On a Ranch, and in the Hills

Remember that summer I came back a different person than when I had left? I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. It’s amazing how different, yet similar my two most memorable life experiences are – one being the best, worst [or was it worst, best?] summer of my life; the other being the hardest, best 2.5 years of my life. Any guesses? Both can be expressed in acronyms starting with the letter “C”.

Of all places, it was on a ranch where my heart was hardened. It was tough, but amazing! It was hard work, but the most difficult part was the people we worked for. It’s not fun working for control freaks, liars and possibly even thieves. I’m a person that likes to see the good in people, and in giving them many chances, to this day do not have anything nice to say about them [so I will say no more]…

In the hills, in the middle of nowhere, my heart blossomed. It was hard work, emotionally [and sometimes physically], but I loved who I was serving! The folks I worked with and for also had the heart of a servant, so I obeyed willingly. There is so much good in these people, that I’m still investing to this day, trying to learn as much as I can from each and every one of them!

Back on the ranch, we coworkers had to stick together. We prayed through a near-death experience, we bonded over bonfires, we joked our way through the craziness, and we listened to each other’s stories. We were from so many different backgrounds – our differences were plenty, ‘the island of misfit toys’, but together we survived and tried and cared. And we had fun, lots and lots of fun.

On a porch, on a house, on a hill, we gathered. We all considered ourselves Christ-followers. We were from many faith backgrounds, but we all prayed together – before meals and each evening. We laughed to tears and cried to laughter. We intentionally loved each other through victories, losses, service and life. We were different, yet at the core, we were the same. We lived each day to the fullest, we served to the best of our abilities and we loved each other deeply. And we had fun, lots and lots of fun!

In a lonely A-frame cabin, on a ranch far-far-away, I prayed. My roommates [who I loved] were elsewhere, being not-so-lonely… I was one of the few there who prayed. I loved it there, but I hated it. I needed to survive. I was becoming stronger, more independent. I was learning more about myself. I was becoming the person I didn’t want to be.

On a couch, surrounded by housemates, in the hills, we prayed. All of us, together, praying. I was becoming stronger, more dependent. God granted me friends who would help me survive [they made me hot cocoa]. I was learning more about myself. I was becoming the person God created me to be.

I sought refuge in the small laundry room, on the ranch faraway. It was so peaceful there. Must have had something to do with our laundry lady. The one who helped me cling to the little bits of the person God created me to be. The one who would drive to me to her church, on the days I could literally sneak away from my work. Playing hooky from work to go to church. She and her husband shone light in the darkness. They adopted me.

I sought refuge in a church on the edge of the hills. It was so full of life there. Must have had something to do with the pastors and their congregation. The ones who helped me deepen my relationship with Christ, and become better. There my soul reawakened and I was ready to let God’s light shine through me. The love of the Father.

Back on the ranch, I searched for the love of the Father, but I looked in all the wrong places. I was deceived. I thought I had found a father-figure, but he thought elsewise. I was naive. I didn’t realize until my heart had hardened. I felt incredibly stupid and alone. This was when I knew I had to leave.

In a house in the hills, I found healing. With a friend we shared our stories. We both lost our daddies too early on. We both were deceived. We both looked for father-figures. We both were naive. But this time, we weren’t alone. We no longer felt stupid or ashamed, but we experienced the love that came with understanding. Our hearts were warmed and softened. This is when I knew I had to stay.

I wouldn’t trade memories from either experiences for anything. I learned important things about my worst self and my best self. I laughed, cried and lived with many people that I came to love, many of which that was my only opportunity to get to know them.

On the ranch I saw my gramma shoot a gun, arrow and ride a horse [see my favorite photo ever]. In the hills, my housemates held me while I cried and prayed for me as I left to say my “goodbye” to her. On a ranch, I made friends with people from all over the world. In the hills, I made friends with people from all over the world. On a ranch, I enjoyed my love of “being country” – shooting guns, riding horses, bonfires, breakfast rides, rivers, steaks, line-dancing etc. In the hills, I enjoyed my love of people, serving, cooking, lakes, long drives with the windows down, seeking the Lord, etc. On a ranch I was hurt, and in the hills I was healed.

No matter where I was, God was always there, in each moment, person and story, and thank God for that.



The “Perfect” Syndrome

Disclaimer: I love Cross Point Church, and I think Pastor Pete Wilson is incredibly great. I am an online attender. I was first introduced to Cross Point, last year, while on my birthday weekend in Nashville. I have since then watched most of their messages online [while attending Southland Church in Lexington – also great]. Sometimes I am tempted to move to Nashville so I could be a part of this church community.

Also this is just me cutting open my heart and sharing some of my deepest, darkest insides – hoping that there’s someone out there who understands, or who can learn and be blessed by them. I also am better able to let go through writing. #Therapy

I watched this message this morning thinking Well perhaps I’ll learn more, so I can be a better friend to the mothers I know… Considering I’m not even close to being a mother, and I already struggle with the desires of knowing if the “mom thing” is for me anyway… Nonetheless, this is a great message for you moms out there, but it’s also a great message for all women – for daughters, aunts, grandmas, single folk…

Pastor Pete Wilson of Cross Point Church in Middle Tennessee shares about 3 things every mom should quit forever, and 1 thing he hopes they never quit.

I really hope you’ll watch this sermon, but for the sake of my post, I’ll scan over them quick:

  1. Quit trying to be perfect.
  2. Quit trying to fit society’s expectations.
  3. Quit allowing your insecurities to determine your impact.

* Don’t quit breathing God’s grace for whatever season you’re in.

It didn’t hit me until the end of the message, but God reminded me of all the things I’ve been praying for in the past few months… Help me be a better daughter God. I’m far from perfect. I don’t know  how to be the daughter my mom needs me to be. Help me be a better aunt, Lord. My friends say I’ll be a great one, but I just don’t see it. I love her, but kids aren’t my strong suit. I’m 27 and I’ve never changed a diaper, and I don’t really care to. Am I selfish or what?! I’m not like so-and-so… etc… 

I’m the queen of creating expectations that I know I cannot meet for myself. Being the perfect daughter, the perfect aunt [or the aunt I’m supposed to be], the perfect friend, the perfect coworker, the perfect child of God, but I can’t be any of those. When I’m not trying to be perfect, I readily compare myself to my friends – you know the ones that call their moms everyday… or Skype them weekly… or live close to home so they see them regularly. Or my friends that are already moms and have provided their moms with grandchildren – the ones who are selflessly serving their children. And then theres me… Here I am with no desire, at this time, to create my own children [except to maybe foster one day] – which yes, makes me feel incredibly selfish – even though I spend my life serving others, and volunteering my time, and trying to be a great friend.

One of the things I love about Cross Point Church is they readily preach, “It’s okay to not be okay.” This is where the grace comes in. For whatever season, don’t quit breathing in God’s grace. God didn’t create me to be perfect, he created me to be me. As long as I am being the person God created me to be, I have reason to celebrate. In the words of VeggieTales, “God made you special, and he loves you very much!” And it’s true. I must flee from my ridiculous expectations on myself, from comparing myself to others, from society’s mold and from my insecurities that are taking me away from being the me that God created me for in this moment. All I have to be is the woman God created me to be – daughter, sister, aunt, coworker and friend.