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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Search Me & Test My Heart

I haven’t written in a while. Mostly, I think it’s because I’ve been too absorbed in the world around me to take the time to write down what I’m experiencing.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been in this play where people with disabilities share their personal stories with the audience. I made a choice to be a part of the performance, a choice I regretted as soon as I did it. Because as much as I could talk about my cerebral palsy, what I felt compelled to talk about was the last year of my life, living in psychosis. It was really good for me to reflect on the last year, the last three years if I’m honest, and it led me to some startling conclusions.

As a healthy person, I have never put much emphasis on romantic relationships. I didn’t think of my husband or what my wedding would look like. I have wanted two things consistently: to have a successful career and to be a mother. I knew how to guard my heart, almost too well.

But when I got sick, something shifted in me. I couldn’t guard my heart. I latched on to any guy that I was attracted to. Often times, these men had girlfriends already or were at least not interested in me. I was persistent and pushy and advocated to be loved by men that I probably would have not pursued otherwise.

It got me into a lot of trouble. The worse part was that I couldn’t understand where this audacity came from. I thought I was changing and I really didn’t like who I was becoming.

My friends got involved, calling me out on what was supposedly my evil nature. Boyfriend stealer. They said that they believed that I was not capable of change, that I would continue to be this evil, intrusive person.

It was awful, mostly because I believed them. It was the harsh words they said to me that, in the midst of my psychosis, led me to try to take my own life.

When I got better through treatment, I saw myself going back to the person I was before I got sick. Quiet, reserved, patient. Combined with the counseling I had gone through over the last three years, I understood that I have worth. I began to love myself again.

Despite this healing, there was this nagging feeling that until I was presented with an opportunity to test this shift back to who I was, I would never know if this was truly change in my heart or if it was just a feeling.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24

I said this prayer early on in my treatment because I needed to know that I was okay, that the person who interfered with men was not the real me. Until I was sure of that, I couldn’t see myself dating anyone.

God was faithful. He brought a man into my life that set off every trigger I had experienced in the last three years, only this time I was able to withstand the temptations. I came out the other side with renewed joy. I was okay, really okay.

Ultimately, I didn’t end up with that guy. I actually got to a point when I knew he wasn’t the type of guy I wanted to date, something that I would never allow myself to reach that point before. In my illness, I had always jumped the gun.

I was driving home one night, questioning God as to why He would allow me to open myself up to the possibility of this man, only to have it fizzle out. And then it hit me. It was never about the guy. This was about me knowing I was healthy, that I was not the vile, evil person I had been accused of being.

When this clicked for me, I knew I was ready to start dating again.

Candy Bars

One of my favorite childhood memories is of a teacher I had in grade school. She was a well-loved faculty member who was known for her kind and gentle nature. To be perfectly honest, my favorite part of being in her class was the candy bars.

At the beginning of the school year, she had us write down our birthday and favorite candy bar. Because, as she announced that fateful August morning, she would give us a full-size candy bar of our choosing on our birthday.

The stakes were high. I ran through the list of candy bars that I loved. My mother was not one to buy us candy so this was my big chance to get a treat.

Caramel. Chocolate. Nougat. Nuts. No nuts. The possibilities was endless.

I eventually decided on a 3 Musketeers bar because, as I told my classmates, the mousse in the center reminded me of ice cream. It was the best of both worlds.

When my day finally came, I savored every last bite of that candy bar. I bit off the chocolate part of the bar and licked the mousse. My classmates teased me as it took me a good five minutes to finish my candy bar.

I shrugged them off. I had taken my time to  choose that candy bar and I wanted to make my choice last, meant to be enjoyed.

And just like that candy bar, I’m left wondering how many choices I should have made slower. Our culture moves like a microwave, swiftly making decisions. What would my life look like if I treated choices and decision-making like I did when I was young?

Even more than that, how is it that 7 year old me is so much wiser than me now?

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.

Church, humility and grace

My love for the church runs rivers deep. Sunday has long been my favorite day of the week.

But then this year happened. This year was the year I got sick. I had a schizophrenic episode for eight months before I finally got diagnosed.

And the church failed me.

At my absolute worst, I was an obsessive emailer who wrestled through bouts of paranoia and shame.

I didn’t walk away from the church. They kicked me out.

I didn’t threaten anyone. I wasn’t physically abusive. I was just scared. And suicidal.

At my absolute worst, I was an obsessive emailer who wrestled through bouts of paranoia and shame.

When I finally did get help, the chaplin summed it up for me: They gave up on you.

I’m grateful every day for God guiding me to the hospital. I’m grateful for good doctors and kind nurses. I’m grateful for medication that works and the friends that didn’t walk away.

But I’ll never forget those pastors. For the rest of my life, I’ll carry those pastors and what they did to me.

A popular story in the bible is the story of the Good Samaritan. If you don’t know the story, basically a Jewish man gets beaten up and left to die along the road. Men of status, from his own community, see this man dying and ignore him. Finally, a Samaritan sees this man and gets him the help he needs. Which is mind-blowing because Samaritans and Jews were enemies.

Pastors use this story to illustrate an important point: It is our responsibility to care for our neighbors.  

But what if the problem is not that the person is beaten up or struggling financially? What if the problem is an illness? How do we respond to a mental health crisis?

Do we know how to care for the neighbor that is clearly struggling with a mental illness? Do we know what resources are available?

The pastors responded in fear. They chose in that fear to remove me from the church. There were a multitude of other actions they could have done, actions that would have conveyed Christ-like love. But they didn’t. They chose fear.

I credit one person for saving my life. I would not be here if he had not seen me hurting and interceded. A gay man who doesn’t have a relationship with Christ saved me from taking my own life. I will be forever grateful to him.Where others walked away and even shamed me for what I was experiencing, he walked alongside me.

That might rub people the wrong way but that’s  what happened. Religion and your position in the church does not make you holy. Faith does. And faith, without works, is dead.

Humility is not about thinking less of yourself but in taking ownership of your identity in Christ. Acknowledging my worth as a daughter of God brings me back every time I experience despair over what happened in that church. And each time I’m brought to that understanding of humility, I extend grace to those pastors a little more.

I found a new church to attend after months of having nowhere to turn and wrestling through months of isolation. I was sharing this part of my story with a new friend recently when I was asked why I would come back to church after such a heavy rejection.

I explained quite simply that to punish the global church over the actions of the local church is unfair. The church is the bride of Christ, beautiful and effective when healthy. I geniunely believe that God allows bad things to happen in our lives for His glory and our redemption. If we all walked away from the church body when things go badly, the church won’t be changed. It won’t grow without pruning sin. Sometimes I think God allowed me to experience excommunication while I was in a mental health crisis because He knew it wouldn’t break me. He knew how deep my love for the church runs.

If you love Christ, love His bride well. 

Don’t walk away.