Timshel

I think everyone has an Uncle Leroy.

We all have that person in our family who is notoriously irresponsible.  Families talk about Uncle Leroy behind closed doors, telling their children stories about what not to do.  My dad talks about the wise career guidance he received from his parents, which was something like “Get a job.  Don’t be like Leroy.”

My Great-Uncle Leroy never graduated from college.  I’m sure he meant to when his parents paid for tuition, but somewhere along the way, he dropped out.  He worked for the family business for a while before leaving to start his own company, which was operational for less than a year.  He was married once for six months.  He gambled and drank away his money, he bought houses and cars, financed mostly by his family members who took it upon themselves to keep him out of debt.  Eventually, my grandfather grew tired of bailing him out, and left him to live with the consequences of his own decisions.  “You never loved me,” Leroy said right before he died.  “If you had loved me, you would have given me more.”  I think there were three people at his funeral.

It doesn’t take much research into my family history to see this woven through every generation.  Depression, alcoholism, suicide, domestic abuse—it’s all there.  This blood is in my veins.  This story is my story.

I read about the tendencies of my personality type, and learn I am rated “most likely to be depressed”, like it’s some sort of prize.  I am also likely to be idealistic, and must be burdened occasionally by the necessity of functioning in the real world.  I am likely to be overly emotional, to lash out in anger when things don’t go my way, and to base all of my decisions on feelings.  When I read about how I long for human connections, but don’t know how to get over myself long enough to really connect with anyone, I say yes.  That’s me.

I think about Uncle Leroy and say yesThat’s him.  I think about my great great grandmother whose death certificate says she killed herself in a bout of postpartum depression and say yes That’s her.  I think of the letter my great great grandmother in Ireland wrote about her angry and abusive husband, and say yesThat’s him.  I think of my many relatives who have turned to addictions rather than face reality and say yesThat’s them.  I have their blood in my veins.

And so when I’m torn apart by envy, when I shut out the world when I’m feeling depressed, when I react with anger, or when I’m too busy daydreaming to remember the mundane details of life, it would be easy to point up to heaven and shout “You made me this way!”  When I feel the weight of my nature overwhelm me, I could give into it and say “I have no choice, it’s just who I am.”

In the book East of Eden, John Steinbeck tells the long saga of a family history—a family history full of liars and thieves and failures.  The last portion of the book focuses on the story of two brothers, Caleb and Aron.  Cal can feel his history more than his brother.  He can feel the evil inside him, and knows he is not good.

In the story, one of the characters discovers the meaning of the Hebrew word timshel within the story of Cain and Abel.  As Cain begins to feel jealousy toward his brother Abel, God speaks to him in Genesis Chapter 4: “If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (ESV)

Most Bible translations say “you must rule over it”, but Steinbeck points out a slight difference int he original Hebrew.

“But the Hebrew word, the word timshel–‘Thou mayest’–that gives a choice.  It might be the most important word in the world.  That says the way is open. That throws it right back on man.  For if ‘Thou mayest’–it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.”

Timshel.   

We have the ability to choose.  I can tell you story after story of family members who chose bitterness over forgiveness, who chose broken relationships over wholeness, who chose to squander their money and their opportunities and their life.  But even though it seems like an uphill battle when I’m living with their blood in my veins and a corrupt human nature that traces back to Adam, I can choose to overcome it.

This is my story, and I’m sure each one of us could tell the same story—the story of our shortcomings and those who gave them to us.  The story about the genetics we inherited without our consent, and all the events in our lives we cannot control.  We can all read the story of Cain and Abel and say “Their blood is in my veins.”

This is the part of the story we cannot choose, but there’s also a part we can choose.  There is a story waiting for each one of us that we can write ourselves—the story about how we overcame adversity and created something new, the story about how we brought goodness into the world despite the flaws within ourselves.

and you have your choices,
and these are what make man great
his ladder to the stars.
but you are not alone in this,
and you are not alone in this,
as brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand.

Timshel—Mumford and Sons

When We Love the Wrong People

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I could change someone else’s feelings for me.

I’ve spent hours praying for him to change his mind, I’ve had countless fantasies about him waking up and realizing that he had never really seen me before.

In my mind, he is my perfect match. He likes the same music I like, he wants to be involved in the same kind of ministry, he will spend hours talking about books, and from my perspective, we clicked instantaneously. But eventually, I realize he’s not as interested as I am. No matter how perfect he seems, I can’t change his feelings. I want to, though.

continue reading at single roots

Photo Credit:  Jesse Bowser via stocksnap.io

 

 

Thoughts on Donald Miller, Dating, and Guatemala.

I took myself out for dinner last night to the type of place I wouldn’t normally go alone, but I wanted to try anyway.  So I sat at a table by myself, ate Ratatouille and Creme Brûlée, and finished reading Scary Close by Donald Miller.

Maybe it’s because of the reading material, or the act of eating a nice meal by myself, or the realization I had yesterday that the most in-depth conversation I’ve had with anyone in weeks was with my English student who only understands basic vocabulary and conversational phrases, but I’ve been thinking about a decision I made a few months ago. 

DSC_1509

When I moved to Guatemala, I made the decision to give dating a rest for a while.  I suppose I would have re-thought that decision if I had discovered some great single Christian guy just waiting for me here, but alas, that was not the case.  I’ve had to be rather intentional about my decision, though, to prevent myself from going after every single guy I meet who speaks English.  (It’s funny how your ideals change with time, isn’t it?)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been the girl who falls for all the wrong guys.  Every time it happens, whether it’s someone I’m dating or just someone I know, it completely consumes me.  I don’t know how I feel, and I don’t know how he feels, and I don’t know whether I’m trying too hard or not hard enough, and I get so worked up into a frenzy until I barely resemble the semi-rational person I was before.  I wish I could say there was some variety, but it’s always the same.  Clearly what I’ve been doing hasn’t been working, so I felt the need to stop trying and move on with my life–for a little while at least.

But it hasn’t stopped me from wishing things were different, and it hasn’t stopped me from thinking too much about the past.  It hasn’t stopped me from wondering what would have happened if I had stayed home.

xela

In Scary Close, Donald Miller talks about all the things that have kept him from having healthy relationships.  It was a bit of a hard read for me, because I found myself stopping every few pages and saying to myself, “I do that, don’t I?”  At one point, he said “what I’d misunderstood as passion or love was actually a deep sense that if this relationship worked out, my oldest wounds might be healed.”  Sometimes, what we are looking for in a relationship is less like love and more like a set of qualities we feel we don’t already have. 

Going through my last couple years of dating and/or wanting to date someone, I’m thinking about the things I wanted.  I wanted someone who wants to travel, I wanted someone who reads good books and listens to good music, I wanted someone who knows who they are and what they want to do with their life. 

Maybe it won’t erase the loneliness, but I’ve realized that I am slowly becoming those things myself.  I’m becoming the person who travels, who reads, and who knows who I am and what I want (though I certainly am not there yet.)  I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point where I never wonder, I never wish things were different, I never fall in love with the wrong person, but maybe I can stop looking for someone else to be the things that I am not.

And maybe for today, that is enough. 

What I’ve Learned Traveling Alone

This is coming from a girl who sometimes gets depressed staying in a hotel by myself when I’m traveling for an out-of-town wedding. For me, moving to another country was always on my after marriage list. But somehow, at the age of 25, I found myself getting on a plane, trying to overcome the tightness in my chest and fear of being stranded alone in Guatemala when I know exactly three phrases in Spanish.

DSC_1240

continue reading at single roots

To be Quiet

Here in Guatemala, it’s a Sunday of rest. My life has suddenly gotten monumentally busy in the past couple of weeks, which is a good thing. It’s good that I’m working, accomplishing things, learning Spanish, spending time with friends, re-vamping my website, but there hasn’t been much time for quiet.  But today, there’s soup on the stove and my relaxing music playlist on my iPod, and there’s quiet.

I would like to share something with you that I’ve been working on, and I’d love to hear some feedback. For the past couple of months, I’ve been working on a collection of essays, which I hope to release all together in December. Here are the first two chapters, let me know what you think! [Read more…]

Finding Joy in Right Now

My senior year of high school, I started a countdown on my wall. I tired of high school—tired of my friends, tired of my mediocre public school, tired of my $6/hour job scooping ice cream, tired of my life in the town where I had lived for the past seventeen and a half years. I dreamed about what kind of person I would be in college and somehow imagined myself being better looking, having a magnetic personality, dating attractive college guys, and going on lots of exciting adventures.

continue reading at single roots

The Great Experiment

A couple months ago, I watched a documentary about the Tiny House movement.

It featured several people who are simplifying their lives by building tiny houses.  In addition the many advantages of living in a tiny house, such as designing your own space and avoiding a costly mortgage, one tiny house owner talks about “treating life as an experiment, rather than a series of dead-end decisions.”  When I heard that, something clicked for me.

Over the past few years, I have run into plenty of dead-ends.  Dead-end jobs, dead-end ambitions, dead-end relationships.  As hard as I’ve tried to make wise decisions, I keep coming back to “What did I do wrong?”  I assumed if I was really following “God’s will for my life”, it would be working out better.

But what if I wasn’t wrong?  What if I was supposed to try and fail?  

Continue Reading at The Rising

Life Experiments: A Lifelong Commitment

This week, I would like to introduce you to Valerie Moreno, who regularly blogs at Nuance and Bubbles.  She enjoys writing about life and relationships, and she is graciously sharing her story this week about making a lifelong commitment.


 More than a ring, a life long commitment

Everyone loves a good love story. I remember the day my husband and I decided to post on social media that we were engaged, it felt like Facebook and Instagram were going to crash because of all the traffic and commotion it caused. I remember all the attention we got and the love that people expressed by supporting our union, wishing us well and spoiling us with gifts. If you haven’t experienced this do not despair; this post is not about that, you probably know someone around you that has.

[Read more…]

To be Heard

This week, I am participating in the #Fireworkpeople blog tour.

We all want to have a voice. We want people to listen to what we have to say and tell us our words are important.  As a result, we have a celebrity-obsessed culture that judges your value based on how many people listen.  No matter what you are actually saying, if you have millions of twitter followers, you must be important.  [Read more…]

To be Seen

Some days remind me of this quote from my favorite movie.

Or have you ever, like, seen somebody? And you knew that, if only that person really knew you, they would, well, they would of course dump the perfect model that they were with, and realize that you were the one that they wanted to, just, grow old with. 

When Sandra Bullock’s character in While You Were Sleeping falls in love with a man she doesn’t even know, she wishes more than anything just to be seen.  Not just glanced at, but really seen.  Because there’s a difference after all between being seen and being seen [Read more…]