The number 3

When I worked with children, one of the young girls drew me this picture. She said I was standing on solid rock, with a cloud hanging over me and a chocolate-frosted donut to comfort me. It has become a metaphor for what my life is like.

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I’m not the biggest fan of Facebook but I do like how it shows you memories of things you have posted on that day on past years.

Yesterday, it popped up this post I had written late that night two years ago. I had been job  hunting for three months since moving to the Valley and three months before that in Tucson. I had gone to a job interview at a nonprofit and had been rejected for the position, only to discover that it was because the interviewer saw that I was a better fit for a higher, better paying position.

It blew my mind.

The problem was that it shouldn’t have. And not because it was a given that God would provide me with an awesome job. A job He spoke into my life months before it happened. There were snapshots of what this job would look like and be like and my heart would leap with excitement. Because I knew God would be faithful.

There were three jobs I thought would fulfill this promise, three times I doubted God’s faithfulness when it fell through. I remember the final time. I got so close. It seemed for certain it would work out. The job had so many things about it that matched what God had whispered in my heart. I was devastated when it didn’t work out.

No, it should not have blown my mind that I got this job.

Because God asked me to apply here. Several times.

It meant picking up and moving to the Valley. It didn’t make sense. So I resisted. I never told anyone because I was sure I was wrong. And oh man, when I finally did apply for a job there and they rejected me, I was so confused. What did God want from me? I sobbed my eyes out because, for a brief moment, I stopped trusting God.

And then I got the phone call that changed my life. I was asked to interview for a higher position. I got the job. And because God had asked me to apply, I should not have been surprised when I got hired.

Recently, I was asked to write down my testimony for a pastor. I saw a pattern there I had never noticed before.

Everything in my life happens in threes. Three days, three months, three years. Three schools, three jobs, three promotions.

God has clearly been trying to get my attention for some time. I started to research what the number 3 means, according to the bible. I learned the number 3 signifies God’s sovereignty, His ability to complete things in our lives.

The more I look at my life, the more I see the number 3. The more I see God’s consistency.

That blows my mind.

During that dark period in my life when I was waiting for employment, I heard a message from a pastor where he challenged us to ask God to “do it again”. What he meant by this is that we all have hallmarks in our lives where God has answered big prayers. I remember thinking back to the day I asked God to bring me back to Him. Three days later, He did just that, turning my life upside down so that I could get the help I needed to rise above my abusive past. I figured God could “do it again” and give me a job that would not only provide for me but be something I thoroughly enjoyed.

Three months later, He did just that and I’ve been so grateful.

So why does this matter?

Because almost three years ago, in October 2014, I asked God if I would ever get married. I was ready to walk away from the idea of marriage if it meant that God had something better in store for me. And He was faithful. He spoke into my life and said I would get married.

And man, have I questioned it. I’ve been like Sarah, laughing at something so far-fetched. I’ve been like Abraham, seeking to fulfill this promise on my own. I’ve run to exactly three guys, each time wondering which guy would fulfill God’s word on my life. I’ve made bigger messes than I know what to deal with.

I wrote about the last guy a few weeks ago. I questioned whether or not I liked him. Some may argue with me but I think if you’re questioning your feelings for someone, they’re probably not the right person for you. I have been in love exactly one time in my life and even when he would drive me crazy, I still wanted him. I never questioned whether or not I wanted to be with him and while I’m ultimately grateful it didn’t work out, it taught me a lot about what it means to choose someone, for someone to be more than an option you choose because it makes the most sense.

Last week, I started to get excited about my future spouse. It’s been very reminiscent of the end of my job search, these moments when my heart would leap for joy. The closer I got to receiving this gift, the more excited I got.

That’s how I feel about marriage. Even as I type, my heart is skipping beats.

Here’s the thing: For years, I have listened to other people’s stories in the hopes that somehow, I could predict what would happen in my life if I encountered the same thing. Each time, I was sorely disappointed. Before I wrote out my testimony, I had never considered the way God works in my life, that it is uniquely different than other peoples’.

I feel really foolish for writing this but I know it’s coming. I remember how foolish I felt waiting for a job. It didn’t seem like anything would come through. I began to look for any job because I figured God would provide but to expect Him to give me what He had supposedly promised, well, that was asking too much. I feel like I could settle for any guy that God gives me but I know He’s bringing His best.

It’s scary to believe that God will do what He says He will. Because what if you heard Him wrong? What if this is just your wishful thinking? I thin k we all have things in our life that we believe God has spoken into our lives, that if we told someone, they might caution us to be careful.

What they’re really saying is God doesn’t love us enough to reveal things to us.

And yes, it is God’s discretion to conceal a matter when necessary and reveal bits and pieces of something when appropriate.

My advice?

Believe God loves you enough to guide you and when it turns out you’re wrong, because that will happen, follow Him anyway. Be the little child that takes God at His word always, without condition. I knew a woman once, who upon being disappointed that she had taken God at His word and things did not go the way she expected, she stopped trusting God. She questioned every time the Holy Spirit told her to do something. She lived in constant fear that she would hear wrong again. This stopped her from fully being obedient to God. And that fear was pushed onto me for a long time.

But I never wanted to live like that. I wanted to be so faithful that I could fall down over and over and still trust God. This is what waiting for my husband has been like, falling down, getting rejected, failing over and over and still trusting that God would keep it at His word.

My prayer is this: Do it again. 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture credit: <a href=”http://www.freepik.com/free-photo/close-up-of-couple-holding-hands-in-black-and-white_980072.htm”>Designed by Freepik</a>

 

 

 

 

 

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.

What We Do with Privilege

Today is my 13th birthday. Not in the traditional sense. I gave my life to Christ 13 years ago today.

In past years, I would celebrate with a night out alone, a longer quiet time and some solid reflection over the last year. But this year is different. The celebration of this year has to be different.

This year I went through a mental health crisis and came out alive. This year I was asked to leave a church during my episode. This year I was promoted at work and made peace with my biological father. This year I lost a relationship with two people I thought loved me. This year I went to Washington D.C. for the first time. This year I wanted to end my life. This year I survived.

 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-5

The greatest privilege I will ever experience is suffering, because it binds me closer to Jesus. This year changed the game for me. At some point, suffering stopped looking like grief. It started to look like opportunity and growth. It looked like meaning. In the thick of chaos and shame, I began to see where God is leading me towards. I felt a responsibility to make the most of the shatters.

When I was in DC, I visited the Holocaust Museum. I heard stories from people who had walked tougher paths than me. At the end of the tour, I saw a quote displayed on the wall:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.  – Martin Niemöller

This year has been a season of what could have been. What my life could have looked like if even just a few things had gone differently. That acknowledgement within my own story led me to ask “What do I do with that privilege?”

I’m so damn grateful.

That week in DC marked a shift in where I’m headed. My life became more about what I do with the privilege I’ve been given and less about the melancholy reflection of what I don’t have.

Privilege doesn’t always look like the able-bodied white male who has never known what it’s like to go hungry or struggle through systematic barriers just to get a job. Sometimes, it looks like the biracial woman with a disability who spent Christmas alone because she left her abusive situation in the middle of the night. More is expected of that woman than the man.

It feels like privilege. It feels like purpose and personal responsibility.

What a year.

Biblical justice (For Someone with a Mental Illness)

By Day 3, I know God is fighting for me. For someone with a mental illness, treatment is justice. I tell the doctors that I never knew a brain could feel like this. So clear, easily untangling the irrational thoughts that float into my head.

You need to go to the hospital.

The words cause a stir of panic. I can’t do this, but I’m running out of time. Somewhere in the back of my mind I can hear my friend’s voice. How you handle this will determine if you’ve learned from the mistakes of your upbringing.

I look up at the counselor. It’s a rarity for me to make eye contact with anyone. I’ve never understood why.

You’re declining fast. I can’t force you to get help but I can encourage you.

I decide to go.

The ER feels like a memory. They draw blood and take vitals. My legs won’t stop moving. They kick back and forth while the nurses feed me and tell me how sweet I am. My voice sounds childlike.

It takes two hours from the point of entering the ER to admission into inpatient care. Unheard of, the ER nurse says. Someone upstairs must be looking out for you.

God is, I think. God is providing. 

Inpatient care is no joke. They take away my belongings and fit me in donated clothes. I didn’t bring anything with me. I want to leave within minutes of arriving. I don’t want this. I never wanted to hurt myself. I’m just not well. I don’t know why.

This is the hardest choice I’ve ever made. The doctors and nurses are kind and compassionate. We are all trying to find out what is wrong with me. Because I am the most positive person I know but my thoughts speak darkness over my life. Even as I walk around the ward, my heart is abounding in hope by the Holy Spirit as I trust in God. I know nothing happens without His permission. Something about this screams justice, that God is outpouring His light to take out the darkness that has overwhelmed my life for the last few years. I’m just not sure why it feels this way.

The diagnosis is not a surprise. By the end of Day 1, we know I am on the spectrum. I am sick. I have a new(ish) disability. The friends and family I call are not surprised. They are happy for me. They say my behavior makes sense now. The disconnect between my emotions and thoughts make more sense.

I am fighting for my health in a way that I never have before. Cerebral palsy has nothing on my new diagnosis. It is the end of Day 2 when I start to feel different. My brain feels different. It doesn’t hurt anymore. It feels less cluttered. One little pill has started to change the way my body thinks.

I start talking to the other patients, asking them questions about their lives. I find out quickly where all my experience working with people with disabilities comes to good use. I give the other patients advice on navigating services. I’m teased lovingly for offering help when I’m here to get better.

I can’t help it, I think. No matter where I am, I will always be an advocate.

By Day 3, I know God is fighting for me. For someone with a mental illness, treatment is justice. I tell the doctors that I never knew a brain could feel like this. So clear, easily untangling the irrational thoughts that float into my head. I cry grateful tears. My brain is not typical but it is becoming well at a miraculous speed. This, I am not surprised at. God has always been quick to heal me when I have agreed to surrender.

I get to leave the hospital early. The follow-up appointment has already been made and my brain feels amazing. It is not until I am home the following day that it hits me what God has accomplished in a matter of days.

It is when I realize that I can feel the carpet under my bare feet that tears come rolling down my cheeks. The only words that come out in prayer are Thank you.

I never knew that because of an undiagnosed mental illness, I have never truly felt the ground under my feet. I have not been fully connected mind, body, spirit. As I experience the joy of feeling every fiber of my bedroom carpet, I know God has proclaimed justice over my life. I feel His victory. He won.