December 23, 2013

I'm Different

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Different. Defeated. Even despised. She's wonderful. I admire her. I admire her life. And at times I've waded in the water of jealousy, but only recently. In short, this person who will remain anonymous meant well. She simply felt bad for sharing about her life because it seemed to pale in comparison to my struggles.

While this didn't occur out of spite or anything close to it, for the first time in a long time, I felt looked down upon. Different. Defeated. Even despised.

After all these years and considering all that's happened, I haven't really felt all that "different" from the rest, so it's curious that someone treating me so different is what finally tipped my boat.  Have I really given someone the power to define my emotions...to even define me?

I think what has bothered me most about this incident is that my pain seemed to be looked down upon vs. valued for the fruit that it's brought. Bryan DeWire writes on the desiringGod blog, "Suffering has a way of pressing us to go deeper with God." This has always been the way I've viewed my pain.

And if "Scripture is clear that nothing arises, exists, or endures independently of God’s will" (Suffering and the Sovereignty of God), then my pain must hold a great purpose! Furthermore, Philip Yancey writes, "Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory" (Disappointment with God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud).

For the first time in my life, this truth was shaken. In seeing someone think of his life as so much better than mine, I began to think the same. I started believing things like God loves her more than me, my pain doesn't hold significance, and some people really do have perfect lives; they really do get all that they ask for.

"Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself" (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain). "Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse" (Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud).

I've had to remember that the purpose of life isn't to be happy and jolly and downright delirious. In Where is God When it Hurts?, Philip Yancey also writes, "We are here to be changed, to be made more like God in order to prepare us for a lifetime with Him. And that process may be served by the mysterious pattern of all creation: pleasure sometimes emerges against a background of pain, evil may be transformed into good, and suffering may produce something of value" (p. 95).

For the believer, afflictions are sanctifying.

"One of the most important things we can do for a suffering person is to restore a sense of meaning or significance to the experience" (p. 203). Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen. But luckily for me, I had a an experience that sort of counteracted the above.

I handed her a list, the woman who's been counseling me. The list included my traumas. Under each trauma my list included the threats, lies, reinforcements, and triggers involved. Finally, at the bottom of the page was "how I'm affected today."

Her response? "This is abnormally insightful."

In saying this, she brought me back to the same worddifferent―but this time not in the pitiful sense. She made me feel different, as in special, gifted...and useful to God.

Perhaps she didn't know what she was saying when she said those four little words, but God knew I needed to hear them. This person reminded me that God has a purpose, that He is in control, that He is working all things together for my good. She reminded me that God is making me more beautiful with time; He is giving me gifts, and He is giving me a longing for eternity. And after I'm gone, I will thank my pain. I'm sure I will see it as something that brought me closer to God. I will see it as something that accomplished a great deal. So yes, I am different. And that is a wonderful thing.

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Genesis 50:20).

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him" (Ecclesiastes 3:11-14).
December 02, 2013

A Simpler & Slower Life

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"The Glory of God is man fully alive," said St. Irenaeus. "It feels like this," a 65-year-old man claimed to know. Well, what's "this?" Apparently "this" is sledding down a 2-mile hill with grandchildren, says 65-year-old Ken Davis, an inspirational man who appears to be getting younger with age. Ken is a minority among the majority of Americans. Americans in their twenties can't seem to grow up, yet as the years trickle by, we seem to age faster than others. According to healthaffairs.org, "Americans are diagnosed with and treated for several chronic illnesses more often than their European counterparts are."

Diet & Exercise Aren't all that Can Affect Health

The book The iron factor of aging: Why Do Americans Age Faster? approaches our health issues from the perspective of diet (how we explicitly treat our bodies). But perhaps the variables affecting overall health and well-being are confounded. What's confounding? If you ask Wikipedia, "In statistics, a confounding variable is an extraneous variable in a statistical model that correlates (positively or negatively) with both the dependent variable and the independent variable."

 Wikipedia explains the concept like this: "As an example, suppose that there is a statistical relationship between ice-cream consumption and number of drowning deaths for a given period. These two variables have a positive correlation with each other. An evaluator might attempt to explain this correlation by inferring a causal relationship between the two variables (either that ice-cream causes drowning, or that drowning causes ice-cream consumption). However, a more likely explanation is that the relationship between ice-cream consumption and drowning is spurious and that a third, confounding, variable (the season) influences both variables: during the summer, warmer temperatures lead to increased ice-cream consumption as well as more people swimming and thus more drowning deaths."

This isn't to say that other variables aren't also possible, but consider the following: poor/lesser health = drowning; poor diet = eating ice cream; and complicated living or busyness (i.e. the opposite of simple) = confounding variable. In other words, stressful, complex living is perhaps just as detrimental to our health as, say, eating poorly or not exercising. How do I know? 

A Great Deal of Stress Comes from Busyness

For starters, the title of Stress: The Portrait of a Killer isn't a coincidence. The documentary emphasizes that scientific discoveries in the field and in the lab prove that stress is not just a state of mind, but something measurable and dangerous.

But where does all this stress come from?

Approaching life with a busy and hurried attitude can up the stress levels. Hurrying is both a reaction to and a cause of busyness. One blogger puts it this way: "...even if you’ve got plenty of time to accomplish your tasks, if you start hurrying (which provokes your body’s stress reactions), you start feeling busy."

Tim Kreiders op-ed (gave his opinion on) “The 'Busy' Trap” in a 2012 June article in the New York Times. Opinionated? No. Kreider is witty and perhaps a bit sarcastic. He says, "They [Americans] are busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence." He goes on to say that, "Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day."

Maybe we're so busy because we're afraid of who we'd be or what we'd find if we weren't. Maybe being busy gives us a certain kind of "importance," one that we should be finding in who we are as children of God.

This nudge to slow down isn't intended to encourage anyone towards laziness. Rather, down time for the brain is necessary, even beneficial. "Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets." After all, in his TED Talk Andy Puddicombe says that all it takes is ten minutes of mindfulness per day (All it takes is 10 mindful minutes) to make the mind more healthy.

And doing nothing is just that. Nothing. No emailing. No texting. No watching. Is this possible?

According to the Huffington Post, Americans (18+) spend (on average) 4.5 hours per day watching TV and 5 hours per day with digital media (smart phone and internet). According to Daily Mail (UK), the average person checks his/her phone 110 times a day (and up to every 6 seconds in the evening). The reason these numbers are even possible is a single word: multitasking. Talk about distracting. And no wonder so many of us feel so busy.

It appears that becoming less busy and sometimes saying no to technology isn't the popular choice. 

Choose to Be Anti-common Culture

Kreider continues, "The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen." Well what if you don't want to choose busyness anymore? How can one break free from this hurried busyness if she resides within in a culture that's filled with it? Is it even possible?

"Here I am largely unmolested by obligations. There is no TV. To check e-mail I have to drive to the library,"  says Kreider. Change must begin within the home. We may not be able to change the world we live in, but we can choose to be different from it. A practical way to do this is to go against the American way, i.e. go against materialism and chaos and become more minimalistic. Lorilee, author of the book Simple Living: 30 Days to Less Stuff and More Life, describes minimalism as “intentionally having a life including what I need and what I love, nothing else."

It looks like it's possible to change and simply accept being known as the weird one among friends, but is it really all that easy to change? 

Addictions as a Cause of Busyness

According to an article in the NY Times by Daniel Goleman, "The most intensive scientific studies of people's viewing habits are finding that for the most frequent viewers, watching television has many of the marks of a dependency like alcoholism or other addictions." Goleman goes on to say that, "While ordinary viewers say television relaxes them while they watch, afterward they feel far less relaxed, less happy and less able to concentrate than after participating in sports or other leisure activities."

"Under the broader definition, many kinds of compulsive behavior could be considered addictive, including obsessive sex or compulsive television viewing," says Dr. Allen Frances, a psychiatrist at Cornell University Medical School.

Goleman also says, "The most commonly used scale to measure television addiction includes using television as a sedative, even though it does not bring satisfaction; lacking selectivity in viewing; feeling a loss of control while viewing; feeling angry with oneself for watching so much, not being able to quit watching and feeling miserable when kept from watching it."

If an addiction is "a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble)," then things like watching television, texting, and checking Facebook surely qualify (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

In summary, for most, busyness seems to be somewhat of an idol. We look to our busyness for identity (pride). We use busyness for comfort. We see our busyness as a reflection of our own importance. We aim to place ourselves above others based on our accomplishments (pride). We sloth (avoid spiritual work).

Matthew 18:3 says, "And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

The John Gills Exposition of the Bible commentary explains, "...that is, unless ye learn to entertain an humble, and modest opinion of yourselves, are not envious at one another, and drop all contentions about primacy and pre-eminence, and all your ambitious views of one being greater than another, in a vainly expected temporal kingdom; things which are not to be found in little children..." then you will not enter the Kingdom.

Clearly, not being so busy must have some benefits. 

Benefit #1: Thankfulness

Perhaps if we aren't so distracted by our own self-imposed busyness, we would have more time to say, be grateful and notice the 'little things.' Song artist Carlos Bertonatti sings, "If life has taught me anything, it's all about the little things." If one is too busy, she might not notice and appreciate simple things like the sunrise. Thankfulness, i.e. recognizing one what has instead of question what it is that she does not, is the key to joy. 

Benefit #2: Slowing Down Time

If we de-clutter, quit multitasking, and get rid of the noise in our lives, we free up more of our brains to take in more detail. A profile of David Eagleman (neuroscientist and author) was laid out in The New Yorker.

Key excerpt: The more detailed the memory, the longer the moment seems to last. "This explains why we think that time speeds up when we grow older," Eagleman saidwhy childhood summers seem to go on forever, while old age slips by while we’re dozing. The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass.

Subtract TV watching, texting, Facebooking, internet, meaningless activities, all of the silliness and what do you have? Time.

So how should all of that extra time be spent? Well, according to The New Yorker, we are to participate in activities that revolve around learning, visiting new places (this doesn't have to be a trip to the other side of the world; try the other side of town), meeting new people, trying to activities, and being spontaneous. If we do these things, time won't appear to fly by like it typically does as we age (Time Flies: Here's How to Slow it Down). 

Benefit #3: Overcome a Great Deal of Stress

The following (practical) 'opposite of being busy' ideas are thought to reduce stress.
  1. Prioritize what really matters.
  2. Don't try to control things.
  3. Take break to clear the mind.
  4. Do one thing at a time.
  5. Choose doing over analyzing.
  6. Say no and meaning it.
  7. Let go of perfectionism.
  8. Maintain an eternal perspective.
  9. Lighten up already.
  10. Don't strain to attain an 'ideal' due to preconceived notions that are present due to comparison.
  11. Exercise (it doesn't take that much time).
  12. Don't trade sleep for work, i.e. don't try to create more time that doesn't exist.
  13. Eat for nourishment and not for comfort.
  14. Choose to walk or bike and not drive whenever possible.
  15. Eliminate unnecessary commitments.
  16. Don't try to please man; aim to please God.
  17. Keep a prayer & gratitude journal.
  18. Have a wind-down bedtime routine.
  19. Don't complain; do something something about it.
  20. Do nothing for 10 minutes each day.
  21. Don't rush through meals.
  22. Lessen material load (get rid of some useless things).
  23. Honor the Sabbath, i.e. rest.
  24. Don't drown your adrenals with more coffee and get some rest.
  25. Be realistic with the demands you put on yourself.
  26. Be reasonable about scheduling your time.
  27. Accept that everything takes longer than you think.
  28. Don't try to do everything yourself; ask for help.
  29. When feeling down, take time to help other people.
  30. Live in the present instead of longing for the past or always looking to the future.
  31. Don't multitask (multitasking creates stress and lowers productivity).
  32. Don't make endless to-do lists (they can be helpful, but may just be another way to make you feel busy)
The above list is extremely against the grain of the American culture. Try not multitasking at your busy corporate job and see what happens. Broadcast to your friends that you don't have a smart phone and wait for the giggles. Tell people that you don't have a TV and observe the dropped jaws. But when is the choice that's right for you ever the popular one? It doesn't matter what other people do or think; a simpler life appears to be a happier and healthier one.
November 21, 2013

Receiving What God Has Given Me

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INFJ. That means I'm strong but weak. Passionate yet private. Creative yet very sensitive. Altruistic yet often burned out. And I commonly feel like an outsider. Maybe that's because only 1% of the population actually has the ability to understand me. In other words, only 1% of the population are considered to be INFJs. Some of the greatest writers were INFJs like me.

And then there's my greatest weakness. I am without a doubt a crazy perfectionist.

That reminds me. Here's something funny: My perfectionist nature means I aim to perfect just about anything (and typically use lists to ensure that it happens). My perfectionism has led me to read a book on perfectionism so I can better myself, rid myself of my own perfectionism, and perhaps come out perfect on the other side.

To "relax" and leave myself alone just doesn't come naturally to me.

Throughout my reading, I've learned about some of the harsh motives, mindsets, and tendencies that may result in perfectionism. My worst motive to date? Seeking the approval of people.

When Pleasing You Is Killing Me, a workbook that's intended to help me recognize and break unhealthy relationship patterns, develop new attitudes and behaviors, stand up for myself and serve others, and create balance so I can better manage my life.

When anger turns inward. Little did I know that anger (past and present) may be a key to understanding people pleasing. And little did I know that anger can take the form of frustration, annoyance, and resentment. Frustrated? Yes. Annoyed at times? Yes. Resentful? Yes. Angry? Never.

Perhaps I have pent-up anger because of this need that I have to spend more time alone. But what if me not getting enough along time isn't the source of my pent-up anger?
    Do I have unresolved anger? Which begs the question, does any of that anger revolve around dad...and if not...why was I never angry at dad?
      I don't have the answers to these questions, but at least I've recognized a piece of what I've been missing. Unresolved anger, no matter the origin, has made me resentful and irritable in addition to some other not-so-nice things. Unresolved anger has been my barrier to thankfulness.

      I read the following in the Jesus Calling daily devotional this morning: "Remember that all good things - your possessions, your family and friends, your health and abilities, your time - are gifts from Me." A couple sentences later, I also read: "Ask My Spirit to increase your awareness of resentful feelings."

      Since I rarely, if ever, display the signs of anger, I've always considered myself to be someone who does not struggle with anger. My typical response has been something like this: Anger is bad. Anger makes me a bad person. Anger is undesired. Never show signs of anger. But by choosing to never show anger, I am not necessarily ridding myself of that anger. In reality, anger may need to be expressed, whether it's due to some smaller need not being met or some substantial childhood deprivation. After releasing built-up emotion, there is much to be received.

      What happens when I'm not thankful for the good things I have? I don't acknowledge that they've been received!

      Abilities and time stick out to me. I haven't been acknowledging what's been given to me. In other words, I've become stagnant and stingy, not jumping at chances for adventure and incredible opportunity.

      Present day, practical example: Applying for the MFA program at Hamline. Writing. God has given me great ability. Time. I'm still alive aren't I? So why am I sitting around?

      If I take a step back and consider my past, anger, healing, and ungratefulness, the big picture is bigger than I imagined it to be. God is bringing to the surface and resolving some musty, old emotions. In doing so, He is freeing me up to receive.

      In growing, in receiving what's already been given to me, I gain a great deal. I gain a great adventure. I gain what I've been wanting to go after all along.

      "Obviously, I'm not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ's servant" (Galatians 1:10).
      November 04, 2013

      To Rescue A Robin

      by , in
      I write these things as if I were her. I write as if I were that confused child, that child who would hardly recognize "adult" me. I write to express what never was expressed as a child. As a woman, yes I'm doing okay. But sometimes I find that I need to say what I never got to say.

      Here is a piece that I've written that sheds light on a past-related piece of me. I believe that God didn't intend this for me, but He allowed it to happen. This is a result of an unfortunate childhood. And God will ultimately use it for good. 

      To Rescue A Robin

      Fire. That’s what his chest reminds me of.
      Capable of hate. Capable of love?

      Reddish and orange and seemingly warm.
      What power is enclosed in his red little form.

      The area around his heart part is inviting.
      And his songs of affirmation are more than exciting.

      Welcoming and alluring, his chest begs me to lie next to him.
      Be close to his heart and all the love that's within.

      But ice has just as much power to scald.
      I feel that burn when a call isn't called.

      Wait, I feel no heat all nestled up next to him.
      I feel no heat, not even at the sight of him.

      So I long to extract every vice from within.
      Use my warmth to insulate and to warm him.

      But when I come near, he flies away.
      He flies away and never stays.

      Yet he brings much hope.
      When I am in pain, he helps me to cope.

      He understands when it’s time to sing.
      He delivers a glorious song every spring.

      I don’t fear his lovely singing.
      The calls, the tunes, and all the ringing.

      Perhaps a new time has finally come!
      But oh how I fear the song left unsung.

      Each one higher in pitch, three short calls he willingly makes.
      The world and the forest he violently wakes.

      Sometimes he neglects the pauses; he sings endless, glorious waves.
      Our sounds echo; our chests are empty caves.

      If I close my eyes and let his sounds take me,
      I succumb to the dream where heaven awaits me.

      His sounds have wired me to perceive light before me,
      even if shadows are all I can see.

      This morning. Out the window. I hear his voice.
      So I jump out of bed as if I have no other choice.

      I dress quickly. Close my book.
      Not pausing to consider how unsightly I must look.

      I step outside. Allow myself to breathe.
      That’s when I see him, perched among the leaves.

      Parked on a branch continuing to call to me.
      He knew his sounds would somehow summon me.

      Parked on a branch continuing to call to me.
      A woman he continuously calls me to be.

      Sometimes he hops, rather than flies,
      but when he flies, I can see freedom in his eyes.

      He sees me, all of me.
      A woman he calls and begs me to be.

      He takes from me; he always receives.
      And there's no need to question just how much he believes.

      That I am the prettiest girl in the whole wide world.
      That I am his princess, all snuggled up and curled.

      Next to him. I dance.
      He takes off. I watch.

      He is the cause. And I am an effect. He sings. I sing. He swoons,
      sending my heart over the moon.

      No! He spirals and heads straight for the glass.
      He spirals and twirls and lands in the grass.

      No. There's no way I can stop it.
      I’ve only enough awareness to stand by and watch it.

      The thud is piercing and painful in my ears.
      All limp and numb, the embodiment of my fears.

      I look down to the ground and see that brown belly facing up.
      I fold my hands and quickly make a cup.

      What on earth has he done?
      And where is the light? Where is the sun?

      I squat down, not stopping to consider the cracks in my knees.
      I jump up when I see motion; I see that he still breathes.

      I reach for him. I reach out to him, to hear him, to help him.
      Why is the light becoming so dim?

      His beak pierces my hand. A drop of blood falls to the ground.
      Now I know I'm too close. Now he makes not a sound.

      So I reach. I swoop.
      I nurture. I regroup.

      I keep quiet of the things that I've seen.
      I never frown, never slouch. On him I always lean.

      For all that I fear is the song left unsung.
      I no longer fear all the harm that’s been done.

      I stroke him, coax him.
      I sing when he doesn’t seem to listen.

      I smile. I invite him.
      I do all that I can to help him to sing again.

      And when he does, he flies away.
      And I can rest easy for one more day.

      When I look up to the sky, I see him. I see sin.
      He’s perched on the highest branch as if I never saved him.

      There’s so much that I’ve gained, but it’s everything that I’ve lost.
      I wonder if I would've kept quiet if I truly knew the cost?

      I've tried to rescue a robin. I've tried to save a father.
      If I knew he'd never love me, would I have even bothered?

      But that was then. This is now.
      I know I must release him. Some days I'm just not sure how.

      But it looks like I don't have to, for he has flown away.
      Has nothing to sing; he has nothing to say.

      He's gone. He's left. He's never coming back.
      And I'm left here with these memories to forever unpack.

      © Kara Rodriguez
      November 01, 2013

      Someone's—Anyone's—Keeper

      by , in
      My finger moves up and down the center of my love's chest. My eyes follow the traces.
      I see all my torn up places. And so I distract myself. I excuse myself from connecting to his eyes.

      But my heart isn’t absent of the desire to gaze into them. Rather, it's fear that prevents me from actually seeing him.

      Eventually I succumb. I do all that I can to rid myself of the feeling of numb.
      I allow the magnetic pull to draw my forehead closer to his.

      I lift my lids.

      I wince as I would at the sight of the sun because his eyes remind me of what can't be undone.

      Proverbial.

      His eyes are so familiar. When we finally lock, I see more than I’d hoped for.
      Like my own and my father’s, his eyes I adore.

      They are dark and brown and soft yet serious. For a moment, they are my father's distant eyes proclaiming mounds of endless lies.

      And they mirror back to me.

      These windows tell me who I am. They scream to me where I’ve been.

      His eyes.

      Like a fake form of nostalgia, I somehow long for a better time. I long for the love that was never there. A better time of the past that never existed. I've wanted love,
      but it seems that somehow I've missed it.

      When I finally come to, his eyes help me to realize. I now understand what’s never before been understood. Perhaps what was numb can someday be undone.

      Never have I believed the words, "I love you." So I sigh and I cry. I cry and I sigh.

      I do my best to cup my hands around what cannot be seen. I attempt to hold onto this newly acknowledged dream.

      Tears well up.

      "You really love me?" I say.

      "Yes!" He assures me. "I loved you then. And I still love you today."

      It's funny what our pasts can do to us. This happened. And on that day I believed him.
      Other days I'm not so lucky.

      Some effects of sexual abuse are obvious. Like the loss of security and the perceived loss of beauty. And fear and pain and numbing are all expected. But other consequences aren't and even when they are, they often go undetected.

      Why have a failed to believe that I am loved?

      Love is gift that cannot be earned. And conditional love isn't really love at all.

      The idea that I cannot earn a husband's love is so very foreign to me. Through soul-searching, researching, and counseling, I know I've developed some sort of complex that revolves around elements of perfectionism and people pleasing. Over the years, love has become a prize, a hopeless and wicked need.

      "Over time, patterns develop in our relationships where we subconsciously feed on one another as we make our decisions or as we allow relationships to unfold. You're not openly thinking about it, but quietly the need to feel connected or approved can cause you to take on a reactor's approach to life. You do what you do in order to impress or gain the approval of someone who has taken on a significant role to you in that moment," says the author of When Pleasing You Is Killing Me.

      A keeper.

      Someone who conceals the family caveat, someone who cradles someone's catch. She is someone who lies for the sake of love. She safeguards a secret. Oh how she’s a keeper, for how safely she guards it.

      She’s a keeper to the one she saves by safeguarding his secret. She is rather precious. Yet when she releases that secret, she is no longer a keeper. In that moment, she instead becomes a seeker. She searches for another to save. She'll do anything for love even if it leads her to her grave.  

      I was his keeper until he needed me no longer. I bore a certain burden that seemingly saved him...

      ...seemingly saved me. Mommy loves daddy. And daddy loves mommy. This was everything that I ever dreamed. But of course, everything was much different than it had seemed.

      Was it his fault or mine...for I elected me as keeper. I was not chosen. I volunteered. Accepted, admired, adored.

      I willingly sought to serve as my father’s keeper all for the sole reason of wanting to be kept. And when those things didn't come, oh how I wept.

      He was supposed to die last night. I learned this and much more from the echoes of that trembling phone. No air. No light. Yet somehow he lives.

      “Ma’am, his lungs collapsed. No one expected him to…make it. He’s breathing but barely,” said the woman on the phone who should've been me.

      I said nothing. But my silence spoke for me.

      “Ma’am, you don’t have much time.” Click. An eerie hum. And that was it.

      Of course I’ve no time. I’ve never had much. I’ve always known this: Each of his breaths strip away the seconds. I’m reminded of the nature of time and how it’s always working against me.

      This notion of a deathbed sends screams of only one shot. I’ve only one more, a single opportunity to create a new snapshot. I will try. I will save. I will…wake up. And I do. Twas all but a dream.

      Perhaps a symbol of the things to come. Perhaps a pointing to my former "failure" that cannot be undone. In telling his secret, I opted not to be his keeper.

      I would no longer feed the façade of a lie so much deeper than a shy little girl who hoped to appease her peeper.

      I was not shy. No, no. I was someone’s loyal keeper.

      Drinking, sinking, straining to breath, yet alcohol’s not my real drug, my ecstasy. My self-proposed prescription contains perfection, performance, and putting others above me.

      Only not for their good. I do these things with the hope of being set free. Never to give, only to take. Acceptance, approval, and no longer need to fake it.

      Like a military child, I’m used to a commander. Only difference is my drill sergeant is me.

      And so I've finally realized that this isn’t about OCD lists left un-ticked. It’s about the constant striving to be someone’s—anyone’s—keeper. It’s about wanting to be fixed, needing to be picked.

      Organizing outside because I can’t seem to rearrange inside. Wanting to be kept. Needing to have love. Wanting to be swept...

      © Kara Rodriguez
      October 31, 2013

      Simpler Times

      by , in
      Where it's okay to publicly brag about things like: "I'm going through my mac-n-cheese obsession phase at age 25 and that's okay." I remember it like it was yesterday. There was a time when every significant (and insignificant) moment was thought of in terms of a Facebook status update. While partaking in an outrageous adventure like surfing or skydiving, of course social media was considered: How can I best display this so that others will see just how awesome this is and act accordingly with jealousy?

      How can I best display this so that others will see this and proceed to feel horrible about themselves? Because if they don't, that means (by default) I'm the one who's feeling all sorts of horrible. No, this isn't some sort of jealous outrage. I have proof: “We were surprised by how many people have a negative experience from Facebook with envy leaving them feeling lonely, frustrated or angry,” says Hanna Krasnova, the author of a recent Facebook study (from the Institute of Information Systems at Berlin’s Humboldt University).

      Well, I'm not surprised. An article in Time magazine notes that Facebook frustration comes from (1) users comparing themselves to their peers and (2) users being dissatisfied due to a "lack of attention," i.e. less likes, comments, and general feedback compared to friends (Why Facebook Makes You Feel Bad About Yourself).

      If a status update isn't entertaining or informative, it's just plan annoying, says the blog wait but why. The motivation for posting such annoying status updates is more than likely a combination of image crafting, narcissism, jealousy, attention cravings, and/or loneliness.

      The author of the blog presents 7 kinds of annoying Facebook status updates. I'll provide some examples, but I won't spoil the fun. Read 7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook for yourself.

      Annoying updates include brags (out in the open, undercover, and relationship brags), cliffhangers (leaves you wanting more, i.e. begs for attention), literal updates (I'm going to eat my ice cream and then take a picture of it and show you), public private messages that do not concern you, acceptance speeches, obvious opinions (that disaster was a disaster), and steps one should take toward enlightenment. These updates only benefit the author and rarely, if ever, those around her.

      It's too bad that there's no "dislike" option on Facebook, but at least I can hide things from my news feed that I'd rather not see. Example? The never-ending hotsy totsy photos of Ms. Perfect in her scandalous outfits downing beers at the pub. Overly deep updates that make me question if I'm as close to God. Awesome things that I wasn't invited to. Sigh. These things don't leave me feeling encouraged, excited, and happy. Rather, I'm left to feel unhappy jealous, and...Not. Good. Enough.

      Why keep such friends? Well maybe one day they'll see how awesome I really am. Or maybe they are friends in real life that you're trying real hard not to be jealous of...and Facebook's not helping.

      Sure, Facebook's been known to increase one's self esteem, but only because we've become very good at making ourselves believe that we're more special than we actually are (I'm Special & I Want My Unicorn). And it's been said that Facebook is good for those introverted people because then they don't have to look anyone in the eye. But Cain will tell you that introvert doesn't equal shy (Quiet).

      Facebook's good for entertainment, promoting yourself, and "maintaining" friendships with those you'll never see again. Perhaps there are other benefits to Facebook such as landing a job and maintaining a connection with your Australian friends - more power to you if you find it to be a useful tool. That said, "Facebook users spend an average of more than 15 hours a month on the social networking site" (Business News Daily). Can all of this time really be put to good use...while using Facebook?

      Comparing. Envy. Dissatisfaction. Self-promotion. If I can conclude that perhaps my day-to-day life could be a little lighter without Facebook, why then is it so hard to get rid of it?

      When I consider taking the plunge, I find reasons not to. I won't be able to share my blog (that an average of two people "like"). But what about when I get a new job or something, won't I want to tell everyone about it...so they can see how awesome I've become? So I can feel accepted, loved, worth something. After all, it's far more fun to be the envied than the envier.

      Needless to say, these motives are yuck.

      And besides, there might be 7 people that actually care about me on Facebook. And those 7 people can certainly care about me outside of Facebook.

      It's times like these when I wish Simpler Times wasn't a beer that I had once when I young, stupid, and looking for love. All this thinking makes me long for a simpler time, one where I'm not constantly concerned with the approval of others. I can't help but think of New Zealand. No phone. No internet. Freedom.

      So, farewell Facebook. So long. I'm ready for simpler times. I think that's why I love fall so much. Everything's just a bit simpler. Sweaters are finally okay. And everything seems to slow down a bit. It's a time when it's okay to be inside. Snuggle up and read a book. And even if it's because they're bitter, people tend to be more quiet in the cold. Fall brings with it a sense of a simpler time. And this fall, I plan to embrace that.

      Ruckert's Law: There is nothing so small that it can't be blown out of proportion.
      August 22, 2013

      The Danger of A Single Story

      by , in
      In her 2009 TED Talk, Chimamanda Zgozi Adichi tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice. She warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk missing something. Our lives and our cultures are composed of many overlapping stories, and while one story may shed light on a great deal, it certainly can never be the only story. We are webs of existence. All too often we define ourselves by the biggest stories, perhaps only a single significant story. And unfortunately, since we live in a fallen world that single story is often a negative one.

      A death of a loved one. A battle with an addiction. A struggle to overcome sexual abuse.

      These stories have weight, but what are we missing when we focus on only them?

      Chimamanda says, "All of these stories make me who I am, but to insist on only the negative stories is to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me."

      Graduating college. Getting married. Why can't these stories be included among the traumatic ones that often label me? Moreover, what about the story where I decided that this life won't be all I'll ever see? The one where I decided to believe in a certain Savior to set me free?

      Chimamanda goes on to say, "The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story."

      What if a history of xyz was the only story you ever heard about me?

      "The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar."

      The truth is, while we may not all experience the same pain, we are more alike than many of us think. We are all sinners and live in a sinful world. No one leaves this life apart from knowing sin, pain, and grief among many other emotions and feelings.

      The danger of a single story is setting ourselves or others apart as better or worse due to past pain and/or present sufferings. The danger of a single story is reducing ourselves to only this pain and suffering.

      But the beauty of a believer's certain single story is the following: We as believers are all made new in Him. We will all one day be reunited in a much better place, a place where we will share the same (wonderful) story for all eternity.
      July 15, 2013

      My Father's Daughter

      by , in
      Cold, sweaty hands on an eighty degree, humid morning. Surely my body thinks something's wrong with me. I sit on them to warm them, to calm me. Ten minutes early. Better than late I suppose. I step inside. The Caribou is just like any other I've seena calming yet jittery atmosphere. At least that's what I tell myself. But maybe the only jitters are inside of me.

      A man behind the counter calls, "Coffee for Scott," which gives him away. I introduce myself and grab a seat across the table from him. The interview begins with a description of the story he'd like to write and a quick click of a recording device. That's when it hits me. Have I ever sat down with a gentleman and talked about my story, my past?

      I tell him of my story, of my history with abuse. I tell him how I reacted and share with him how I found God again. How I started writing. Why I started writing. How I believe churches should handle these kinds of topics. What I'd like readers to know. My thoughts on healing. My new book.

      Twelve years ago my secret was made known. But my secret being spelled out for the world―not just family or a few close friends but everyone―to see wasn't something I sought after. It was something I dreaded. There was too much shame in sharing something so personal, so complex and so painful and so deep.

      Twelve years ago, the abuse I endured was described in detail in the local newspaper. My name wasn't used, not my first name anyway, but it's no secret that I am my father's daughter.

      My father's daughter was sexually abused. My father's daughter was anything but treated right. These facts and the associated details were printed in the local newspaper where everyone knew that my father's daughter was me.

      My father's daughter couldn't get out of bed that day. She lay in pain as she anticipated experiencing the reactions of readers. She became even more ashamed. After all, her secret was not willingly shared. It was stolen. It was used as a media sensation apart from her twelve-year-old permission.

      It didn't matter if anyone actually deemed me dirty and defiled; my secret made known was enough to make me perceive that the entire world...and maybe even God Himself believed that I was.

      To think that my father's daughter would one day tell her secret on not man's but God's terms, that she would tell it willingly in light of God's grace. To think that she would tell it and share of her shame, her shame in the light having power no more.

      I'm sure God knew all along the irony I'd face on this day. When I was twelve, my secret was shared for me, fueling my life with more feelings of shame and inadequacy. Twelve years later, I opt to share my secret. I share my secret for God, freeing many of those same feelings.

      I praise God today for this sweet piece of pie that has made this portion of my story come full circle. A big thank you to the newspaper who wrote about my story in an adequate and thorough manner. And finally, may God bless the stories that I willingly share to help those in need, to help those who feel or have felt at one time or another mistreated, used, and anything but free.