Sunday, April 29, 2018

One Decision Can Change It All....

    Over two years ago now, I returned from the missions field.  And I remember when I was getting ready to come home, I had all these ideas of how landing on American soil and getting back into my old life would magically make everything better.  It's like I thought "if I could just go back, I can pretend none of this ever happened, and all will be right in the world again".  Of course that didn't happen... as quickly I was faced with the reality that I was not the same person who had left for the missions field, nor were my friends.  And try as I did to wish my old life back into existence, it just wouldn't work...and I struggled with that a lot (in fact, some days I still do).
  One of the hardest things in coming back to the country after two years, having experienced all that I experienced and faced all I faced, was realizing I didn't have a community of people who got me anymore.  For at least the last six or more months of my time on the missions field I had worked so hard to put up a Christian front for people back home that when I walked back into my sending church I immediately realized I was not the person people were expecting and there was no way I could be.  Because of that, I immediately began to become overwhelmed with fear and anxiety because I didn't want to disappoint people and I felt like no matter what I did I would.  Even more than that, I feared I was a disappointment to God and I couldn't wrap my head around the idea that other people would accept me when I didn't even believe that God did any more.  So after several months of skipping church, trying to start going again, and then skipping more...I decide to stop going all together.  At the time I justified it because I was still getting up Sunday morning and leaving the house.  In fact, I always had the intention of at least trying to meet with God by going to a coffee shop with my Bible and journal on those Sunday mornings.  But then I would get distracted by shopping or school work and before I knew it, it was just easier to walk away.
  One of the greatest ramifications of that time (which mind you, there are a lot), is I lost a lot of Christian friends.  People just couldn't understand what was going on with me and I was unwilling to share myself because I feared in being honest they would see me in my mess and reject me.  So instead I just pushed people away, or let them fall away, without really giving them a chance.  The thing is, when you start walking out this life alone (or at least without some solid spiritual influence) you set yourself up to be a prime target for the enemy, and that's exactly what I did.  Now, I didn't go off and start doing drugs or sleeping around or anything so completely irresponsible like that.  But I still got snarled in the traps of the enemy.  The depression I felt before coming home only continued to build up in me during this time and before I knew it I was (and sadly in many ways still am) so wrapped up in fear, anxiety, and a lack of hope that I literally couldn't cry out for help if I wanted to.  Thankfully, and only by God's grace, I found myself back in church about 8 months ago (albeit a different church).  I can't say going back has always been easy, but it's always good...if that makes sense.
  And today... today was a special day in service for me, although it didn't start off that way.  For months now I have struggle so much in trying to figure out how to build some new Godly friendships.  I am not a very outgoing person to begin with, but couple that with the scars and entanglements of the past few years, putting myself out there in a Christian setting has not been easy.  Furthermore, in the times I have successfully stepped out of my comfort zone and truly reached out to try and make a christian connection, nothing has really ever come of it...and it has been hard.  So this morning when I got up, I wasn't super excited to head to church and as I sat in my seat during majority of the service I was fighting everything God was trying to tell me because, shoot...how can I believe any of this is really true if it has no lasting impact on my day to day life and I always seem to end up back where I started....clearly I am doing it wrong and that's why nobody wants to be my friend and why God can't possibly love me on a deep personal level...and yada, yada, whine, whine, whine. (ugh!).  And that's where I was at when service ended... in the midst of a wonderfully epic pity party that only goes to prove you can go to God's house and still make it all about you!  
  Anyway, as I was walking out of service one of my few friends who has stuck by me through the years texted me that she was thinking of coming to church (which is a whole other story, but not mine to tell) and something in me knew I wanted to be there for her (if for no other reason than I would want a friend to be there for me in the same position).  So sitting in my car, I texted back that instead of driving off and going on with my day, I would wait for her and go to service a second time so she wouldn't have to be alone.  It sounds so righteous and selfless that I would put off my day to be there for a friend, but really that decision was a bit self-centered or at least self-indulgent for me.  You see, every week I sit in service alone, feeling like I don't really belong and I never will.  That they've let me in the door and they will be nice to me, but they don't really know me and if they did I would never be welcomed into their group.  But sitting in service for the second time this morning, next to a precious friend who means the world to me and whose let me see her junk and allowed me to be honest with mine, I felt accepted into God's kingdom in a way I haven't felt in years.  It was as if in having that one person beside me.... whose seen my junk and still cares about me and believes that I have a right to sit in the house of God... I was able to believe that maybe there was a place for me after all, that maybe I could belong, and maybe I don't have to live on the outskirts of community for the rest of my life.  It was like in the one moment of time I was able to see the possibility of belonging to a Christian "family"... of having a group of believers who actually  know me and  accept me allow me to be a part of their life and get to know them in such a deeply intimate way that we truly become the family of God and build each other up and spur each other on in Christ.  
  It's been a long time since I've been able to consider the possibility of that...and a long time since the possibility didn't scare me.... but today the thought made me feel free, and for that I am grateful.  Now the last thing I am gonna do is sit here and think that things are automatically gonna change now...I'm not silly enough to think I won't have to fight for this type of community.... but at least for once I am willing to fight...and at least for once I think it's a battle that could actually be won.  For that I am thankful (Thank you God!).  You see, it only really takes one decision... one little, spur of the moment choice, to begin to see things change.  I am believing in that today!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What Does My Need for Control Actually Say About ME?!

  Brace yourself people... I am about to get real honest up in here, so if your looking for a tooty fruity, lovey dovey, light-hearted blog post to read...this might not be the one for you.  FAIR WARNING.  Now here we go... so, several years ago now I secretly went to see a therapist.  I am not good at talking about my emotions, but I knew I needed to talk to someone and I knew that someone would need to work hard to draw out all the junk that was piling up inside of me.  Now, one specific week, I remember sitting with this lady and ... I kid you not... she looked me straight in the eye and mentioned these three simple words that almost sent me through the roof... "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder" (OCD).  Immediately I shook my head no and quickly threw up walls, unwilling to even consider what she had to say because clearly she had no idea what she was talking about and didn't even know me!  Fast forward a couple of years and here I find myself for the past several weeks being the closer at work...which means I am responsible for making sure a certain part of the building gets locked up for the night/weekend... and can I just tell you how many times I check to make sure those doors are locked!  Not only that...but how much I stress each night and weekend worried that maybe the doors were somehow left unlocked even though, if I think about it, I know that I locked them.  It's got me thinking that maybe this therapist lady was a little right and maybe I should have listened to what she had to say about this...and other things...a little more carefully.
  Now obviously, me checking to see if I locked the door over and over again, or obssessing about whether or not it was locked all night or weekend, doesn't mean this therapist was actually right in her prognosis.  But...if I am honest... I've noticed other things I do that totally fit what she was saying too and it's a bit hard to take it all in.  For instance I have all sorts of silly rituals that I do each day....I have to wake up on a 5 or else I feel wrong getting out of bed, so my alarm is always set for 5:55 or 6:25.  I have to put my shoes on and tie them in a specific order or I feel weird about starting my day.  I even have to drive specific routes to certain locations otherwise I feel uneasy and think my day might be doomed.  Now mind you, none of this is really a conscious decision, it's just something I do and it only really sticks out to me when I change my routine and feel quite stressed out about it, as if not doing one of these things can determine the whole course of my day.
  Then there's the whole other side...what goes on in my mind.  Now I've always been an over thinker... like a way over thinker....but honestly there are times I can repeat the same thought over and over and over again in my head, like I'm practicing it for a final exam.  I can't really explain it and I honestly didn't even think anything of it until  few months ago when I caught myself literally repeating over and over again a scenario in my head and how I felt about it, as if the hours of mental replay would actually change anything about what had happen.
  Now I don't share all of this to say that yes, I most definitely now agree with this therapist and its possible that maybe she had a point about me having a mild case of OCD.  And, If I am even more honest, it scares me to even share these kinds of truths about myself with the general public because I know I am leaving myself open and vulnerable to criticism, judgment, and the various opinions of man.  But...I share this with you all anyway, despite all that, because the more I think about it, the more I see that all these rituals and all these thought patterns come down to one specific thing...CONTROL.  I have a need to feel like I am in control... and the very fact that I so desperately long for control...and that I actually think that doing any or all of these things can somehow allow me to control the outcome of my day... tells me that ultimately I am not placing my trust in God.
   Now, you might be thinking, what's the big deal?  We all try to have some sense of control in our lives...does that really mean your not trusting God?   Well, for me, it does.  I mean,  in doing all these things and over thinking situations as I do, I am basically saying that I think I am somehow more capable figuring out life on my own and trusting in my own abilities than I am in allowing the God of the universe....the God who created me and knows everything about me and this world....to guide me through this life!  Is that not both insanely ridiculous and awfully audacious of me to believe?!?!  Think about it....here is febble me who literally cannot even control her emotions half the time, telling GOD...the one who was before all and over all... that I can better determine the course of my life on a daily basis by only ever rolling out of bed from one specific side of it or making sure I leave a specific light on in the house when I leave for work (or a million other silly rituals), than HE is able to do if I would just put my trust in Him COMPLETELY.  It sounds silly just typing it out and the mental picture it gives me makes me want to laugh (or maybe cry).
  Now to be honest, I am not sure when this way of life started for me....it's probably been a part of me for much longer than I even realize... but now that I see it, I don't like it.  I don't like the pressure and the fear I put on my own shoulders when I think I have to do it all right or my life will fall apart.  I don't like that I think I have to control situations and if I make one false move or say one wrong things I can send my life into oblivion (okay, that statement might be a little bit of an overstatement, but you get what I am trying to say, I hope.).  And the truth is, I don't think this was ever how God intended me (or anyone to live).  He says in His word that His yoke is easy and His burden in light.  And I think when I learn to let go and trust Him to be who He IS, instead of trying to control everything all myself, I will actually experience true freedom.  So that's my prayer...that God would help me to change by helping me learn to hand over the CONTROL of my life to him and to TRUST him COMPLETELY, without any "help" from me. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Of Miracles and Prayer...

  Albert Einstein is attributed with saying that there are only two ways to live life, one as if everything is a miracle and the other as if nothing is.  Now when I consider the life of Einstein I can't help but regard him as this highly intelligent man who legitimately knew stuff... like deeply understood the complexities of how things worked. Yet here's this guy who got things on this highly intellectual level, and yet, still believed in miracles (or at least I am assuming he did...I mean, if he didn't why even bother saying anything about miracles to begin with, unless of course  in some way he actually believed in them). Personally, as much as I long to be the type of person who sees the miracles all around me, more times than not, I just don't.  I even have to fight to see the miracle IN the miracle sometimes!
  For example, this morning I am sitting in church and our pastor tells this awesome story about the healing of a woman in our congregation, and the whole time I am listening to this testimony, instead of celebrating and rejoicing together with the rest of the church in celebration of what God had done...all that was going through my head was, "false positives on medical test happen all the time, it doesn't mean she was healed, just that medicine is an imperfect science".  SERIOUSLY, JESSICA!  What is wrong with me?! This is a miracle!  Whether or not the test was accurate, God came through and gave his daughter what she needed! The God of the universe, who not only created everything but is in everything, saw fit to reach down his mighty hand and touch this woman's life!  He gave her peace, comfort, his love, and quite possibly healing...and THAT IS A MIRACLE! That is a REASON TO CELEBRATE and praise God!  And that is an example of the awesome God we serve, so I should be more excited about it...not caught up in an internal debate about whether or not this constitutes as a move of God or just a medical oversight.
  Then a little later in service, as things were winding down, we had an opportunity as a church to pray for people sitting around us who needed a physical healing.  Has we were doing so, our campus pastor said something like "nobody who ever came to Jesus for healing walked away without receiving it"...and in my pessimistic (often so easily to doubt) mind, all I kept thinking about was those who aren't healed...those who desire so badly for God to take away a physical ailment and yet, even after coming to God fully expecting him to heal them, walk away exactly the same.
  Immediately my mind flashed to a moment in Ecuador when I was praying for a young girl and her mother for healing.  They came to me so desperate for God to do something, and even though I felt such a lack in me, I put everything on the table before God and literally felt like I had ripped out my own heart and handed it to God as a sacrifice to heal this girl (which mind you, I know that's not how prayer works and that Jesus is the only sacrifice...but honestly, that's how deeply invested in this girls healing I was...that I was literally was pouring out my entire heart before God on behalf of this girl)...and in the end she and her mom walked away, just as broken and desperate as they came in.  Now we can debate all the merits of what happened and if and where blame can be placed (if you can even call it blame), but pushing all that aside, there's still the reality that sometimes healing doesn't happen when or how we want it or think it should.
  I mean look at the bible....look at Jesus's life and how he went about healing people.  I don't think it was a haphazard thing or that every single person around him who needed it got a physical healing just cause they wanted it.  Jesus seemed to have a point to everything he did...and He followed the voice of the father in everything.  Even in the story of the healing at the pool of Bethesda, we see all these people sitting around waiting for the water to be stirred so they can get into it and be healed physically, yet Jesus comes to that place and he only physically heals ONE person (Now, maybe he healed more than that, but the bible only tells us about the one and I would think that had he healed others there, at least one of the gospels would have picked up on it...but I could always be wrong).  I can imagine though, that there were other people there that day, sitting by the pool who deeply desired their healing....yet they didn't seem to get it....at least not that day...the day when Jesus was literally there in their midst.  I think there is something important to consider in that.  That maybe healing and miracles don't depend on our desire, or our faith, or even us at all, but on God...who knows way more about the situation than any of us ever could and who gives us what we need when we need it and not necessarily when and how we want it.  Any maybe, miracles and healing don't look like what we expect.
  So I guess, bringing all of this back to the concept of how we (or rather I) view miracles....maybe miracles are more than what meets the eye...more than even what we expect them to be.  And maybe everyone who comes to Jesus for healing does receive it, just maybe not in the way we expect.  Maybe we seek the physical manifestation, but what God is more concerned with is our heart. And when we put our faith out there, reach out to him and choose to believe in Him, He can and does perform a miracle in us....even if we physically walk away exactly the same. We cannot encounter God and walk away without being changed in some way!  IT IS NOT POSSIBLE!  And in knowing and believing in that, we are able to receive our miracle, day in and day out.  And maybe that is how we begin to live life as if everything is a miracle, and not as if nothing is!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The History and Today's Revelation of my Personal "Quiet Time"...

  So this morning I was doing my morning "devotion/quiet time" (whatever you want to call it) and not even ten minutes in my eyes started getting droopy, my handwriting started to turn into illegible chicken scratch that was only halfway on the line of my journal, and before I could even stop myself....I fell asleep (consequently I woke up like 20 minutes later....cause you wouldn't believe how unbelievably uncomfortable a chair can be to sleep in.  And at that point I ended up making the executive decision that the most "holy" thing I could do in that moment was get a little more sleep and thus creeped back upstairs and into my bed for 40 minutes of napping before getting up for real, in order to start my day)!
  Now, my commitment to a morning (or even afternoon or evening) devotional time has always been a bit of a roller coaster ride.  When I first "became a Christian", at the rip old age of 14, I was immediately indoctrinated with the importance of such a time.  I remember, almost every day throughout high school getting up early just to read my bible, journal, pray, and sit in silence hoping to hear from God.  Of course when I went to  Bible college that kind of all just fell by the wayside ...which makes sense considering I was pretty much studying God's word all day every day, so I kinda felt like I was getting my fill, but is still pretty ironic if you think about it.  Every once in a while though, during our mandatory freshman study periods there, I would pull out my Bible and try to read a few passages for my own personal growth...but honestly it was more so I could  procrastinate from actual school work, than for any religious reason.
  After I left bible college, but before I moved across the country, I completely disregarded the whole "spend time with the Lord" concept.  However, when I moved, I did so to join an inner-city Christian minsitry so I consequently picked the habit back up (although honestly, more so because once again we were required to spend a certain period of time each day quietly in some sort of devotion/bible study time.  The habit certainly stuck with me for many years after that and I certainly became very acquainted with the bible during that time.  But, even though I knew the stories, I am not sure how much what was reading was going beyond my head and into my heart...and so it wasn't completely sustaining me.
  After I moved back home (several years later) my habit continued for a while, but then my my priorities shifted again and my then brother in law died...and well God and I pretty much went through a break up where I wasn't really even going to church anymore, never mind having a "quiet time" with Him.  When I finally recommitted my life back to Christ several years later, I ended up feeling so loved by Him that my devotional life came roaring back, as really all I wanted to do was spend as much time getting to know God as I could.  
  This continued on for years....right up until the moment I moved home from Ecuador (now to be fair, the entire two years I spent in Ecuador as a missionary we once again had a required allotment of time we were to spend with God each day, so it wasn't that difficult to keep it up even when I was struggling in my relationship with God...and to be even more honest, the last 6 months I was in Ecuador my quiet times consisted of either reading books about other people's relationship with God or journaling about everything and anything but God....except for those rare occasions when  my heart for some reason was really drawn to the word and I would actually study it for a few days straight).
  As soon as I moved home from Ecuador, the whole "quiet time" thing pretty much fell by the wayside though and honestly...I didn't pick it back up until January of this year (at least I think it was in January....it might have been February though).  Basically, I started attending a community group and one of the first weeks (or maybe even the first week) we were challenged to start spending an hour a day with God.  Honestly....even a few months ago....and HOUR seemed like F-O-R-E-V-E-R!  All I could think about was all the extra sleep I would be missing out on and how quite times just didn't seem to work out so well for me....but for some unknown reason I decide to commit to at least 15 minutes a day to it (okay, so really it was more like I said, "Okay God...I know I should be doing this cause I know spending time with you is actually good for me, but....like 15 minutes is all I can sacrifice right now, so that's what you get...take it or leave it".)  
  Well apparently God took it, but He definitely had other plans than I did because that first week EVERY day I spent over an hour with God (okay so maybe the first week of the first week and a half I spent time with him... which basically means I missed a few days but when I missed a day, the next day I got right back to it).  All of a sudden the Bible was a live to me again and I was just soaking up the pages.  
  Over the past two weeks however, quite time has gotten hard again.  I still get up early every morning and I still try to spend time in prayer and reading my bible, sometimes I even journal....but most days I am exhausted and I have started to feel like I am back to doing something out of "Christian duty" than because I know it's my life line to the father.
  This morning when I made the choice to go back to sleep instead of try and trudge through another "I did it so I could check it off my to-do list" quiet time with God...I honestly believed sleeping was a better choice.  In some ways I still do....but I also feel that Christian guilt, like I should know better and I should do better.  The thing is though, because I felt so convicted (or maybe even condemned) for missing my quiet time this morning, I spent a lot of time thinking about it throughout the day.  And in thinking about what the merits of a quiet time are compared to not having one, I realized that I was actually (for once) thinking about God throughout my entire day.... in fact, I spent more time praying to God and acknowledging Him (mostly cause I was seeking his wisdom and acceptance...which hello, is pretty much what He wants us to do to begin with!) than I do most days, even when I have had a quiet time in the morning!
  All this is not to say that I think for some reason people (or I, specifically) should not worry about spending a morning devotional time with God on a consistent basis....cause I actually do feel that there is a lot I gain from doing so (not that I want to sound like I am using God, but normally my quiet time with Him brings a focus to my day and makes me less crappy of a person...Which is pretty awesome, I think!).  However, I guess what today has taught me is that a "quiet time" isn't all there is.  I shouldn't be so focused on that 1 hour a day with God, but rather should focuses on God throughout my day.  God shouldn't be a point on a checklist or a block of time.  If He's truly my God then He deserves free reign in every area of my life and full connection with me at any and every point of my day.  Jesus should be my guiding focus and the at the forefront of my mind each day and throughout the day!  I am not saying that because it's the Christian thing to do/say...but rather because I truly believe that God is my life line and I am in desperate need of Him.  It's like God is the IV that I am hooked up to and every time I am disconnected from Him I risk the very life He's giving me (God I sound dramatic and so much more "Christianity" than I want, but I am telling you it's true).  So yes, while every day might not have that "perfect" devotional time with Jesus, but all that really matters is trying to stay connected to Him every moment of every day.  (God help me to do so, Amen).

Sunday, April 8, 2018

What Does it Look Like to Refect Jesus?....

  The past few days I have been thinking A LOT about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.... like what does it actually look like and what does that mean for my life as I try to reflect Him.  I guess the whole train of thought started because I was listening to a Christian podcast that was discussing Western missions and what kind of Jesus we are representing to the world through our Western viewpoints.  From there it was an easy connection for me to begin thinking about my own experience with missions and what I personally had reflected as "jesus" when I was serving... and then move onto my own life now, day in and day out (probably because I am so unbelievably self-centered).  
  Anyway, my thought process went something like this...How do my beliefs about Jesus and my relationship with him actually impact my life?  Would someone who didn't know me look at my life and be able to tell that I am a christian?  How does what I say I believe about God line up with how I live my life?  In fact, what, if any impact does Jesus really have on my day to day decisions and outlook?  
   Has these thoughts went racing through my head, I immediately remembered how last weekend my good friend came to church with me and since she had to leave early, I walked her out because there was no way in hell I was gonna stand there arms held high, worshiping this Jesus who loves all his children, while one of his daughters (and one of my most precious friends) slowly walked out of the church doors alone.  But then I couldn't help but think... How many times do I sit there in service worshiping Jesus, claiming to believe that He is the lover of the orphan, the outcast, the beat down and the broken...believing that He is the God who has rescued my soul and died to make me whole.... knowing that there is no life outside of him....and then walk out the door of the church and get on living my life as if all that really matters is what makes me happy?  (Cue sucker punch to the gut).
  As I considered all these things these past few days (which mind you, I am pretty sure this is something that's gonna take me a long time to work through), two things in particular stood out to me:  shopping and relationships (Not exactly the two things I would of expected especially considering I don't necessarily enjoy either of those things all the time).
  When it comes to shopping, so many questions started coming up.  I was thinking about where I buy my food and where I buy my clothes, and how majority of the time I purchase things that are cheap because I don't like to spend a lot of money (mostly cause I think I don't have a lot of money, but if I am honest then I have to admit I am richer than majority of the world).  I started thinking...  should I be buying my produce from local farms or online from businesses that I know treat their employees well?  If so, how do I get groceries when things are out of season?  Do I send away for things and order online? If so, then how do I know the shipping companies are treating their employees well?  Does it even matter if I have good intentions but then end up having my food delivered to me by a driver whose company makes him work 60+ hours a week, often times forcing him to miss breaks and sleep just to make sure my delivery is on time? (By the way, I think it does....although I have no idea how to figure a way around that).  
  Then when I started thinking about my clothes and I immediately felt like I needed to get rid of pretty much everything I own because most of it was probably made by a slave or child worker.  Of course that made me wonder ... is it right for me just to hand those clothes off to someone else when it doesn't change the fact they were still purchased without any thought of how they were made?  And, by giving them away, am I just handing that unethical burden off to someone else?  And what about the ethical practices of those companies I might donate them too...how do I know how they treat their employees or even what they do with the money they get for selling my used clothes?  Should that even be my concern? (Again, I think it should).  By this point my head was spinning and I hadn't even begun to think about where I am suppose to buy ethically made clothing, in my size, that would still allow me to be fiscally responsible with my money!
  Now, the whole relationship thing, well that came up for me in in church today.   I went to church this morning with all of the above whirling around in my head, and as our pastor called us at the end of service to "take the step of faith God was calling us to" (like in an individual sense), I couldn't help but feel like God was asking me to trust Him in my relationships with others.  It was like God was saying "trust me enough to protect your heart, that you will go out and love others and allow them to know you without a fear" (WHAT?!...if you know me, you know that's like the last thing I would ever think of doing...unless of course God was calling me to it...).  In fact, I immediately started thinking back to a conversation that happened in the community group I attended on Friday night and how I legitimately was a complete a**hat by talking over someone who was just trying to give me advice, because I "needed" to defend myself and do damage control.  Has I thought about that moment sitting in church, listening to this call of Jesus that was prompted by my pastor, all I kept thinking was... God...do I even reflect you at all in my relationships?  Do I even try to trust you in how I interact with others or am I too worried about making sure I don't get hurt again that the entire thing becomes a giant show or a battle ground?  Would anyone even be able to look at my life, at how I interact with them, and see Christ?  Sadly at the moment, in too many ways, the answer would be no.
  This whole idea of allowing my life to reflect Jesus, to truly be His disciple in every area of my life, is pretty overwhelming (If I am honest).  Even in just these beginning thoughts about it I feel like there are so many ways I need to rip up my life and start again.  And, (again, if I am honest) I feel pretty embarrassed about admitting that.  However, what I know as well...and what I am holding onto for dear life in this moment....is that "There is NO CONDEMNATION in Christ Jesus" and that the very fact that I am now awakened to all of this and willing to make a change, honors God.  So instead of making my 12 point plan on how to re-invent my life (cause let's face it, that self-centered, I can some how please Jesus in my own strength lie loves to rear its ugly head in my life continually), I am gonna continue to wrestle with all of this and bring it before God piece by piece, asking him to help me know and do what would be most pleasing to Him.  So I guess the answer to the question "What does it look like to reflect Jesus in my life", is simply answered by turning everything over to him and trusting Him to guide me in all my daily decisions and interactions (simple...but certainly not easy...).  God, I need you.  Amen.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Round 2, aka "Here We Go Again" (although hopefully with a little more realness)...

  So it's been over two years since I have posted on this blog.  Two....long...years.  So much has happened and changed in my life that I couldn't begin to go back and summarize it all (well I could, but it would be awfully boring and completely long winded...so I'll spare you!).  Anyway, I have been thinking about taking up blogging again for a while now.  I miss being able to share my thoughts, faith journey, and general life with a larger portion of the world and so I have wanted to do it, but I haven't actually come back to it until now.  Basically....it's cause I still care way too much about what other people think about me, and I have let that worry hold me back. And that is so unbelievably ridiculous!  I love to write...it's one of my passions!  And while for a while there, the desire to do anything I had previously enjoyed in life was stripped away from me, finding my way back to the bloggisphere is actually a good thing (I think), so throwing care to the wind...here we go!
  Now I said I would spare you the details of everything that's happened in the past two plus years (although I am sure much of that will probably make it's way out anyway in the bits and portions that I write from here on out), but one thing I do have to share is that these past two years my relationship with God has been a sh*tshow (for lack of a better word) and it's affected EVERY OTHER AREA of my life...every relationship, every activity, every interaction, in every moment of every day.  THANK GOD, that some how, some way, He is finally drawing me back to himself.  But for all intents and purposes, I feel like I've spent the better part of the past two and a half to three years being tossed back and forth by the waves of a violent storm....eventually being thrown onto the rugged rocks of a dried up beach.  And now...only in the past six months have I begun to get my barrings back and begin to put some semblance of a life back together.
  It's funny (in that ironically sad kind of way), I just spent some time reading back some of my old posts from my time in Ecuador and I cannot help but think...HOLY CRAP, am I that much of a liar, or am I really just that good at seeing the positive side of things (I'm NOT an optimist person in any sense of the word by the way, so you figure out the part of that which is true!).  I mean, the reality is, everything I wrote in my previous blog posts from years ago were as true and real for me in that moment as these thoughts are now, but there was so much more I didn't say and didn't share that it almost seems like by the end of my last few months of posting, I clearly was putting on the Christian mask and wording things with enough care as not to show the battle that was really raging on in my heart.
  Now if I go back and look at my journal entries from during that time (the time of my last blog posts here), and I will be honest that there are not a lot because at that point I was so angry and frustrated and flat out mad at God and myself that I couldn't bring myself to write, the truth is there is a stark difference between what I was writing on here and what was going on in my heart.  I think part of it was I was living with people I was serving with and I was just too dang self-conscious to admit how badly I was struggling.  Plus I really wanted to believe that God was still speaking to me and I really wanted the comfort from knowing I was still loved by him. So in a way I pretended I knew what I was struggling to hold onto, and in a way I just shared only what I knew would be acceptable to others.  (Pre-warning: I am sure that I will still do that at times now, but hopefully I won't take me another 2 years to turn it all around!).
  The truth is that about about half way through my second year in Ecuador I everything started to fall apart.  I started getting really depressed and felt like in so many ways God had sent me to this rural country just to abandon me and nobody else seemed to care (of course they didn't know, so how could they care?!).  It's sad how now that I can compare both my journal entries and my blog and see how fake I was actually being and how much hurt that would eventually end up causing me (a lesson that I seem to have to learn over and over again).
  Anyway, when I left Ecuador (a few weeks earlier than planned) I felt like I was crawling my way back over the USA border and that I was beyond empty, but  I truly believed that if I could just get home everything would be right with the world again.  BOY WAS I WRONG!  I cannot tell you how hard it has been to come back "home".  Yes, there is the comfort of having a warm shower that I know won't run out of water or turn ice cold on me on the drop of a dime.  Yes, there is the comfort of being able to get in a car and drive whenever and where ever I want to get whatever I want.  And yes, there is even comfort in being so close to my family that I can  actually get annoyed them (it sounds weird but it's true).  But so much of my life is not at all what I thought I was coming back to.  In the past two years I have struggled with anxiety and depression, I have lost and let go of friendships I thought I would have forever, I have felt so hurt by God that I have lashed out at him and all things associated with, and I have questioned so much about about faith and Christianity in general that it has been scary at times.  And yet...here I stand (the key word there being STAND), over two years removed from my time as a "missionary", coming back to the realization that God still loves me and always has (God, that sounds so cheesy).  The God I thought had abandoned me and rejected me, and yet for some reason I still felt the need to pretend and fake it for, has always been God and has always been by my side (just maybe not in the way I tried to frame it to the world, or even to myself).
  So back to the main point... I'm gonna start blogging again...cause it's something I love and because maybe, just maybe, there is someone out there that can relate to or feel encouraged by my words.  But mostly I am gonna start blogging because more than ever I realize that my life really is "a glorious unfolding" and it is a privilege to be able to share it with the world around me.  So here we go again....jump in with me... learn and grow with me....and hopefully two years from now I will look back on this an see just how real my life and my God have become...

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Little Catch Up...

  So I haven't written in a while... like 3 months a while...and honestly, it's been for no other reason than I haven't been able to put my thoughts together in my own head let alone try to share them with other people without feeling completely crazy (and believe me... putting it down "on paper" like this would definitely make me feel crazy considering it's more permanent than say, just talking to someone, and I have felt pretty crazy in attempting to do that).  I would love to say that I have a better handle on things now.  In fact, looking back to the beginning of this year I truly thought by now it would all be worked out... but it's not and I don't.  However I miss writing.. I miss the outlet of sharing my thoughts...so I'm gonna try and put it out there once again.
  Back in November of last year I got sick and in the midst of getting treated for a not so fun case of diarrhea (TMI I know), I found out I had a tumor.  When I came home from the missions field in December I got checked out again by an American doctor (with fancier American equipment) and she confirmed that yes in fact I did have a tumor and then she gave me all these scary statistics and sent me off to a specialist.  The specialist sent me for more test and then came up with a treatment plan that involved shots, hormone replacements and eventually a major surgery.  Two weeks ago I finally got my 22cm (the size of a fetus that's 5 months) removed.  CRAZY!
  I honestly can't tell you much about the surgery, I really don't remember that much from my stay in the hospital... other than what I've been told after the fact and that I had a blood transfusion... and I won't get my pathology report for a few more days (although no news is apparently good news so the fact that they didn't contact me immediately after surgery tells me that any chance of cancer has been cancelled out..hurray!).  But I can say that recovery has certainly be interesting.
  I don't think I ever realized just how much energy it takes to do pretty much anything.  My first week of recovery, going to the bathroom or even just walking from the kitchen to the adjacent room would tire me out for the day.  Thankfully I had a laparoscopic procedure so my incisions aren't so bad (although there are 2 more than usual for this kind of surgery) but man my body has been quite bruised up and I've really had to learn I cannot push myself beyond just simple things (at least for the moment).
  I've also learned some life lessons through this recovery process as well.  Like for one, what a real friend is like.  Before surgery, I didn't tell a lot of people about it.  I didn't want it to be made into a thing and I didn't want to get pity looks (plus the placement of my tumor is a little personal).  Once surgery happened and I realized I might need more help than I thought, I started reaching back out to those people who did know about it.  What touched me the most though, was when those people just did things for me without asking.... actually it's more than that, it's not what they "did" but how they just when made time for me...how they were just "there".
  In the past, when my friends have been sick or going through things, I've fallen victim to the need to "do" for them.  Obviously I care about them and thus I wanted to do something to show it.  Now I realize that my "doing" was really more for me than for them.  From my experience of the past few weeks I can honestly say ( at least for myself) what people want in their time of need is your PRESENCE more than your PRESENTS... I've always heard that... now I get it.
  So to all those people in the past who I've gone and "done" for, never asking what you really wanted and just assuming my "doing" was good enough because it made me feel better... I apologize.  And to all those people who took the time over the past few weeks to come and "be" with me, I thank you!  I know it's not easy to sit with someone when you don't have the answers or you don't know what to say and you can't just fix things....but honestly, I didn't/don't need you to fix anything.... just standing (or in my case sitting) thru this recovery with me... just "being" there physically and checking in and making me feel like I matter... it's means the world to me!  So thank you and I hope I will be just as good of a friend to you in the future.
  What I've also learned... although this is more of a continuation lesson (something I've been learning for  a while now)... is that I need to learn to just accept people for who they are and not who I wish they would be.  We are all human, we are all just trying our best.  Sometimes our best doesn't add up to what someone else wants from us, but that doesn't mean we aren't trying to love and be there.  In the past few months and especially the past few weeks I've had to start accepting that people's "best" is "good enough" (something that's hard for me to accept considering I constantly beat myself up for not doing or being "good enough").  I can say that trying to accept this has made life a little more enjoyable...or it's at least set me up for less heartache.  It's also made me evaluate what I can and can't handle and thus what I can draw closer to and what I need to pull away from.
  I definitely have a lot more to learn on this topic...on many topics in fact.  I have so much more growing up to do than I can even begin to explain.  However, for the first time in a long time I feel okay to admit that because I know I am working on it.  It may not be pretty at the moment but it will get better (it's kinds like cleaning your room... things always get messier before they get better).  I feel like I am getting back on track though...at least having surgery behind me sure makes me feel like it.  So stay tuned to see where things go from here...

Sunday, January 3, 2016

What You Can Learn in a Week...

  Last week, was such a mumble jumbled, upside down, inside out kind of week.  And I guess for that reason without even realizing it, I ended up experimenting (in a way) in how I operate or do things in this thing we call life.  Whether out of desire or need (or maybe a combination of both), I tried new things (or old things in new ways), I stepped through fears and I discovered once again that my relationships with God and people are constantly evolving.
  For instance, I've been reading a book on boundaries and this week I actually put into practice something I learned in reading it... that is the art of saying "No".  I've never been good at saying "No", whether out of fear of disappointing people and being rejected or fear that I'll lose the sense of value to someone or something.  Yet I realized this week, even when people don't respond well to your boundaries... even when they fight back and kick and scream cause you're not being the doormat they expect you to be.... you still get to keep your value and their disappointment/rejection isn't forever.
  Then I had a few doctors appointments where I heard all sorts of statistics associated with big scary words that made my head spin and I felt the weight of a burden too heavy for me to bare alone crushing down on me, and I did something I have programed myself not to do....that is to reach out for help.  What I learned is that while not everyone is capable of caring my burdens with me, some people are.  I expected, based on my own experiences of the past year, that my friends would tell me to get over it, that I am on my own because they have their own lives to deal with and I'm freaking out over nothing.  Instead I found a listening ear that was unphased by my middle of the night call where I was crying and venting all my fears.  In fact instead of giving me all those nice sounding but completely unhelpful placated responses we all tend to give in situations like this,  I received a listening ear that cried with me and let the suckiness of it all seep into us both while carrying me to Jesus on her knees. 
  I also took the advice of someone who told me not to rip up my whole puzzle just because I couldn't make one piece fit where and how I wanted it to, which finally caused me to take my fingers out of my own ears long enough to hear God whisper in the wind "I am here".  In fact there is a portion of Psalm 139 where David ponders "Where can I go from your spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?" and I was reminded that what was true for him is true for me, whether I go up to the heavens or find myself in the depths, God is there.  I may want things neat and orderly, but God can handle my mess.  I may want all the answers and have to know why things are the way they are, but God is okay with my questions.  I may feel like I am lost at sea with no land in sight, but God is the wave of the ocean holding my head above the water.  I can rest in that.
  So, while last week wasn't an easy week... while it left me drop kicked and screaming... it also taught me some knew things and gave me new experiences and I guess that's a pretty good way to finish up one year and start another.  At least that's how I feel for today.

Friday, January 1, 2016

When Life Puts You in Time Out...

  Happy New year everyone!  Remember when you were little and you thought that by 2016 we would all be floating around in space cars like the Jetsons?  No?  Oh, well, maybe that was just me then.  Anyway, as I wrote yesterday, heading into 2016 I feel different than I have in the past.  Instead of creating goals and trying to figure out how I want the next year to go, I kind of feel like I have no idea about anything.  In some ways that's absolutely terrifying.... but in other ways, like I realized late last night (after quite a bit of wine, so maybe I should take this all with a grain of salt), maybe it should also be exciting.  Truth is, I don' know what this year holds or how it will all turn out.  I don't know what to look forward to or what to plan or not plan for, but one thing seems pretty certain and that is that this will most likely be a year of self-discovery.  It has to be.... (you can't get any lower than "I don't know" can you?!?!)
  I don't think that I've really spent all that much time investing in myself these past few years.  Actually, I don't think I've really put too much focus on myself at all since the year I lost 130lbs!  Before this new year started thought (so like, over the past several weeks and months), it's seemed like life keeps throwing me into the corner and putting me in time out.  It's like it's telling me, slow down, take a minute, think about what's going on.  Personally I have a hard time stopping to smell the roses.  I like to plow through life, going from one task to another, feeling like I am doing something but not really taking the time to really enjoy what I am doing.  Maybe life's trying to do me a favor.  Maybe what feels like I forced punishment is really a loving parents telling me I need to rest.  Maybe all of this will be for the best.  I guess we shall see....if anything, it will be interesting.  So here we go...Day 1 (Feel free K-Love or Fish listeners to start singing "It's day one of the rest of my life" by Matthew West here as we fade out!)

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Not your Typical NYE post....

  I haven't written in a while.  Not because I haven't thought about it or haven't wanted to.  I just haven't been able to find the words...or to put them down on paper (or in a blog).  There's a lot that has happened, a lot that's going on, a lot that I am trying to work through.  And I guess in a way I'm now on a new journey....a journey of self discovery, a journey of deepening faith, a journey of realizing what's the point in all of this.  I don't know what's going to happen from here on out.  I don't know how pretty or messy things will get.  But this is life and, I guess that's how it goes.

Today is New Year's eve and usually about this time of the year I am coming up with goals and ideas for how I want the next year to go.  In some ways I feel like I kind of did that this year back in September.  I was in a place where I needed something to look forward to, something to carry me on, and so I started thinking about the future...coming back to the states, what I wanted to do, how it would all flow together.  My plan was pretty good...at least I thought so.  Of course, nothing has turned out as I expected and things pretty much began unraveling before I even got on a plane to come back, so here I am...December 31st, 2015.... on the brink of a new year....with no idea about what to do, how to do it, or what's going to happen.
It's hard to be excited about a new year at the moment.  Usually when you think new year, you think fresh start and new beginnings.  That just doesn't seem to be the case for me this time around.  Instead of a clean slate, I feel like I am heading into a new year with all this baggage and issues from the previous year that have to get worked through.  I look at my calendar and I already see at least the first three months of the new year being consumed by a problem that came to light for me almost two months ago.  I hate that I can't just forget about it, and push it all aside, that it's not possible to just pretend like it doesn't matter and has no effect on life.  It does and I can't.
Then there are things I need to figure out.... insurance, a job, school, etc. and the emotions that come not only with being back in the states, but also trying to process my past two years in Ecuador. I feel so overwhelmed...on top of the overwhelmedness I felt before moving home.  Everyone here is so excited to see me and have me home and that's so nice, but for me it's not the easiest place to be.  All I can say is, while I don't know what to expect in the new year (at least not completely), I guess I just need to hope things get better than how they start.
So....Happy New Year Ya'll.
Be safe tonight!