Ugly is the new beautiful.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.com

“That was very brave of you to put yourself out there! I don’t think I could do that.”

“I wish I could express my feelings like you do, but I don’t think I can.”

“That was so [powerful, heavy, beautiful, honest]! It reminded me of myself, but I can’t share it like you can.”

First and foremost, thank you for all of the response to my last post. I really appreciate all the encouraging words, shares, and texts. It means a lot to me that people enjoy reading my blog and that they like what I have to say.

But to be honest, something in the middle of all of that encouragement and positive response was bothering me. A lot.

This nifty hosting site keeps a log of all of my blog traffic, and I can go in and view all kinds of fun and interesting statistics. Like how many page views I get per day, what countries my readers are in (shout out to the Philippines, and to Bahrain and Germany – you know who you are!), and how many followers I have. My favorite statistic is which topics are most popular. And while I’d love to say that your favorite posts are the ones in which I share a thoughtful opinion, some random quirky thoughts, or my growing photography skills, that’s not exactly the case.

My three most popular posts are not happy. They’re not funny, quirky, or light. They are serious, honest, heavy, and they were hard to write. It’s when I shared the uglier side of myself that my page views shot up and my phone started buzzing with notifications from readers.

And it bugs me. It’s not hard to deduce that people tend to be drawn to drama, but there’s something so horribly backwards in knowing that if I want to draw readers in, I will need to write about the ugly things I experience. The stuff that I try to otherwise hide in all of my social media. The deeper, more truthful parts of myself.

In other words, real life.

Isn’t it ironic? We are so drawn in to the stories of hardship, brokenness, struggles, and pain, especially if they have feel-good endings with freedom, redemption, and healing. We love to know how others are coping with their tragedies. We sympathize and cry with them. But secretly, we all have that ugly story, although we do our best to hide it from the world (especially if it doesn’t have a feel-good ending).

Yeah, I’m looking at you, Pinterest-Perfect Person. You aren’t fooling me.

If my ugliest stories are the ones that impact you the most, how do you think your ugly stories might impact someone else? Do you consider how transparent you are with your friends and family? Do you ever wonder how differently the world might look if we stopped pretending like we have it all together and admit that we are all jacked up?

That’s why I blog about the hard and ugly stuff. It’s real, and it’s part of my story. I have no problem confessing my failures and shortcomings, because at the end of the day, I can say with confidence that every sin and flaw in me was done away with at the cross. It is easier to let the world see my struggles and ugliness because in that transparency, people will see Christ at the center of my being, and every day I am just a little closer to being more like Him.

And the truth is, you can be honest too. You CAN let people know you’re struggling. It does take courage and vulnerability, but you’re a deeper person than your face-value Instagram or Twitter feed. You’re a person with real thoughts, feelings, and ideas. It’s okay to stop comparing your real life to everyone else’s projected dream life, and start being humbly transparent.

In reality, we’re all ugly, but there’s something incredibly beautiful about being able to acknowledge it.

Appreciating the Differences

Coffee-and-milk-coffee-909061_1024_768Let’s just say you’re arguing with someone that you love and it’s just taking them forever to realize that you’re right.

And in the midst of talking about it… she will say her point of view so succinctly with some clever metaphor that’s dear to your heart, and suddenly, you get it. It makes perfect sense.

After a little awkward silence, you realize you’re so inside her point of view, you completely forgot what you were arguing about… You have to ask.

“Excuse me, can you remind me what I was…?”

“Yeah. You said that I was…” and she’ll describe the whole thing back to you.

And you go “Oh, huh. Wow.”

And it’s sort of one of those figure ground things, and it switches and you can see it again…

I mean, you had drawn your conclusions! You had collected the data, connected the dots, you’d seen the picture emerge, you were certain.

Same dots, same data. Just draw the lines differently, different picture.

Wow, never would have thought of that!

– David Wilcox, Singer/Songwriter

Why is it that we are so bent on forcing others to agree with our perspective? Think the way I think. Hear the way I hear. Speak the way I speak. Love the way I love. Our motives are so often focused on fixing others to be more like ourselves so that we feel comfortable, accepted, and wanted.

But ultimately, I think we want to fix others so we feel right. Correct. Justified.

I guess I could preach at you the sermon you’ve heard over and over to love people for who they are, not who you want them to be. Stop trying to fix everyone. Learn how to communicate on their level, love in ways they can receive, be there for THEM, yadda yadda yadda, you know all of this.

So… why do so many people have such a hard time with just letting others be different from them? There’s little to no room for being okay with the fact that other people think, process, and just act differently than you do.

Maybe it’s just me… but lately I’ve had quite a few discussions with friends about their frustrations with communicating with the people they love most, and I hear both sides. One side is angry, saying “You’re refusing to communicate with me in on my terms,” and the other side is crying out in anguish, “You won’t let me communicate with you on my terms!”

What would happen if you learned to understand and accept that the person across from you is a different person? She thinks differently, she processes differently, she expresses herself differently, and she loves differently than you do. This is what makes her unique. This is what makes her valuable. You want to learn how to be a better friend to her? Try being okay with the fact that SHE IS NOT YOU.

And more often than not, it’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s about learning who the other person is, and celebrating it!

So when you’re in the middle of that conflict with someone that you love, stop. Just stop. If it’s real love that exists between you, you should both be able to step back and understand that the other person is not trying to hurt you or be malicious. Love doesn’t scream “I’m not okay, and it’s YOUR fault! If you would just do X, Y, and Z, things would be so much better!” (Or on the opposite side of the same coin: “You’re not okay, and it’s YOUR fault! Tell me what’s wrong – in my language and timing, so I can understand you – so I can tell you how to fix yourself!”)

Love says “This is what I’m feeling. How did this make you feel? What can I do to make this right?” (And again, opposite side of the same coin: “I can see you’re not okay. Would you like to talk about it? You don’t have to, and I won’t make you. I love you, and I’m here for you.”)

I’m either rambling or ranting at this point… I guess my point is, just be willing to look at the dots again and see a different picture. Appreciate the differences.

Now I feel old.

• I should have been carded today. It didn’t happen. Now I feel old.

• To the random, sweet cowboy who took my empty shopping cart back to the store, thanks for making my day.

• It’s not stalking if you bring a friend, right?

• It’s so much easier to become bitter, but so much more worthwhile to be forgiving, resulting in so much more fun being happy!

• God is pretty cool when he lets you know through a random person (who has no idea about your past) that your prayers are being answered – six months later.

• Spending $24 on 38 days worth of V8 energy drinks will actually save me around $150. Breaking bad habits is hard but soooo worth it. It’s embarrassing when you figure up how much money goes down the drain in wasteful spending (not to mention bad stewardship).

• Talk to the cashier and look her in the eye. Let her know she is appreciated. A genuine thank you goes a long way.

• Know the dangers of leaving your iPhone in a locked, hot car. It’s not pretty.

• You know your best friend is amazing when you call her to catch up and you end up talking about Jesus for an hour instead. As she put it, our relationship sharpens each other.

• My mother’s kitten is possessed. Especially when she hangs over the back of a chair, trying to catch her own back legs, and then hops around the living room. You never know when you will be attacked…

• I rediscovered The Incredibles yesterday. Edna Mode is one of my favorite animated characters, ever.

20130902-162613.jpg

Don’t talk to me until you’ve made up your mind.

I love getting feedback from my readers – until they start pointing out the truth.

One friend said “I’m following your blog, but it’s been depressing lately!” Yeah, well, it wouldn’t be “Emma Dilemma” without a dilemma, would it?

_____________________

I work as a graphic designer at the regional hospital. This is a FANTASTIC job to have. My boss is amazing, my coworkers are amazing, and the coffee is free. But being a graphic designer is not all sunshine and daisies, and believe it or not, I do more than color. The last two weeks I have been building a new brand for an incoming physician. The process went something like this:

  1. Think up 5-6 interesting names for his new clinic.
  2. Design 2-3 logos per name.
  3. Repeat each logo in several color schemes.
  4. Physician looks at all 72 logos in a total of 2 seconds, and says he will sketch his own design and get back to us.
  5. Wait 4 days.
  6. Physician returns with a chosen name and logo idea.
  7. Design 8 logos around the chosen name/idea, and submit them in several color schemes.
  8. Physician narrows it down to 2 logos, with revisions.
  9. Physician narrows it down to one logo. Changes colors.
  10. Changes colors back.
  11. Designer proceeds to develop business cards, letterhead, envelopes, brochures, and ads.
  12. Receive email from hospital administration: “Remember that Dr. Physician’s clinic will be called “Something Entirely Different.”
  13. Bang head on desk and moan. The neighboring accountants begin to worry.
  14. Amazing Boss smooths everything over, and Graphic Designer returns to her happy place.

_____________________

It’s Friday! Anyone remember Rebecca Black’s music video? Grab your bowl and cereal, your friend by your right, and learn the days of the week! It will be fun fun fun fun! We-we-we-we so excited!

Confessions of an Extroverted Ambivert

meeting-mindsLast night I faced a tragedy. I was home, alone, by myself, with no one around me. Solitary. Single. Unaccompanied. Companionless. And I was facing 3 more nights of the exact same thing.

I thought I was going to die.

It was one of those nights when I was so lonely that I must have refreshed my Facebook feed every thirty seconds, CRAVING a new, enlightening post that I could like, or maybe even comment on! Now, ordinarily, I warmly accept a night such as this because they are few and far between. A few hours to veg out by myself are the perfect fix for my achiever soul. But when I have 4 nights in a row of unexpected alone time, it feels as if by the time I emerge again back into society I’ll have culture shock.

I stumbled across a page on BuzzFeed last night called “25 Frustrating Things About Being an Extrovert.” I forwarded the page to my mother (one of the two introverts in my extrovert family), who has no sympathy for my agony, in hopes that she might get a glimpse of why I need social interaction!

But sometimes I wonder if I’m not a true extrovert as the standard definition and stereotype goes. I think introverts stereotype extroverts as much as vice versa, and we are often seen as people who need to hog the microphone and the spotlight. In my case, that’s far from true. I love being around people but sometimes have nothing to say.

So, I did what I always do and took a personality quiz. Turns out, I’m an extroverted ambivert. Here are my confessions.

1. I charge up by being surrounded by people. This does not mean I always need to be the center of attention. (But honestly, when it happens I don’t mind it. :D)

2. The more to take in, the better I feel. Lights, sound, activity? Sign me up!

3. I am not a talker. More often than not, I prefer listening to talking and I get energy from hearing other people’s thoughts, opinions and ideas.

4. A full schedule makes me feel loved, needed, and appreciated, but when I don’t have enough time to shut down and sleep I feel stretched and overwhelmed.

5. I only need one evening to myself every 2-3 weeks (usually no more than 4-5 hours total) to wind down and rest.

6. I love telling stories and public speaking not because I enjoy talking, but because I enjoy feedback and responses from my “audience.” The words of affirmation as a response to something I said/did is much more fueling than my words/actions themselves.

7. When I am upset, talking to one person isn’t enough. I need to share with at least 3 people at separate times.

8. Sometimes I feel bad that I’m not as well-read as some of my introverted friends, but I can’t spare the time needed to read because…. well… it would take time out of being WITH that friend!

9. Yes, I talk with my hands. It’s more for my benefit than my listener’s. Drawing pictures with my hands helps me express what I’m thinking more clearly.

10. I prefer a focused, balanced conversation with one person at a time than a group discussion. My get-to-know-you skills are diminished when I have to compete for your attention with several other people (especially if you are an introvert).

So don’t be surprised if you find me at a party but I’m quiet and reserved. I’m having a great time, but sometimes it’s nice to be surrounded by people and activity and say nothing at all. 🙂

 

Breakups stink.

Let’s just expose the elephant in the room for what it is: I broke up with my boyfriend a week ago.

No, I’m not okay. Yes, that is why I haven’t blogged in two weeks.

I know that I’m not obligated to share with the world-wide web why we broke up, but I’m willing to give you the cliff-notes. He was a great guy with morals and character who was a passionate Christian and who loved to love me, but in the end we simply weren’t right for each other. And if I can’t see myself marrying someone, I will not put them through a relationship that exists merely for my own entertainment.

It was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. It is difficult to look at myself with any kind of respect when I knowingly gave back a heart of gold and said “I want more in life.” But my mom is pretty wise, and as I blubbered in her arms she reminded me that God has given us desires for a reason, and we are to pray for the desires of our hearts.

I want SO MUCH for my life. I want to go, do, see, and be! And here’s a secret:

Wedding_rings copy

That’s right, I am a young, lively 21 year old with my whole life ahead of me and I want so desperately to share it with someone else. I don’t want to live my life alone and then get married, settle down and raise a family! If my husband is going to be my best friend, my leader, my protecter, provider, and pursuer, my soundboard, my comforter, my mentor, my guide, and my love, then I sure hope he finds me soon cause he is going to be AH-MAY-ZING.

However, there is one point on which I will stand resolute: I will not go looking for him.

I am horrible at being content in singleness, but as a dear friend pointed out, I can be content in Christ in my singleness. I have no need to try to hook an amazing guy and convince him I’m an amazing girl. I know who I am in Christ, and it’s his job to find out.

So… where to go from here? I’m single, and I’m not okay right now. I will be, in time. I’m not desperate, I’m not alone, and I’m not hopeless. There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.

And it will be a beautiful morning.

Falling Forward

“Even if you fall on your face, you are still moving forward.” – Victor Kiam

When I get geared up about something, it’s hard for me to stop until I feel like it’s all out of my system. Beyond hard.

One of the things that gets my blood pumping every time is the topic of work ethic and responsibility. About a week ago, I was particularly frustrated about the lack of work ethic in the upcoming generation and (as usual) I got myself in a knot about it until I finally got it out of my system. This time, it was in a letter to the editor of our local paper, directed to the graduated class of 2013.

In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best form of communication to a generation that probably doesn’t read the newspaper, but hey, it got it off my chest. If it reached one young adult and made a difference, then I’m happy. Enjoy.

 

Dear Graduates,

Congratulations. You finished high school. You survived the cliques, the social pressures, the bad teachers, the long hours, the testing and the drama.

Welcome to adulthood.

It’s not a scary place, you know, in spite of what people may have told you. It is, however, very hard. Here in adulthood, you don’t have anyone holding your hand, telling you what to do or doing anything for you. You are responsible for you.

Maybe for you, adulthood has some meaning of “freedom.” That above list means that you’re free from parents, teachers and higher authority. You can do what you want! But trust me, when you really understand and appreciate what being an adult means, you will look back on those high school years and realize how easy you really had it. And you’ll want it back.

You see I became an “adult” at a very young age. When I graduated from high school, I had a full-time job at a local copy shop. I bought my own car with my own money. I was paying for my own car insurance, phone, food and soon, my own college tuition.

About a year later, I moved out of my parents’ house. Not into a fancy dorm room – I found roommates and got an apartment. I paid for my own rent, electricity, water, groceries, gas – the works, all on about $1,500 per month.

But being an “adult” doesn’t mean you pay for everything yourself, cause that’s just a (very important) part of it.

Being an “adult” means you have to make choices. Sacrifices. Be responsible with your time and your money. Work your butt off and prioritize. Learn what it means to give up what you want to do for what you need to do. Every decision comes with a consequence, and yeah, sometimes it stinks.

I know what it’s like to have past-due bills … and I know what it’s like to come home with electricity turned off. I know how it feels when your friends don’t bother to invite you out anymore because you’re always working or going to school. I know what it’s like to spend four years working on a two-year degree because you have to work long hours to pay for it. I know what it’s like to look at the bank account and wonder how you’re going to make it one more week

But I also know what it feels like to look at my life and have a strong sense of accomplishment. I know what it’s like to stand in front of politicians, business owners, city officials, school administrators and community citizens and believe in who I am and what I can do. I know how it feels to be broken, tired, ready to give up and look into my Dad’s tear-filled eyes as he says, “I’m proud of you.”

I’m no superstar or gold medalist in anything, but at 21 years old, I’ve won something better: independence.

And, my dear graduates, if you’re not experiencing that, you’re not in adulthood yet.