Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Weakness I Wasn't Expecting

Anyone who knows me well or who has read my blog on a somewhat regular basis will know that I'm not too shy about admitting my weaknesses.  I know full well that I'm anxious, awkward, soft-spoken, hot-tempered, easily discouraged, insecure, and well, pretty much just a hot mess.  I also like myself fairly well most of the time.  I struggle with guilt over silly things and often get frustrated with how hard it is for a lot of people to understand me, but I figure I'm all right.  All this crazy here comes with a large side order of awesome, so I can't complain.  

And there are those who disagree and even get angry with me because they think I'm being too hard on myself.  Maybe I am, sometimes.  But there's a difference between feeling sorry for myself and just being realistic.  And the reality is that I've got a lot weakness.  The reality also is that God has a lot of strength.  If I have any reason to boast, it's not in me.  It's always in Him.

My life verse, for lack of a better term, is 1 Corinthians 1:27 (I'm including some context verses):

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;  but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,  and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,  so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,  so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”(1 Corinthians 1:26-30)

But people aren't comfortable with weaknesses.  And I'd like to believe I'm more comfortable than I am with them, but I've recently been reminded that I'm not all that comfortable with my weaknesses, either.

It started last Sunday morning.  Yes, last Sunday, that somehow feels like it happened about 5 years ago.  We had a guest speaker.  He was talking about Ezekiel and how the dry bones came to life, and how God is able to do things that are impossible for man.  And I was nodding my head and "amening" and thinking, "That is so true."  And I found myself praying that God would continue to be strong through my weaknesses, that God would continue being wisdom in my folly, because that's my only hope.

And my mind wandered (that happens occasionally, okay?) and I started thinking about all the dreams I have, all the things I am trying to accomplish with my writing and everything else.  And I prayed in my heart, "Thank you, God, that I'm weak and foolish.  Thank you.  It's a blessing.  Because I know, I KNOW I can't do these things on my own.  And I pray that you'll help me put in the work I need to do, but I pray even more that you will go before me and make a way for these dreams to happen.  I want to know, I want everyone to know, that there's no way I can ever achieve my dreams without your help.  I want to be able to stand on the other side of success and be able to proclaim how weak I am, so that others will know that the only way I was able to accomplish these things was through your strength.  I want to see my weaknesses as a gift."

And I was a little specific in my request.  But God doesn't always do things the way we expect.  

And so Tuesday morning, my car broke down.  Again.  In fact, the a/c compressor got stuck, overheated, melted a lot of stuff underneath my car, and almost caught my car on fire.  On.  Fire.  And I had kids in the car with me.  I held it together long enough for the kids to get picked up by friends and parents, and then I kind of panicked a little.  I wasn't clear-headed enough to make well-informed decisions, so when I called AAA and they suggested I go to an AAA service center, I was like, "AAA.  Yes.  Okay.  Good."  Their labor was expensive, so I overpaid.  And I left the service center with a weird sound in my car that wasn't there before.  When I took it back to ask if maybe they hadn't tightened a bolt up properly or whatever, they said that THEY hadn't done anything wrong, but that another part needed fixing, one that might possibly be responsible for the weird sound.  They showed it to me, and it was an old part, and it probably did need replacing.  So I had that fixed, too.  And it was also a little expensive.  But the weird sound is still in my car.  The guy told me it would be another part that needed fixing, and it would be expensive.  But I couldn't afford any more expensive.  

My emergency credit card was (and is) nearly maxed out.  I no can afford any more emergency.

And I felt as though I'd been taken advantage of (probably not, but I should have gone somewhere with cheaper labor costs).  And I felt as though I'd just made nothing but horrible decisions.  And I felt as though I'd been the biggest idiot in the world for not buying a new-to-me car last year when my transmission went out, instead of getting the transmission fixed.  

Then at about 5:15 this morning, I woke up from a bad dream to an absolute nightmare.  Something in my dream had made me jerk, and when I jerked, excruciating pain woke me up.  I couldn't move.  For a few terrifying seconds, I thought I was paralyzed, but it was small relief to realize that I couldn't possibly be paralyzed because it hurt SO badly.  I tried to get up, but my neck and right shoulder were just locked up in pain.  It took me about fifteen minutes to get to the point where I could sit up.  I figured I should go try to take a shower to relax the muscles.  Standing up took another ten minutes.  I carefully rummaged around, getting my shower stuff together.  Then I walked towards my bedroom door.  

I hadn't even stepped into the hallway when my vision started going all black and fuzzy, and I realized that I was in so much pain that my body just wanted to go ahead and lose consciousness for a bit.  I had the common sense to hold on to the door frame for dear life.  I stood there about ten seconds, waiting for the dizziness to subside, but it just got worse.  I realized somehow that I was either going to have to lower myself to the floor (which I knew was going to hurt like the dickens on account of my neck going on strike) or I was going to collapse to the floor against my will and maybe get injured even further in the process.  So I sucked it up and grit my teeth through the pain and lowered myself to the floor.  I lie flat on my face for a few minutes and got a bit friendly with my carpet.  

I did not actually pass out.  But something interesting happened.  You know that RED ALERT sound that they play on Star Trek when the ship is being attacked by Klingons or Romulans or spacial anomalies or whatever? body was literally on RED ALERT.  The black spots in front of my eyes changed color and started flashing red.  My ears were ringing and even pulsating LOUDLY like an alarm.  So I figure that my body is pretty much the U.S.S. Enterprise.  NCC 1701-D.  Because Data and Picard are my homies.  Yo.

But all I could do was to lie there waiting for the lights to stop flashing, the ringing in my ears to go away.  

When it did, I managed to sit up on the floor.  I was thankful my heating pad was under my bed where I could reach it, and I had some ibuprofen in my lunch bag, which I'd left by my bed.  So I drugged myself up and heated my neck and just sat there thinking and praying for a good hour.

I started to realize something.  All that pain and discouragement and difficulty that I've gone through this past week was actually an answer to prayer.  I'd asked to see my weakness as a gift.  So God gave me situations where I was helpless.  God gave me situations where I was weak.

That wasn't what I prayed for--or was it?  I was asking God to reveal His strength through my weakness.  And I meant further on down the road when I hopefully have some big things accomplished because He has given me the grace to accomplish them.  But the thing I'm learning about God is that He doesn't have the tunnel vision we do.  I see the things I want eventually, the glorious things I think God could do in me that will reveal His glory in some big and huge and important way.  

But God sees the whole picture.  And I don't know what He's going to do a year or five years or ten years down the road.  I only know what He's done in the past--things that give me a lot of very solid reasons to trust Him, and I only know what's happening right now.  And right now He's doing something.  He's answering me in a way I didn't expect.  He's giving me situations that are difficult for me, that make realize how weak and needy I am.

To be honest, part of me wants to hide away from everyone in the world right now, lick my wounds, just wallow in how everything is just completely out of my control.  But...but God has chosen the weak to shame the strong. 

So maybe I don't emotionally feel like getting up and leaving the house and going to work, but I'm going to.  And what's more, I'm going with an attitude adjustment.  Because God's given me all these abilities to work, to live, to be.  He's given me amazing friends who help me out (even when I want to be too prideful to accept their help--that's a lesson all in itself!).  And it doesn't matter if I'm wounded or weak or foolish.  It's not about what I'm not.  It's about who He is, and about what He's doing in me.  

And I don't know if anyone will see this and be encouraged.  I don't know if anyone will see this and come away from it with a more glorious picture of who God is.  But I step out in faith that He's going to receive glory even through my weaknesses.  I can't boast in anything except for Him.  So I'm going to boast in Him.

So, yeah, I'm thankful for even this weakness, the weakness I wasn't expecting.  I pray He'll also use it in ways I could never expect.  

This year's theme--Don't Be Afraid.  Phew...I never could have believed all that He would teach me, all that He is teaching me.  I'm so grateful He loves me enough to teach me, even when the lessons are hard.  He's faithful. 

I'm boasting in Him.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Almost a year ago now, when I was moving into the house in which I am currently living, one of my roommates had a friend come and help her move.  I'd never met this person before, so we knew absolutely nothing about one another except for what our mutual friend had told us.  My roommate told me that while they were sorting through stuff, her friend came across a side table I had placed in the living room.  Not knowing whose it was or if it needed to be "unpacked," she opened up the drawer to the table and discovered two cat figurines that my grandmother had given me years ago.  She told my roommate, "Wow.  So this Ruth person must REALLY like cats."

Thus, before this lady ever met me, she already had ideas about who she thought I was.  And over the course of several months, after she had actually met me, my roommate's friend made a couple comments to me about how much I liked cats.

And I do like cats (though not nearly as much as she assumed--and certainly not enough for that to be the sum of  my entire identity), but it was extremely frustrating to me for this stranger to have already decided who I was before she ever met me, especially based on a couple of cat figurines I had forgotten in a drawer.

Maybe it's the way I feel I have to be honest about everything, but I don't like it when people think they know me and really don't.  Back in college, I remember being on a ministry team where the leader thought he had me figured out really early on.  I'm quiet around strangers, and it takes me a while to get used to new situations.  But when I was ready to really start getting involved in the ministry team, I found that I couldn't.  I'd already been labeled as, more or less, dead weight.  I offered my talents, but had no opportunity to use them, because the other people on the team thought they had me figured out.  And they wouldn't give me a chance to move beyond their ideas of me.  So, after struggling with that for a few weeks and praying through it, I quit the team. 

And since then, I really haven't liked it when people have incorrect ideas about me.  I am sorely tempted to go to this extreme where if I people don't know me for the real me, I don't want them to know me at all.  

But lately I've been thinking about how I perceive other people, and about how my perceptions are most likely skewed somehow.  I've been thinking about how aside from family and close friends, most people really have no clue who another person really is.  And even within family and close friends, no one really, really, really knows another person.  In fact, we probably don't even know ourselves too well.

And even when we do start to know ourselves, it's still pretty complicated.  We're always changing.  We're letting go of past things, reaching towards new things, experiencing new pains and joys.  We're never the same.  It's no wonder it seems impossible to be known, sometimes.

I took that a step further and started thinking about every relationship I've ever had ever.  And by "relationship" I mean friendships, I mean family, I mean coworkers, I mean acquaintances, I mean parents of the children I watch, I mean those people I often talk to on Facebook but seldom talk to in real life, I mean people I see on a regular basis working at the post office, I mean people who wait on me at the Walmart, I mean the guy I waved to while driving out in the country where everyone waves to one another, I mean people who I've only met once ever in my life.  What if every one who has ever met me has an idea of me in their head.  

Now, I figure I'm actually pretty forgettable to a lot of the people I've only met once, but there might be a few of them who have some kind of lasting impression somehow.  Maybe I smiled or said thank you to someone and made their day; maybe I frowned or said thank you in a way that made them wonder if I was being sarcastic and made them grumpy; maybe they remembered the way my hair was sticking up; maybe they thought I was cute or awkward or weird or nice or whatever.  

But let's say I've met five thousand people in my life (it's probably been WAY more than that, but let's just say five thousand people actually remember meeting me).  If each of these people has an impression of who I am, then there are five thousand versions of me floating around in people's minds.  And I don't think anyone sits around and thinks about me constantly or anything, but I'm there--or a version of me is there--in someone's mind.  And maybe none of them are completely accurate, and maybe some of them are waaaaay off.  And maybe there are people out there who are almost complete strangers who think I'm a crazy cat lady based on a couple figurines in a drawer, or a quiet person who has absolutely nothing to offer.  And there's really nothing I can do about it.

(Sidenote: What if there are a lot of different versions of me? But I digress...)

And in the end, I think it's true that God's the only One who really, really knows us.  As I said before, we probably don't even know ourselves that well.  We don't always know how well we're going to respond to a situation until we're in the midst of it.  And sometimes we surprise ourselves by being a lot braver or nobler or stronger than we knew we could be.  And sometimes we disappoint ourselves by being more cowardly or crueler or less faithful than we thought we really were.  And we're all in a state of flux, never consistently being the SELF that we think we should be, always growing or declining, never being complete.

And that's perhaps why God is the only One who really knows us.  He knows us, not just the person we were, not just the person we are, not just the person we will be.  Given the name of this blog, it's no surprise that one of my favorite passages is 1 Corinthians 13.  I like the "love verses," and really, the whole passage is about love, but I like the verses towards the end of the chapter more than the descriptions of love.

"For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.  When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." (1 Cor. 13:9-12 NASB)

Right now, we don't have the full picture of who we are (and so how can we be expected to have a complete picture of who others are?).  We're not going to have a full picture of ourselves, of others, of God, of anything until we've moved past this life and into eternity.  

My desire to be known by other people is a desire that I think everyone has.  We want to be understood.  We want other people to see us.  But the expectation to be fully known by other people is unrealistic.  It's simply not possible on this side of Heaven.  And recently I've realized that I've made an idol out of wanting to be known and understood.  I've gotten angry when people have made assumptions about me.  I've gotten really hurt by people who have flat out misunderstood me.  But I had those emotions because I was expecting other people to do for me something that only God can really do.

Because He knows me.  He knows who I was without Him.  He knows who I am while I'm striving to know Him more.  He knows who I am in completion, though I'm not there yet.  He knows I'll be there one day.  He sees me that way, as I should be, but He loves me and guides me while I'm not as I should be.  It's a mystery, but it's a beautiful mystery.  And when I stop trying to promote myself so much--the SELF I don't even fully understand--then, I realize that I already have what I'm searching for.  I've had it all along.  

And while it's always going to be a struggle, and I'm always going to want to be understood, and I'm always going to want to be known, it's a comfort to know that I'm already known perfectly.  It's a comfort to know that one day I'm going to know as fully as I am known.  

I said in a previous blog that I probably should just learn to like the fact that I'm misunderstood.  I don't know if I'm there yet or if I will ever be there or even if I should be there.  I'm not supposed to be too comfortable here, because this isn't Home.  It's easy to forget that.  But I need to remember that more and forget myself more.  It's funny how you're probably more yourself when you're less conscious of self.  

I figure I'll get there eventually, on the other side of the dark glass.  For now it's just a poor reflection.  But I think there's grace that we can see at all, no matter how much the image is distorted.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Prophets, Reality, and More Bad Raps

A couple years ago, I was listening to the radio, and a band called Sidewalk Prophets was talking about their band name.  They had taken it from a line in a Jars of Clay song (Art in Me) that went, "Images on a sidewalk speak of dreams descent."  They also came up with the word "prophets" by reading the dictionary and discovering that one of the meanings of "prophet" was simply "someone who tells the truth about life."

I'm not a huge Sidewalk Prophets fan or anything (though I LOVE Jars of Clay), but I think they were on to something.  Because I think it's typical for people to think about prophets as something weird and strange, mystical and mysterious.  I think it's typical for people to assume that prophets were people God used back in the Old Testament, but that prophets don't exist anymore today.

But if you look at the definition the Sidewalk Prophets adopted, that a prophet is someone who tells the truth about life, then yes.  I do think that God gifts people with prophecy today, and I think they're more common than most people presume.  I don't think that prophets necessarily do predict the future (some might), but I think that sometimes they can see how things are going to go by looking at the reality of situations.  Prophets, people who see and tell the truth about life, are like the ultimate realists.  They look at a situation and say, "This is not going well," but they also say, "this is what needs to change if things are going to get better."  And I'm not too sure which one is more offensive to people--the accusation that things are bad, or the challenge to do something differently.  All I know is that prophets and realists are offensive.  Unintentionally.

...I may or may not be a prophet...
(the writing kind, not the preaching kind)
...the jury is still out...
...but I am a realist...
...and I am mysterious...
...and I do like Dragons... that's nice...

And if you read one of my recent posts that is kinda sorta NOT about Eeyore, you're really going to know that I really think realists get a really bad rap.  Really.

I've had to learn the hard way that when you tell the truth about life, people don't like it.  And I really should have been more prepared, especially since a lot of the Biblical prophets had it pretty bad.  When they weren't busy getting persecuted (the real kind where you could actually lose your life, not the American version where you have a flat tire and are only mildly inconvenienced), threatened, thrown in cisterns, having their written prophecies torn and burned up, being ordered to tell lies like all the false prophets, etc., they had to do some pretty crazy stuffs to illustrate the prophecies they'd been given.  Isaiah wandered around naked.  Hosea married a prostitute.  Ezekiel had to lie on his side for over a year and then cut off his hair and beat it with a sword.  I'm not trying to make light of Scripture, but really...what did Zeke's neighbors think?

And maybe prophets were just weird, okay?  Because John the Baptist wore camel skin and ate locusts and wild honey. Locusts and wild honey.  If I were going to eat giant-freak grasshoppers, I'd probably put some honey on them, too.  Helps them go down easier, I'm sure.  And maybe that's part of the whole prophet experience.  If you're going to go out into the wilderness to see a freak show tell you the truth about life, then you're going to go out into the wilderness to see a freak show tell you the truth about life.  Jesus even had something to say about that: 

...Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings' palaces! But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, 'BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.' Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.  For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John.  And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear.  But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children and say, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon!' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds." (Matthew 11: 7-19 NASB)

Jesus knew why the people had come out to see John the Baptist.  And I imagine he was quite the sight.  People probably came to John for the novelty, to see someone weird and different who had something to say.  But he spoke the truth in both love and power, and people's hearts and lives were changed.  But there were also those who scoffed at and persecuted and killed John, and there were those who scoffed at and persecuted and killed Jesus, too.  And there are those who scoff at and persecute (and, yes, sometimes even kill) the prophets of today.  Because no matter whether you're wearing a suit and tie or a suit made of camel skin, if you're telling people something true that they don't want to hear, they're going to hate you for it.  

And no one really wants to be told the truth about the sin they're trying to hide or deny.  No one wants to be told that their sin is going to lead to death and hell.  No one wants to be told that there is absolutely nothing they can do in their own strength to save themselves.  People want to be told that life is going to pleasant and good, that they can do whatever they want, that they don't have to follow any God besides their own heart-idols.  They want to be told that they're essentially good and strong in their own merit.  They want to be told that they are special and wonderful and are always going to get what they want, regardless of how they live.  

Prophets get a bad rap because people always want to kill the messenger.  

Prophets get a bad rap because people like having someone else to blame.

Prophets get a bad rap because ignorance really is bliss, and people really want to be blissful.  They don't want to be convicted.  They don't want to change.  So they sweep the problem under the rug, and they sweep the prophets out the door.

And people miss the message they need because it's not what they want to hear.  They miss the message because they lie to themselves that prophets are gloomy and depressing and have nothing good to say.  But most of the prophets in the Old Testament had good news at the end of the bad.  And the prophets of today have hope at the end of the despair.

I have heard many, many people say that realists are just pessimists in disguise, but I disagree.  A realist sees a situation for what it is.  And the reality of our human situation is that we're sinners.  And because God is holy, He can't tolerate sin.  So that means we're going to be separated from Him forever.

But that's not the end of the matter.  It should be, but it's not.  The reality of our situation is also something pretty amazing--that God loved us while we were still sinners, and came to die in our place.  He came to be fleshly like us so that we could be Holy like Him.  The Old Testament prophets had good news, hope, in the midst of the stark reality of the Israelites' sins.  The prophets today have good news, hope, in the midst of the stark reality of our sins.

But the reality also is that people still don't want to hear that.  They want to believe the more comfortable lies.  And they still want to kill the messengers.  So prophets are called liars or idiots or fools.  Prophets are called intolerant or bigots or religious fanatics who are stuck in the dark ages.  Prophets are called unloving.  Prophets are called hateful.  People make up lies about prophets to make them look like the ones who are evil.  And people want to believe those lies rather than to face the truth.

And all the while, the prophets who remain obedient keep speaking the truth in love to a world that just doesn't want to hear it.

It's hard, and it's heartbreaking.  It's heartbreaking because a true prophet doesn't just care about the message; a true prophet cares about the people who hear the message.  But so few have ears to hear.

Still...the prophet speaks.

The reality doesn't change just because no one wants to hear it.  And people are still sinners even if they don't want to believe it.  And Jesus is still our only hope even if no one wants to accept Him.

Jesus is still our only hope. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Why People Aren't Reading My Blogs

After about, oh, let's say 12 good years of blogging (more or less--I'm counting my old xanga account AND the diaryland account I had even before THAT), I've finally come to the conclusion that I'm not a blogger.

I've been thinking along these lines for a while, even though I wasn't able to put it quite in that perspective until very recently.  And I really should have gotten it, especially when people would read my blogs and say to me things like, "Where are the pictures?" and "Why are there so many paragraphs?"  But I'm pretty thick sometimes, and it's taken me until now to realize that my idea of a blog isn't what other people think of when they think of a blog.

As I said, I've been thinking along these lines for a while, but one of my friends on the Facebook ( asked a simple question about why most blogs seem to be more lists than actual writing.  My immediate thought was, "Because people don't read blogs that contain actual writing."  And my next thought was, "Oh."

And I know there's seldom just one reason why something is or isn't happening.  I could promote my blogs better or have better source material.  I could even just accept the fact that sometimes my style of writing isn't what some people like--or even maybe accept that my writing isn't as good a quality as I would like to believe.  But I think one of the main reasons people aren't reading my blog is because they click the link to read it, see a lot of paragraphs, no pictures, no lists, and think, "Ain't nobody got time fo dat."  So whatever I wrote, however awful or brilliant, never actually gets read.

Now, I do think my blogs get read sometimes.  Occasionally, people even let me know they have read my blogs by leaving a comment or clicking one of the response buttons or leaving me a Facebook comment or even telling me in person (that's always a fun conversation: "I read your blog, Ruth.  I loved it!"  "Oh thanks! one did you read?"  "The funny one."  "Oh.  Okay.  Can you be more specific?"  "The funny one with all the words."  "Oh.  Gotcha.  But not really.  But seriously, THANKS.").  I love feedback.  Really.  Really really really.  Feedback is awesome.  Comment on my blogs.  Leave me a little comment or a like on the Facebook.  By all means, by all all means, SHARE my blogs.  I'm very, very okay with that.  Most writers aren't nearly as secure as most people think.

Which is why I've even TRIED to be a blogger according to the way most people enjoy blogs.  Some of my more recent blogs, especially at my other blog have included more pictures and lists, and less traditional paragraph writing.  Honestly, writing a blog like that is fun, and I think there are ways to be creative in that format.  But I look back at those blogs, and I start to wonder how much of that "writing" was my creativity and how much of it was just a copy and paste of funny images.  Again, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with blogs like that, and there are ways to be creative using pictures and lists.  I might even do more blogs like that in the future.  But I know I wouldn't be honest to myself or to my writing if I didn't also continue my traditional way of blogging--which might not even be considered blogging at all.

I want my writing to be read.  That's why I write it.  I want people to see my thoughts and respond with thoughts of their own.  And the harsh reality is that prose in blogging is something a lot of blog readers just don't want to see.  It's not their fault.  Life is busy, and if a blog doesn't get its point across concisely, most readers aren't going to take the time to delve into it.  That's why I think the majority of blogging is done in a list/picture format.  Here's 10 Things That are Great About Llamas.  Here's 22 Ways to Make Your Boyfriend Jealous.  Here's 99.3 Reasons that Bob Saggett is Cooler Than Your Dad.  People want to read things in that format because it's easy to read quickly without much effort or thought.  That's the way life is right now.  I don't see it changing anytime soon.

But I guess I'm still going to hold out that there are those who will occasionally sit down and read something a little more lengthy, a little less gimmicky.  My blogs may or may not get read.  And maybe I'm just an idiot, but honesty in my writing seems more important to getting blog hits.  And maybe I'm learning a lot about honesty, and maybe there will be another long blog about honesty that no one will read.

All I know to do right now is just be faithful with what I've been given to do in the best way I know how to do it.  And sometimes that might be in fun lists with silly gifs, and sometimes that's going to be in serious, long paragraphs.  I can try to be concise, but sometimes I'm fighting a losing battle.  But if you're interested, then read what I write.  And if you read what I write, leave me some feedback.  And if you like what you read, then share it with a friend!  Because, as I might have mentioned, I'm not nearly as secure as some people think.

I'm just gonna keep blogging the only way I know how, even if the way I know how isn't really blogging.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Bad Raps and Rain Clouds

You know who has a bad rap?  Eeyore has a bad rap.

This post is not really about Eeyore, but as usual,
 it takes me forever to get to my point, so Pooh bear with me.
...but isn't that a great face Eeyore is making, there?

Now, the gloomy little guy actually does have a fairly big following, but even among those who love Eeyore, he's a pretty misunderstood fictional character.  And I tend to get upset when people diss my favorite fictional characters.  

As a life-long fan of the old gray donkey (ever since I first saw "Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore" when I was about 4??), I get pretty annoyed when people assume that Eeyore is just a depressed pessimist who needs to get a life.  

But when you actually read the original Milne and study the character of Eeyore, you realize he's actually a pretty funny dude.  I mean, his sense of humor isn't for everyone, but I'm a HUGE fan of his dry wit.  Too many people mistake it for pure depression.  In reality (if he were, you know, real), he's just dripping with sarcasm.  It is hilarious and good:

"After all, one can't complain. I have my friends. Somebody spoke to me only yesterday. And was it last week or the week before that Rabbit bumped into me and said 'Bother!'. The Social Round. Always something going on."

"It's snowing still. ...And freezing.  ...However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately."

"I don't know how it is, Christopher Robin, but what with all this snow and one thing and another, not to mention icicles and such-like, it isn't so Hot in my field about three o’clock in the morning as some people think it is. It isn't Close, if you know what I mean - not so as to be uncomfortable. It isn't Stuffy. In fact, Christopher Robin," he went on in a loud whisper, "quite-between-ourselves-and-don't-tell anybody, it's Cold."

"Eeyore, what are you doing there?" said Rabbit.
"I'll give you three guesses, Rabbit. Digging holes in the ground? Wrong. Leaping from branch to branch of a young oak tree? Wrong. Waiting for somebody to help me out of the river? Right. Give Rabbit time, and he'll always get the answer."

"Oh, Eeyore, you are wet!" said Piglet, feeling him.
Eeyore shook himself, and asked somebody to explain to Piglet what happened when you had been inside a river for quite a long time.

"They're funny things, Accidents. You never have them till you're having them."

Gloomy?  Maybe.  But I wouldn't say pessimistic.  I see Eeyore as more of a realist.  Because you'd be gloomy, too, if this was your reality:

He's an elderly donkey, stuffed with itchy sawdust, who always loses his tail (and has to have it nailed back on when they eventually find it again--um, ouch), and whose house is always falling down.   He's also stuck in a forest with a bunch of dim-witted guys (and one overprotective mother kangaroo lady) who have fluff for brains.  His "friends" don't pay him much attention, unless they're bouncing on him or asking to stand on his back so they can get to hard-to-reach places or some other ridiculous nonsense.  His sarcasm and gloom are actually COPING MECHANISMS for the messed up reality in which he lives.  If he wasn't so sarcastic, his brain would probably turn to fluff, too.

But, Eeyore isn't all dark and gloom.

And to make a long story short (too late), I'll show you, rather than just tell you, about Eeyore's most optimistic moment.  Because if your "friends" forgot your birthday, bounced you into a river and then accused you of lying about it, then had the nerve to give you NOTHING but an empty honey pot and a broken balloon as birthday presents, I doubt you'd find as much joy as he did.  Here's "Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore"  It's like 25 minutes, but it's brilliant.  I'll wait while you watch Eeyore not be a Donnie Downer.  Go ahead.  Watch.  Or just scroll down past the video because you're lazy....

Yeah, if you watched, you saw that Eeyore made the most out of a situation that, well, kind of sucked.  And if you didn't watch, then take my word for it.  Eeyore is not always sad, and in fact, sometimes finds great joy in the smallest things.  And sometimes he shows a lot of grace to people animals who are jerks to him.

But...Eeyore has a bad rap.

Because people confuse pessimism and realism all the time.

Which is one of the reasons why, sometimes, I also get a bad rap.

And I don't want all my posts to be about "me, me, me," nor do I want to be a whiny blogger who just talks about all her problems all the time.  But in this "year of Fear Not," I've learned that something WE ALL WANT is to be understood.  What WE ALL WANT, and desperately, is to be known.  And so this is a blog about my personal experiences, but my hope is that other people can relate on some level.  I'm not seeking total understanding, because I've learned that being completely understood by another human being is a lie, and the pursuit of being understood can be an idol.  Sometimes we can't have understanding.  Sometimes we can't even have respect.  But when we don't have a choice in how others treat us, we always have a choice in how we act and react....

Even if we have a bad rap, like the one others sometimes project upon me.

Because I'm pretty straightforward, but sometimes people like to read WAY too much into the straightforward things that I say.

Sometimes I say things like, "I'm socially awkward."
What I mean is, "I'm socially awkward."
What people hear sometimes is, "I'm socially awkward and that is the worst thing ever and I wish I were dead, please kill me now or pray that I'm healed from the demon of social awkwardness."

Sometimes I say things like, "I don't have very much self-confidence."
I mean, "I don't have very much self-confidence."
What people hear sometimes is, "I NEED more self-confidence because life is horrible without it, and NO ONE can function in today's society without self-confidence.  Please direct me to the nearest self-help seminar or book series or audio tape so that I can be self-confident and happy like everyone else."

Sometimes I say things like, "I'm weak, but God is strong."
What I mean is, "I'm weak, but God is strong."
What people hear sometimes is, "I'm pathetic and hate myself.  I need to learn how to be strong in myself.  That God stuff is just something people say to sound holy, but really, I want to be strong on my own."

I happen to be pretty sarcastic, too, because sometimes I have to be.  Otherwise, I'd punch too many people in too many faces, and that might possibly get me arrested.

But sometimes people don't respond to the straightforward.  And sometimes people don't respond to the sarcasm.  And for most of my life, I've just been putting up with people when they try to tell me all the little ways I'm wrong and need to change.  For far too many years, I even thought they were right--because if I'm going to second guess, I'm going to second guess myself first.  That's part of my nature...not that there's anything wrong with it.

Because that's the thing that I've finally figured out.  For years, people, well well meaning people, would tell me that they loved me for who I am, but they thought I needed to be more self-confident.  They'd tell me they loved me for who I am, but they thought I needed to stand up for myself.  They'd tell me they loved me for who I am, but they thought I should be more assertive, less soft spoken, less apologetic, less timid and more bold, etc.  Some would even imply I was sinning if I wasn't doing these things they thought I should be doing, or acting in the ways I thought I should be acting.  They said they loved me for me, but they wanted to change things that were at the very core of who I am.

And one day, pretty recently, actually, it finally clicked that those well-meaning people wanted me to be me, just as long as me was someone completely different.  And they were the ones telling me to be myself, but they didn't like who I was or even know who I was.  And the more I started thinking about it, the more I realized that those little things they wanted to change, they're not just parts of me--they're things I actually LIKE about me.

And it's weird, I get it, okay?  It's weird to like being awkward.  It's weird to like being soft-spoken.  It's weird to like apologizing all the time.  But it's who I am.  I wasted years feeling guilty because I wasn't who people thought I should be.  I even tried to be who people thought I should be, and I just ended up frustrated and hurt.  It took me awhile, but I've realized I CAN'T be something I'm not--even if those things I can't be seem like really good things--and I'm more than okay with that.  And all those people who told me to stand up for myself and be more confident, well, they're finally getting their wish, but not in the way they expected.  Because the only ones I really feel the need to stand up against are them.  And I will if I have to.

There's a few things people need to know about me, things that seem completely contradictory.  Maybe they are, but they're nonetheless true:

1. I apologize too much, but I won't apologize for it.
2. I am VERY confident about the fact that I don't have much confidence.
3. I'm not very assertive, but I'll FIGHT you for my right to be non-assertive.

I lived for over 30 years before I realized that I'm not the one with the problem.  And, as I said before, I'm not one to push blame on others.  I usually look for fault in myself first.  Which might have been why it was so easy to accept it when other people saw fault in me.

But what I'm finding, finally, is that while good-natured, well-intentioned people really WANT to help and really think that they're helping sometimes, they end up trying to fix something that was never broken.  And sometimes they end up breaking things that were just fine the way they were.

And I know I have to be gracious, because I can definitely understand the confusion.  It sounds good to be self-confident.  It sounds good to be assertive.  It sounds good to be strong.  It sounds good to have it all together.

But I don't have it all together.

And don't mis-hear me.  I said I don't have it all together.

I didn't say that was a bad thing.

I know myself, and I like myself.  And all the little quirks and idiosyncrasies that make up who I am are not things I despair of.  Sure, there's things I'd like to change about myself, but all in all, I'm pretty comfortable with me.

Which is to say, I'm a pretty uncomfortable person.  And that might not make any sense, but I don't care.  I like me.

I guess now I just have to work on LIKING the fact that I'm misunderstood, because, let's face it.  I'm going to be misunderstood.  I'm going to get a bad rap.

I'm not being pessimistic by saying that, either.  I'm just addressing the reality of the situation.  How I choose to DEAL with that reality is what matters.  I can be gloomy about it, or I can be starkly honest about it, or I can be sarcastic about it, or occasionally, I can be gracious and make the most out of any situation.

Because pointing out that there are clouds in the sky and that it will probably rain doesn't mean I hate the rain.

But even if I did...

"The nice thing about rain," said Eeyore, "is that it stops."

 But I really do kind of like the rain.

And Eeyore's most quotable line actually has a lot more meaning than I originally understood.  Because, Eeyore, just like everyone else, just wants to be known.

Thanks for noticing me.