Monday, March 30, 2015

Truth Project: I Am Not a Victim

I didn't stand rooted in love but instead let fear dictate the direction of my life.

I was a victim. I walked around with my head down not realizing the value of myself. I didn't stand rooted in love but instead let fear dictate the direction of my life. I didn't know how to be confident in my worth, to speak up for what I believed in. I didn't know how to allow myself to intentionally be messy in my relationships so that they could be fulfilled and complete. I didn't realize that not striving to constantly be enough was an option. So I always put on my best game face and then drove home crying to God each night.

I knew I had so much love but I didn't feel it reciprocated. I didn't have that constant assurance that my past has engraved a need for. So I felt like an outcast within the most important relationship of my life. I felt neglected and unwanted and I didn't know how to ask for help. I covered up feelings behind other frustrations. I let my actions speak anger and then repented through text hours later when I was able to clear my mind. I fought for love by playing games in my head that determined when I was loved and when I was cast aside. I made rules for myself to follow and then punished myself emotionally when I failed yet again.

I was literally battling the ghosts of my past while living in the shell of a healthy relationship. I was destroying myself from the inside out because I was looking to this man to say I was worthy and loved and cared for and enough. When all that complete fulfillment can only come from the man who gave His life for mine. I didn't know. I was so close to receiving His love but so far.

No one pulled me aside and told me about grace and redemption through Jesus. No one told me directly that I didn't have to be perfect because it's an impossible feat that only a Savior can fulfill. No one told me that the scars from my past were just that - just imprints of the battles I have been through - but not indicators of my beauty or value. I went to church every week and no one there asked if I knew Jesus. I spent time with the pastor and his family and I loved all the people of the church as if they were my family - and I wanted them to somehow be - yet no one ever invited me to a bible study or women's group. No one invited me in to see that we are all messy and imperfect. But yet we are all loved and called to love each other. And because I spent years trying to impress the people I cared most about I never dared to speak my emotions. Instead casting all my frustrations on a miserable job and tough family life.

I wanted so desperately to be of some value. More than anything else, I ultimately wanted someone to fight for me. To take a stand and acknowledge that I'm a good person with a broken past. To offer more than just a devotional but the conversation as to why this is for me. I had the books and the tools but no one told me how to use them. No one told me the rules of how it all worked. So when I came to Jesus I must have looked a bit silly. After spending years going to church and running into the bathroom and crying on communion days- I didn't know where to begin. Could I take communion? Did I need to be a member of the church? Who are all these Johns in the bible and why does God keep changing everyone's names? Where do you start when reading the bible and what do you mean you don't have to read it in order?

I was so close, skating on the outskirts of grace.

I had so much need for a redeemer. A safe place. A hope and a light. I was so close, skating on the outskirts of grace. I had no idea the edge I was dangling on. I didn't realize the amazing love that wasn't locked up or hidden but was staring me point blank in the face. How could I be so close yet so far? I am so grateful for the people I've met and the places I've gone. The things I did learn and the ways it changed me ultimately for the better. Gosh, if I could go back and do it over, I would love nothing more. What an enriching experience it would be. To turn the pages and say- that was the old. This is the new.

But it couldn't happen that way. I sense it in my bones the way I can sense the seasons changing. That was never how God planned it to be. I needed to do this on my own. Not under anyone else's direction or leading. This way I know for sure this was my own desire and not the desire to impress anyone but God. Despite my constant want to lean on someone else to make the decisions and to drive the car - I also have this innate need to have control. It doesn't make sense. Oil and water I know. Perhaps a trait I developed from years of living in an abusive home I couldn't escape. Maybe the unspoken assumption that I would turn out the same as what my family history dictates. But something in me has this desire to feel somewhat in control and when that's not happening I feel an uneasiness and distrust. So I know that this is the way I needed to come to the Lord. Solely. Searching for Him just humbled and alone. Desperate for an answer because after trying, striving and failing there needs to be another way.

I am not a victim. I am not destined to repeat the history of abusive relationships or alcohol and drugs that bleeds it's way through my family tree.

He is the way. He is the truth and the life. He is the only way for me and He is the only life I want. Apart from Him I can do nothing and that is so incredibly clear looking back on the past 7 years of my life. Perhaps even more than that. I am not a victim. I am not destined to repeat the history of abusive relationships or alcohol and drugs that bleeds it's way through my family tree. I'm a conqueror. I am saved by grace so that I can share with the world that there is more to life. And if no one ever told you about it, please let me.

Anyone who has ever made you feel less than amazing has lied to you.

You don't have to do this alone and you don't have to pretend. If you feel unfulfilled and want more from your life, Jesus wants you even more than that. Jesus is not religion. He is not politics or rules. He is grace upon grace. He is light and goodness. He carries our burdens and lightens our loads. He gives us redemption through His blood and He saves all those who seek Him. I know my life is going to be so different than how it's been because He promises a hope and a future. It won't all be rainbows and sunshine, puppies and flowers. No, He allows us to be refined into His image which comes through suffering through trials of this life. But He is always with us, always constant and always good. He never forsakes us. He is for me and He is for you. We are not victims to the lies we have believed. Anyone who has ever made you feel less than amazing has lied to you. Don't believe those lies for one more minute. Pick up the truth and let it set you free. There is freedom in the cross and it is unlike any freedom you will experience in this world.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday

This morning I sat and read all the scripture pertaining to Palm Sunday. What happened all those centuries ago on this day. How Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a young colt and how the masses threw down their coats and yelled "Hosanna!" as they waved their palms. The people were proclaiming Jesus as their King. They were ready for Him to take over reign and save them from the oppression of the Roman Empire. There's so much significance here. So much we can unearth and dig into. The soil I dug into today was a little different than the typical Palm Sunday reverie.

Unless a piece of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. - John 12:24

As soon as I read this line of scripture my eyes fixed on it as if there was something here. Something maybe that I could glean from this passage. I asked myself, 'What is my initial thought from this?'

Immediately I thought of the dream I woke up to this morning. It left me sad and to be honest, a little worn out. In my dream I was still together with my ex. I was sensing he was about to break up with me and so I tried everything I could to get him to stay. I wrote him a letter and I begged for time together with him. At one point I watched him write a letter and tape it to my door. Before I could get to it to open it up, I woke up. The symbolism doesn't escape me. I am fully aware now that I will never have the answers that I so desperately wanted. How the dream ends before I get those heartfelt words is not a coincidence. In fact, in all my dreams, I always wake up before I get to the 'point'.

Reading this passage really struck me. I felt God saying "Let go of the good, for the better." My past relationship was not bad. We never fought and I think our chemistry never really died. In so many ways I felt like this relationship was ideal. I have held onto that thought for so long, feeling like I really lost out on the best thing that might ever happen to me.

I know, I know... I can hear you saying not to put God in this small box. I know God is capable of providing more than I can think or imagine. Lately, things have been happening and in my heart I hear God say each time, "See, I always provide for you." In the most simple, mediocre ways - like getting the last parking spot in my lot. Yet, despite all these things for some reason I feel like when it comes to my future and the potential for a husband, it feels meek. Not because I don't think God can provide but because I see how lack I've been in this area in the past.

Needless to say, I heard God simply say to let go of that. To let him go and trust that God has something more fruitful for me. Yes a strand of wheat is good, but a whole plant will be so much more fulfilling. Without letting this piece of wheat fall to the ground to die, it remains alone. But if I let this relationship fall into the dust of the earth, from it much fruit will come. Fruit from the tears I've sowed. "Those who have sowed with tears will return with songs of joy." [Psalm 126:5] One broken little seed can sprout up a plant that grows, provides for, and fills far beyond measure. But I must let that seed be buried beneath the earth. Pushed into the dark cold soil. To be rained on for months.

I researched the symbolism of wheat in the bible. Turns out it represents love and charity. Furthermore, harvesting the wheat symbolises the advancing state of love and charity.

So to bury this seed in order to let it be harvested months after the rain has ended will grow in love and charity. It will produce much fruit, an abundance, a surplus, more than I had before and fruit that is good for the soul. It won't sprout up overnight but in it's due season.

It's hard to let go of something good in order to wait for something better. Waiting for a plant to develop is literally like watching grass grow. It feels slow and sometimes painful. In my mind I can still see myself in 3rd grade. We planted seeds and each morning would monitor for signs of growth. I feel like my plant was always the last to sprout.

Don't settle for the good when you can have the best. Keep waiting patiently on the Lord. Your seed will grow. 

Let go of what is good and satisfying, allow it to fall into the hands of God and let Him fertilize it. He knows the perfect time and He's the ultimate creator of all things good. Your seed will sprout and from it will be a much greater joy. Your patient obedience will pay off in dividends.

Yes, I'm preaching to myself. I've been crying Hosanna for quite some time. I'm ready to drop these seeds down and see what will sprout up from it. Today while visiting grams in the nursing home I saw a couple walk in with giant palms. I asked grams if she saw it, she didn't. But immediately she said, "It's Palm Sunday? Did you go to church today?" I love that. I love that she can still remember who Jesus is and to honor Him even though she can't always remember much else. That's the benefit of allowing your seed to take roots. It grows down deep and bears much fruit for years to come.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Happy One Year!

Today is the one year anniversary... that word still hurts, let's say Birthday! Today is my blog's first birthday! Cue the adorable paper crowns, party streamers, confetti and of course cake!

I know I'm currently working through some hard things but I also feel this call to post some light hearted things as well and what a better opportunity!? First of all, I can't believe I've been blogging for a year. It has been such a fulfilling and amazing journey. While I don't know who the 5365 alleged readers are to date (I'm sure half are probably just me checking the way the formatting came through, despite me blocking my own counts) - I'm so thankful to be able to reach an audience of friends, family and internet lovelies.

My blog has ebbed and flowed- sometimes being really gospel-y (can I make that a word?) and other times being just really raw and heartfelt. My goal with this blog has and will continue to be about sharing my journey and hopefully encouraging others. All glory to God. This is a judgement-free zone that I hope extends to those who read my blog.

I love having a place to speak my voice, to connect the dots of my thoughts, and to just share what I'm learning and living. It hasn't always been easy. I've lost several good friends in the past year who thought my words were directed at them. Who turned away in the moment that I needed them the most. But I've also been able to strengthen my relationships with others. The ones who stuck around through the brokenness. The ones who instead of running showed up at my house with dinner or sent texts and emails to check in on me. At the end of it all, I cherish both of those instances because they've helped shape me into the person God intends for me to be.

In the past year God has done an incredible work in me. Much to my dismay it didn't happen overnight but it happened just the way it needed to so it would stick. I'm so grateful for the friendships I've made, for the truths I've learned and for my opportunity to encourage and love others.

Another thing that has changed in this past year is my desires. I was so content working Monday through Friday, weekends and holidays off. It's wonderful and dreamy. But I now have these desires to do more. Not necessarily as a full time gig (at least not right now), but a dream to make art and inspire others. I've told several people this and I think it's a bit silly but it's the truth.... When I was in middle school and high school I loved art. But art wasn't 'cool' and it certainly wasn't a paying job. So I did what I could to overcome what my parents weren't able to. I graduated high school and then I went to college, majored in something honorable and 'close' to what I thought I wanted to do, and then graduated from that. After that I struggled to find a job. Mostly due to the economy but also because I didn't really want to work in public relations. To me I was more interested in marketing, promotions, event planning - that sort of thing.

But again, that's what I thought I wanted to do. Now I'm realizing my dream again of art. When I was in high school I wanted to make cards and stationary and then quietly reminded myself, no one sends letters anymore. Then meanwhile, while I was working and going to school full time- etsy was born. All of a sudden there was a market and a place for people like me to reach others. Then pinterest was born and now everyone's all up in my artsy-craftsy and it's cool again.

To be honest, I feel like I missed the boat. I feel like I'm too old to figure out how it all works now, to network and grow and dream and make things happen. But I'm still going to try. It is my goal to sell at least one piece of art by the end of this year, 2015.

So yes, this past year has been a journey for sure. Yes, I still cry and often. I still feel hurt and betrayed by some of the people that I loved and trusted the most. It still feels like a bad dream when I stop to think about it because one minute everything was fine and the next minute I was in the storm of my life. It hasn't been easy and I have no desire to go back. Yet, it's like climbing the top of a mountain or finishing a race, I'm so thankful for the progress I've made and I'm happy to say I made it a lot further than I imagined I would.

So THANK YOU for reading along with me this past year. For encouraging me and sticking around. Thanks for letting me pour out my heart into messy pieces all over the place even if we had just finished picking it up and putting it back together. Here's hoping year two has many more celebrations! I can't wait to see what the Lord has planned for me!

Also, in case you missed some of these posts or you just started following along, here's a mix of my most read or most favorite posts from the past year:

Discovering Grace (3/22)*
Moving Forward (7/25)
Where I'm Going (10/1)
Adoption; A Different Kind of Brave (11/22)

*ironic that I talk about storms of my life/century & cake in both my first post ever and todays? hmm... life needs more cake. ;)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Truth Project: I Am Seen

Therefore, therefore, do not lose heart. But take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach His word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for. - John Piper

Last week I shared that I feel prompting in my heart to speak truth over some of the areas of my life where I've struggled the most. This is especially in light of the fall out of my last relationship. The very first truth that I want to address is the one that speaks against the feelings of being invisible.

In my last relationship, we did not tell people we were dating. Only close friends and family knew. For three years I had to put up with this charade of a double life. One life where I was the single working girl and then my other life where I enjoyed being in a committed relationship to a guy I loved. For two and a half more years it was the same in "friend" format. I had been compartmentalized for so long it left me worn down. While at first I totally was on board with not sharing with others (hello, gossip fest - I see it now as those same people we avoided telling read this with speculation and perhaps what they believe is affirmation..) - it really became something that broke me down emotionally. I didn't talk about it to him. Perhaps I didn't even fully realize it. But after a while, hiding from co-workers out while grocery shopping or not being able to attend work events kind of left me feeling lousy. I felt left out and unnoticed. After all, if he really loved me he would want to show me off and tell others about me, right? Instead it was as if I was tucked away neatly in the corner only to be brought out when it sufficed. Week night dinner partner? Check! Sunday drives with coffee? Check! Family events? Sure! And then it started to go downhill from there. Now, don't get me wrong. I loved this guy with all I had. We had a blast when we were together and I don't think I was just this token to keep hidden away. No.

But it sure starts to feel like maybe there's something wrong....with me. I can recall so many moments of life where I was told I wasn't worth anything so being segregated from a big part of his life like that really made me feel confirmed in those truths. I know it contributed to the emotional distress I had towards the end of our relationship. All my hurts came out in bitterness and anger. All the times I felt neglected or pushed to the side for someone else who needed something. He was always running to everyone elses aid and a lot of times that left me feeling unnoticed. I didn't know how to communicate back then (not that I'm any type of pro now) so it silently picked at me until it ate me alive.

In a lot of ways I don't think he realized what he was doing to me. But that is not the point. He's no longer in my life and I still have these feelings here that I'm invisible to the world. That I'm not seen. It has really started (or always has been) impacting other areas of my life as well. Work, hobbies, social media - everywhere I turn I feel this slight tinge that I'm overlooked. There are moments that I get lost in my emotions and for days I won't receive a text or phone call to say, "hey i'm thinking of you." When everyone else has their own life, their own relationships, their own family and plans - I feel forgotten.

The thing about feeling invisible is that it's a gateway to all other kinds of insecurities. So if I'm going to dig up all these lies I've lived believing, I might as well start here.

I have discovered a much different concept in the bible. God sees His people. In Exodus when God tells Moses He's going to deliver the people out of Babylon, He says to him "I have surely seen the oppression of My people...and have heard their cry...for I know their sorrows" (Exodus 3:7) God sees us. Even when the world doesn't know we exist. God sees. Even when we spend our days isolated. Even when it seems that our troubles, cares, desires, heart go unnoticed, God sees us.

Part of the freedom I'm discovering is realizing that I'm not meant to be hidden in some corner. You do not hide a lamp under a basket, but put it on the table, so that it's light shines forth. (Matthew 5:15) God did not design me to be hidden away- but to be used for His glory. A relationship that is glorifying to the Lord is going to represent in reality what is spoken in word.

So I take this truth and I try and believe it. Try to believe that I'm seen. Among the criticism and intentional non-invites there is a place for me in this world still to be seen in my truest form.

Just tonight driving home I saw what I thought was a giant rainbow. When I took my sunglasses off, I could not see it. But when I put them back on what I realized is that there was a giant sun dog around the sun. That was really cool. In the same way that I couldn't see with my blind eyes the beauty in front of me, I think this is how I've looked at myself. I spent so long looking at myself through everyone else's eyes - that I could only see the distorted view I've always knew. I let the worlds view of me shape my view of who the person God created me to be. I haven't been able to really see the way that God does. I haven't tried looking through His eyes. Turns out His view is a lot different.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

& the Truth Will Set You Free

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." John 8:31-32

Lately it's been a battle. A battle between truth and what I've believed up until this point. It's so easy for everyone to say "speak truth over yourself." But one thing I've realized lately is that the truth is the opposite of what I have believed and that's a hard thing to deal with. It's not as simple as just doing it. It's a process to learn to believe it. I feel called to speak truth here. I've been pouring out my heart and being honest with my emotions and feelings. Yet, those aren't always in line with the truth.

Truth is, it's messy. Truth is, it's holding me back.

I don't want to unearth all these things that are true, but His word promises it will set me free.

Maybe it will set others free too. Those of us who hold ourselves captive under the stronghold of fear and guilt. Because the greater picture is always so much more than we can see while we're in the midst of the storm. Our visibility dramatically decreases and all we can see are the wrongs, all we can do is assume a reason for the unknown, all we can do is cling to hope in the One who can rescue us from the storms of life.

This is a big time project. This isn't going to happen overnight in one blog post but rather in bits and pieces over the course of the coming weeks and maybe months. Honestly, I'm not sure how long it will take. As I unearth each of these truths I know it's going to completely shake me. It's going to break me and change me and it's going to hurt a lot. But that hurt is going to bring the healing. It needs to happen. It's been far too long that I've lived with the lies. Lies that have twisted themselves with lies from my childhood that I have grown to believe.

I don't want to get too far into this now. No. Each issue has it's own place. This is just to say that this is where I am. This is the direction God is leading me and I'm following because I just can't do it anymore. I can't keep holding the hurt and hoping for healing when there are truths that I need to be convinced apply to me. I hope it helps others too. I really do. Because we are free from our chains. That redemption has occurred already when Jesus died on the cross for us and gave us eternal life with God. We are no longer under the law, staring at our sin dead on. We are made perfect and whole in the image of Christ and it's time we start living like it.

I'm ready to be free and I'd love you to join me.

You split the sea, so I could walk right through it.
All my fears were drowned in perfect love.
You rescued me so I could stand and sing.
I'm no longer a slave to fear.
I am a child of God.
- Bethel Music, No Longer Slaves 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Catch My Breath

What a crazy few months it's been. Really since the start of January I've been running this race just trying not to lose my breath. I feel like I need to post on so many different things, all at the same time. But I'm not going to do that. You're welcome.

What I do want to talk about is where I am. Literally and figuratively.

Literally, I finally was able to find a place. I really still can't believe it, but my move is over! I didn't move far, just 15 minutes from my last place. The move itself was unlike any other. I'm still in utter disbelief, awe, and gratitude for all the help I received. The move was the smoothest and quickest I've ever had.

My new apartment feels safe. This place feels like where I need to be right now. There were thoughts and moments where I thought I might move back to my old neck of the woods. Seeing that I can't drive through my old town without breaking down in tears told me I'm not ready at all to be there.

I thought about moving closer to my grandmother. A halfway point between my old life and my recent life. Yet, as I considered the proximity that would put me in, the likeliness for a run-in in mutual shopping centers and restaurants was almost scarier than moving directly to the source of pain itself.

I may or may not share in another post all the things that happened or didn't happen that lead me to ultimately choose where I am living now. All I can confirm is that God directed me to this safe place. A place where I can learn who I really am without the distractions of who I used to be. A place where I can be free to explore hopes and dreams that I never realized could have potential to become real life.

And this is where I am figuratively. Balancing between the person I've always known and embracing the new creation that He is making me. I can honestly say, a year ago I knew His promise was that anything in Christ is new - I embraced that thought with all I could. But now, after walking for over a year in the valley and learning to trust Him - I'm finally starting to see it.

I'm excited to share what's been happening and a little hesitant too. Giving voice to the things of the deep that have never seen light has an unknown outcome. I worry that it will change things but also I worry that not saying anything will hold me back from my potential.

Still healing from a wound that has scarred me deeply, I realize I'm standing in a whole new world, full of opportunities. So for now I teeter between the two in order to gain my footing to see just where I've landed.