The Good Girl Lie

Yesterday I woke up too early. I woke up fidgety and restless. Falling back asleep was out of the picture so Netflix was turned on immediately. When that failed to distract, I got in the car under the pretense of running errands and picking up groceries but the driving was what mattered. Getting out and doing something. Meandering down the aisles did nothing for me so I found myself back in the car. I drove the long way to the movie theater. A favorite form of escaping myself. Only I wound up in the theater forty minutes too soon even after grabbing a bite to eat. I saw a movie about a girl who more or less ran away to find herself and contemplated doing the same. Instead I got back in my car and went to some stores and bought nothing before heading home, completely forgetting to stop at the grocery. The restlessness followed me into my apartment, buzzing and popping in my ear while I waited to go back out. I was so grateful it quieted down once I saw my friends. I wish it had gone away because it would have made for a simpler evening. Instead it turned into anxieties and frustrations and an inability to keep my legs still. It never fully dissipated until I fell asleep. Sleep which mercifully came quickly once I let my head hit the pillow.

January wasn’t a kind month. It’s not one I care to revisit should time travel ever become a reality. 2015 did not ring in with all good things for me or for so many people I love. Honestly January was just hard.

February, while better, has been about regrouping. It’s been about coping in all its glory. It’s been about learning to do simple things that have grown complicated. About navigating the way new normals.

Hence the restless agitation I woke up with yesterday. My coping skills sometimes involve far too much pushing emotions down. This leads festering which I have learned the hard way in the past. I didn’t want to bottle things up because I know I’d eventually explode so I have been talking about how I am when people ask. I’ve also resisted the urge to hide and withdraw because I have been there before and it took me way too long to resurface. Instead I have been very social and engaged in all kinds of activities and avoided hunkering down and going it alone.

This morning, though, when I finally made it to the grocery, feeling much calmer, I realized it’s not the coping that caused my restless Thursday. It’s just that good girl skin itches.

I’m not sure if it started with avoiding time-out or fear of not getting presents from Santa, but somewhere along the way I got it into my head that I had to be a good girl. It’s a role I’ve worn for as long as I can remember. Just be good. Don’t get into trouble.

I’ve spent a lot of my life being a “good girl.” I rarely got into trouble, I made good grades, and I participated in upstanding activities. I steered clear of underage drinking and premarital sex. The idea of doing drugs or anything illegal (other than speeding) rarely crossed my mind. To this day I am a helper and a fixer and a doer.

Which means that since basically forever, the adjective used to describe me has been sweet. I have received countless notes, yearbook comments, and compliments where people have told me I am sweet. As a teenager, this drove me batty. I wasn’t edgy at all but sweet sounded so blah and it was never an adjective the guys I knew used to describe girls they wanted to date. I was okay with being sweet but I wanted people to realize I was so much more. It’s probably why when a friend told me a couple weeks ago that he was glad I’m around because I’m so mean that it made me very happy. Our friendship involves a lot of good-natured ribbing so he was mostly kidding but I took it as a compliment all the same.

There’s nothing wrong with being good or sweet for its own sake. The problem is that sometimes I equate being good and sweet with good things happening. Be good and you can blah blah blah. Be good or Santa won’t come. Be good and God will give you what you want…

And that’s when I start to feel itchy. Good girls don’t get mad at God. They don’t argue with Him when babies die and relationships get tough and work feels like too much work. Good girls smile come hell or high water. They are sweet and polite even if they don’t feel that way. And they certainly keep it together.

Right?

But God never said being a good girl would get you what you want anymore than falling short removes his love, thank God. Grace is a five-letter word I live more and more. I am finally discovering that the good girl is a lie. She doesn’t exist. She’s just a facade I’ve worn for too long and God is peeling that skin away- whether I like it or not.

This peeling skin is unpleasant. It’s not pretty. It’s messy. It comes off in weird patches and takes time. It’s leaving me more sensitive and vulnerable than I’d like. Sometimes it itches, stings, and hurts. But there’s hope in it too. This new skin may be raw but it’s new. It’s whispers that it’s okay if I don’t have it all together because He does. Maybe it’s time to start believing verse I’ve been clinging to and writing on myself, “In Him all things hold together.”*

Maybe then I can say goodbye to being a good girl and start learning how to be a grace-filled woman.

*Colossians 1:17

Framily

As I was driving back to my apartment last night from Franklin, I found myself thinking about the first time I made this commute last year. I was headed to a game night at a friend’s apartment in Bellevue. I’d never been there and as I drove down the seemingly  never-ending stretch of Old Hickory, I kept hoping I wasn’t lost. Just about the time I was contemplating turning around to see if I’d missed the turn, I saw the complex. I triple-checked to make sure I had the right apartment before knocking and worried about how I was late.  By the time he opened the door, I was was so nervous I almost dropped the plate of brownies I had just baked.

Now when I pull into this apartment complex, it’s to go home. The roads that use to perplex me, especially I-440, are ones I navigate without a second thought. It’s funny how much life can change in a year.

At the beginning of last summer, I kept thinking about Einstein’s definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Well, I was a girl in desperate need of different results so I made some decsions and tried new  things.

The first something different was deciding that I would start wearing dresses just because. I’d always reserved dresses for church, special occasions, and girls nights. But I had these cute sundresses that hung in my closet and it seemed sad not to wear them when it’s sweltering outside just because I limited them to certain activities. So, with some inspiration from my friend Dani and if I’m being perfectly honest, Taylor Swift, I just started wearing dresses whenever I felt like it. It wasn’t a pivotal change but it was a start and it made me happy.

The second decision was to start going to Church of the City in June. This was not a decision I made lightly. It was something that took a lot of consideration and more courage than I care to admit.

The other major decision was accepting an invitation to spend Fourth of July with my best friend and her family and friends. Group activities were not my forte and I’d gotten in a really bad habit of declining social invitations. I can remember around this time my littlest brother telling me I needed friends. I had friends, the life-long and long-distance kind but I knew what he meant. Socially, I was in a huge rut. Since I had declined more than the acceptable amount of invitations from this friend and had no reason not to go, I found myself headed south for the weekend.

And while the dress-wearing decision really only changed my wardrobe, the other two turned my little world upside down so much that I had to write about it. Should you so desire you can read more in these posts: The Beauty of the Church ; A Schooling in KindnessAnother Sun Soaked Season Fade Away.

Which brings me to this summer. Last week I went to Saint George Island, Florida with my family. I love the beach. Being near the water has always been so restorative for me. I can never get over the vastness of the ocean. I still play in the waves like a little kid. It was a really great trip. Our best family vacation in recent history. I think I just appreciated it more this year. Now that I don’t see these people on a daily basis, the time I do get is far more valued. Naturally, since we are a family, we still get on each other’s nerves and push each other’s buttons. But we also have a lot of fun together whether we’re watching the sunset from our dock, laughing at TV shows, playing games, or getting lost trying to find the Barnes & Noble in Dothan, Alabama.

Sprint recently launched an ad campaign introducing what they call a “Framily Plan.” Basically it’s a plan that allows anyone to share a mobile phone contract.  Here’s a commercial if you haven’t seen one:

And while the campaign is more than a little kooky, I love that word. Framily. It’s a word I’ve needed to describe what I’m experiencing this summer.

At missional community (A.K.A. home group) yesterday, I couldn’t help noticing how we’re no longer a group that sits around the table and has stilted, polite conversations. Now we talk across each other at table and our conversations weave in and out of topics and tangents. Politeness has long been replaced with teasing, sarcasm, and blunt observations.  It’s a unique mix of all different ages and stages but to me that just makes it even more like having dinner with family. After nearly a year of meals, service projects, and Bible studies we’ve really grown to love each other. Like any home group we discuss Scriptures and walk alongside each other through serious life-issues but we also have a lot of fun celebrating and laughing together. And isn’t this what the church should look like? Shouldn’t it look more like framily and less like a bunch of stiff, polite people? I think we just might be getting something right.

Speaking of getting something right, I really did get something right when I decided to go to Florence last year for the Fourth. I’ve heard this group called many things from “friends-group” to “village” or “tribe” but if there was ever a place to use the word “framily” this is it. For starters some of the members are actually related by blood or marriage so there is an actual family component to the group. It’s usually pretty easy to see this fact when we play games. As one of four kids myself, I can vouch that games bring out sibling-rivalry more than anyone cares to admit. We are all friends but not all family in the traditional definition which is why I love that “framily” word. Because when we’re all more or less together (which isn’t as often as we’d like due to jobs, school, and being across state-lines) it has the feel of a family. There’s a lot of laughter and fun but there’s also honesty and fraying each other’s nerves.

I went back to that house this Fourth of July. It was a slightly different mix of people. We all arrived slightly different than we left the year before. But one constant is the love you can feel sitting in a room with all these family-friends. At one point, I was blinking tears as we sang around the piano because I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this group of people that adopted me last summer. Because that’s what they did. They didn’t just welcome me or invite me in, they adopted me. I didn’t know how much I needed them and now I don’t know what I’d have done this past year without them.

This weekend a bunch of them are getting together and I have to work. Funny, a little over a year ago I would have been relieved to have work to use as an excuse to get out this kind of social event. Now, I wish I had an excuse to get out of work.

Change isn’t easy. I’ll admit I don’t always like it. Sometimes change drags me along and other times I’ll live in denial that anything has changed. But sometimes deciding to walk through a new door on unsteady feet with a racing heart is exactly what you need to jump-start a better you. And if you’re really lucky you’ll find yourself in rooms of casual acquaintances that a year later become people you can’t imagine not knowing and like me realize change can be a really beautiful thing.