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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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>

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Streams in the Desert

I spent the morning crying in my car, wondering if I had done something wrong. The day before, I had made the decision to release a huge desire in my heart and let go of the control I had been fighting for. I experienced a great deal of peace in doing that but I also struggled with a deep sadness. It hit me like a tidal wave. Every hurt, every cutting word I had thrown at me last year by men who I trusted to care for me.  I ugly cried driving down the freeway this morning.

It’ll be a year in 11 days. A year since the day I checked myself into the hospital because I was a danger to myself. A year of getting better, being healthy, making friends. A year without tears or depression. Sometimes, I wish I could go back in time and tell the girl who curled up on the floor that day, May 7, stuffing Cheetos down her throat and avoiding social media, that things would get better. That she would be okay. And a week later, when I made my way to the front desk of the emergency room and told the nurse I was going to hurt myself and could she please help me, I wish I could tell that girl this was the game changer she had been waiting for.

Suicide is still a taboo topic. I’m pretty upfront about what I’ve gone through but no one asks me what being in the hospital was like. Nobody asks what led me to consider suicide. It was the year from hell. I can’t fully explain what it’s like to feel so stuck in your head and no matter how much you try to dig yourself out, you can’t. You’re just stuck in this chemical imbalance and your “friends” are screaming at you to get your act together and then there’s the pastor who emails you to say that no matter how many times you apologize, you will never be enough for forgiveness.

But you get better. You go to the hospital where they feed you to the max with graham crackers and pudding, which you appreciate because for the last two weeks, you’ve eaten nothing but handfuls of Cheetos.

I was sitting at this prayer meeting last week, reflecting on where I am at this point in my life. I could not imagine loving God any more than I do right now. There’s something really beautiful about what happens when you suffer. For three years, I was trapped inside a brain that could not reason or make sense of the world around me. I struggled to form meaningful relationships with people and follow through with long-term plans. At its absolute worse, I quit a job I deeply cared about because I believed a coworker was conspiring to have me fired. This led to struggling to meet my basic needs, including staying in my home and providing food for myself. I’m grateful to be so far removed from that life but I have a deeper intimacy with God because of that desert.

Someone once told me that the deserts we go through in life are meant to prepare us for what’s ahead. Even the really good things in life can destroy us if we’re not prepared.

I let go this week of the control I was striving for in relational conflict. The tears I shed this morning was me challenging God’s goodness, struggling to believe that God will restore this without my input or help. I have to believe that things will be okay, that God is for everyone involved, that He will reward my faithfulness. There is not a single instance in my life where God left things a mess forever. Some things took twenty years to resolve but they were eventually resolved.

It’s been a year of healing. For that, I’m grateful.

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.

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.