A Little Life Update

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Hello Lovelies

It’s been just a little while! I want you all to know that I am doing SO MUCH better. The storm clouds have cleared, and even though I don’t know all of God’s reasons, our relationship has gone through some intense healing in this past month.

Oh so much has happened; so much that I don’t even know where to start talking. Sometimes it is easy to get overwhelmed by the life I am meant to share with you all. I feel as if the stories have piled on top of each other like the laundry on the chair beside my bed, and I don’t know where to begin. I make lists of the lessons God is teaching me, and yes, I do hope to share each one with you. I want to do it properly though, wrapping each story within it’s own colors, and tying them with the heartstrings they pull. I want each moment to whisper the love God has to speak over you through my own life. That is why, dear friends, I am choosing to wait until I have time to pour my whole self into the stories I have waiting for you. I hope you understand.

Meanwhile

Meanwhile, I started an instagram for my blog! I am loving choosing captivating photos, and writing small, meaningful posts for those who choose to follow my bits of beauty. As is hinted at in the picture above, my goal is to inspire others everyday. There is so much fake in the world, so much hate, so many opinions. I want my platform to be a place that brings hope, love, and encouragement to others. I want my posts to pull at something inside their hearts, prompting them to live bravely, to talk to Jesus, to see beauty in the little things.

A Little Show and Tell

I want to share some of my favorite posts with you here. You- my first supporters, will always be my favorites.

1/23/19

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“Please dear one, remind yourself of this truth today.

My heart overflows with thankfulness and my cheeks become flushed as I read these sweet words. This year I am continually smitten by Jesus. Letting Him love me has been the hardest and most beautiful thing I have ever done. Sometimes He makes my favorite wildflowers grow where only I would find them, sometimes He has a tiny star peak through the clouds, sometimes He whispers just the right words to my heart.

Opening my life up and inviting Him to interrupt me has given me a glimpse of just how passionately He loves me, and it makes me cry the very happiest of tears.

Where do you see Him pursing your heart? Have you been looking?”

1/26/19

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“When Jesus said “It is finished.” He meant it. When God tore the veil, He held nothing back. A bold and passionate gesture to say “I don’t need you perfect, I need you here.”

Beautiful or Ugly
Broken or Whole
Shoes or Barefoot
Sick or Healthy
Happy or Heartbroken
Free or Caught up in sin

“I want all of you. I didn’t hold back when I sent my son to get you, so don’t hold back when you come.

Everything is already paid for darling, I just want you.”

 

1/30/19

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“I too have moments of grief and sadness, but I have to remember that where God had me before is not my place anymore.” My pastor looked at me with kind understanding in his eyes, and hints of pain wavering in his voice. I knew he was speaking out of vulnerability and love, but his words dug so deeply into the wounds of my heart. They poured over my ears like alcohol over open cuts, and I wanted to run away. Tears threatened to come, but I held them in. I knew he was right.

For everything there is a season.
I know that now, I am enough. I am living in who God has called me to be. I am walking through stories and living in love and I am EXACTLY where I need to be right now.
The heartache of missing what I once had is real, but the promise that God is doing a new thing is my hope. He is my strength. He is the reason I wake up every morning to live loved and loving others.

It was never “Me, God, and Rockford, Illinois.” Always Me and God. Where ever I go that remains true. His steadfast love, His new mercies every morning, His call on my life.
The circumstances, people, and area that surrounds me are subject to constant change, my relationship with my Father isn’t.
Even before I knew I was leaving last year He spoke those words into my heart and told me to hold fast to them. “Remember this” He whispered. “Remember that wherever we go, it’s You and Me.”

Oh God, bind my wandering heart to thee as it cries for what once was. For faces missed, for places past. Here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above. ❤ ”

La da da, Living Loved

“La da da, I’m so loved, and I can’t quite figure out why. But I’m grateful, oh so grateful, for the love that you hold in your eyes.”

This is what I sing in my heart when I dance for joy in the freedom of Christ. What does it mean to live loved? That has been the question I am asking myself in this season. One night at youth group a few weeks ago, we had an alter-call where we handed out sticky notes. We had just watched a sermon about trying to climb a ladder to be good enough for God, when Jesus climbed down the ladder to be with us. We prompted the kids to write down how they would stop climbing the ladder. I wrote “Jesus, I keep trying to be enough for you and keep on failing. Please God, show me what it means to live loved.”

And that was that.

Those words, “Live Loved” are stuck in my head and have been repeating every time I make a mistake. To live loved doesn’t mean that I live in sin, it means I live believing that I am unconditionally loved in every second of every day, no matter what.

That, my friends, is real faith.

The truth is, the more I let God’s love pour over my heart, the more I want to please Him. Letting mercy cover my failures is the most humbling thing I have ever done. It’s kind of like the feeling of letting someone pay for my meals, or take care of me when I’m sick. To have someone do the thing that I know I should do on my own, but can’t. The deep love I feel from God is unlike anything in this world, and I don’t deserve it, but still He gives over and over.

With the power of this love, I am living a new life and laying down my old one for Him, day after day. As He gave His for me so I will keep on giving mine for Him. Do you know what the most beautiful thing is about this love story, though? All He wants from me is for me to love more people, and tell them how much He loves them, too. That’s crazy. I ask Him what I can do for Him and He says “Feed my sheep” over and over. Nothing for Him, everything for the people He loves more than life.

So, I get to live every day filled with purpose! Waking up knowing that I have a reason to live life to the full. Living to inspire others with my creative passion and words to express the true, undeserved love that Christ so desperately wants to offer to all of us.

This is what it means to Live Loved.

Until Next Time

Well guys, I guess I had a lesson inside of me after all. Sometimes the Holy Spirit gets a little excited and my love for my savior just bubbles over and spills out of me. I think it’s called Joy. Or Hope. Or Peace? Or maybe love is a good enough word to capture all it and wrap it up in a tight hug. I love Him so much, I can’t even tell you.

 

 

 

Storms and Stars

The first thing I have to say to all of you is this:

I am so sorry. I haven’t posted in over three weeks. I haven’t even written in over three weeks. I have been avoiding my calling because it felt too hard to keep up with. This is going to be a vulnerable post. Fair warning. Although there have already been a few, this one is more vulnerable. It’s unedited. (Spelling errors may ensue.) And it’s about right now. I may post it this Monday, but usually I write my blog posts several weeks before I put them out into the world. I always want time to process and make sure I actually want to share what I’m talking about, and I want to give my editor (love you Katie) time to perfect what I couldn’t. Just to start things off, here is a little of where I’m at right now:

  • The struggle with loneliness has become my excuse to hide under my covers in self-pity. I grieve, with no intention of getting up again. I hurt, with no belief that God is healing me.
  • My bed has broken glass all over it, so I’ve been sleeping in my guest bed. I’ve been talking about cleaning it for over a week, but because I lack the motivation, I’ve done nothing.
  • This morning I hit snooze repeatedly for two hours. I made a promise to myself a few months ago to start going to bed at 10:30 and to no longer hit snooze in the morning. I’ve been ignoring that promise for a month.
  • My most repeated prayer for the past week has been “Help my unbelief.”  because every time I pray I worry that God is not real.

That’s enough for now. You get the gist. I wouldn’t say I’m depressed, not clinically anyway; but I would say I’m struggling to be joyful.

I have a little window next to the foot of my bed. It is my favorite place to sit when I pray. (Except for right now because I’m pretty sure there are shards of glass there.) I love to sit with my face pressed up against the screen, hoping to feel a breeze of God’s love brush past my cheeks. I opened the window on a cool, star-y, night at the beginning of this past summer. A night when I was especially struggling with fear of the year to come and feeling rejected.* I was trying to remember that God is good and was with me and had always been with me. I felt like The Spirit was prompting me to recount the ways He had been there, so I began to visualize my childhood, and visualize Him with me in my memories.

All-too-quickly, this sweet moment was stolen away from my savior and I. Memories that are too painful to talk about publicly started to overwhelm good memories, and my heart began to question. Before I could stop the thoughts, a particularly haunting memory hit my head like whiplash, and I started to cry. “Jesus” I could barely get out the words. “Why.” “Why would you be there-just watching?” All of the things I was crying too deeply to say aloud were hurling through my thoughts at 1,000,000,000 miles per hour. “If there’s no shadow you won’t light up, and no mountain you won’t climb up to come after me, then why didn’t you shatter every window in the room? I don’t want a God who cries for me, I want a God who fights for me! You were strong enough to protect me, how could you just watch it happen?”

My heart broke that night. It is still damaged. When people talk about Jesus, it’s like I have an awful secret. Something in my heart that says “Watch it. That’s still bruised.” I wish I could say I’ve figured it out, but I haven’t. I have come to a place where I trust Him again, because I trust His character, but I don’t understand. I have fought to remind myself that even in the midst of confusion, He is good. I have cried through the songs that brought me back to His heart. I have shouted and cussed in my car until I fell into His arms and cried again. “I know Him. I know Him.” I tell myself over and over again. He loves me. I know. But I am hurt. I know.

I have always loved the stars. They are a constant reminder to me that God is big, that He is real, and that even though He has all of those billions of galaxies, and millions of people, He wanted me, too. It’s so sweet, and every time I look up my soul comes alive with feelings of awe, fear, love, and being utterly smitten by Him. On this night however, I looked up at the stars and almost wished they’d go away. I didn’t want such a blunt reminder that yes, God is real, and yes, He didn’t protect me from that.

The next night, after an entire day of feeling incredibly hurt and not wanting to talk to Him, I came to my window again, hoping He would explain Himself. (Sometimes we are exactly what I imagine a married couple to be, which is a good thing, but I think it’s funny that we fight.) I opened my window and looked up. Nothing. Not a single star in the sky. All I could see was black. My heart fell. I felt hopeless. Even the stars weren’t there to show me something beautiful about God.

The next night it was the same. Pitch black sky, not even one star. My hopelessness grew, and my heart began to sigh a feeling of abandonment. My third day was much like the first, but I was more settled into the mess. I was getting used to being unsure of His love. That night when I half heartedly opened my window, drops of rain began to hit my hands. I was startled, but as fast as I registered what the water was, He spoke. “You may not see the stars, but I am there. You will see the truth after the storm. But for now my baby, have faith.”

Those words poured hope into a very thirsty heart, but I still hesitated to drink it. It was after that that I started to fight to believe in His heart. To believe that He still loves. To believe, no matter what the thunder roars in my ears and the lightning strikes in my heart, that there are stars behind those clouds.

I know Him. I know the stars. I have faith, but faith is hard.

To be honest, I was really hoping the storm would let up by now. It has been five months. I want answers, I want to dance in His love and not have my heart screaming about the bruise. I’m learning so many things in the midst of this storm. I like to think that each rain drop is watering my faith. Is loosening the soil around my planted seeds, so that my roots can grow down further into His love. (Col. 2:7 & Matt. 13:5-6.) I keep telling myself that somehow after all of this, I will be stronger- because my God is not wasteful. I know Him.

On the way home from a youth trip this week I was listening to a podcast staring Steffany Gretzinger. She talked about her new album “Blackout” and I was curious. I put on my pink headphones and leaned back on our five and a half hour drive home. At song five my bruise stopped complaining. The words were written for this moment, for this season, for this storm.

“When I loose direction

When I can’t see the stars

When we get disconnected

I’ll sing my way back to your arms

I’ll sing my way back to your heart.”

Sing My Way Back//Blackout//Steffany Gretzinger

Excuse me while I bawl. Not really. I’m not there yet. To be honest, I’m not ready to be that vulnerable with God right now. But… I mean. How did she write a song that had the exact line of my current life in it? If it had been just another “I trust you in the midst of the storm” song I don’t think it would’ve mattered to me, but she literally wrote When I can’t see the stars.

So that song is my new anthem. I see Him, and I see His whispers of kindness, love and hope. I continue to take deep breaths until the storm clears. I continue to pray even though I’m fighting to believe in Him. Please Jesus, let don’t leave me in this mess, and keep reminding me that you are here while I fight for faith. Keep reminding me that I know you.

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*See ‘My Story’ post.

For the Lonely Ones

A little Tea and Poetry

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I am going to die alone. I am sure of it. I’ve never been in love, so don’t think this is a case of the broken-heart blues. I just miss my people. Last night I set my alarm for 7am. I had a plan. ” Wake up, have a quiet time, drink some tea, clean, and be out the door by  8.” Well, that didn’t happen. I woke up at to the sound of christmas music (because guys, it’s time), and was overcome by the same thing that seems to creep up and steal joy from me every day.  Loneliness.

My younger sister is still gone visiting family, and my other sister in town is preparing to move an hour away. This morning the Christmas music I thought would cheer me just led to memories I know will never be the same. My sisters and I were the ‘Paul Reveres’ of the Christmas season. (Just imagine us galloping into your neighborhood on horse back yelling “CHRISTMAS IS COMING! CHRISTMAS IS COMING!”) We went caroling, giggled together and sang songs around our home as we decorated, When the first snow fell, we ran outside with a wide-eyed, The Hills Are Alive kind of zeal. (I just wanted an excuse to use the word  ‘zeal’; but it’s true – we did. )

I miss that.

I wish could’ve know how special those moments were. I wish I could bundle up my favorite memories, and go back for just one day with that knowledge.

“‘Live in the moment.’ he’d tell me.

As if we had a choice.

Minutes are rolling storm clouds and seconds.

Bolts of lightning.

They’ve no concern for moments.” //klr

We’ve all felt this way. I take a sip of my lukewarm earl grey tea (I never drink it fast enough) and consider putting on warmer socks, as I trying to remind myself of the bright side. We all have some happy memories we cling to and I’m thankful that God, in a sense, does let us relive those moments. Whenever we need them, the memories are there. It’s just that today, my memories feel like a loyal puppy that is underfoot: Their constant presence prevents me from getting anything done.

I spent the first hour and a half of today lying in bed, checking Instagram, and wishing I could teleport myself to where the fun was happening. The FOMO (fear of missing out) is real, and it is stealing away my life, second by second, lonely sigh after lonely sigh. After D.M. “I miss you so much!” number five, I knew I needed to get out of my head. So here I am, pounding out my thoughts for all the blogosphere to hear.

Okay, pause while I go get those warmer socks… Brrrr. (I don’t care how long I live in Minnesota, I will never get used to this!)

Now We Get to the Good Part…

Okay, tea is re-microwaved (never the same-but we all need redemption), bunny-face socks are on, and I grabbed a blanket for good measure. Let’s do this thing.

I know we are never truly alone. I believe that what the Bible says is true and that Jesus is always with us and never forsakes us. I am not trying to discredit that truth, but I am having a really hard time believing it. I’ve known these things my whole life, so much so that it all feels cliché to me and I tend to ignore it. But I have been pushed lately to question if these things are “far away” truths for me.

Let me put it this way:

I believe that the Grand Canyon is real. I believe it is beautiful and lovely and breathtaking. I believe that if I went to it, I would have a new revelation of some kind and learn more about God. So, why am I not planning my trip? Because I would have to work for it.  Because I can keep myself busy with Instagram, my blog, work, church, feel-good movies and reading Christian books. I don’t go see it myself because I can hear stories from other people who went and saw it. Or I can read about it on the Internet. I believe the Grand Canyon is amazing because other people have had soul-moments there and have written about it. It is far away for me. It remains far away because I feel no need to chase it down. I’ve never really minded taking it in second-hand.

I think that some truths about God are this way for me. I know He is here with me, but when I pray I am either bowing down or looking up. I never look in front of me like I am talking to someone. Never would I reach out next to me to hold His hand. Never would I look next to me to see His face. This truth has been talked about, written about and believed in my heart since I was a little girl, but what about actually looking in front of me and imagining Jesus? What about chasing down that truth?

Honestly, it would feel a little weird. Okay, a lot weird. It feels like if I “pray” by just talking to someone and acting like they are next to me, I am going back to the Arianna of preschool with imaginary friends. It feels childish. Even as I write that, I can hear Him whispering to my heart, “Child-like faith, Dear One.” This moment is followed by an “Oh crap” on my part, because it means something is about to change.

My friend Annie Downs wrote a new book called Remember God. Okay, before you freak out, I don’t know her, but I feel like I do because I read her books and feel like I know her completely. Besides, she calls me her friend all the time in the book, so I will take that as a, “Yes Arianna, we can be friends.” As I was reading chapter 4 last night, she told me about a prayer time in which God spoke these words to her heart: “When your life changes, you and I change too.” She explained that God never changes, but that her relationship with God changed whenever her life did. I felt her words on a deep level, because I have been struggling with this for a little over a week now.

My brain is overrun with questions and red-alert signals. My brain doesn’t like change, We’ve established that by now. Have you ever seen those heart VS brain comics? Here’s one of my favorites:

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My heart and my brain are often at war, but I think my heart will win this one. I keep thinking, What if I am doing something against the rules, what if imagining Jesus with me and talking to me face-to-face is wrong, what if it looks stupid, what if angry Christians throw Bible verses at me in the comments telling me why I am so wrong to invite Jesus into my life in this way? But my heart keeps butting in with things like, But aren’t I supposed to live free in Christ? What about not being bound to the law anymore? What about Jesus dying so that we could talk to God? What about the veil that was torn? 

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”-Hebrews 11:6

“So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” -Galatians 5:1

“… And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”-Matthew 28:20

“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”-Romans 5:5

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” -John 14:16

 

It feels so weird to think of the Holy Spirit as a person and not some mystical being like a wisp from the movie Brave. But I want to be free from all the laws I try to create and keep about who God is. It shouldn’t be such a foreign concept to think about Jesus being with me right now, reading over my shoulder. I can feel Him loving to watch my fingers speed across the keys. He smiles as I pour my whole self into what I love. Oh wow. That felt good. *sigh* My heart was right. I definitely need this.

I am going to try it. I already know His voice. I hear Him speak to my heart all the time; but what if it is supposed to be more personal than that? What if I am supposed to believe He is with me? Not off in heaven somewhere.

It’s not that I haven’t had a relationship with Jesus up to this point, because I have. But I think now, because my life changed, He and I changed too, just like Annie Downs talked about. He is changing us, growing us. Just like any other relationship, I am learning new things about Him, letting Him get closer. Maybe I had to be lonely so I could find this part of Him. I’m smiling now, because I should’ve known. He loves me too much to waist anything. That’s just the way He is. That’s our God.

Breathe Love

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I hit my best friend’s car last Friday. Yes, I really did. It was definitely not my proudest moment. We were driving caravan-style to Rockford, Illinois to drop her off at college. For six long hours my fingers clenched the steering wheel as huge semis rumbled by, along with the occasional surprising car flashing hazards on the side of the road, begging me to change lanes in a matter of seconds.

I. Was. STRESSED.

If you’re wondering why I was so freaked out about driving on the interstate, I am still a fairly new driver. It was a lot for me. If only my friend were sitting shotgun. She will be attending the school I went to the past two years and I, much to my dismay, will not be joining her there this year. Thus, I agreed to drive, alone, to Rockford to see her off. I guess you could say I’m brave like that.

We were approximately two minutes away from the hotel where her family was staying when it happened. Imagine with me: I’m sitting in my car, relieved to have finally arrived to Rockford UNSCATHED. I decided to have a ridiculous I’m terrified not to have both hands on the wheel, but I need to do a happy dance! moment. (I’m sure it was hilarious, and that was the only time I was glad Raven wasn’t with me.) Nothing happened during my happy dance. I was fine and so was the rest of the world. I cruised along in full confidence, saying in my head “yeahhh that’s right. I can do hard things. take that stupid fear. TAKE. THAT.”

I followed my friend as she turned right at a busy intersection. She stopped. I tried to stop. But instead of putting my foot on the brake pedal, I pressed down hard on the floor next to the brake pedal. Yep. It was that stupid. I had a split second to consider whether this validated swearing, as I frantically felt for my brake. Too late… wham. I saw the entire bumper of Raven’s new car crumple. I’m pretty sure my heart did the same thing. All of me wanted to shrivel up, and I knew there was no getting out of the awkward moment to come.

By some miracle, she drove over a little bump on her way to pull to the side of the road, and about half of the damage popped back into place before my eyes. It was one of those moments where you say “…Okay God, I’ll take it.” (Then you never tell her how bad it really was, and she reads this blog post a month later and calls you to say “WHAT?!) 

Her hazards went on. I realized I should put mine on too, but was so distraught I couldn’t remember where the button was. She got out, I got out, her brother in-law, who was riding in her car, also got out. He tried to ask me what had happened, and I tried to explain it without sounding dumb. There is hardly any way around sounding dumb when you literally missed the brake pedal. Meanwhile, I kept glancing at my friend. Her face had kind of a glazed-over look, and she stared at her bumper like a confused zombie. My heart ached. Her day had already been long. She was saying goodbye and moving away from everything she knew. Plus, she had only bought this car a week before. I knew she didn’t need this. She didn’t know what to say, and honestly neither did I. “I’m so sorry,” just didn’t seem genuine, even if it was more than true. 

 “How could you be such a horrible friend?!” I started shouting at myself internally. “How could you not pay attention? Who just misses the break? They are both thinking about how absolutely dumb you are. How will you EVER live this down?  She is going to tell everyone. I have to call Tad (my older brother) who will talk about this at every Christmas ever. Mom will be able to say ‘I told you so.’ And she did tell me so! I should’ve known I wasn’t capable of this. I wish I had never come. I’ve ruined everything. She wishes I had never come.” 

I woke up the next morning on my friend’s couch with the same negative thoughts racing through my mind. The moment I was coherent enough to know where I was, I remembered how yesterday had played out. I had been the definition of a bad friend and an idiot driver. After another good dose of hateful thoughts towards myself, I started to clean up my bedding and told myself not to let the accident take more away from me than it already had. That’s a motto I try to live by, but I’m not very good at it. 

Time for a little bit of Backstory

      I went to the same college I was taking my friend to, for two years. I was told by leadership that I couldn’t return for a third year, because they thought I would grow more in someplace I was less comfortable. Raven is a couple of years younger than me, which meant that she was joining the same year I was no longer allowed to be a part. I’m so proud of her. and so freaking excited for her, but it was a bittersweet weekend as I stayed at the apartments that had been my home for the past two years. Waking up on the couch of my dearest friends, knowing I didn’t get to stay, was especially difficult.

The Part where I Almost Die Again:

My eyes were blurry with tears and my heart ached as I left the apartments. I wasn’t thinking about anything but how much this hurt. I was pulling out of the parking lot to turn right, and had another “gosh dang-it” moment. I pulled out into the lane before double checking my left. I froze. Another car was coming straight for me. Thankfully, the car saw me too, and slowed down. He came to a stop in front of my long hood  – waiting for me to do something. The car behind him did the same, and I would’ve gone, but it seemed the other cars weren’t nearly as patient. I wish I could draw a picture for you, because my words are confusing even me. Basically, there I was holding up the right lane as the people behind our three cars kept passing us. Embarrassed and frustrated, I went to back up to get out of the mess; but as soon as I was in reverse, I realized there was a red car behind me waiting to turn! All I could do was wait.

Stuck in humiliation, and recognizing the car behind me as an old classmate from school,(maybe I was just seeing things because I was freaking out. I really don’t know.) I felt judged and overwhelmed. I waited for a safe moment, and then tried to go. Forgetting I was still in reverse. A beep! alerted me just before I backed into Mr. Red car.

By the time I had shifted back into drive, I had to wait again. Finally, flustered and humiliated, I pulled out and went as fast as my good ol’ Buick could accelerate. As the red car passed me, I hid the left side of my face with my hand. Much to my dismay, he was headed for the church, and so was I. All hope that maybe he has been another tenant of the apartments left, as I realized my impending doom. We were going to get there at the same time, and park in the same lot because only one door was open today. why. me. 

     I stayed in my car for at least 15 minutes after parking, just to make sure I didn’t have to talk to him on the way in. My day was ruined for the next couple of hours, and even though I was going to the church to help my room-mate of two years watch little kids, I didn’t say a word to her about what had happened. I hated myself too much. How can you be so stupid?” I asked myself over and over again.

Today I am home. The drive back to Minnesota was relatively uneventful which I was so grateful for after the stressful weekend. I just finished a 3.59 hour shift, and as I clocked out, I had another moment of self-hatred. Ugh Arianna, How could you not find one more thing to do? If you had just worked a little harder you could’ve left a minute later and had an even four hours.

As I went to turn off the deli lights, I realized I couldn’t stand living with my own high standards anymore. If anyone else treated me like I had been treating myself, I would avoid them at all costs! “That’s it!” I said aloud. “That’s enough.” Even as I walked out, processing just how bad I had gotten, I saw a to-do list left by my co-worker. “Make sandwiches” was still uncrossed. Ugh, Arianna yo- I stopped myself. I changed my entire posture as I intentionally thought Dang girl! Look at all those things you crossed off today! Way to go. I’m proud of you. I realized that it was the first nice thing I had thought about myself all day, heck, maybe all week. I immediately felt better and much more confident. I walked out to my car, and started to think about how dumb the ‘Free Spirit’ wall sticker on my back windshield looked. I immediately caught myself. I’m glad I was spontaneous enough and creative enough to think about putting a wall sticker on my car, even if it didn’t work out. I’m so grateful God made me to be a free spirit. I’m so grateful I’m creative. I’m so grateful I am at a place where I was brave enough to try something so public.

 

 I was driving, getting steadily more proud of myself for fighting the mind games. Then, just as quickly, I became annoyed at the loudness of my old car. A thought of How embarrassing was flitted away with what felt like a gust of thankfulness. God, thank you that my car is loud. Thank you for teaching me to never be prideful about what I drive. Thank you that I even have this car.

I feel awesome. I believe thankfulness is the key to joy, but believing isn’t doing. I’ve learned that it’s no good to know something if you aren’t doing it. You feel smart but you also feel empty. You have the bread in your hand, but you haven’t eaten in days. That’s what it’s like to incorporate truth into one’s life. You don’t eat once and suddenly you are the super-star of being full, like I used to think.

I had it stuck in my head that once I was done with my first year at CFLC (the leadership college in Rockford), I was going to be a Super-Christian. I would know how to be confident, I would know what I was called to do with my life, I would be unstoppable. To be honest, knowing the kind of training and the amount of Christian conferences I’ve been through the past two years, I am ashamed to admit what I was letting myself feel and think. I knew better, but that didn’t mean I felt like acting on what I knew.

Check your Breath, Babe.

I learned a new concept with this “pull myself out of the gutter” moment. Everything that surrounds us, whether it be a car accident or a moment where we don’t measure up to our own standard of perfection, is something that has to be experienced. Like breathing.

There is a new concept that came with this “pull myself out of the gutter” moment though. Everything that surrounds us, whether it be a car accident or a moment where we don’t measure up to our own standard of perfection, is something that has to be experienced. Like breathing.

I live in the Midwest. There are lots of hog farms here, and none of them smell good. There are many moments where I’m driving, minding my own business, when suddenly, wham, the smell hits me, and I have no choice but to breath in. Life is like that. Wham. No choice. The accident happened, the thing was forgotten, the perfection was not reached. But it’s really not what you breathe in that matters, it’s what you exhale. It’s what you do with a situation or a feeling. You are only responsible for the way you react when something is not what you wanted it to be.

When I Needed a Mint and Didn’t Even Know It

Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I had been exhaling hate like crazy. Toward myself, toward God and toward other people. I’ve discovered that when I’m frustrated with myself, I automatically become frustrated with God.  All these years I’ve been annoyed that God didn’t make me less absent-minded, more efficient or less messy. Every time I am mad at myself for some shortcoming, I become, consequently, mad at God for making me that way. Whether I like it or not, I am telling Him about what a horrible job He did creating me. Not only am I hurting myself, but I am disfiguring the way I see God. I am turning Him into someone He is not by training myself to believe that He never loved me or had my best interest in mind. How unfair is that?

It’s much the same concept when it comes to how I was hating other people. I had been claiming that Raven wished I hadn’t come to Rockford, telling myself my brother was sure to make fun of me, feeling certain that the person in the red car behind me was judging me. What if none of that was even true? I had that humbling moment when, a few hours after the accident, my friend and I went to get pizza. We hadn’t actually spoken yet, when she reached up to pet my head. (She’s a little quirky like that, and I love her for it.) I said without thinking, “Is this the beginning of I forgive you?” She looked almost hurt as she said, “I was never…” She trailed off and rolled her eyes, as if it didn’t matter, because she could see I had already decided what kind of person she was.

How many times a day have I done this? How often do I decide someone else is feeling for them? I have trained my brain to believe character traits of God and other people that makes me dislike them more. I have been giving them no chance to show mercy and love in a situations, because I can’t bear to show it to myself.

For the first time, I’m really figuring out my negative self-talk is not only hindering my will to live with myself and my relationship with God, but it’s also hindering my relationship with the people I worry are judging me. It’s amazing how selfish insecurity really is when you look at it more closely. I’m beginning to get more and more disgusted with what it’s done to my life. At first, I thought that it couldn’t possibly be hurting anyone but me, but I always wondered how the confident people can laugh loudly and dance in public without fear. Now I realize they embrace the line “What other people think of you in NONE of your business.” 

    I realized tonight that I am doing to myself, and other people, the exact thing I have always wished my family would stop doing to me. I grew up feeling like nothing more than a joke. Something’s stories to laugh at around Christmas time, something to be frustrated with, something to be the butt of every blonde joke. Something who gets told elaborate stories because I’m a little gullible. But I am not a something. I am a someone. My family is sarcastic; we have always picked on each other. I don’t hold any of these things against them, and I know that they love and care about me; but I have believed the laughing faces for way too long. It is time for me to fight.

I am figuring out that learning to fight isn’t about proving anything. It’s about learning to breathe love. I don’t need to have something to prove. Maybe my family will keep seeing me as the blonde of the fam, maybe Mr. Red car in the parking lot that day will never know all of the incredible things I am capable of, but that doesn’t have to matter. I will keep on running the race set before me. And to do that, I need to let go of things I decided someone else believes. If I can so easily program my head to believe that God hates me, I can start replacing those lies. This is not easy, it feels like mental boot camp and if ya’ll know me, you know I don’t like working out.

I don’t want my family to decide who I am before I make that choice. I know who I am. I am Arianna Rose, captivating and imaginative and inspiring. God is using me and loving me and fighting for me, I just have to keep believing it.

You may have a small town job like me, and you may wonder sometimes if anyone will ever see that you can be more. But take heart, because I see it. (If I didn’t, why on earth would I be writing and telling you these embarrassing stories?) But better than that, I hope you learn to eat the bread you hold. I hope you learn to exhale love, because the most important thing is that you see it. Because dear heart, when you finally do, you will be unstoppable. 

 

My Story

I’m sitting at my desk on the rainiest day I’ve seen since moving into this attic. I see raindrops running together on the window, and for some reason they are very distracting. Honest moment here – I’m completely dreading having to write my first post for this blog. What is it about firsts that gets me so worked up? I want my words to come together perfectly. I want the post to be  both sentimental and fun, but not too cheesy. I feel like it’s half a need to have people form a good impression of me, and half a need to love my own writing.

“Your art is not about how many people like your work, your art, is about if your heart likes your work. It’s about how honest you are with yourself. And you must never trade honesty for relatability.” -to all young poets. \\ Milk and Honey

I love that quote from Milk and Honey. The book shocked me with its blunt openness, yet her vulnerability made my heart strings tug, and I couldn’t put it down. In the author bio, Rupi Kaur explains that she literally drew and wrote all the broken and still-healing parts of her, and put them in my hands. I felt honored to read it. I’d like to think her honesty resonated with me because that’s the sort of girl I am. I am so easily captivated. The beauty of basically everything overwhelms me and I freak out. To be honest, there are times I hate myself for it. Yet, I take a certain pride in finding depth in the world’s most overlooked things.

I’m not sure what this blog is going to be yet, so I’m afraid you’ll have to bear with me for awhile. Maybe it will become a journey of self-discovery, as I finally have a safe place to talk about the way I see the world. Or maybe God will use it as a ministry.  Maybe it’s someplace to practice writing so I can finally write that book I keep talking about. I don’t think I’ll know until it’s over, and I’ve decided that’s okay. To be honest, we really don’t know most things until they are over, do we?

Let’s Just Start from the Beginning

Okay. The rain started up again, and I think I am finally ready to do this thing. 

Time to back up a bit and make a proper introduction. Hello everyone, my name is Arianna. Rose is my middle name and it sounds prettier than my last name, so I use it a lot. As I said, I live in an attic right now. Sound quaint and a little fairytale-ish? Well, sometimes it is – like today. When I can hear the pitter-patter of rain on the roof, my bed is canopied with lace and actually made for once, and wildflowers sit in a vase in front of me. But somedays it feels like the bugs are crawling out of every corner, and I am constantly identifying new species. Somedays the ceiling creaks so loudly that I’m positive it will collapse and I will be buried under the roof as even more bugs come out of the wood and eat me. (That was a little dramatic, but I looked it up. Creaking attics are a real thing guys.)

I grew up in a large, homeschooling family. Ten siblings and hardly a moment to myself sums up my formative years, and I loved it. I’m an introverted soul, and as I figured that out it got a little harder to share a bedroom and always have my name called out about something or another. But regardless of little setbacks, I wouldn’t trade my large family for anything in the world.

When I was about five-years-old, my Dad (whom we call Pa. Yes, I am real.) had a devastating car accident which left him with severe injuries and Trigeminal Neuralgia (a brain disease involving a chronic pain in facial nerves).

That.Changed.Everything. 

Really. Mom got a job, my older siblings took over schooling and raising us younger kids, my dad came home (praise Jesus) but didn’t even remember who we were. As a little girl, I didn’t understand all the changes. And, boy, did I become bitter. My older sister stopped being my playmate and became “miss bossy.” My mom didn’t have time for me, everyone was crabby and stressed, we were poorer than we ever had been, and my dad didn’t know who I was and could barely talk.

Years went by, and little by little, Pa’s memory came back, and he learned to read, write, speak and love again; but we were told that he would never be free of constant, horrific pain. What is the hardest part? Watching someone I love suffer and not being able to do anything to fix it. I think that is true for everyone in our family. Though I barely know any different, I do have a few memories of Pa before he was hurt, and I cherish them with all my heart.

Ready, Set, Grow up!

That’s honestly what it feels like. Building forts with all of my siblings, getting stuck in the snow while sledding and performing plays on a whim – I remember my childhood way too well to have grown up already. But here I am, 21 years old, trying to find my place away from home.

Senior year was the HARDEST year of my entire life. If you google “Arianna Rose” you will find that I am a musical artist and have written and published six songs. I also had a blog throughout the entire process. In that blog, there is a raw and real post written by a girl who thought depression might finally get the best of her. Here’s the post if you want to detour.

After I graduated, I left home for an incredible program called Focus One. It was a gap year school founded on the idea of taking a year of your life to focus on your relationship with God and growing in who He created you to be. The hope was to end the year with a better idea of the next steps for your life.

The year was nothing like I expected and everything that I needed. My faith grew DRASTICALLY. It was finally mine. I lived with four girls who never stopped fighting for me and taught me how to laugh. I found joy and freedom and hope, and I fell in love with Jesus. Maybe I had run away from the stress and frustrations of home, but I felt the first real taste of freedom, and it was so healing. (I’m the one in the skirt. always. ) 

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My second year

Man guys, my tea is getting cold…

Okay, so after my year at Focus One, I still wasn’t sure what to do. I had gone on a missions trip, been to multiple conferences and sat through countless classes. I had the opportunity to serve in almost every area of the church, and I still didn’t know what my calling was.

I was asked by Focus One staff to consider coming back as an intern for the program the following year. As an intern, I would lead an apartment of girls, work as part of the staff and learn more from a leadership perspective. I cried when they asked me. I was still struggling with a significant amount of insecurity, and I couldn’t believe they had chosen me. I prayed and prayed. Though it had been a good year, it hadn’t been easy by any stretch of the imagination. I wanted to help the other girls coming in, but I was terrified of not being a good leader.

Eventually I said yes. But, shortly afterward, I found out the entire program was changing – the classes, the mission trips, the core values. They even changed the program’s name to City First Leadership College. What? Let’s just say, I didn’t handle the changes well. I knew from that point on that my second year was going to be rough, I just didn’t know how rough.

The year was so difficult; it’s hard to even find the words to explain it. I’m still processing everything, and I have a feeling whatever I learned last year is going to catch up with me throughout this year. One thing I already know for sure is: I forgot to let God love me. 

At the end of the year we have something we call Memorial Hall. We go to this really beautiful place and have a worship and open letters that we wrote at the beginning of the year. My first year I remember crying, no, weeping uncontrollably after reading my letter. (I’m dramatic like that.) It was beautiful. I had never seen how much God listened to me until everything I had asked for was all in writing, and had happened.

At the end of my second year, I cried for a different reason. Staring back at me from the pages was a girl who was freer and more in love with Jesus than the girl reading the letter. “How the heck did I backtrack?” Before I could think too much, God put the answer clearly in my heart. “You forgot to let me love you.” His words were like a whisper, and tears stung my eyes. I had been so focused on making sure I did a good job being a leader than I didn’t let any of my prayer time feed my relationship with God.

My focus had shifted to feeling and being good enough for the leadership role I was in. I wanted to see the girls in my apartment beaming with pride and fully changed when they walked across the stage at graduation. I should’ve let my cup overflow, but instead I poured out everything I could manage. It was like God was willing to send rain, but I was so determined to fix everything myself that I was running around with a hose and a water bill I couldn’t afford. 

Being Told No.

*Sigh* My tea is definitely cold and I don’t know how I am going to talk about this next part.

At the end of my second year I had amazing and deep friendships, and was positive I should stay in Rockford and become a writer and a traveling speaker. The second half of that dream was God’s will, the first part was my idea, which I passed off as “obviously God’s will” without praying about it. I mean, it made the most sense to me! Third year here I come!

I’m sure you’ve guessed, by the title of this section, that I was very wrong. At City First Leadership College, you have to be asked to come back for another year. I had made it very clear to staff that I wanted to come back, and I couldn’t think of anything I could’ve done to make them say no, so I went ahead and made my plans. Slowly but surely my friends started finding me with their joyous news. “I got asked back today!” “Guess whattttttttt!” “Arianna! We’ll be back together next year!!” Celebration was soon followed with twinges of worry in my own heart. I kept waiting, and no one on the leadership team came to invite me to return for year three. 

I finally decided they must’ve forgotten about me, and, a little hurt, I sought out the director. He agreed to meet with me. I was nervous. Before I went to his office I ran to the restroom to breathe. I still remember the exact spot I stood as I looked in the mirror and said “Arianna, you are a child of God, and whatever he is about to say does not define you. No matter what happens, you are still enough. You are still worth fighting for. You are still going to do amazing things.” Finally, I was certain my self pep-talk was just me being over-dramatic, and I told myself to chill out. I walked into his office. Confidently. 

The meeting began and immediately my heart sunk. He started giving me reasons like, “We don’t have anyone to teach you to write,” and “We don’t have the platform for you to speak on.” I could feel hot tears demanding to be released but I was doing a good job of keeping them inside. NO! I screamed in my head. Gosh Arianna don’t be the girl who cries. You will leave here with some dignity! 

“What are you thinking about?”

I could’ve killed him for asking such a stupid question. A tear slipped out somehow as I said, “I wanted to watch Raven have her year.” 

Raven is one of my best friends in the whole world, we kind of grew up together, and she is finally coming to the program in 2018. I was so excited to live by her again, to see her grow and to share a friend group with her again. Honestly, even though my whole world was crashing down around me, all I could think about was her, and how hard it had been to live so far apart. Mentioning her name sent me over the edge, and I couldn’t stop the tears from streaming. 

My neck hurt from straining to keep tears from becoming sobs, as he continued to ask more questions and tell me that they love me, but that I wouldn’t grow as much if I stayed. “We just want to see you spread your wings,” were his final words. 

“Where?!” I wanted to shout. I wanted to kick in someone’s teeth and at the same time I wanted to fall into someone’s arms and sob until I couldn’t breathe. I know it all sounds like a lot, but until that moment, I hadn’t realized what a safe place Rockford had become for me. All my friends were there. Everyone loved Jesus. Every day was so full of purpose, and everyone believed in me. I was somebody. I was learning how to believe in myself. I didn’t have to deal with the realities of home or how my family viewed me. It was so hard but at least I was doing something, growing somehow, being someone. 

Ugh, I am crying. The pain of this moment plays back like a movie scene in my head. Dramatic music and all. 

I got up to walk out of his office, trying to stop my legs from trembling as I absorbed the shock. “Don’t hate us forever, okay girl?” he said as I turned to leave. 

“I don’t hate you.”

I wanted to say, “I am not crying because I hate you. I’m crying because you are my family, and the love in my heart is so strong for this place and these people that I don’t know how to ever leave you, you idiot!” or something like that. But I held back, because that would’ve been a movie scene, and the muscles in my neck would’ve done all that work for nothing because the sobs would’ve come.

I remember crying and being depressed and trying to figure out how to tell my class that I couldn’t stay. I found my best friend in her basement and heard her tell me “I got asked back!” I hugged her and tried to smile but started bawling and I’m pretty sure she figured it out.

That was a really hard week.

This has been a really hard summer.

I hate that I can’t feel it without crying angry tears of sadness. I didn’t know I could be so furious at a place and miss it and love it so much. But here I am, three months later, and bawling again.

As I write this, It’s memorial Hall day for Raven, and I am so proud of her and excited for her. I wish I could be there, but I am trying to trust that God knew what He was doing. Ugh, trying SO.HARD.

Pulling myself together now, Promise.

Today, this beautiful little attic in a sweet couple’s home on Ash Street, is my home base. My bed is canopied with lace and I have a tea pot that’s all my own. I am thankful for the little things, and learning to have faith for the big things. After making a call to my youth pastor back home, God provided me with an internship at the church I grew up in. I have not given up on my dream. Instead, I’m trusting that this new role in a very familiar place, will be just what I need to work towards it. I’m in the beginning stages of writing a book, trying to blog consistently and I am learning all kinds of things about ministry. Most of all, I am healing from the mess of last year and I’m learning to fall in love with Jesus again. Gosh I miss my friends, but they believe in me as much as they love me, and we all know we are where we should be. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still crying about this so obviously I’m not peachy-keen yet, but I’m getting there.

I want to thank you for walking with me on this journey. Really. Without readers a writer is just thinking, and without support a person is just existing. Thank you for all the love you carry in your heart for a girl like me; as I learn what vulnerability and confidence look like, and try to stand on my own two feet. We got this, right? 

I have to do it. I have to write.

Regardless of how you feel about it, I have to write. Regardless of how I feel about it, I have to write. It is eating away at my bones, and I can feel the moments I so long to share with you slipping away from memory the longer I procrastinate.

Regardless of how many comments I get about the length of my posts, I have to write. Regardless of the insecurities that attack me every time I type, I have to write. Regardless of everything I will later on wish I could revise and change, I have to remember that right now is not later on. Right now I am called to live inside of this moment, learning the things I am learning, and feeling the things I am feeling.

I don’t care what you say, I don’t care what my insecurities say. I have to do it. I have to write.