Growing up

I’m not very good at meeting people. I get tongue-tied and quiet. I’ve been wanting to meet more people, mainly because I’m trying to form meaningful relationships but I really connect more with people when we are doing something together. The first time I fell in love was with a guy who I connected with through serving our community. Give me a food bank and some trusty helpers and I will become your new friend.

Getting drinks, having dinner, etc. are not my idea of a good time. It’s probably why I don’t like dating very much. Give me a man who serves and I will swoon.

I was talking to my dad last week about a guy (I think) I like when I made a point of saying the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The point I was trying to make was that I have always done the same thing when it comes to guys. I fall head over heels, irrationally, think about him constantly and get to a point where I profess my affection for him directly.

I don’t flirt because to me, that’s more scary than just being frank about my feelings.

My first thought is not to show up at parties he’ll be at or make sure I sit next to him.

I got to a place where I had settled into a routine. I wasn’t interested in anyone, no one attainable anyway. I was fine, just God and me. After the last few years I’ve had, the idea of trying again is just so difficult. And the worst part is I made a promise to my friends that I would not make the first move again. Because it always results in a disaster.

I’ve been arguing with God the last few weeks over this guy. I don’t have time to have feelings for someone. I have no more patience for nonsense. I’m not willing to compromise my relationship with God, my self-worth or my priorities for a guy.

I think I like him. Some days, I’m able to talk myself out of it. This is so different than anything I have ever experienced. I don’t have chaotic feelings for him. I don’t think about him constantly. I’m not convinced we’ll end up together. I don’t read into the things he says or does. It’s the healthiest I have ever been about a guy. I have talked to exactly two people about this and both of them have commented on how different I am in this.

When I have been my most lonely, I have found myself daydreaming of the guy I had wanted for seven years but the same day I decided to be a foster parent was the day I walked away from him. I even deleted him from my social media accounts, which was incredibly hard but I am grateful I did it.

Here’s the thing: You can’t let love in until you’re willing to step outside of your comfort zone. At some point, you have to trust that God is for you. That means growing up, taking responsibility for why your life is the way it is. It means going out and meeting people when you don’t want to. It means creating opportunities for a guy to get to know you when you’d rather just hide in your bubble and Netflix and chill by yourself.

It means trying, really trying, even when you feel like you are fumbling through the darkness because everything you do feels like uncharted territory. It means trusting God has your back and won’t allow anything to happen to you that’s not for your ultimate good.

I’m trying to change and I’m scared and frustrated and argumentative and totally at peace all at the same time. For the right guy, I hope he’s patient with me. I don’t know if this is the right guy. I really don’t know. He might end up being a bookmark I tell my daughter about one day. All I know is that what I am learning though this is significant and that’s encouraging.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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A Holy Week

For those of you don’t know me personally, I have a knack for meeting people where they’re at spiritually. Some would say I have the gift of evangelism but I’ve always said that evangelism is a discipline, not a gift, but we can agree to disagree on that.

At my absolute worst (or best, depending on how you look at it), I have literally risked my job(s) on numerous occasions for the sake of the leading of the Holy Spirit. From passing out bibles to struggling clients, to leading a bible study in the kids club of a gym, I have tried my best to be a good and faithful servant. This isn’t for me to boast or brag about. I give in to the Spirit out of my gratitude that God has allowed me to fail at life and yet still love me.

As Christians, we talk a lot about how our religion is more about having a relationship with God, rather than adhering to a set of rules or customs. (I’d argue that there is beauty in the traditions of Christianity, though.) When we talk about our relationship with God, it’s all very serious. We discuss prayer and suffering, walking through the tough times with God at our side. It’s rare that we talk about God as friend, what that looks like, what that means.

But God is my dearest friend. I didn’t grow up in a family where relationships with God were modeled appropriately and for the first few years of my new life in Christ, I didn’t have much in the way of Christian fellowship or mentorship. I had to teach myself what it meant to be a new creation in Christ. It meant taking long walks alone, chatting with God about my day or what boy I liked that week. It meant reading my bible and asking God a lot of questions about why He allowed this or that to happen. I look back and smile at those times. While many have lamented about how hard it must have been to walk alone in Christ during that time, I treasure those years. If I could develop a relationship with God independent of others, until such a time came that I needed community to grow, anyone can find Christ buried deep within themselves.

If I could describe my relationship with God to anyone, I would explain a week like this. A holy week.

I should backtrack. For the last nine years, I’ve been practicing the discipline of mediation. Christian mediation is about removing distractions so that you can hear the voice of God. It’s weird at first and kind of awkward but I’ve found that it renews clarity for me when I can’t see the forest for the trees. I was meditating yesterday and through the muddle of my brain, I heard very clearly that this week is a holy week.

I’ve only have two holy weeks before. Stay with me here-it’s not actually that charismatic. It always involves good, free food. I won’t go into too much detail but God usually provides me with copious amounts of my favorite foods…right before He takes something away. The first time I had one of these weeks, He fed me well that week and by the end of that week, He had taken away my home and my job. And I remember what He said while I sat in my apartment, sobbing over my now jobless and homeless existence:

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

I remember how angry I got over everything I had just lost. God had told me that this was a holy week, this was the week my life was going to change directions for the better and here I was, empty-handed. And of course, it was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me. My life is infinitely better because of that week.

So today, I am thinking of these things as I sit here eating ice cream I did not pay for, drinking coffee that I didn’t ask for, thinking of the dinner I ate for free. Just waiting for what God will take away from me to make room for something better.

This is how I would describe what having a relationship with God is like. To be in union with someone who knows you better than you know yourself, who knows exactly what will bring a smile to your face and what will calm your spirit in the midst of chaos. For someone to love you so much that He would allow truly awful things to happen in your life so that new life can come in.

Do you not know what I am trying to accomplish? Do you not see what I am trying to do? I am making you right for each other. Do you not see it?

You’ll get there. This life with God is so worth it.

Inconvenient.

All life-changing love is inconvenient. – Tim Keller

I could probably just begin and end my blog post with that.

A few months ago, God started to ask me to get involved with prison ministry.

My answer was a curt “no” and nothing more.

God just got louder.

If I’m honest, I just felt myself sinking into this wonderful, comfortable place I had never been in before. I’m the girl of chaos, starting waves wherever I go. My hope was that one day, I’d reach this place where I could learn the discipline of contentment, settling into the season God had me in without me trying to make messes of nothing. And I had finally achieved that! Maturity had arrived within myself. I was growing up. I was becoming the type of person I had always been baffled by. The kind with community and steady walks with Christ. The quiet, insightful woman I knew I could be.

But something was missing. The interesting thing about treatment for schizophrenia is that it reconciles you to yourself. I have felt the pieces of myself come back over the last year in beautiful ways. I touch my heart and I know it’s me inside. I found another piece of myself a few weeks ago. It’s a piece of myself that I haven’t seen in over ten years.

It was the story of me and Robbie, a guy who is really just a representation of the type of person I always seemed to engage with. Robbie had an awful reputation. He was violent, addicted to hardcore drugs and had schizophrenia. Classmates would comment that he was sure to shoot up the school. Teachers were scared of him and avoided any sort of confrontation. He was a bad guy.

He was also my friend.

I remember people warning me about him, how dangerous he was. I wasn’t stupid. We never hung out alone. But we talked a lot. He talked about wanting to die, his home life, what he thought of the world. I shared my faith with him, validated his feelings, listened. Outwardly, we were so different but in getting to know him, I saw he was a kindred spirit. Particularly now with my own diagnosis of schizophrenia, I saw there was more common ground than not.

I had a knack for befriending people who start trouble. Most of the friends I had with Robbie’s pedigree have died, many by murder. It was the nature of the lives they chose to live. I never did find out what happened to Robbie. We lost touch after a few years. The last time I saw him, he was happier. He looked healthier.

People were still scared of Robbie. Some people will always be scared of people like Robbie.

All life-changing love is inconvenient. That statement keeps running around my head. I have been so comfortable in the last few months. But God doesn’t ask us to stay there. We don’t grow that way.

All life-changing love is inconvenient. I don’t know what to expect from getting involved in the lives of prisoners but I don’t really need to know in order to be obedient. All I need to do is say yes.

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.

What if it’s messy?

A few years ago, I knew this girl that everyone kind of stayed leery of.

She was of the messy grace variety.

She made a lot of mistakes. She would take one step forward, three steps back. There came a point when people started questioning her salvation.

No joke. I distinctly remember the chill I felt down my spine one night when an onlooker whispered in my ear, “I just don’t think the packaging matches the inside.”

I was quick to retort that she was wrong. I had known this girl for ten years, much longer than anybody that dared to judge her, and knew that, despite her mess, she was indeed growing in her faith.

It broke my heart to hear the judgments from people who sinned differently than she did. Flash forward five years and now I’m of the messy grace variety. I’ve had just as many people question my salvation, throw stones, cover me in shame, refuse to speak or socialize with me. I have often on the fringe of the church. Unwanted, tolerated, patronized. And when I am wrestling with shame and guilt, it is the people who have known me the longest who are quick to remind me that, despite my mess, I am indeed growing in my faith.

I used to believe that I had my life all together, that I didn’t sin too much. I went to church every Sunday, joined a community group, showed up to all the churchy events. I was a model Christian, lukewarm in faith. My life was boring but safe.

But God doesn’t call us to a boring but safe life. Every person of God I have looked up to has been of the messy grace variety. They’re always the ones with the most grace, the most outspoken, the strongest advocate. They have a fierocity for God and His church that religious people just don’t have.

Because I just don’t see how you can be moved by the fact that you are covered by the blood of Christ until you understand your own depravity.

How can you truly extend grace to another person until you have experienced that grace from God first?

I’ve been working through my perfectionist attitude, the side of me that falls apart every time I fail. It’s been through reading through the biblical heroes that I’ve started to question how we as Christians perceive salvation. Because there’s not a single person in the bible that wasn’t of the messy grace variety. So why do we expect perfection out of each other?! Why is there condemnation when you produce some fruit of the Spirit and fail to produce others?

What if it’s messy? What if your walk with Jesus is littered with mistakes and failures and God still sees the finished work in you? He still sees you covered in the righteousness of Christ.

I don’t know what happened to that girl. We lost touch but I’m sure she is still as in love with Jesus as she was five years ago. I hope she found people who pointed her to Christ and not her messiness. It’s the same thing I hope for myself.

Who do you want to be?

One of the most profound things anyone has ever told me was remarkably simple:

A worthy woman keeps the end in mind.

Unlike many people my age, I haven’t thought much of the future. I’ve never thought of growing old or made long-term plans. Where most people would dismiss that as emotional immaturity, for me it’s more complex.

I never thought I’d live this long.

As an adult survivor of abuse, I have attempted suicide and struggled with self-harm as a teenager. In the back of my mind, I just assumed that an attempt would one day be successful. I have struggled to dream of a future because I didn’t anticipate one.

I’ve become healthier in more ways than one so I have attempted to make plans for the future but as God has routinely shown me, I am usually wrong when it comes to my future. So, unlike my peers, I tend to only walk in the few steps I see in front of me and leave the future up to God.

But, a worthy woman keeps the end in mind. She knows who she wants to be and what people will say about her when she’s gone.

***

I ended a friendship earlier this year. It wasn’t easy or impulsive. It took a couple months and some long conversations with a counselor to decide to end the relationship.

She made me feel worthless. Every conversation we had was about something I did wrong. And I was always wrong. I was always a failure in one way or another and honestly, I cannot remember a single time in the four-year-long relationship that she encouraged me or gave me a compliment.

You may ask why I would stay in a relationship with someone who thought so little of me but that wasn’t how I saw it. Her criticism was meant to improve me and as the perfectionist I am, I was always in need of improving. It took a counselor, a life coach and a few friends to speak truth into my life that I was allowing myself to be emotionally abused by someone who had her own issues to work through. It was not the first time I had been in a relationship like this, but I would be sure that it would be my last.

***

So what had I gained by engaging in relationships that broke me? Years of counseling were finally starting to make sense. Somewhere along the way, the cycle of abuse was broken. I was learning to trust my value as a daughter of God and that the relationships I had let in were not reflecting that truth.

A worthy woman keeps the end in mind.

Who did I want to be?

I know very much who I don’t want to be. I have spent the last twelve years in counseling working hard to not be the abuser or the abused. And much like digging up a hidden treasure, the dirt that is dug up gets everywhere before you finally reach the treasure. As I have been diligent in dealing with the mess, I’ve been getting closer to the heart of who I am. How God has wired me.

Of all the things I could be, I want to be what I so desperately have needed myself, a reminder of grace. I want to be the person that people come to be heard, understood and encouraged. I want to point people back to Jesus and that doesn’t happen if all you do is point out their sin. The gospel is not about behavior modification.

When at my lowest point, it was not the pointing out of my sin that brought me back to the cross. It was the moment when someone, having witnessed my sin, told me she loved me anyway, that her love for me was not conditional on how I behaved. Nobody had ever said that to me before. I will never forget that for the rest of my life.

If I look anything like her at the end of my life, that’ll be good enough.