Surrender the Brownies

YOU WILL LEAD ME BY THE RIGHT ROAD, THOUGH I MAY KNOW NOTHING ABOUT IT

Diminished… or Completed?


“It grieves me to see you so diminished.”

My dad says that sometimes, when I’m having bad days with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and I’m in too much pain to move. I understand exactly what he means. Before I got sick, I used to be able to life huge weights and carry them around, to walk for miles, and to build with him these huge creative projects. I’ve lost much of my ability to do any of that these days, lost so much potential, so much of myself. It’s a good day when, by seven P.M. or so, I’m not actively trying not to pass out as I limp to my dorm, occasionally needing the help of both my cane and a friend to keep me upright before finally collapsing into bed. I feel diminished. I feel as if everything I did and everything I was has been torn away from me, like all my strength is useless and dead. I have felt like many of my friends, especially those who have known me since before I got sick, have seen this diminishment and have run from it, unable to deal with the fact that someone who used to be identified by physical power now is identified by her lack of it. I’ve felt lonely and, yes, furious at the coldness of fate or allowance of God that let me be afflicted and diminished by this disease. I’ve begged to be healed and tried to come to terms with the fact that it might not happen. I’ve grieved the me I’ve lost.

But is this really the end? Am I really diminished as much as I’ve thought?

I am learning something, readers. I’m learning that God never takes away our strengths, only edits them to bring them closer to His strengths. Nothing good is ever lost when we lose ourselves. It’s merely having all the impurities burned off of it.

I still lift and carry, every day that my head feels too heavy for my skull and I continue to hold it upright and every day that I consent to carrying this cross forward and singing about it as I go. I still walk for miles, every day when each step feels like running a marathon and, yet, I don’t stop walking as long as I’m talking to Christ about His Via Crucis along the way (the hill of Franciscan has taught me so much about Jesus, guys!) I don’t stop building, but instead of building barns and walls, I’m building people every day that I accept God’s calling for me to be a writer and a friend and a minister to the people He’s given me. My potential isn’t lost. It’s perfected, just like these strengths have been, with all the nasty brokenness burned off of it through suffering and loss. They’ve been brought into line with what I was truly called to do.

I never lost an ounce of the strength I had. I’ve just learned what I was really given it for.

Love to all!

-A very feverish and probably babbling, but definitely sure that you needed to know this, Tani

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The Blessing Chest


Those of you who have been following me for more than a few months may have noticed I’ve been in a pretty sad place for a while. My hands are getting pretty bad, and I save them for academic writing above blogging. The blogging I do do is usually reserved for the blogs like Epic Pew and The Catholic Response, which I have made monthly commitments to. That leaves Surrender the Brownies with the dregs, the sad and personal things that I can’t put anywhere else, and the posts that are fueled more by passion than commitment.

A year ago, I posted about advent continuing past Christmas. I’ve felt like that for the whole year, the waiting for God, the anger that He hasn’t come yet. I found a lot of things to dread and kind of forgot to look for the good in bad situations. I was always worried about everything, even to the point of having panic attacks with alarming regularity. 2015 was a difficult advent year, but I’ve got a feeling that 2016 is going to finally be the year of Christmas.

Not that Christmas happens right away, of course. It’s a gradual process. So to aid in that process I’ve decided to start a blessing chest.

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How it looks on my desk right now

The idea is that, every day, I look for one blessing (at least) and, every night, I write it down to put into the chest. I’ve been doing it since I arrived here at Franciscan University on the 12th. It’s really helped me start each day happily; instead of dreading whatever bad things might happen, I look forward to finding the good things. Often, there’ll be so many during the day that I’ll have trouble picking just one to write down. I didn’t expect this at all. Yeah, bad things keep happening during the day- currently, I’m writing on a dislocated wrist (owch) after walking up a steep hill (owch) just to find that one of my favorite classes was cancelled (owch!) But I know that sometime today, I’m going to find a blessing worth writing down, something amazing and special, a gift from God. That makes every day a treasure hunt of goodness, thus the treasure chest I’m using.

This is how I’m going to find my joyful self again, and I encourage everyone else to try something similar, too. You don’t have to use a treasure chest, but do try to find one thing every day (especially on the bad days) that you can be thankful for. It’ll brighten your entire day, and that’s a gift worth having!

Love to all!

~Tani

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A New Year for New People


It’s the last day of the year, the time that I get really nostalgic about life. 2014 has really seemed to fly by in a blur, though, at the same time, I find myself very aware of change, both in the world around me and in myself. And that hasn’t even been confined to the past twelve months!

I’ve been looking back lately, reading posts from the early days of this blog. And you know what? I don’t think I know that Tani anymore. The person I was, four years ago, three years ago, heck, one year ago… is not the me I am now. And that’s a good thing. As I read back, look back to the kid I was, I see someone manipulative, but scared. Someone who didn’t think she had any worth, or could ever have it. Someone who wanted nothing more than to be loved, but was terrified that she wasn’t good enough for it. I was desperate for control of my life, which I felt was slipping away from me, with my sister going quite literally crazy and my parents not really seeming to care about me, so busy were they with her. I thought I was the only person I could possibly depend on, and that made me bitter, cynical, and even mean to anyone who I felt could shake my tenuous control of my life.

I was distant from God, I didn’t know Him, though I pretended to, and I was sick with worry that people would find that out. I didn’t pray much, and I hated Christian music with a passion, because I didn’t understand how people could be so sure that a seemingly uncaring force could really love them, or that they could love Him back. But at the same time, I wanted that feeling. I craved it, which strangely only made me hate it all the more.

Then, I got sick, and that shattered what small confidence I had in my own supremacy. Looking back, I find it almost funny that I was so utterly despondent at what now seems an irrelevant amount of pain, but it was all-consuming back then. I blamed God for it, of course, sure that my as-yet unknown illness was His fault, a punishment for my very existence. I wasn’t supposed to be alive, I was convinced, and God was just trying to wipe me out, fix what my older sister had termed the “mistake” of me being born. She said it was like the Great Flood… God had messed up when He made me, and just wanted me gone so that all the people He had meant to be there could live as they were supposed to, without me messing them up.

(Have I mentioned yet that my sister was crazy? I think it bears mentioning again. My sister, forgive the language, was batshit insane.)

Now, I’m not saying all this to garner pity from y’all, but rather to make a point to who I am, today, on December 31st, 2014. Who am I?

I’m loved.

Honestly, that’s the most all-encompassing adjective I can use to describe myself now, a word I would never, in a million years, have used to describe myself back in 2011. Broken, ugly, invisible, sinful, stupid, maybe, but never loved. Never beautiful. Never forgiven. I’m writing this, with Lincoln Brewster’s Made New playing in the background. I understand the words now. Looking back, seeing Tani from 2011 and 2012, I can see God’s hand on me the whole way, changing me and making me better so slowly I barely even noticed until now. I may have felt alone, but He was constantly putting people into my life who made me better, helped me grow, and just loved me. I felt powerful in my own strength, and He sent me loving rebukes that humbled me without breaking me down (not that I liked them much in the moment.) I felt unknown and unknowable, and He showered me with little gifts just for me, a shooting star or a song coming on the radio exactly when I needed it, that reminded me He is there and He knows me.

But at the same time, He’s telling me to finally start looking outward, to stop being the self-sufficient and self-obsessed person I was. This past year, I became a youth minister, something I would never have dreamed I would love as much as I do. It’s amazing to me now (and I don’t mean to sound proud, because it’s a really humbling thought) that I am actually teaching other people about God and His love. People started actually reading my blog, and I started writing for two others. I made great new friends, gained an awesome pastor, read good books, grew in confidence (though not in height… I shrunk again!) travelled, sang, laughed. I’m a new person. The old me? Gone. Who am I, that God would care so much?

I’m like you. Really. All of us wonder, I know, if we’re really lovable or if God really cares. We al have that nagging feeling that God won’t take care of us, and so we cling to our own strength as though it will keep us afloat, when, in reality, it’s an anchor that will drag us down. We want grand displays of God’s love, but don’t really notice that He works in the small things and with the small people.

The day that started my journey back to God was just days after I wrote that post about not feeling like I could ever love or be loved by God. It was such a normal day, until I made that pan of brownies that changed everything. And what a silly thing for God to pick! He could have sent angels or done some huge miracle, but He chose something innocuous and irrelevant to work wonders. That’s kinda how He works. You just have to be open to Him.  This new year, if you have any resolutions that you need to keep, let it be this one. Be open. Be broken. Be brought to the lowest point you can, cause that darkness and brokenness is where God starts to work at making you who you’re supposed to be, when all that you’ve made yourself has crumbled away.  His plan is so, so much better.

You’re loved.

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-Tani

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Looking Back at 2013- what happened, who’s awesome, and what I want out of next year!


Wow, this past year just flew by! Really, it’s like I blinked and it was suddenly almost 2014. It seems like I was just a little kid a few weeks, and now, I’m seven months away from being 18! Let’s break down the year, and make some lists. I do love lists.

What Happened:

  • This year, I really stepped up my prayer life and got closer to God than I would have ever dreamed possible a year ago. I can honestly say I’m a better person now than I was a year ago.
  • I went on LEAD, and made my first real friends in years. I had amazing experiences with God there, learned how to fight for purity, and threw M&Ms at my nemesis Michael. Best week of my ENTIRE LIFE!
  • I flew on a plane. I was terrified, but I loved it! 10/10, will do again!
  • I learned how to make toffee. Yum!
  • Regina Doman shared my blog. I kid thee not.
  • I drew a lot of designs.
  • I rediscovered the joys of nail polish.
  • I had a baby niece born, and she’s PERFECT.
  • Still didn’t get kissed yet.
  • Discovered Doctor Who. Love it.
  • Started public school- finished semester with 4.0 GPA and I’m on the high honors roll. Woohoo!

Who’s awesome:

  • Evelyn Anne. She is awesome.
  • Mariam. She is awesome, too.
  • My family- sisters, brothers, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are awesome.
  • Mike. Much awesomeness.
  • LEAD friends, specifically Austin, Octavia, Erika, Jenny, Jesse, Michael, Michael, Victor, Nikki, Cassie, Teresa, Patricia, Juliauna, Carla, Danielle, Samuel, Cisito, Paola, Hannah, Carmen, and Alexis. Oh wait, that’s all of them. Never mind, they’re all awesome.
  • Pope Francis. More awesomeness than is technically legal.
  • Nate. He’s an awesome dude.
  • Josh “Jaws” is pretty darned awesome.
  • Marisa and Rachel really are awesome, guys.
  • McKenzie, my unofficial Godmother, is the epitome of awesome, as is her boyfriend Joseph.
  • Sara D. is beautifully awesome.
  • Maria, Tori, Kyle, Greg, Jared, Scoot, Andrew, Angelo, JF (not even gonna try to spell his name,) Amy, Ashton, Coleen, Cera, Meara, and all my internet apologist friends are all on the most awesome people ever list.
  • My readers are awesome. You hear that? YOU’RE AWESOME!
  • And Jesus is the most AWESOME OF ALL.

What to expect next year-

  • So busy. Much work. Such school. College WOW.
  • Might start dating, if I can find a worthwhile guy. In Tucson, Arizona. Yeah, I’m not gonna find anyone. Check back in 2015 or, if I’m really realistic, 2020.
  • Less writing. My hands are slowly getting more and more painful, and it’s getting harder to type. But I’ll be around, folks!
  • I’ll probably get at least one haircut.
  • I’ll learn how to make macaroons. And maybe even creme brûlée!
  • I’ll change the blog theme.
  • I’ll learn how to braid my hair.
  • I’ll find a cowboy hat that isn’t cheezy.

Love to all! Thanks for a great year!!

-Tani

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The Bible is telling me to get over a crush. How does THAT work??


Let me start with this- I am a teenage girl. I like romance movies and Jane Austen, I like lacy tops and floaty skirts,  and most importantly: I like boys. I can’t really help it, it’s natural, but I can keep my head straight with most guys and talk with some degree of coherence.

And then, a few months ago, the unthinkable happened. I developed…

A CRUSH.

I have already spoken of codename Crush F, for Frank Churchill, so I shan’t speak of the fop again. But, suffice to say, it didn’t work out (most crushes don’t, have you noticed?) and now I’m rather sad.

I have had my share of crushes (at least 4 major ones within the past 5 years and about a dozen smaller ones.) I could name a few, but some of those people actually might visit my blog, so I won’t. Usually, getting over a crush includes lots of crying, lots of anger, lots of venting to girl friends, lots of comments on how “all men are horrible and nasty yada yada yada” which nobody actually means, and other immature coping mechanisms, ultimately ending when you get a new crush. This time, I just felt sad. See, I knew- I knew- this wasn’t the right guy. And now that he’s out of the picture, I’m not angry at him, cause I deserved better than him anyway. So here I am, ready to flirt with other guys and get a new crush so that I can move on! Cause that’s how moving on works, right?

Yeah…. no. See, a friend and I were talking after she broke up with her boyfriend. She was the happiest broken-up person I had talked to all week (amid several other heartbroken friends) and I wondered why this was. She eventually told me that she had joined a bible studies class on 1 Corinthians 7, in which St. Paul writes extensively on marriage. I looked it up, and started reading, at this stuck out to me.

“Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife.” (1 Cor. 7:27)

Dude, is Paul saying that if you aren’t dating someone, you should NOT actively be looking for a date? Cause to me, that’s exactly what he’s saying. The entire chapter talks about how a man and woman should be focused first on God, not on each other. This is a tough verse. I’m a single girl. I’m surrounded by couples being all couple-y together. The culture loudly screams that if you don’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend, you’re worthless. THAT IT SO DAMN EASY TO BELIEVE, MY GOSH, PEOPLE. I fall into it, you fall into it, guys and girls and maybe even Nates fall into it. (Hi Nate!)

Maybe the Holy Spirit is gently reminding me that I’m not ready to date yet. A lot of my posts here deal with dating and guys and the roller coaster that goes between liking a guy and not liking a guy and back again. But it’s something that I need to hear over, and over, and over again. So, people, I know I’ve usually ended such posts with the usual “you deserve better” shtick, but let’s not go out looking for that better, alright? That Better Person will eventually be lead to you, and you to them. In the meantime, the only real relationship you should pursue is one with ice cream, because ice cream isn’t going to break your heart. Ice cream understands. Oh yeah, and pray more. You and I don’t pray enough yet. So pray, and eat ice cream, and don’t date until God leads you to the right person. Got it?

Love to all!

-Tani

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God has a crush on you.


I am a very impatient person. When I want something, I want it NOW. This desire for instant gratification runs very deep in my psyche (and yes, a few of my readers may be aware of just how deep it goes. I’m an impatient Tani.)
Now, I have a crush. For the sake of anonymity, lets call this crush F. Crush F bears shocking resemblance to a book character named Frank Churchill. Look him up. He’s in Jane Austen’s “Emma.” Like Frank Churchill, F is a master at mixed signals. I mean, really, it’s infuriating! And for a Tani who is impatient, it’s doubly bad! Why can’t he just commit to either liking me or disliking me? It’s enough to drive any sane girl mad (and an already slightly insane girl absolute bonkers.) F gets close, then abruptly pulls away, then gets close again, then back away he goes.
But, has anyone ever stopped to think that this may be how God feels? God has a bit of a crush on you. No, really. When you pay attention to him, talk to him, he’s ecstatic! And when you pull away, talk to other gods (like pleasure, power, or prestige) he’s in agony. God is absolutely in love with you, he knows he’s the one who can make you happier than anyone else ever could, and he’s impatient for you to realize that! He’s the one who longs to be that shoulder to cry on, the person you tell your day to, the one who knows every hope and dream and can make them a reality.
F can’t really compare.
My blog is all about surrender. (It’s right there in the title, see?) So even though I have a crush on Frank Churchills evil twin, I’m going to surrender that, too. God wants only what is best for me. Crush F is not what’s best. What is best is letting my heart be totally, completely, recklessly abandoned to it’s creator.
So you out there, teen reader, with your crush on that really cute person who does that really cute thing oh-I-could-just-squeeze-them-they-are-so-adorable… Slow down. Give your heart to God first. Because God is longing for your heart, so that he can fill it up with good things. Let the rest happen in HIS time.
Love to all!
-Tani

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Help! I’m 16 and I haven’t found “The One!” (A Tani’s Top Five list!)


I’m surrounded by couples. Everywhere I look, my peers and my friends are pairing off, snuggling, holding hands in church, posting nauseating facebook photos, and generally behaving like sixteen-year-old newlyweds with that special someone that they didn’t even know existed a year ago. And, like every red-blooded female since the dawn of time, I too dream about what it would be like if that cute boy asked me out, or if I stumbled across “the one” while in the McDonalds parking lot. Of course, in these daydreams, he falls instantly in love with me and we ride his snow-white stallion off to his yacht where we dine on lobster and champagne and never grow old. Yay for imaginations, right?

But, in my precious moments of mental clarity, I pause, and think about what I’d really like in a guy. Things that are more important than horses or boats or fancy meals. While surrounded by relationships that will, without a doubt, fizzle out and die horribly in a few months, I’m planning for a love that will last a lifetime. So, here are my non-negotiables for Mr. “The One.”

1) Catholic!

I hear ya. Kinda a weird choice for a top quality. But I have never tried to hide my faith, and I want a guy who won’t as well. My Catholic faith is the most important thing in my life, and I want my husband to not only understand but to share in the love that I have toward my savior. I want to go to adoration with him. I want him to lead our family in prayers. I want him to be a proud and passionate papist, proclaiming his faith with zeal and joy! So, if a guy’s not a Catholic, even if he looks like Josh Friggin’ Halloway…. I won’t even date him.

Not even.

2) Courageous.

I am what I describe as a “cheerful pessimist.” My attitude to life is that yes, bad things are going to happen, but there’s still too much good in life to be sad about the bad. I cannot ever manage to feed negative emotions for longer than a few hours (though my usual time for getting over anger is about 10 minutes.) I want a guy who won’t stay angry at trivial things for long, but who will get angry over the things that are really important. I want someone who can smile even when life is hard. Who can make me and everyone else laugh, even if he doesn’t feel much like laughing himself. Who can poke fun at himself, and doesn’t take his ego too seriously. At the same time, I don’t want a sensitive wishy-washy emotional pansy, who won’t stand up for what he believes. I don’t want someone who lets me make the first move in our relationship- I want a guy who has the courage to fight for what he wants. Who has the courage to work above his own emotions and fears. That’s pretty danged attractive, in my opinion.

3) Self- Sacrificing

My dad is awesome. He wears holey socks and underwear, clothes that have been washed until they have no color left, and he eats the leftovers that nobody else wants. When he must buy new clothes, he only goes if there’s a massive sale, and even then he has pavement under his nails when we drag him in. He does this so that his family can always have the best. That’s amazing, to me, that he’d do that for us. I want a guy who puts the needs of his family above his own. Because, when you think about it, that’s kinda like what Jesus did. He sacrificed his all for the good of people who probably won’t ever fully appreciate it.

4) Creative and colorful

Down here, in Tucson, the mexican culture is everywhere. Bright colors, bright music, extreme emotions… hispanics make up most of our population, and it’s a fact that’s easy to see! Even us russians (though I’m 1/32th mexican) display colorful Oaxacan  (wuh-HAWK-an) animals and brightly stitched wall hangings in every room.

Oaxacan elephant- look at the designs!!

Though I’ll be fine if my husband isn’t a Da Vinci or a Yo Yo Ma, I need a guy who loves art and music like I do. I need a guy who likes bright colors, who can find the beauty in both a concerto and a guitar solo. I believe that God speaks to us through art and music, from all cultures and styles. I want my husband to think that too.

5) Good with Kids

Yes, at sixteen, it’s an odd thing. Most (OK, all) of my female friends are looking forward to a child-free marriage, or maybe one with two or three cute and quite kids. Me? I want a boatload of children. I want the noise and the drama and the personalities, the paint on the walls and the salt in the dressers, the sticky kisses and help with homework. My husband is going to have to be a guy who can put up with the hectic life of a big family, with the slight mess that never seems to clear up, the noise level that goes along with raising kids. Coming from a big family, I find these things familiar and almost comforting. My husband will be patient, just, and kind. He’ll know how to be a just and fair dad, who listens to his kids and can settle disputes. He’ll read books and snuggle, put up with having his hair done, change a lot of diapers, and lose a lot of sleep. But that’ll be ok, because he’ll understand that it’s all worth it in the end.

There are a few other things that are necessary, but a bit trivial to be honest. Things like I want to marry a redhead, or that he must be taller than me, or that he must like chickens. I know that a lot of you will say that this is too specific, and that it’ll be hard to find a guy like that. But I know that there’s one guy out there that God designed just for me. But, at sixteen, he’s not worth looking for. I’m not ready for marriage, which means i’m not ready for dating. And why would I want to date a guy who I know isn’t right? Yes, I have crushes on several guys. But that’s all they’ll ever be, because nobody has all of the qualities I’m looking for. Isaiah 55:2 says, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” Why should I waste my time on a relationship that, at sixteen, will go nowhere? Right now, I’m focusing on my relationship with God, who is all I need. When He decides to put someone in my life, I’ll be happy, but until then, I’m still just Daddy’s little girl.

Love to all!

-Tani

P.S… I actually don’t like lobster. OR champagne. Can we dine on cheeseburgers and cream soda instead?

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What is the biggest waste of time? (Song of the Week and a few deep thoughts!)


Sleeping. Texting. Fear. Facebook. Online chicken forums. Arguing. Add your biggest time-waster if you want, but I have a bigger one.

Complaining.

Now I’m a complainer sometimes. Dude, my body is falling apart, and it bloody well hurts! Like everyone else, I get mad, sick, or lonely. I am betrayed, I get stupid, I am a flawed human being in a flawed world. But what I so easily forget is just how good I’ve got it! You know why? Let’s take a few words from our Song of the Week.

“Should’ve been me, should’ve been us, should’ve been there hanging on a cross. All of this shame, all of these scars, should’ve been stains that were never washed!”

So, dudes, try to wrap your minds around this idea: that no matter how bad life may seem, we were the ones who were supposed to have paid the price for our sins! We should have been crucified! We should’ve ended up in hell! But thank God, we didn’t! How can any of our little pains and trials and sufferings compare to that?

So, in case you haven’t realized what song I’m talking about, the SOTW is “Should’ve Been Me,” by Citizen Way. Please go listen to it!

Love to all!

-Tani

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That horrible moment when…


…you look up dysautonomia because someone says that the symptoms you’re experiencing fit pretty well into dysautomanias description, and lo and behold, they do.

Craptastic.

Can’t say I’m all that surprised, seeing as quite a few other EDS sufferers have it, so if I did officially get it, it wouldn’t be all that weird, just more painful and a lot more annoying.

Anyway, to continue on this tangent, do you want to know what having EDS feels like? A fellow Zebra wrote a blog post about the most horrible things about having EDS, illustrated with memes, and in a very cute font too! Please go check it out!

Love to all!

-Tani

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