(Journals) Redemption

So, I’m sitting here on the couch of my new loft apartment looking out the window at the world going by below me while I drink my tea and write. The redemption of God is amazing.

I can truly see the work of His hands. I’ve struggled for so long. To now say the struggle is over would be facetious; I know hard times will always be here. But now I’m breathing fresh air on my own for longer times than I used to.

I feel like I’ve spent years trying to breathe. Once in a while I’d catch my breath, but most of the time I couldn’t find the oxygen. But now, now I breathe deeply for moments at a time. And when I feel like the world is strangling me once again, I can take a gulp and refill my lungs. I can sing to God, “It’s your breath in my lungs, so I pour out your praise,” and mean it. I know what it feels like to be filled with the breath of God and be so fully alive.

Here, as I sit watching the James River flow and the cars and lives of people moving quickly 7 floors below me, I know I am living a life of redemption. I know a good, good Father says I’m His. Says He’s with me. Says He loves me.

I think of all those nights I questioned God, those nights I provoked Him to anger. I think of the times I’d stop for a second and mock, “God, can you stop this? I’m doing it.”

Not taunting out of hatred, but out of hurt. Out of a mindset crying, Please, God, save me from myself.”

And I remember hearing, “I LOVE YOU! I love you! I LOVE YOU!”

And I doubted and ignored.

“I wish.” I’d think to myself. And I’d leave my lonely bed in exchange for a warm body that could love me for moment. Because I was tired of hearing a God love me from afar that I felt I couldn’t reach. I was tired of believing in someone that didn’t seem to want to save me.

But God. He has continually spoken to me, guided me, and opened doors. And here I am, sitting at peace, so content after the best weekend ever.

My parents and sisters were here, and they got to watch me play ice hockey. I’ve never been more in love with the sport than I was this weekend. Even though the games were only a sleep apart, I loved every second. I could hear the words of God again speaking, “I LOVE YOU.” And I don’t doubt.

God was speaking to me, Can’t you see? I love you. I brought you to this. I told you to play, and I gave you a love. A way to worship. A group of friends. Can’t you see my love?”

And I can. I can so see the love of God. From my summer trip to Europe to now, God gave me a new gift of love and I’ve spent an entire season unwrapping it.

Having my family here to witness it meant the world to me. Tears keep coming to my eyes when I think of it, because I’m so tangibly seeing the goodness of God and feeling His LOVE. I’m fully aware of the redemption taking place in my life through Jesus. Tonight, I am thankful.

“Praise the Lord, my soul;     all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul,     and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins     and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit     and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things     so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Psalm 103:1-5

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My White Flag

After a week of frustration in my mind, I went to Barnes and Noble to get books for the LSAT. To prepare for law school and try to make my life move in some direction other than “out of control.” I found two huge books complete with practice tests and online programs, but distracted myself in the Christian Living section in hopes of finding a book that would fix all my problems and as fast as possible.

After quickly turning away books with titles like “a woman after God’s heart” and “the praying woman,” I came across this book that was written by a former UFC fighter. Fight for the Forgotten. My kind of book.

So instead of studying for the LSAT, I found myself reading about a UFC fighter who turned from a life of addiction to a life of missions for forgotten people. Engrossed in his adventures in Africa fighting for a lost and forgotten people, my heart began to reawaken in the best way possible.

But then he wrote about his decision to submit to Christ. He wrote in such a way I could relate to; that submission in the fighting world, and in “the real world,” is a really bad thing. To submit is to lose. When you submit in a fight, you are literally saying, “I give up, I lose, I surrender, you’re better, I’m done.”

I am not a loser. In my heart, in my mind, in my physical abilities, I do not submit. Whether it’s a fight, a competition, or a bull riding experience in Mexico, I do not give up, and I do not lose. It doesn’t matter if I’m hanging completely off the bull except for one extremity, I will use all my strength to hold myself up until I win. If a ref doesn’t call something in a fight, I would die, because I would literally rather die than tap out and admit defeat.

When I read about submission in the Bible, I skip the section. I reject the idea entirely when it comes to marriage. (So don’t ask if I’m dating anyone at Christmas. Obviously not.)

So while I’m reading this book, I’m literally getting tears in my eyes about this man having to submit to Jesus. This fighter is having to willingly lose – he is choosing to submit to the Lord, and it’s breaking my heart, because I know how hard it is to surrender. And all the sudden I realize that if I’m crying for someone else about the pain of submitting, I must have my own issues there.

And it dawned on me at Barnes and Noble in the middle of the children’s section where I was hiding that I need to fully submit. I need to lose.

I need to lose to my lust. I need to lose to my addictive hunger for anything that isn’t God. I need to lose to laziness and selfishness.

These past few years I’ve tried to surrender and take on my identity in Christ without fully rejecting my other identities. In my attempt to control life a little (and ultimately, it’s a mistrust that God can and will be the best guide and director of myself), I’ve settled for a life of chaotic cycles and repetitive addiction and sin.

It’s time to tap out.

I looked for a scripture to let me back out of raising my white flag, but I couldn’t find one. Instead, I found words of Jesus in all four of the gospels that say this:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)

Deny myself. Lose my life. This isn’t an easy idea to comprehend. Singing worship songs makes it seem much better. I love songs about Jesus overcoming and being victorious. I love songs that glorify the reward and not the cost.

Someone’s got to lose. For Jesus to be the ultimate winner, someone’s got to lose. And I’m realizing that someone looks a lot like the broken parts in me. The broken parts that I’ve gone back to so many times for comfort and security. The broken parts that have gotten me through the first 23 years of my life. Need. To. Lose.

I finished the book and looked down at my LSAT study books. I no longer had any desire for that, and I only questioned, “What am I doing??” for half a second before returning those books to the shelf.

My adventurous spirit with newfound life awakened was not ready to tackle the monotony of law school in that moment. I’m not sure if I ever will be ready for that kind of life, considering my desire and love for life on the edge.

But I do know I’ve taken another new step on this journey with Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. A new step of submitting, of losing and admitting defeat. I went home to my messy room and tapped out to laziness. My clothes got put away. I tapped out to lust, and went straight to bed. When I wanted to binge eat donuts (5 donuts is totally fine, okay) I tapped out to that hunger and read scripture instead.

Of course, I’m not getting it right every time, but I’m learning and practicing and asking God to help me trust Him. And with that, I raise my white flag unafraid in the scary waters of submission.

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Here am I

I don’t know if I’ve ever given such a pure and unadulterated cry of, “lead me to the cross.” And just knowing how human I am, I’m still not sure my desperation has led me to complete purity in that cry.

However, I’m broken. It’s not the brokenness I usually feel, the one that comes after I’ve sinned and feel the weight on my shoulders. It’s not the brokenness I feel when the consequences of my actions outweigh my ability to handle my decisions. It’s not the selfish brokenness I sometimes sit in to try and make up for my desperate failings again and again.

I’m feeling a new brokenness that hits me in my core and forces me to my knees. As I am no longer able to stand surely and securely, my body bends in desperation for the things I cannot change; not of myself, but of this broken world. I am so, so broken. For my friends. For my selfish generation that uses and abuses each other, that follows a road of darkness and brings others in because we don’t want to sit in the dark alone.

Recently, I’ve found myself in situation after situation of darkness. Because it’s fun, and it feels good in the moment. It never bothered me to be used and abused. It never bothered me to consider myself worthless in my actions and how I lived my life.

But then I heard about another girl who was used and abused in the same way. And then I heard my own friends sharing about their apathetic lives, because no one gives a fuck anymore about anything. It brought me to my knees. It broke my spirit in a way I haven’t been broken before. And I thought of my friends Jamie and Kelsy (among others), who had prayed for me in my darkness. I thought of how they stood for me when I couldn’t stand for myself. I remembered how their prayers made a difference.

One night when I thought I couldn’t live life anymore, Jamie prayed in the spirit for my freedom. When I was too apathetic to care about it myself, Jamie rebuked the darkness and prayed for me to come in to the light. And I woke up the next morning without tears flooding my eyes. I woke up the next morning, unknowing of Jamie’s prayer, feeling alive again for the first time in so long.

Is it my turn now? Is this my time to use the passion and the brokenness to stand for others? I am no longer uncaring of the situations in or beyond my control. Because I know. I know how it is. I’ve been there. And I too, have not cared in the moment or the moments (days, weeks, YEARS) afterwards. But now I feel it.

And I would do anything to help others avoid this kind of pain. But I also know I can’t. I know for me to judge or say, “that’s not the way,” is empty and hypocritical at best. Especially to those who know me well, who have seen my notorious reputation flourish. Who see me continue to sin against God, when I desperately don’t want to give in to this sin.

So I’m brought to my knees. And I am just now remembering that it was only last week I read about Isaiah telling God, “here am I, send me.” And I thought what a powerful prayer that was, and I prayed myself, “here am I Lord, can you use a girl like me?” And now, the “girl like me” worships the God alone who saves. To pray in the spirit and rebuke the darkness that is trying to overtake my friends, my school, and my city. The darkness that has tried to overtake me.

The past few days I have not been able to shake this brokenness. But I will use it to pray, because that is all I can do now. Fight for the ones who can’t or don’t care enough to fight for themselves. “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” Psalm 51:7 Here am I, Lord, lead me to the cross.

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this too shall pass

I’m finally seeing the light again.

Whew.

That tunnel was long. And dark.  I honestly didn’t know if it would end.

I’m realizing things I should and shouldn’t do to keep me in the light. Alive.  Feeling like I can make it.

I’m realizing I can be free. Of all of this. Even if it takes a lifetime, it’s worth it.  It’s possible. I am okay.

And I will not lose to the darkness.

When I found out one of my Mercy sisters took her life, it broke me. And broke me.  And still breaks me I guess, as tears are welling in my eyes while I write this, even though I’m having a happy day.

When I think of my time at Mercy, I think of hope, freedom, and victory.  I think of struggles that always end in overcoming.

To think that a beautiful, strong, faithful woman I had seen fight and WIN battles in her mind, flesh, and spirit… to think she put so much effort into living, into fighting to find a way, into struggling to live after the hurt and heartache and pain she endured in life… and then just to end it.

It breaks me.

Because I know the fight. I know the pain. I know the hurt and the struggle and the darkness that tries to rob you of your life. 

And if I’m honest, I’m afraid of it.

My flesh screamed at God for days.  So many questions and not enough answers.  I didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t see anything really, except the blinding hurt of life bubbling out of myself.

It passed. That might have been the longest and darkest tunnel I’ve endured for a while. But it passed.

I wrote a note to my sad self after my first happy day in a long time. In case the sadness overwhelms me again. And this is for anyone who’s feeling the darkness of life.

“Hey beautiful one.  Yes, you.  I know you don’t feel very beautiful right now.  I know maybe you’ve done some not so beautiful things.

It’s okay, my dear self, it’s okay.  Maybe it feels like you’ll never be okay again.  I know.

It will.  This WILL pass.  I promise.

Don’t give up.  Please, dear self, don’t give up.  I’m on the other side!  I can breathe again!  Life will come to you once again.  It might take a week. It might take a month.  It might be the most agonizing time of your life.  Don’t give up.  Life and hope are coming to you.  You will feel something other than pain again.

This too shall pass. And it does. Every time.  I know you’re tired.  I know it’s a lot of back and forth.  It’s frustrating.  I know.  But you have a purpose.  You have a reason to be here. Do not break, my lovely self, do not give in to the dark.

Even when you’re broken. Even when everything around you feels uncertain, unwell, so dark you want to be swallowed by it.

You are worth more.  And, my sad self, this won’t last forever.  Before you know it the sun will shine in your heart again.

Go back to God.  Sing “restoration.”  Cry on your knees and let Him hold you again.

It’s not too late for you dear one.  It’s not over. This is not the end.  I promise you self, it will be okay.  Everything will work out.  You are loved.  You are valued.  You are worth more than you know.

I LOVE YOU SELF. YOU ARE FUNNY, SILLY, SMART, LOVELY, EXCITING, ADVENTUROUS, ATHLETIC, AND CAPABLE OF HUGE THINGS.  You are wonderful.  Keep on my dear.”

It’s not over.  The pain will pass.  God is there. I know it doesn’t feel like it all the time.  But He is there. Let Him be there for you. Let Him love you.  You will feel okay again.  Just keep on.  It’s okay if you can’t fight for life on your own. Ask someone to fight for you.

The sun will come up, and you will feel alive again.  Hold on for hope, this is not the end.

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Fully Alive : Part 2

It pains me so much to talk about eating disorders in connection to myself. I wish I could say it’s not due to shame, but it completely is. I hate the selfishness of bulimia, the vanity and insecurity that guides and destroys a body from anorexia. I hate admitting I’ve spent years as a slave to these very issues that constantly tempt my imprisonment.

Since I left Mercy (almost 5 years ago!!), I’ve used the tools that I learned to conquer the insatiable demons of hunger that ate away inside me.

I’ve also spent, longer than necessary, my time feeding the unsatisfied hunger with other comforts, sometimes grabbing at any and everything to calm the growls of my soul.

I traded addictions in effort to be free. I wanted to say, “eating disorders are in my past, it was a teenage phase, I did my time in rehab, and I am WAY past recovered.”

But it’s not true. As I’ve spent these past few weeks in Africa, I’ve realized more than ever that I am still recovering. From my struggles with bulimia and anorexia, from my struggles with my personal addictions, from the trauma of life. I am still recovering.

Being out of the country for 5 weeks has taken me away from all the remedies I usually feed myself to comfort my aching heart. The distractions, even addictions if you will, that I usually hide behind are gone.

It took two whole days of being left with myself for my journal to be completely charted with calorie intake and outtake info. It took three days of anxiety, major food restriction, counting, and controlled, charted journal entries for me to realize what I was even doing.

Recovered? How did I so quickly revert back to all out consumption of those numbers? Of the ways of the past, simply because the other comforts I had used were now gone?

The truth of how I traded addictions was right in my face. But learning to be fully alive has begun to tear at the roots of my struggles.

Being fully alive is both a challenge and a relief.  I love being fully alive, because it makes me confront the life I’ve tried so hard to smuggle down.

Being fully alive means listening to the birds sing, the hyenas howl, the children laugh – instead of listening to the anxieties in my mind.

Being fully alive means feeling the wind on my face, rushing through my hair – instead of feeling for the arms of another.

Being fully alive means that when I go on runs and start getting attacked by dirty children wanting to touch my skin and hair that is so different from theirs, I stop and get down on my knees in the dirt and hug each kid, asking them about their day in their own language and pausing to hold them close – instead of continuing to run with simply a wave.

Being fully alive means I value loving others and relationships above my workout regimen.

Being fully alive means being present in the moment instead of scheduling my future.

Being fully alive means holding three kids simultaneously while they cry, instead of sending them to their rooms for being children.

Being fully alive means looking at the strong arms that are holding those kids and thanking God I can hold all of them – instead of cursing God, wishing my arms were thinner or more defined.

Being fully alive means when I’m sad, I cry, when I’m happy, I smile, and in as many times as I can, I laugh – instead of hiding behind my phone, a boyfriend, or chocolate cake to avoid feeling or truly being.

I love being fully alive. I love feeling this very moment instead of wishing for another. I love being in the “right now” instead of stressing and hoping for graduation, a different job, a new school schedule, a different month or year or life.

I love that I am still in recovery, still in the process of healing. I love the memories that come with shame, because I love hearing the voice of God again and again deep inside my soul with the words, “as far as the east is from the west...”

I am fully alive. Completely flawed, courageously beautiful, astounded by mercy, and fully alive.

…”If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman this is – she is a sinner.” ….”Do you see this woman.. her sins, though they are many, are forgiven, for she loved much…” Luke 7:36-50

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Fully Alive : Part 1

A lot of people go to Africa either to find God or to serve Him. I came for neither, but I’ve ended up experiencing both.

It breaks my heart that God still speaks to me after all I’ve done. There is an ache panging my soul with the knowledge I’m forgiven. Not a bad ache, but a surprised ache that has me searching for more of this love I have yet to understand.

It started on my run. Running in the beautiful mountains of Africa is one gift I haven’t wasted or taken for granted. I run almost everyday, and it fill me with thankfulness and stems a desire to know where this creation has come from. A desire for the Creator.

Thoughts started coming to me throughout these runs. Memories that I used to pride myself in started flooding my mind now with shame. Flashbacks of days of hidden insecurities, vulnerability abused, and affection of men surfaced my mind with remorse. An identity and reputation that was once held highly was suddenly making me sick.

And though I haven’t been on the best terms with God lately, though I’ve wasted so much time in deep seeded rage and doubts that caused unbelief, I heard the quiet forgiveness go past my mind and far within my heart. “As far as the East is from the West…”

Forgiven.

Knowledge of forgiveness has opened a door for knowledge of love.

And I’m experiencing the reality of a love I’ve never known, a love I’ve questioned and doubted. I’m finding truth, not in blind naivety and wishful hoping, but in the present realness of life.

God is making me fully alive. Not because I’ve studied my bible every morning, or because I’m traveling with encouraging Christians (in fact, I didn’t even bring my bible, and I work for  maybe Buddhists – who are, in fact, possibly the most wonderful people I’ve ever met). But God is making me fully alive I guess just because He’s choosing to do that. Because He wants to.

And I’m saying Yes. I don’t think my ‘yes’ is out of neediness and desperation, although it’s true I am needy and desperate as a human (as a woman, as one who needs forgiveness). My ‘yes’ is out of a thankfulness and love I didn’t know still existed inside. A response, really, to what I’m experiencing of God.

It’s not all good days, and it’s not all bad days. But it’s all fully alive days, fully present days that aren’t hidden behind cell phones and selfies, unnecessary busy-ness, comfort food or relationships. It’s experiencing all; the sunshine and the rain, the joy and the sadness, the fullness and the want. Fully alive.

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Unsatisfied

It wasn’t supposed to end like this.

How many times have I told myself that? How many times have I started following a great idea and plan, only to end up completely and utterly messed up, thinking, “it was not supposed to end this way!”

How many times have I started this journey with God, full of good intentions, and fallen, hard? I restart again. Okay, I can do this. I WILL be a beautiful Christian, God fearing woman. Proverbs 31 right? LOL go ahead and start laughing now. You are not reading the words of a Proverbs 31 woman.

I’ve spent a lot of time unsatisfied. Since I was a little girl I was aware of the ache in my heart, something missing. I longed for hugs to fill me. They weren’t enough.

As I’ve grown older, the hole of unsatisfaction has only grown bigger. Wider. Deeper. Longer. I’ve tried everything to fill the ache inside, but nothing has helped. Food, drugs, and sex can only keep you happy for so long.

Eventually the food leaves and the hunger returns. Eventually you have to come down from the high, and “low” is your new normal. Eventually sex ends, and the moments of pleasure are over. Was the momentary release worth it? (Let’s be honest, sometimes it is. For the moment. But the pleasure of sin is never worth disobeying God.)

Still seeking, still searching, still empty.

I’ve heard so many testimonies of people in church saying they struggled with such and such addiction BUT THEN they met God and He satisfied that place of emptiness.

I tried to make that my story too. I had some addictions. I found Jesus. I had a real moment of repentance. And after lots of rehab and therapy, I went ahead and exchanged one addiction for another.

Recently I’ve had to confront the question, “Did I fully let Jesus come into that place of hurt, shame, heartache, and pain?” Or did I simply meet Him, want Him to love me, yet refuse to fully obey, filling the place with yet another comfort of the world?

“The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless… Christ may be “received” without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. The man is “saved”, but he is not hungry or thirsty after God. In fact, he is specifically taught to be satisfied and encouraged to be content with little.” A. W. Tozer

All this time I wanted to be satisfied and content with little. I wanted the satisfaction of God without the obedience on my part. I wanted to experience the fullness of God’s glory, without experiencing the suffering that got Him there.

Is it possible that real Christianity, real life with Christ, is really a journey of unsatisfaction? A journey of “I want MORE God. MORE OF YOU?”

Maybe we were not made to pray a prayer and be “done.”

Maybe we weren’t created to open our bibles for quiet time in the morning, and then go throughout our day the same way anyone else would. Maybe we weren’t created for a dull, meaningless, boring Christian life.

Maybe we are truly to be co-heirs with Christ like the bible says. Maybe we truly are children of God, and that adoption process isn’t only for 10 minutes of prayer each day and 2 hours on a Sunday. Maybe I really am the workmanship of God, and it is a 24/7 thing.

Does anyone else feel this?  The bible said Christ came to give us ABUNDANT life. Where are the abundantly living Christians?

Are we so stuck in the world and the busy-ness and the work that we give God a TIME in our day instead of THE ENTIRE THING?

What would life look like if we lived unsatisfied? What if we asked God for more?

I’m asking God for more. And after I ask, I’m not going to keep on with my day like nothing happened, waiting on a miracle to pop out of nowhere when I’m busy with the “other parts of my life”. I’m going to, like my pastor says, “live like God is telling the truth.” During work, during school, during meals, at the gym (like I actually go, haha). I want to live different. I want to be transformed.

What would life look like then?

It might be surprisingly satisfying to live life unsatified.

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