Questions for days

15. Write a list of questions to which you urgently need answers.

  1. Just putting this out there: Trump? Really?
  2. What do dogs do when you leave them home all day?
  3. Who was the original hipster? Like seriously- who started that?
  4. How come salads never taste as good when you make them at home as they do when you order them at a restaurant?
  5. Why did we decide to make Alaska a state? Why not just let it be part of Canada?
  6. Why do people insist that you close your eyes when you make a wish?
  7. Why do styles come and go every 20 years?
  8. Why does America have different units of measurement than every other country?
  9. How did the Romans figure out the whole indoor plumbing thing and then the rest of the world somehow forgot all the progress?
  10. Is guy’s shampoo actually from girl’s shampoo?
  11. How much money does the bubble bath industry make a year?
  12. What are the words to “Wannabe” by Spice Girls?
  13. What in the world is a “pickled cucumber”? That’s a pickle.
  14. When did we start referring to problems as pickles?
  15. Does Apple hardwire iPhones to stop working when the next generation comes out?
  16. Why are mother-in-laws notoriously terrible?
  17. Whose idea was it to first film a reality show?
  18. Why do we have two kidneys when we technically only need one?
  19. What is it about making something smaller that’s so adorable?
  20. Why do they even include the two end pieces in a loaf of bread? Throw that shit out.
  21. What’s up with everyone’s fascination with Ke$ha and why does she spell her name with a dollar sign?
  22. Who would make a worse president- Donald or Kanye?
  23. If Trump gets elected, how many people would actually leave the country?
  24. How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie pop?

Slowly but surely

14. Write about your first love – whether a person, place or thing

 We all know how the story goes…

At some point in time, we come across something that teaches us what it means to love. We start smiling a lot more, we feel a deeper sense of joy, and colors seem brighter. All is well with the world and we feel like nothing bad is going to happen. We’ll always be this happy, this content, this in love.

Then just as suddenly as it comes, it is gone. It starts slowly at first. An unkind word here, a sideways glance there. A bunch of little things that add up over time to become a big thing. We start to look for things that are wrong instead of choosing to show grace. We pick fights about things that aren’t important because it’s easier than really dealing with the things that are. 

We think about it all the time. Every person we pass, every song we hear- it all reminds of us of what we once had. It hurts to remember, yet it hurts not to.

Slowly, but surely, the hurt becomes less. We see the part we played and how it wasn’t as one-sided as it once felt. Eventually, we forgive.

We forgive all the looks, all the glances, all the disagreements, and we begin to feel peace. We get to a place where we can look back, remember the good times and smile. A place where we can appreciate the lessons we’ve taken away and know that despite all the bad, we came out a better person. Our first love becomes a fond memory in our minds and hearts, and we even look forward to doing it all over again. 

I have definitely had this experience with a person, but what most sticks out to me is my relationship with the Church. I grew up going to church- I may as well have been born right in the sanctuary with how quickly my parents got me there. I knew all the words to be able to sing along with the choir, which eventually turned into the band when my mom decided she wanted to be able to wear pants to church. I knew enough Bible verses to get a badge in Awana (religious version of boy scouts and girl scouts) every week. The church is where I met my first boyfriend, led my first small group, got baptized (twice), and made my first significant friendships. It’s where I learned to not be afraid of leading and to not shy away from new opportunities. When I was there, I was home. 

But as I got older, something happened. I started to realize that churches are full of people, and as we all know- people are messy. Which means church is messy. 

It wasn’t one big event that happened and suddenly I was jaded to the church. No, it was a bunch of little things strung together. Not being old enough to lead here, seeing a female not be able to speak from stage there. I listened to people talk about the way I should live in a way I had never heard Jesus talk. I watched people who were hurting and confused get turned away because their lifestyle didn’t “fit.” I saw churches make decisions based on financial reasons instead of Jesus reasons. I experienced leaders in my church saying hateful things about other leaders. 

I began to pull away because I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t (and still don’t) understand how an institution that is supposed to be about loving God and loving others could fail so miserably at both of those. I would skip a Sunday one month, which turned into two the next and continued that pattern until it was no Sundays. And you know what- I didn’t miss it. 

I would turn off the radio if I heard a song they used to play in the lobby. I avoided going to the coffee shop where I knew a lot of members frequented on the weekend. All of it hurt. It hurt to think about how much I used to love it and didn’t seem to feel that anymore. It hurt to see old friends still thriving and somehow getting passed all the messiness I couldn’t. It hurt knowing that I still loved Jesus and still wanted a community where that was shared. 

Then, slowly but surely, the hurt became less. I could see the times where I should have spoke up and didn’t and the times were I should have stayed quiet and chose not to. I could see that everyone there was just trying to figure out what it looks like to love God and love others, and sometimes they messed up. That not everyone was out to get someone, and there was more good than bad. 

I can look back on it and smile now. Smile at remembering sitting in a living room full of women as we wrestled through how to let God heal us from our past. I smile as I think about the high school girls I would get coffee with and how excited they were to talk about life with someone who’d “been there.” When I hear a song on the radio that I recognize, I don’t change the station anymore. I let it play, and sometimes I even sing along. 

I’m starting to forgive the church because I see now that the pain I’ve experienced isn’t the church’s fault. In fact, I don’t know if it’s anyone’s fault. When you choose to go through life alongside other people, you’re going to get hurt. You’re going to hear things you don’t want to hear and see things you don’t want to see.   

I don’t want to do life if it’s not alongside other people, so I’m learning to be good with the mess. 

And just like all first loves, I can look back with fond memories and be grateful for all the church has brought me. 

I can even look forward to doing it again. 

Spilled milk

13.What always brings tears to your eyes?

While I don’t consider myself the stereotypical “cryer,” I definitely tear up at more than I’d like to admit. I can’t help myself. This is me:

Unknown.jpgSo without further ado, here are some things that will bring tears to my eyes without fail.

  1. ANY sentimental father-daughter moment. If there’s anything that will make me cry faster than this, I have yet to find it. My dad and I have always been incredibly close, so any moment that reminds me of this: done.
  2. Military homecoming videos. I literally can’t even. Any time I’m on YouTube for longer than five minutes, make me stop, because it’s a rabbit hole I can’t get out of.
  3. Hearing people’s wedding vows. If they write their own vows, that’s it. It’s incredibly special to see to people love each other enough, they want to spend their entire lives with one person. That’s no joke.
  4. The end scene in Gladiator. By far, one of my favorite movies. I can’t help but get a little misty as he’s finally heading “home” to see his family and took care of those he loved. Gladiator-fields.jpg
  5. Notes. I’m a sap when it comes to receiving notes/letters from people I care about. It’s one thing to hear someone tell you how much you mean to them, but it’s a whole other thing to actually see it on paper.
  6. Major life milestones. Baptisms, graduations, weddings, etc. Watching people I love take a “next step,” whatever that may be for them always makes me emotional.

Happiness is…

12. Name what is enough for you

Confession time. I am a very impatient person.

I hate driving behind people who slow down to go through the EZ Pass express lane. If I have to wait for than 3 minutes to get through the drive thru at Starbucks, I groan and think how I should have just gone inside to begin with. I especially hate having to wait behind more than one or two people at the grocery store.

tumblr_mbgckbH8rj1riqizno1_500When someone has a tendency to include what I deem too many details for a story, I zone out and don’t hear what they’re saying because I think it should be said quicker. I get the itch to move across the country about three times a year because I don’t like having to stay in one place for a long period of time. I’ll let friendships drift apart when I no longer want to deal with a person’s quirks that I find really annoying. (I know- it’s not pretty.)

I know I’m not the only person who would say they struggle with being impatient. In fact, I hear it a lot:

“I can’t wait to get that promotion.”

“I know I’ll be so much happier if I could just lose those extra five pounds.”

“All I want right now is to get married… have kids, etc.”

“If I just had X, I would be good.”

There’s always something better out there. There’s always a next thing we’re looking forward to. I used to be that sort of person. The sort of person who looks forward more to what’s next instead of enjoying what’s now. I won’t sit here and say I’m completely over it because I do still struggle with this, but I will say I’ve come a long way in this area.

It’s caused me to do a lot of self-reflection (and even more journaling) to figure out just what it would take for me to be happy with where I’m at. Here I go breaking some more introvert stereotypes, but I know now what I would consider to be enough for me.

Relationships. 

That’s it. I need people. People who aren’t afraid to be honest with me and tell me when I’m being a brat about something. People I can laugh with until my sides hurt and tears are streaming down my face. People I can call when something bad happens and show up at my door 30 minutes later with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. People I can debate life’s great questions with or sit and be quiet with.

When I have that and really take the time to cultivate those relationships, nothing else really matters. I don’t spend as much time thinking about the next best thing that’s going to happen. I spend a lot less time thinking about me in general and focus more energy on loving those around me. I become less selfish because I realize I have everything I need right where I’m at.

I have people, and that’s enough.

 

Hello from the other side

11. If I could talk to my teenage self, I would say…

Dear Alyssa,

Hi, it’s me. Or you. I have some things I want to tell you, and while I know you think you have it put together (you do sometimes), just listen for a minute. I’m going to tell you some of the things I wish I had known back then. Some things I won’t tell you just because there’s important stuff you’ll need to go through to really learn, but I’ll do my best.

Take more time to be a kid. I know there’s a lot going on between church, school, coaching, and you starting to work when you’re 16, but try to relax. Take more days to go to the creek, have water gun fights, kayak, drive to the beach… I think you get it. You’ll look back and wish you had done more of that.

While we’re on the subject of the myriad of activities you find yourself involved in, take a chill pill. Yes, doing your best is important, but stop feeling guilty when you don’t get an A on your next paper or when you have to say no to something that, if we’re being honest, you really don’t want to do anyway. It’s okay to not be perfect.

Let’s talk about Aaron because this is a big one. Don’t let him get to you so much. I know he can be a jerk, but there’s a lot going on there you don’t see yet. Find a better way to deal with him even that means walking away at times. Trust me, it ends up being one of the better ways to handle his mood swings. Do your best to show him more grace than he deserves. Oh- and let him hang out with you and your friends sometimes.

I know you love your parents, especially dad. But I’m gonna ask you to show a little more respect to mom. I know you don’t understand her and she can be confusing and doesn’t really talk the way you and dad do, but she’s still your mom. Suck it up and go shopping with her more just because it’s what she likes and take the time to look at things from her perspective more often.

Don’t be afraid to keep in touch with your friends you make right now. I know you’re used to leaving, but you’re gonna be here for a while, so you need to keep those connections. Some of the girls will be mean and nasty, but that’s just their thing. I promise you’ll be able to laugh about it one day. There’s something really special about those friends you’ve had for 10+ years. You’ll want to hold onto them.

Finally, don’t let people make you bitter. There are going to be things coming that hurt you pretty bad, but the most important thing is they don’t change who you are at your core. Love the people anyway. See that they have more going on and aren’t perfect and that’s okay. It’s okay to be hurt and cry and get angry about this stuff- just make sure you actively forgive when it’s over.

Good luck, kid,

24 yr old me

 

Life’s ups and downs

10. Discuss something you planned that ended up not being what you expected

Wowza. Do you have 72 hours? Because that’s how long I’m estimating it will take for me to tell you all the things that are different now than what I expected. Relax- I’ll save you some time and my fingers some arthritis and pick just one.

One of the things our society seems to be fascinated with when it comes to other people is their occupation. It’s a rarity these days you can meet someone new and not be asked what you do. I think it’s because people tend to find value more in what they do, instead of who they are, but that’s just one woman’s opinion.

My job isn’t that odd of one- I’m a general manager for a local business. Pretty standard as jobs go. The different part about it is it’s a garage door business. I can picture your face now- it’s the same one I get when I tell other people. It’s the look you give a little kid when they bring you a mud pie to eat: try to look understanding, smile, nod, insert a bit of confusion.

Trust me, I get it. Garage doors. Most people don’t even think about them in terms of business. Seriously- who thinks of that? Luckily for me, my dad did. You see, the garage door business is the only one I’ve ever known. My parents started their own company before I was born, and it’s grown into a national franchise with eighty locations across the country. (They’re kind of a big deal.) It’s an industry he loves and is incredibly passionate about. I’m talking helping orphans in Africa level of passion here. I just never wanted anything to do with it.

If you were to ask me at any point growing up, what I wanted to do when I got older, you would have gotten a myriad of answers that ranged from youth pastor to teacher to doctor (that was before I realized my hatred for biology) to social worker. I was all over the place, but the one thing I never said was taking over the family business.

I wanted something more glamorous than garage doors. Something that made a difference in people’s lives. I wanted to work for a big non-profit and change the world while still getting a paycheck. I didn’t want to work in the garage door industry, but we all know how God likes to be funny and put us in places we never saw ourselves in, and that’s just what he did.

Through some random circumstances, I ended up moving back to the northeast when I was 19 to start working with my dad. I drove in on a Saturday and was at work the following Monday. Let me tell you- the first couple years were SO. HARD. My dad and I fought a lot. I cried a lot. I questioned what I was doing with my life over and over again. I couldn’t seem to remind myself the reasons I came back in the first place. I applied for several other jobs and never got an interview (a first for me), so I started praying even harder.

“God, this isn’t where I want to be, so get me out.” Not the most sophisticated or mature of prayers, and I get that, but it’s where my heart was at. It wasn’t until probably about two years into working with my dad that I realized maybe the problem wasn’t the job, but my attitude. So I changed my prayer to “God, show me why you have me here,” and gosh, I’m so glad I did.

I was finally able to see that no matter what business you’re in, you’re always in the people business, which, if you couldn’t tell by my list of dream jobs, is kind of my thing. I heard stories from customers that would make the Grinch well up tears. I was able to see the lives of the employees getting better because of changes we were able to make for them.

My job had turned into something beautiful. Though it was probably always beautiful, and I just didn’t take the time to see it.

 

Can I phone a friend?

9. Your favorite moment of the day and your least favorite moment of the day.

I’ll be honest- I have not been looking forward to writing this post. I knew it was coming, and I’ve been putting it off like it’s my job. I even debated whether or not to use our “freebie” prompt- one we came up with in case we really get stuck on one topic and didn’t want to write it.

The reason I’ve struggled with it is because every day I have a different answer. Ask me on a Monday? My favorite part is getting home from work and least favorite is the morning in general. Wednesday? Completely different story. I don’t like that I don’t have a set answer. I prefer to know where I stand on any given topic, and if I’m not sure, I’m probably not going to open my mouth.

Having to wrestle through which answer I want to give has forced me to look at it in a new light. It’s forced me to think maybe I don’t have to have an answer for every question that comes my way. Obviously, I’m talking about this particular post at the moment, but I even mean in other areas.

I’ve been put in positions throughout my life where I felt like I needed to be the person with all the answers. Being the older sibling, leading small groups, being a trainer/supervisor at every job I’ve had- people expected me to know what was going on. But being older or in charge doesn’t automatically give you all the answers, and it’s been a huge struggle of mine to learn to be okay with that.

I find myself in situations where people ask me questions, and my first response is wanting to use a lifeline and get someone else to answer for me. We all know that’s not how life works, but it sure would be nice.

question_graphic_5

I’ve had to learn to make myself comfortable with the unknowns life throws our way. Whether it’s waiting for an opportunity for a new job or wondering if the person you’re dating is who you’ll spend the rest of your life with. It’s all hard. It’s all confusing, and it’s all messy.

When I think about the people who have made an impact on my life over the years, I don’t think about how they had all the answers. Instead, I find myself grateful that they were just there. Sometimes they had good things to say, I’m sure, but I couldn’t tell you now what they were.

I think about them letting me struggle through the questions I had. They listened to me rant about what I didn’t understand. They comforted me and let me be vulnerable without judgement.

So, I don’t know what my favorite and least favorite moment of the day is, and while there’s part of me that wishes I did. There’s a bigger part that’s okay that I don’t.

A better story

8. Discuss a spontaneous moment in your life that turned out to be fantastic.

Spontaneity is not something I’m great at. I’ve always thought it’s a great concept, and I love the idea of it. To not be tied down to schedules and plans sounds good in theory, but I have a difficult time actually living that out. While I definitely wouldn’t consider myself a spontaneous person, I do have some spontaneous moments I hold near to my heart.

I have a friend, Leah, who lives in Charleston. Aka one of the best cities on the planet. And she is wonderful. She’s full of life, tells it like it is, and is married to a “Ken look-alike” type of guy. A couple years ago she was in Delaware visiting, and as we were sitting at a corner table in Brew-Haha, she starts to tell me about her plans to get back home. You see, Leah is a photographer, so she was in town shooting a wedding and had to drive to fit all her gear.

IMG_4421Her plan was to take our mutual friend Madison
with her and road trip their way down the east coast and stop at all those cheesy places you hear about, but never actually go to. Giant roller skate, anyone?

The first words out of my mouth were, “I want to go!” And because she’s Leah, she said I absolutely should. They were leaving two days later.

My mind immediately went to not being able to miss work and all the other “planner” type thoughts you could imagine one would have, but I powered through and decided to go. And oh my word- I’m so glad I did!

My favorite stop along the way was an abandoned renaissance fair in no-man’s land Virginia. I’m not kidding- this place was creepy AF. I was just waiting for the village of homeless people to jump out and kill us at any moment. “Do I have my I.D. on me? How will they identify the body? NO ONE knows where we are right now.” All very real thoughts that went through my head.

IMG_4374

After turning what should have been a ten hour car ride into a fifteen hour one, we finally made it to Charleston. We visited plantations with the oldest trees I’ve ever seen, ate some of the most amazing food (shrimp and grits is a real thing!), and wondered the streets of one of the oldest cities we have. It was beautiful and wonderful and everything else you would imagine it to be.

This was one of those opportunities where knowing when to say “yes” was so important. It took some fighting off normal tendencies and a willingness to get out of my comfort zone, but I learned what has proven to be an important lesson for me.

Saying yes tells a better story.

 

Big enough

7. Something that shook your belief system to the core (a big disappointment in your life)

Whether my parents had this intention or not, I grew up in a seemingly perfect family. Mom, dad, daughter son, and of course, a dog. The only thing we were missing was a white picket fence outside our house. We went to church every Sunday. My brother and I were good students- like I almost had a meltdown when I received my first B junior year of high school good. Yes, everything was grand.

As much as it pains me to talk about, growing up in my family was tough for me at times. You see, my brother is bipolar (an illness he wouldn’t be diagnosed with until he was 20 years old). This meant a lot of things for me and my family. It meant the tempers were as strong and unpredictable as a summer storm. It meant a lot of arguments and a lot of yelling behind closed doors and sometimes in open spaces. It meant family meetings in the living room that no one really wanted to be at. It meant tears and anger, but mostly for me- it meant resentment.

I could not, no matter how hard I tried, wrap my head around why this was happening to us. To the family that did everything right. That went to church multiple times a week, served in numerous areas, and did all the things a “good Christian family” was supposed to do. It must mean that God wasn’t really who he says he is, and he doesn’t care as much as he wants us to think. In fact, it’s possible there isn’t even a God at all.

I remember one day in particular, I was so tired and frustrated, I didn’t know what else to do besides cry. I wasn’t quite old enough to drive, which means I was barely old enough to deal with emotions to begin with, but I lost it. And as all good stories go, I didn’t lose it in my room or at my friend’s house. No, I lost it at church. The one place I felt like I was supposed to have it all together. I couldn’t help myself. All of the overwhelming thoughts and emotions I had kept in for so long finally came pouring out of me, and by some miracle, Kathy was there.

SIDE NOTE: I’m going to break for a quick second to tell you a little bit about Kathy. She is joyful and kind, spunky and brave. She was never afraid to ask me the tough questions and push me out of my comfort zone,  yet she was so gentle and encouraging. I left my time with her feeling like I could accomplish those big dreams that didn’t even have words yet. To this day, she is one of the people I hold dear to my heart for the role she has played in my life. 

So Kathy found me crying in the bathroom (can you say low point?) and decided we needed to get together. I had never gotten together with an adult before, but I thought it was a pretty big milestone for me. Since I wasn’t old enough for margaritas (Kathy’s words, not mine), we decided to go for a walk at the park.

I’ll be honest- I don’t remember all the details of our conversation. I remember feeling like it was a safe place to pour out all my doubts, fears, anger, questions, and Kathy seemed good with that. The one detail I do remember is once I was done, she asked me one question: “If someone could prove to you today that God wasn’t real and he doesn’t exist, what would you miss the most?” “Having someone to talk to.” “That’s a good place to start,” she said.

Now I know those words don’t seem that profound, but they blew my preteen mind at the time. I had a good place to start. She was the first person to ever give me permission to doubt all the things I had been taught up to that point, and doubt I did.

I began to ask questions of God every day. I told him how angry I was at him for sitting by and watching my family struggle. Angry at all the hurt in the world that he had the power to make disappear and didn’t. I admitted I wasn’t even sure he was real or if I was just talking to myself.

Looking back, I can see God’s hand in all of this- how he watched out for me and took care of me. The lessons I learned from it could be their own blog.

But the biggest thing for me was I finally learned to be honest with him. I learned that he can handle my questions, my anger, and all the other things I thought I couldn’t bring to him. He is big enough for all of it. 

 

 

Elizabeth Rose

6. Write about your best friend (not significant other) and what makes them special.

Moving around a lot is not the best lifestyle to learn how to develop deep and meaningful friendships. Sure, I had “best friends” growing up, but when you’re eight, all a best friend was was a girl who would come over for sleepovers. You don’t really have baggage when you’re eight and the darkest secret you have to share is you stole a stick of gum out of your mom’s purse.

I learned that friendships come and go and that’s just the way it is. They don’t last a long time and that was okay with me. I never knew any different, and I didn’t really desire to have anything else.

When my family moved to the northeast, I was expecting the same routine: move here, stay for a year or two, and then leave. My parents, however, had a much different idea. Apparently the northeast was where we were going to call home now. For good.

Since moving here, I have had the privilege of meeting some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever come across. People who have challenged me, trusted me, listened to me and help me become a better person. Liz is one of those people. In fact, she’s very near the top.

I’m going to do my best in the next several paragraphs to put words to one of the truest, kindest people I’ve ever been friends with. I have a feeling that no matter what I say, I won’t be able to quite do her justice, but I’m going to try.

Liz is honest. In every sense of the word. She isn’t afraid to tell it like it is and ask you questions that cut straight to your soul. She’s the one I go to when I want someone to tell me the things I don’t necessarily want to hear, but need to hear. Not only is this a rare trait in and of itself, but she does it with so much grace, she would make Princess Diana look bad. There’s a beauty to her words that is unparalleled and truth you know only comes from Jesus.

Liz is funny as crap. You can even ask her- she’s the funniest person she knows. She’s the type of funny that makes you cry and your belly ache from laughing so hard. Her wit is a hard one to match and keeps me on my toes, despite the fact the only language I know is sarcasm. There have been multiple occasions in which we’ve talked about putting together a Buzzfeed list of all our thoughts on a particular subject just because we know we can crack other people up as much as we crack ourselves up.

Finally, Liz is brave. She doesn’t let all the junk that comes up in life stop her from doing what she feels like she’s supposed to do. I have seen her wrestle with wanting a husband for herself and finding said husband, then deciding to get married just a few months later. I personally thought she was crazy, but Liz didn’t care. She knew that was what she was supposed to do, and she was brave enough to stick to it. I’ve seen her be brave when she’s had to let go of old friendships, make new ones, and struggle through learning to be vulnerable. She lives her life with a conviction you rarely get to see.

There aren’t many people I’ve met that are quite like Liz. She is one of the good ones.