Last night I was invited to a ladies night out for a church plant we are a part of.  On the surface, it seems like a simple enough yes.  To be honest my first inclination was to say yes.  Then I realized it was the same night that Husband Jared and Thing 1 were returning from Israel and I said no.  I wanted to be with them after twelve days apart and so many adventures to share.  When evening came and Thing 1 had been sleeping all afternoon and Husband Jared's internal clock was telling him it was three in the morning I decided to stop in and say hello to the group that was meeting.  Of course I knocked in the middle of introductions and sharing time.  So much for timing, I suppose it's never been my strong suit.  I quickly sat down and the sharing continued.  My favorite.  People's stories.  We weren't divulging our inner most secrets just a glimpse into our life, currently.  Job, family, work, why we chose to be a part of this new church.  

When it came to be my turn I was in the kitchen pouring a cup of much needed coffee, still weary from the fourteen hour drive the day prior and a poor night's sleep.  I would have much rather been skipped, no thank you please.  As much as I pride myself on authenticity and community I have come to the realization that I am definitely a small group kind of girl. One on one, maybe two.  A much more comfortable setting for me.  All those eyes staring back at me with expectancy unnerves my inner introvert.  The spoken word as I have said here before is not my strong suit.  Give me a piece of paper and a pen, heck, even a keyboard and I will spin words from my heart and soul until my fingers are raw.  Open my mouth and form coherent thoughts, deliberate and genuine, on the spot, not so much.  Crafting communication not my forte.  Needless to say when it was my turn all I recall saying was that we have lived in Minnesota for four years.  Fact.  This geographic location has been a difficult place to acclimate.  Fact.  I do not like winters.  Fact.  I also offered a few details such as number of children, where we lived prior to moving here, Husband Jared's work place and how we met the family starting the church.  Quickly we moved to the next and I was off the hook.  Not too many questions, no ad-libbing required.  Lo and behold I had survived and shortly after that Thing 2 rang me informing me she was done at work and ready to be picked up.  

All well and good.  An afternoon with the fam, a brief visit with a new group and a dear friend and then I was done.  Or so I thought.  The thing of it is I am a ruminator by nature.  Couple that with my people pleasing tendencies and we are talking about a recipe for disaster.  Seriously.  Immediately upon leaving I began replaying the forty five minutes in my head.  First, the warm welcome I received when I arrived, then the stories I heard, the common ground that was discovered and lastly my own shallow words.  Each one, playing audibly in my mind, on repeat.  Soon after the questions came.  Why?  Was that offensive when I spoke of Minnesota and my dislike?  Did anyone take it personally?  When I made a reference to a neighbor why didn't I say dearest friend?  Why, why, why?  This my friends is the ruminator's life.  Dwelling on what has been said and done to a point that is nothing short of unhealthy.  It comes from a place so natural to me that I am only now learning to consciously not allow it to happen.  Mind you it isn't always, mostly in new situations, surrounded by new people that I want to like me, to see me for who I am, etcetera, etcetera.  See, I am fully aware of the power that words have.  Strength unseen.  Power to build and destroy, restore and create, heal and encourage.  I desire for my words, in whatever form they are delivered to be of a positive nature.  Sent out in truth and love.  Here lies my dilemma.  Or should I say one of many that pop up when I delve into these issues.  I didn't lie when I spoke those words.  They were real and honest.  Maybe not the most vulnerable things I have ever said but they were a snippet of the story.  Not overly personal for a first encounter but then again there is so much more that I would want for people to know about me.  Simply put I do not want the take away to be, "oh, she's the one that grumbled about MN and it's weather, what was her name again?".  Yep.  Self consumed.  People pleaser.  Essentially, I want you to like me.  And yes I will be careful in the words I choose and the presentation of myself so that you do so.  

Are you tracking with me and this vicious cycle I manufacture?  Yes.  Well okay then.  Here's the next, slowly, and when I say slowly, I mean like snail's pace or worse, I am learning.  And after last night I began reflecting on this learning process once again.  In Donald Miller's book, "Scary Close", there is a chapter titled "The Risk of Being Careful", in which he says, "The whole experience makes me wonder if the time we spend trying to become somebody people will love isn't wasted because the most powerful, most attractive person we can be is who we already are, an ever-changing being that is becoming and will never arrive, but has opinions about what is seen along the journey".  Isn't that just beautiful?  I think so too.  Of course he is referring to a list of freedoms he created regarding his writing, specifically his blog.  A list that began allowing him to share his voice, who he really was with his audience and then realizing that it was applicable in all relationships, whether with a reader, or a personal encounter or someone on the other side of the computer screen.  His lessons captured in his book have brought a level of introspect to me.  Perhaps these worries, all the ruminating and people pleasing I inflict upon myself is because I have not yet come to terms with the becoming nature of my life.  I have not yet granted myself the freedom to make mistakes nor accepted who I am or where I am on this journey.  That I have been more concerned with being careful and manufacturing what people receive from me than just being myself.  Messy and all.  Miller's list of freedoms that he shares in his book are something that I need to print and have taped everywhere, constantly reminding me.  His list of freedoms looks like this:
I am willing to sound dumb.
I am willing to be wrong.
I am willing to be passionate about something that isn't perceived as cool.
I am willing to express a theory.
I am willing to admit I'm afraid.
I'm willing to contradict something I've said before.
I'm willing to have a knee-jerk reaction, even a wrong one.
I'm willing to apologize.
I'm perfectly willing to be perfectly human.
I happen to have stars in my book next to the middle two, first about contradicting something and then about knee-jerk reactions.  Those are both biggies for me.  So maybe the freedom list is relevant in dispensing of the rumination and people pleasing.  At the heart of it all is a desire to be loved.  Loved for who I am, who I'm becoming.  When I accept that, more so when I believe that, then there will be freedom.  Like I said, slow process. 

Last night's episode was a catalyst in drawing me back to truths I know.  I know who I am.  I know that my heart is for people.  To connect with them.  For authentic and real and vulnerable and exposed conversations where not everything is tied up in neat categories or agreed beliefs or same opinions.  A life that is lived without regret for what is said but more concerned with what was left unsaid.  I am hoping that I have continued opportunities with the ladies from the group last night.  Time to learn each other's stories, to serve one another and alongside, to journey together in the curvy, windy road and yes, even when the path is straight and easy.  

I leave you with this.  Solace in all this chaos of living life has come to me in words more often than anything else.  I could list quote after quote, scripture in all it's various translations and yet there would still be more.  I must remember that I was created as a miracle from the God of the universe and He wants to see me share that with the world.  How that is received and digested is not my responsibility.  My words and actions must match but when they don't, its because I am perfectly human and thankfully there is grace.  Grace for last night.  Grace for my over thinking and over valuing my importance.  Grace for the self consuming thoughts.  Grace for it all.  Thank you Jesus for that.  Slow process.  One itty bitty baby step at a time.  

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