Tuesday, July 30, 2013

We are all human disasters.

I dislike the idea that the man is ALWAYS expected to be the spiritual leader in a relationship.

In my experience, and after prayer and discussion with my wise mother, this expectation has not been the case.
Sometimes, I think God calls women to be in that spiritual leader position for whatever reason...a reason beyond my human understanding. I think we too easily cover up non-issues that might happen in relationships with scripture. But should I seriously not date a guy because he's not my spiritual leader, even though I feel that God has called me to be the leader? Am I a bad Christian for dating someone who is less "christian" than me? Or can I use my relationship with God to be a good influence on the guy?  Are we not called to "go into all the world and preach the gospel?" (Did I just cover up a relationship using scripture? youbetcha.) What if you're the only "Jesus" that guy encounters that day? Obviously, that doesn't mean you HAVE to date him if you're not into him, but be mindful of your words and actions. Which everyone should do regardless of the situation.

I'm not saying girls should compromise their beliefs and date someone who is so far beyond what they know is good for them. And if being a strong spiritual leader is on a girl's personal "list of things my Guy must have," then go for it!! If you know that's what you NEED in order to thrive in a relationship, that's awesome! But not everyone is wired that way. And that's ok.

But I think we, as Christian women, do ourselves a disservice by expecting each other to only date a guy who fits into this "perfect" mold of "Perfect Christian Boyfriend."
Because let's remember that not everyone is perfect. Even the most Christian guys, the ones on praise teams, raising his hands in worship, and wearing TOMS, are flawed.

Newsflash: WE ARE ALL FLAWED. We're humans! 

Sometimes growth, be it spiritual, personal, or relational, has to happen. Sometimes it might be the woman who is propelling the growth. And I really don't see anything wrong with that.

I do find something wrong with adult Christian women (myself included sometimes!) putting Christian guys on some unattainable pedestal: "I could never date him. He's so much more into Jesus than I am. He's like...a SuperChristian."  "He's so outta my league! He's on the worship team!! He like...prays in front of the whole church!! He would never go for a girl like me." "I have to like...pray a bajillion times this week just to see the level he's on." Ladies, again, he's not perfect. No one is perfect. We are all human disasters who need God's grace multiple times a day. 

We are essentially idolizing these young men, and making them to be...demi-gods. And that goes against Commandment number 1: No false gods. Idolatry happens subtly, and it happens anytime we lift someone to the place where Jesus should be. That includes, but is not limited to, the hot hipster guitar player you were eyeing at Saturday night service.

It's also important to keep in mind that everyone's relationship experience will be different. There will always be something happening that you don't see on the surface. And it won't ever be perfect. 

Is this in direct defiance to some of the deepest held beliefs Christian women have? Yup. And do I have this all figured out? Absolutely not. I only have my experience.

I'm impulsive, I'm imperfect...I'm human, just like everyone else. That is why I'm so thankful for the Grace of God. I screw up on the daily, and still God's arms are open for me...for all of us...even the guys who aren't the typical spiritual leaders of a relationship.

If you agree, disagree, think I'm brilliant and/or crazy, please let me know in the comments section. I think this is an important topic that needs to be discussed. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Year One: We Made It." or "An open letter to Lando."

Dear Lando,

Phew. We did it. I have so many emotions today, but the strangest one is probably the feeling of relief. Relief that we accomplished something. We accomplished staying together...and while some people would question the validity and authenticity of our relationship based on that statement, we know something that we've only shared with those closest to us: it has been a struggle that goes far beyond the distance aspect.

If I had a dollar for every time I doubted myself in this partnership...I'd have a lot of dollars. If I had a dollar for every time I doubted you in this partnership, I'd have zero dollars. Your tenacity and optimism is to be praised and admired. I wish I had a tenth of that...but then I realize that I have 100% of you for the days when when I'm feeling 0%.

A few nights ago, I was low. Low on hope, energy, and faith. My emotional storage was at it's brink, and there you were. You lifted me out of the darkness, as you've done so many times over the last 12 months. You emptied me of my hurt, and filled me with the knowledge that you support me, even if that means eventually enduring distance again. You believed in me...but more importantly, you believed in us. 

When we first embarked on this journey, we were strangers. I had always sworn I would never date someone until they were my friend for at least a year. I sat on the couch the night we made it official, and wondered what had happened. This wasn't a part of the plan. I only wanted a showmance. But God laughed and said, "Just kidding. But the waters will be rough. I have given you both enough strength to deal with the situation at hand."

Sometimes I wish our circumstance had been different. But then I remember how much we've grown as individuals and as a couple, even though we're miles apart. I think that's the reason 91.3 miles are between us. I needed to learn about myself. I needed to learn about you over a period of time. I always forget what foods you hate, but I'm sure that will come in time.

You have this quality about you that exudes natural friendship, and support. I challenge one person to name a time that they've felt abandoned or betrayed by you. I'm going to guess no one would be able to say that about you. You're Lando. In the words of Mo: "Errybody know Lando."
Your reputation precedes you, and is a constant reminder to me of the impact you have had on other peoples' lives. You inspire me to be the best version of myself, because in the end, that's all anybody can ask of me.

You know that you are not my better or other half, and I am not your better or other half. God created us as two fully formed beings. It just so happens that when we came together, we were able to supplement each others' already fully formed personalities. I think we balance each other out quite nicely: you help me come back down to reality, and I help pull you into a world that (at this moment) only exists only in our shared dream-space.  But it's more than just fantasies of big houses with multiple man/woman caves. It runs much deeper, but that, I think, I'll leave between us.

You aren't my better half, but you help me to be a better person. And that speaks volumes. Not only to you, but to what God has done in each of us during this journey. He's transformed our lives, and we both are beginning to see a clearer plan that he's laid out for us. Will it be easy? No. We're miles away, and it's going to take a lot of prayer and discernment and mentoring on both of our parts. But I have no doubt that more we delight in him, the more he will show us blessings and favor. (That's so preachy of me...but true!)

I look forward to growing with you, and seeing where this journey is going to take us next.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Words on pages.

No intro today, I'm just going to launch into my BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

A few years ago, I had the idea of writing my life story. I have unique circumstances, amazing friends, and I'm in theatre; Could make for an interesting read, right? Last year I started writing snippets down of things I'd like to include in my "memoirs." (Thanks, Tim for planting THAT idea in my head...) Some of them were just events that were happening at the time (remember that time I directed and choreographed a full-length musical? yeah), and a few things from my childhood.

My mom has always wondered if I was going to document my adoption story, and I think that's a great idea. Another friend asked if I would think about co-writing a book with my mom about how a white mother can be educated on how to deal with black hair. My response: "I could go on for DAYS about that topic...maybe!"

But it wasn't until yesterday, as there were crazy things happening on a status I posted that I was reminded of a weekend in college that traumatized me to the core. It was then that I decided:

I'm going to write a book. 

Yup. A book.  

I have no idea why, I have no clue how to start, I have other things I should be doing, but I'm going do this anyway.

So this is where you come in. If you have anything you want me to include, or questions/situations I should address in this book, please please please suggest them to me! I can promise you that some of what will be written in my book will be questioned by people, but ultimately, I want to write about things that will interest my family, friends (internet and real life!) and blog followers. I'd also ask for your positive support, prayers, and fun things (bubbles, water balloons, surprise trips to Starbucks, etc...) as I partake on this scary journey.

There is no time limit on your offerings. I can be reached here in my ask box to the right, Facebook, and on Twitter: @StarleishaG 

So. There it is.
Happy Tuesday, everyone! Deep breaths, and try to stay cool!

Monday, July 8, 2013

1 year later: How it all happened.

I'm so excited to share this story with you all. It's the nitty gritty truth of the day I met my boyfriend, and countless other people who I consider friends. Everything I say here he already knows, so don't feel upset or shocked. Also, if you know me, you won't be too surprised. 

It was hot. Too hot. I woke up sweating, and with a ball of anxiety in the pit of my stomach. "Please dear God, let today go well. I don't know what I'll do if I don't make friends..."  I honestly don't know how many times I prayed that prayer. I attempted to eat some Kashi Heart Health cereal, but it stuck to the roof of my mouth, and, honestly, it's gross. I let it get soggy as I dialed my home number. My mom picked up, and as usual sang a cheerful "Hiya!" 

I can't do this. I can't go to this meet and greet. 
You have to. You'll be fine! Did you eat breakfast?
Not really. I can't eat. I'm so nervous. What if they don't like me??
You have nothing to be nervous about! Just be your sweet self, and you'll make friends!
But what if I don't??
You will.  

We hung up, and I laid down on the bed,  listening to the hum of the air conditioner, and pretending to watch "Gilmore Girls" on the television.
Finally, I forced myself to shower and get ready. I was moving at a snail's pace, occasionally throwing myself on the floor and forcing some deep breaths. I showered, pulled on a super cute outfit, fixed my hair, and forced my contacts to be comfortable in my eyes. I checked and double checked the address, studied the GoogleMap and figured out exactly where I was going. I can walk there! All I have to do is....cross 4 lanes of traffic. No big deal. YOLO. I filled a cooler bag full of soda, chips and hummus (theatre people LOVE hummus), filled my water bottle, and headed out the door. 
Before I was out of the neighborhood, I sent this picture to my best guy friend and my sister: 
                                    Off to the meet and greet! Hopefully I make friends!! 

15 minutes later, I got to the address. I took a deep breath, wiped the sweat off my arms, walked in, up the steps and saw a living room full of pre-teens. ughhh. children. I rounded the corner and saw adults in the kitchen. Let's do this. I smiled big, and began to introduce myself. So many names. So many people. I gave my basics: my school, my hometown, how my family ended up owning a house in this town, etc...There were some girls around my age there, but I wasn't sure what I'd talk about since these people were like...actually musical theatre people. Which I decidedly was not. So I just decided to eat, because I'm good at that. 
I chatted with a woman named Margaret, and I mentioned going to school at MC. She had sent her son to jazz camp there, and as we were remarking on the beauty of the campus, a male voice said behind me: 
"I know someone who went to M.C."
 "Really?? Who??"
 "Emily H."
 "OHMYGOSH I love Emily H!!! She's the nicest!" 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the first conversation I ever had with my boyfriend. The second one came a few minutes later when I literally interrupted a conversation he and Amanda and Ellie were having about Sutton Foster. (In hindsight, that was really rude. I'm sorry guys. But also, I'm not sorry at all. ) 
The four of us moved to the deck and talked about life and theatre. This guy (I still wasn't sure of his name...it was something really weird, and I didn't want to get it wrong, so I avoided using it all together), mentioned that he had seen me walking to the party earlier. I laughed it off . "It's my workout for the day. No big deal." To be perfectly honest, I could tell this kid was kind of into me, but I couldn't wait to get home and back online to talk to this other guy I was obsessing over at the time. 

The younger kids came outside, so we decided it was time to move back indoors. We talked for a bit longer, and the two girls left, leaving me and this kid alone. He was fidgeting, and I was fighting off sleep. 
"Well, I should probably get going." He stood, and looked at me. "It was nice meeting you." 
This is the moment that still gets to me. He was leaving. He knew I had walked there. He was clearly interested in me, but he didn't offer me a ride home. I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't upset. I almost asked him if he could give me a ride, but we were practically strangers, and I thought that would be weird. But obviously, his offering me a ride would have been perfectly normal! He left, and I left shortly after. 

I got home, called my mom and told her the good news, and updated my facebook status. I saw I had a friend request. I accepted. "Lan Dando...I'm like a million percent positive that wasn't that kid's name, and his picture is of a Seuss character and, oh look...he just wrote on my wall... Hey! It was really nice meeting you today! I look forward to working on "Seussical" with you. See you next week!

A week passed, and Dando....? Lan.....do? What WAS this kid's name?!, had been away at a conference. He finally came back, and we avoided each other. We only talked online, and then we wouldn't say anything during rehearsals. 
On July 15, 2012, I posted an article from RELEVANT Magazine called 10 Summer Date Ideas which is a list of fun things to do. He commented on the link and said he knew someone who would like to do "many of them" with me. 
I think we all know what happened next. 
For our first date, we went mini golfing, and got Creamery ice cream.11.25 months later, that's the only thing on that list that we've accomplished, but that leaves room for more fun things to do. 

It's important to note here that I had no intention of dating this guy. I told several of my friends that I just wanted to have a summer fling. I'd never had one before, and I was finally living on my own in a small city, and there was a guy who was interested. Goodbye to the days of wanting a long-term commitment, and hello showmance! 

God's hilarious, isn't He? 

As I look back over the last year, I'm thankful for all the friends I've made from my experience in Seussical, and through Lando. It's been a year of new friends of all different types. 
I've learned much more than I anticipated: Life as a fraternity girlfriend, maintaining patience during a long distance relationship, and loving someone no matter where they are in life. 
Have things been perfect? No. 
Have we almost called it quits? Multiple times, actually. 
Would I trade all of the valley moments for consistent mountaintop experiences? No. It's at the low points where we grow the most. 

So even though today is just the anniversary of when we first met, not started dating, I wanted to share the experience with you all, even though some of you were lucky enough to experience it with us. Special thanks to Rick G. for suggesting that Marcy call Lando and ask him to be in the show. Marcy, for listening to Rick.  Kat & Michael for hosting the meet and greet, and everyone else who saw the whole thing going in a great direction, and nurtured the relationship from day one. 

Lando says: "I just wanted to sincerely thank all of Star's new friends, my new friends, and and our mutual friends for your love, support, and prayers for the last year. We are so grateful to have you all in our lives." 

I second his sentiments, and would add that are both so excited to see what God has in store for our future,
and we are excited to have you by our sides. 
Onward with phase two!!  

Photo by Lois Abdelmalek

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Nomadic Life

Happy Tuesday, and wow, Happy July! It's crazy that it's July already! I'm super excited about July for a number of reasons:
1. Lots of Penn State friends are coming back to town (State College) for Fourth Fest and Arts Fest! I'm mentally preparing myself for lots of food and merriment and shenanigans!
2. New York City trip! My boyfriend is taking me to the City this coming Saturday, and there's a lot of secretive things happening. He keeps saying "don't ask questions." So I can't wait to see what he has up his sleeves.
3. Anniversary Month. It's been almost a year since I had my first conversation with my boyfriend; and countless other people I now consider close friends. (The official "first conversation" date is the 8th!!)  So. Let's just say.....I'm anticipatory.
4. Vacation Bible School! I haven't been to VBS in YEARS and this year I co-wrote opening skits with a friend that we get to perform at the beginning of VBS every night. Stoked.

Anyway, other than those four things, July is going to be a typical moth...spending time with my family, and doing what I do best: Be a Nomad. Here are some things I've learned about being a nomad over the last [almost] year--

Nomadic life is easy. Sometimes when I return home, I don't even unpack my suitcases. Of course my laundry gets done, but otherwise, things are left for the next trip. It just makes life a lot easier, you know? Why unpack something you're going to repack in 5-8 days? No time for that mess. Just leave it all in the bags!

Nomadic life is stressful. No matter how cool it is to be house-hopping, I still live with my parents, and they are still working full time. That means, sometimes I'm ready to leave home way before they are, and sometimes, they're ready to leave without me. It's fun, and we always have good times in the car. And I think I've finally gotten to the point where I'm so excited to get going every Friday that I don't put off packing until the last minute. (Is that called maturity? ew.)

Nomadic life ruins plans. My boyfriend and I decided to do Surprise Date Night. Because usually, we just make plans spontaneously and occasionally default on them for various reasons. One Friday, there was a lot of work to be done before my family and I left the house, but my boyfriend had already planned our Surprise Date Night for that evening. Whoops. We had to reschedule because sometimes you have to help out with the chores. (He took me mini golfing in the freezing cold to re-create our first date! Fastest round of mini golf ever.)

Nomadic life makes the long-distance relationship easier to manage. I am so thankful to my grandparents for their purchase of this house in small town PA that's only 15 minutes away from my boyfriend. No more words needed.

Nomadic life is easy to schedule. I'm bad with planners. I got a Downton Abbey Engagement Calendar  for Christmas, and I love it! It's been so helpful, and the pictures are great! I've consulted it a lot, and it helps me when I have to tell people when I'm available, or not. I have a handful of friends, all of whom I've met in the last year. (Pre-Nomadic Life.) Unfortunately, have I spent a lot of time with them? Kinda sorta. And it's fun when we do get together. But a group of us have been trying to get together for MONTHS and I'm the hold up. They are sweet enough to wait for me to come home, but not everyone is, and that leads to:

Nomadic life has left me partially friend-less. It's not intentional. I don't say "oh so and so wants to hang out, I gotta skip town." No. It's literally a planning thing. I've been scheduled to be away/busy/out of town for a reason. Not just to avoid you. I'm sorry you feel abandoned. But this is my life now. I'm destined to be a Nomad. And I like it.

Nomadic life confuses me. You know that saying "Home is where the heart is." ? You know the variations, I'm sure: "Home is wherever I'm with you." "Home is where my bunch of crazies are." A good friend said it really well. "Where I was born and where I'm living isn't home.It's like home is everywhere and nowhere. And that's beautiful and scary all at the same time."

They say "the heart" is wherever you long to be. But as a Nomad, I long to be everywhere. So, really my heart is everywhere. It's in this sleepy little town 4.6 miles east of The Pennsylvania State University. It's in State College. It's at home, with my parents, where I grew up with my cats and my dog, and the gorgeous farmland and smell of cow manure. It's in Lancaster County, where my life has been changed countless times. It's on any stage I've ever stepped foot on, and every stage I have yet to grace.

Would I trade these mixed feelings for a life of mental peace? Nope.
Would I trade Nomadic life for a sense of consistency? No. Spontaneity is what makes my life beautiful.  Being everywhere and nowhere all at once is how I'm choosing to live.

Won't you join me? I'll pick you up so we can journey together.