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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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.

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

 

That one time.

So I’ve been working through some significant church wounds and last night, I was hit with an old memory.

Most people know that I’m the type of girl that makes the first move. I’ve always tried to make it really easy for the guy. I can handle a gentle no. Rejection is a part of life. What I can’t handle is what happened two years ago.

I had been attending this church for a few months, making friends, getting settled. My community group leader was someone I had known for about seven years. He seemed like a stable guy, level-headed. He seemed to value people and had a gentle heart.

I started to develop feelings for him. Usually when this happens, I make a move pretty quickly. I like to know soon if things are going to go anywhere.

So I told him I liked him. If I’m honest, I fully expected a no. I just wanted to be sure.

He didn’t say no.

He asked me to leave the community group. He said he couldn’t lead effectively knowing that there was a girl in the group that liked him.

I was taken aback. I thought that was a really extreme way of responding to my feelings. I went to the pastors, fully expecting them to say it was wrong.

They didn’t say that.

They said I needed to leave the community group. He was a leader and they said that I had made him uncomfortable. The lead pastor said that they needed to look for the interests of the leader.

I had been making friends in the community group. I was finding my place in the church and suddenly, because I had been honest about my feelings, I found myself kicked out of my community group.

It shook me. I never imagined that something like that could happen. I’ve always been really upfront about how I feel but I’ve realized that experience still has me shaken up. I don’t think I can make the first move anymore. I make a big talk about female empowerment and initiating with a guy but what happens if he treats me like that again? With that other guy, I could have never suspected that he would behave that way. And for a church to support that kind of response, what’s to say that won’t happen again? Every church comes across healthy until they’re backed into a corner.

I love my life. I don’t want to risk everything falling apart because I put myself out there again. That leader eventually had me removed from the church. He was vindictive and cruel. And it all started because I told him I liked him. He was someone I didn’t recognize and I haven’t really trusted my perception of people since.

I guess I’m just waiting for a guy to take the pressure off me. Trust me, if I spend time with you, talk to you, ask questions about your life or your past, I like you. It’s really not that complicated.

Faith

I knew a woman once who told me this amazing story upon our first meeting.

She and her husband had two children and were living in California when they heard of a ministry opportunity to serve in a Muslim country. In order to pay for this opportunity, they would have to sell everything they owned and relocate to this country. So they walked in obedience. They had a plan; they were sure of what God would do.

It was not until they had sold everything they owned that they discovered that the ministry organization only wanted the husband for the first year of ministry. So he went to this country and the wife, along with her two children moved in with family in Arizona. The plan became that they would join the husband in a year. It was during this waiting period that I met this woman.

She was a breath of fresh air as she told me this story. She was sure that God wanted her family to serve in this ministry. She did not mention until years later that she was struggling financially, was without the support of her husband and sleeping on couches with her children. Her family never made it to this country and her husband eventually returned back to the States.

It was years later that she told me she would never make a mistake like that again. She had acted in faith and put her family and marriage in jeopardy. She projected this fear on me repeatedly, as I struggled to make decisions. And I fought her every step of the way. Something was off, it seemed wrong.

She hadn’t acted in faith by selling her possessions for this ministry. There was nothing faithful about what she had done. She had done something with the expectation that she knew what would happen and when it turned out she was wrong, she concluded that she had been misguided. And she was right. By assuming she knew what God would do, she placed her faith in her understanding of the situation, not God. If she had sold her possessions without expectations of a particular return, she would have been acting in humility.

*On a side note for my readers, it is never biblical to sell all your possessions without first making sure you have enough to live on. God does not ask foolish things of us.*

I’ve been thinking about that story a lot lately. As I’ve been learning more about faith, I’ve been contemplating what it means to look at the assurance of things unseen. What it means to act in faith.

It means saying you’re sorry without expecting forgiveness.

It looks like forgiving even when reconciliation isn’t a possibility.

It might be joining a church in spite of the fear that you’ll just get hurt again.

It means opening up to a guy when you’re not sure it’s going to go anywhere.

It looks like taking a job that’s out of your comfort zone.

I’ve tried not to judge that woman. She went through a lot in a short amount of time but I don’t agree with the conclusions she made about what she should have learned about faith through the choices she made. It was really sad. She trusted more in her logic and reasoning to protect her than understanding that what she lacked was humility. I have walked in faith and had horrible things happen but I don’t regret doing so. God doesn’t have to give me what I want in order for me to trust Him. I don’t stop following the leading of the Holy Spirit. If I only walked in faith when I was sure that I wouldn’t get hurt, well, that’s no faith at all. That’s just me and self-preservation.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life and regret the choices I didn’t make. I have rarely regretted the pain I’ve gone through because of choices I made in faith but I have regretted all the times I told God no.

I don’t talk to that woman anymore but I hope she’s learning what faith really is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Me Too

I don’t ever talk about it.

I woke up this morning to a social meeting campaign, where people were sharing their sexual abuse/assault cases with the hashtag #metoo.

And by people, I mean women, because the narrative has effectively excluded men. It’s also portrayed men as the sole predators.

If you knew my story, you’d understand why I’m angry.

I thought about sharing my story in some heartfelt post but couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Because social media cheapens my experiences.

I’ve often thought about what would happen if people knew about my experiences. Typically, when I talk about my history of sexual abuse, I don’t talk specifics. I don’t talk about my grandfather. I don’t talk about staring at his hands or the red shirt he wore with a white stripe. I don’t talk about the massive amounts of porn he exposed me to. And until two years ago, no one knew I had spent most of my life struggling with a porn addiction.

Because girls don’t struggle with that. And while I knew early exposure denied me any opportunity to see sex in a healthy way, I blamed myself for my addiction. It was not until I was sitting in front of another woman who also struggled with porn addiction that I was able to find freedom.

My story doesn’t end there, because it happened again. This time at a church by an older girl. It went on for months. I struggled with sexual identity until I was in my late teens, because once again, I thought it was my fault.

Recently, I sat in my foster care class and we were talking about the feelings associated with sexual abuse. And I blurted out that guilt is a common emotion you experience. Because you think it’s your fault. It takes a lot of counseling to understand that it’s not your fault.

I have no judgments for women using the #metoo campaign today. I just want you to remember two things:

  1. Men are not the enemy. They are not the sole predators. The prolonged sexual abuse I experienced was at the hands of an older girl.
  2. Men are also survivors of sexual abuse. They need to feel safe enough to talk about it.

So that’s my story. I don’t talk about it often but I’m starting to understand I should. I read somewhere recently that when you share your story, you open up another person to get healing.