A Life in My Shoes

Thursday, April 05, 2007


In attempts to create a stronger sense of community within the members of my small group, we are all going to share our "story, " and I had my turn last night. All of my closest friends could tell you, I don't open up very easily, so this was definitely a different experience for me.

Here's my story...

I spent my entire childhood in the same home in rural Southern Illinois. I was the only child. My dad was the music teacher in my school district; therefore, a day did not go by from kindergarten to senior year in high school when he was not in my school building at some point in the day. I became the model student, though I'm pretty sure this wouldn't have changed even if he hadn't been a teacher at my school.

I say that I'm a "hickabilly," which is a crossbreed of a hick and a hillbilly. Pretty much my entire mom's side of the family farms for a living. Some of my fondest memories as a child were spent on my grandparents farm. Then there's my dad's side of the family. I always pictured them being involved in those family feuds that were always quite popular on the Flintstones. I could easily picture my family being somewhat similar to the Beverly Hillbillies just in Southern Indiana instead of Beverly Hills. Unfortunately, the majority of my family on this side passed away before I was born, so I didn't have the pleasure of meeting them, but I've heard some pretty good stories. I see the good in both sides in me. I've got the good naturedness of a hick and the sly ingenuity of a hillbilly.

The events that have most shaped me have also been some of the most painful. These events have caused me to formulate three rather rediculous issues. 1) People don't like me. 2) I'm not smart. 3) I'm not Christian enough. I'll admit they are all irrational beliefs. In fact, if I were to leave it there, most would conclude that I don't like myself or that I have no self-confidence. That's not true at all. In fact, I really like who I am, but I do have a warped since of self. Unfortunately, these issues often cause me to clam up in group settings and build up these walls until even I can't recognize myself. Only when someone has taken the time to get to know me, do they really see the true me. These people become some of my closests friends because for one they did take the time and for another I have the most fun when I'm around these people because I can truly be myself.

I mainly don't like to talk about these issues because I'm certain that everyone has similar experiences. Therefore, I don't want to be the baby or wuss of the group. I hate that I've let a few instances in my life gravely impact the rest of my life. I fear that people will judge instead of try and understand. So here we go with the reasons behind my issues. In grade school, I had 2 really close friends. During middle school, these friendships (for some reason I don't know) essentially dissolved; therefore, I spent 2 to 3 years of my life with essentially no friends. For these years, I was misserably lonely. This is the point in my life I blame for my fear that people don't like me. I know that I have friends, but I tend to always question whether they really want me around or if I'm in the way. I know that this is illogical, but when you spend a couple years of your life with "friends" who could care less if you were there and think you are more in the way than not, you tend to value your presence in a social setting less. I've had a few teachers and professors who underestimated me intellectually, which in turn has caused me to question my own mental capacity. I had a professor tell me that the competition for the job that I actually got was too tough for me. Needless to say, it was a great day when I got to tell him that I got the job he said I probably wouldn't get. Additionally, I've always had really intellegent friends. Though we never competed, it's hard not to compare your strengths and weaknesses, and in my opinion, I always came up short. I shared the valedictorian title with my 5 best friends in high school, graduated magna cum laude in college, and got a pretty good job out of college. Clearly, I'm no dummy, and I don't question that, but I automatically find myself mentally inferior to my peers whether it be in class or in work. Some of my redeeming traits are ambition and determination. When people tell me I can't do something, I go above and beyond to prove them wrong. So far, I've always been able to accomplish this. I just hope that I can continue with this trend. Lastly, my issue of being an inferior Christian--similar to my intellegence issue, all of my closest friends have been great Christians. When I'd size myself up to them, I didn't think I could even compare. Thankfully, slowly but surely I'm learning that God wires all of us differently. We all have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to our faith. I'm just now starting to realize that what I have always viewed as deficiencys are probably strengths in God's eyes.

I've been a Christian for as long as I can remember. As a child, I rarely missed church. I grew up in a small Presbyterian church with a mean age of 70. Though I didn't get a lot of opportunities to experience spiritual growth with my peers, I did get a lot of great role models who to this day love me and are proud of me. Though they have a tendency to over-exagerate my accomplishments, it's nice to have people who take notice of your achievements and continue to encourage you.

In high school, I went to a bible camp, which was quite the experience. Eveyrone kept asking when did you become a Christian, assuming that there was this time in your life that you had a radical change, you saw the light, you believed! I never had this experience, and I blame this thought of having a radical life change when becoming a Christian to my inferiority complex concerning my faith. I can think of a few turning points in my life that could be defined as my "second birthday." When I was in second grade (probably 7 or 8), one of my best friends asked me if I was saved. I had no idea what this meant. She informed me that I could become saved right there on the playground. I preferred to make this step in a slightly more private setting, so when I got home, I went to my room, closed the door, and prayed the prayer. In eighth grade, I was officially confirmed into the church and baptized. I think my senior year in high school, my new minister decided to have a rebaptizm ceremony. I decided to partake in this opportunity. To this day, I think that's probably the most voluntary public affirmation of faith I've made. In my opinion, I've always had blind faith. Now, I'm starting to actually pursue that relationship with God, and I look forward to seeing what that brings in my life.

In the future, I hope to be able to hear God more clearly. I can't remember a time when I truly heard God (another reason I feel slightly inferior to my tongue speaking Christian peers). I honestly pray, and I pray for what I think are relevant non-greedy things. Unfortunately, some of the prayers that I've seen answered in my life have been my more greedy prayers. Specifically, God has delivered me from all of the instances I just cited as drastically impacting my life. God has taken me out of those situations and put me in better places where I've been able to grow and prosper, perhaps with a little bit of baggage. Nonetheless, I know that God has challenged me in these areas of my life for a reason. For this reason, I want to open myself up to whatever God has instore for me. I hope that I fulfill my purpose in a manner pleasing to God.

This morning I contemplated the whole experience of openly sharing some of my life experiences, and for me, I felt emotionally naked. I'm still not certain that sharing was all that good of an idea for me. I'm really good at putting on this face that everything is grand, which usually is the case. I'm a very positive person, but I have this annoying voice in my head that makes me honestly hate myself at times. Imagine having your worst enemy taunting you on a daily basis...that's what I do to myself pretty much. Most people don't know about this daily personal inner-mind battle that I fight everyday. When I actually open up and tell people about this struggle, then the battle becomes public. I'm terrified of how people are going to react to my confession. I fear that people aren't going to take my struggle seriously, judge me for it, and make me feel stupid because I have this problem. I actually prefer those people who just make fun of me because of my struggle because I am the first one to admit that all of my issues are completely irrational. I know that I've found a true friend when they don't try to change me, but just listen, understand that I can't help it, and love me anyway. It's not that I really like this trait of mine. I know that God had me open up for a reason. I fear that now people will think wow she's an irrational lunatic, but I pray that the experince be more liberating and even help me loose a couple of my demons. I'm not asking for help or a pitty party because I've led a very blessed life, one for which I have no complaints. I do ask that people merely try to understand, not judge, and not alter the way they interact with me because they wrongly concluded that I'm emotionally unstable.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Rebuilding a City

I just returned from spending some time in New Orleans helping rebuild a woman's home damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The experience--that has greatly impacted my life--started with a 16 hour drive from Washington, DC to New Orleans, Louisiana. Of the 120 (or so) volunteers with our group, 4 of us drove--we quickly learned that everyone else, who had flown, were correct in their agreement that we were insane for enduring such a drive, even though we saved money. However, without that drive, I would have missed quite a bit.

First of all, we were driving in Tennessee and passed along the highway with these huge crosses. Later that week, we were watching a TV special regarding this man who was attempting to build these crosses along the highway throughout the South. These crosses cost approximately $25,000 a pop. Wow who knew! But the most gripping sight was the steady progression of increased hurricane damage as we neared New Orleans. From what we could tell, what used to be a forestry landscape along the highway, now consisted of bare trees standing half as tall--if they were lucky. Then we continued on into the outskirts of New Orleans. I couldn't believe that a year and half after the hurricane, debris still resided in the boarded up strip mall's parking lot with signs that were only half standing. One would think that after a year and half some of this would have been cleaned up by now. However, the most surreal moment was when I saw a home with "help" spray painted on the roof. Of course, the media has blasted us with the devastation that the people of New Orleans faced, but it wasn't until this moment when I saw the efforts of pure desperation that made the tragedy of the hurricane real to me.

We got fairly lucky and got housed in a very nice hotel while we were down there working. I couldn't help but feel bad. During the day we went into these damaged homes where most of the families were still residing. One family had to clean their dishes in the bathtub and had a rather large hole in their living room wall, all the while housing around 10 people in one room. It's easy to feel cavalier by roughing it during the day working on these homes, but at night we escaped the reality by returning to our cushy hotel room with our nicely prepared dinners. I felt bad that because this city faced this tragedy I was able to receive warm fuzzy feelings from helping rebuild their community during the day and then at night go to Emeril's restaurant and then return to a warm comfortable bed. I was supposed to be giving...not receiving.

At one point in the trip, we visited the lower ninth ward (which is the area most affected by the hurricane). In this neighborhood once stood many homes, now whole city blocks stand completely empty. These homes were washed right off of their foundations. Some homes now live nestled right next to a neighbor's home, under a neighbor's home, on top of a neighbor's home, or completely disassembled strewn across several city blocks. We were told that most of the families in this neighborhood owned their homes. In one day, these families lost their every possession. Even a year and half later, this neighborhood is practically completely abandoned. We saw maybe two cars the entire time we were there. It looked like a ghost town (but in a swamp versus the desert). We were also told that if these families don't return by August that the city (or state...I can't remember) will be taking possession of the homes. There still isn't electricity in this neighborhood. It is no wonder that these families are opting not to return to a desolate neighborhood.

It's hard to understand how after a year and a half neighborhoods and buildings remain abandoned. On our second day in New Orleans, my friend and I decided to explore the city. Our hotel room had a booklet with information on things to do, so we took their advice and headed to a nearby mall. As we approached the supposed address of the mall, we didn't see anything that resembled a mall. After further investigation, we decided that the boarded up building was indeed once a mall. Obviously, this place had been completely abandoned. It was interesting there were mannequins still partly dressed in some of the windows. It was quite clear that this mall had received little to no attention after the hurricane. I don't think we realized it until we were literally 10 feet away from it, but we ended up right next to the Superdome and within view of the bridge that the police were blocking the New Orleans' citizens from leaving the city. It's hard to describe the feelings I felt when standing in an area where I know so many people suffered. As Americans, I think we have a false sense of security. I know I'd assume that in the face of tragedy that there would be a plan to fix everything, but this is not the case. Clearly, we, as a nation, were not prepared to deal with such devastation, and we have not stepped up to the plate to efficiently and effectively resolve our lack of preparation. I can't imagine the fear that they must have felt not knowing what was being done to help the situation, not knowing if your loved ones were OK, not knowing if your home was still standing where you left it, not knowing what tomorrow would bring.

The most memorable time from the trip was Wednesday morning. We were lucky enough to be helping out on a week that a Catholic charity group was also helping. Whenever they bring a group to town, they arrange an opportunity for all of the volunteers to go to Mass at a local school. Being Presbyterian, I've never been to a Catholic Mass before (well except for one time in Italy--but the service was naturally in Italian, so I had no idea what was going on). Nevertheless, I had this preconceived notion that it would be a very traditional service. I couldn't have been more wrong. This was by my definition a "holy roller" service. This service gave me hope for this city. For the most part, during the week we were surrounded by loss and suffering, but in this service, we were surrounded by some of the most precious children I've ever been around. These children have experienced great devastation, yet they are still worshipping God with joy by singing and dancing. These kids were having fun. They didn't view Wednesday Mass as a weekly commitment, but as a weekly celebration of God. I definitely had to hold back the tears during this service. These kids taught me a lot. Even though these children have suffered great loss, they still have hope and can give thanks to God.

In the end, I gained much more from this experience than I gave of myself. I would encourage everybody to take some time to go and help this city. This experience proved to be a reality check. Being an American, does not automatically protect you from devastation. I learned that I shouldn't take anything for granted, for tomorrow it all could be gone. Yet, at the same time, I learned that no matter what God is good and there is still hope.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

My Goal

To be a friend of everyone,
To see the good in what they've done,
To see the man that ought to be,
And love him though we disagree.

To keep my cool when troubles come,
To gain new faith when tempted some,
To always bear the torch of peace,
And trust that strife will one day cease.

To entertain no thought of greed,
But note what other people need,
To be content whate'er my lot,
Aware that joy cannot be bought.

To recognize the minor things,
To concentrate on finer things,
To always do my very best,
And trust that God will do the rest.

I absolutely love this poem that my grandad wrote. It articulates not only the goals I hold for myself but the goals that I'd like to see achieved in this world. There's no new discovery in this poem--he says nothing that others haven't said in the past. Maybe I like it so much because it's pretty plainly put--it probably doesn't hurt that it's my grandad's work.

In all honesty, my one main goal is to actually accomplish in life what God planned for me to accomplish. That sounds like a fairly easy goal. However, I struggle with it the most. I have no idea what God wants me to do. People talk of these amazing experiences they have of communicating with God. I'm willing to listen, I'm even asking to listen, but I'm still deaf to God's voice. I'm trying to figure this out. My one conclusion is that on the surface I'm practically shouting "God, tell me what you want me to do!" But subconsciously, I'm scared out of my mind of what he's going to say, so perhaps inadvertently I'm blocking Him out. Wow do I have issues! Some might say that I don't want to give up control of my life. I'm not necessarily scared of that. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'd get a sense of peace if I felt that was happening. I definitely see God's work around me daily. I know that right now I'm in the place he wants me to be, but I think I got here merely by dumb luck. I honestly took the first job I got. Granted God most likely orchestrated my whole job search and landed this job for me. That gives me comfort that God is getting me into the place he wants me, but I wish I was more in tune with His wishes for me. Argh!

I'm quickly approaching that time again when I need to figure out what to do with my life next. Yikes! I thought I just finished this process. I'm giving myself 6 months before I have to buckle down and figure out what to do. Is my problem that I keep putting a time line on God? I can see where that would be a problem--thanks to the phrase "In God's own time." However, should I take a completely passive stance and just wait for divine intervention. I know that God interacts with everyone differently. I'm expecting to hear this booming voice (perhaps something similar to Sean Connery's voice) saying "Adrienne you should be a (fill in the blank)." Perhaps this is not how God is planning to notify me of His plan for me. Maybe he helps me figure it out myself. I'm a fairly rational person, so perhaps He'll help me rationalize my way through it by having me thoroughly research my options. Or what I fear most is He'll want me to do something completely unrational, and therefore something completely out of my comfort zone. Which who wouldn't want to "Grab Life by the Mane," jump into that snowy pit on a winter day, and kill that lion with their bare hands? I must admit I'm fairly intimidated by the possibility of looking like an idiot. I agree that you don't hear about those who didn't take the risk for God, but you don't really hear about those who took the risk for God and crashed. Does that happen? What if I don't hear God clearly and completely follow the wrong risky path? Does God wish for some to take a risky path just to end up looking like an idiot? Is that His plan for me? So many questions...

One of my many faults is my lack of confidence; however, I do realize that I have a lot of potential. I believe that counteracts a bit of my lack of confidence. I have this feeling that God has a pretty big plan for me, but I've yet to determine exactly what it is! Since I'm aware of this little tid bit, I feel even more pressure to figure out God's plan.

I just hope I can figure it all out before I die. I'd hate to disappoint God. I'm not trying to be dense, but I sure am. I guess I need to figure out how God communicates with me and then cut open my heart in order to hear Him. However, if I can't hear Him, how do I figure out how He communicates with me?

Monday, November 13, 2006


All of my closest friends could tell you that I hate to express my true feelings. I even hate to express my true feelings to myself. I feel guilty complaining about the trials in my life because I know that God has blessed me with so much. Blessings that I don't deserve. I wonder why I am so lucky considering all of the hurt that our world sees right now. Therefore, I always try to take a positive outlook on every situation--good or bad. Which this is definitely a good philosophy the majority of the time. Unfortunately, in the process, I hide a lot of my feelings because I feel guilty expressing them. With all that is going well in my life, how can I complain about a few things that go awry?

Today, I had a revelation while playing piano. First of all, music has a way of tapping into my emotions. I can get lost in my head when I'm playing. In the end, I would guess that composers want their music to "strike a chord" (please excuse extremely corny phrase, but I just couldn't resist!) within everyone that either plays or hears the piece. When I play a piece of music, I don't have to feel guilty for expressing my melancholy mood for that's the emotion that this certain piece is trying to express to the listener (or in my case the performer). Who knew that some notes slapped on a page could help me become honest with myself, and better yet not feel guilty about it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Breakin' Out at Dawn

Let me preface this with in general currently I'm in a very good place in my life and quite happy with who I am...

With that said, sometimes I feel imprisoned by my insecurities. Currently, I feel that my true self is screaming inside of me telling me to break down these barriers and just be the wacky, crazy kid God made me to be. God loves me, so why shouldn't I love myself--and for that matter--why shouldn't others love me too? So I can't help but ask myself, what am I scared of? What fears build up these walls? I wish I could tap into that same sense of security that I feel when I'm around my friends from college when I'm trying to make new friends.

I think I just realized that (if all things go well), I haven't even begun to live my life. Though this realization is thoroughly exciting, it also scares me. I have free will. I can do what I want. No longer am I bound by the formal education system. I have so many people to meet. I can only imagine what God has lined up for me. Though it's pretty cool to have God as your boss, it's also intimidating. He's all knowing, while I lack most knowledge, yet He trusts me to do His work. Yikes! For my life, I've been more concerned about my own goals than the goals that God has for me. God could have probably cared less about the grades I got in my classes, oh but I cared enough for the both of us. Now, I'm becoming less aware of my own goals and more aware of the fact that I have no idea what God's goals are for me. So far, my main fears have revolved around not attaining the extremely high standards that I set for myself. However, I'm pretty sure that it's quite a bit more intimidating thinking about not attaining the goals that God has set for me. Double yikes! I have 2 years guaranteed here in DC then who knows...

However, I've determined that it's my stupid insecurities that will be the death of me and will prevent me from attaining the goals that God has set for me. Probably, by the time I finish my 2 year possition, I'll have just broken down the walls holding me back from being my true self around my newly found friends. I'm scared that I'll chicken out of moving onto bigger and better things because I've found comfort in my friendships. It's killed me being away from me friends in IL. I strangely feel like I have to reclaim myself, which is rediculous. I'm here, I just have to figure out how to get me out. Probably, I'm a little too independent. However, a lot of that has to do with the fact that no one is dependent on me. All of my friends from IL are starting to settle down. I however am on this 2 year layover until my next flight to an unknown destination.

The hardest thing for me about moving to a new city, alone, is that I have to break into social circles. People already have their closest friends--they don't need me. I'm just the sprinkles on top of the cake. You don't really need them, but they're nice to have around every once in awhile. I'm terrified of feeling alone for the rest of my life. Especially, since I might move in 2 years, then I get to do all of this fun stuff again. Yeeha!

It's this fear of being alone that could potentially prevent me from living the life that God intended for me and for me being the person He created me to be. This all stems back to my stupid insecurities. I'm scared to be my true self around people I don't know so well, but who wants to invest a couple months into a relationship with boring Adrienne to get the chance to meet cool Adrienne? My life would be a lot easier if I just would break down these walls. The funny thing is I really like myself when I'm being my true self, but am not as much of a fan of myself when I'm being the guarded me. One would think that would cause me to overcome this fear faster, but no it doesn't (I'm a slow learner!)

Therefore, I'm making the claim that everyday at dawn I'm going to try and break down these walls that prevent me from being the fun person God made me to be.