Sunday, April 26, 2015

My Letters

The latest Anima video is called "F is for Faith", and it goes through every letter of the alphabet talking about God, faith, and being a Christian. You should watch it. It's good. (But really, all their videos are good, so that doesn't say much. But seriously, you should watch it.)

Jon asked, "What are your letters?" and as soon as I finished the video, I sat down and started writing pieces of this post. So Jon and friends, here are my letters. These are the letters that, to me, represent my life and my story.

A is for Aware. For the fact that even when I wasn't aware that God cared, He was aware of me. He was aware of my pain, of my struggles, of my fears. Even today when I'm not aware that's He's moving, He's aware of that, and constantly coming up with new ways to make Himself, His love, and His presence known to me.

B is for Breakdown. For the breakdown I had when everything changed in my life. The walls broke down and I finally accepted the love I'd been running from for more than a decade. The moments when I've been breaking down, God has sent people to come alongside me and show me that I don't have to hide it or do it alone. There are people who care...and a God whose heart breaks with every tear that I shed.

C is for Campbell. For the school I fought for my life to get to. The school that, by the time I did get there, I wasn't too thrilled about because I didn't want to be surrounded by talk of a God I thought had just spent months torturing me. The school who led me to meet a band that would change my life. The school where I found my best friend, my sister. The school where I found two sets of rowdy brothers, one who taught me that there are still Christians who can love you without ulterior motives, and the other who taught me that my self-image is not how others see me and I don't have to try to fit in to be loved.

D is for Dare. For every time God has dared me to move. To step outside my comfort zone and trust that even though what I'm being asked to do terrifies me, it will lead me to something far better than I could get without it. Like telling my story for the first time. Or joining a class of guys to run a Twitter account. Or talk to someone new. Accepting these dares to move leads to far greater happiness than I'd have had without doing so.

E is for Enough. For the reminder that I am enough. I am enough for God. I don't have to change. Or try to get rid of my issues. Or apologize for the thousandth time. Or get "better." He loves me. Right now. No conditions. As long as I surrender, that's enough. And God is enough for me. That's all the love I need to get through.

F is for Forgiveness. For the lessons I'm learning about forgiving myself the way God already has. For letting go of the past. For trusting that when my loved ones say they've forgiven me for a mistake, they mean it, and I don't have to keep apologizing to them.

G is for Grace. For the grace I need to get by. For the grace I'm still learning to show myself when I feel like I'm getting everything wrong. For the grace that puts life back in my bones when I don't want to move.

H is for Healing. For the healing I found in Jesus' sacrifice. For the healing I found in the water in that church in Nashville. For the physical healing I'm still waiting on, though I know I may not get it this side of heaven. For the emotional healing in my life during my college years. For the promise of healing yet to come.

I is for Imagine. For "Him who is able to do more than all we ask or imagine." For the knowledge that I never could have imagined my life would turn out this good. I can imagine where I want my life to go from here, but I can't begin to predict what He has in store for me. And for the trust that it takes to accept that what He gives me will be the best, even if it's not what I imagine or plan on.

J is for Joy. For the happiness that can only be found out of this world, not in earthly circumstances. For the joy the people I love tell me I exude to others even when I don't realize I'm doing something special. For the joy that I feel when I know that I'm helping people. For the joy that comes in knowing that when I don't know what's coming next, I know that I'm taken care of.

K is for Know. For the chance to know what real love looks like. For the reminder that even when I don't feel God, even when I don't know what He's doing or how I'm going to make it through a struggle in my life, I know that God is good and He loves me. For the fact that what I know isn't based on my fluctuating emotions. It just is.

L is for Loss. For the loss of my dad, my first struggle of faith and trust in God. For the loss of my old identity, something that nearly broke me but ended up being exactly what I needed. For the loss of relationships I fought to hold on to, when God knew He needed to take them in order to make me better.

M is for Music. For the songs that I've sung to God through tears, when I wasn't even sure how much I believed what I was singing. For the songs I've sung to feel close to God. For the songs I've sung when I didn't know how to put the cries of my heart into my own words. For the songs I've sung when I've been so happy music seemed like the proper response to that much joy.

N is for New York. For a new chapter. For taking me out of my bubble. For letting me find out who I am and what I'm capable of when I'm uncomfortable. For new friends, new love, new experiences, and new places that have already taught me so many things.

O is for Ocean. For all the times I've stood on the beach looking out at the water and wondered how the God of the universe could really care about the details of my life when I'm so small. For the reminder that the God who makes the ocean waves crash knows me intimately and His love and grace for me goes deeper than the bottom of the sea. And for the ocean of life I've often felt like I was drowning in, because that drowning feeling is what has drawn me closer to the only one who could pull me out.

P is for Push. For the God who never pushed to get me to open my eyes; He was just there, waiting for me to be ready to change and to accept what He had for me. And for the friends who pushed into my life, who pushed to love me when I was terrified and fought to keep up the walls I'd grown so accustomed to.

Q is for Question. For every question I've been afraid to ask. And for the lesson I have to learn again every day that the God who died for me isn't afraid of me asking questions and grappling with the hard answers.

R is for Redemption. For the story of redemption I've been given. For the God that I serve who is in the business of redemption. For all the pain and confusion and tears and frustration that have been redeemed more beautifully than I could have ever imagined. This was the first letter I thought of, one that popped into my head before I even got to the second half of the Anima video and heard Jon mention it in his R, too.

S is for Sanctuary. For the worship service (of the same name) in Nashville, the one I went to that I thought was just a chance to hear good music and hang out with two of my best friends, and instead ended up being the place where everything changed. For the first Christian community that ever felt like home, the first one where I ever felt truly accepted. For the sanctuary I found at Campbell. And for the sanctuary I find in God when I am in desperate need of rest.

T is for Trust. For the trust I'm still building. For the trust I have to focus in on when I'm scared or angry or hurt. And for the trust I'm thankful to be able to place in a God who created everything from the sun to the trees to the ants on the ground.

U is for Unusual. For my unusual life and my unusual story and the magnificently unusual God that I love and gave my life to.

V is for Vespers. For the band who led me back to God after so many years of running as far away as I could. Who never evangelized the way I'd grown up around, and instead loved me just as I was and took me in and waited until I was ready, answering questions as I asked them. Who was there on the biggest night of my life and celebrated it as their own joy.

W is for Welcome. For being welcome in the arms of God no matter what I've done. For being welcomed by strangers that beautiful night in Nashville. For being welcomed in by people I never thought would be my friends, who love me as I am without question, and who show me Jesus every day just by the way they love me.

X is for Xerox. For the God I know who doesn't make copies. We are all unique. Each made with a very specific story and a very specific purpose. And for the reminder that nothing about me is a mistake, that it's better and so freeing to be myself, instead of wasting energy trying to avoid being the Mal that God intentionally created to be different from others.

Y is for Yearn. For the yearning I feel to know God better and closer. For my yearning to be more like God. For my yearning to be more of the Mal God created me to be. For my yearning to please Him. And for the yearning I feel He must have had for all those years when He was waiting for me to come home.

Z is for Zeal. For the zeal I have for sharing my story. For a zeal for making connections and getting to know people and their stories, too. For the passion I feel deep in my soul for helping people through their troubles. For the constant burning desire I have to be there for the people I love, no matter what is going on in my life. And for the outrageous excitement that gets me fired up when I think about how good God really is and everything He did for me that I could never earn or deserve. That zeal is why I do what I do.

Jon and the Anima crew have been such a sweet encouragement for me and my blog, telling me to keep writing and sharing my posts inspired by their videos. I sure have a lot to be thankful for with them, and that's only a small part of the reason why I so passionately share and talk about their videos. This one was probably the most time-consuming for me to write, but I loved every second of it.

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Here we go.

Here are my deadlines:

Thursday May 7 - International Relations policy paper (2 pages)
Friday May 8 - US Foreign Policy brief (approximately 5 pages/1500 words) and final paper (3000 words minimum/about 10 pages)
Saturday May 9 - EU in IR final paper (15 page minimum)
Thursday May 14 - IR final essay (5 pages)

This is the first time in my life I'll have to balance all of this work with a job.

Thank God for footnotes.

Tomorrow is my day off. My goal is to knock out the IR policy paper and at least half of the Foreign Policy brief.

Deep breaths.

Also, I'm super thankful I only have to put my anxiety through this panic twice more.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

I'm working on it.

Tonight was a very long and hectic shift at work. The good news about it being so crazy is that the time went by much faster than it normally does. For that reason, I sincerely hope that tomorrow night is the same way. If I have to be stuck there for seven hours, I'd rather not be staring at the clock.

After I got home, I ate cake because, well, my roommate bakes things and then shares and the best words to hear after you get home from an exhausting night of work is "I made cake! You want some?"

And then I called Austin because after this week, I was in serious need of a pep talk from my guru (don't ask, that's just what I call him). And that sweet boy was ON IT at midnight in the middle of finals week. Right towards the very end, he said something that hit me straight in the heart because it was so beautiful and profound.

Austin: Remember that you're the best and I love you.
Me: I just...why am I the best?
Austin: You're the best because you ask questions like that. You truly don't understand why people like you so much. You have this humility, and it's not like it's some false modesty. It's real, and it's this really raw thing in you that is just so beautiful to watch.

I always learn something when I talk to Austin. Tonight it was about seeing myself the way my friends see me.

Austin's right, you know. Most of the time, I really don't get it. I don't get why some of my friends act like they're the lucky ones to have me in their lives. I've spent so much time caught up in how undeserving I feel to have them love me like they do that it never really occurred to me that they might actually enjoy it, let alone that they might actually feel lucky to have me, too.

But this past week or so, one friend in particular has been giving me a lot of advice and wisdom on the importance of balancing humility and confidence. Because confidence is what people find attractive. And too much humility can make you a doormat.

There are so many fine lines to walk in this life. It's kind of exhausting to try to keep up with them all. And I guess part of growing up and becoming an adult is learning how to walk them while still being a person you're proud of.

So I'm working on it. I think the key is to keep showing myself grace and surround myself with people who will show me grace, too.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Cutting the Strings

I've been sitting here for several minutes trying to figure out how to say what I need to say, and I'm not sure how to really start this story, so I figure I'll just start. Some of you might be wondering what my prayer post yesterday was about. At first, I thought I wasn't going to blog about it, because I honestly kind of wish it wasn't on record for me to remember, but every other piece of this saga has been documented here, so I might as well end it here, too.

Landon. I know there have been several posts here in which I have said that things were over with him, only to have him return a few months later, but this time, it's real. I'm at peace.

I thought December was the end, and Lord knows I tried to make it the end, but my heart felt otherwise. It ached, telling me it wasn't over, and I was almost constantly overcome with the feeling that something was missing, like I wasn't going to be able to let go of all the questions rumbling around in my head. I needed answers. I needed to know the truth, whatever it was, if I was ever going to be able to truly say goodbye to something and someone that was such a huge part of my life for so long. And there obviously wasn't a simple answer to getting him out of my head, because blocking him didn't change a thing. Weeks passed, and I missed more and more everything I thought I had.

Well, on Monday, we talked. Two straight hours of texting felt like it was going to rip my heart clean in half, but at least it was productive. I got answers to questions I've been asking for years, questions he refused to give a straight answer to. It was exactly what I needed to be able to (finally!) shut the door on this part of my life and know that I can move ahead without anything holding me back. I can rest easy knowing that I really don't regret any of it, even considering the pain it's caused.

But because he's...well, him, he got a few digs while he could. And I'll be honest, I've been struggling this week. I feel like I abandoned him. I feel like I let him down. I feel like I proved him right, that he was right to be afraid that I was just like every other girl from his past, the ones who got close and then hurt him and then left. I'm grieving this hard and it sucks because it's been so long that I've been caught up in this and I'm tired. I'm tired of this having such a hold on me mentally and emotionally. I hate that he was still able to make me question whether or not this was my fault.

So I talked to Clayton tonight so we could pray together. Because that's what we do, and because I never feel more at peace than when I am praying with others. And he talked me through all the reasons why, no matter what I may have heard or what I may have told myself when I get way too caught up in my own head, this is not my fault. I don't think he was ever really in this. All I did was cut the puppet strings I'd been dancing on since I was 17, and the digs were just his retaliation for me taking my life and my control back. The Master Puppeteer never likes losing his toys.

Loving someone like a house on fire...sometimes isn't enough. I did everything I could, I gave everything I had, I put all of myself into this relationship and it just...wasn't enough.

I did what should've been done a long time ago. I got free from the abuse and manipulation and pain. I did what was best for me.

All that's left is for me to get to the day when I can look back on this and him and not feel like I've been punched in the stomach. That day will come. I don't know when, but I have the hope that I won't hurt over him and this story forever. And until then I have a crowd of friends like Clayton whom I know will make it their mission to keep me from falling too low.

And for that, I thank the good Lord for giving me pictures of what real love looks like, because if I didn't, I probably wouldn't have figured out that there is better out there for me. But now I know.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Conversation and A Prayer

M: Thank you for never being bothered by me, dear. I forgot to say that earlier.
C: I love you, dear! Rest easy in that knowledge.
M: I love you, too. I'm not sure why you're so good to me, but I'm really glad you are.
C: I'm "good to you" because you are you.
M: Sometimes that doesn't feel like much.
C: You are important because you are you. Never doubt that.
M: That's hard right now, to be honest.
C: Well, it's not my words. "For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb."
M: I know. I'm just, like I said, trying to pull myself back up after all the drama this weekend.
C: Don't rush it. You can't always bounce back quickly (nor is it always a good idea). Rest in God and in God's love. Cry. Yell. Be silent. Let God be Abba.
M: I don't even know where to begin putting it into words, honestly. But there have been tears, and I'm really glad I don't have to vocalize things for God to know them.
C: That is definitely reassuring.


Abba, Daddy, Father, I know you're here and I know you're feeling my pain right along with me, so I'm talking to you. I'm talking because I don't have anything else. Thank you for knowing what's on my heart and what I need when I stumble over my words and struggle to verbalize everything that I'm feeling. It's rare that I don't know the words I'm looking for, and I'm so thankful that you know anyway. You were here when everything was happening, and you're here now as I recover from it. I know you're watching and in this, because of things like this conversation tonight. I know you're here, but I don't totally feel you. Please, bring me some comfort, bring me some peace, because you're all I've got to rely on when my closest friends are hundreds of miles away. I've spent so long hurting over this, and I just want to be free from it. I want to be free. I know you have better things for me. I know you have better love for me because I know what real love is supposed to look like. Give me the strength to hold on for that and hold my head high while I wait. I'm sorry for not coming to you sooner. I guess that even though it's been three years, I'm still learning what it means to have a daddy that I can fall into. So here I am. I'm falling. Because I think that by falling, that's the only way I'm going to overcome this sadness that feels like it's seeping all the way into my bones it's so deep. I desperately wish I could have a hug from one of my loved ones that knows what's happened, but that's not possible, so I need a hug from you. Please hold me, Abba. I don't want to hurt anymore over this. I know you sent Jesus to redeem every tear that's ever been shed and heal every ounce of pain, so I'm here asking for you to help me feel that healing and claim it as my own. Because I know you're bigger than this. And I can't overcome this without you.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Maybe NC and NY have different ideas of respectful titles?

So. I got cussed out by an elderly Chinese woman at work today. That

And get this. It was because I called her ma'am instead of miss. The woman was like 75!

I knew it was going to be a "fun" time when she started cussing because she had to get out her store card before I could scan a coupon she had (even though it clearly had "good with coupon AND card" in bold on the coupon).

But then I said "your change is [whatever it was, I don't remember], ma'am" and she glared at me and hissed, "For future reference, it would be nice if you called people miss instead of ma'am." (And I'm thinking, come on lady, "miss" wore out for you a long time ago!)

I just tried to keep a straight face as she looked at me and said, "You're going to get old one day, too, so don't look at me like that, you bitch."

I knew I couldn't say anything back to her because I'd get in trouble with my boss, so I handed her her bag and said "Have a nice day," with no salutation at all, and she snatched the bag from my hand. You know what her parting words were?

"Listen, you little twat, you need to cut the bullshit."

All because I called her ma'am. 

Just for fun, I asked the next few women that came through, all of different ages, if they would be offended if someone called them ma'am. Even the ones who were close to my age were baffled by the idea that someone would be offended by that.

I told my boss about it after the lady left, and she laughed and said, "You did everything right. Someone people are just crazy."

....yay retail.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Love doesn't have to be romantic to be amazing.

Yes, I know that sounds like a quote out of a Disney movie or something, but just bear with me.

A lot of things have happened in the past week and a half or so that have made me think about romantic relationships and my future in that area. I never thought it'd be "easy" for me to find a boyfriend, but I also never thought I'd be almost 23 and never have had that experience yet. And things that have happened recently have made me dwell, I guess, on how I feel about still being single, probably too much.

But then tonight, Clayton took some time out of writing an exegesis for us to FaceTime because, as it turns out, we both needed some time together, and he said something that has really hit me.

"Sometimes we find love in non-romantic relationships. I've definitely found that love to be amazing."

I think that at least part of my problem is the fact that I often think I'm missing something by not having a boyfriend or knowing what it's like to have a boyfriend. (As D told me last week, it's not all it's cracked up to be!) But if I take a second to quit feeling sorry for myself and think about it, I'm not really missing anything.

No, this isn't some blog post about all the reasons it's awesome to be single. I'm just feeling tonight that it's unfair to the people in my life who love me so well, who pour out love to me every day with everything they have, to diminish all that their love does for me by saying it's not enough.

Like the friend who woke up from a dead sleep just because I needed to hear someone say they loved me, and he did it and wasn't annoyed.

Or the one who took out time from a Bible Study to see what I needed and pray for me.

Or the whole group who showed up in the midst of their busy schedules to walk me out of class one night at the end of last year just so I felt safe.

Or how D and L sat with me at the ER last week long past when they should have been in bed and refused to leave until they were sure I was okay with it.

Or the church friends who listened to me pour out my story and, instead of backing off, chose to earnestly and passionately pray over me.

Those things? They are amazing to me. The fact that I have friends like these in my life is amazing to me.

And sweet Clayton? Don't even get me started. I can't even put into words all the times that God has used him to save me from myself. Amazing doesn't even begin to describe the way he shows me love and the awe I feel at his loyalty to me and our friendship. This is what I mean when I said I didn't know people like him existed before I met my Reformation brothers; the joy and love and commitment in our friendship baffles me every day.

I need to learn how to focus on what I do have instead of what I don't. When I start feeling sorry for what I'm "lacking," I need to train myself to thank the Lord for all the people and all the love He has given me and trust that He'll bring me these other desires when He knows I'm ready for it and can handle it. Because I know dating relationships and romantic love involve tests I can't even picture right now. And because if nothing else, I know that God is good and He wants to bless His kids.

And you know, as I was writing this, one of my favorite worship songs popped into my head.

Amazing love, how can it be that You my King would die for me? Amazing love, I know it's true, and it's my joy to honor You. In all I do, I honor You.

That's really what I have to remember. I already know the most amazing love of all: the love of a Father who comes with no conditions. I don't have to try to make Him love me. I don't have to prepare for it. I don't have to put up a facade like I spent so many years of my life doing. God loves me. He loves ME. HE LOVES ME. This is the love that pulled me through when the world expected me to crumble up and wither away. This is the love that broke me after I spent 12 years of my life running. This is the love that puts breath in my weary lungs every single day and sends me people like the ones I've mentioned above to support me when I honestly just want to throw in the towel and give up.

God is amazing. His love is the most amazing thing of all. THAT is the key to finding my happiness in this season while I wait for what comes next. I had several new experiences in this past week and a half alone; it's not like I'm stuck stagnant here in this city. God's just asking me to wait and trust and not be afraid of doing either of those things.

Because I have all I really need. Everything else that may come along, it's just a gift from the Lord. While some worldly things can be awesome, I have to keep them in perspective to what amazing really looks like.

And amazing is a God who took on skin, lived among us, and died bloody and naked on a tree to save me from the mistakes I'd make 2000 years in the future. Who did all of that because He wanted better for me. Who chased me down in a church hundreds of miles from my home when I didn't know He was coming because He knew I was exhausted of running but didn't know how to change.

So yeah, Clayton was right. Love doesn't have to be romantic to be amazing. I've got proof of that all over the tapestry of my life.

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Catch Up

So you know what happens when you have two nights of staying up late having fun,

and then you're up all night in the ER,

and then you get less than five hours of sleep that day when you get out,

and then you're up all night again,

and then you only get two hours of sleep that day,

and then you're up until 3 am before you finally FINALLY fall asleep?

Your body crashes HARD.

Long story short, I didn't do anything but sleep until 8:00 tonight.

And it felt good.

And so starts the preparation for another week.

Sigh. Here we go.

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

I never thought I'd hate this week ending as much as I do.

Well, at midnight last night, I certainly never could have predicted what came next.

Somehow, I wasn't tired enough to go to sleep until 4 am this morning. At approximately 4:15 I got a phone call from D, and then spent the next 20 minutes standing on the sidewalk trying to figure out where he was and help him get back to our street. Nothing like your friend wandering around lower Manhattan by himself unable to figure out where he was or how to get back in the middle of the night to get your adrenaline pumping

Then I had to spend the next hour and twenty minutes taking care of him because everyone else was incapable.

Then, everyone decided they were going to watch the sunrise together, and I went up with them because I wanted to see the sunrise AND I wanted to make sure nothing dangerous happened to any of them. Let's just say they likely needed the watch.

Holly, A, D, and I were on the roof for about an hour and a half before we came back down because D had passed out on the roof and he was freezing cold. Holly was tasked with keeping A awake, because he needed to leave for his flight by 1 and he sleeps SO hard that if he fell asleep at 8, there was no way in the world he would wake up, and since I was the only one totally sober, I was tasked with going with D to get his stuff from L's hotel room before she had to check out. Which was fine with me. Except that meant I also had to wake him up because he was practically comatose on the couch. And I knew that if I fell asleep, I wouldn't wake up to get him up.

So I stayed awake.

And so D and I went to midtown and I waited for 30 minutes for him to get his stuff, and then he came back down and said he was going to stay and talk to L for a while (they needed it, not my story to tell), so I came back by myself. D promised me he was coming back to our apartment after L had to be at the train station, so I knew I'd get to say goodbye to him.

I finally passed out at noon, waking up only to say goodbye to A, which I honestly barely remember. He and D were the only two to give me a new experience on Wednesday (nothing to worry your pretty little mind about) so I knew I'd be very sad if I couldn't say goodbye to him.

I then fell back asleep until 2:15 when I set an alarm to wake up and eat and get ready for work. So basically two hours of sleep after being up all night and only getting 4.5 hours of sleep the night before.

David arrived shortly after, and we all went to get lunch. Now, I don't know if sleep deprivation really can make you nauseous, but all I know is that I didn't drink at all last night, and I ate two bites of my wrap and threw up.

I tried to force myself to go to work, but I just kept getting more nauseous so it just wasn't going to happen. Thank the Lord that one of the sweet managers answered the phone.

So we just hung out for a couple more hours until finally, they had to leave. The roommate, Holly, and I all walked them out and waited for them to hail a cab. There were a plethora of hugs and kisses and "I love you"s until the very second the cab pulled off.

CL. I never got a good picture with D or CH this week.

I didn't want to go back to the silence of the apartment. Knowing everyone was really gone felt like such a giant letdown. So I went into Spiegel, basically my go-to place when I don't want to go home quite yet. All I did was hang out and talk for about half an hour, and it was just what I needed.

After that, I came back, expecting to collapse into a coma. You know what time I actually fell asleep? 3 am. It's like my body was so overtired it forgot how to shut down and sleep.

I knew that this week would be interesting. I never thought it would be this good. I never thought I'd miss this crazy crew so much.

But D is moving up in June. CH is moving up in August. A is trying to work things out to come. And we're working on persuading CL. So something tells me this won't be the last time we have great times together. And I am so thankful.

But you know what the thing I'm most thankful for is? It's not the new friends, or the great times. It's the fact that these four, particularly D and CL, they made me feel normal and included and like I belonged. And I really wasn't expecting that.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday, Friday

Holly refused to let me come out with them tonight for the crew's last night in the city, pulling the bitchy big sister card to get me to stay home and rest. She's probably right, no she almost certainly is, but it still hurt really badly.

Needless to say, despite the fact that I got less than five hours of sleep today between the ER and here in the recliner, after that fight and the tears, I haven't been able to sleep since.

Up until that fight though, it was a nice day. CH made a big meal of breakfast for dinner and we just had fun hanging out.

After they left and I calmed down, I watched a lot of TV to distract myself.

Overall, I still really like this week.

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