My Valley of Envy: Relationships

James 1-17I have a confession: I am a jealous and envious person. But, what I am envious of may surprise you.

I say don’t give me things, give me people. Give me connections. Give me relationships.

This week’s reading in my current course helped shed light on this part of my heart. Although I don’t agree with everything the author said, it did get me thinking. It did get me to deeply mull over why I value people so much.

I say time and time again I am a deeply relational person. Believe me, I am. But, it also comes with its setbacks.

The biggest being I often feel lonely because I so deeply yearn this connection. Even though, in reality, I have a plentiful amount of connections. In a way, I find myself discontent with the connections I do have. Instead, I long for someone else. I long for what I think will be something better.

I often look at others’ relationships and connections and wish I could be a part of it, too. The moment I feel I have something in common with someone, I catch myself envisioning what could or would lie ahead if the connection flourished into a special friendship.

Honestly, it’s easy for me to view every possible encounter as a new possible connection to be made.

So, it’s hard for me to walk away from most anything with a sense of neutrality. It’s hard for me to walk away indifferent from the person I spent time with or even just met.

But, then, here comes my constant tension.

The former orphan and adopted person in me wants nothing to do with people. I don’t want closeness. I want distance. I want time to myself. 

I let my mind wander. It is then I question why God made me such a softie towards others and, truthfully, just a softie in general. I long to understand why I care so deeply about others, especially strangers.

The former orphan and adopted person in me vividly recalls relationships are emotionally taxing and force us to be vulnerable. They invite the possibility of rejection and judgment with open arms. They keep us accountable to the yucky parts of our lives. They encourage us to uncover the sin of our lives. They show us on a heart level like none other.

I can recall numerous times in my life when I have not appreciated the time it takes to grow deep, meaningful relationships. I don’t know many other highly relational people like myself, so sometimes it can feel like I am the only one making an effort. The effort that I long to go through can be the exact thing that makes me not want to be relational.

That lingering time makes me want to fast forward to the, “Yeah, we are heartfelt friends” stage. I don’t want the work that comes with it. I don’t want the journey. I want the destination. I want the declaration.

Ultimately, then, I don’t want the people, nor I do want to get to know them on a heart level. For, as much as I’d like to deny it, relationships and people take work and time. They take humility. They take forgiveness. They take patience. They take never-ending grace.

I spent much of time shutting people out before accepting Jesus Christ into my life and allowing Him to change my heart. I spent a great deal of my time hating people. I spent much of my time being anything but loving.

However, if you ask my husband, he’d say he thinks the softie in me was always there. It just hadn’t found its light—Jesus.

So, it’s been quite the shift since knowing Jesus to long for people until my heart can’t handle the angst. Because it’s quite a transition, I find myself in this valley of envy. I find myself with an imbalance. I find myself discontent. I find myself questioning God’s handiwork in my life and in my heart attitude.

I am here to tell you this to keep myself accountable to this newfound idol in my heart. Please forgive me if this sounds choppy, as this is only the beginning of me trying to make sense of it all. I hope from this point forward I can begin to find a balance between this tension in my heart.

If you identify with any of the tendencies, I am certain you are not alone. Loving people and loving them well can be difficult, especially if you are doing it for the wrong reasons.

But, even though it is difficult and can be emotionally exhausting, it is completely, utterly, and wholeheartedly worth it.

So, if you’ve had a longing to introduce yourself and get to know someone on a heart level, please do. All it takes is simply inviting the individual out for a cup of coffee. How do I know this? Because I’ve done it. One of my good friendships began simply because I answered God’s call to meet with her.

I tell you: Meet each other in this valley of life. Love well. Love hard. And never forget to look at the reflection of your own heart along the way. You may soon realize that what once began as a good thing morphed into something greater and out of your control.

It is then we must once again meet with Jesus. It is then we must remind ourselves that every good and perfect gift comes from above. None of it is ours for keeps.

Blessings,

Renata

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Life as a Working Adult: Juggling Emotions

Emotions-captains-quote-van goghAs much as I enjoy being an adult, sometimes, I just want to curl up in a ball, grab my stuffed animal, and get lost in a book for hours like I did as a kid. I want to get lost in another world rather than be in my reality. Let’s be honest, being an adult can be tough, especially being a professional working one.

Lately, my job has been extremely stressful. I knew the stress would come one day, so that doesn’t bother me. But, what bothers me is what it can do to me and how it impacts me. When I am stressed, whether it be at my job or any event, etc., my stress can cause me to not enjoy what I do. It can cause me to not be my normal, fairly outgoing, yet introverted self.

On those days, it can be hard to go to work ready to be productive and pleasant. It can be difficult to not throw in the towel for even a brief moment. Most importantly, it can be extremely difficult to be emotionally present and focused.

I have a rather expressive face, so when I am having a rough day, it’s obvious. It was quite the chore to work through those kinds of shifts when I worked at McDonald’s. At McDonald’s, and really any fast food chain, it is all about smiles and friendlessness. Your front to customers was more important than your feelings, needs, or life situation.

I was reminded of all this and more at an appointment recently. I could tell the health professional was having a rough day. I’ve seen her regularly enough to pick up on her typical body behaviors to know that day, in particular, wasn’t great. It wasn’t obvious, but I am quick to pick up on those types of cues.

I know what it is like to have to muster up even an ounce of professional demeanor for what could be an excruciatingly long day ahead.

To say the least, my heart broke for her and I barely know her. My heart broke for her because I wanted to ask if she was okay.  I wanted to ask if she was having a rough day.

But, I couldn’t, so I didn’t. And it’s been bugging me ever since.

As I get older, I learn more about the depth and complexity of people, emotions, and trials. I learn more about getting through one day at a time, even if it takes all you’ve got.

But, it’s even more difficult when you throw your job into the mix. There’s this tension inside of oneself that is hard to explain. There’s the tension of needing to be there but also just wanting to walk away from it all.

How do you be present for the patient, clients, students, customers, etc., but also wrestle with life? I don’t have it quite figured out. To be honest, the highly emotional person in me probably never will figure out that part of life. And I am truly okay with that.

I’d rather wear my heart on my sleeve and showcase my emotions all over my face rather than silently suffer. I’d rather be honest that I am struggling, even a little bit than be unreal, even if it means I struggle for days on end, especially as someone who battles depression.

So, I still find my heart breaking for the health professional. I know because of our relationship all I can do is pray for her. I can pray for God to bring peace in her life. I can pray for God to be with her, even if I don’t know what’s going on.

Most importantly, I can be thankful for that small glimmer of hope I found in her tough day. Her tough day showed me I am not alone. Her tough day showed me that every working professional will go through bad days at their job, no matter how much he or she enjoys it. Her tough day showed me it is okay to show people you are hurting without spilling your guts or losing your cool.

My call to you is this: Please observe others. Please treat those who serve you or care for you as if you are in their position. It can be challenging to constantly appease to a job that demands never-ending smiles or conversation when that’s the last thing a working professional wants to do.

And if you are a working professional who can identify with this, don’t feel pressure to constantly be happy and upbeat. Don’t beat yourself up over manmade ideals and pressures. You are human after all.

Instead, find a comfortable balance that works for you. Find a comfortable balance between being professional but also being honest with the reality that you are a human with feelings and difficulties just like everyone else, including those you encounter.

For me, that usually means showing it in my face, but not talking about it with others unless I am truly open to confiding in them. But, then again, that is only if they ask what’s wrong. I am not typically someone who likes to volunteer information unless I truly feel the Lord calling me to be vulnerable and open. Regardless, I understand not everyone has colleagues they can confide in. Besides, there are days I just simply don’t want to talk about it.

Furthermore, it means finding small ways to have conversations with others without being pushy. It means even just texting my husband that I am having a rough day, so he can be thinking of me and praying for me throughout the day.

Most importantly, it means taking my day one small task at a time. Before I know it, it will be over and I can hopefully find the time to simply unwind and aim for a better tomorrow.

Blessings,

Renata

 

LA 2028: Let the Adventure Begin

LA-2028-victory-Eric GarcettiNearly a year ago, actually 364 days, to be exact, I wrote a blog post about my bucket list goal to one day witness the Summer Olympics in person, even it meant leaving the country. It was within that week I discovered that Los Angeles was a contender for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Well, it is official: The Olympics are coming back to the United States. The International Olympic Committee made their vote official on Wednesday, September 13.

Paris 2024. LA 2028.

I AM ECSTATIC.

I am a firm believer in God’s timing and His perfect plan. I don’t think it is a coincidence at all either that one of the YouTubers I follow, iJustine, finally got to have one of her biggest dreams come true this week, too. She got to attend an Apple keynote speech.

Not only did she get to attend an Apple keynote speech, but she got to do so in the new Steve Jobs Theater. She got to be there for the event marking 10 years of the iPhone. I definitely prefer Apple over Android. But, I don’t love Apple products as much as iJustine does.

Nevertheless, the happiness I feel for her and being able to watch her dream come true is incredible. For, even in the short three years that I have been subscribed to her, I am well aware of her love and appreciation for all things Apple. I am aware of her resounding passion.

And that is why I am ecstatic about the Summer Olympics coming back to the United States in 2028. My passion for the Olympics parallels iJustine’s passion for Apple. Lord willing, I will do all I can to be there 11 years from now.  The official announcement is one step closer to that dream coming true.

Now, I can diligently start saving. Now, I can look forward to an event that manages to bring the entire world together.

Most importantly, the official announcement, paired with iJustine’s Apple keynote adventures, remind me that good things come to those who wait. iJustine has dreamt about going to a keynote speech since she was 10 or 11, long before she even knew what a keynote speech was. Twenty plus years later, her dream came true.

I’ve dreamt about going to the Olympics since I was about 15 years old. So, if it is part of God’s plan for me to be there, it will be a dream 19, if not twenty plus, years in the making. That’s incredible. For me, that’s worth the wait, for it’s a dream in the making.

Also, good things come to those who enjoy a product, company, or event with the same wholehearted devotion and enthusiasm, whether they are there in person or watching via a television or computer screen.

Good things come to those who believe in their passions, no matter the following, comments, or weird stares that may come along. Back to the Lord’s perfect timing, iJustine said on the same day, she hit 4 million subscribers and got the official email from Apple inviting her to the keynote, which said, “Let’s meet at our place.”

In a separate video, iJustine she took the time to thank her subscribers. She also said others have said comments like, “Wow, you’ve been on YouTube for over 10 years and you are just now getting to 4 million?”

And her response to that? “Yeah, I did. But, you know, I am still here. I am still making videos. And I still actually really genuinely love what I am doing.”

So, there you have it. Los Angeles will host the 2028 Summer Olympics. In 2028, the entire world will follow the sun. In 2028, Lord willing, my husband and I will be there to witness history.

Until then, I will continue to appreciate the Olympics for their goodness and glory from the comfort of my home, just as iJustine will continue to be wholeheartedly devoted to Apple no matter how many other products she has from them or their competitors. For, at the end of the day, she will always rank Apple as the best of the best.

For now, I will relish in it. I will thank God for His perfect timing for myself and iJustine. I will thank God for planting this strong desire and passion in my heart so many years ago.

I cannot wait to see how the journey toward getting there unfolds. I am certain that as long as I still have a blog I will continue to write about the journey one step at a time. I know I am in for quite the adventure. You better believe it is one I am more than willing to take.

Blessings,

Renata

 

The Creative Process: Publish and Let Go

Creative process-Jonathan-IveThere are few times in my blogging life where I get to write about something in full detail the moment I am inspired to do so. Thankfully, right now, is one of those times. I am going to take full advantage of it.

Within the last 10 minutes, I just watched a YouTube video that captivated me and kept me at the edge of my seat. It is about train hopping by YouTuber Marcus Johns, who is a diligently aspiring film maker and director.

He was one the handful of YouTubers I started following thanks to a nonchalant YouTube recommendation. Most of the time, the YouTube recommendations are far from something I would actually enjoy, for YouTube is notorious for assuming once you watch one type of video, the platform algorithm assumes that’s all you want to watch.

For once, YouTube got a recommendation right. I was intrigued by Marcus, especially because he is a devout Christian. So, I stuck around not really knowing what would come of it.

Well, here I am a few months later, after subscribing to both him and his wife, Kristin.

I can’t quite describe it, but there’s something inspiring and intriguing about following and supporting fellow creatives. The creative person in me loves it. Quite frankly, this post is one of the many times fellow creatives inspire me to do the same in the best way I know how—by writing.

The writer in me is enthralled when I find an unapologetic and energized storyteller. The writer in me is mesmerized by people who can take a seemingly boring storyline and turn it into an entertaining masterpiece, whether it be six seconds, 10 minutes, or a full-length future film.

That’s why I watch YouTube. That’s why I see films. I may know next to nothing about filming or video production, but I do know a thing or two about storytelling. I do know a thing or two about keeping people intrigued. I do know a thing or two about being real, honest, and transparent.

So, Marcus had me hooked, when I found his most recent video was Episode 1 of a train hopping documentary called “Yard Boys.”

What intrigued me the most to watch the video was something he said in his video previewing the eight-part episodes documentary. He said he put the documentary out on YouTube because he just needed to let it go. He needed to stop it from occupying his life.

The writer in me totally got it. I was already going to watch the episode, but that snippet from him ensured me this would be a quality documentary.

In one of my previous blog posts, I challenged myself to finish the unfinished blog posts I have. Part of finishing the unfinished that we work so meticulously over is knowing when to let go of those pieces. It is knowing when enough is enough, despite our expectations, whether they are high, low, or non-existent.

Honestly, I think it says a lot about a creative person to know when to run with an idea and when to walk away from it, too. I think it says a lot to decide, “I could put more work into this. But, I am tired of it occupying my time, energy, and well-being, so I won’t.”

I think it says a lot about a creative person to embrace the imperfections of a piece.

However, doing so is probably one of the most difficult parts of creativity. I struggle to do so with every single blog post I publish. This one is no exception, I assure you. The perfectionist and grammar nerd in me has a tough time embracing the flaws of my own work. I think that’s because I am my own worst critic, more than anything else, honestly.

Time and time again, I have to pull myself out of the creative trap that is so easy to fall into. I constantly struggle with the tug and pull of being proud of my work but also being genuine in my work.

As a result, I am willing to let go of mistakes here and there for the sake of honesty and transparency. I am willing to walk away from a piece knowing I am publishing it in God’s timing, not mine.

I am slowly learning to let the content speak more than the details. After all, I started this blog to share the message of Jesus Christ, not be a perfectionist, which I must remind myself on a consistent basis.

Therefore, if the message is something you are proud of and it is loud and clear, the details and imperfections that are more than likely only noticeable to you—the creator—will not matter in the end. In fact, by God’s divine grace and mercy, they will probably only make your story that much more meaningful.

So, I say kudos to Marcus Johns. I say thank you for sharing this piece with us. Thank you for simply putting it out there, regardless of the format.

If I’ve learned anything from this blogging journey, it is that the hardest part is hitting that publish button. But, by the grace of God, it is the easiest part as well.

For, in that moment, we ultimately have no control over it. In that moment, we can finally let it go and, as Marcus said, “Well, here it is. I hope you like it.”

Blessings,

Renata