Part I: The most recent chapter in my story

I’ve always loved the song “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks. I think the whole song speaks to my most recent journey, but the chorus is particularly poignant. It says

she needs wide open spaces, room to make her big mistakes, she needs new faces, she knows the high stakes

Growing up in Norfolk was wonderful. I have an incredibly close knit and connected family. And I love it almost all the time. But I was a part of such a tight knit community and family that I never really established an identity for myself. I know what I like and what I want from life, but I never felt like Annie Blakey – the college grad, the independent and competent woman that I thought I should be. I saw myself as Annie Blakey – Karen and David’s daughter, a naive bleeding heart liberal with an unrealistic idealism and desires for a great big life but no idea how to get one. Some of those feelings may have been suggested by other people, but at the end of the day I believed them.

And then I did something crazy. I moved to Texas. No one knew me. When I showed up in Dallas I was nobody, and it was amazing. No one here had any expectation of me as a person. I wasn’t the girl who graduated at the top of her high school class and then fell so far in college. I got to build my identity from the ground up and it was beautiful, and trying, and liberating. I had room to make my own mistakes, and I knew the high stakes.

And I got to make my mistakes and face the stakes with the support of two amazing families, lead by strong women who I knew would love me no matter what. If I showed up polka dotted and in a bathing suit on a snowy day I would be welcomed with open arms and a giant blanket. These women love Jesus in such a way that it totally changes the way they relate to other people, and I got to rebuild myself with the comfort of knowing I wasn’t doing it alone and that no matter what happened there was a place where I could experience God’s grace in fellowship with friends. I have never in my life known such freedom and such security at the same time. I hope that everyone gets the opportunity to have such an experience. God is good. And Texas is exactly where I was supposed to be.

Moving to Texas has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. God has been so faithful in ways I never expected. In Texas, through a round about transition in my life I have found healing, and hope, and a love for life that I thought I had lost. I moved to Texas because I felt that it was where God was calling me. I felt a call to pursue my passion for counseling and I wanted theological training because I’m a nerd. And so I came to DTS, where I could get both. I also felt like moving to Texas made no sense. I didn’t understand why God would call my saltwater hearted self to the desert. Due to accreditation and licensure requirements DTS, while a wonderful institution, was not a logical choice for someone who wants to practice counseling professionally on the east coast. But there was a nagging in my saltwater heart that said that this was the way to go. And so go I did.

And while in Texas I realized that I want to build my life in North Carolina. It’s where I was born, and even though I’ve spent most of my life in Virginia, NC has always felt most like home. One of the perks of being a single woman in this day and age is that I can choose where I want to create a life. I have not committed to sharing my life with anyone else whose needs and desires need to considered. And as long as I am single I will choose to embrace that freedom. It was odd to find myself sitting in my room in Texas longing not for home but for the land of the pine. There’s a whole host of professional and personal reasons why coming back east makes the most sense. But here are the only two that I think really matter:

1. It’s the dream, and it always has been – I always figured I’d retire there (ironic since you must first have a professional career in order to retire), because in my mind that’s when people live their dreams, when they retire. But recently I found myself wondering “if I can live the dream now, why wait?”

2. Getting my masters from a school in the area will allow me to do practicums in the communities which I hope to become a part of. This way when I graduate I’ll have a professional network to support me in the job search. When I’m in the grind of the job search my potential employers will have a familiar context in which to evaluate my successes or failures.

I am so excited to be coming back closer to home. I’ll be back in Hampton Roads starting in August and will be there for probably a year unless I get a miraculous and incredibly hasty grad school admission. I’ll have time to work and thanks to my generous parents, the ability to sock away all of my earnings for school. I can’t wait to get back to Norfolk and get to be Annie – the determined woman who chooses to live the dream each and every day.

Advertisements

Musings on love and marriage….

Love_Sign_VA

It’s only valentines day for another hour and 26 minutes so I had to get this post out now. I can’t wait to update you all about how amazing Texas is but I want to talk about love tonight.

This is my 27th consecutive Valentines Day being single so I feel like I’ve got the routine down pretty well. Some years it sucks. Some years it doesn’t . This year it didn’t. And I’m a little surprised because I’m at that place where it seems like everyone is getting married. I’ve watched other women go through this. I’ve been warned about how frustrating it will be. How I will be jealous and bitter and that feeling this way is only natural.

In the last 6 weeks four of the women I love most in this world have gotten engaged. And you know what I feel? JOY. The kind of joy that makes you smile. I’m smiling right now just thinking about it. The kind of joy that makes a rainy day a little less crappy. And I’ve been marveling a little bit at this joy, which was just about the last thing I expected to feel when all of my loves are getting married and I’m sitting here in Texas without a prospect on the horizon.

I started thinking through why I am having this unexpected joy. Because if we’re being honest, plenty of people–“friends” even– have gotten married in the last few years and I have not been joyful. I have smiled, and said all the right things, but my heart was not joyful. So what is different about this? Whats different is that these are amazing women. I can’t believe I have been so blessed to have such incredible friends as these. I love them so much that there isn’t room for jealousy or bitterness because I’m just so freakin excited!! Also I have watched them. I’ve watched them be hurt and feel lost and misunderstood by these men. And I’ve watched these men struggle and work on these relationships. I’ve watched both parties grow individually and together. And I feel blessed to have been able to witness that and to be able to now share in the joy of their engagements.

One of these friends once told me that the women she will have as her bridesmaids at her wedding won’t be the ones she’s known the longest, or the ones who were in her first 5 make believe weddings. She says that the women standing next to her as she makes this promise and enters into a covenant before God and her husband are going to be the ones that will support her in her marriage.  When things get hard they will sit with her, witness her hurt, remind her of Truth, and then send her back to fight through the muck with her husband. When she said that to me it was such a revolutionary idea, because I think as women we are really good at solidarity when one of us has been wronged by a man. In fact, I think you could argue that that is one of the only times we are good at solidarity (see paragraph 2). And I think that this sentiment is often blind to the covenant of marriage. And while it might be more fun to be sitting ready with the red wine and the man-bashing comments, loving a friend who is also a wife does not look like that. Loving them will look a little differently now. None of my besties has gotten married before and now a bunch of them are. I don’t know exactly what it will look like but I am so excited to be a part of this journey with them.

Ladies, you know who you are. Congratulations!! I love you. Men, I love you now too. Make sure to take gentle care of these women’s hearts.

PS – I’m not going anywhere….

Non Sequitor

This is a little long for a Facebook post so it’s going up here. Tonight I had the unique experience of falling asleep while I was waiting for a video to load. I realize this sounds “so 2004” but the Internet was a little spotty tonight and it cut off in the middle of my show. So, after about 5 minutes of waiting, and being tired and mildly ill with winter ick I decided to just fall asleep. And let’s be honest, usually when you’re in the middle of a show or video and it stops to buffer you’re cursing the Internet Gods for having the audacity to make you wait one more second to get your media. (Or maybe that’s just me?). So I felt pretty liberated and enlightened to be able to fall asleep in such trying circumstances. And then, 20 minutes later, my almost asleep self wakes with a start to the sound of a man at the foot of my bed saying “should I have a gun?” Of course this man was inside my computer on a TV show, but twilight Annie did not know this at first and let me tell you it was quite frightening. I’m sure it would have been incredibly amusing to witness but I was all alone. So let this be a warning to all of you who watch tv online…… I do not recommend falling asleep while your crime show is buffering, it could end in quite a terrifying spectacle.

Taking Your Eyes Off of Him

Last week I had my first real big Texas sized panic attack. It was epic, like something out of the movies. At one point I was curled up in the fetal position in my bathtub. I don’t know when I decided that my bathtub was also my personal safety pod, but at some point it happened. It started with just a little fleeting doubt. Maybe Texas isn’t what I want, maybe I want to move to Pamlico county and sell ice cream at The Bean and live happily ever after on a boat. I haven’t blogged much about Pamlico county or Camp Seafarer, but those are the physical/geographic places where my heart is home. My spirit is most at rest when I am there so it was not a completely off the wall thought. In this time of transition and uncertainty, my selfish human heart started longing for the place that is the safest. I started to think about how I didn’t really know what I wanted.  I thought to myself “I’m a gypsy, a wanderer, I don’t want to live in one place for very long at all”. Then I started to dwell on my wanderlust. I decided that what I really wanted was to move to Southern California and be a barista. I would serve coffee and smile at people all day. Because life is hard and people need to be smiled at. Sometimes I exaggerate. This is not one of those times. I honest to God decided that this is what I would do for the next few years. Start out in the land of sunshine and ocean, serving up coffee and joy (my smiles are really powerful) and move every so often as my spirit longed to other amazing cities where people liked coffee and needed joy. I still believe in the merit of serving coffee and spreading joy. I also still very much believe that people really need to be smiled at more often. I also, however, added a little rationality to the equation and stepped back from the cliff that is my blind idealism.

You see for just a hot second I started thinking with my practical human brain and considering my spirit. I stopped seeking out what God wants for me and listening to The Spirit. It took approximately 4 hours for me to unravel this exciting adventure that God has orchestrated over the last 6 months. Hours, for me to dismantle months of divinely inspired plans.

Once my therapist used a phrase that I have come to love very very much. She told me that some days I came into her office really crazy, like my hair was on fire and the world was falling apart. I love that for so many reasons. Mostly because it was really accurate, in figurative terms. We all have days like those, days when we’re running around like a chicken with our head cut off, or like our hair is on fire.

When I took my eyes off of Jesus, and His plan for me and His provision I went back to the place where my hair was on fire. Thank goodness for friends who love Jesus. I had a great talk with a friend who said a whole lot but also not very much. She mostly reminded me to look at Jesus. And as soon as I started to think about God and what He wants, and how I’m going to follow Him on this great big adventure, my hair started to cool off. And soon, in a matter of minute, my heart began to feel at peace. I felt safe again. There will always be places where my heart feels at home but as long as I keep my eyes on God I will carry His peace with me wherever it is that His crazy adventure takes me.

My Texas Story

This post is kind of long and factual. Bear with me, it’s only the beginning of a REALLY AWESOME story.

As many of you know, I’m about to embark on a GREAT BIG ADVENTURE. It’s so big, it’s like, the size of Texas. In January I’m moving to Texas to go to grad school. It’s a dream I’ve been praying for and working towards for multiple years and I’m so grateful to be on my way to achieving it. I’m also pretty scared. The really cool thing about this adventure is that God has made it happen. People used to talk about God working in their lives and I would nod along and secretly be jealous because I couldn’t see him doing great big God sized things in my life.

In February I had gotten in to Dallas Theological Seminary and was super excited but also starting to doubt if I was ready for such a great big move. Texas is big, and far away, and I’m just little ol’ me. My conversations with God went pretty much like this, I would say “I don’t think I want Texas anymore, I want to stay here with my community, my safety net of people who love Jesus and push me towards him each and every day. I’m a part of something special here that I’m not ready to leave”. And God would just nudge me a little bit and love me and tell me it was all going to be okay. Then my friend/brother/mentor Josh reached out to me and asked if I could come over to dinner with him and his family so we could talk about “something”. I hate talking about “something”. Regardless of my relationship with a person if we “need to talk” I’m anxious but Josh and his wife Laura love Jesus and follow him obediently, and since I trust Jesus I didn’t worry too much about our talk. A few nights later I’m sitting at the dinner table with Josh, occasionally Laura, and at least 2 of their 3 precious children (it was a little bit like a musical chairs rodeo, trying to corral children to the dinner table). It is important to note that Josh and Laura are also the two fearless leaders of my community group/safety net/something special that I’m not ready to leave.

Josh is currently the Musical Worship leader at my church. He shared with me how he’d been feeling like it was time for him to make some kind of move that would better equip him to lead in ministry. So he began praying for a church, and he had found one in Dallas, conveniently right where I would be heading in just a few months. You see, it all was going to be okay, God had this under control. After some soul searching I decided that Dallas was definitely the right choice for me and that I was going to step out in faith and go. It is also important to note that our friends Karly and Seth, also a part of our community group, moved to Dallas in January of 2013, just a few months prior to all of this happening. Do you see what God is doing here?!?! Damn, He’s good. 

So now my plan was to move to Dallas in January, having never visited but trusting God to prepare a way for me.  A few weeks later my parents approached me about their desire for me to visit so that I would be better prepared stepping into this new adventure. They understood I was not in a position to fly (or drive) to Dallas, and generously offered to use their credit card rewards to purchase a ticket for me to visit in October. I thanked them and we booked my flight a few weeks later. In June I was starting to intentionally avoid thinking about all the things I needed to straighten out for my October visit, namely where I was going to stay (where I was going to get the money to stay somewhere) and how I was going to get around. I saw my friend Amy (also a part of my safety net/community group/something special) at a wedding and she asked me if I was going to visit Texas before moving. I told her yes and she said she had a friend who might be able to show me around and let me stay with her. Amy’s friend Darcy wasn’t just willing to let me stay with her. She wants to pick me up from the airport, welcome me into her home, drive me to my events, and show me around Dallas. I haven’t met Darcy yet but I’m really excited to meet her and see what else God has up his sleeve because He is really bringing his A-game right now.

At this point I’m applying for financial aid, scholarships, federal loans, pretty much any money that anyone will give me to pay for this great big adventure. And for those of you who are praying types I covet your prayers for this important part of my Texas story. But I don’t expect God to disappear on me and so I’m (mostly) eagerly anticipating what’s next. I have learned so much over the past few months and am so excited to know that I am following the path that He has laid out for me. He has shown me that if I am obedient, even when it doesn’t make sense, He will provide. He is enough to sustain me and He will never leave my side. I come before him with needs and desires and He hears the cries of my heart and meets my needs. I knew that this journey to Seminary would grow me in ways I couldn’t imagine, but I never thought the growing and stretching would begin so soon. Next post will talk about what I’m doing when I’m not eagerly anticipating. Get excited.

 “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged”

                                                                                                     Deuteronomy 31:8

Reprieve

I’m writing tonight’s un-edited “pure thoughts” post from the floor of my bedroom. I composed it while laying/praying on the floor staring at the ceiling, which is where I’d still be if it was possible for me to write that way. But it isn’t. Tonight I am thankful for reprieve. For not feeling. And just like last week I posted about the importance of feelings I think it’s sometimes important to direct your feelings and focus on something different for a while. To give your soul a reprieve from all of the big feelings. (Some people might call these emotions, I prefer the more sophisticated term “big feelings”). 

So tonight I was laying on the floor thanking God for the peace and solitude I found in the form of empty TV and a lot of Taylor Swift music videos. All week as I’ve said my prayers they’ve revolved around unrest and war. There is war in Iraq and Syria, there is war in Ferguson, there is war in my heart and war in my head. And those are just the wars that I can see and feel.

But of all of these wars, one has weighed far more heavily on my mind than the res. I’m not from Ferguson, I’m not black. I’ve never been the victim of racial profiling or institutionalized prejudice. I’ve mostly experienced white privilege and incredible blessings. But what’s going on in Ferguson has overwhelmed me this week. Not in an unhealthy obsessive, checking the news (read: my twitter feed) every 5 minutes to get an update kind of way. But in an aching heart, heavy burden, general melancholy kind of way. This is a thing that God has laid on my heart and just won’t let fade away. All week I’ve been praying for cops and praying for protesters. Praying for Michael Brown’s family and the family of the officer who shot him. Praying for the leaders of Ferguson and those who are crying out for their stories to be heard. Praying for knowledge and also a willingness to surrender the need for knowledge. Praying for clergy and praying for journalists. Praying that this broken-ness my lead to some kind of whole-ness. Praying for justice and praying for mercy. 

And then tonight I laid down to pray and said “Thank you Lord for a day free from Ferguson”. At first I felt shame and sadness at my willingness to forget even for a moment the suffering that is happening there. And then I got the best of my shame and decided that I’m okay with that prayer. I’m okay with the fact that tonight the cry of my heart said “Thank you Jesus for letting my heart rest today, thank you for the reprieve”. I’m okay with this because I can forget, for just a moment, the suffering that is happening there, because this is more than a moment in time. God’s not asleep. He’s doing something and it’s bigger than all of us. I know that Thursday night Annie sees the world through different eyes than Monday morning Annie saw the world. I know that tomorrow morning I will wake up with renewed vigor and passion and desire for God’s work to be done in Ferguson. I know that tomorrow my heart will cry out for justice and mercy. I know that again tomorrow my heart will long for there to be constructive dialogue and the idealist in me will once more wonder what it is that I can do from my comfortable little living room in Virginia. And I know that when I begin to wonder, I will know the answer: I will pray*. And my prayers will be stronger, and more deliberate and impassioned because tonight I got a break. And just because tonight I got to laugh and “waste” my time on “frivolous” things (I love you T-Swizzle) doesn’t mean I forgot about anyone’s hurt or pain, it just means I took a break. And taking breaks is ok (and in fact probably necessary in order to maintain sanity). So tonight Lord, I thank you for the reprieve, because my heart needed it. 

*Disclaimer: On the off-chance that any social-justice driven people are reading my blog tonight I want to acknowledge the importance of taking action and standing up for what you believe in. I know that many people have felt drawn to stand literally in solidarity with the people of Ferguson and I admire them for doing that. I also know that my role, in this situation, is to pray. I know that my heart aches in a way that it never has before and that the part I am to play is that of a devoted pray-er. And so pray I will. If your role is to march, or to raise funds or awareness, or to pass out sandwiches or protection, or to be a peacemaker then go and do it. I’ll be here praying for you. 

Feelings

20140815-203448-74088612.jpg

Sometimes I make the error of trying to fix things. I recognize this in myself because I see it in my mother. When I come to her with a problem or a piece of pain she wants to fix it, because I’m her baby and she hates to see me in pain. And so sometimes I gently remind her that I’ll fix it when I’m ready or we can fix it together but right here, in this moment when I’m sharing my hurt or frustration I just want to be heard. I just want to feel what I’m feeling and not be alone. I don’t want it fixed.
I think that so often we as a society try not to feel. We numb ourselves with drugs, alcohol, television, video games, etc. and we suffer because of it. It’s really important to just feel sometimes. Let the sadness take over for a minute, cry, sob, scream, and know that it’s okay to not always be okay. Thanks for a great reminder Em. Happy Friday everyone!

Roller Coasters

I couldn’t figure what to title tonight’s post, but roller coasters keep coming up in my life. My parents are currently, as I’m writing this, riding one on a beach in Maine. Luke Bryan’s song “Rollercoaster” is making me teary eyed every time it comes on the radio. Also, in case that last revelation was not a clear enough indicator, I have been an emotional roller coaster this week. Notice that I did not say I’d been on one, but rather that I have been one. Being on a roller coaster implies that there is some outside stimulus that is at fault for your tumult. Such is not the case with me this week. Obviously I’ve been influenced by my experiences of life but there was no traumatic inciting incident, rather just the perfect storm of circumstances to result in well…..a roller coaster.

Sunday – feelings get hurt

Monday + Tuesday – try to hold it together (i.e. in)

Wednesday – emotional eruption on massive scale

Thursday – host community group, try to keep it together

Friday – Ear infection!!

Saturday – NOTHING

Self-care has been crucial in surviving this week. And as you might have noticed (due to my massive meltdown) it wasn’t exactly a raging success, but it’s Saturday night, which means I’ve survived.

Today’s self-care involved resting, a lot, which is exactly what my body needed. But it left me feeling lonely and down. I planned on watching a funny movie (or two) and then crashing. But I realized that would leave me feeling just as empty as I started. So I tried to come up with ways I could rest my body but also pour into my heart and soul. I called one of my best friends from college and we chatted about life, my week, her week, and all of a sudden I felt less alone.

In the middle of Wednesday night’s madness I spoke to a wise woman. She said something that’s stuck with me. She said “Annie, we can live on very little, we really can.” She was referring to stuff, and she’s right. So tonight’s self care looks like listening to my favorite country summer songs and blogging. Because what my soul needs tonight is a little inspiration and to create, to make something exist that didn’t exist before. Even though it’s just this blog post it has made my heart happy to create something. Something that I can share with you. And in this case, something that enables me to share my life with you. Because that’s really what all of my weeks redeeming moments were about. They were about someone stepping onto my roller coaster and riding it with me, even though they didn’t have to. Here’s to not having to ride roller coasters alone!

roller coaster

 

I won the (friendship) lottery!

Last night I was hanging out with two dear friends. We finally carved out time in our crazy grown up lives to sit and just be together. It was marvelous. We were supposed to watch a movie but instead, we talked, and talked, AND TALKED. During this catching up time, Kat looked at me and said “Annie, you need to write your blog, you haven’t posted in a while and I would actually read it if you actually wrote.” So this one’s for you Kat.

After she said this to me, I explained how I’d been struggling with the fact that there’s something inherently narcissistic about blogging. As much as I have feelings and thoughts and passions, it feels kind of snobbish to assume that other people want to read about my thoughts, and feelings, and passions. I explained that I don’t want to be snobbish and narcissistic. To which she responded, “Isn’t your blog supposed to be about you processing and growing yourself?” And I thought “Damn, she’s right. Why did I stop processing and growing myself? Also, SHE REALLY DOES READ MY BLOG!!”

In the past four or five weeks I’ve been overwhelmed with appreciation for all of my many friends. I’m not talking about that girl I see in the store who was in my high school french class who I exchange niceties with. I’m talking about deep, genuine, true, life-sharing relationships. I am rich in these types of relationships. I’ve been particularly wondering at all of the amazing friendships I have that span oceans and continents. If you had told me 10 years ago that there would be people in South America, Hawaii, Norway, and India who all had pieces of my heart I would have laughed in your face. I would have probably also imagined that my future (current) life must be incredibly glamorous (ha!). I honestly don’t know how I would get by without all of these people. They’ve each walked me through a different parts of my life, and in walking  me through it they gave me something beautiful and wonderful that can never be taken away. We shared experiences, we shared tears, they loved me when it was not easy. 

The most magical part though, is that when I get the opportunity to put my arms around one of them for the first time in 8 years, we pick up right where we left off. It’s not weird. It’s like those years never happened. And as we spend more time together you see that the years did happen, we both grew and changed, in someways we are not more alike and in some ways we are now more different. But the depth of that friendship triumphs over time and mostly what happens is my soul recognizes a safe place. My soul brightens up and becomes a little lighter because it recognizes the beauty and wonder of these other souls. 

So this one’s for all of you, my dear, dear friends. You know who you are. (I started to list everyone but that just got ridiculous). I love you and I hope you take a little time today to celebrate yourself because you deserve it and you have a beautiful soul. 

PS- Eddie, if you’re reading this and we still haven’t Skyped, shame on you. Don’t be a punk,  message me back, also I love you. Okaygreat!

Blogging Hiatus

Hey friends,  I haven’t blogged in ages, and there’s a couple of reasons for that. First, I’ve been super busy with life and all of the things that God is doing. Secondly, this year has been TOUGH, lots of hard things have happened. I’ve written about them all, but they all involve friends and family. I’m blessed to have the story of my life woven tightly into the lives of those around me. But that means that my stories aren’t just my stories and so who and when I share them with is important. I know that this blog is growing and challenging me. My hope is that God will use it to do the same for others. But I’m certain that right now is not necessarily the best time to publish some of my posts. God isn’t done working in our stories and it isn’t time to share them with the world yet.

But spring is my favorite time of year. It’s when I feel most alive. Pretty much every day of spring is a celebration for me because WINTER IS OVER. And so I’m making spring resolutions this year. And one of those is to start publishing regularly again. Because I’m learning that it’s not just about writing, it’s about sharing what I’ve written. It makes my heart happy to think that maybe 5 whole people read my blog and to anyone out there reading this: be encouraged. I’m going to be sharing my life-altering knowledge and wisdom with you again soon, and in a regular timely fashion moving forward.