Sunday, December 14, 2014

Trading Worthless for Infinite Value

People always say, "Life is short." I remember reading an email, back when there was no Facebook, AIM was the main way we communicated, and chain link emails were being passed around, as if all those threats about having a bad day, the worst year of your life, losing all your friends, and never finding love were certain to come true if we didn't, and in this email, there was a list of little quips. One of them was about this quote, "Life is short," and it stated:

They say that life is short... 
But, it's the longest damn thing any of us will ever do! 

That's stuck with me throughout my entire life, and I still remember how it sent me spiraling into deep thought when I read it. I mean, it's so true! We always say life is short, and in regards to how/why people say it, I completely understand and agree -- life flies by, it could be over before we know it, make the most of everything, and live it up! With all of this, I agree. But it's undeniable that life is the longest thing any of us will ever do, and I don't think many consider it this way.

We tend to look at life as some sort of a race, a perpetual competition of some kind, in which the prize is status and an accumulation of material goods, boastful stories, and contacts. (I say contacts instead of friends, because how many of us have hundreds of friends on Facebook, but would only share our secrets with maybe one or two people, if that?) So why is it that we've taken our one and only shot at being a living, breathing, thinking human on Earth, and turned it into some rat race?

For many of us, we've grown up in a Western Society, where we are groomed and trained from a young age that consumerism, money, and appearance are the keys to life, joy, happiness, and success. We are taught not to accept ourselves as we are, because certainly we aren't good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, ______ enough, and therefore we must partake in the bounty of things being offered to us. In order to survive and thrive, we have to drink the Kool-Aid. Or so we think.

But what if there was another key, one that mainstream media isn't running ads for every 3-6 minutes? What if there was some other trick, some other offering, some other something, that would make us feel beautiful and wonderful just the way we are, would satisfy us more than any chocolate cake, pair of shoes, or football team ever could, and provide all the life, joy, happiness, success, love and satisfaction we seek and are told we need in order to be doing well at life?

I've spent 25 1/2 years living on this Earth, and most of that time, I have been or am playing the game. I was brought up in the Western World, flying high on consumption, full of self-doubt, and starving for satisfaction and self-worth/respect/confidence/acceptance. I tried to find it in so, so many places. Drugs, alcohol, sex, friends, clothes, shoes, products, brands, everything and anything they told me I should be using or trying, I wanted to try.

I used to think I was "experimental." The kind of person who just wanted to try everything in life at least once. I thought I was being open-minded and giving myself the opportunity to form my own opinions on everything. But what I found, is that some things, you don't only try once. Sometimes, they become a habit, which becomes a lifestyle, which becomes a cycle, and before you know it, you're so far from where and why you started, you don't even realize you're completely missing the mark. That was my life for a solid decade, give-or-take some years... ok, mostly give them. And honestly, I didn't even know how unhappy and lost I was till I moved away from everything that was familiar to me.

When I came to Spain, I had a feeling it was something God was calling me to do. I didn't know why, but since I'd returned to the United States from studying abroad in Northern Spain, I just knew I'd end up returning. I thought about it almost every single day for two and a half years. In my cubicle at work, I'd look at pictures of other people's adventures, other countries, and feel everything inside of me dying and screaming to just jump through the screen and end up anywhere else. I knew the world was where I was meant to be, I just didn't know when or how I'd get back out into her.

So when, one week before my Disney/ABC contract was going to end, I found out I was accepted to come to Spain, I could only attribute the timing to God. After all, my acceptance email came in uncharacteristically late, by about two or three months, and I'd been trying to figure out what to do next -- continue smothering my soul 40 hours a week in a cubicle, or take the chance to do something totally new and different, something I had yet to figure out. Well, He was giving me an "easy out". I took the week to decide, and cried every single day, while my beloved boyfriend at the time held me and told me, "I'm going to miss you so much, but I think that you have to go."

Now, almost two years have passed since I moved to Spain, and I'm more certain than ever that it's what God wanted me to do.

When I came here, I was essentially alone. Some family of a friend of mine from the north were gracious enough to pick me up from the airport and settle me in, but I had no friends or family of my own. I wasn't living in a place with internet, nor was my phone set up for Spain, so I had no way of contacting anyone or taking comfort in the Facebook Newsfeed. I could barely speak the language, and with the thick accent down here, I might as well have landed in Bangladesh. Every time I left the house, it was an adventure. Since I had no phone, I had no GPS, which meant I had no way of knowing where I was, or how to get to where I needed to be. It was up to my basic Spanish, some notes, and my intuition to guide me. I didn't even have a traditional map, so I would find bus stops and try to piece together whichever segment they were showing. And you know what happened?

All Awesome! 

Sure, there were some times I was lost, it was dark, and I started to feel a little panicked, but I just took some deep breaths, said a prayer, and allowed the Holy Spirit to guide me home. I even ended up meeting someone on the street, who took me to what would become my favorite place in Sevilla, a place I spent hours in each week, and still do whenever I'm in town. I have likely never been so alone, friend-less and isolated in my life, but I'd also never felt happier or freer. It's funny how we think we need so much, but all we really need is some Good God Lovin'!

Of course, it didn't take me long to realize that God was being a little selfish when He called me to Spain. Sure, it was what I'd always wanted, to return, but more than that, it was His way of getting me away from everything and everyone familiar, away from the cycle and lifestyle I'd been living, and get me all to Himself, completely isolated, and therefore, entirely dependent on Him. I still long for those days when I had no phone and no idea, and only could turn to Him to get me through. Now, a 'seasoned pro' at life abroad (simply because I'm incredibly used to Spain now, can speak the language, and have a phone with internet), I don't need Him as much for as many things, like helping me get home. But it doesn't change the fact that my dependence has completely shifted since I came here.

Where once I would have been seeking out someone to buy drugs from, I'm thrilled to be able to say I have no idea where to get any. Where before I would have been going out every single night to inebriate myself because of social anxiety and confusion, and wake up wondering where we'd been, I'm ecstatic about the fact I wake up every weekday morning at 6:30 to exercise and pray, and at nine on the weekends. Where I'd have had a new boyfriend every time I went out, to try and fill the gaping whole inside me that only longed for the love of another, I know now I am the only one who can fill that gap, and it's by the Grace of God! And, where I once would have spent every last penny I had on clothes, shoes and accessories that I definitely didn't need, aren't comfortable, and maybe didn't even really like, forcing myself to go on a two-eggs-and-a-potato-a-day diet because I couldn't afford anything else by the end of the month, I now actually save money, and spend it to travel, learn, grow, take classes, study a third language, become certified in health practices, and support expensive-but-bio-brands. None of this would have been able to happen this way had I stayed put and ignored the call!

I am happier than I've ever been, more confident than I've ever been, growing and learning more than I ever have, and feel so much more satisfied than ever before! I'm making a substantially lower amount of money than I was working for Disney/ABC, I weigh a fair amount more than I did before, my bed is a single and I have to turn on the gas tank and light the fire every time I want to shower in hot water, and my closet is a fourth of the size of my old ones, but my costs of living are lower here, my quality of life much, much higher, and I feel great about myself! I have often wondered if I did the right thing by moving here, but the moment I try to really consider it well, and have the chance to doubt or regret it, I'm overcome with a, "Yeahhh, riiiight, like I regret this," thought/feeling.

My relationship with God was on the mend before I moved out here, but in college, it was nonexistent. I was too ashamed to talk to Him, and made excuses about why it would "be inappropriate to go to church in my condition." I was so far from myself, I couldn't even consider turning to Him, even though I knew He was what I needed and longed for. But since coming to Spain, my relationship with Him has continued to grow and strengthen, gain importance in my life, and become something that I value above all else. Especially in the last months, moving to yet another new place, and starting over once more. I now place God above all else, where before I just couldn't bring myself to put Him above my friends, family, self, and lifestyle. It's been one heck of a transition, but the results assure me it's the right thing to do. I've never felt better, and I've never been so comfortable with life or myself. And that, that is HUGE!

Which is why, when I opened my inbox today, and read K-Love's Encouraging Word of the Day, I was filled with what I know is His Presence, and felt so inspired to share a little of my story with you all. Because I believe every word of this verse, and have watched, seen, and felt it in my life.

"Indeed, I count

This verse holds so much truth to it, trust me, I've been there. I've been in the place of trying to fill myself with anything and everything, seeking satisfaction and worth in all the wrong places, and putting a higher value on all things but Christ -- all the insufficient and unimportant things. I couldn't believe more firmly that what I have traded isn't freedom, fun and a carefree existence for one in which there are guidelines, but instead, a life full of standards we succumb to, in exchange for one in which I am accepted and loved unconditionally just as I am, and given guidelines solely to protect me, nurture me, and enable me to live well and thrive. And that, to me, is real freedom!

If you are going through a hard time, know that I am here for you. I am not a certified psychologist, nor anyone qualified by scholastic means to give you guidance, but I love you, I care about you, and I believe in the natural good that is within you. If you feel lost, confused, addicted, or any other unsettling thing, know that it's temporary, and that while, right now, it might seem suffocating and like it's destroying you, all the strength you need is within you, and you are amazing enough to overcome it all. 
I was in such a terrible place before, worse because I tried to tell myself I was happy, and often believed it, even though now I see how untrue it was. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is our destiny to reach it. Please, don't allow yourself to be so caught up in all the worthless things we're made to think we need, and remember that everything we need is inside us already. You are magic, we are magic, we are humans on Earth and it's amazing!!! I hope you have an incredible, beautiful, and soul-satisfying day or night wherever you are! I love you so much, and so does He!

Blessings from Above, All of His Love, 
May His Light fill you,
Amen <3

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