Love Story

Malibu Sunrise

I’d like to tell you a love story. I hope that’s okay.

(It is.)

I grew up in Church. (Yes, it’s going in that direction.)

My dad was saved as a teenager after listening to a Billy Graham sermon. I find this funny and lovely.

My mom grew up in the church where she eventually married my dad. It was the little white church where we borrowed animated Bible story VHS tapes. It’s across the street from where my grandparents, Mom, and I all went for high school and middle school. Small towns, man.

My earliest “Bridget Jones moment” happened here. When I was six years old we had a “hillbilly” day at church. This seems like a weird activity to me now, but at the time, I was totally in to it. I wore old jeans and a flannel shirt that Mom tied in the front. She pulled my hair in to pigtails and painted freckles on my already-freckled cheeks.  Apparently there was a contest for the best outfit, and I was pulled out of Sunday school because gosh! I was the winner. (Note: Sunday school mostly consisted of me watching the nursery leader apply Band-Aids in the most fascinating way; this is the only thing I remember about her.) (Will I ever figure out how she did it?)

I was escorted to the front of the sanctuary, in front of our 200(?)-person congregation. Our pastor said some grown-up words. I smiled. People chuckled. At first I just thought that it was my killer costume. I mean, I was winning a McDonalds certificate for $10. (Hello!)

But then I got the feeling I wasn’t in on the joke. The pastor felt it too. He looked down at me, and his bewildered smile dropped before his uncontrollable laughter spilled out. “Well, she looks the part,” he said into the microphone.

I looked down at myself, thinking maybe my shirt was askew, and there it was: a patch of white cloth, the size of my fist, in full, bright display. My fly was open–underwear and humiliation on display.

Anyway, back to the love story. You might be surprised to learn that church—even with experiences like the great undies show-off of 1997—wasn’t my favorite.

We moved churches when I was 7ish. At this point I hadn’t yet learned how to make friends instantly. By instantly, I mean anything less than spending four years seeing someone every day. I literally had zero friends grades K-3 because I didn’t say a word in school. Yeah.

Now, at home I said my prayers and didn’t eat until after grace, and not to brag, but I was kind of a complete rule-follower at home and in school. The name “teacher’s pet” rings a bell. (It rings a bell because that’s what they called me, in case that wasn’t clear.)

For me, my relationship with God was always about doing the right thing, about being good enough. I used to have this Precious Moments Bible with an illustration of a big-headed baby hiding under a blanket that said, “You can’t hide from God.” I think that’s how I felt really. I can’t hide doing a bad thing from God, so I better be perfect.

I got baptized when I was 16. That was an older age in the Miller family. At the time I didn’t get that my parents were letting me take the initiative. I thought it was something they orchestrated, like a birthday party. “Well, it’s about time you were baptized, Hilary. What do you want on your cake?” This conversation never popped up. Imagine that.

At this point, I read my Bible sporadically at best. I talked to God mechanically and irregularly. But most of all, I felt disconnected from God. I gave my life to Him like one buys a car. You sign the papers because it’s what you’re told, but you’re not reading the details.

There were moments, little glimpses of something more, but it was like a light I could never catch. It felt like I couldn’t quite feel God.

This is how I lived through my college years. I had faith, a small amount of faith. I did what was right, but there was a large emptiness to everything I did. Anytime I slowed down, I wondered what it was all for. I wondered if this is what God wanted me to be doing. When I asked God for direction, I showed no patience. It was like I was holding an ice cream cone on a hot day. I had to say my prayer and get an answer before any dripped down my hand.

Then I came to California. That direction was completely orchestrated by God. I’m 100% sure of that. It’s the first time I felt like God was specifically leading me.

I went to a new church. Here’s where it gets good.

But first, kind of bad.

I became anxious. You know how I talked about needing to be around people for four years before I make friends? Well, maybe for a kid whose best friends continue to be her three siblings, that’s an okay amount of time. But for a young adult living on her own in a new state, four years is too long. I felt tremendous pressure to make an impression on everyone I met. I wanted to be all of the Hilary that I could be. I wanted them to know that I was funny and (typically) smart and that my hair wasn’t usually that bad. I was still stuck on the being perfect thing.

It got a little bit better over the next two years. Please re-read the last sentence: two years. Two freaking years of doing it my way and it got “a little bit better.”

Last summer/spring, I was finishing school, and I was really digging in to church. And I was praying more and reading more and worshiping more, but there was still a bit of a disconnect.

This was also a bit of a depressing time; I was desperate for a job, trying to enjoy the time I had in California because I could end up back in Indiana, and calling my mom twice a day. I would cry on the phone with her and then call her back to say that I was actually okay and not that upset. (Though I obviously was.)

My performance, my striving to be good enough, had run out.

I was burned out.

I was bummed out.

I was tremendously guilty about being bummed out.

And then.

And then.

And then!

I can remember the afternoon it changed. Someone I knew had gotten an interview at what would be a dream job for him. After months of applying for every job ever to pop up on every job list, shady career site, and social network, it felt like I wasn’t good enough. That finally, doing things my way wasn’t working. Where was my dream interview? Where was my success and my my my my MY MY MY…

I literally fell to the floor and cried out. “Not my way, but Yours.” Over and over I prayed this prayer. I was so upset and bitter and angry and heavy and done with “a little bit better,” and suddenly—as in instantly—as in miraculously—I was overcome with God’s presence. I was filled with peace. I kept thinking of Jeremiah 29:11.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

It struck me that God has a plan for my life. It’s not that I didn’t know this before. It’s not that I didn’t have faith before. But in this moment, I was overcome by the fact that the creator of the universe had a personal, perfect-timed plan for MY life. It had NOTHING to do with how well I did anything. Not talking in school? Didn’t matter. Making friends? Didn’t matter. Making sure people know I’m not a dummy? Having an open fly? Nope.

That’s not what God cares about. (I mean, I do think that He wants me to have friends because friends are an important part of life.) God cares about my heart. He wants to be there, not to see how well I do, but to walk beside me in the fight. He wants to be my answer, my way when there seems to be no way, and my way when I could go my own way. And the whole getting “a little bit better” thing? I didn’t want to settle for that. God doesn’t want me to settle for that.

My point of view was broken apart. A new thing came. You know how in The Princess Bride when Buttercup realizes that Westley is actually saying, “I love you,” every time he says, “As you wish”? I realized that everything good in my life, that every single day, God was telling me how much He loved me, and His love is unlike anything I could have ever imagined.

I got a job, by the way. It wasn’t my favorite, but you know what? I spent most of my time listening to worship music and praying. What a gift.

What a life-changing gift. (I also got a new job, and it pretty much rocks.)

No longer am I disconnected. I feel so connected. Not only do I feel connected, but I’m an overcomer. Anxiety? It has no place here.

And that emptiness? Gone.

And the depression coupled with the guilt? No more.

I’m not saying I don’t contend with these feelings, but I am saying that I know they’re lies. I know that God LOVES me NO MATTER WHAT. It has nothing to do with my attitude or intelligence or eating habits or how well I share His message with a stranger. It has nothing to do with my character and everything to do with His.

God doesn’t just want me to strive and be okay and have an okay time. “As long as I don’t make a fool of myself, it’s fine.” God wants to be present in it all, and His presence isn’t just okay. It isn’t just anything. He wants to tear down everything I think I know about doing life and show me His own way. It’s the best, most satisfying, most beautiful way. It’s not that things are perfect. They’re not, but I’m choosing to believe in the breakthroughs that have and will come. I’m choosing to let God in on the real stuff. When I accidentally show off my underwear, I want to laugh with Him about it. (And cry with Him about it.) I want to choose His way.

How can I not fall for someone like this? Someone who loves me right where I am and sees me as more than I am and wants to be my constant, my love, my therapist, my best friend, my answer, my Father, and my Savior.

So if I look like I’m in love and seem stupidly happy, it’s because I am, okay. I so am.

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Ampersands & Such

Malibu Zuma

The other night, Rachel drove up the coast to hang out in the ‘Bu. She became so distracted and relaxed by the PCH view that she passed my apartment. Meanwhile, I lost track of time and had to frantically rinse the homemade toner out of my hair while she was parking her car. We’re quite the pair, she and I. Together, we’re like…

Tweezers & a Random Facial Hair.

Hatred & Tom Brady.

Oh my gosh, we’re like Freak the Mighty! (She’s probably the brain.)

I gave her one of my really long, lingering hugs (hair smelling included, obviously). I don’t want to brag about my creepy hugs, but if I play it right, I can make my own mom shiver.

We decided to get Lily’s burritos and take them to the beach. Burritos and the beach just go together, like…

T-shirts & Holes.

Smiles & Acne Scars. (These sound like book titles.)

We grabbed our wrapped burritos from Lily herself, and I commented on how fast it was. (It took four minutes.) (THIS IS UNHEARD OF.) She just smiled and wiped away a wisp of hair. “Summer is over. Now we get the real Malibu people… like you.” She waved us off.

Real Malibu person? Me? Aren’t real Malibu people the ones with leather skin and felt hats? Aren’t they the ones with Range Rovers and nannies? Aren’t they teenagers bringing back the nineties with a real vengence? (Scrunchies. Yeesh.)

I almost corrected Lily; I almost told her I’m not from here.I’m not of here. I don’t hold the salt and mountains in my bones! <—I don’t know either.

I’m not really from Malibu, I decided, and then I left.

My Rachel and I sat on Zuma watching the sun disappear. We talked about future dreams, about strategies to collect “secret family recipes,” and about the perfect karaoke song. (I think we need to open our own karaoke place where songs are at least seven years old and consist mainly of Spice Girls, The Cranberries, and U2’s lesser-known hits.) We made fun of the circling seagulls. We watched the surfers and a European family get yelled at by the lifeguard.

And as we ate our burritos and laughed and listened to the waves, a lovely thought flashed across my mind.

“Maybe I am a Malibu person… just a little.” Malibu and I, we go together like…

Baseball Caps & Sweat Stains.

Garlic & Everything.

Capital Letters & Ampersands.

Then a seagull stole Rachel’s ENTIRE BURRITO OUT OF HER HANDS, and we were traumatized for life.

Never Been Dated

We’ve got bigger problems than kissing, folks.

I’m going to try to be very honest about this subject. You’ve been warned.

I’m not sure I get dating.

Let me put it this way. The closest thing I have had to a date was my prom. I went with a boy from my math class who was three years older. Need I even continue?

We went in a group, and I paid for my own meal at Panera Bread. You read that correctly. I went to Panera Bread in a prom dress and paid for my own soup in a bread bowl. Ah, to be sixteen! Ah, to be familiar with the sound of crinoline sliding into a vinyl booth!

This whole prom saga ended with me telling my “date” that yes, I liked him as a friend, but no, I didn’t like him as anything more and nothing would ever change my mind. Ever. In a million years. And that I was sorry that I could never love him. Ever. In a million years. He said he understood.

Then he gave me a song he wrote about how much he loved me.

Gordon-Ramsay

Since then I’ve had a few minor crushes. The largest being on Hayden Christensen circa Episode II. (I told you I was going to be blatantly honest.)

And so, I’ve never really been on a date. I am Josie Grossie from Never Been Kissed. I even say, “culottes.”

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These are the facts, but I want to know why. Why have I never really been on a date?

Here are ten hypotheses I’ve come up with so far. Let me know if you have further insights.

1. I don’t flirt. Well, I don’t flirt well. I mean, I don’t flirt in the way most girls do. I probably flirt the way some gross boys do. Any time I think a guy is attractive I try to do some sort of impressive (awkward) physical move, like jumping off of something really tall.

If I hold back from such impressive (awkward) moves, I usually do something like pull my pants up past my waist and pretend to use a monocle or make fart noises with my mouth or just immediately start walking away from the guy.

Why haven’t I been on dates again?

2. I’m marriage material, and boys my age aren’t ready for that. (Please ask my Italian Rachel for confirmation that I repeated this phrase throughout the entirety of high school. Josie Grossie, people. Josie Grossie.)

The problem here is that there are people my age who are married, so this excuse can no longer hold up.

3. I don’t see the point of dating.

I’m not trying to condemn anyone for dating here. I just don’t really see the point. A free meal? We already saw how the Panera thing worked out.

Getting to know someone just sounds exhausting.

4. An actual line on my bucket lists (all versions) says, “Make it to 30 without having been married.” That’s right, folks. I’m holding out until my golden years.

I like being alone. I see people my age who are married who are so happy, but I’m just not ready for that yet. And since I’m not ready for marriage, I won’t date (see point #3).

5. I look like a troll, but not in a way that would appeal to LARPers.

This could be accurate, but my mom doesn’t think so. (Thank you, Mom.)

6. I’m too beautiful for men to even approach me. I’m like that smouldering celebrity who says men are too intimidated by her to ask her out.

Considering the number of unibrow jokes I have endured over the years, this is just absolutely false.

7. I could be asexual. I don’t really have that many crushes. Maybe I’ll join a nunnery.

But wait…

**cue shirtless picture of Aaron Taylor Johnson that I could not, in good conscience, actually post**

Wrong. Not asexual. No nunneries.

8. Two weeks ago, when the drive-thru boy (child?) asked for my number, I said, “Uhhhh no.” Then he said I made him feel like a creepy drive-thru man, and I said, “Yeah.” Then he gave me his number on my receipt.

Not sure what this has to do with why I haven’t been on a date, but it’s a pretty funny true story, right? It’s also recent evidence that I am not without a bit of womanly charm (at least if you look at me through my driver’s side window).

I guess it also made me feel a little bit good.

Cosmo-Kramer-Laughing-in-Car-SeinfeldBut still, no dates.

9. I believe in true love.

This could be a fundamental dating hiccup, actually. Believing this means I usually go ahead and pick my wedgie in front of the cute guy in the supermarket. “He’s cute, but eh, he’s not ‘the one.'” Resume tasteful picking.

(“The one” is away, turning down a modeling career to backpack across Europe. Obviously.)

10. God has really protected me.

I think this is absolutely true. I have MANY friends with broken hearts, and it looks… rough. I also have a wincy bit of a miniscule tendency to go whole-hog crazy over things that I like, and I don’t need to be throwing that affection from person to person all willy-nilly.

I suppose if the right boy came along, I wouldn’t purposefully show him the door, but I’m also not inviting him in, ya know?

Bonus #11: I’ve never asked anyone out. It feels very necessary to state the obvious here.

CONCLUSION: I just don’t get this dating thing or why I don’t fit into it. Oh, well. Maybe I need to shout: “I’M NOT JOSIE GROSSIE ANYMORE!” or maybe I just need to work on my flirting game (i.e. look for taller things to jump off) or maybe the world needs to know that non-daters aren’t entirely off their rockers.

Off Their Rockers.

Betty White.

betty-white-valentine-etsy-photo-250x250Happy Valentine’s Day!