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.

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You, me and the dog

I heard a pastor once say that the best sermons are the ones that convict the speaker as much as the listener. So this blog post is as much for me as it is for you. Bear with me while I process out loud.

A few years ago, I asked God to remove the temptation away from me to date anyone other than my husband. This wasn’t a ploy to manipulate what I wanted from God or even protect myself from unnecessary heartbreak. This was a desperate attempt to rid myself of some awful sin in my heart that was destroying my relationship with God.

And He responded. I haven’t been asked out since. Oh, but I have pursued many a man. I have prayed over every man I have ever had an interest in. And with every freaking man, I thought God had told me this man was the one. I found signs everywhere I looked that confirmed this prophecy. Each time, my heart grew sick with waiting and analyzing and hoping and honestly, pretending I had given it to God when in reality, I was holding on to my logic and reasoning. Especially because my spiritual gift is prophecy, I was convinced God had told me who I would marry.

God was patient with me, right up until the third time, when in the middle of my obsession God firmly told me, This isn’t your job.  As a woman, it’s not my place to pursue and while I am a firm believer that a woman should make a move if she wants, God doesn’t want that for me. He just doesn’t. I’m a raging control freak and if I didn’t get it under control, I could never honor my husband in submission.

So I started to let go and experienced a lot of freedom. I prayed for my husband and myself. Most recently, I asked God to remove the desire of other people from both of us. I wanted freedom for myself but I also wanted to be safe with my husband. I don’t compete for a man, not anymore. The hardest thing about this prayer is watching my desire for someone I have wanted forever slowly go away. There’s still a part of me that wants that man but each day, it becomes a little less.

I’ve fought with God over this man probably more than anyone else. I’ve asked God why I can’t have my choice. I would choose him a million times over. Shouldn’t that matter? Shouldn’t my choice matter? But God has been very clear with me. The second I asked God to take away the temptation of other men was the moment I relinquished my choice. I surrendered that to God and He honored that sacrifice.

I have fought that and even at times, regretted it. I questioned how God could love me and let me leave the choice with him. But I realized I had already done that with my job.

Two years ago, I had been struggling to find employment. I had applied for job after job, getting close but not getting hired. There were jobs I interviewed for that I thought was my dream job. They were everything I thought I wanted and I grieved not getting those jobs. I got to this place where I asked God to bring the right job into my life. I was done searching, done looking. I clearly didn’t know what God wanted. And He brought the job into my lap. I didn’t even apply for it. I actually remember not wanting to interview for the job. It was in the same line of work I had done before, where I had gotten burned, and I was wary of going back. But I trusted God through this and I got the job. This job has blessed me more than I could have ever imagined and I’m ultimately grateful I left the choice with Him.

It has only been recently that I have begun to see the treasures in letting God take my choice from me. Not everyone would agree with me. Love is a choice and we honor God through that choice. But for me, I would rather choose God a million times over and have Him give me His best rather than be ordinary by either choosing my spouse on my own or by allowing my emotions to dictate how I make decisions about my spouse.

God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him – Jim Elliot

The best advice I could give you is to let go of how you think your life should go and let God direct your path. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You have more time

Two years ago, I always felt like I was running out of time.

Like the whole world would fall apart if I didn’t change immediately. I read scripture constantly, prayed continuously, read every Christian self-help book I could get my hands on and went to counseling. And I saw a tremendous amount of healing. But I still wrestled with anger and jealousy, regret and grief. But I kept going. That cadence in my relationship with God would surely change me.

Do I even have to tell you how badly this ended?

I ran, I fought. I was running out of time. Well, if I wasn’t different week-to-week, I must not be a daughter of God. Or at least, I must not be doing enough. I should take more notes in church. Maybe if I worship better, pray more. Serve somewhere. Then surely, God will change me. Because it’s how hard you pursue God that determines how quickly and consistently you change. Not God’s timing. Maybe if I had a boyfriend, finally committed to someone. That would show growth, right? That would show change.

Don’t get angry. Don’t sin. You must obviously not love God deeply enough if you commit the same sin over and over. Everyone knows that.

I don’t think I have to explain how badly I had to fall in order to learn the basic truth of grace. To learn that God determines the rate of change in our hearts. I can’t earn that.

You always have more time to change and grow, because God is the one writing your story. I only started to see real change in my sin when I said no to my efforts and yes to grace. It’s not about being lazy or being complacent. It’s that beautiful, wonderful moment when you acknowledge where you must end in order for God to begin. And turn away from anyone who tries to tell you differently. Don’t add salt to the gospel. It is perfect just the way it is.

Nothing is ever wasted

One of my favorite prose pieces is “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros. In the piece, she proposes this idea that we are not merely the age we are but a collection of the ages we have been. We experience the ages we have been in response to situations we are in

I am 27.

I recently went home for Thanksgiving. It was my first holiday with my family. I expected flash backs and hurt feelings over past memories but that didn’t happen.

I kept having flashbacks to being 19.

I’ve felt 19 on numerous occasions over the last year. I’m not really sure why. I think it has to do with that time in my life feeling so new, ready to embark on a fresh adventure.

 “Tonight feels like the last night of camp. 19, bare feet in wet grass. The sky red with a light breeze. I remember how sweaty I was, my cotton shirt clinging to my back. My hair a greasy mess. I had never felt better. I had spent my last $25 on this treasured Bible that I could carry around everywhere. $22 and some change if I remember correctly. And in that moment, when everything was silent and peaceful, I wasn’t thinking about what 7 years later would look like. I was only thinking about what it would look like when it was over. What redemption would look like.

Tonight, my only emotion is a memory.”

Redemption 7 years later didn’t look like what I thought it’d look like. It was different. I didn’t get married this year or end up where I had wanted to be. What I got was so much better.

I got my health back. Because of medical treatment, I get to have a future. A real one, full of plans and dreams. All with a fully-functioning brain and a heart for Jesus.

For 7 years, I weathered storms of illogical thinking, hallucinations and erratic behavior. I made plans I could never finish, dated men I could never commit to and talked faster than a Gilmore Girl.

Redemption didn’t come the way I thought it would. Instead of a knight in shining armor, it came in the form of a hospital gown and proper medication.

I remember being 19. I remember having my whole adulthood before my eyes and the wild uncertainty that I experienced with elated joy.

Wistfully, I regret the time I lost because I was sick. It would have made my life easier had I had been diagnosed earlier. But God ultimately allows what will bring Him the most glory. Somehow, this mess of a life that I’ve endured is not wasted time.

So as I move forward with making plans, forming commitments and nestling into God’s promises, I’m grateful for the future I get to have. I get to finish my undergrad, go to law school (hopefully) and learn to love this messy life God gave me. I’m grateful for the way things didn’t turn out.

Nothing is ever wasted.

The Comparison Game

I have a confession to make.

I struggle with comparison.

And not in the traditional sense. Not in the way you imagine, by comparing myself to any woman that crosses my path.

No, there’s really just one woman I compare myself to. You know the type. She’s whimiscal, girly. Her photos get more likes on FB. Our mutual friends respond to her blog more than mine. She’s seen more of the world than I have. She makes more money than I do. She’s almost too perfect. Too put-together.

Let’s be honest: I am of the hodgepodge variety of women. If you saw my outfit today, you would think I got dressed in the dark. (I took a calculated risk. I’ve gotten a few double-takes today and not in the “Hey, Girl” way.) I rarely wear makeup and I’m in the awkward phase of growing out a pixie cut. If you read my blog, you know I am not even slightly perfect or put-together. My life reads like one big messy response to the Gospel and while I’m slowly getting my crap together, I still find myself stumbling over almost too raw authenticity.

Myself and this mystery woman are nowhere near alike but yet, I find myself irked when I’m reminded of her. If women were really honest with themselves, we all have that one person whose life we wish we had. The things we would do with the platform they have or the resources they have at their disposal.

But we don’t have their lives.

A few years ago, I was at this training for this summer camp I was staffing when the trainer was talking about identifying what resources and experiences you bring to the table to help others. He opened it up to the group by asking us what we thought we brought to the table.

And of course, in true me-fashion, I blurted out that I knew what it was like to self-harm and attempt suicide.

In a room full of people that I barely knew, I demonstrated the first spiritual gift God gave me that not everyone has: the gift of vulnerability.

Vulnerability’s messy. I’ve actually tried to stop myself from being vulnerable because it would make my life so much easier. But I can’t stop. Not without suppressing the Holy Spirit at the same time. And that makes it not worth it.

When I think about fighting the comparison game, it’s more about celebrating the differences in gifts and backgrounds we have than in trying to remind ourselves of our value. Like with this woman I am always envious of? She speaks volumes into the lives of people that I can’t relate to. Just like I (aspire to) do with people who share my background. The world needs both of us. I can get down with celebrating her.

So while she’s speaking truth to the ladylike bunch, I’ll be over here being a hot mess of grace and hodgepodge-ness.

 

Who God Says I Am

I’ve been attending this women’s bible study the last few weeks and each week, a layer seems to be torn off of me.

Yesterday, we talked about Beauty.

I thought this would be one week where I didn’t learn much. Not because I have astronomical confidence but because beauty’s not really a big deal to me. There’s a gift I’ve gotten from having a visible disability where I’ve learned that comparing myself to other women is pointless because I will never look like other women. It’s allowed me to embrace my own beauty more readily.

And then the speaker talked about the other side of beauty. The beauty of who we are, not what we look like.

My stomach dropped. Because I don’t view myself as beautiful on the inside.

I’m a perfectionist, which means I go way harder on myself than anyone ever will. It is an active fight to give myself grace. But I was getting better, for a while anyway.

A few months ago, I found myself talking with two friends who turned the table on me by recounting every ugly thing I had done, every ugly part about me. It was one of the worst experiences I’ve been through and no surprise, I no longer have a relationship with those two people.

Their words had a lasting impact on me, because now I had proof. I was an ugly person and everyone agreed. I fell deeper into a depression, isolating myself from others and behaving as if the words I heard from people I trusted were absolute truth. I was a failure. I was not enough.

So yesterday, when the speaker talked about being beautiful as a woman, all I thought about was their words.

We were asked to pick a word that represented what we felt God was asking of us in order to embrace who He says we are. I knew exactly what my word needed to be.

Grace.