Another Year & Another Chance

It was Saturday night. My fingers were curled around my favorite coffee mug. I slowly took a sip of my hot cocoa topped with whipped cream and marshmallows and chocolate syrup. I sat on the couch in the living room  in my reindeer pajamas and fuzzy slippers watching Christmas movies. Sounds like a nice relaxing evening, right?

Well you would be right, except that this weekend was different. It was my birthday weekend. And here I sat alone at home. My friend had cancelled our plans yesterday to hang out that Saturday night saying something had come up last minute. I texted another friend to complain about how that friend had cancelled our plans to hang out. The friend was busy working on sending out job applications and told me that they couldn’t always be there for me and basically told me I needed to get over it. All of this rejection stung more than I care to admit.

I tried hard to convince myself that my birthday was just another day and that my friends meant well. The hot cocoa and movies were my effort to try cheer myself up. However, as I was getting ready for bed that night there was nothing left to distract me from my emotions. I sat on the floor in my room and finally gave in to my pain. I was so upset with myself. Out of my hurt, I had snapped back at both of my friends. The tears began to pour down my cheeks faster than I could wipe them. Thoughts began to flood my mind quicker than I could stop them.

“This past year was a waste. It’s no wonder no one wants to hang out with you. You’re not pretty enough. You’re worthless. You’re no fun to be around. You’re so hard to love. You are better off being alone. You deserve to be alone. You are such a screw up. You don’t care enough. Why do you even bother trying to make friends? You can’t ever keep them. People never stay in your life.  You tried so hard investing in making friends and look where it got you. You are sitting here alone on your birthday weekend. People obviously don’t care about you. Or else someone would care enough to at least text you to hang out this weekend.”

I mumbled out to God through gasps of air “Just. Please. Make. It. Stop.”

Suddenly I felt a peace come over me. I heard God quietly tell me in my heart, “Britt, you spend so much time investing in relationships with others. When will you invest that much in our relationship? I am the one who will never let you down.”

I began reflecting on the past year. I hadn’t done the best job in making my relationship with God my first priority. I wanted so desperately to not be alone that I had put a huge focus on my relationship with others. I more often times than not would choose going out with friends or people from small group over my time with God. I began to see how I had neglected God.

“I am sorry, God. I should be focusing more on you so I can improve my relationships with others. But how can I change?”

God softly told me in my heart that He forgave me. He began to reveal to me how He had gently fenced me in to spend tonight with Him. I was overwhelmed with a sense of awe and wonder. I couldn’t (and still can’t) begin to imagine why the God of the universe would want to spend tonight with me. I didn’t deserve this abundance of unconditional love that God freely lavished on me.

Suddenly the Holy Spirit brought back to mind the verse Galatians 6:9. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up.” And it was in that moment that I knew God was telling me to keep pushing forward and to not stay down. This year hadn’t been a waste. So much good had come from it. I had done so many new things…. Swing dancing, square dancing, snorkeling, my first missions trip, new jobs, and so much more. And it was through all of these things over the year that led to my growth and change and friendships.

God began to show me that I need to be more intentional in everything I do; whether it is my prayer life, or my friendships, or my God time, or my job. Being intentional was the answer of how I could change. I started to realize that investing in others will always come with risks, but it’s so worth it. Yes, people may hurt you from time to time, but no one is perfect and we must show them grace. And this is why we must first invest in our relationship with God, because He’ll never let us down. I began to think back on all the memories I had made over the last year… 5Ks and a road trip to Kentucky and rodeos and ice cream trips and climbing roofs and fireworks and swing dancing. All of it was so worth jumping in and trusting God and investing in others.

In that moment, God revealed to me that I couldn’t run from my fear of losing friends and ending up alone. I needed to face my fear and let it know that I am not going anywhere. I am not going to hide underneath my blankets and be buried under my insecurities anymore. I refuse to let my fear keep pushing me down. Because I know now that it is part of my mission from God to invest in others while I am here on this earth.

God showed me how I tend to hold myself to the unrealistic expectation of being the perfect friend. I see now that I need to trust that others (including God) will love the broken, flawed person that I am. Being vulnerable is so difficult for me, because I am so scared people will reject me. I have been hurt so many times before that I try hard to be perfect all the time.

So if we’re friends, I want to thank you for our friendship. I hope you’ll give me the chance to invest more in our relationship over this next year. And if we aren’t really friends, I hope you’ll give me the chance to invest in getting to know you better. I am so excited for a chance to love God more so I can love others more and invest in them. All while allowing God and others to love me in return. And please know I am in the process of letting go of perfectionism and grant me understanding as I try to overcome it.

If you’re reading this and are feeling alone and rejected, I would encourage you to reach out to God. You may be pleasantly surprised that He is trying to get you all alone by your sweet self to teach you something.

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Community

“God, I want to go home so badly. It’s only Monday and I just want to leave. I feel so alone and I don’t understand what I did. It bothers me so much that I try to make friends, but the harder I try the more frustrated I become. I feel so alone here. I’ve tried talking to people and asking them questions and being nice, but it doesn’t seem to be working. I feel so broken. Lord, please help me to understand why you have me here. I don’t get to join in. I don’t fit anywhere. Honestly, I thought here of all places I’d find some sort of friend, but I feel like some broken toy that no one wants. God, please show me why you have me here.”  – Jan. 11, 2016

So I wrote this in my journal during a trip with Campus Focus called Breakaway. It’s a trip where you spend a week in Florida just connecting with God and building community with others. I wish I could tell you that the week became easier and I met my best friend. The truth is the following days only became harder. I had to force myself to sit with different people each meal and find new people to talk to during activities. I tend to be more of an introvert so half the time I felt I was putting on a mask to be this super happy, bubbly person. I watched as everyone around me laughed with their friends and seemed to be having the time of their lives. A scene for me that was all too familiar. I was so thankful when the end of the week had finally arrived.

On the last day we spend a majority of the time being alone with God. And I remember sitting there and silently crying out to God asking Him to please tell me what is wrong with me so I could fix it. I was so burdened with feeling that I did not belong anywhere. When I felt Him softly tell me…

“Brittany, you need to realize how much I’ve helped you this past week. Think back on how much you’ve grown. You’ve opened yourself up to so many people. Think of how many different conversations you’ve had. I know you felt alone, but I need you to understand the pain that comes from being alone to help and notice those who are alone so you can relate to them. You’ve come to realize this week how pain can connect you to others. Brittany, my dear daughter, I’ve noticed your pain and suffering. It has not been wasted. I’ve big plans for your life. You need to have faith and trust me. Believe in yourself. Love who you are created to be.”

As I sat there God brought to remembrance several different faces and various conversations from the past week. I began to realize how every stranger I had talked to that week had shown me kindness. While they may not have become my best friend, the people in Campus Focus had helped me to be apart of their community. I may have felt lonely among so many people, however, God opened my eyes to the fact that He had placed me in this community. He began to show me how I may have helped someone feel as though they belonged without even knowing it. Because if I had just been sitting and talking with my friends, I never would have talked to so many new faces.

I sat completely in awe of the God I serve. Because without God’s strength it never would have been possible. Talking to so many new folks was way outside of my comfort zone and I knew I was leaving that trip a different person.

This would start a new journey over the months to come that I never could have begun to imagine where it would lead me.

2016. It has been a year about God continuously pushing me outside of my comfort zone. It has been full of moments to learn to love who God made me. It meant embracing that awkward, middle school girl I used to be. It meant embracing that high school girl that no one wanted to date and felt alone more times than not. It meant loving that girl in college whose heart was shattered after a 2+  year relationship. It meant facing my fear of having an anxiety attack in front of someone. But mostly it has been about me accepting who I am and learning to love life and trusting the people God has placed around me.

A majority of those people being in Campus Focus. I can honestly say that there were a number of times I felt I was too old for CF and that I shouldn’t be there and heavily considered not coming. Yet, the people there continued to love and support me anyways. God, time and time again placed people from CF along my journey to encourage me to keep going and to learn how to love myself.

I know this past year I haven’t always been easy to love. I have come to know (through God’s help) that I need to love myself before I can love others. I know now too that hurt people hurt others and I was so guilty of this many times. So this is my open sincere apology… If I have walked away from you during one of my anxiety attacks or if I have ever hurt you in any way I am truly sorry. I am still learning to accept myself and it’s been a huge battle to say the least. I can be my own worst critic. But I just wanted to thank everyone that hasn’t given up on me and has stuck with me.

This year has been a roller coaster of emotions for me in learning to love myself. However, I would not be where I am today without the community God has placed me in. So if you haven’t found a community yet and you feel you don’t belong anywhere and feel completely alone, please don’t quit. Don’t be discouraged. God will place you where you need to be. Trust Him.

Anxiety Does Not Define Me

Once again I am standing there alone in the corner. That lonely feeling rushes over me. I see everyone else learning to swing dance with a partner. They all seem to be having a good time. I try to be glad that they all have a partner. I feel unsure of what to do. One of my biggest fears of being left out is unfolding right in front of me. I desperately try to think of ways to combat the fear and include myself. Suddenly flashbacks of middle school and high school begin to flood my memory. Flashes of all those countless dances throughout the years. I was uninvited to go out to eat with people before the dance. I was left standing on the side while every other girl was asked by someone to dance. I was laughed at for always having my nose stuck in a book. The memories trigger thoughts that take off and run away with my focus. “You are not good enough.””Why did you even bother coming tonight?” “No one liked you then and no one likes you now.” “Do you really think you’ll ever make friends?” “You are not pretty and there’s no way any one could ever like you.”

Before long I have become my own worst enemy and I have beat myself down. I notice I am angry with myself that I am upset over something so silly. I feel tears beginning to fall down my cheeks. My breathing becomes heavy and I don’t feel safe. My instinct of running away takes over and I walk outside. I am unsure of where to go. I walk to my car. The voice inside of me is screaming at me to focus on my breathing and get it under control. I need to be stronger than this anxiety. The harder I try the worst it becomes. My face starts to become tingly and numb. I begin to ask God why does this happen lately? I have never experienced anxiety before this year. I just want to be who you made me. I feel God gently nudge me to trust Him.

My car door unexpectedly opens. “Are you okay?” A voice interrupts my thoughts. She starts asking what helps when this usually happens. I mumble out I don’t know. She proceeds to ask me if I need a paper bag, or cold water, or prayer. My heart is so grateful. I don’t know how to respond, but mumble that I am fine. I feel guilty that she has pulled herself away from the crowd. I feel responsible for causing her to miss out on the fun. Her sister comes out and they both try their best to help me. I can’t even begin to thank them enough.

After they leave, I sit in silence in my car. My breathing has slowed and I feel proud of myself that I was able to control my breathing. I realize I need to decide what to do next. Do I sit alone in my car or drive home or go back in to try swing dancing? I cry out to God what I am suppose to do. God whispers softly to my heart to trust Him. I feel a relaxing sense of peace wash over me. I decide to not let anxiety control or define me. God, and Him alone, defines who I am. He tells me that I am more than good enough. He has a purpose for my life. He is with me always and I am not alone. He put people around me to care about me for Him. He is teaching me on how importance of community. I decide to go back into the dance.