That one time.

So I’ve been working through some significant church wounds and last night, I was hit with an old memory.

Most people know that I’m the type of girl that makes the first move. I’ve always tried to make it really easy for the guy. I can handle a gentle no. Rejection is a part of life. What I can’t handle is what happened two years ago.

I had been attending this church for a few months, making friends, getting settled. My community group leader was someone I had known for about seven years. He seemed like a stable guy, level-headed. He seemed to value people and had a gentle heart.

I started to develop feelings for him. Usually when this happens, I make a move pretty quickly. I like to know soon if things are going to go anywhere.

So I told him I liked him. If I’m honest, I fully expected a no. I just wanted to be sure.

He didn’t say no.

He asked me to leave the community group. He said he couldn’t lead effectively knowing that there was a girl in the group that liked him.

I was taken aback. I thought that was a really extreme way of responding to my feelings. I went to the pastors, fully expecting them to say it was wrong.

They didn’t say that.

They said I needed to leave the community group. He was a leader and they said that I had made him uncomfortable. The lead pastor said that they needed to look for the interests of the leader.

I had been making friends in the community group. I was finding my place in the church and suddenly, because I had been honest about my feelings, I found myself kicked out of my community group.

It shook me. I never imagined that something like that could happen. I’ve always been really upfront about how I feel but I’ve realized that experience still has me shaken up. I don’t think I can make the first move anymore. I make a big talk about female empowerment and initiating with a guy but what happens if he treats me like that again? With that other guy, I could have never suspected that he would behave that way. And for a church to support that kind of response, what’s to say that won’t happen again? Every church comes across healthy until they’re backed into a corner.

I love my life. I don’t want to risk everything falling apart because I put myself out there again. That leader eventually had me removed from the church. He was vindictive and cruel. And it all started because I told him I liked him. He was someone I didn’t recognize and I haven’t really trusted my perception of people since.

I guess I’m just waiting for a guy to take the pressure off me. Trust me, if I spend time with you, talk to you, ask questions about your life or your past, I like you. It’s really not that complicated.

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Faith

I knew a woman once who told me this amazing story upon our first meeting.

She and her husband had two children and were living in California when they heard of a ministry opportunity to serve in a Muslim country. In order to pay for this opportunity, they would have to sell everything they owned and relocate to this country. So they walked in obedience. They had a plan; they were sure of what God would do.

It was not until they had sold everything they owned that they discovered that the ministry organization only wanted the husband for the first year of ministry. So he went to this country and the wife, along with her two children moved in with family in Arizona. The plan became that they would join the husband in a year. It was during this waiting period that I met this woman.

She was a breath of fresh air as she told me this story. She was sure that God wanted her family to serve in this ministry. She did not mention until years later that she was struggling financially, was without the support of her husband and sleeping on couches with her children. Her family never made it to this country and her husband eventually returned back to the States.

It was years later that she told me she would never make a mistake like that again. She had acted in faith and put her family and marriage in jeopardy. She projected this fear on me repeatedly, as I struggled to make decisions. And I fought her every step of the way. Something was off, it seemed wrong.

She hadn’t acted in faith by selling her possessions for this ministry. There was nothing faithful about what she had done. She had done something with the expectation that she knew what would happen and when it turned out she was wrong, she concluded that she had been misguided. And she was right. By assuming she knew what God would do, she placed her faith in her understanding of the situation, not God. If she had sold her possessions without expectations of a particular return, she would have been acting in humility.

*On a side note for my readers, it is never biblical to sell all your possessions without first making sure you have enough to live on. God does not ask foolish things of us.*

I’ve been thinking about that story a lot lately. As I’ve been learning more about faith, I’ve been contemplating what it means to look at the assurance of things unseen. What it means to act in faith.

It means saying you’re sorry without expecting forgiveness.

It looks like forgiving even when reconciliation isn’t a possibility.

It might be joining a church in spite of the fear that you’ll just get hurt again.

It means opening up to a guy when you’re not sure it’s going to go anywhere.

It looks like taking a job that’s out of your comfort zone.

I’ve tried not to judge that woman. She went through a lot in a short amount of time but I don’t agree with the conclusions she made about what she should have learned about faith through the choices she made. It was really sad. She trusted more in her logic and reasoning to protect her than understanding that what she lacked was humility. I have walked in faith and had horrible things happen but I don’t regret doing so. God doesn’t have to give me what I want in order for me to trust Him. I don’t stop following the leading of the Holy Spirit. If I only walked in faith when I was sure that I wouldn’t get hurt, well, that’s no faith at all. That’s just me and self-preservation.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life and regret the choices I didn’t make. I have rarely regretted the pain I’ve gone through because of choices I made in faith but I have regretted all the times I told God no.

I don’t talk to that woman anymore but I hope she’s learning what faith really is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Me Too

I don’t ever talk about it.

I woke up this morning to a social meeting campaign, where people were sharing their sexual abuse/assault cases with the hashtag #metoo.

And by people, I mean women, because the narrative has effectively excluded men. It’s also portrayed men as the sole predators.

If you knew my story, you’d understand why I’m angry.

I thought about sharing my story in some heartfelt post but couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Because social media cheapens my experiences.

I’ve often thought about what would happen if people knew about my experiences. Typically, when I talk about my history of sexual abuse, I don’t talk specifics. I don’t talk about my grandfather. I don’t talk about staring at his hands or the red shirt he wore with a white stripe. I don’t talk about the massive amounts of porn he exposed me to. And until two years ago, no one knew I had spent most of my life struggling with a porn addiction.

Because girls don’t struggle with that. And while I knew early exposure denied me any opportunity to see sex in a healthy way, I blamed myself for my addiction. It was not until I was sitting in front of another woman who also struggled with porn addiction that I was able to find freedom.

My story doesn’t end there, because it happened again. This time at a church by an older girl. It went on for months. I struggled with sexual identity until I was in my late teens, because once again, I thought it was my fault.

Recently, I sat in my foster care class and we were talking about the feelings associated with sexual abuse. And I blurted out that guilt is a common emotion you experience. Because you think it’s your fault. It takes a lot of counseling to understand that it’s not your fault.

I have no judgments for women using the #metoo campaign today. I just want you to remember two things:

  1. Men are not the enemy. They are not the sole predators. The prolonged sexual abuse I experienced was at the hands of an older girl.
  2. Men are also survivors of sexual abuse. They need to feel safe enough to talk about it.

So that’s my story. I don’t talk about it often but I’m starting to understand I should. I read somewhere recently that when you share your story, you open up another person to get healing.

A Week of Stretching

 

I should preface this post by saying that lately, I have gotten into the habit of bottling myself up. I’m one of those people who tends to put up a front. I put my best foot forward, rarely discussing what I’m really going through or how I’m feeling. But I got convicted by that this week so today, I am going to write a super awkward post about probably one of the most ridiculous weeks I’ve had in a long time.

It all started with an Instagram post from this social media influencer I follow (I know, I know. Very millennial of me. I don’t care. Her posts are awesome.)  Anyway, she shared this post about this five day prayer challenge for praying for your future spouse.

Here’s the thing: I don’t pray for my future spouse consistently. I keep meaning to but I always find an excuse not to. It’s just so uncomfortable. I pray when I’m moved by the spirit. I have, however, spent much of my time praying for the men I have fallen for. An act, I would learn later this week is actually super unhealthy. But we’ll get there.

So I felt like this was a good opportunity to grow. I’m all about growing. I signed up for the challenge. I received the first email on Monday.

Day 1: Pray their house isn’t built on sand

Basically, it was about praying that your future spouse loves Jesus fiercely. I spent the morning trying not to pray for the guy I had been pining for the last eight years. I had reached this point a few weeks ago where I decided I was going to move on from him. It was right around the time I decided to be a foster parent.

Day 2: Pray they are breaking ties with every ex-lover

This was actually super convicting for me. On the one hand, they were talking about “lovers” as in idols, so that could be anything that separates your future spouse from God and honestly, loving you. So I was on board with that. The convicting part for me was this little secret I’ve been carrying for over a year.

I still follow my first love on Instagram.

I actually get a lot of enjoyment from knowing what’s going on in his life, because he uses it on a regular basis. It’s not like I still want to be with him or anything. He was just such an important part of my life that I take comfort in knowing he’s okay. But I realized it’s a load of crap and I should probably unfollow him. Actually, I should definitely unfollow him.

Day 3: Pray for “Godly Chemistry”

This one was interesting. It wasn’t talking about chemistry in the traditional sense but rather that “Godly chemistry” has to do with matching purposes. I used to equate this with compatible jobs. For example, I first fell in love with my first love over our shared passions for nonprofit work. I mean, I saw our whole freaking future together. And man, did I argue with God over it. I told God repeatedly why we made sense, what impact we would have if we were together.

The hardest lesson to learn for my little pragmatic heart was that matching purposes between spouses has more to do with how you’re both wired. Elizabeth Elliot describes it in The Mark of a Man by that a man will know his wife because “she comes from your rib bone.” She meant that a man’s wife is a reflection of who he is. Still doesn’t totally make sense to me but I tell my guy friends this all the time.

Day 4: Pray they don’t eat the apple

So I literally prayed this over a month ago, in the spirit. This was about stopping with dating other people. Amen.

Day 5: Pray they are “hiding & seeking”

A very well-known trait of mine is that I like to take the lead in relationships. I have asked out every guy I have ever dated or liked. About three years ago, I realized how sinful my behavior was. Don’t get me wrong – I love a strong, confident woman who knows what she wants and goes for it. But I wasn’t doing it for that reason.

I didn’t want to be found. I didn’t want to be pursued by a man. I didn’t want to be wanted. Being “found” meant opening myself up to being loved. Weirdly, I preferred rejection by my own hands than intimacy with another person.

The devotional said to pray that your future husband will “find” you and you are in a position to be “found.” I was really confused about what it meant to place yourself in a position to be found so I asked a friend to explain it to me.

She explained that while it’s the man’s job to find, it’s the woman’s job to be found. She does this by basically ignoring other men by pursuing Christ so deeply that she doesn’t notice the men around her.

It hit me that I think  I have reached that point. I really do. So my week was crazy emotional and now I really don’t know what to do with myself.

Probably unfollow that guy on Instagram.

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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Hope on wings like eagles

When I was a little girl, I was told that I would never walk. I had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and the doctor’s outlook was grim.

It never crossed my mind that they were right. I asked God to let me walk and He said I would walk, so I believed Him.

A surgeon crossed my path who believed that if he cut the right nerve in my leg, I could walk. This idea was considered so farfetched that my insurance refused to pay for it. But that didn’t stop that surgeon from sneaking me into the hospital to perform the surgery illegally. I still remember laying across a table in his office while doctors surrounded the table to watch the surgeon remove the stitches from my leg. Everyone was anxious to see if the surgery was a success.

Spoiler: It did.

***

It takes a lot of faith for a doctor to risk his career so that a little girl might walk.

I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s sovereignty and our responsibility to act. I don’t fully understand the balance between the two but I know that God’s promise that I would walk could not be fulfilled if the surgeon had not been faithful to act on his conviction.

I wonder how  much of God’s blessings we miss out on simply because we deny the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, I think we suppress what God is asking of us because it doesn’t make sense to us.

Example: Two years ago, God asked me to quit my job and move to the Valley. He even told me what job I would have, a job I now have, but I only went halfway. I quit my job but refused to move. So for three months, I suffered. Each time God asked me to move, I said no because starting over didn’t make any sense. I applied for jobs left and right, getting rejected over and over. I cried out to God for freedom, not understanding why He was making me wait. But the truth was, God had already revealed his plan for redemption for me; I just refused to listen. I had hardened my heart to the Holy Spirit. I don’t think it was deliberate disobedience. I think I dismissed the voice of God because I didn’t believe He would be that clear and direct about something that would drastically change my life.

Long story short, I moved to the Valley and got the job God told me I would have. My life has become more beautiful than I could possibly imagine.

When God says move, for crying out loud-move! Why waste one second of your life challenging what He asks of you?

This verse meant a lot to me during that time in my life:

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

-Habakkuk 3:17-19

You don’t need to see how everything will work out in order for things to work out. Just move!

 

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.