Portraits Part I: Body Image

A couple weeks ago, I received back portraits that I had taken in the spring. I don’t think we need to justify spending money on portraits, nor do I think anyone needs a “good reason” to invest in some stunning pictures of themselves. However, for me, there was a reason, and I felt compelled to tell the story of these portraits.

At the risk of sounding outrageously cliche, I’ve been on a “journey” the past eighteen months towards loving my body. I have been “overweight” since I was very young – even “obese,” according to traditional charts and measures. From a young age, I internalized the message that I was a fat girl, and that became a lens through which I viewed myself (and assumed everyone else viewed me, too). And “fat” to me meant less beautiful, less desirable, and altogether less valuable.

I still remember overhearing comments, having conversations, seeing memes, and just generally receiving messages from culture that convinced me I was unlovable or at least less-lovable because of the shape of my body…

  • in grade school, a popular older boy hitting on my friend but saying he wouldn’t go for me because I was fat
  • in sixth grade, overhearing girls making fun of me while I was running because I didn’t have a properly fitting bra
  • in eighth grade, my friend talking to a boy to figure out if I had a chance with a friend of his; his response: “She doesn’t have a chance with anyone.” To be fair, I don’t know whether he was referring to my appearance, but I always assumed he was.
  • sometime in my early teen years, overhearing my mom on the phone with an aunt talking about being worried about my weight
  • sometime in high school, seeing a meme on Facebook that read “Tits on fat girls are like abs on skinny boys: they don’t count.”
  • some stupid comment on That 70s Show about how a girl shouldn’t outweigh her boyfriend by more than 20 pounds
  • when I started dieting junior year, family friends asking me about my weight goals and say they’d give me $25 if I lost the 25 pounds I was aiming for
  • each of the many weddings I was in throughout college, struggling with bridesmaid dresses because the largest size offered on many popular websites is an XL, the equivalent of a 12/14 — or having to pay an extra fee to buy an extended size
  • similarly, never being able to shop at cute local boutiques because they didn’t offer sizes beyond Large or maybe Extra Large
  • for years, being too self-conscious to sell clothes in Facebook groups or on Instagram stories because I was embarrassed for people to see what size pants I wore
  • also for years, wondering whether the reason guys haven’t been interested in me was because of the way my body looked
  • in recent months, struggling to find ethical and sustainable clothing brands that offer sizes beyond a 12 or 14 – because apparently only skinny people care about style through the lens of human rights and a healthy planet

I could go on for a while, but hopefully you get the idea. I’m not telling you these things so that you’ll feel bad for me. In fact, I’m tempted to say it this way: don’t you dare pity me. I’m sharing this so that 1) if you’re like me and have received similar messages, you’ll know that you’re not alone and that it’s possible to stop buying into the bullshit; 2) you’ll see how painful even well-meaning comments can be around the topic of weight; and perhaps, 3) you’ll be appalled enough to want to change stereotypes and stigmas about weight and body size.

I don’t remember when or how it happened, but sometime in the last year and a half, I decided to start loving my body. It was just last February – winter of 2018 – that I willingly wore a shirt tucked in for the first time. I remember the day. I was in Portland. It was a black sweater. I wore red lipstick. Formerly, I had always been afraid to tuck in my shirts because I was horrified by the idea that people would see my fat rolls.

Fast-forward to this summer: I’m tucking in my shirts almost every day, wearing shorts that show a lot of thigh, and wearing tops that sometimes reveal a bit of midriff (g a s p). I bought a bikini for the first time last month, and I’ve been laying out by the pool without obsessing over what people might be thinking about my body.

For the first time in my life, I can see my body in the mirror with or without clothes on and not be ashamed or repulsed.

During this process these past several months, as an intentional exercise in self-acceptance, I decided to invest in professional portraits of myself. The idea was inspired by my good friend Cassidy, who participated in a fabulous portrait shoot a couple years ago and insists that it helped her see herself as beautiful. So I saved my pennies for a couple of months, and my parents contributed as part of my birthday gift. Then in April, I got with my friend and super-talented-photographer Rylee, and we made magic happen. We spent an afternoon driving to different locations, changing outfits and makeup, going out on limbs with unconventional poses and shots, exploring personality through a lens (more on this another time). It was a blast.

I was beyond eager to see the final product. I had high hopes, but I also worried that the portraits would confirm my fear and expose me as lackluster.

* * * * *

And then I got the portraits back. To be honest, my first and most natural reaction was to review the details of the pictures with a fine-tooth comb because that’s what we’ve been trained to do–to pick apart and scrutinize every beautiful thing until we lose sight of its beauty. So I spent some time looking through the portraits and quietly critiquing every one of my “flaws.”

You can see my fat pale belly in this one.
My face looks so dumb talking like that.
This shot is super artsy but my hair is so frizzy.
My skin looks really bumpy.
HELLO, fat rolls.
I hate my double chin.
ugh.
There is absolutely no dimension on my face – I should’ve contoured.
etc., etc., etc.

But at a certain point, I had to take a step back to remember the point of this whole thing: self-love, -celebration, and -acceptance. I had to consciously decide to re-frame the way I was looking at these pictures. I sent a couple of the preview shots to Cassidy, and she asked how I felt. I replied, “I feel like I just need to stare at them for a while and call them beautiful” –because regardless of how I feel, my conviction is that we are all beautiful. And I am beautiful.

Of course I still struggle with body image. I spent over two decades buying into the story that only certain body types, skin types, facial features, and hairstyles were desirable. But these portraits were a statement: towards my body, a white flag: I refuse to remain at war with myself; towards the world, a battle cry: no one has a right to exclude me – or anyone else – from their definition of beauty.

Here are a few favorites from the shoot.

 

P.S. Rylee Beck is a portrait guru, and if want to see more of her work or inquire about a shoot with her, you should check out her website: ryleebeck.com.

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5 Sustainable Practices to Adopt this Earth Day (& Beyond)

Some of you may know that for the past several months, I’ve been on a journey toward a more sustainable lifestyle. I can’t pinpoint exactly when it started or how it happened — that’s going to take some more focused reflection, and I’m going to get around to that eventually; but for now, the important thing is that it has happened. I’m really doing this thing. I’m on this journey of retraining my mindset and my habits to be more mindful of the choices I make: how the affect my own health, how they affect the people around me, and how they affect this planet we call home.

And today is Earth Day! In the past, this strange holiday has been nothing more than an excuse to post nostalgic pictures of past excursions in places more apparently breathtaking than Joplin, Missouri. But I never really understood that the point of this day was to foster awareness, start conversations, and ignite lifestyle change. So this year, I’m celebrating Earth Day by making the most sustainable choices I can — and, ultimately, committing to continue making better choices beyond some day on the calendar.

However, in honor of this day on the calendar, I wanted to share 5 simple sustainable choices that I’m making today. Perhaps you can join me!

1. BYOB (Bring Your Own Beverage-Container)
This is something I’ve begun to incorporate into my daily habits. Working at a coffee shop where I can get unlimited free beverages each shift (shoutout to Starbucks – you can be jealous), it wasn’t uncommon for me to go through three, four, even five disposable cups in an 8-hour time span (even more before I started carrying a water bottle!). I know mine may be an extreme case, but when you think through your day, how many cups, cans, or bottles do you toss in the garbage — or even in the recycling? Recycling is great, but it still takes energy to sort, clean, and process old materials into like-new ones. So at the beginning of the year, I invested in a couple of reusable cups — a hot travel mug and a cold tumbler. I bring them with me every shift, and that helps keep 3-5 single-use cups out of landfills. Every Starbucks and many other places, if you bring your own water bottles or reusable cups, will happily make your beverage in your own container.

2. Waste Not, Want Not
Rather than grabbing fast food or buying more groceries, cook a meal entirely out of ingredients you own – bonus points if you use up something that would have otherwise gone bad! As a single woman (who’s still pretty new to the whole cooking thing), I have a tendency to over-shop and over-cook, so my groceries will often go to waste — vegetables get soft, bread or cheese gets moldy, meat goes bad. But I’m trying to get better, and it can be a fun creative challenge to see what sort of meal you can come up with to use up groceries before they spoil. A couple of months ago, my roommates and I were having a party, and I had a plethora of onions. So rather than going to Walmart to grab pre-packaged cookies and dips, I found a recipe for onion rings and used up all of my onions. Everyone enjoyed them, we saved some money, and my groceries didn’t go to waste. We Americans waste a lot of food, and we overproduce foods to fill a never-ending demand for things we won’t even use. Next time you go to the grocery store, shop conservatively to decrease waste. (Also, bring your own reusable shopping bags! Shopping bags are yet another single-use item plaguing our landfills and oceans.)

3. Cleaner Laundry
I never even considered that how I do my laundry has any impact on the environment, but here’s three tips I’ve learned: 1) Always do full loads of laundry. This conserves both energy and water. 2) Wash your clothes in cold water. You’ll save some energy (the water heater won’t have to do its work), and cold water is actually a lot gentler on clothes. The longer clothes last, the less demand for new clothes, the more energy saved and waste decreased. 3) If you can, hang your clothes to dry to save energy. Summertime is upon us, so with the sunshine and high temperatures, clothes will dry even faster! Plus, you’ll be saving on your electric bill – who couldn’t use some extra green in their pocket?

4. Lay Off the Gas
If you’re anything like me, you can have a hard time winding down after a long day at work. One of the things I’ve gotten into the habit of doing is taking a drive around town and listening to music when I get off work before I head back to my apartment. It helps me clear my mind and relax my body before getting home to get to bed (or to get to more tasks). Going for drives brings me so much peace. But lately, I’ve been feeling a bit guilty about those drives because I’m burning fuel unnecessarily (a nonrenewable resource) and, in so doing, contributing to our pollution problem. So I’m trying to find a new way to wind down — like mindlessly wandering around Target (but not buying anything!) or going for a leisurely stroll in a park (still trying to find a good, safe-feeling one in Joplin — holler if you have any suggestions!). Going for a walk instead of a drive conserves resources, gets your body moving, and allows you to slooooooooow down and actually observe nature. I don’t know whether you’ve experienced this, but walking through a place rather than driving by it offers a totally different perspective. So, when you can, cut back on the drive time and take a walk instead.

5. Get Your Green Thumb On!
I bought some house plants for myself and my roommates for Valentine’s Day this year, and our apartment has slowly accumulated more greenery since then. We have a couple of ivy plants, a peperomia, a couple ferns, a fiddle-leaf fig, and a snake plant. (We’ve named most of them, too. They’re darling.) For me, learning how to take care of house plants has taught me a little bit more about how nature works. Each plant is different – they all prefer different amounts of sunlight and water. The variety is incredible. It’s tough to describe the significance of tending to these plants, but it almost feels like they connect me to the world in a new way. They need my attention, and in return, they improve my air quality and liven up my apartment. It’s like we’re partners, giving each other life. Plus, using houseplants as minimalist home decor means you can skip the over-produced tapestries and trinkets at Target that weren’t made with sustainability in mind. If you have the opportunity this next season, spend some time tending a garden. It might surprise you. (Also — shop local! Local nurseries and greenhouses are so fun and charming, and you get to support small business owners in your own community.)

Bonus: Keep Your Eyes Open
So often we miss the beauty earth offers because we’re not paying attention. We have jobs to get to, papers to write, deadlines to meet, children to feed (probably), and bills to pay. But if we just take a few minutes a day to step outside — to feel the breeze, to smell the grass, to notice the birds or the crickets singing, to watch the squirrels scurrying in the grass and the deer feeding in the fields, to see the flowers blooming on trees, to breathe deeply — we will undoubtedly see that it is Good.

Happy Earth Day, everyone.

Have some sustainability tips of your own? I’d love to hear them.

A Month Without Spending: A Preliminary Reflection

For those of you who don’t know, I decided as a sort of “New Year’s Resolution” this year, I would experiment with giving up something different each month of 2019. The idea or goal behind this endeavor is threefold:

  1. to give myself bite-size challenges — I can do anything for a month,
  2. to try a bunch of different things for specified periods of time without trying to do everything at once, and
  3. to focus on one thing at a time and isolate different variables to see how they affect me – physically, emotionally, etc.

January was No Sweets or Sweeteners. February was No Netflix, TV, or movies. March was No Meat.

My challenge this month is No “Non-Essential Spending” – which, as a coworker pointed out to me, is incredibly ambiguous. After all, what do I consider “essential”? If I was being incredibly literal and strict, I would give up wifi, heat and air conditioning, perhaps driving my car, and probably other things I haven’t thought of. But ultimately,  my idea was to eliminate spending on things like coffee, clothes, and eating out – anything I can make it through the day or week without. So I’m wearing what’s in my closet, using what I already own, cooking my meals and brewing my coffee at home (and fueling up on free coffee while I’m at work). I’m keeping track of all of my purchases so that at the end of the month, I can see exactly where each dollar went.

It’s Day 7 of this challenge, and this has already been the most difficult challenge yet. Usually it takes two or three weeks for me to start missing the thing I’ve given up, but I felt this one on Day 1. I never realized how habitually and absentmindedly I spend money until I gave up the option to do so. Nothing I would consider extravagant – but coffee roughly once a day and a meal from a restaurant (let’s be honest – from Chick-fil-a or Chipotle) 4-6 times a week really adds up. I also realized how often I online shop and “window shop,” looking for things to add to my wish list. I’m not usually an impulse-buyer, but again, it is strange not giving myself the option to buy something even if I have the money for it. I’m realizing how deeply ingrained my consumeristic mindset is in me, and I’m not thrilled about that realization.

I’m not loving this challenge, and it has been surprisingly more uncomfortable than the others, but I’m hoping this month will begin to change my relationship with money and make me a more conscious spender.

 

What about you? Where does your money run away to when you’re not careful?

Life After College Graduation: A Painfully Honest Reflection

I felt compelled to write this – perhaps for myself more than anyone else. But perhaps you’re like me, and you find yourself in a season of unfulfilled dreams and unmet expectations, trying to cope with a “normal” you would have preferred to avoid. If that’s you, you’re not alone. Should you choose to endure these vaguely cohesive ramblings and, at times, excessive details which you may prefer to skim over (I won’t tell), I think you may find comfort in my story, because there is comfort in solidarity.

***

I ran into a friend recently whom I hadn’t seen since before graduation – that blissful era when transition was imminent and the world full of possibility. The thing is, these days, I don’t particularly enjoy running into friends or acquaintances for one reason: the inevitable “What are you up to these days?” question. At this point, I’ve crafted a response that I can deliver neatly wrapped in a bow:

“I graduated from Ozark in May! I started working at Starbucks about a month ago, which has literally been a dream job since high school. I’m starting an online grad program in the fall, and I’ll be sticking around Joplin for a while to invest in community and save some money.”

Nothing about that spiel is inherently false, per se, but I’d be lying if I claimed that was the whole truth. Truth be told, I’ve actually grown a bit weary of spinning stories and attempting to control perceptions. So here’s the whole story…

I’ve been really struggling since I graduated in May. While a good percentage of my peers graduated with jobs, internships, and ministry positions lined up, I’d been too busy trying to keep my head above water with my final and most difficult semester of undergrad.

When I walked across the stage, I had no plan and no real sense of direction. I knew I’d be going to grad school, but every single detail was still up in the air (which program at which school I’d be choosing, where I’d be living, how I’d be paying for it, and what I’d be doing professionally in the meantime).

I spent the two weeks after graduation in Ohio with my parents. While I was there, I started filling out some applications and making some calls to try and secure a job for the next season of my life. Also in Ohio, I finally got fed up with the months of ambiguity and indecision over a grad school, so I halted my deliberation process, and used my graduation money to pay the enrollment deposit at Portland Seminary (which, far from being the “clear choice” and frankly in spite of a couple of specific, significant downfalls, was the only program that ever really excited me).

When I returned to Joplin after my time with my parents, reality struck. I had put out half a dozen applications to places in town, but I had no real leads. With no job and rapidly dwindling funds (I had spent my graduation money on my enrollment deposit, you’ll recall – that, and probably a bit too much coffee and Chick-fil-a), my outlook became rather bleak.

I basically spent the entire month of June on the couch – sleeping 10-12 hours a day, binge-watching Netflix shows, waiting by the phone before and after interviews, and hiding with all my might from the stupid midwestern summer humidity.

When I was finally hired at Starbucks, I was so relieved that I failed to process the implications of the move I was making. All I knew was I finally had a job and could stop relying on my parents to cover literally all of my expenses.

About two and a half weeks into my employment at Starbucks, I started to feel really uncomfortable when I’d see people I know come in as customers. I started to get this strange urge to duck and hide (a feeling I now recognize as shame) when I would see a certain professor or a certain friend or a certain boy.

As thankful as I am for my job – as much as I’m proud of Starbucks as a company and the ethical standards they’re setting for the industry; as much as I enjoy the connections I get to make with my coworkers and customers – I’ve had to admit to myself that I’m a bit disappointed with where I’m at.

Disappointed because I’m not working in either of degree fields.

Disappointed because I didn’t really try that hard to work in those fields.

Disappointed because the couple of limbs I did go out on (some jobs and some scholarships) didn’t hold up.

Disappointed that I’ll be taking orders and making lattes while I watch my peers preach at conferences, write curriculum, start college ministries, fundraise for nonprofits, and go to Ozark Staff Christmas Parties.

It’s taking all my willpower to refrain from tacking on a big “but” to this post – “but it’ll get better,” “but God must be teaching me something,” “but it could be worse.” Sometimes, I think it’s important to acknowledge the disappointment and just sit in it for a while.

Life is messy and confusing. It doesn’t come with a step-by-step instruction manual, and God doesn’t typically come over the cosmic intercom with some “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” number. Sometimes you end up exactly where you always said you’d never be. Sometimes you have no idea where you’re going or how the hell you’re supposed to get there. Sometimes you’re confronted with really big questions that you have neither the wisdom nor the necessary information to answer. And sometimes you’re kept up at night, asking yourself, “Am I making the right choice?”

I don’t have any profound conclusions. My story still lacks resolution – I think most real stories do. So if your story is anything like mine, hang in there. You’re not alone.

Your Dreams are Too Small

I don’t spend much time with kids, but I understand enough to know that kids are dreamers.

You know what I’m talking about. When we’re little, it’s all about dragons and princesses and talking animals. It’s about flying and running super-fast and being invisible. It’s about being the president, the firefighter, the explorer. We don’t know any better, and we don’t care. You don’t have to teach kids to dream. I think we were all born dreamers.

But then somewhere along the line, we grow up, and the world teaches us or perhaps we teach ourselves to stop dreaming. The things we learn squash our imaginations and the things we experience hush our dreams. We trade innovation for practicality and daydreams for reality; and the day that happens, as it so inevitably does, I think a part of us dies.

I’ve always considered myself a dreamer. Somehow, for better or for worse, I clung on to some small part of my childhood self that gave me the ability to dream. I held on with clenched fists and refused to let go. But still, it doesn’t come as easily as it used to, and there are always voices with ever-increasing volume that try and talk sense into me – to silence my dreams.

I’ve noticed lately that for me, to dream is secondary – it is no longer my default. Logic, reason, experience – that’s my default. If it doesn’t make sense, it’s probably a waste of time – and we certainly have no time to waste on fairytales.

People have asked me what I hope to get out of this internship.

What I really would love is to challenge the way we do things; to introduce new thoughts and ideologies and change the way we think about things; to ignite a passion for depth and spirituality and creativity and diversity in the church; to encourage and empower the team through my presence, my actions, and my words; to make extravagant memories and build meaningful relationships; to love deeply and to leave an impact.

But I don’t say that, and I won’t even let myself think it – it’s far too unrealistic. So I answer that I’d like to learn some stuff and maybe contribute some ideas to the church I’m working at. That’s a very reasonable, practical, possible, and safe hope.

People ask me what I want to do after college.

I want to go to a prestigious seminary and get a full-ride scholarship. I want to get a Master of Divinity and learn big things and contemplate major ideas. I want to work at a church and preach some Sundays. I want to create an education program that revitalizes a congregation and causes people to fall in love with the Word. I want to see an entire community or an entire culture recognize their need for spiritual depth – I want them to crave it! I want to give people resources to know Jesus better, and I want people to use them. I want to disciple and empower women and affirm their value and assure them that their life matters. I want to get my doctorate in something Jesus-related, and I want to teach at a Bible college. I want to speak at conferences and write books. I want to open a coffee shop and travel the world.

But I answer that I want to get a job in ministry somewhere, maybe working as the director of spiritual formation at a church, and maybe, someday, get my Master’s.

Perhaps it’s because I don’t want to disappoint others, or perhaps it’s simply because I don’t want to disappoint myself. But I don’t allow myself to dream big dreams – or at least not to give voice to them – because I’m afraid of looking silly or being called naive or of failing.

Friends, I think we’ve made our dreams too small. We’ve become too afraid to dream what’s dangerous, and we’ve limited our idea of what’s possible. Consequently, we’re bound to live average, inconsequential lives.

I wonder if God isn’t insulted when we limit our dreams because when we do, we’re inadvertently limiting our faith in Him. Scripture tells us that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine – which makes sense, if we think about it. After all, this is the God who created the universe, split the Red Sea, and rose from the grave. I wonder if God doesn’t long for us to dream. I wonder if He’s not waiting for us to come up with a dream big enough for Him to sign off on.

I don’t know. Maybe if we trusted Him more with our hearts and whispered our dreams in His ear, He’d get behind them. He’d open doors and tear down walls; He’d be our cheerleader the whole way – He’d be the wind behind our backs and He’d be waiting to meet us at the finish line. We’d collapse into His arms, He’d give us a big hug and spin us around and whisper in our ear, “I knew you could do it.”

“If you can dream it, you can do it.” That’s what Walt Disney said.

Let’s have the courage to dream big dreams.

I will if you do. Pinky promise.

The Pervasive Light

This past semester in College Age Sunday School, we studied through the Gospel of John.

John is, I think, my favorite Gospel. (John or Luke…it might be a tie.)

Lucky for me, this summer at BridgePointe, we’re having a class on Thursday evenings about the Gospel of John. So that gives me an excuse to read through John…again.

Today, I started to tackle my reading for the first week. John 1 is possibly my favorite passage in all of Scripture. It so beautifully captures the essence of Jesus and the Gospel. So when I started reading, I didn’t make it very far. I got through about five verses of chapter 1 and had to stop and worship…

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Most specifically, verse 5 stood out to me: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

That, my friends, is hope.

Darkness had not overcome the Light then, and it hasn’t now. Darkness will never overcome this Light.

Because here’s the thing about light…it cannot be overcome by darkness. Light beats darkness every time. Darkness has absolutely no power to destroy light. Light always wins. (Hmm…how many other ways could I say this?)

Therefore, we have nothing to fear.

We don’t have to fear death.

We don’t have to fear sin.

We don’t have to fear politics, government, or religion.

We don’t have to fear loneliness.

We don’t have to fear sadness.

We don’t have to fear the unknown.

Fear has no place because Christ is our Light, and Light wins.

So we have confidence. We have power. We have clarity. And we have freedom.

Jesus radically changed everything when He took on flesh and made His home with us. When we choose to follow Him, He can fundamentally change everything about the way we live our lives.

See? Hope.

Walk in the light.

More of Jesus

Every once in a while, I’ll look back through all the old notes in my phone. I don’t use notes consistently, so their contents range anywhere from attempts to keep track of a budget to phone numbers to shopping lists to journal entry ideas to notes I write to people that they’ll never see to verbal-processings to one-liners or main points from sermons. Going back through them always brings back memories and usually also brings a good laugh.

Anyway, I did that last night. I read through every single one of my old notes, and I found this one from January 12, 2014 (at 12:41 p.m.): “We don’t need more THAN Jesus, we need more OF Jesus.” That’s it. One sentence. That’s all it said. I don’t remember who said it; all I know is that it wasn’t me. I’m guessing it was a point or a Dominant Thought from a sermon. But regardless, it was a timely reminder, and I’ve been thinking about it all day.

This past week (or, actually, these past three) have been very trying. As it turns out, it’s not all that easy moving yourself a thousand miles across the country to a place (albeit a beautiful one) where you don’t know anyone. I’m learning a lot about myself – some of it in really difficult ways. But the most difficult part of it is that I don’t really have anyone to share it with.

On the best of days, I want to come home or go out and talk about how great it was – what I did, what I ate, what I saw, a conversation I had, a person I met – but then I realize that there aren’t many people here I know well enough to share that with.

On the worst of days, I want to come home or go out and vent to someone I trust or verbally process my questions and frustrations or just cry and hug someone I love, but I find that I don’t really have anyone whom I know I can call.

And then on other days, I want to explore or do something fun and spontaneous with someone (because as it turns out, I’m not quite as independent as I thought…I’m a sissy when driving in traffic, and I’m not that great at finding cool places on my own), but I’m at a loss of whom I can call to drag with me all across the Ocean State.

So, at the end of the day – no matter how good or bad that day is – it seems to feel like something is missing.

And it’s sooo easy to mis-identify that “something,” and oh-so-tempting to try and fill it with things that won’t satisfy. How easily I believe that if only I had more friends here, everything would be better; if only there were someone I could call to go adventuring with, I would be okay; if only there were someone here who really knew me – someone I could grab coffee and donuts with, someone I could share my heart with – my experience would be complete.

But truly, even if I had all of that and didn’t have Jesus, I would still feel empty. Because I don’t need more than Jesus; I need more of Jesus. (It’s a wonder I haven’t grasped this by now….how many times do we have to learn something before we finally get it?) It’s so easy to believe the lie that Jesus isn’t enough.

And that’s not to say that relationships aren’t important – quite the opposite. I believe that we were designed to live in community. I believe that in Christ-centered community, we are incredibly more capable of growth than we are on our own. I believe we were always intended to live together, learn together, grow together, and love one another. But I also believe that we can survive without relationships, at least for a time. That all we fundamentally need is Jesus.

Because the truth is…

I need Jesus more than food.

I need Jesus more than sleep.

I need Jesus more than productivity.

I need Jesus more than affirmation.

I need Jesus more than adventure.

I need Jesus more than coffee (yes, really).

And I need Jesus more than friends.

Please, Lord, help me to believe it.

All I need is more of you, Jesus.