Marriage.

I’m going through Ephesians with my community group. For the bible enthusiast, Ephesians is the book on marriage.

For a few years, marriage was my biggest obsession. It was all I thought of, all I wanted. Every guy I was attracted to held the potential for marriage. I dated obsessively and every rejection felt like the end of the world.

But something changed about 4 months ago.

I developed feelings for someone.

I wasn’t obsessive or pushy. I didn’t fantasize about marrying him. I didn’t change my personality or try to impress him. I was just myself. I rested in God and let everything run its course.

My friends said that I was different this time. They were hopeful things would work out.

And of course, it didn’t. It’s life.

Somewhere along the way, this idol I had about marriage was gone.

A friend of mine lost her mother a few years ago. She and I had walked through various boys and marriage obsessions. While she was grieving her loss, she understandably yearned for her husband. It was during this time that she realized that Jesus needed to be enough. And He was.

Her husband came a month later.

I heard this story and questioned whether or not I would ever get there.

Because everyone mentions how resilient I am. (Side note: Expect people to say that when you have a disability ALL THE TIME.) But the reality is that while I have barreled through hard times, I have cried out for a husband. I have told God how much better my life would be with a husband. I have never been satisfied.

Until now.

I’m actually going through tough times right now financially. God has been super awesome in providing me with a service dog but the dog needs more training than what I can provide. It looks like there might be a light at the end of the tunnel but until then, I’m raising (and failing at it) money for the dog’s training.

In the midst of that, I got hit with some financial blows. In the past, I would have screamed at God and yearned for a husband for help.

Not this time. No, this time I know God will provide. I have no idea how but He will. And for the first time, I’m not looking for a relationship to solve my problems.

If God gives me a husband, that’s His glory. And if He never does, that’s His wisdom.

I was listening to my single friends obsess over marriage and say all the things I have said to myself for the last four years. And I realized… I’m not saying those things anymore.

Oh dang, I’m finally here. I’ve arrived. I’m free.

I don’t need to get married to be happy or complete. Jesus is enough.

Thank God. Literally.

***

In case you’re interested, I am semi-desperately raising money for this amazing dog. If you would like to help, you have two opportunities:

You can donate here:

http://www.gofundme.com/cheermonaon

OR

An awesome friend of mine designed a t-shirt:

Teespring.com/mona-the-service-dog

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Hustle.

Many of my readers know me personally. Many do not.

For those of you who know me, you would probably describe me as someone who does a lot of stuff.

You would be correct.

I’m one of those people that does a lot of different activities but never really finishes anything.

Towards the end of last year, I started to realize that there was something very wrong with the way I was living. I was trying to find my purpose in all these different areas and none of it was going very well.

***

I used to follow this blog where the author talked about purpose. He purposed that in order to know your purpose in life, you need to go back to your early years. Like the earliest year you can think of. What did you want to be?

I ran through the years as fast as I could. Writer. Actress. Zoo keeper.

I got to about age 3 when I remembered.

I wanted to be a church. A literal church. I wanted potlucks and community. I wanted stained glass windows and teachings on Sunday. When I was young, my mom took me to this small church. It was old, with dull paint and harsh lights. It was wonderful.

When I got older, I ditched children’s church and went to the adult service with my parents. (For a season, my family went to church.) I took notes in my little journal and tithed change out of my coin purse.

I loved church. It was my favorite place in the world.

***

Recently, I was chatting with friends and we all came to the conclusion that purpose, in its truest sense, is actually pretty painful. It’s a deep burden.

If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you know how deep my desire is to plant a church. You also know that despite my love for the church, I have endured quite a bit of suffering when it comes to the church. If this is my purpose, Satan has done everything in his power to steer me away from it.

But I have a tenacious spirit and a conviction on my heart.

3 weeks ago, I was sitting in my car, wrestling with God, when I finally let go. I said I was done fighting with Him.

My purpose became clear.

I’m supposed to plant a church.

I don’t know how that’s supposed to happen but all I know is that it will.

If you read my earlier blog posts, you know how hard I have struggled to be loved by God. Somehow, ceasing to wrestle with God has allowed me to trust that He loves me.

It’s given me the freedom to make sound choices. Say no to things that don’t matter.

It might take 20 or 30 years but I will plant that church.

2017 was a year of rest. It was a year of play and fun. 2018… It’s time to hustle.

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. 

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.