Wrestling with God

24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket.
26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob.”
28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”
29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.
“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.
30 Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” 31 The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip.

Last year I instigated a fight with God. I wanted x, y, and z, and He wasn’t really having it. So He took me down because He knew I would do it with or without Him. But I’m a fighter. So God pointed something out to me—my hip needed fixed and I would have to stay.

I kept wrestling there for awhile, but I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that He has blessed me immensely. Even if I have a limp.

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Grateful for my year from hell

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It was a bad year. A sucky year. A “What the heck happened?” year. A “Take one step forward, three steps back” year.

And I’m grateful.

I’m grateful God warned me at the beginning that it would be rough. Grateful I have such amazing parents, family, and friends. Grateful for how much more confident and mature I am from facing constant struggles.

This year I found out that I have dysplasia. And I watched as my health deteriorated. This year the running shoes I bought for all of the 5ks I had planned turned into “the shoes that don’t make my hip hurt.” This year I spent endless hours on the phone trying to buy health insurance that would cover my surgeon in St. Louis, or just trying to get an appointment to see him. This year I bought a car. And got laid off from work. Twice.

This year God told me He wouldn’t miraculously heal my hip, but that He would be there with me, and there is a reason He has let me be temporarily crippled. (Apparently I’m really hard to pin down.)

This year I started freelance copyediting. What was once a daydream and bucket list item, I can now see in my bank account. This year I visited Canada with two other incredible, thriving single ladies. This year I joined a choir. And my church praise band. And this year I began to consider my goals and aspirations and weigh them to measure their worth to me.

I’ve learned that my circumstances don’t have to dictate my attitude or actions. And you know what? Believe it or not, I am oh, so very happy.

So, as this year draws to a close and I want to shake my fist at 2016 as the ball drops, I am choosing to wave goodbye with poise and dignity. Because I’m grateful for all of the little things. And all of those little things add up.

Losing My Ambition

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When I was fifteen I decided I would be a fashion designer. I would do it my whole life and die a happy fashion designer.

When I was seventeen, I started college as an English Education major. I was going to teach high schoolers how to write and I would die a happy English teacher.

When I was nineteen, I graduated with my degree in philosophy, ready for law school. I was going to be a child’s advocate and would die happy serving them.

When I was twenty-one, I quit my well-paying career as a college advisor to travel the world and be a vagabond. It was then my ambition started to slip through my fingers…

And I began to take hold of my own life.

Through my many adventures which took me to Vegas, Iceland, and heavens-knows-where, I realized that being a “lifer” in one profession is not the end-all of life on earth. Although I admire those who have decades of experience in their field — they are brilliant — I do not associate with my society’s obsession of longevity in the workplace.

I understand, historically, that it was normal and expected to have one skill set in one trade and live in the same location for one’s whole life. But at what point did modern, Western society evolve from honoring those who devote their lives to their work to judgmentally demanding everyone choose what they want to do for the rest of their lives right out of high school and stick with it until retirement, lest ye be shunned and ostracized from genteel associations?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Why is that answer always doctor, lawyer, actress, plumber, and not kind, volunteer, a member of a family, dog-lover, a great cook, a good Christian, Muslim, Taoist, etc.? Why are we training our children to believe our identity hinges on how we make money rather than who we are as a person? 

When I let go of society’s demand of my ambition for a career, I realized how misdirected that ambition really was. There are many aspects of my life and how I earn money is only one. 

My newest, scariest adventure: Hip dysplasia

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August 2015: I’m one turn away from the finish line. My shorts are mostly dry at this point; the bike ride had aired them out pretty well. I’m out of breath so I’m walking. People run by me, but I don’t care. A lady runs up beside me.

“We’ve been passing each other for miles. Let’s do this. You’re not walking across the finish line.”

And thusly I run. When we get to the main drag, I tell her to kick it. She runs ahead so she can get her solo photos as she crosses the finish line and I keep running. My limp is pretty bad at this point, but I’m used to it…

I’ve been told since childhood that my joints are hyper mobile and my hips are misaligned. So the limp and the way my hips pop? That was just normal.

March 2015: By this point I had been training for my first triathlon for a couple of months. I had also started taking a self-defense class. While kneeing a pad one night, I felt a muscle on the right side of my pelvis pull.

June 20, 2016: The muscle in my lower back had never seemed to heal, even though I had let it rest through the winter. I finally decided to go to an Orthopaedic doctor in town, thinking I must have torn it.

The doctor came in and tossed my x-ray onto the exam table. He shook my hand and plopped down in the chair across from me. “Do your hips pop?” Thinking he was psychic, I responded, “Yes?”

“Reading your file, I was expecting this to be a case of [insert technical term meaning something wrong with the back muscle], but then I noticed your hip joint.”

Long story short: I have hip dysplasia. In vernacular, my right hip socket is too shallow, which is putting undue stress on the cartilage around my femoral joint, which is basically preventing dislocation at this point. The back pain was because it’s one of the muscles that keeps my hip together. If I don’t fix it, the cartilage will wear out and I’ll have arthritis and need a new hip by the time I’m 40.

Luckily for me, the best in the field of young adult preventative hip surgery is only a few hours away at Washington University in St. Louis. I’ll go there soon and get a second opinion and/or surgery. The procedure will include cutting out my hip socket and rotating it to cover my femoral joint like it is supposed to.

Short-term, this means no more running, breast stroke (which is what I compete with), rock climbing, or anything particularly taxing on my hips. Like triathlons. I started physical therapy immediately and will continue for eight weeks.

Long-term sees potential surgery and being out of the game for awhile for recovery. As I was supposed to get more experience in theatre to improve my chances of getting into grad school next fall, this may ruin everything. If I have surgery soon, I may be able to work in theatre after the holidays. We’ll just have to see.

As it is, I am so grateful and blessed to learn about it now while I’m living with family and near such an amazing orthopaedic clinic. If I had gotten into a summer stock gig, I may have not found out about my hip until it was too late to prevent a hip replacement.

So here’s to my newest and scariest adventure. The future isn’t looking very fun, but I will rise up and run again.

Have a Jesus Day? What?

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While getting off of the phone with a lady the other day, she responded to my farewell with, “Have a Jesus day!” The phrase startled me. Not only was it odd, but it was concerning. What were the implications of having a “Jesus day?”

It could be a great thing, having a Jesus day. I could feed thousands of people or heal the sick and hurting. I could have hundreds of followers and a really tight group of twelve friends.

I could also be ostracized in my own community, have one of my best friends turn me in to the police for a bribe, or be tortured for a crime I didn’t commit.

Do I really want to have a Jesus day?

Jesus had a very hard life. He was doomed to be born into a world that didn’t understand him. He was forced to reckon with sin — His very antithesis. Imagine always being around your antagonist. Draining, much?

Maybe I’m looking at this wrong. Perhaps the lady meant for me to have a “Jesus’ attitude day.” Jesus was never mean or spiteful. Jesus was never negative or rude. He exuded joy and love and confidence regardless of what was happening in the world around Him. His day-to-day life did not affect Him; He affected it.

This world is not our home. Jesus told us it would be against us. But when life gets us down, we can make a choice. We can either react and make carnal decisions or we can follow the example of Jesus.

So if that lady ever tells me to have a Jesus day again, I think I’ll tell her, “Thanks, I will.”

The Unorthodox Nun

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I do things the wrong way.

I graduated college when I was supposed to graduate high school. I got my motorcycle license when I was suppose to be out drinking for my 21st birthday. I have a left-handed mouse although I’m right-handed. I wear a wedding band although I’m not married.

Last week I bought a plain silver band on Etsy. It’s sleek, simplistic, and that’s my style. When I got it this week, I was surprised at how I just kept thinking of it as a wedding band. That’s not what I bought it for. I wear it on my right hand. No need to deter perfectly available men… It reminds me of a purity/ promise ring. I’m too old for that now. It’s like a nun’s wedding band. “I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine,” so many of them are engraved.

I’ve been struggling with letting go of my past mistakes lately; it seems only suiting that I accept this piece of metal as a token of my determination to do better and to remember to Whom I belong. Although I’ve made some bad choices, I have too many piercings, and color my hair to my grandmother’s chagrin, I’ve decided to wear the ring. Because I’m all about doing things the wrong way. 

Cold Showers and Great Expectations

Life has been getting to me lately. And that bothers me.

I travel. I’ve been to slums. I’ve seen children starving on the street, begging for money. I’ve known those children were owned by people who were just using them to get money from compassionate tourists.  I’ve had a cold shower or two, washed my teeth in non-potable water countless times, and have witnessed true poverty.

I’m a middle-class white chick in a farming community. It’s not that bad. So why is my life bothering me while I am able to take the trials and heartache of my travels in stride?

Expectations.

When I’m traveling, especially on mission trips, I expect it to be hard. I expect difficult traveling conditions, long, arduous flights, lack of sleep, and long days. I expect to see things that are hard to accept and to do things that are uncomfortable.

Right now I’m waiting on one last grad school application and it’s not looking promising. I have 20+ job applications out in the void and haven’t heard a peep in weeks. I have also already turned my job notice in. Oh yeah, did I mention my car is in the shop and it’s time to let her go and get a new vehicle?

I have it so much better than the majority of people in this poor, worn out world. Because of this I have an expectation that living my first-world, privileged life should be easy. I have a hard time accepting that regardless of where a person is in the world, living isn’t always a walk in the park.  Change is difficult. The responsibilities of adulthood are taxing. I still face trials, I still have bad days. I still have logistics I must work through and rent to pay. 

I think I need to start viewing my life in America through the same lens as the one I use when I’m traveling. Perhaps then I will be able to face my current challenges with gusto and faith. Because if I expect my life to be a crazy, difficult, beautiful adventure, I won’t be so surprised when it turns out that way.