It was Friday about 3pm and I was sitting in a room of about 30 people. They were all off to my right gathered in an oval playing a game. I was sitting in front of an enclosed circular fire, with my feet up on the brick that surrounded it. I leaned my head back and slid down to rest my head on the back of the chair. In front of me, slightly to the right were two people I sort of knew but didn’t feel comfortable enough to join. I closed my eyes and tried to calm down. I felt alone, like I didn’t belong. I wanted to. I wanted to belong, to push myself to be a little bit uncomfortable, to start a conversation, to hold a conversation. But I found myself reverting back to my natural ways. Putting too much pressure on myself to be good enough, to be liked, to fit in. I was struggling. I’m sure if anyone saw me they may have thought I was just tired, or, honestly I have no idea how people see me. I was fidgety, couldn’t sit still. I got up and drug my chair next to the two people I knew and tried to join the conversation. It was awful. I blew it. But in that moment I realized something, “I have emergen-c!” I shouted quietly and jumped up to disappear into the room where my belongings were. I kneeled on the ground shuffling through my backpack to get the emergen-c. I started crying. “no! stop it, you’re fine” I told myself. I was seriously struggling. I got my drink, wiped my eyes and walked back down stairs to the chair of pressure. I sat for a few seconds before jumping up again, walking back to my room and grabbing my jacket. Walked back down the stairs and out the door.
A couple weeks ago I had someone tell me I was a risk taker. I had no idea what she was talking about. But she was right. I am in a season of taking risks, taking huge leaps of faith. So let me remind you: I moved, I got a new job by sending an email, I got a therapist, I got my first apartment, I got a dog, I actually made it to a church by myself, I made it to a young adults life group, I invited people over to my apartment.
When I lived in California I never saw a future for myself like this. I’m not sure I even had an idea of what my future looked like, or what I wanted it to look like. But, I can assure you I didn’t see me doing anything I just listed above.
Last week I had was brainstorming about what I would write about and a couple things happened to me on a Monday night that made me question how people saw me. So on Wednesday I sent my family (mom, sisters, dad) this text:
Hey family, when you get like five minutes today can you do me a favor and write an “about me” about me. You can start with “marisa is..” and finish it however you want. I am doing an experiment and really need your help.
I got an “absolutely” from one sister. and “ok got it” from my mom.
That afternoon I went to therapy and asked her the same thing. She responded with, “I can tell you, but I want to hear what you think you are first.” She had a good point so I told her I knew it doesn’t matter what people say I am, because I know who I am as a child of God. But I want to know how other see me and see if it lines up with how I see myself. And if it doesn’t, what will I do with that information. I hope I would do something to make a change for the better.
I told her
“I am strong, I often care too much about people and get hurt (because the other person doesn’t respond how I expect), I am funny, I am passionate, I love with my whole heart, I am open about my struggles, I can be rude, I am confident…”
I’m sure I told her more but I’m drawing a blank at the moment so I’ll move on. She responded with,
“I believe you are all of those and more. But what I think is underlying here is that you don’t trust or believe completely that you are those things.”
and that hit me hard.
The next day was Thursday and I was getting ready to go to a young adults retreat with some people from my church, and another church. I was extremely excited and terrified. Not in a million years would I have believed anyone if they told me I would make lifelong friends, then leave them to move to another state I had never been to, and then go to a church by myself and actually get connected with a young adults group and sign up for a young adults retreat with people I didn’t know.
But I did. And I actually made it there without dying. (I am also dramatic)
I had plenty of good excuses not to go, the best one being that my sister Natalie was coming to visit Thursday through Sunday and I rarely get to see her. But I pushed that aside because I knew in the depth of my heart, if I took another leap of faith, God would bless me. So, my mom came to pick up my dog a few hours before I was supposed to be picked up by a friend and a stranger. I knew I would be ok but I didn’t realize that it would be as difficult as it was. I was overcome with fear of the unknown and what might happen in the next three days, AKA anxiety. I sat at a table in my apartment and stared blankly at pile of paint brushes and water colors. I called my sister, my go to when I’m feeling anxious. She talked me out of it mostly, just by distracting me with her own anxiety. I laid on the floor and took some deep breaths. And I did get to see my sister on Saturday and Sunday.
My friend got there and I had to put my anxious thoughts on the back burner for a moment. A long moment. I gathered my stuff and walked out to the car of a stranger, who would be come a friend in just seconds. I was pretty much fine after that.
All in all the retreat was absolutely amazing. I didn’t want to leave. It may not have seemed like I enjoyed it but I did. It’s just hard for me to express it like a normal person. Its hard for me to open up in environments like that.
It also doesn’t help when you are attracted to someone and you end up putting more pressure on yourself to be likable.
my internal dialog went something like this off and on through the days at camp.
“marisa you don’t even know this person!”
“yeah but I want to”
“ok just be yourself”
“what does that mean??????”
“i don’t know, you figure it out. say something funny, you’re funny that’ll be natural for you ”
“but what do i say?”
“ok never mind, just smile and nod, thats good enough”
“yeah, good job.”
And it went relatively similar to that every time this person came around. It’s very strange for me because I don’t even want to date this person, I just really really want to be their friend. and then see where it goes from there, HA HA.
I hate small talk, so this was just torture. I am also very introverted so it was hard for me to be around that many strangers for that long.
I took a nap during our lunch time that Friday. I thought it wold be enough for me to recharge and be ready to be around people. I was so wrong.
When I walked out that door I started crying out of frustration that I couldn’t overcome my anxiety. I tried so hard. I put on Hillsong United, another go to for anxiety relief. I walked down a trail that led to a bench in the shade, and further a basketball court, and even further the edge of the lake. I walked up the dock, set down my phone, water bottle and myself. I cried. I cried out to the Lord. I was missing my friends. I so desperately wanted them to be there to experience this magical place with me, to respect my need for alone time, and to know when to push me just a little, for their encouragement. It sucked. It was even harder because I knew that the next day they would be all together for a friends wedding. All of my friends who I love so freaking much all in one place celebrating love. I was having a hard time. Gosh, I miss them so much. I put my hood on laid back and let Gods love cover me. I worshipped quietly to myself and fell asleep with the sun shining on my face, as if God were to remind me that I am loved and in my weakness He is there for me, to help me get back up. When I woke up the sun was still shining and I could have stayed there all night if it was wasn’t so cold, but I also had to be back for dinner. I collected myself with a renewed sense of Gods presence, stood up and starting walking up that hill. In perfect fashion, Not Today by Hillsong came on and I felt like a new person. I felt confident, strong, like I could overcome anything. I made my way back to the common room and sat with the three people I knew before we all headed to the dining hall for dinner. I can’t describe what happened that night service but I can say, the peace of God was in that building by the end of it and I have never been so calm in a room of 50 people. I drank a cup of coffee and stayed up reading in the common room until about 1:30am. I woke up the next morning at 6, got dressed and made my way down to the edge of a hill at 7. I put my headphones in and for some reason decided to listen to Dallas Green. It was magic. Sitting at the top of a hill, overlooking the lake, watching the sun rise, completely alone. I sat there for about an hour, listening to music I hadn’t listened to in years. Some of which were, City and Colour, Circa Survive, and Anthony Green. That music brought back many memories, good and bad. But what a day. What a time. I got up and danced in front of the Lutherahaven sign with out worrying about someone seeing me, “If they see me, at least they know I’m having fun” is what I thought. Breakfast was at 8:30, I made it back in the common room around 8 and I had so much joy. So much peace. It was quiet, so when I slammed my metal water bottle on the arm of a wood chair everyone looked up at me and I just pretended it wasn’t me.
At breakfast someone asked me what I was reading at 1am, I told them I was reading this book called Crash the Chatterbox, its about hearing Gods voice above all others. They then asked me if I was a big reader, I didn’t have a good answer. But I do now.
Yes, I love reading. I have so many unfinished books in my apartment because I want to read everything all at once. I love books. I love reading. I love learning. I love reading about other people and how I can relate to them. I love deep conversations about some article you read. I love hearing what you’re passionate about. Tell me everything that bothers you, that you love, things you’ve never shared with anyone.
I say it all the time, and I’ll say it again.
G O D I S S O G O O D.
You are enough, just as you are. God made you the way you are for a reason. It doesn’t matter what labels people put on you, who they think you are, or who they say you are. It doesn’t matter. Because God loves you, no matter what. Despite the things you’re ashamed you’ve done, or the secrets you’ve been keeping. Despite spilling your guts to someone only to feel embarrassed because they starting judging you after that. No matter what. Gods love is unconditional. No matter the circumstances. If He’s there for me, I can tell you He’ll be there for you too. You just gotta lean in and listen. Stop listening to the enemy and his lies, and the lies of social media and start reading God’s word. Stop allowing the enemy space in your mind to download lies and start deleting those them. Start downloading Gods truth and hearing His voice above all others. That includes your own.