Monthly Archives: November 2012

Weekly Writing Challenge: Life Change in a Split-Second

The moment he told me he had always loved me, my life changed forever. After that moment, I could never go back to life as it was before.

As a kid, I loved standing on the shore of the ocean. The unknown out in front of me; a beautiful, open expanse of water that could take my life easier than I knew, or cared, at the time. This unknown caused my stomach to turn and my heart to flip, but I always dove in head first. I was ready for the adventure that the crashing waves would provide for me, or so I always thought. The adventure, on more than one occasion, had proven to be more than I could handle though as massive wave crashed against my small frame. Several times, I fought against the waves, always thinking I was battling for my life. One wrong move, one slip of the hand, one missed kick of the foot, and the wave would win. But this vie for life, this rush of adrenaline, this risky chance, is something I enjoyed taking, as summer after summer I ran into the water, at the mercy of the waves. Little did I know this would become a metaphor for my life.

Let me explain. My life has brought me through a series of waves that I have continuously battled against. Waves of shame, anger, depression, guilt, frustration (you get the picture) were constantly telling me I was not good enough, that I would never amount to anything, that no one loved me. And I battled these waves for as long as I can remember. I thought if I was stronger, if I could fight harder, if I could find the right “weapon” to fight with, I could win. But I spent most of my life struggling to keep my head above water. The waves always seemed to be one step ahead of me and I was slowly drowning.

I was almost 24 the first time I understood that my dad loved me; and once I knew that, I was done fighting. I gave up and let the wave of love take over me. I succumbed to honesty, truth, and faith. This time though, the wave was not trying to pull me under. Instead, it washed me onto the shore and landed me on my feet.

You see, not knowing my dad for 23 years of my life had taken its toll on me. I was torn, battered, bruised, and broken. Just a few weeks before my 24th birthday I talked to my dad and he shared some of his life with me. But the moment he spoke the words, “I have always loved you,” I felt secure. It was that moment, that exact second, that my life changed forever. Knowing how my dad felt about me was freeing and I exposed my hidden heart to him. I confided in him things I had never told another person. All my life, this is all I had ever needed – to know that my daddy loved me.

Sharing my repressed and forgotten hurts with my dad spurred me onto an emotional journey of healing. That is where I found Celebrate Recovery. Through the CR program I found healing, love, acceptance, peace, joy, and belonging. I discovered who I am – I am not my past, I am not what I have done. I am a loved and cherished child of God and NOTHING can take that away from me.

 

This post is written in rsponse to the Weekly Writing Challenge.  Check out the link to see more about it or to join in.


The Beauty of the Cross

Is there anything in this life more beautiful than the Cross? I mean if you really focus in on what the Cross means, it is breathtaking! The Cross means freedom, pure freedom, that cannot be found anywhere else in this world. How do I know that: I’ve looked! Even when I didn’t know it, I was in bondage to my shame and my sin, but when I came to the Cross, I learned what freedom was. I learned what forgiveness was. I learned what love was. I learned what grace was. But I also learned that I don’t deserve any of it.

Romans 5:8 – But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

John 14:6 – Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

Running
Running without a destination
She was running from despair
If she chose to leave it all behind her
She could move on without a care
She ran to things that destroyed her
But didn’t know it at the time
The things that she thought loved her
Were slowly taking her life

The race that she was running
Landed her in a pit
And this is where it hit her
On her own, she couldn’t quit

He was running from his demons
Too afraid to face the shame
It was easy to pretend, “I’m fine,”
As long as he hid the pain
So he just faked a smile
Pretended he was alright
All the time he didn’t realize
This was a useless fight

The race that he was running
He thought he’d made it to the top
And that is where it hit him
On his own, he couldn’t stop

You see, we’re all powerless
To control the hurt in our lives
We can hide and we can mask it
But we may not survive
If you want to win the race
You must give up the fight
There is only one Man
Who’s ever gotten it right
He died on a cross
In obedience to the Father
He shed His own blood
For His sisters and brothers
Can you picture it now
God’s Only Son on the cross
Nails in His hands
Paying our cost
Don’t take it lightly
What He has done for your soul
He loves you, He forgives you
Just give God control
He will not condemn you
That’s already been done
He longs to embrace you
His daughters and sons
So run into His arms
They are spread open wide
Waiting for you to give up
So He can take over the fight


I’m Not Who I Was

I have a heart that longs to serve God. I would like to say that I have always had that heart, but that is not the case at all. A year ago, I had preconceived notions of who I thought God might be. But as in most other things in my life, I had only jumped to conclusions before knowing all the facts. I didn’t understand God for who He was. I thought IF God was real, then He hated me and He was simply waiting for a moment to strike me down. I have since discovered, though, that I was very, very wrong.

I’m not who I was, but not because I did anything to fix myself. If I was left to my own devices, I would have killed myself by now. I do not say that to be morbid or depressing, but simply to be honest. I was on a downward spiral through most of my life and I was quickly destroying myself. Satan did not need to get involved in my life to make me miserable; I believe I was doing enough of that myself. When I finally realized something had to change, I thought I had fallen too far. I never thought God could pull out of the pit of despair that I had found myself in, nor that He would want to.

Because of God’s grace, I am not who I was. He has changed me from the inside out. The simple fact that I long to serve Him, proves that He has done something in me to change my heart, because I would have never developed that longing on my own. Shortly into developing my relationship with Christ, God showed me that He wanted me to minister to high school aged kids, specifically girls. I knew that, that was not where He wanted me at that moment; I had plenty of healing to do myself before I could’ve even considered helping anyone else. But I also know that one day, that is where He would get me.

Luke 16:10 – Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.

So trusting in His sovereignty and providence, I have gone through a long and arduous healing journey. It has been painful and educational. I have learned a lot of God and myself. And I am not done. I will be on this healing journey until the day He brings me home. I am a codependent. My recovery will take place daily, for the rest of my life. I am a walking relapse.

I feel unworthy of all the God has given me and I am blown away and awe-struck by the fact the His Son, Jesus Christ, DIED FOR ME!! But in the feeling of unworthiness, God continues to bless me more than I could have ever dared to dream.

This past week alone, He has given me so much healing and freedom. I am astounded. I thought I was free already and I didn’t think it could get much better…BUT IT DOES; AND IT DID!!

Ephesians 3:20 – Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

At last week’s Celebrate Recovery meeting, I shared my testimony for the first time. I walked into it shaking; I was terrified. A friend told me that once I opened my mouth the Holy Spirit would take charge and the nerves would be gone. I didn’t believe her; I thought that might’ve been true for her but I doubted that it was true for me. There I go again, not trusting in God’s power. But this friend of mine was correct.

As I stepped up to the front of the room, I hugged my sweet friend with tears already in my eyes and I was almost wishing I could just run out of the room. I’m kind of glad that my voice was already scratchy because I think that made the shakiness in my voice less noticeable. Well, as I looked out at the audience and saw all the people who came out to support me, I was calmed when I realized that these people were there for one reason and one reason only – they loved me. And because they loved me, they were there to support me. I looked down at my papers and I started to speak and that’s when I felt it – the Holy Spirit. My anxiety and nervousness disappeared and I was calm. The time seemed to fly by as I spoke the words that God wanted me to speak. The next thing I knew, I was done and I was being engulfed with hugs. I heard things like, “I love you,” and “I’m proud of you,” and “thank you,” and “that was encouraging,” and “I love your honesty.” These are all things that I never thought would come from me sharing some of the darkest parts of my life with other people. I was encouraged, loved, and humbled. But most of all I realized how free I am

I thought before I shared my testimony, that God had set me free from the bondage of my past; I didn’t think it could get much better. Boy, was I mistaken. I’m blown away by how free I feel now and how much support, love, and encouragement I have received as a result.

Sharing my testimony gave me more healing than I even realized that I needed. Still feeling unworthy, I was realizing that God would use me right where I was.

Then, yesterday, I attended the Celebrate Recovery One Day Seminar. I had been feeling a little unsure about stepping up to a leadership position in Celebrate Recovery. I mean, how could I be a leader when I still had so much of my own junk to work on? In retrospect, I am understanding the silliness of that statement.

Early in the day, someone said that being a leader did not mean that you had to have it all figured out, but more so, you needed to realize that you did not have it all figured out. I have been given some of the most wonderful leaders in my recovery process and it can be a bit intimidating if I think that I can never be as good as them. But I do not think that those are the thoughts that God wants me to have about becoming a leader. I do not think that God wants me comparing their gifts to mine; we are different people with different gifts and God will use us in different ways, all for the same purpose.

Not too long ago, I knew someone who hurt me deeply. In my process of recovery, I thought I had forgiven him. But one thing I realized yesterday is that I was still very hurt by and very angry with this person. God showed me this when, Johnny Baker, the Celebrate Recovery Pastor at Saddleback Church got up to speak. He looks just like the man who hurt me and my heart started doing flips. I got fidgety and very anxious from the moment I saw him and I thought that what was supposed to be a great experience for me was going to be terrible and that maybe God was showing me that I wasn’t cut out for leadership yet. But as the day progressed and I realized why I was feeling the way I was, I was able to process through the pain. Before I left last night, I went and spoke to him. I did not explain to him why I needed to talk to him; I do not feel like that was necessary. However, for my own healing, I simply needed to talk to him. I shook his hand, talked with him a bit about The Landing, and he introduced me to someone else who I could give me more information about how The Landing works. It was that short conversation and his gentleness that allowed to extend forgiveness to the man who had hurt me years before. God gave me so much healing yesterday, healing that I did not even know that I needed. The Enemy does not want me to step into leadership and I truly believe that he was trying to get to back down yesterday, but thank God that He is stronger and than the Enemy and that He knows where He wants me. As long as I’m willing to listen to the call of God on my life, He’ll make a way for me to get there.

Ephesians 4:12 – Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.

So speaking of The Landing; yesterday was the first time I had really ever heard of it. As soon as Johnny Baker started talking about it yesterday my sponsor started elbowing me as I was already thinking that this was where I wanted to be. I do not know how God wants me to be involved in The Landing. I do not feel worthy to even be a part of it, so I have many insecurities swirling around my head about it. But I know, by the pulling I feel in my heart, that The Landing is where God wants me.

The Landing is how God is going to allow me to help high school kids.

I am humbled at where God has brought me to today. I am in awe of the power He has and I am blown away that He would bless me as much as He has. God has pulled me from the pits of my despair and is now placing me in a position where I can share what He has given me. I just pray that I will be a good steward of the things He has given me and the I will extend the grace He has shown me to the people around me.

 


I am an Artist

What is an artist? What is art for that matter? I guess I never considered myself to be an artist because whenever I think of art, I think of paint and a canvas. But the definition of art doesn’t end with painters. Webster’s dictionary defines art as the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects. So within that definition, I am an artist and the words I write are art.

I recently read Pursing Christ, Creating Art by Gary Molander; and it was quite possibly one the most challenging but insightful and encouraging books I’ve ever read. This book described who I am in ways that I never realized.

I am an artist.
I experience higher highs than non-artists. I throw parties when an ingrown toenail experiences healing.
I experience lower lows than non-artists. I can lie helpless in the fetal position when I experience an ingrown toenail.
I live in heaven or hell. There is no Hades.
I am deeply introspective and overly self-critical.
I want you tell me the truth about my art.
I wish you wouldn’t tell me the truth about my art.
I live one-step on the other side of the line, and stick my big toe over with too much regularity.
I need authority, and I struggle with authority. And I don’t really think I need authority.
I have a much better way, and I have no idea what that is.
I am naturally unorganized, but I’ve forced myself to become more organized. I’ve done this in the name of self-preservation.
I love Jesus with all my heart and all my soul.
I honestly believe that beautiful art can change the world.
I can’t wait to create some new thing.

The book begins with this description of an artist. It’s as if the author stepped into my head and pulled out all of my unrealized characteristics. Weird.

I experience higher highs and lower lows than non-artists. This one sentence makes so much sense of so much of my life that didn’t make sense before. For most of my life, I’ve felt as if my emotions were excessive, as if I got sadder about things and happier about things that “normal” people would. This fact has often frustrated me and made me feel as if I didn’t belong. As I came to have a relationship with Christ, I have accepted this “quirk” about myself and that I am probably just a bit more emotional than many people. I have come to be okay with that. But now, it seems to run much, MUCH, deeper than that.

Because I have higher highs and lower lows than non-artists, I live in either Heaven or hell experiences. There is very little, if any, in between when it comes to my emotional state. I’m an all or none kind of person.

As an artist, I will always react to difficult situations with more grief and sadness than most people. But the opposite is true, too. The smallest success or idea that allows me even the dimmest glimmer of hope will always cause me extreme joy. And I need to stop crucifying myself because of this. I need to stop trying to hide it…Make no mistake about it. The best art is borne in the joy of heaven, or the pain of hell. God-fearing artists will experience both, and God will beautifully interact with them in both places…So while artists need to stop living and dying based on every whim of our emotions, we also need to come to grips with the fact that, for many of our tribe, we will always exhibit high highs, and low lows. And when we place our ordinary lives on the daily altar as living sacrifices, we need to make sure and place this tendency on the altar as well, for God to mold and transform as He sees fit.

I can’t create art from an “in between” emotional state – it just doesn’t work. “In between” art isn’t moving, it doesn’t change lives, it doesn’t draw out emotion. But because I have so much emotion, positive or negative, running through me at any given time – I NEED to create art. God gave me the gift of being able to write and when I don’t write, which is the only way for me to REALLY get my thoughts and feelings out of my head, I notice that I begin to get distant from God. In other words: I don’t need to create art for God. He doesn’t need it. I need to create art in response to God.

I create art in response to what God has done for me.

He did something first, and we are now able to go and do something that looks and smells a lot like what He’s already given to us. We create art because He first created art. And the art He first created is you. It’s me. It’s anyone who has been made alive with Christ.

I am a work of art who is creating art. I need to stop procrastinating. God created me, He knows how I function. He knows that I have natural bent towards writing, He put it there. So when I get distant from writing, I get distant from God. I write many of my prayers simply because speaking them doesn’t allow me to get out my feelings and thoughts the way writing does. But oftentimes, I put off writing because I afraid that I will fail. I’m afraid that whatever makes it to the paper won’t meet my own expectations. Which it rarely does; I have high expectations for my own work. The reason why I procrastinate and the avoid sharing my art with other people: fear and pride. And God is working on crucifying those things in me. I’ve come to a place in my life where I don’t have to listen to the voices that say my art is no good and that as a result, I am no good. I don’t have to be afraid of how my art will be received. God already has a plan for my life and for my art and He knows who needs to see, read, or hear it and who will be moved by. God is in charge of that.

So in response to what God has done for me, I create. I write. I share emotion. I pour a part of my very soul into my writing and I am honored that God would give me this gift that can make even the slightest difference within His Kingdom. If God says that my art is good enough, who am I to disagree? If God gave me the artistic bent that I have, who am I to tell Him that I don’t need to use it?


Because I am Beautiful

I know I can’t be the only person who is appalled by what our society deems as beautiful. The messages we, as women, receive about beauty and success just make me sad. I googled the word “beauty” and the picture to the left is one of this first things that came up. It simply makes me sad for our next generation of girls who don’t know and understand how God sees them. Then I googled “Godly beauty” and the image to the right was one of the first results. There’s a big difference between what the world sees as beautiful vesus what God sees as beautiful.

We receive the message that we’re not beautiful unless we are very thin and wear designer clothing and we’re not successful unless we’re beautiful. And unless we’re beautiful and successful, we’re unlovable. For a long time, those messages shaped who I was and who I wanted to be. From a very young age I wanted to be thinner. I never felt good enough. I felt ashamed of my “ugliness” and I turned to extreme measures to try to find some comfort and control. I just knew that if I wanted to be beautiful then I needed to be thinner. I have tried to lose weight through the unhealthy obsession of an eating disorder. I have tried to manage the shame of that eating disorder through self-harm. It’s a vicious cycle. The more out of control I felt, the more control I tried to grab a hold of; but the more control tried to grasp for, the more control I lost.

All I wanted was to be beautiful because I wanted love. I never had the reaffirming love of my dad while I was growing up, so I turned to ridiculous places to find it. I didn’t find love in alcohol, I didn’t find love in self harm, I didn’t find love in an eating disorder. As I got older, I was beginning to believe that I would never find love.

But, better late than never, my dad showed me love. He showed me the love of an unfailing, all-powerful, sovereign God. As I began to understand who God was, I began to understand who He said I was and what He said was beautiful.

1 Peter 3:3-4 – Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

1 Samuel 16:7 – But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

God doesn’t see beauty in our external appearance. Beauty doesn’t come from our weight or our clothes, but beauty comes from our heart. God doesn’t see the way the world sees. When the world judges us by our outward appearance, God looks into our hearts and sees our real selves, our hidden lives. That can be comforting or terrifying, depending on how we see God. If I try to find beauty based on the world’s standards, I will never be satisfied. But based on God’s standards, I am already beautiful and love by my Heavenly Father. I don’t like to dress up and I don’t like to wear make up, but guess what? God still loves me unconditionally and thinks I am beautiful. I am His daughter and He loves me, no matter how I look.

Song of Solomon 4:7 – You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.

Isaiah 43:1 – But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

Proverbs 31:30 – Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

God doesn’t love me BECAUSE I am beautiful; rather, I am beautiful because He loves me.

When we look at what we think is beautiful, do we ever think about why we think certain things are beautiful? I learned a great lesson from watching VeggieTales’ Sweetpea Beauty with the girls. I’m not the one who finds beauty in everything, God does, but I simply choose to agree with Him.

I wish I could get rid of the messages that we’re not good enough, we’re not thin enough, and we’re not pretty enough. But society continues to pour out those messages and there’s not much I can do to stop it. However, I can counteract them with the Word of God. I can counteract those messages with choosing to not believe them and to believe who God says I am.

Psalm 139:14 – I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

God didn’t just throw me together from scraps, He knew me intimately and He intricately crafted me with the work of His hands. Who am I to contradict Him?


Human Fragility

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how fragile I was before I came to know and understand the love of God. To look at me, you wouldn’t have thought I was fragile; I had a really tough exterior. But I was an emotional train wreck. A single insult from a friend or a criticism from a family member would send me into a downward spiral of negative thinking and self-analyzing. My self-esteem was in the gutter and my heart felt as if it had been trampled. I was overwhelmed by my own emotions, but I masked it.

I was fragile because I was lonely and I felt unloved. I was fragile because I felt like a failure and I wanted someone to notice me. I was fragile because I didn’t know how to make things better; I only seemed to keep making them worse.

But mostly, I was fragile because I was trying to do life on my own terms and with my own power. I was finding my identity in the things of the world because I didn’t know who God said I was.

Proverbs 27:7 – A person who is full refuses honey, but even bitter food tastes sweet to the hungry.

This verse can easily describe my life before Christ. I was hungry; I was starving for fulfillment. But because I was so hungry for it, I indulged in things that would ultimately harm me and those closest to me. At the time of course, I didn’t realize that the thing that tasted so sweet was really bitter and would come back to bite me.

Isaiah 43:4 – Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.

This is who God says I am. I am precious to Him, I am honored, and He loves me. That truth, more than anything else, has helped to remove me from my fragility. When I know who I am in Him, I don’t have to try anymore. I don’t have to keep striving to find love and acceptance. I don’t have to give in to what the world wants of me because it is not the world who defines me. The best definition of something (someone) comes from the One who created it. So I will choose to listen to who God says I am, over who the world says I am.

Ephesians 2:4-5 – But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)

Grace…what a beautiful thing! I am still in awe of the grace that God continues to show me every day. He brought me back to life and saved me from my sins. It is only in His power alone that I can trust to make it through this life. Thankfully though, this life is not what I was made for. Like the old Switchfoot song says, “we were meant live for so much more.” God made us for so much more than what this world has to offer and I look forward to the day that I get to experience that in Heaven.

So in case you are wondering if I am still fragile? Yes, I am, but I am protected. I am still a very emotional person. I still cry when my feelings are hurt. I still want to avoid confrontation with other people. I am still human. But, I know now what I didn’t know before. And that is: that in the midst of sadness, pain, anger, frustration, and hurt, God is there for me and my identity is found in Him. Now, whenever I face a moment that would have before broken me, I can turn to God. I can fall into His open arms and let Him hold me together. Because I am His daughter and He loves me!

This life may hurt sometimes, but when God has helped me through the pain, I’ll be better for it on the other side.


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