Breathe

I’m about to bring a child into my home. In a few months, I will be a foster parent.

I was doing really well until I had my interview with the foster care agency. In the days leading up to it, I practiced answering all the questions I thought they would ask me. I was ready.

They didn’t ask me any of the questions I thought up. They asked me questions about my childhood and my family. Usually, I’m a master at saying the right thing. But I couldn’t put forth my best. Each question became more invasive and I struggled to answer them.

I have this wall that comes up with people. I put up a big front. I’m always positive. When I do talk about painful things, I turn them optimistic every time. I don’t let people in. For example, I have been in a community group for over a year and I think I have had maybe two vulnerable moments. Realizing that this week has been a huge conviction in my heart.

Because when you have your guard up, you cheat yourself and others out of an authentic relationship with you.

In my last post, I talked about my first love. He was the first person I ever let my guard down with. I remember how afraid I was of him. I avoided him in public settings and pushed away any feelings I had for him. But when we were alone, I told him my deepest secrets and hidden dreams. I fell in love with him. I was never the same after that. Once you have a taste of emotional intimacy, you won’t settle for anything else. I went from dating around to wanting commitment.

He changed the direction my life was headed in and for that, I will always be grateful.

I’ve been having flashbacks to that time in my life. There’s a guy in my life that scares the crap out of me. I feel unsettled when we’re talking. I can feel the wall come up when I’m around him. Everything I’m feeling right now is reminiscent of that time in my life with that other guy. I was sitting in my car, waiting to go into a meeting when it hit me:

Fear is the proof we’re on to something important.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think that I’ll end up with this guy. For as much as my guard is up, so is his. Seriously, talking to him feels like we’re bumping matching walls into each other. It’s like I’m having a conversation with him and I hit the wall. But the same thing happens when he talks to me.

No, I don’t think the fear is pointing me to him. I think it’s pointing me to something much deeper. I’m about to welcome a child into my life. This whole “guardedness” has got to stop. Whether I love this child for five days or two years, they need all of me. A whole parent, especially because I’m doing this alone.

So I’m going to try this new thing where I let people in. We’ll see what happens.

We will be the faithful

When I was a little girl, all I dreamed about was being a mother. I dreamed about caring for a child. As someone with a disability, I was often surrounded by other children with disabilities. More often than not, these children were in the foster care system or had been adopted. So as a little girl, my dreams of my child always involved adopting a child. As a teen, I often dreamed of being this woman. I saw her in my head all the time.

This woman was a mother to many, adopting children but also fostering dozens of other children. I wanted to be that woman.

Weirdly for my personality (if you know me, I can be quite the blabber-mouth), I didn’t tell anyone of my dreams. With my disability, I thought no one would give me a child and you throw in mental illness, forget about it.

It stayed in the back of my mind for years. Honestly, I think that’s a big part of why I wanted to get married so bad. I thought if I had someone by my side, I could foster children. I never said it out loud but I actively looked for men that seemed like the type that could love children that weren’t their own. I was waiting until marriage for my life to start.

And then about two weeks ago, I was sitting in my living room, reflecting on all the men I had cared for, obsessed over and prayed for and I was just so exhausted.  How much of my life had been squandered away because I had placed all my hopes and dreams on men who never gave me a second thought.

It was one of those a-ha moments, where you look at your life and question the direction your life has been going. What the heck am I doing? I sat on the couch, questioning everything. It was in this moment I made the decision to move on with my life, to walk away from this striving for fulfillment.

If you’ve read my blog for any given amount of time, you know I have prayed for, yearned, sought after and questioned my dream of working in full-time ministry. What if my ministry had been right in front of me the whole time and I had not received it because I was too busy chasing what I thought would be my saving grace?

Could I walk away from everything I thought I needed and move forward without fear towards something bigger than myself? What if the life God has in store for me is bigger than marriage?

There are few times in my life where I have prayed and God has answered my prayers swiftly. I asked God for answers and provision. While I don’t believe this is always true in every situation, this time I needed God to open the doors with ease. Resistance meant to me that maybe it wasn’t meant to be. I’ve spent most of my life living in resistance, persevering through some pretty heavy deserts. Somehow, I knew that I needed God to make this easy, as easy as becoming a foster parent could be (sarcasm added here).

For the first time in my life, I’m watching the pieces come together with ease. Practical and emotional needs are being met and I have never been more calm than I am right now.

Sometimes, I think we put life on hold for things God never promised us. But Scripture says Seek my kingdom first and these things will be added to you. I realized I needed to repent of this heart that had been seeking everything else first before being obedient.

So I’m moving forward with what God has asked of me, following a dream I’ve had since I was a little girl. And that’s pretty exciting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Remembering Emily

I remember the Sunday before I moved here.

I had just lost my job and my home and was moving forward into the unknown, this small ounce of faith I had left carrying my weakened state.

For months, I had struggled financially. I had seen God provide in some big ways but overall, it had been a particularly rough season.

Publically, I told everyone what God had been speaking into my life. The job and life He promised me. And with each job rejection, the people around me doubted what I was sure God had promised.

So suddenly, I was a girl without a home, without a job and still God was consistent. This was my game changer. There was nothing to be joyful about.

And yet, that Sunday, I felt God saying now was the time to worship. Now was the time to give thanks.

So I did. Through tears, I thanked God for every little detail I could think of. The good, the bad and the ugly. I knew, despite my fears, that this season was ending in my life and I wanted to finish better than I had started.

And while everyone seemed to doubt the promises I spoke of (many people encouraged me to aim lower, which I did in spite of God saying no), everything He had spoken into my life came true. Not a stone was left unturned.

I wasn’t planning on writing about this season in my life. I was doing really well, was happy, trusting in the things God has been speaking into my heart and then I got the phone call.

My dad had died.

It didn’t hit me at first. He had cancer, so it wasn’t a surprise and we weren’t close. In fact, we weren’t even speaking to each other at the time of his death. I had been so angry at him. He was the first man to ever break my heart.

The sadness comes in waves, the twinge of regret that a part of me wishes I had been more forgiving. And the worst part is that no one expects you to grieve an absentee father. It’s like you’re not allowed to be sad. So mostly, I cry quietly to myself and don’t talk about it.

So what has God been speaking into my life?

This is the year I end up with my spouse. This is it. And it would happen after my dad died.

But it’s the farthest thing from my mind right now. Truthfully, I have been focused on everything but a relationship.

It’s that Sunday again, all over, with God telling me that this season in my life is ending and for the love of everything that is holy, give thanks for every little thing I can think of. So I did, giving praise through all the sadness because I know hope’s on the other side.

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.

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.

Tender hearts

When I started blogging 3 years ago, I didn’t know what direction I wanted to go in. All I knew was that I had a lot to say. I had left an tough, emotionally draining environment that was riddled with alcoholism and volatility.

I didn’t know much about God either. Honestly, I didn’t think God was capable of much. I didn’t think he could heal my family, let alone my stepfather.

Bottom line: I didn’t think much of God.

But I was obedient in spite of my doubts. I chose to walk away from my family and follow Christ. And it has been an exhausting three years. It’s been gut-wrenching, walking through counseling and mentors, battling demons I didn’t even know I had.

It got ugly but I began to see more of who God is and what He does. I saw the way that He destroys things in order to restore them to what they were meant to be.

A few weeks ago, I agreed to go see my family for a few days. There had been so much brokenness in the last 3 years that I wasn’t sure what I would see when I got there.

My stepdad was sober. He had been since I left. I saw someone who God pursued, someone who made choices to take care of himself. I saw a man who reminded me to trust God when all I felt was fear.

It was redemption. Not the kind where everything was perfect and easy. It was redemption that was fought and paid for on the cross. Messy and full of unsaid apologies.

We’re trying now, to have a relationship. I notice differences in how my stepdad talks to me that shows he’s changed. He’s growing too, just like I am.

Some days, I still don’t think much of God. I think He doesn’t care or notice all the things that I carry heavy on my heart. But somehow, I’m still growing up. He loves me a lot more than I love Him.

And for that, I’m grateful.