Goin' Texan

Leaving the heart of Dixie for a new life deep in the heart of Texas

The Loneliest Place

“Did you go to church today?”

“Have you found a church yet?”

“Which churches have you visited?”

No.

I have not.

Two. And I don’t really want to go to any others.

I probably shouldn’t say this. But if I don’t, my head will explode. And since no one reads this anyway…

I don’t want to go to church. Maybe I never will again. And I feel horribly guilty about that.

But church? For me, it’s been the most terrible, lonely, miserable place on earth. All of my life it’s been this way. If I could have a dollar for every time I left First Baptist Church of Pensacola and wept all the way home, I’d be sweating my unemployment a lot less. I wish I could say it’s CHRISTIANS. But the fact is that *I* am the only common denominator here. It’s me. I somehow do and say the wrong things. People overlook me. People don’t include me. Acquaintances never become friends, no matter how hard I try. It is awful.

I’ve never had very many (i.e. almost zero) Christian friends. Not in school, not in college, not as an adult. I have had one kind of good friend who is a Christian, but I have done nearly all the work to keep that friendship going.  By friend I mean a person you see outside of church events, a person who has been to your house and you’ve been to theirs, a person you have wasted time with, a person you call on when you need help (and vice versa), a person who knows the real you and your real life.

I’m forty. I’ve had ONE Christian friend. Now I don’t even have her anymore. It’s truly pathetic.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had some great friends in my life. I’ve had some really, really wonderful people in my life. They just haven’t loved Jesus like I do.

Honestly, I feel more like a part of a community right now than I EVER did in my sixteen years as a member of First Baptist. My friends now are nominal believers and non-believers, gay and straight, drinking and cussing AMAZING people who have loved and included me in their lives more in the mere six months I’ve lived here than anyone did the entire time I lived in Pensacola. It feels wonderful.

And it feels awful.

I really WANT to love going to church. When I don’t go to church I feel guilty and like something is missing from my week. I miss the music and the beauty of the service. There’s a lovely liturgical element that I love, even in the most modern worship service. I encourage other people to go to church. Yet it’s the most painful, hurtful experience of my life. I have a hard time getting my head around this.

Other people think I’m fun and cool and interesting. They like hanging out with me. We have fun, we laugh, we talk and share life. There’s just something about me that Christians don’t like. And whatever element in me that they dislike is probably also the element which is keeping me single (because I will only marry a Christian). I wish I knew what it was.

But I’m terrified to know what it is, as well. No one really wants to know why nobody wants them around. Not really. That would probably break your heart.

I wish I had a tidy conclusion here…one where I quote a scripture and say that everything is going to work out fine. But I truly don’t believe that it WILL work out fine. That I love Jesus is NOT going to change. That I want to marry a man who also loves Jesus isn’t going to change. I’m never going to stop feeling drawn to God. But church and I don’t get along. I’m a square peg and every church is a round hole. And I don’t know what to do about it. Go and cry every week because I don’t fit in, doubt my worth because I feel invisible and awkward? Or don’t go and feel guilty because the bible says we are supposed to be a part of a body of believers?

I don’t know. All I know is that right now I feel happier than I have in years, and no one in Pensacola has even noticed that I left. I’m not saying this because I want pity or because I want to condemn or accuse anyone. The problem is with ME and ME ONLY. I’m just processing this information and trying to figure out what I should actually do. And right now…I’m enjoying not feel rejected and alone.

Lemon Cookies (recipe test)

For my #make30 project today I decided to try a recipe I’ve seen floating around Pinterest for ages. Lemon cake mix cookies…

My best friend Julie has a great group of friends here in Frisco who have accepted me right into their fold. Julie likes to give dinner parties for everyone, and this weekend we’re having a Spring party and Easter egg hunt for the kiddos. Since I like baking better than cooking, I usually take charge of desserts. I thought about including these cookies because they look so pretty in the photos I’ve seen, and lemon is a nice, spring-like flavor. Since it’s never a good idea to try out a new recipe the day of a party, I decided to test it today…

The most widely circulated recipe goes something like this:

1 box of lemon cake mix

1/3 cup of oil

2 eggs

2 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

Zest of one lemon

Powdered sugar for coating cookie dough balls

1) Preheat oven to 375.

2) Stir all ingredients together.

3) Roll small balls of dough in powdered sugar.

4) Place cookies on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet

5) Bake 8-9 min. Don’t over bake! Yields about 32 cookies.

 

I had everything but the lemon zest, so I gave it a shot. I used one bowl and one spoon, so it’s very easy. The dough comes out a little lumpy, so if you’re just using a spoon like me, you’ll need to work at it a little. Using a mixer would make this easier…but then you’d have something else to wash! :)

The dough comes out very annoyingly sticky. It feels somewhere between a stiff cake batter and actual cookie dough. I found the best thing to do is to wet your fingers, grab a ball of dough and throw it in the cup of powdered sugar. Then, using the same motion as if you were swirling a glass of wine, coat the dough ball in powdered sugar. Once it is coated, it’s easy to pick up (carefully – they’re very soft!) and drop on the cookie sheet. You may come up with a better way to do it…if so please let me know! Because the sticky dough really annoyed me.

These cookies do spread (and raise) quite a bit, so I would definitely coat them in the powdered sugar – that seems to help them stay together. Don’t place them too close together on the cookie sheet, either. You don’t want mono-cookie! I would also absolutely use parchment paper vs greasing the cookie sheet. These cookies are somewhat delicate and cake-like in texture once they’ve baked, so greasing the cookie sheet seems like it would change the lightness.

I baked the first batch for about ten minutes and the smaller cookies got too done. I made sure to make the next pan more uniform in size and only baked them for around 9 minutes. They came out very nicely!

Even with the lemon juice and lemon extract these cookies have a pretty subtle lemon flavor, so I would say don’t eliminate those ingredients. The lemon zest would probably really brighten up the flavor. They do come out with a very pretty, crinkly pattern on top. You could probably even use some icing on these because they’re made from a cake mix – and cakes are made for frosting – so they’re not terribly sweet. Some sugar cookie doughs are just too sweet, even for me, when paired with a royal icing on top. 

I’m going to take them to dinner at Julie’s house tonight. If Franc and James approve, I will probably make these again for Saturday, just because of the pretty yellow and white color. I don’t know if I’d make them regularly because of how difficult the dough was to handle, though.

Post Script…

The cookies were a hit tonight. I guess I *will* make more for Saturday. :)

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Day Two – #make30

Today was a busy one…I wasn’t home much! But it was a great day in a lot of ways. I only had a few minutes tonight to work on something, so I tried an Easter card. I’m interested in hand lettering, so I gave it a shot. You never get better if you never begin.

Here’s to beginning.

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Ink

Hope that runs through my veins...

Hope that runs through my veins…

Hey guess what?

I’m a Christian.

And I have a tattoo. Also? I’ve got a plan for more.

Not long ago someone I love got a tattoo and totally dug it, so he posted a pic of it on social media so his friends could see it. He was bombarded by comments – some were good ones, but there were a LOT of negative ones.

Wait a second…is it 2014 or 1914???

Sigh.

But in a way I’m part of the problem, myself…I never told anyone at my church in Pensacola about my tattoo. I didn’t advertise it. It’s pretty subtle anyway, but I never pointed it out. I didn’t want to get kicked off the worship team for having ink. I’m not sure I would have, but ten or so years ago a kid was asked to stop playing guitar in the band because he got his eyebrow pierced. So I wasn’t taking any chances.

I’ve been consciously hiding my ink from my Christian circle. They’re the only ones who would care or who would judge me, sadly. I’m not saying everyone would. But there are certain legalistic folks who would be very pious about it.

Here’s my opinion. God doesn’t care about my outsides. He cares about my insides. He says it right in his Word, see? So when you judge someone for having ink, or a piercing, or purple hair, or cheap shoes, or the wrong clothes, you are doing the OPPOSITE of what God says HE does. Remember those bracelets that said WWJD? Jesus would definitely not judge (and in scripture he clearly DID NOT) on outer appearances.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

And really…having a tattoo nowadays is so not counterculture. It’s very mainstream. No one is going to see my tattoo and think I’m some kind of hellion, trust me. I mean…have you SEEN the rest of me? :) I didn’t get mine because it was trendy or cool. I’m the polar opposite of cool. I’ve never been cool a day in my life. I got it because it was a design that MEANT SOMETHING to me.

My life isn’t what I always dreamed it would be. And that’s a good thing, because what I dreamed it would be was honestly pretty selfish. My life has stretched me more than I’d like, but I’m so much stronger, more compassionate, and more thoughtful because of it. But it’d be a lie for me to say that I never lose hope…that I never wail to my nearest and dearest that life stinks and I’m a worthless human being and don’t deserve any good thing *ever*.

I lose hope all the time.

But here’s another scripture, one that God has made my marching orders.

As for me, I will always have hope;

I will praise you more and more.

Psalm 71:14

I need hope flowing out of my heart and into my life. I need it in my head and all through my spirit. I need it running through my veins with every heartbeat. So I got it placed permanently where I will always be able to see it, as a reminder to keep hoping even when there seems to be nothing good happening in life.

So all that to say this. I have a tattoo. I’m a Christian. I don’t think God cares. He cares that I love him, that I try to show Jesus to those in my life by loving them, and that I attempt to honor him in all that I do.

And I like seeing that hope flows through my veins.

Cultivating Creativity – Five Ways to Win My Heart

I’ve decided to be more actively creative in 2014.

I’ve been blessed to have met a group of seriously talented, creative women since moving here to Texas. They have a variety of talents they actively pursue, and they’re always on the lookout to try something new, as well. They’ve motivated me to start doing the things I enjoy again, one of which is writing.

So to get me started again, I found a list of writing prompts to work on. The first prompt is to write about five ways a person could win your heart.

Le sigh.

Today I don’t feel as though my heart deserves to be won…my heart is no kind of prize, and who’d want to win it anyway? It’s been one of those days. But if someone DID want to win it, here are five ways:

1) Love Jesus. Sincerely and without reservation. Understand and appreciate the gift of restored relationship with God that he’s provided. Pursue that relationship, don’t just talk about it.

2) Be honest. If you’re honest about the little things, I can trust you on the big things. If you lie about inconsequential details, I’ll wonder what big whoppers are waiting in the wings to knock me flat. I’ve been a liar and I’ve been honest…and I promise you, the truth is always easier.

3) Be nice to animals. The way a man treats an animal shows you how he’d treat anyone or anything else under his dominion. If a man is cruel or thoughtless toward animals, he’d be cruel or thoughtless to me. Note: I’m not talking about hunting, here. Most hunters I know are animal people. When they hunt, they hunt for food, and they don’t allow any animals to suffer needlessly.

4) Notice me. Remember something I like. Ask me about what I love. It makes me feel like you see me, the person. Women are so often treated as objects to look at…it’d be nice to feel valued for who you are on the inside.

5) Don’t belittle my feelings. “Feelings” may make you uncomfortable. Don’t make me apologize for having them, though. God made me kindhearted and sensitive. I’m a woman. If you want insensitive, hard hearted, and cold, maybe you shouldn’t be dating women.

I wonder what a man’s five things would look like? I’d be interested to know…

Here’s hoping that tomorrow’s topic is less self-indulgent and silly. But writing is writing, and it’s all good practice! :)

Happy Surgiversary to Me!

Surgiversary Selfie

Surgiversary Selfie

Two years ago tonight I was not long out of surgery and making painful, slow rounds of the bariatric ward at Sacred Heart in Pensacola, dragging my poor sister and my IV stand along with me. One year ago I had lost about 100 pounds total and was beginning a new year thrilled that I didn’t have to make any resolutions to lose weight.

This year finds me in a new home in a new state in a new body I’m still desperately trying to get used to. One day I feel full of hope that the future is going to be bright and happy here in Texas. The next day I feel terrified because I don’t know what the future holds and afraid that I’ll make mistakes and screw up what I was hoping would be perfect – a new start in a new place.

I didn’t resolve to lose weight this year either. In fact, I didn’t make any formal resolutions at all. I just have two areas I want to cultivate. The first is to make an effort to be creative on a regular basis. Now that I’m not singing anywhere, and there’s not really any chance of singing anywhere, I want to explore other areas of interest. I’ve already begun that by painting in acrylics, but that’s a story for another blog post. :)

The second area is much more ephemeral and MUCH more difficult for me: stop thinking so much.

I never identify myself as a worrier. My mom was a worrier, not me. I’m not afraid of the water (she was). Driving fast is fun (it terrified her). No one is going to break into my house and murder me (she was always waiting for the call that I was dead). Therefore, I don’t worry. No, not me.

I’d say that I fret. I said the wrong thing to a new friend, and now she probably thinks I’m a jerk. I didn’t look for the right website to apply for a job on, and now I’ll be both destitute AND unfulfilled. I didn’t flirt with the waiter, and he was THE ONE – if I’d only said *something*, everything would’ve turned out perfectly. Sigh.

There’s a line from an Alanis Morrisette song that goes “wear it out, like a three year old would do.” That’s me. I get ahold of an idea and the jaws of my mind clamp down on it like a pit bull on a t-bone. I can’t leave it alone. We might as well not go out, because what if we break up? What if I can’t find a job I love? What if I can’t find a church I like? What if, what if?

Time to face it. I’m a worrier. I just worry about different things than my mother did. I’m not afraid of dying. I kinda think I’m afraid of living.

Having weight loss surgery solved a lot of problems for me. My blood pressure is so low I almost pass out if I stand too quickly. My blood sugar and cholesterol are below normal. My asthma is better. I don’t feel so conspicuous.

But it brought on a whole new set of problems, honestly. Before, men ignored me. Now they notice me, but I don’t know how to respond, and I feel ridiculous and like it’s all a joke. I’m told that I still wear my clothes too big. I don’t really know how to dress the person I am now. I’m constantly afraid of becoming vain, which is almost vanity in and of itself.

All of these worries…they’re weighing me down. I know that God is in control of my life, yet I’m still afraid of messing up and ruining everything. It’s like I think God has this checklist for me, and if I get any of it wrong I’m never going to live in His Perfect Will. One step off the yellow brick road equals ruination.

Well…now that I put it in writing I see how small it makes God. I’m effectively saying that God can’t fix me, that He can’t lead me, that I have to fret and worry over every detail and minute decision, lest I get something wrong. That seems like a lot of unnecessary effort on my part.

I’ve got to stop thinking so much about the repercussions of Every Single Decision I make, and just go with it. I’ve been given a gift of health and a new start among people who love me and want to spend time with me. So…

Stop thinking. Don’t be so afraid to live. Happy Surgiversary to Me.

What do you think of when I say “Bless you out”?

You know…I always thought that Texas was ‘The South’ too…but I’m finding that things are definitely not the same here!

For one thing, I’ve never seen a state that likes itself so much. I love that about Texas. Everywhere you go here you see Texas art, Texas stars decorating things, Texas t-shirts and bumper stickers…it’s cool. Texans are proud to be who they are. In fact, my friend Mel sent me the t-shirt in the picture just so that I’d feel like an “official” Texan. It’s one of the sweetest things anyone has ever done for me, and I love it!

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You don’t see this in Florida. I think it’s because Florida is really several different states. First, there’s Northwest Florida, which you will often hear me jokingly call “Lower Alabama.” And Northeast Florida is really more like Georgia. Then there’s Central Florida which seems to be full of transplants from the midwest. And lastly, there’s South Florida which is heavily populated by people from the Northeast, Cuba, and Haiti. So i think this has something to do with why Florida doesn’t have the same central identity that Texas has. I’m sure that there are PLENTY of regional differences in Texas…but it seems like all Texans love to identify as TEXAN.

Here’s one different thing I’ve noticed about Texas. Since I’ve been here I’ve visited a couple of churches. Now, I’ve been a Southern Baptist all of my life. So I decided maybe I needed to broaden my horizons and check out some churches outside of my Christianity box. At the end of the first service I went to, in the place where I was expecting the “benediction” or “closing prayer”, the pastor called up Brother So-and-So to come “Bless us out.”

OK…where I come from, that phrase means to fuss at someone (at least) or cuss them out (at worst). So for a split second I was expecting some kind of old school calling-out of Sister Myrtle from the pulpit for gossiping or something! But it wasn’t, of course – just a good prayer to close the service. I thought it was just a quirk of that particular pastor. But then…I visited another church, and at the end they said the same thing!

I don’t know if this is a Texas thing, or if it’s just something that’s become a buzzword type thing among some Christians? Have you ever heard the closing prayer referred to in this way?

Happy New Year!

ImageNew year, new beginning, new look for my blog…and a new commitment to write.

I’m the type of person who forgets to take pictures when she’s having fun. I get too busy doing what I’m doing to document it. I wish I’d been writing down my thoughts through this whole process of moving to Texas from Florida, but I was so Extremely Busy that I just never thought to do it.

Then when I got here I was occupied with getting settled, getting my laptop and wifi going so I could work, getting all the other details sorted out…then I’ve had so much pure FUN because of the holidays! Being close to my family and my best friends has been so wonderful that I don’t even think I could describe it!

But what I *do* know is that God led me to Texas. He picked me up out of my miry pit of loneliness in Pensacola and set my feet on the rock of family and friends here in Texas who truly care about me and want to be around me. I’m so grateful for this chance to know what community feels like. It’s something that I’m grateful for every day…in fact, people here probably think I’m pathetically grateful. But I don’t care; I’m enjoying it!

I pray that your 2014 is so full of love and joy that you can’t contain it all. And I plan to be better about recording all of the things that I find to be grateful for this year. I know there will be plenty!

Autumn on the Gulf Coast

And just like that, it’s not summer anymore. Here in the Deep South you get resigned to the heat. It’s the southerner’s constant companion for most of the year. It’s sometimes an uneasy truce – you have no choice but to live with it, so you embrace it. And if you can’t embrace it, you ignore it.

Then one evening in early October you suddenly notice that it’s quiet. The rasp of cicadas that seemed deafening in July has silenced, and all you hear is the gentle chirp of crickets. And if you’re in the swampy places along the coast, you may hear frogs croaking and singing for rain.

The air may only be slightly cooler, but the quality of it changes. The air of midsummer is a physical presence. You can feel it lying on you. The best way I can think of to describe the feeling is if your mom ever hung wet sheets on the line to dry and you accidently walked into them after they’d gotten hot in the sun. Heavy and hot and damp.

Around October the winds begin to blow out of the north, bringing drier air. It feels fresh and frisky. The hazy, blurry days of summer are finally over, and now even the leaves of the trees stand out in bright outline against the clear blue sky. It’s easier to breathe such fresh air. The sunsets become every color of gold, orange, lavender, and red. It’s beautiful.

October is my favorite month because it’s usually clear and dry. I love the cool evenings and the bright, sunny days that are still warm enough for the beach. I love the pumpkin patches that spring up on roadsides. I love the smell of highschool football games – cut grass, churned up dirt, grilling hamburgers, cotton candy, and cigarette smoke. I love yellow and rusty red mums on porch steps. I love having boiled peanuts and a diet Dr Pepper with my sister. I love art festivals and corn mazes and hay rides. I love finally getting to wear a sweater and boots.

I hope that wherever you are this fall, you’re getting to enjoy the season changing. I hope you take time to notice every difference it brings.

Happy Fall, Y’all!

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Someday

Someday there’s going to be a man. I believe that, because I believe that God gave a stranger a message for me. “It’s not too late,” he said. So until I hear different, I’m going to believe that there’s going to be a man.

Remember what you said to me, your servant -
I hang on to these words for dear life!
These words hold me up in bad times;
Yes, your promises rejuvenate me.
Psalm 119:49-50 (MSG)

He’s going to love my crazy, wild hair. He’s going to think my eyes are beautiful and he’ll reassure me that my nose isn’t too big. He’ll understand why I have a little too much skin, and he won’t care. He’s going to love to hear me sing, even if it’s just along with the radio. He’s going to like the clothes I wear, and he’ll think that my eccentric nail polish colors are cool.

He’s going to be the kind of man who understands that I don’t like to be talked to when I’m reading. He will know that some things are sacred: Doctor Who, my Coach bags, my taste in cars, and my cat. He won’t think pedicure dates with girlfriends are a waste of money. He’ll think it’s funny that I always mess up the punchline of a joke.

He is going to be interested in who I am on the inside. He’ll be curious about what makes me tick. He will want to find out why I can stand up and sing in front of hundreds of people, but I can’t walk into a room full of strangers without wanting to panic. He’ll be patient with me as I transform my self doubt into the self confidence that comes from being the woman God created me to be.

He’s going to know the difference between your and you’re. He’ll read my blog posts, even if he thinks they’re silly. He won’t mind that I don’t really care about cooking, but he’ll love that I can bake up a storm. He won’t even get mad at me when I leave my shoes in the middle of the floor. I’m also praying he won’t mind cleaning the bathroom.

He’s going to love my kindness, even though people will take advantage of me for it. He won’t mind helping me paint the bedroom because he’ll know that I like for things to be pretty. When I cry, he’ll comfort me. When I’m sick, he’ll bring me Tylenol and tell me to take a nap. He’s going to make me laugh so hard I snort. He’ll understand that sometimes a girl just wants to dress up and go out to dinner.

For us, Christmas will be the time for traditions and music and making things sparkle. Sundays will be for church, fried chicken, and naps. We’ll go to ball games and concerts. We’ll work in the yard together – he’ll mow the grass and I’ll plant the flowers. He’ll hold my hand when he drives.

Maybe he’ll even send me flowers sometimes, just because I love them so much.

My man is going to love Jesus. He’s going to pray for me. He’s going to have a bible, and it’s going to be well worn. He’s going to treasure me as a pearl beyond price. He’ll protect and defend me. He’ll tell me I’m beautiful. He’ll love me as Christ loves the church. He’ll love the way I love him back.

I believe it’ll happen one day. Until then I’ll patiently wait.

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