today around noon and lounged in bed for a few hours. When you don't have work, a need to pee, animals, kids, or hunger, there's no good reason to jump out of bed. When I finally got up, I took a shower and drank some instant coffee. My plan was to run to a supermarket that's supposed to be about 600 meters away, grab some groceries, drop them off, then head to a cafe with a book and my journal. But then I got lost.

And when I say lost, I mean LOST. I was in the middle of a Middle Eastern neighborhood and I'd taken just enough twists and turns that I couldn't have backtracked either. Normally, I might not know how to get to where I'm going but I know how to get back to where I started. Which made today different. Of course, here in Belgium they speak French and Dutch mostly. A good chunk of people do speak English but I hate asking for directions/help. Especially when I can't even ask "Do you speak English?" in the main language of the country.

Eventually, I found the main train station so I could get home again. I stopped by a bakery and ordered the first clearly vegetarian thing on the menu (panini mozzerella). Luckily, the guy spoke English and told me where the nearest grocery store was. The store was too small though and I ended up finding another. By the time I got back, I was tired. I chatted with my mom and have been texting with friends while watching Netflix ever since. (I also ordered and ate a pizza and tiramisu but the cola I drank is hurting my throat. I'm not used to all the acidity anymore I guess.)

Now that the day is over, I'm going to knit and watch Supernatural.

Good night from Antwerp!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Life Verse: Context and Impact


This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.  
Jeremiah 29:10-14a


I have most of Jeremiah 29:11 tattooed on my arm. It takes up a good chunk of space from my shoulder along my bicep ending just above my elbow. There are days I think it takes up a good chunk of valuable space and wish I hadn’t gotten it. Then there are days like today that it means the world to me. We can’t take that verse out of context like so many do. We need to remember why G-d said this. He was speaking to a people about to be put into captivity, to be made slaves to a foreign nation. Their kings were, frankly, doing a shitty job of it, and the people were being stubborn and hard-hearted. They weren’t listening to their King and His prophets but to the false prophets who were giving them the pleasant lies instead of the truth of G-d.

(Tattoo by Sara Purr)

When I was reading this section today, I was struck by it. I knew “my verse” was coming up soon but I didn’t really pay attention to where I was. Suddenly, I was reading words I know so intimately. “For I know the plans I have for you”. Oh hello there, G-d. I felt like I got smacked from half paying attention to “Victoria! These words are important! Pay attention! Wake up!” And I went back to the beginning of the section break (Jeremiah 29:10) and reread that section. I must have read it three or four times. And then the tears started to fall.

This past hour, I’ve been an emotional wreck. Without real reason. It suddenly hit me that I’m leaving in two months. That I only have two more months here. And some days that might seem like an eternity but today that feels like the blink of an eye. In only two months, I’ll be gone. (More on the bittersweet essence of this tomorrow.) I may never walk these streets again. I’ll certainly never be a part of this family in the way I am now again. I hope that I’ll stay in touch with them for years and years to come but I know how way leads on to way and people tend to part. I don’t want that and I’ll do my best to prevent it but I’ll never be as intimately connected to them as I am now. 



So when I read those words, something hit me. And as the tears rolled silently down, my six year old sat not ten feet away from me. I don’t like when people see me cry, let alone a child who isn’t going to understand why I’m crying. Heck, I’m not sure I understood why I was crying.

It just touched me so much that G-d told His people, “You will suffer this punishment for your sin. For 70 years you will be in Babylon, but I won’t forget you. I’ve drawn a line in the sand and when that day comes, I will come rescue you. I will bring you back to prosperity and to hope. I will bring you back to the future I made for you. And when that time has passed, call on me. I will answer you, child. I will be there. I will not turn a deaf ear to your pleas, to your cries. You can tell me anything you want, my daughter, my son. If you look for me, if you come after me, with all your heart, I will answer you. You will find me. And I will bring you back from this punishment.”

The last few days, my depression has been acting up. I’ve been very out of sorts. And I’ve considered going back on my anti-depressants, something I’d hoped never to do. But the thing is with my meds, I know I have about six weeks until they kick in and I feel better. Without them, I don’t know when this cloud will lift. I don’t know when I’ll feel like me again. I suffer from seasonal affective disorder (known as SAD. Yes, seriously) so I know more sun, better weather, I’ll feel better. Unfortunately, I’ve had years that it took until June for me to feel better. Other years, I’m starting to come out of it already at this time of year. I don’t know why different years are different but I can’t predict what this year will bring. 

But I do know that G-d knows how long it will last. I really wish I could see where that line in the sand is for me. G-d told the people of Israel but He doesn't tell me. And it's always hardest to go through something you're not enjoying when you don't know when it ends. So I'm trying to trust in G-d. What really hit me today was verses 12 and 13. ("You will call on me...and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.") My word for the year is seek after all. As I've been reading my Bible faithfully and spending time with Him faithfully, I've noticed G-d working. He's given me chances to share my story and to share my passion for Him. He is good. He is faithful. He made these promises to the people of Israel approximately 2600 years ago but He is fulfilling them today still

My G-d is good.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

"And I Thought I Grew Up Then"

A friend called me broken the other day.

They didn't mean to but the implication was there, just one short skip from words said to words meant.

Broken.

And you know what? That used to be true. But, like I mentioned back here, I taped myself together. These days, the tape has been replaced with glue. I'm not so much broken anymore.

But since this friend hasn't seen me in person in nearly 300 days and speaks to me these days mostly through text conversations, how are they supposed to know that I'm glued?

When I went back to my dad's during vacations from college, especially that first summer, we fought a lot. Because that's what we were used to doing, how we related to each other. It took my break-up for that to change. My dad's reaction was completely opposite what I expected which completely changed everything for us. Instead of pulling a "I was right", he was there for me entirely and told me how proud he was of me for having the strength to end things and to not fall completely apart and be a total and complete bitch to everyone around me.

In 84 days, I fly stateside. What the hell is going to happen then?

It's been a year. And like this comment from this friend made me realize, even though everyone important back home has seen glimpses of how I've changed on Facebook, on Skype, through this blog, I am no where close to the girl I was when I came here.

My first time in London, I thought I was fairly mature going there. Then I lived for three months without my parents and away from my fiance. I navigated train systems and buses. I lost my debit card and had to solve the problems that presented. I took a trip to a country where I didn't know a soul, spent four days wandering around knowing only the words "Do you speak English?", and made it out not only alive but more confident of myself than ever. The changes that started there made me into a woman. Or so I've said.

I thought I was mature going into my study abroad. Now, I look back and realize how naive I was, how much I've changed since then. I looked back during college and thought, "Well now I'm an adult. I have a house with friends. I cook dinner. We have our own dishes. I make my own schedule, aside from when class times are." I thought I was an adult.

And then I spend a year four thousand miles from home. I manage my own money and deal with the consequences when I fail at it. I take care of children on a regular basis and am responsible for their well-being. Bedtime and waking up falls on my shoulders, not my parents or my roommates. Again, I pay the consequences when I fail at those things. I'm an adult.

But I'm going home soon. And I don't have a job lined up yet. And I don't know what I'm going to do with myself. And how am I going to give up the independence I have here to fit back into my family? How am I going to maintain being a mature, responsible, self-confident, able adult... and live at home?

I don't want to slip into those teenage-d habits from before I came here. I don't want this year of change to be stuffed in the closet until I have my own place. But it's going to be a big adjustment. And I hope I don't have to live at home for long. But I know the realities and the likelihood of me living in my tiny purple bedroom with my stepsister on one side of the wall and my parental units on the other for the next year. Or more. Because of all my priorities, all the places my money is lined up to go, sadly, an apartment is one of the last big things. (Student loans, car, THEN apartment, if you're curious.)

If you're not familiar with the country song "Then" by Brad Paisley, the basic premise of the song is a man singing to his wife about all the times he thought he loved her and how it seemed impossible to love her anymore than he did at that moment. Then a few years later, something new happens, and he loves her even more. He's sure, as he's singing this song, that years from then he'll be able to look back and say, "And I thought I loved you then". He knows his love with grow even more over time and it'll dwarf how he feels now. That's how I feel about being an adult. I thought going to college made me an adult. I thought coming back from London I was an adult. I thought living in a house with friends made me an adult. I thought graduating made me an adult. I thought a year with an ocean between my loved ones and me made me an adult... Looking ahead I'm sure getting my own car, my own apartment, getting married, having a baby...

There will be more milestones. I will grow more and more. I don't know what the future holds and I don't know how I'll change. But I do know I'll look back at this and say, "And I thought I was grown up then."

Friday, February 22, 2013

The first of many, perhaps

I used to have some, shall we say, bad habits? (That's not to say that I have no bad habits anymore. I could do an entire post about my bad habits. In fact, one of these days, I might. Read: next week. That's just to say that this particular bad habit-which again, I'll get into another time-is in my past.)

And one of the things that helped me overcome them before I finally beat this particular habit was something I called "posies". I always pronounce that like the flower but really it's short for "positives" so it should be "pah-zees" not "poh-zees".

Pronunciation based on etymology was not supposed to be the point of this post... (Mary Beth, if you're reading this, I highly doubt you're cheering on my voice. He's kind of missing today I think. Oh voice... Come back...)

So what is the point of this post, you ask? Because rambling for half an hour is probably not it, right?

This post is dedicated to the things that make me feel awesome.

It isn't exhaustive.

But this is both things that make me feel grounded and return to who I really am at my best and things that make me feel kick ass. Without further ado...

I love the way I feel wearing a pair of high heels. Especially with jeans.

Coloring. Yes, coloring.

The way my winter jacket hugs my waist when I tie the sash makes me feel glamourous.

"Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" by Kelly Clarkson

The calm that settles over me when I read the Bible or when I journal reminds me of who I can be.

This Five for Fighting Pandora station that I created

Flirting is probably the most amount of fun for the smallest price I've found.

Packages. 

Especially when they have things that you've been craving.

Finding the perfect gift.

Tiramisu!

Comfort foods (BBQ chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn in this case)

Beck's Green Lemon beer

Finding a good movie or TV show to watch (current obsession: Secret Diary of a Call Girl)

Mezzo Mix

Having plans for the week lined up already

Girl's Nights

Going back home, no matter where that is (both Rochester and London in this case)

The fact that I can call London home and mean it

The fact that London being home doesn't diminish the importance of HOME any.



Those are my "posies" for the night. What are some of yours?

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Sweater Metaphor

There's this sweater I have that I love. Or I used to love it. Lately, it seems stretched out, baggy. It's not as sleek as it used to be. I don't feel as attractive in it as I used to.

Once upon a time, I felt confident enough in this sweater that I wore it the night I knew I was getting engaged. I wore the same sweater 11 months later for our engagement pictures. See how happy I look? Well part of that has to do with being ridiculously in love and part of it is that I felt confident.



That sweater? It doesn't fit so well these days. I feel sort of slouchy and not pulled together in it. I wear it only when I'm running out of other clothes. 

So why am I taking the time to write about a sweater? Because I think it's a metaphor. I think there are things in our lives that fit perfectly once. They're just right at that time. But they can shift. And they suddenly don't fit us anymore. That shift can happen without us even noticing. And, like me with this sweater, sometimes we refuse to get rid of it because it used to be perfect.

The night I told my ex I had taken off my ring and that I was willing to let him go, I insisted before we go into Starbucks, before I told him, that he kiss me one more time. After being with him for so long, after loving him so much, I wanted one more kiss. In the words of Ilsa Lund, "Kiss me as if it were the last time". (Newsflash: that kiss? Saddest thing ever. Yes I got my last kiss from him. But tears were streaming down my face. I knew he didn't want to be kissing me. He didn't love me anymore and it was the most soulless kiss I've ever experienced.) As we walked inside, I grabbed his hand like I'd done a million times. I held the hand of the man I loved desperately. One. Last. Time. And do you know what?

It didn't fit.

His hand, which once felt like it was made for mine, didn't fit anymore. I don't know when that changed or how long I clung to the idea that his hand filled the spaces mine left like none other would. But it changed. His hand felt awkward in mine. It felt strange. It did not belong there. I thank G-d for that. Those last moments, that horrible last kiss, the walk from the car inside holding a hand that didn't fit anymore are awful memories. They hurt even now to think of them. (It's been over 14 and a half months since then and I'm still on the verge of tears over these memories.) But remembering how we didn't fit anymore, how the spaces my body leaves are not designed for that man anymore, it reassures me that I did the right thing.

It's so easy to remember the nights our bodies curved together perfectly. To miss the times he held me and my head fit perfectly in "the nook". (For those people who have never watched Sex and the City, "the nook" is that space between a guy's neck/shoulder/chest. That's where my head goes when I sleep-and I mean REM cycles here-with a guy.) This time of year, with Valentine's Day just behind me and my birthday just around the corner, it's really easy to miss having someone special to celebrate with. It's moments like this morning though, when I realize the significance of a stretched out sweater, that remind me why I'm single.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

One Word: Seek

I decided against a traditional resolution this year. I have monthly goals and a word that encompasses my hopes for the year. My word is Seek. I'm seeking G-d. Daily. I'm seeking His Will for my life. I'm seeking my path, my next job. I'm praying for my romantic life and that I might see the next step. No matter who it's with. My goal for January was to read the Bible every day. I missed a few days but have been much more consistent than before. This month for February, my goal is to drink 3 bottles of water a day. Other goals include exercise, reducing technology use, etc.

(Made by Melanie at Only A Breath)

So how am I seeking? I'm working my way through Isaiah right now through a YouVersion reading plan since the first of the month with some girls from my lifegroup. I've also been trying to read a Psalm a day. And I've been journalling a bunch. Okay I've journalled 26 pages since the beginning of the year. And it's not difficult for me to write 5 at a time. (I've also realized my journals in the future will be spiral bound. I can't do this book binding style when I get more than halfway in.)

I've been doing a bunch of job searching lately. (Another form of "seek"-ing.) And there are days when it really bugs me. I hate doing it. I don't want to stay here forever. I'm homesick. But I don't want to be doing this job search thing. I feel underqualified for a lot of jobs. My college jobs were in the food service industry. And most of my job working with kids was informal. I've watched my little sister since she was born. I took care of my three month old cousin for a few hours when I was eight years old. On my week of vacation, I stole my five month old niece and took care of her whenever I could. (And the smiles I got out of that baby are priceless. This chick here is one very proud aunt with one adorable niece.) But those aren't things I can put on my resume. My babysitting jobs tended to be one off's. I don't have many references. This year as an au pair and the two summers I took care of a girl in the next town who has autism are my best things. I am capable. I am intelligent. I love to learn and I can do it quickly. But I need someone willing to teach me.

So do you have a word for the year? Do you have a resolution? And have you stuck to it so far? It's only been 41 days afterall.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Day Four: Ten Likes and Dislikes


Likes
  1. Coffee
  2. Tea
  3. Chocolate
  4. Accents
  5. Cuddling
  6. Reading
  7. Pizza and wings
  8. Art
  9. Music
  10. Koin (a worship service each Sunday night at my alma mater)
Dislikes
  1. When the internet suddenly goes down
  2. Arguing
  3. Feeling worthless
  4. Anxiety attacks
  5. Wanting to curl up in a ball
  6. Bad hair days
  7. Running late
  8. Crowds
  9. Peanut butter chocolate cake
  10. Stores being closed on Sundays

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Monday, January 21, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Day 1

I've decided to do a 30 day challenge. I'm also doing this over on my tumblr.




Picture taken by Christian Colburn.

  1. My family situation is so complicated that I can't tell you how many siblings I have without qualification. Short answer: between 1 and 8. Long answer: 1 half brother, 1 half sister, 1 brother, 2 stepbrothers I never see, 1 stepsister I've never met, 1 stepbrother and 1 stepsister that aren't legally my stepsiblings. Truest answer: I'm one of 6.
  2. I'm probably addicted to my devices. Especially my iPod. His name is Rory.
  3. I've been drinking coffee since I was 3 days old. These days, I drink it with 4 spoons of sugar and a splash of milk. Preferably a hint of flavoured creamer.
  4. My wardrobe is mostly jeans and t-shirts but I'm working on turning it into a more adult, grown up closet. Classy, sophisticated, but still comfortable.
  5. Though none of my biological siblings have children, I have a "big sister" with a daughter who I consider my niece. I am very proud to be Aunt Victoria.
  6. When I was 16, I was officially diagnosed with severe depression and more severe anxiety. This year is the first time I've been off my anti-depressants since then for more than six months.
  7. I have no idea what I look like with my natural hair color. It's some shade of brown but my whole head hasn't been covered with it since 2006. I enjoy dying my hair and changing it up too much.
  8. After being a student for 19 years, I graduated from a private Christian college with a degree in English (writing emphasis) and minors in Education (which was my major for 5 of my 8 semesters) and Communications (which I may go on to get my masters in).
  9. I was engaged for about three years. It ended November 2011 and though I miss who we were sometimes, I don't miss who he is now. I was obsessed with planning our wedding instead of our marriage.
  10. Most importantly, I am a Christian. Without the strength of Jesus, there are many things in my life that would be so very different. The way I handled my engagement ending, the way I'm surviving this year abroad, the fact that I'm off my anti-depressants. I can turn and point it all back to Him.