Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Dear You

Dear You,

You are wonderful. You are a human being that is so loved, cherished, and card about. You are a person who has so much to offer the world. Go show the world what you got. Share your gifts and talents. Go and love the world.

Recognize that you are beautiful. Recognize that you have worth and value. Recognize that you are seriously loved. And then show the rest of the world that it is beautiful and valued, and so desperately loved. Tell the broken there is healing. Tell it, show it, impact it, transform it. Make a difference; live the difference.

-Ashley

Monday, January 28, 2013

Challenge #3A/B

Remember my challenges to my faith?

  1. The idea that God doesn't exist...and that doesn't have to be a bad thing.
  2. There are awesome people who don't know Jesus
There was another challenge. 
Whether homosexuality is "wrong" or not.

Once Jordan told me how they identified, I felt like I had to choose between my best friend and my beliefs. I felt like I was betraying the Church. I was struggling and I didn't know what to do or who to talk to. 

I realized something though. I don't really care whether or not homosexuality is "wrong". And I'm not betraying the Church or my beliefs or Jesus.

This isn't an "I don't care" like I'm being apathetic or I'm too lazy too research it. On the contrary. It's an "I don't care" like...I. DON'T. CARE.

To be clear, I do think there is usually a very bold line with what is clear of what is a sin (anything imperfect/against God) and what isn't. And I don't think taking the "I don't care" response should be common to most topics. 

I don't care if homosexuality is "wrong" or not. Sure, I have questions. Honest questions. Like:
Are people actually born this way?
What does that mean to be attracted to the same sex?
What even is sexual orientation? 
Are attractions a social concept? 

I have other questions to. Real questions. Like:
Why was my best friend so afraid to tell me? 
Why do people hate people because of who they're attracted to? 
Why can't my best friend say who they're dating without feeling judged?


I claimed that I loved Jordan. If I really loved Jordan, then that love wouldn't stop at the line of how Jordan identifies. "I don't get go put fences around agape." Agape love. Unconditional. Always.

God met me where I was at just after Jordan came out to me. He said, "Ash, I still love and adore Jordan so, so much. Don't you dare ever stop loving Jordan. Whether or not homosexuality is a 'sin' or not is between me and Jordan. Leave that to me. It doesn't matter for you. You just keep loving Jordan."




Coming Out

I remember the first time someone "came out" to me. Because this is more their story than it is mine, I'm going to try to tell it without giving away this person's identity. I'll use the name "Jordan" for gender-neutrality and won't give as many details to the timing of this. At the same time, this is also my story. I've been debating for awhile as to write this or not. This will only be posted after approval from Jordan.

While I don't want to disclose too much information about Jordan, it's important to know that Jordan is one of my very best friends. Jordan knows so much about me--Jordan knows my fears, my worries, my doubts, things I get excited about, my family, my background, my dreams. And I know all of that about Jordan. I know Jordan's past. I know Jordan's family, I know where Jordan grew up, I know the relationships within Jordan's life, I know what Jordan loves and hates, I know Jordan's worries, fears, doubts. I know Jordan really well and Jordan knows me really well. I deeply love Jordan and I know Jordan seriously loves me. 

There was a day when Jordan needed me to leave work early so s/he could talk to me. I knew this had to be urgent, because Jordan knows how important work is to me and that I couldn't easily leave. We went to the place where we often go to talk and we sat there. Jordan then shared something that s/he had been struggling with for awhile. And then Jordan buried his/her head on my lap and I just held Jordan. 

I told Jordan that I loved him/her and reminded Jordan of our friendship. I told Jordan that I loved how much s/he was willing to share with me. 

And then Jordan lifts his/her head and looks at me and says, "I know we have a strong friendship. I know I've told you almost everything about me and I know you love me, which is why there is something else I need to tell you. There is still one thing you don't know about me."

After a few deep breaths and repositioning so we could look at each other, Jordan tells me that s/he has been seeing someone...and that person is the same sex. 

Jordan tells me how they identify and that they have been wanting to tell me that for awhile, but didn't know how. Jordan was afraid of how I would react, afraid that our friendship would be gone, afraid I would be judgmental and hateful, afraid that I would stop being there and stop being supportive. 

This was my best friend. My best friend who trusted me with everything, except for their identity. My best friend who I trusted with so much of myself with. My best friend who knew my heart.

As soon as Jordan told me, Jordan looked at me and asked me if I hated them. I could see the fear in Jordan's eyes, fear that I would say "Yes, I do. We're no longer friends. Leave." Jordan also told me that we did not have to ever talk about it again, it could just be something they tell me once, I know about it, and we don't discuss it. 

This was my best friend. 

I hated that my best friend didn't want to trust me with their identity. I hated that they thought I would just throw in the towel and walk away. I hated that it took so long for them to share that with me. I hated that they thought they needed to give me an option to not talk about it. I hated that they hid that part of themselves from me for so long. 

What I really hated though, was that those were all understandable. 

This is kind of a side story, but it helps prove the point. I have gotten hooked on Glee, and while this can be another topic for another time, below is the written scene of when Santana comes out to her grandma:

“I have to tell you a secret, a secret that I’ve kept from you for a very long time,” she tells her grandmother at her kitchen table. “Abuelita, I love girls the way that I’m supposed to feel about boys. … I want you to know me, who I really am. When I’m with Brittany, I finally understand what people are talking about when they talk about love.”

She went on to tell her grandmother that being in the closet makes “every day feel like a war … I don’t want to fight any more. I’m just too tired. I have to just be me.”

It was all beautifully said and you figured anyone who really loved this beautiful girl would give her their love and support. But no.“I want you to leave this house,” the grandma says coldly. “I don’t ever want to see you again. You made your choice, now I have made mine.”

Just terrible. But also realistic. It’s reactions like this from parents that results in so many LGBT teens being homeless or being filled with pain and self-loathing. It’s no way to treat someone you profess to love.

I loved my best friend. And I still do. I didn't take Jordan up on the option of not talking about it. I didn't tell Jordan our friendship was over. Because Jordan is my best friend. We talk about the people Jordan dates. We talk about our hopes, dreams, fears, and struggles.

Admittedly, it did take me a little bit to really understand. But more because I knew the person they were dating and had to grasp the relationship I thought I knew into what it was in reality. Just like when any of my friends tell me they started dating someone, even of the opposite sex. It takes me a little while to adjust, to understand and figure out the relationship. It took me a bit because no one directly in my life had intentionally told me how they identified before Jordan. Since Jordan, three others have intentionally told me how they identified.

It took me some time and Jordan understood. But I tried not to (and I hope I didn't) ever make Jordan feel belittled or second-guess the decision to tell me.

I know Jordan struggled in telling me. But I hope I responded in a way that reminded Jordan how loved and supported and strong our friendship is. I don't know if I responded the way Jordan needed to me or wanted me to or not. I hope I did though. I love Jordan, no matter what. No matter how Jordan identifies, Jordan is worthy of love.

Jordan is worthy of love. Jordan deserves kindness and respect. Jordan is one of my best friends and I love them so very much. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fake Expert

Part of my graduate program is to participate in a Practicum to gain field experience for 20 hours a week for 30 weeks for our first year. My primary focus is homelessness at my agency, however I also working more and more with financial counseling/education. When I do case management meetings with my homeless clients, I almost always discuss budgets and savings. I create a budget plan with them, explain the importance of saving, go through the steps of how to save and what to save and why we need to save. I show them ways to create and follow a budget, etc.

The problem with a budget isn't a budget--it's the lack of accountability. Theoretically, I'm supposed to meet with them every week, hold them accountable, give them strict guidelines to follow, and we see improvement. That's the way the programs are designed and what most of the grants lay out. In practice, that doesn't happen. And it's frustrating.

But actually, that's not the purpose of this post. I'm also starting to do financial education classes. I've mainly been observing, but pretty soon I"ll be taking over and teaching.

Let's review who I am:
-I'm a college student, young, have my first lease in my name just a few months ago, just got my first bill in my name, don't have a career or stable job.

At my practicum:
-I walk people how to rent a place, what it means to sign a lease, and how that works.
-I explain the process of eviction and try to explain how not to get evicted.
-I explain how bills work and how to keep bill costs low.
-I help with job searches and make resumes.
-I do budgets and show how to save.


Essentially, I do everything that I've either:
1-Never done before
2-Just started doing within the past few months, but am certainly no expert in
3-Things I don't have a clue about
4-Things I'm really bad at.

I always feel like a "fake expert". What a learning experience..

Monday, January 14, 2013

My Fort

I just made a fort! A freaking fort! I don't "make" things very often and when I do, I rarely pull it off (for instance, I tried to make an omelet this morning...it did not turn out well). But I made a fort! It's not the best fort, and really, it looks kinda weird and kind of seems to throw off the "feng shui" of the room, but whatever. It's still a fort.

This is the second fort I've ever made. My first fort ever was made with a wonderful friend. I told her I hadn't ever made a fort. Normally, people say, "Really?! Wow. You should get on that." And then we drop the subject. She did kind of say that, but she also made an attempt to get me to build one. She and I made a fort together and it was a freaking awesome fort. Because of the placement of that fort, it had like two extra little hide outs within it and it had plenty of room.

This fort isn't really like that. It's in a corner and isn't very big and looks more like a "restricted area", but whatever.

The plan is to get some pillows and blankets, maybe some lights, and make it a cozy little area. It's going to be my own super safe and confined place. The place I can go for refuge, or for extra positivity. I'm starting to put things on the lower part of the wall, so they are at eye level when I sit down that are encouraging or uplifting. It's the place where I'll go when I'm upset or hurting, a place to rejuvenate.

I always try to make my room that way too, but there's still something about making even part of my room strictly this way.

Hurray for forts!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cool Friends

Today was one of those days where I needed someone to talk to. I wanted/needed to share about my day. I wanted to hash out some of the things from today with someone. My feelings, thoughts, the happenings. And while I hate saying this and I hate when it's said to/about me, but all of the people who I would love to be real with are too busy. I don't dare tell them that, and I know they would try to listen, best they could, because I actually do have awesome friends. But I know exactly what they're doing and have on their plate.

So, here we are.

I walked in the office at 8:45. Today, I had to tell someone I was disappointed in them and they need to get their act together really soon. Then, I had to hear about how a daughter feels like her mom blames her for everything wrong. After that, I had to fill out a Food Stamps application for someone who wasn't able to do it themselves. I then had 9 voice mails, 4 of them from the same person (all within 24 hours), all five people telling me that they are homeless. I had ten minutes for lunch, and then had a walk in client. That person recently got kicked out of their house. I had another drop in client, introduced to me by the counselor. They were engaged and had nothing but each other. I called the person back who had left four voice mails. They were living out of their car and decided they didn't like me and even though wanted help, didn't want it from me. I called another person and gave them every resource I had on shelters. Then I remembered I had play therapy group in 2 minutes and then hung out with six boys for an hour and a half. I left the office at 5:45. It was pouring rain and wicked foggy, so I didn't get home until 6:45.

I also had a spreadsheet to work on, but I didn't have the right information because they weren't my clients. It was just sent to me because I know how to get work done. But the person's whose work it was, was wicked upset that it was given to me.

One of the clients heard an employee talk smack about them. The employee was speaking in another language and assumed the client couldn't understand them.

It wasn't a bad day. It was actually good. It was fulfilling, busy, and productive. I know I helped a lot of people today. I know people walked in hopeless and walked out with a little more hope. I know I did a good job today and I enjoyed it. I don't need to vent, I just need to be real and reflect with someone. I just have friends who are also doing awesome things and as such, are sometimes a little difficult to talk to in terms of timing.

Maybe I just need friends that aren't very cool, for days like this...=) 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

TAN

I've come to realize that my beliefs are what drove me, engaged me, had me wholly love people, inspired me. Essentially, they defined me. Losing those meant losing my core, my foundation. My entire being had been rocked. 

I had my reasons for leaving those beliefs. But what took me by the most surprise was what kept me from returning to them. They weren't the same reasons for why I turned my back. I figured out the answers (almost) to my reasons for my disbelief in everything a few months ago. I thought that would then lead me back to my beliefs, considering that's where the answers pointed to. Unfortunately, what happened was there was then a whole new set of issues that arose, issues I wasn't even aware of until I thought I had figured out everything about my disbelief. It was hard enough having to deal with disbelief in everything I knew. It has been ten times harder battling the new struggles that arose. 

It was like every time I tried to think about it, confront it, talk about it, I got worn out. So, I didn't. 

I hate that I've lost my drive and my ability to really love. And I know that it's my faith in Christ and relationship with Him that did those things. And I know I can't do this alone. I know I need to share and trust. 

There have been three songs that I've been hooked on. 


"Worn" -Tenth Avenue North



"The Struggle" -Tenth Avenue North



"Grace" -Tenth Avenue North