Empty Spaces and the Art of Rebuilding

Summertime in Michigan means one thing: construction. Road construction, house remodels, landscaping ventures, and my favorite: building demolition. I was driving along a familiar route today and noticed that a hotel which has been around since I was very young is now completely demolished. Not even a rogue brick was laying in the lot it once occupied. The emptiness surprised me and I thought how unusual it is to have such an empty space in a public area.

As the hotel’s lot faded in my rear-view mirror, the empty space turned into a symbol of how I have been viewing my life lately: a field of holes. Typically my busy work schedule keeps my mind off these spaces, but the hotel brought them into focus.

I have trouble giving up on people.

I know that I cannot corral people into a pen and lock them away forever. People are born to be animated; they won’t stay put and they shouldn’t have to be convinced otherwise. So it does not surprise me, or even bother me, that relationships change and grow, and even dissipate. Where one person once held a strong presence in your life, there may now be emptiness. I understand this, but it does not mean it is an easy concept to accept.

The road the hotel once stood is the same road that carried me to my high school. I found myself thinking of the close friends I had during that time and how many of them are now distant acquaintances. Isn’t it strange how our lives are in constant motion? Sometimes it is hard to remember that people are always changing. With so much movement, it is no wonder that relationships shift, bend, build, or disappear.

I once reviewed this reality as something negative. I was frustrated when the people I once considered my best friends could so easily abandon our friendship. It was the kind of sadness that lingered over a long period of time.

Looking at that empty commercial lot made me realize something, though. I no longer feel such strong emotions for the empty spaces in my life. I have come to separate myself from such experiences and look at things a little differently. Losing people who once meant the world to me is never easy, but it can be viewed as a positive experience. Seriously, it can!

I mean, look at relationships in this way: people come into your life for a reason. They spend the allotted time they’re meant to spend with you, and then they leave because they are no longer meant to be there. During the time they are there, though, they each bring something unique and meaningful and beautiful into your life. This is what I now focus on: the purpose of the relationship and knowing that purpose has been achieved.

I may be young in years and experiences, but I feel mature in this thinking process. I don’t have to feel loss. I don’t have to feel sad. I can accept that I am continuously moving and changing and that those around me are as well. Not only is this great closure to those friendships which has reached their purpose, but it is also a relief and cause for excitement as to what the future holds: newness. Just as I am looking forward to what awaits the hotel’s empty lot (please be a Red Lobster), I am also always looking towards the new people who cross my path. With everyone viewing the world in a different light, it is virtually limitless the impact a person can make on my life, and I relish the opportunity.

We are all essentially just bumping into each other until a wrecking ball comes through and sends each of our bricks falling into something or someone else. Not all friendships are meant to be saved, but as you grow and change, work to nurture your friendships while they last and do right by the people you love. Surround yourself with people who make your life better, who make you better. It definitely doesn’t feel good to give up on people, but sometimes holding on feels worse.

“I’ll Be the Light that Shines for You.”

One of the most difficult facts of being a Christian is that you are not immune to life’s trails and tribulations. Surely a good and loving God would not allow for His people to go through death of loved ones, financial hardships, heartbreaks, worries, or fears, right? I mean, doesn’t Him loving us mean He wants our lives to be easy and comfortable? I’m sorry, but no, it doesn’t. However, God does love His children enough to continually “work all things together for good.” (Romans 8:28) This means that the trials and tribulations God allows into our lives are part of a divine purpose.

When I experienced the loss of my best friend (I’ll start referring to him as X) and the end of my first loving relationship this past March, I could not fathom God’s purpose. I mean, I was taught that hardships in my life were meant to strengthen me and not to harm me, but I had never actually experienced any circumstances to make me question God’s intent. But after that life-shattering event, I had never been more hurt in my entire life. I felt hate and depression and complete loss of who I was and where I was going. I was not the ideal Christian, I knew it, and I was okay with that knowledge. I was angry at myself, the world, and God.

The truth is, however, that God’s deliverance and healing are for the desperate. After some time of utter frustration, grievance, and several failed attempts to pick myself up, I reached my Point of Desperation. I turned to God and screamed, “Help me, Lord!” It was not until I finally turned to Him in prayer that I realized He had answered my plea months before my situation even occurred…

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In January I decided to move to my university’s city in order to save commuting costs and survive the horrible Michigan winter conditions. I was weary of moving in with roommates, but since the prices of single dorms on campus were so high, I didn’t have much of a choice. After a month of searching, I finally found a group of girls who seemed compatible and I moved into their apartment. Little did I know God was placing me into a safe haven that would shelter me from my impending heartache.

roommates2When X and I broke up two months later, I was a wreck. It took all my willpower to simply get out of bed. I tried to compose myself to make it through my school and work hours, but inside I was a confused, beaten little girl. Thankfully, God had placed me among some of the wisest and most generous girls I will ever have the pleasure of knowing. As I attempted to pick up the pieces of my former life, I found myself marveling at how easy it was to talk and laugh with these girls I barely knew. It was like I had known them my whole life; they knew what I was feeling, what I was thinking, and how to approach the situation. They were the bright spots in a very dark time. It was because of them and their guidance that I found the courage to cast my past behind me and begin moving forward.

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Looking back, I don’t think I realized what my roommates really meant to me during this time. I valued their companionship, I sought their advice, and I treasured our time together, but I never saw what they truly were: my guardian angels. Not only did they liberate me from my depression, but they also salvaged my faith. Without them I believe I would have taken a completely different route, one much darker than the path from which they led me out.

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So this is my thank you to these two very special people in my life. Thank you for all you have done for me, and all you continue to do. You both are so indescribably important to me. I pray that you never experience any hurt, but if the time should come and you do, I hope I can be a fraction of the friend you were to me. I love you.

And this is also my thank you to my Lord. Thank you for providing me with these people in my life. Even after all my lashing out towards you and questioning your motives, you continue to love me and care for me. I do not deserve such treatment. I am so deeply thankful; I am so blessed.

God wants us to use painful times for spiritual growth. As we experience trials and tribulations, we need to remind ourselves that God is not the one who brought the pain to us. Instead, He only allowed us to feel the hurt in order to use it for our own good and the good of others. He never forsakes us; He is always there for us. And it is through His grace that he provides amazing friends that catch us when we stumble or fall. To Him be the glory…

Psalm 27:1-3,5,&14 “The Lord is my light and my salvation, so why should I be afraid? The Lord protects me from danger, so why should I tremble? When evil people come to destroy me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though a mighty army surround me, my heart will know no fear. Even if they attack me, I remain confident. For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. Then I will hold my head high, above my enemies who surround me. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.”

 

“I’ll Be” by Reba McEntire

The Difference Between Forgiving and Forgetting

When someone does you wrong and you’re asking friends or family for advice, it’s typical for at least one person to say, “Forgive and forget.” From my personal experience, neither of these two things are easy, and sometimes I wonder if they’re even possible.

I had a conversation with a friend last night about this topic. He is having a hard time forgetting his ex after years of being misused and a severe lack of trust. This thinking of her haunts him sometimes and he questioned whether or not he was “normal” in feeling this way, especially because he understands that he deserves a better relationship.

This hit home, because this thought crosses my mind from time to time. I had planned my entire life with a person just to have my heart broken and my future shattered, and yet seeing him and hearing his name still sometimes brings pain. I want to forget how he hurt me, I want to forget what he meant to me, I want to forget him. But not until now have I really considered that I might need to forgive him before I can succeed in forgetting.

To me, I don’t think we can ever truly forget, but we can forgive. Forgiveness is key in dimming the memories and honestly being able to move on with your life. Without consciously making the decision to forgive someone’s actions or words, those negative feelings we have every time that person is brought up will keep coming back. However, granting forgiveness is a very difficult thing to do in terms of severe harm that was caused. When we’re hurt by another person, our initial reaction is to want to forget the situation ever happened and move on with our life. But, just as Freud once stated, no matter how much we try to forget the greatest wrongs committed against us, it is physiologically impossible. Memories can be repressed, Freud suggested, only to be revived by similar emotional experiences or internal recognition.

So, since it is literally impossible to forget such severe wrongs done to us, how do we move on? The answer: forgive.

Forgiveness is not easy, though, and is often approached in the wrong manner. You cannot work to forgive someone with the entire motive of wanting to forget them completely and move forward. Instead, you have to constantly work towards forgiveness with the intent of actually forgiving that person. Otherwise you will always be haunted by the horrible situations and events that have come to define and shape you into the person you are today.

I am working on this as well. I have people from my past I want to forgive, and I have caught myself trying to forgive them for the sole purpose of forgetting them. I’ve come to realize (with some help of Freud, my friends, and my family) that the forgetting part really won’t happen. The memories will dim, in time, but they will not go away completely. So I’m working on forgiveness. How, you might ask? I really have no easy answer for you, other than time and intention to live with a hope of one day practicing forgiveness for all those who may have harmed me in the past and who will hurt me in the future.

With this thought, I can also pray that if/when I hurt someone, they may also work towards forgiving me in a similar way.

25 Things To Work On Before I’m 25

I recently found this list of 25 Things Every Woman Should Have By The Time She Turns 25 and found it pretty insightful. I still have two years to go before I turn 25, but I was curious how I’m faring in life, so I did some comparisons…

1. Enough confidence to no longer feel the need to justify what she eats, who she dates or what she wears, not only to other people, but to herself
Right off the bat and I am ashamed to admit I have not succeeded with reaching this level of confidence yet. I always find myself trying to convince either myself or others in my life as to why I make the choices I make. I need to stop this behavior. I know the type of person I am, I’m proud of that person, and I need to put more faith in that person in order to truly be happy with my life and my future.

2. The goal of a bank account with a few months’ living expenses in it, if she doesn’t have that already. Just in case.
Check! This is a huge goal of mine and I am working my butt off to reach it. 

3. Only the phone numbers, Facebook friends, weekend plans, and roommates she actually wants.
Other than the occasional Facebook friend I simply like to stalk every now and then, I surround myself with people I truly adore and with whom I love spending time.

4. A best friend who is like a sister.
Check – I am proud to say I have three girls I consider my sisters.

5. A space of her own.
Other than my lonely drawer at work and my bedroom in my parent’s house, I have no space to call my own. However, I plan for this to change by the time I am 25, so at least it’s in the works.

6. A good idea of what she needs in a romantic relationship, not just what she wants, or what she thinks she needs, and the willingness to explore different people and other ideas to find what exactly that is.
Sigh — I’ll get back to you on this…

7. A closet of what she considers to be her “staples,” and among these things, something to wear to an interview, funeral, wedding, impromptu Friday night drink at a casual bar and dream date if ever someone were to call out of the blue.
Check on the professional, check on the somber, and check on the flirty.

8. The tact and grace to ask for a raise, a promotion, a change in a relationship or a date with someone she’s into.
Check… even though my heart may be trying to turn me around, I am more than capable of gracefully approaching all these situations, and I have done all of them in the past with no harm befalling me.

9. The faith that she deserves those things.
Check.

10. A favorite coffee order, go-to restaurant for when friends visit from out of town, hairstyle that takes less than five minutes in the morning, “thank you” cards in her desk drawer, the print copy of her favorite book, and bedding that she is proud to show off.
I find this an interesting assortment of necessities, but I agree with them all, except the coffee. I will need to assess my book shelf and purchase some “thank you” cards though.

11. A hobby that has nothing to do with drinking, shopping or somebody else.
Check. Running and writing are completely “me” zones.

12. The recipes for a number of easy meals memorized.
Check.

13. The desire and discipline to actually cook for herself. (Just herself.)
Down to an art — breakfast, lunch, and most dinners. 

14. A trip she tells awesome stories about and a trip she has awesome plans for.
I have TONS of plans, but maybe I should work on more memories…

15. A sense that she’s let go of resenting other women for what they do or don’t have over her.
Comparable to #1, I need to work on this more. It seems so difficult in today’s world, but perhaps that’s just a cop-out I’m using, eh? I will put this at the top of my To Do list!

16. Enough of a healthy relationship with her body that her contentment no longer hinges on comparison, or what her partner would think.
Unfortunately, it may be easier to simply refer to #15…

17. At least one date in her memory with the kind of partner who wouldn’t care about those things anyway.
Point me towards that man, please!

18. Forgiveness if she’s dated men who haven’t quite matured as quickly as women tend to in their early 20’s.
Check. I’ve impressed myself with how forgiving I’ve been these past few months. I could be a very wretched soul, but with the advice from friends and family (both genders), I have come to better understand how men and women differ in their maturity levels sometimes. I suppose it’s better to find out early than to repeatedly be disappointed, right?

19. The knowledge of what she wants in bed and the confidence to ask for it without feeling uncomfortable.
Check.

20. A drill, a non-stick pan, a credit card line nobody else has access to, a bra that she was measured for at the store, and working knowledge of how to change a tire, unclog a pipe, make an investment, and find shoes on the extra 40% rack.
Yes, yes, yes — Check!

21. A relationship with her mother, even if it’s the decision that their relationship will be at least functioning, if not familial.
My mom is one of the strongest and wisest people I know. I value my relationship with her more than anyone else’s.

22. A passport, a sturdy piece of luggage, and the ability to pack the essentials at a moment’s notice should she be offered the chance to get away for a weekend, a week, or a whole new life.
Buy me the ticket and point me in the right direction!

23. The following emergency kit: Tylenol/Advil, eyedrops, a tampon, hand sanitizer, a fresh pair of underwear, a travel sized toothbrush, hydrocolloid bandages for blisters, $20 cash, a condom, and Plan B.
I was following you just find up until the end… So half a check and the promise of at least considering investing in a few of those more “mature” items.

24. Forgiveness for who she was.
Most of the times I feel I have reached this point, but there are those rare days that the past haunts me. 

25. An idea of who she wants to be.
I’m working on her…

So, overall I am on the right track to being a perfectly functional 25-year-old. For those few areas I need work, a little help from my family and friends, a lot of faith, and all my heart will be needed, but I have no fear that I won’t succeed. I’m enjoying my life a day at a time, but I’m excited to see how bright my horizons are!