A Love Given Freely

I spent a lot of my time hustling for love. I could write a book full of ways that I have tried to earn love. It would be a very bad book, though. You would read it and cringe. Here is a small sample of ways I have attempted to earn love, but read these at your own risk. I will not be held responsible for any vomiting or nightmares.

  • I sang “You Belong With Me” to a boy who already had a girlfriend. One that I was friends with.
  • I took ballroom dancing lessons in case a boy asked me to dance in Middle School.
  • I took tennis lessons for a boy that wasn’t allowed to hug me.
  • I started drinking coffee black to impress boys in college. (So brave!)

I have done hundreds of awkward, weird things to earn love. I still know a lot of people who are trying to earn love like me. A lot of you are incredible. You are usually beautiful, funny, and completely worthy of love.

I thought that maybe my problem was that I needed to get married so that I could always have someone to love me. Or maybe I needed a boyfriend so that people would know how likable I was. Or maybe I needed more friends so that people could pay more attention to me. I sometimes thought maybe, I just wasn’t worthy of love.

 

But there was always a flaw in these theories: Jesus. 

I had heard one thousand times that Jesus loved me deeply. That He was willing to die for me. That He chose me before anyone I knew was born.

But for some reason, that love never felt the way I wanted love to feel.

Did you catch that? If you did I am impressed, because it took me 21 years. That love never felt the way I wanted love to feel because love – true love, from the creator of love Himself – is not a feeling. 

It is a choice that spurs us to make similar choices. It all comes from one place. There was one model we should follow: God’s love for us. It wasn’t a love we had to ask for. It was a love given freely.

The key to being loved isn’t saying please, it’s saying thank you.

It’s recognizing that when we pour love into others, it is because God has filled our cups. It’s knowing that love isn’t ours to keep. It’s not a feeling we find. It’s a choice that chases us down for thousands of years until we are brought back home.

Now when I “feel loved”, I feel gratitude, joy, patient, kind – all of the things I was told that love could be. I don’t want to keep love for myself, I want to share it with those who don’t have enough. This is because when we know God’s love, we are able to become that same love. We are able to step into choosing Him and His people over ourselves. Love wasn’t cheap, but it is given freely.

 

What are you doing with your life?

So I graduated from college. You know what that means… I get asked 278,342 times a day what I am doing with my life.

Every time I get asked that I want to turn to sand and blow away in the wind. Or shake the person and ask them what they are doing with their life. I want to say several different things like, “having this conversation with you” or “if I told you I would have to kill you.”

But the reality is that right now, I work in retail. At first, I was really ashamed. It isn’t fair to be ashamed of my job, great people – thousands of people, have jobs exactly like mine. When the question inevitably pops up in conversation, I would feel like I was letting the interviewer down, even if they were a complete stranger. I felt like everyone expected me to do something really great right away. After all, not everyone graduates from college at 20. Surely, if anyone was going to start off as a CEO right away it would be me.

Friends, family, that right there is some nasty, toxic pride. In a way, I think God very intentionally placed me where I am right now because if I am being honest, I have let people judge me by my performance since day one. It worked for a long time, too. You could ask me about what was going on or how I was and I could provide a three minute explanation of how busy I was with so many great things.

I was doing great things, but too often, for the wrong reason.

I thought the only way that I could serve God was if I did everything, perfectly. Jesus would have gotten the internship with the non-profit that saves babies right? He would have immediately been promoted to Director? He would still sleep eight hours and get coffee with his friends and followed the Whole 30?

First of all, no.

True, Jesus did amazing things, but his life wasn’t so extraordinary that the kings felt inferior compared to his resumé. (He was also the perfect son of God and I am the daughter of a navy nuke guy.) Jesus served God by the way he lived. 

He took time for people, he prayed, he taught, he celebrated others, he made time for family and disciples. He did not compare himself, brag about miracles, turn loving others into a start-up with a cool logo, forget about his Father.

Jesus and his disciples model a life that reminds us that fisherman or tax collector, the most important thing about your life is how you are living it. That is something I missed in my busy-all-star-greatness. I am not saying that I was an all-together garbage person the past three years, but there was an undue anxiety to prove myself as a worthy servant of Christ.

Jarod Noel said at the Focus conference when we humble ourselves in our communities, we are able to focus on God’s will being done instead of whether or not God is using us. Humility doesn’t keep score. Along that same line, Tim Keller said in Every Good Endeavor, understanding work as being the hands and feet of Jesus “elevates the purpose of work from making a living to loving our neighbor and at the same time releases us from the crushing burden of working primarily to prove ourselves.”

Do I need to say that again? Understanding work as being the hands and feet of Jesus releases us from the crushing burden of working primarily to prove ourselves. 

When we frame work that way, it becomes clear that every detail of our ordinary lives adds up, and should ultimately paint a much bigger picture. Work proves that Jesus loves our neighbor, not that we can do great things. We then have the opportunity to make room in our lives for the pieces that the world may not value as much as our Creator does. Learning these lessons in my post-grad season may not have done much for my resumé, but has helped heal me and brought me a new peace I am excited to take into the next season.

I have hope that God does have a bigger plan for my life than the answers I can give you right now. I hope that He will make me a teacher and wife and aunt and mother and bridesmaid and secretary and so many other things. But through it all, it is so important that I remember the most important title I can ever adorn is “loved daughter of the Heavenly Father.” The works I carry out due to my faith in God are the most important and most valuable.

Type Two: Importance and Belonging

Hi, my name is Halle Camilleri and according to the enneagram I have a type 2 personality.

I took this test after hearing a lot about it from my friends. When I read my results I got wrecked (If you don’t know what “wrecked” means, think of having a significant emotional awakening). The first thing I read said:

  • Basic Fear: Of being unwanted, unworthy of being loved
  • Basic Desire: To feel loved

What. Have you been reading my prayer journal? It was the bottom line I had been searching for in counseling, books, prayer, you name it. To feel loved. The fear of not being worthy. My big learning experience in college was learning to love others for the purpose of loving others. Not to be loved in return. Not to be recognized as a loving person. Just to love.

Well it turns out this is an entire personality type and as I went further into my research, many of my friends and family struggle with exactly the same thing. Type two people think the most valuable way to use their time is by helping others and making them feel loved. However, it can be really difficult to accept the same love and aid from others. It is easy to be graceful to others, but hard to show yourself grace.

Type twos can be very healthy, loving, giving people. They feel validated by being needed and purposeful in a role of service. They are the “mom” of the friend group. However, the shadow side of type twos is the secret pride, self-deception, and over-involvement in the lives of others.

Bingo.

The exact flaw I had spent my entire life grappling with. The thing about my mom, my brother, my friends, that we all try so desperately to either keep hidden or justify. But there was the answer. We want to be loved, we make ourselves needed, and we can either act in humility with no strings attached or we can grow to resent those we serve when they don’t love us back in a way that helps us cope with our fear of being un-needed.

I needed a minute.

Being human is not one of my favorite attributes of myself but if there is anything I have learned over the past few years, it is that when we acknowledge our struggles and work to be vulnerable to overcome them, we can live transparently in our community. My personality requires that I question my motives. I have to watch my thought process in order to track with my emotional well-being and keep my pride in check.

Pride is dangerous. It is 100% true that everyone needs to be loved and feel like they matter. But there is a difference between belonging and feeling important. Belonging is having a place where you are loved and cared for. Being important is seeking recognition and accomplishment in order to gain a reputation for your “selflessness”. Belonging brings healing, being important causes pain and insecurity.

Love is selfless. There are no strings attached. Type two people can love people so well but we have to be aware and intentional of the tendency to replace belonging with pride. Giving isn’t about receiving. Love isn’t about being recognized.

Sleeping at Last recently released a single about the type two personality. The words have given me so much peace and better understanding about how my own heart works. I highly recommend that you take the test for yourself and do some research. Learning how you relate and validate yourself helps us to build healthy habits. I don’t have all the answers, and I promise I never will, but I can keep investigating and working to help us better understand one another.

Love and life are precious God-given gifts. I want to be able to share mine with all of you the best ways I can.

You Are Not You

I sat in the waiting room with a clip board and a pen. I checked box after box.

Strongly describes me. Does not describe me at all.

I was pouring out my heart and soul on an intake form and it felt… weird.

That kind of vulnerability in such a medical way was the first step on a long journey to discovering how mental and emotional health play a role in my life. I didn’t feel like someone who was supposed to be in therapy. I wasn’t crazy and I wasn’t going through any kind of trauma. I was just a 19 -year-old girl with a little too much on her plate and a lot of questions about her future.

Choosing to start therapy was more of a utilization of a tool than a necessary step to help prevent my imminent destruction.

And honestly, it was great. I learned a lot about myself and how I handle emotional situations. I learned about shame and blame and all that jazz. I stepped away from the process confident that I could handle the problems I had going on without the weekly meetings with my counselor.

But around the end of the school year I started to feel different. My fears and insecurities felt so big and I felt so powerless. Suddenly I wasn’t myself. Sure, I was joking around and smiling at strangers. But every action felt empty. I didn’t want to see the people I loved and I didn’t believe that they loved me. I felt like I couldn’t take the next step in my career or just function like a normal human being. I was tired. I was sad. I was not me.

As I would later discover, I have clinical depression.

It wasn’t this dramatized, glamorous thing where I just laid in bed and cried. It was me, trying to function, and feeling it wasn’t worth it. It was all those little voices saying “you’re not good enough” but instead of it being a small whisper, it became a coach with a bullhorn, ever present and working over time.

It got bad. I thought it was what the rest of my life would be like. But somehow, by the grace of God, I had the wisdom to say something and go to a doctor.

It was not an instant fix. There is no magic pill to take to make your life perfect. Sometimes it takes chemical regulation and a change in diet and conversations of vulnerability and wisdom from your mother and the liberation of saying “I am never going to be perfect and that is okay.”

But that journey is the difference between life and death and that is not an exaggeration. I am writing this not because I want to let you all know that I beat depression! My life is perfect now! Because that is not true and I am still very much in the midst of my story and it took me months before I got the courage to sit down and write this blog. I am writing this because I didn’t know that I was not alone. I didn’t know there were ways to live with depression. That there would be good days again when the darkness could be hushed and I could celebrate being alive.

I am writing this because when you are not you anymore you need to get help.

Because not only is your life worth fighting for, it is infinitely valuable. I wouldn’t wish this journey we are on for anyone, but I will say that fighting has given me so much insight into who I am and how God created me.

Even when you are wired for struggle, your life will not be absent of the blessings that God has promised to you. You can still have a future and a plan to prosper. But please. Don’t just sit idly by. Get the help that you need to feel like yourself again.

Just because you can’t put emotional and mental health in a cast and try to reset it doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a doctor. Just because you feel low doesn’t mean that you are weak or worthless. The most dangerous lie that you can believe is that things can’t change.

So be patient and take the first step on the journey. If it is a crippling weight or just a little too much on your plate, therapy, chemical regulation, and vulnerability are tools God has given us to make sure we are able to live our lives with joy and stability.

So please friends, if you are not you, fight to get your life back.

Share Your Joy, Share Your Pain

I struggled this week with the same ole weaknesses and fears. The same doubts of my worthiness. But through it all I have refused to avert my own joy.

I don’t think I ever expected to be sitting where I am right now. Not physically, I mean, I am in my bed which makes sense because it is 1:30 A.M. But emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. I never knew that my heart could be both so heavy and so light.

It’s one of those weeks where you look back and think “Am I even the same person I was seven days ago?” The answer is honestly no for me. Usually these weeks of exponential growth come after I receive a big ole yes from a job, a club, a class. That isn’t actually the case this week.

In fact, this week I have gotten a few no’s.

I sat across the table in a coffeeshop and wrestled with vulnerability and God’s timing.

I picked up a test with a grade I was not excited to see.

I sat in the car after a long day of deciding the leadership for the organization I love so much. Realizing that this would be a team I would not be a part of. That I had just replaced myself with one of these incredible leaders.

I struggled this week with the same ole weaknesses and fears. The same doubts of my worthiness.

But through it all I have refused to avert my own joy. Averting joy is an idea I learned from Brene Brown, an author who has specialized her research in shame. The idea is that whenever we approach a situation where we have to risk failure or rejection we cannot downplay our emotions, but instead we revel in the joy the opportunity presents. She writes in The Gifts of Imperfection,

“It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve learned that playing down the exciting stuff doesn’t take away the pain when it doesn’t happen. It also creates a lot of isolation. Once you’ve diminished the importance of something your friends are not likely to call and say, “I am sorry that didn’t work out. I know you were excited about it.”

With each step I am taking entering into this next phase of work, internships, stepping down from leadership, new relationships, and eventually the impending doom of whatever lies beyond graduation day, it is so important not to downplay these next phases of life. It is crucial that we invite our community into the joy and the pain that these various rejections and acceptances can bring. That isn’t easy. In fact, it is often terrifying to be honest with people about hopefulness.

This weekend I have experienced so much joy by playing a role in the engagement of two of my best friends. Sharing in their love with our community has been so inspiring. Even as I have faced rejection this week I have not walked alone. Just as they invited us into their joy, I have invited them into my struggle. The same goes for those selected for cabinet and those who weren’t. I can be so incredibly excited for those ready to take on this commitment but I can also empathize with those not selected as I get ready to watch these people form a new community that I won’t get to fully be a part of. When we have empathy for each other out of humility we have the same victories and short-comings.

But the joy I feel is not discounted by my doubt. God is not limited by my shallow vision. The community will not let me feel the highs and the lows alone. I am standing in a place I could have never chosen for myself and for that I am truly grateful.

This week I will turn 20 years old. I will get on a plane and fly to Ireland. I will welcome a new cabinet. I will love people well. I will make time to seek God’s will. I will feel every emotion and every fear and I will not allow them paralyze me.

Risk sharing your heart with your community. Risk walking with them. Risk doing life together. See the difference it makes when you share in this journey with humility.

Choose to Love

Lessons learned from Grama (and God) about Taylor Swift.

In 7th grade I was obsessed with the song “Hey Stephen” by Taylor Swift. One day, I was bopping along at my Grama’s house singing the song, as 12-year-old Halle did. The chorus was all about how you can’t help it if you fall in love with a boy and you can’t help yourself.

My Grama looked over at me as I sang and she said, “Halle, you can always help yourself. Love is a choice.”

I’ll never forget it.

Of course, at the time I didn’t understand or even come close to appreciating her words of wisdom. I was 12. All I knew were crushes and feeling helpless. Love was a feeling, not an action or a choice. I knew so little about unconditional love. I certainly knew nothing about romantic love and how that could ever be a choice. I didn’t even know how the love that Christ asked me to show to others was a choice.

But that is a lesson I have learned over the years, especially this year. That love is a choice you have to wake up every morning and make.

You have to choose to love your parents who challenge you to do more with your life than you ever thought you could. You have to choose to love your roommate even when they are having a bad day. You have to choose to love your best friend even if you’re both too busy to catch up. You have to choose to love your professor even when they keep canceling on you. You have to choose to love your acquaintance even if things between you have been weird lately. You have to choose to love that boy even when he lets you down.

But you can just as easily choose not to love. Or what kind of love you give that person. You can choose to love more or less. You can choose to love them unconditionally or to let love go when you’re hurting. But love is your choice.

Now here is the tricky part, because God calls us to love our enemies. That love is a choice. But God never called our enemy to love us back. When we choose to love others we cannot expect them to return the favor. Even if it’s our friend and not our enemy. We have to pour out our hearts without expectation of reciprocity.

You can’t love with the expectation of that same love being poured back into you. When you make that choice, you do it because God first loved you. That is how we should love. When it comes to love, we flinch first. We start out with an accepting love and go from there, not expecting anything in return.

So, you were right Grama. Love is a choice. For me, for them. I decide every morning how I am going to treat others and the attitude I’m going to have. And the feelings can fade when you understand what it truly means to love someone else. And I can always help myself.