Help my Unbelief

So I talk a lot about the fact that I am a Christian on my blog, but I haven’t talked much about my experience as a Christian or about God. And I think it’s time to change that. And for me, at least right now, that goes hand in hand with a story about my semester.

So, it’s September of this year, right? (Not right now, I’m using this as a way to tell my story.) And I’m at school, I’m an RA, I’m taking cool classes, I’m a small group leader. Everything’s going great. And I go to this worship thing that was part of a prayer event on campus. I didn’t stay long, and I don’t remember most of what happened that evening. But I do remember this: I was praying, and something inspired me to say, “God, break me. Break everything that I trust in, so that I can trust in you instead.” And then, you know, I left soon after that. And I don’t remember when I started noticing the consequences of that prayer, but boy, did they come.

One of the smaller issues was waking up in the morning. I’ve always been very good about hearing my alarm and getting out of bed in a decent amount of time. I started sleeping through my alarms, even after I made them as loud as possible. And this wasn’t a big deal, but it did raise some questions about my health and whatnot. I think I’m just sleep deprived. Even this morning, I woke up 15 minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off and then fell back into a deep enough sleep that I didn’t even hear my alarms go off. So that’s an interesting issue, and we’ll see what happens next.

My freshman dorm.

My freshman dorm. 

A bigger issue was loneliness. I went from having the great freshman dorm experience, with all of my best friends living just down the hall to living in a single for the first time in my life really, with my friends scattered across campus and even off campus. And that didn’t bother me for a while, but then it started becoming a problem. I felt so isolated in the room I have to myself. I don’t usually mind eating alone, but I felt like it was becoming a habit, a habit that I didn’t enjoy. One night was so bad that I just flung myself on the floor and cried. Soon after that, I went to the campus Counseling Center because I wanted to figure out if I have a form of social anxiety or not. And the counselor I talked to said to me, “Well it sounds like belonging is your real issue here.” And I know belonging is an issue for me. I’ve written about it. But to hear it from someone else’s words… It was an emotional time.

But I’m okay now, and I still don’t know exactly what has changed. I think it’s probably a lot of small things, like talking to people more and being more intentional with my faith. I think a good part of it is that I’m going more out of my way to help my friends. And maybe they have more problems, maybe it just feels more out of the way, or maybe I’ve just taken this role on. But I love it. I love being able to serve them and love them. And I’m not saying that to make myself look good. I’m just in a position to care for people right now. One day, I’ll need them to care for me. And that’s okay. And I tell them to let me know if they’re not doing well, which makes me reflect on my own actions this semester. Because in the depths of my loneliness, I wanted people to just know I was having problems and come help me, but that’s ridiculous. So I’m trying to get better about telling people when I have problems the way I ask them to tell me.

More recently, I’ve had issues with academics. Organic Chemistry II is really hard, guys. I thought I was going to do well because I’m good at memorizing. But everything looks the same, and I did not do well keeping on track of things at the beginning of the semester. And now my grades are starting to show. Just the other week, I got a midterm back. It was embarrassing how terribly I did. Really. And I don’t want to write that on this blog that so many of my friends and a good number of strangers will see. But I want to be honest, and that’s the honest truth. I’m ashamed, really. And when I got my grade back, I felt like a failure. I questioned my career goals and my abilities as a student and so much in my life.

So I got that grade back two Fridays ago, right? And I was still feeling pretty down about it at the beginning of last week. And then came Wednesday. I have small group on Wednesday, the small group that I lead. And that has also been an interesting story because for several weeks at the beginning of the year, I didn’t have anyone coming to my weekly Bible studies. And that was discouraging, and it made me question whether I should have been doing it in the first place and whatnot. And then people started coming. Last week, I had four people. And we had an awesome discussion. Really, it was so good. And I was grinning afterwards, because it made me that happy. Two of the girls actually texted me and told me that it was great. And it’s not because of me. They’re all just really comfortable with each other, so conversation comes easily, and they’re not afraid to share about their lives.

And now I’m finally bringing this story back to God. Because it was God that did this good work. It was God who was with me when I picked out the passage, where a father says to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” It was God who brought each of those girls that night and inspired conversation. It was God who was faithful. God took this thing that wasn’t working and showed me that20150626_195502 He can make something beautiful out of it. When my life is going well, it’s because God made it that way. And when my life isn’t going well, I can still point to His faithfulness throughout my life. I can say, “Well, Orgo isn’t going well, and I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen with it. But God was faithful with small group and in so many other parts of my life, so He will be faithful with Orgo. He will put me where I need to be.” And there will be days when I doubt. There will be days when faith isn’t easy. There will be days when I try to find security in my abilities instead of in the God who provides. There will be days when I say, “God, I don’t understand what you’re doing.” But He is good, and He will bring me through.

Epylle Spydre

3 Days, 3 Quotes Day 2: Fitzgerald, Books, and Belonging

Wooh, it’s day 2, and I’ve got another quote for you all today! If you want to look at the rules again, read yesterday’s post. Again, thank you Carly and The Daily Geekette for the nomination!

fitzgerald quote

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Even this cat found a home with books (and magazines).

This quote really needs very few words. I feel like you have either experienced this with books and wholeheartedly agree with Fitzgerald, or you don’t. I’ve written a lot about belonging and what home means to me on this blog. I’ve struggled with loneliness considerably during my lifetime, which is why this quote resonates with me so much. So often during my life, I felt like I was on the margins. I need an invitation to feel like I belong, where it seems like other people just create a space for themselves and call it home. But books? Books welcomed me. They said, “Hey there, wandering soul. Find a home here.” Books gave me the human connection I was craving. And they have done that for countless others.

I think we all want to belong. We all want to be at home somewhere, with people who really know us and care for us and tell us that we are welcome and wanted. And it’s really wonderful that books can alleviate loneliness for people, even people who wouldn’t consider themselves very lonely.

I hope you not only find a kindred spirit in the pages of a book but also on the streets of your life. I hope you know that you belong.

Here are the people I’m nominating today:

Enjoy your quotes, everyone!

This is loneliness

Loneliness is knowing the difference between being lonely and just being alone.

Loneliness is playing by yourself at recess as a kid. You are happy with your own imaginings, but you still wish the other kids would invite you to play with them.

Loneliness is crying at a sleepover because it hurts that everyone else is best friends with each other… and then there’s you.

Loneliness is being better friends with your teachers than with your peers. It’s not that teachers are bad friends, but it’s still kind of sad.

Loneliness is looking to books to meet all the other lonely characters, finding comfort in the fact that at least someone understands what you’re going through.

Loneliness is pretending to get all the pop culture references people make because you don’t want to seem more different than you already know you are. Because what makes you different haunts every single social interaction you make.

Loneliness is constantly hiding your real self because nobody ever asked to see it before.

Loneliness is being afraid to say goodbye because you’ve seen what it is to not be lonely. But now you have to start all over.

Loneliness is just wanting to be acknowledged.

Loneliness is being brought to tears when you finally are noticed, even if it’s in the smallest way possible.

Loneliness is not being understood. It’s being simplified into a caricature instead of being given the opportunity to be complicated, with faults and virtues. Because having faults means you’re real, and that makes you beautiful.

Loneliness is always being on the edge of conversation, watching others interact and wondering what happened to make you invisible.

Loneliness is knowing that all of these things can happen with complete strangers as well as with your friends.

Loneliness is blaming this all on yourself—your shyness, your fears, your differences.

Loneliness is one day finding the strength to do your best to make sure that the people around you don’t suffer the way you did.541950_359406907488702_1801266617_n

Loneliness is not wanting people to feel sorry for you but just wanting them to understand.

Loneliness is enjoying, even loving, solitude but still wanting an invitation.

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that I love books. The written word is incredibly precious to me and I hope to you as well. So today I just wanted to share a little about my 5 favorite novels! Oh, and I also included a favorite quote from each book!  

Jane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëJane Eyre

While my listing of these books aren’t in an exact order, this one is by far my favorite. I adore Jane; she’s my fictional kindred spirit, my literary doppelgänger. I connect with her on so many levels, and that’s an incredibly justifying experience. But aside from our similarities, she inspires me. She’s an incredibly strong, honest, eloquent person, and she’s my imaginary role model as well. And of course, there’s Edward Rochester, our wonderful byronic hero. Their story is beautiful and heartbreaking, made all the more exquisite with Brontë’s rich language. Every sentence is dripping with meaning, and it’s nearly impossible to pick a quote because they’re all so gorgeous. In short, I absolutely adore Jane Eyre. Oh, and if you’ve read the book, make sure you check out the BBC Masterpiece 2006 movie version because it’s wonderful!

 

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit is probably the book (other than really short books) that I have digested the most. I’ve listened hobbitto it at least twice, and I’m pretty sure I read it once by myself. Anyway, I probably would have just said the Lord of the Rings trilogy, except that I’m reading The Return of the King for the first time right now, and I read the other two when I was too young to appreciate them. There is a magic to Tolkien’s language, and the world he created is so lavish and full of intricacies. And Bilbo is an adorably honest and hardy character, and Martin Freeman does justice to the character in the movies (probably the best part of the movies, actually, what with all the borrowing and adapting that goes on). Add that to adventures of escaping from trolls, riddles with Gollum, and a jail-break out of Mirkwood, and it should be easy to see why this is such a beloved classic.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

I actually already wrote a post about this book, a series of memoirs from the VietThings they carriednam War, so this will be brief. Basically, what really makes this book so valuable is the real, raw glimpse into what war is like. It’s the horror we see in movies like 12 Years a Slave and Amistad, where we want to look away, but doing so feels too cowardly. But it’s not just out there to make us feel horrified; O’Brien asserts many times that there is a grotesque beauty to war. Like many things in life, war isn’t a black and white issue, and this poignant piece of literature portrays that elegantly. 

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Yup, I know this choice is overused and not original, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t legitimate. What really sells this book is the protagonist, Holden Caulfield. Yes,  he’s obnoxious. But he’s also deeply complex, and that’s what makes this book so meaningful. At the beginning, I was merely amused by all of the unusual thoughts that go on in his brain. I said, “It’s interesting to see a guy’s perspective like this.” But he’s actually really unusual because he’s iCatcherncredibly vulnerable with the readers even if he isn’t with other characters. He’s lonely, and he just wants someone to listen to him. And that is what makes this book so  universal and so loved. While our states of loneliness may not be as deep as Holden’s, we still know the feeling, and it’s comforting to know that we’re not alone. Check out John Green’s crash course videos (make sure you watch them both) on this stuff, because they are genius! 

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

It’s difficult to articulate what I love about this novel. Out of all the novels I’ve listed, this is the most endearing (The Hobbit comes pretty close, but it’s still primarily a novel about adventure). Like Tolkien, Lewis creates his own world, except instead of being strictly fantasy, this one is grounded in our own reality–in space (Mars to be precise). And the descriptions of this world are wild but beautiful. The beauty of this novel lies also in the characters, particularly the made up creatures. In a Silent Planetplace where fear doesn’t exist, the people are gallant and compassionate and wise in the purest sense of the traits. Lewis does the fantastic feat of not only creating a place that is intellectually interesting to read about and adventure in, but a place where I would truly love to live. That doesn’t do this book nearly enough justice, but it’s all I’ve got for right now. 

 

Do you have any book suggestions? I’m trying to read as much as I can this summer while I have the time, so I’d love to hear what your favorites are! 

Epylle Spydre

Justifying the Ugly Pain of Loss and Longing

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Do you know what I just noticed about my posts? I really don’t talk much about romantic relationships. Other than mentioning my frustrations with the idea of love at first sight in some of my Disney posts and a recent post inspired by the cardinals in my neighborhood, I couldn’t find any. And that’s not super strange because I try to write about things that I know, things that have meaning to me and I feel can have meaning to you. I talk A LOT about the kind of love we have for friends and family. But it’s weird that I would neglect this totally legitimate, really deep longing for the intimacy that comes with romantic relationships. So today I am going to do just that!

Actually, that was a bit misleading. In all seriousness, I’m going to talk about not being in a romantic relationship. Wooh, singleness! Now, in my opinion, there are the happily single and the unhappily single. And if you’re happily single, good for you! And then for the unhappily single, it’s more difficult. Because you’ve heard at least once that you don’t need another person to make you happy, that loving yourself is more important than others loving you (and that, as long as it’s not narcissism, it will actually help others to love you). And those are all true, and you can probably intellectually see the truth in those statements.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy to accept emotionally and enact. It may be easy to admit that we are whole without another person, but it still feels like we shouldn’t be alone. And that is completely valid. That’s the hardest piece to give up because it’s the piece most engraved in our minds. Loneliness, while not always remedied with romance, is a very real and very dark emotion. And there are only ever a handful of people at most that we can share our deepest selves with. That’s love, being so comfortable with someone that you can be your realest self with them.

This quest for intimacy is also explored in a beautiful project that you may or may not have heard about. It’s called “Lovers Shirts,” championed by Carla Richmond Coffing and Hanne Steen. They take pictures of people (mostly women, but there are a few men), wearing the shirts of their ex-lovers and talk about it. And it’s a very profound thing to see their vulnerability and read what they had to say about love and loss.

This project was by no means about heartbreak, but it does bring up comments about it. And I really can’t talk about heartbreak because I have fortunately never had to experience it. But what I will say is that it’s okay to be hurt. It’s okay to feel the pain of loss. Yeah, it’s nice to heal. Everything feels lighter and easier when we’re not in the throes of loss. It’s better for our emotional health. But It doesn’t make you weak or overly emotional or anything. It may not be pretty. But it means you truly loved, and what is the shame in that?

Epylle Spydre

You are beautiful

So, I really shouldn’t be writing this. I legitimately told myself, “Even though it’s a Friday afternoon, I need to do work. I need to focus.” But I really feel led to write this. So here goes; hopefully this doesn’t take too much of my time away.

You are beautiful. Let me just say that. You are beautiful. I know that there may be plenty of people who read this that I have never met in my life, but I still know that you’re beautiful. Call me religious, but I know that as a human, you are made in the image of God. That makes you beautiful. 

I know that as a teenage girl, our outward appearance means so much. You may not care what clothes you put on your body, but somebody is sure to judge you for it. High school is terrifying; it really is. And there is so much pressure to be perfectly thin, with gorgeous makeup and a “fab” hairdo. We see magazines and advertisements everywhere, all plastered with gorgeous women with so-called “perfect bodies.” And we want to look just like that.

So we diet. And exercise. Or maybe we binge or never eat at all. We get plastic surgery or go to the tanning salon to get that “perfect glow.” 

You call that perfection?

Why are we so worried about the judgments of other people that we hurt ourselves to fit that impossible image of perfection?

I have a problem with the idea of perfection in general. We are in a fallen world. Nothing is perfect. But we forget that, and so many people try to cater to others’ views of perfections that they end up losing themselves in the process. And that’s not just physical “perfection”; we also try to change our character for other people. 

And when we do that, we lose ourselves. Our real self gets lost amid all the junk that we’re putting on over it. And so many people feel like they’re not heard. 

That’s who I’m really talking to here.

I want you to know that you are seen, you are known, and you are loved. 

Sometimes, loneliness can be so powerful, that when just one person stops and talks to you, it brings tears to your eyes. Because when people do that, you know that you’re not a wallflower. Maybe the world isn’t such a bad place after all. Somebody saw you. They saw through your loneliness or whatever it is you’re dealing with and just stopped to show you that you’re not alone.

You are not alone.

You are not nothing.

You are beautiful and so, so very precious. 

Epylle Spydre