Wait.

My friend and I decided that we wanted to see the glory of God more often. So we did what any red-blooded Christian does: we prayed. 

We saw nothing. We experienced nothing. We didn’t know what was wrong. 

Like I said earlier, I’ve been reading through the Psalms. Today, I stumbled across Psalm 19. 

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.Psalm 19:1-3

The reality is that God reveals His glory. Each day echoes His sovereignty. 

So we made a new plan. We bought jars and nice paper and decided that each day, we would write a different way we had seen God’s glory that day. Noticing the little things should lead us to bigger things. 

My first revelation of God’s glory was deeply personal. 

A few years ago, I made a bold statement to a guy I really cared about. He didn’t respond. I made the assumption that he was just mulling things over. I found out later he never cared. 

Nine months after I initiated the conversation, we finally spoke. He was cold and cruel but I got the answers I wanted. 

Up until today, I had looked back at that time as wasted space. It never made any sense why God had allowed that to happen. 

I broke down in tears this morning in church, overwhelmed with gratitude that God had made me wait. It taught me patience. It taught me how to respect a man’s space. It taught me what it means to be a woman who operates under grace. 

That displays God’s glory pretty vividly. 

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Psalm 8

I’ve been going through the Psalms, in no particular order, and today, I rested on Psalm 8.

O LORD, our Lord,how majestic is your name in all the earth!You have set your glory above the heavens.Out of the mouth of babies and infants,you have established strength because of your foes,to still the enemy and the avenger.When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,what is man that you are mindful of him,and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,all sheep and oxen,and also the beasts of the field,the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

I used to be the type of person who went in guns-blazing. I was honest and bold to a fault. 

I told everyone what I thought. 

I was vulnerable with my time and energy.

I always told the guy how I felt. 

It wasn’t that I was brazen or cocky. I thought that God would always respond the way I thought He would. But nothing ever did work out the way I thought it would. 

I got chastised for being too honest.

The time and effort I put into things never produced fruit. 

The guy always said no.

It wasn’t until I got to this Psalm that I realized that I live paralyzed by fear. 

Because I forget God is mindful of me. 

The definition of mindful is “to be conscious or aware of something.”

God is conscious and aware of what I need, what I want. He answers prayers I don’t pray and blesses and takes away. 

He allowed people in my life who were hypercritical of me to teach me how to communicate with grace. 

He closed doors and stifed opportunities so that I would walk through the doors He willed.

Every guy who said no was a blessing in disguise. It saved me from committing to the wrong man, which for as loyal as I am, I definitely would have married the wrong man by now. 

The truth is I cannot say I serve God and accept only the good things as blessings. The bad things are meant to edify me too. I cannot live in fear of following the leading of the Holy Spirit because I am scared of what God will allow to happen in my life.  

What am I, that God should care of my comings and goings?

Enough. 

I called one of my best friends around 9:45 pm last night. Sobbing.

My heart hurt so bad that prayer wasn’t enough. I knew I needed a friend to speak truth into my life.

She listened to my laments quietly before responding.

“Jesus has got to be enough. He has to be.”

She was right.

***

A few years ago, I had a chance encounter with a woman with a background similar to mine. She was in her late 40’s, early 50’s, the wife of a church elder and a mother. She had been to counseling for the abuse she had endured and someone suggested I talked to her.

I was sharing my struggles with her when I said, “I just want to get to a place where I’m a whole person.”

She shook her head fiercely. “You won’t be whole this side of heaven. You’re just in the process of being made whole.”

She went on to say that even though it had been almost 3 decades since her abuse, she still struggled.  And she had found a man who loved her anyway. She had found someone who pointed her back to Jesus. She was a loving mother and had a successful career.

I saw what my life could be and I was relieved. Realizing that there was no pressure to be fully healed in order to have the life I wanted was the relief I needed.

***

My friend went on to tell me she reached a point where Jesus was enough. She had struggled with loneliness for such a long time when God finally asked her, Am I enough?

I sat there, listening, everything in me breaking. My heart was crushed. What if God made me wait longer? What if I just keep tripping over feelings and lost hope?

Will Jesus be enough?

***

I demanded an answer from God. I wasn’t interested in a sign or some prophetic message. I wanted Him to speak through His word. What was He doing in my life?

He showed me Genesis 32. In the story, Jacob makes his way back home when he gets word that Esau is headed his way. Jacob stole Esau’s inheritance so Jacob is sure Esau will kill him upon arrival.

 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted. – Genesis 32:11-12

Despite God’s promise, Jacob sends gifts to Esau to protect himself. Before he meets with Esau, Jacob wrestles with God and prevails. In Genesis 33, Esau greets Jacob with forgiveness and compassion. God honors the words He spoke in Jacob’s life.

Everything in me is terrified right now. I’m scared of giants I can’t see. But God is faithful.

***

I hung up the phone with my friend, her question ringing in my ears.

Is Jesus enough?

He is. He really is. He’s enough through every heartache, every disappointment, every lost dream. He is my greatest comforter. He knows me and loves me anyway. He’ll love me more than any husband or friend will.

He is enough.

Grace and other words

Sometimes, I wish I were different. I wish I were taller and thinner. I wish I had shinier hair and was more organized. I collect all the pieces I want to be and try to be them.

When I first got treatment for schizophrenia, I thought I could be whoever I wanted to be.

I could be self-composed. Organized. Proper. Unemotional.

I convinced myself for a year and a half that I was in fact the kind of girl that overflows with passion and cries over other people’s hurts. I pretended I wasn’t messy and I didn’t prefer to dress in oversized clothes because it’s just so dang comfortable.

I pretended that I didn’t hate the way God made me.

A friend told me recently that I’m one of the good ones. I’m one girl you can’t let get away. In the same day, I had someone tell me that I’m just some millennial who has to save the world. One person lifted me up and the other tore me down. I didn’t know what to do with that.

I think, for a lot of women, we’re told we’re not enough. I’m not even talking about the media. I’m talking daily life. We have friends that encourage us and others who do nothing but tell us what we’re doing wrong. And somehow, we’re stuck between self-love and self-deprecation.

It’s little wonder our Facebook statuses look like our words are shotguns and the Internet is our target.

Someone told me the other day I should  be orange, vibrant and bright. I scoffed at them. Maybe I’ll be blue, paint my words in green and laugh like pink. But most days, I’m red. I spray crimson paint and sign my name in scarlet. Red colors my tone and follows my walk. The other day, I saw I was slowly trailing yellow as I made my way around the room. I left yellow fingerprints on the door and cried yellow tears.  What do I do about red and yellow streaming liquid down my body?

I know several people who color their words with pity and shame. Well-meaning friends tell them why they’re wrong, why they’re causing problems.

They’re right. It’s just not very helpful. If it was, it would work. People would step away from the computer, dry their eyes and step forward into healing.

But it doesn’t work. They don’t stop.

They don’t need to hear they’re wrong. They need to hear how smart they are. They need to hear that you miss their laugh and their little quirks. That you miss the way they care so passionately about whatever it is they care so passionately about.

They need to know they’re loved. Wanted. Missed. They don’t need your advice or opinions.

We need your grace.

A God-shaped hole

We were driving to my house late one night. I could feel the dull ache of my heart as Alex talked about working overseas. It was a feeling I was familiar with. At some point, I had just gotten used to it.

But when I volunteered, it would fill up. For that brief amount of time, I felt whole again. Alex and I, along with a team of college students, spent many Saturdays filling food boxes, babysitting foster kids, playing with children in Mexico and wrangling a gaggle of sassy refugee children. It helped me feel okay, when I would otherwise wrestle with an ache so deep I didn’t know what to do with.

I had never told anyone that before. Until that night. I waited for Alex to say something about how I just needed Jesus. He didn’t say that. He said he felt that same ache in his heart.

I remember what it was like to fall for him, blissfully. I had never met anyone before who made me feel so connected and understood. I trusted him, respected him. I asked him for advice. I followed his judgment. I don’t follow a man unless I like him. I’m simple in that way. So when he suggested that I go on a mission trip to Ireland, I obliged. Soon, we discovered he would be going too.

I was ecstatic.

Now, I won’t lie. That trip was awful for a lot of reasons but there were moments where God counseled me through the missionary family we stayed with. I saw what my life could be. I saw this quiet, powerful life on mission. I saw dirty dishes and old clothes. We ate expired food too precious to throw out and warmed ourselves by a portable stove.

My mind goes back to the church we visited, housed in a storage unit with no electricity in the middle of nowhere.

And my heart didn’t hurt once those almost two weeks. I was doing what I was made to do.

We came back and I confessed my feelings to Alex. And he cried. He told me he loved me. He loved my heart for the gospel. He loved the passion I had for the hearts of other people. But he couldn’t be with me.

I didn’t understand. It’s been five years and I still don’t understand. Why isn’t my heart for the gospel enough? How could you love someone and not want to be with them?

Mind you, I am okay that it didn’t work out. I just have questions that will never be answered.

I never did become a missionary. God closed every door I tried to open. At some point, I thought He had taken away that ache in my heart but recently, I’ve come to realize I had just numbed it with complacency, food and shopping.

Somehow, God has to fill this hole in my heart. He did it for Alex. Someday, He’ll do it for me.

When the story changes

Ten years ago, I was fresh out of high school, ready to take on the world. I had a dream to go to business school and start a business…or a nonprofit. I wasn’t really sure. By the time I was out of high school, I had already invested three years of my life in the nonprofit sector. I had worked with sexual assault survivors, lobbied for disability rights, been invited to hear the President speak, served on a committee to promote the arts and mentored young teens.

I was trying to pay attention to what God was showing me. Everything pointed to the nonprofit sector. And business school seemed daunting and out of my element. Conversations with trusted allies later and I was on the path to social work.

Ten years into nonprofit work and I was falling apart. Women were coming in crowds to my office with stories of sexual assault. They sobbed over their experiences. The worst was the women with intellectual disabilities who would describe their rapes in detail and shake because they couldn’t understand what had happened to them.

There were girls who were suicidal and women who did not believe they were worth being loved by a man. I was not a counselor in any sense of the word. I was ill-equipped to handle the grief and loss being thrown at me.

I was seeing a counselor myself at the time who, after months of listening to me wail about my life, suggested that I find a different profession.

I was indignant. My identity was wrapped in social work. I cared so much. The nonprofit world needed more of people like me.

But eventually, I quit. I searched for jobs in other fields. But God said no. He brought me back to the nonprofit world. I was grateful for it. The work suited me. For a while anyway.

Have you ever found a beautiful dress that was in your size but still didn’t fit right? I love online consignment stores and recently, I bought this dress that was in my size. But when I tried it on, it was really hard to put it on. The fabric didn’t stretch at all; the zipper split several times; it was itchy and a little too hot. It fit eventually but when I looked in the mirror, it wasn’t the most attractive thing I’ve worn. But I was stubborn. I had bought this dress, in my size, and I was going to wear it all day.

I didn’t feel pretty.

I didn’t feel ugly.

I just felt like another dress would be better.

Sometimes, I feel that’s how nonprofit work looks on me. Like it fits but there’s other work that would look better.

I could do this work for the rest of my life and it would feel like wearing that dress. It fits but that doesn’t make it right for me.

When I had this dream for a business, I actually wanted to get into fashion. Not designing clothes because I can’t draw to save my life but I wanted to be a personal stylist/shopper. Especially for women with disabilities. Depending on the type of disability you have, clothes can be tricky. Fabric can be tricky. I have multiple disabilities so I’ve had to play around with clothes for a while. I always feel a little shallow when I say this but I actually love fashion and clothes a lot. I think it’s important to be as comfortable as possible while still looking good. Especially when you have a disability, comfort is everything.

When I first found out I might have cancer, I looked at my life and was like, what the heck am I doing?! My life has been going nowhere for quite some time and it’s because I’ve been too scared to rock the boat. All of the sudden, I was very clear about what I wanted. Marriage, a family and a job where I could have a lot of fun. But with a possible cancer diagnosis looming over my head, I felt immobile to move forward.

And then I found out I don’t have cancer.

I get to take this epiphany and run with it.

“‘Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.”
Jeremiah 18:1-4
I don’t know what I’m being shaped into becoming but I’m excited to find out.
Photo credit: Robert Linder

 

The First Kiss

So I’m still waiting on finding out if I have breast cancer or not but in the meantime, it’s been interesting to see what things have come up for me.

Of all my biggest regrets, it’s been my dating life. I’ve had one relationship that lasted eight months but the rest have been a series of first and second dates. I’ve never dated anyone I’ve been super passionate about.

I’ve been in love once with a guy that I didn’t date. He said he loved me too and hoped that I would meet someone that loved me as much as he did. He just wasn’t ready to date and by the time he was, he didn’t want me.

Sometimes, I wonder if he was full of it. I say yes. I hate to admit it but I used to put up with an obscene amount of bullcrap. The more I have learned to love myself, the less crap I tolerate.

So I’ve dated a lot but I haven’t dated well. The one thing people really don’t know about me is that despite the fact that I dated someone for eight months, I have never kissed anyone.

Never.

I’ve never even held hands with anyone.

My longest relationship was with someone who was not affectionate.

Before last week, I hadn’t told anyone that before. I’ve been really ashamed.

Here’s the thing: I never intended to wait to kiss someone. Before you start in with how honorable it is that I’ve waited, know that it wasn’t on purpose.

And I was doing okay with it until it hit me that I could die before I get a chance to be loved by someone. I wasn’t okay with that.

My married friends have all told me the same thing. They tell me how lucky I am that it hasn’t happened yet. They say I’ll be grateful if the only man I kiss is my husband. They told me that being affectionate with other men can lead you to feel less satisfied when you get married.

But is it awful that I don’t care? I feel like an alien. I am almost thirty and I’ve never held hands with someone. What if I die before that happens?

I know. I know. I know. Christ’s love needs to be enough. Heaven needs to be enough. But is it terrible that I still want to experience romantic love before I die?

Someone told me recently that I should desire Christ alone and that I should disregard my desire for marriage. I think there’s this sentiment among Christians that in order to be Godly, you must forsake the desires of your heart. I disagree with that. I actually think that’s a very Buddhist mentality, this idea of releasing your desires. I believe it’s possible to have a hunger for things but at the same time, seek God first. And I think it’s a balancing act. I think both the desires of your heart and your love for Christ can coexist.

I think it’s important to grieve heartache and rejection, grieve the life you don’t get to have. Just don’t stay there. I said in a recent blog post that I used to ask people their love stories and how I saw recurring themes. When people suffer real rejection, a lot of times God has already opened another door. You’re just not paying attention. Stop beating down a closed door expecting that if you knock hard enough, it’ll open. That rarely happens.

I don’t know what’s next for me but I know things usually become darkest right before a breakthrough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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