of milestones and men.

2014 was a year of EPIC realizations. As I recall everything that happened over that year it feels like a veil has been lifted. In hindsight I see the fingerprints of God over all the good and bad experiences I went through. I see how God has been hemming me in to a place of surrender, to a place of brokenness, and a place of submission. So today I wanted to take some time to write down exactly how my life has changed and list the milestones I had in 2014.

The year started with me being fed a different view of Christianity. I read a book by Mike Erre titled “The Jesus of Suburbia”. It rocked me to my core. I realized that I had missed the whole point of Christ – of his movement. It wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about being a better person, or the 5 steps to being happy as a single, or how to be a better employee. I was ministering to the healthy and completely ignoring the sick. I was treating my fellow image-bearers as “less than”. It was mortifying to be faced with the ugliness in my heart. And it was also humbling and freeing to accept it and allow God to change me.

I started to explore this “radical” view of Christianity more. I was started reading books about Christians who had given up everything for the sake of the gospel. For the sake of being able to serve God and His kingdom by loving the “least of these”. I grew dissatisfied with the church I was attending. I looked around and saw the focus on small groups and ministering to other Christians override the mandate to reach a poor and broken world. I grew angry when I heard fellow Christians talk about isolating and separating themselves from less than desirable people – y’know, those people who curse, smoke, drink, have sex, lie, cheat, and steal. I grew frustrated when I heard my guy friends talk about women’s bodies and whether or not they “looked good” standing next to each other. I hurt for women when I heard men say that because they were “damaged” in some way, they would not be considered as prospective life partners. I grew confused when I realized that no one wanted to rock the boat. People didn’t want to confront or convict. Rebuke was nonexistent. It was all mildness and meekness and no change. I looked around me and thought…is this Christ? Is this Christianity?

I grew angry with myself. Because I am that person. Who will choose to ignore the less than desirable human in favor of the one that readily receives my love. I am that person who will judge another based on appearance or past circumstances. I am that person who will not speak up in favor of keeping the peace. I am that person who will try to sugarcoat a friend’s sin so I don’t run the risk of losing them. Plank, meet splinter.

I moved to a new church. I heard a lot of things that made me uncomfortable. I learned about being passionate but being compassionate. I learned that I was not too much because I felt strongly about certain things. I learned I could be mad at God. I learned I could have different convictions and not worry about being condemned or secretly judged. I am learning to do all those things for others.

I started to become dissatisfied with my job. Prestige, power, travel opportunities, a huge paycheck…I had it all. And it left me hollow and empty. It did not satisfy. It did not ease the ache of emptiness in my heart. I started to take personality tests. I learned that I was an ESFJ – a caregiver. As an ESFJ I am a people person. I derive great joy and satisfaction from being able to help and serve others. I am also extremely organized and love to create order. This was a shock to me – I knew that my job did not fit my design as a person.  I started contemplating other options. Perhaps I could go back to school and start a new degree. Perhaps I could study to become a counselor or psychologist. I applied to several schools in other countries. I received acceptance letters from most of them but have yet to hear back regarding financial aid.

I felt compelled to get my 2nd tattoo. I realized I was in the throes of major life realignment and needed something to remind me to be brave. I thought about it for a month and got a line from an encouraging worship song tattooed on my back. I felt God was clearly speaking to me that He was going to be taking me “deeper than my feet could ever wander”.

I began to feel overwhelmed with everything God was revealing to me. I felt like my life and everything I had known was spinning out of control. I fell into a deep depression (which I am still struggling with today). For the first time in 5 years, since my last bout with depression, I contemplated suicide. I trusted only a few close friends with this knowledge. My oldest friend was a rock of support for me. I saw Jesus over and over again in her. I also trusted other close friends. Some really came through for me. Others let me down. They seemed to give up on me and stopped investing their time in me, all the while promising to pray for me. I opened myself up to new people. Unexpectedly they were there for me. I learned a thing or two about making new relationships, deepening friendships, pruning relationships, letting go of friendships, and forgiving people. 

I opened up to my parents about my depression. I told them of my fear of losing control over my life. Of the idols I had put in my life to replace God. How my identity was so rooted in my career, my position, my apartment, my paycheck. I was so tired of feeling fearful and striving for control all the time. I wanted to give everything up so I wouldn’t be afraid of losing everything anymore. I worried I would not make sense to them. My parents gave me their full support. My mom told me that if I had to spend everything to find myself and be happy, then I should do it. I knew it was a miracle.

An opportunity to become certified as a counselor came up. I felt a strong pull on my heart to pursue it. I didn’t have the money. My counselor committed to praying with me for financial aid. She also is trying her best to help me obtain a work/study agreement with the program director. While I was thinking about this opportunity I also started to wrestle with the idea of leaving my job permanently, taking a hiatus to take the counseling program and then work and serve at churches and charities/nonprofit organizations for a couple of months. Again, the issue of finances reared its ugly head. God began opening doors. My friend and her husband offered to pay for a pair of tickets. They offered me a place to stay. Another friend offered me another place to stay for a time.

I took a trip out of the country to get my head straight. I was able to remove myself from worry and anxiety for a couple of days and just enjoy myself. On this trip I even managed to develop a deeper relationship with my brother and see my sister in another, more positive light. I met with a dear friend who encouraged me saying “I know this is going to hurt, but I’ve never seen you so close to where you should be before.”

Slowly but surely God was opening doors. And I grew more terrified. I wrestled with God in the mornings while I would sip milk tea, eat a chocolate bar, and do my devotions. He kept bringing me verse after verse on the importance of losing my life for the things that mattered, how important it was to be humble and vulnerable before Him, to give Him control, to not worry about the obstacles in my path. I kept insisting for a grander and bigger sign. One day I felt a peace and a confirmation that I had to do it. I had to leave my job, trim down my life, and seek Him. I had to pursue a different dream – one that is in no way fleshed out but requires inordinate levels of faith and trust in Him.

For now, this is where my story ends. Me standing on the edge of something bigger and greater and unimaginable. Petrified that I am doing something incredibly foolish and irresponsible. Terrified of being homeless, hungry, and most of all…useless. Trying to push back the doubts and trust God.

January 2015.

Honeycomb

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fearless love.

My best friend recently bought me a book she had been trying to get me to read for a while now.  It’s called “Kisses from Katie” and it’s the story of an 18 year old girl that graduated high school, moved to Uganda, and adopted 14 kids.  All by herself.  All because God told her to.

We agreed on reading a chapter a day and then discussing it over Voxer.  I read the first chapter, cried my eyes out, and decided I had to share my reactions here.  So for the next couple of weeks I will be blogging about this book, one chapter at a time.

Chapter 5: “Can I call you Mommy?”

Quick Summary: This chapter details the beginnings of Katie’s new call – a “mommy”.  She talks about how she took in a trio of young girls and realized she could not just leave them at an orphanage.  From being a mother of 3, she is now known as a “mommy to many” – to her adopted daughters, to the kids that come to her home everyday to do schoolwork/have dinner/play, and to the 400 children in her community.

My reaction:

“At nine years old, Agnes had become the primary caregiver of her sisters, seven-year-old Mary and five-year-old Scovia.  Their father had died of AIDS and their mother had long since disappeared.  Their grandmother, who lived nearby, helped with what little she had, but often her own food was barely enough for herself.  Days consisted of digging in the fields for a little something to eat and walking miles to and from the nearest well with a large plastic jug to collect the day’s water.  Mary kept a neighbor’s baby and, in return, was provided with some food for herself.  Even little Scovia went to dig for hours in the field to find food, helped fetch water, washed clothes and cooked supper when Agnes had to stay late in the garden.  Like all little girls, their hearts held hopes and dreams of the future, but the hardships of everyday life kept them focused on one day, one experience, one moment at a time.”

This appalled me.  A mother leaving 3 defenseless little girls alone to raise themselves, clothe themselves, feed themselves.  A nine year old forced to dig in the fields for something to eat.  A seven year old having to babysit for a living.  A five year old made to cook and clean clothes and help dig in the field for food.  At these ages I was playing with Barbies and having birthday parties and snuggling up to my parents.  These little girls – well they didn’t have the chance to be little girls like I did.   These 3 girls were the first children Katie decided to adopt.  This started her on a new calling – the calling to be a “mother to many”.

I don’t think I can be a “mother to many”.  I’m not sure that I’m called to that particular lifestyle.  But, don’t I have a responsibility to the helpless and hurting?  Don’t I have a responsibility to love as Christ loved me?  Forget responsibility – don’t I have the desire to love the orphans, the poor, the lost children?  Perhaps I have not always had this desire to do so but slowly and surely it is being awakened in me.  I feel like someone who is seeing with new eyes.  To quote a Switchfoot song: “This is your life – are you who you want to be?”  The sad answer to that is NO.  This is not who I want to be.  I want to be like Christ.  I want to care.  I want to be fearless in love.

“They laugh hysterically when I cuddle them or kiss their foreheads, and it hurts my heart a bit that they find the fact that someone loves them so funny.  And that is the blessing God has given me in this house: I get to provide a home for children who are homeless, a safe haven for children who feel threatened, lost, and unwanted.  Most of all, I get to love children who don’t know love otherwise.  I get to accept them for who they are.  I get to present them with my love and then teach them of the Father’s extravagant love.”

I have said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m not trying to be the next Katie Davis.  It’s not about opening orphanages in Uganda, or about adopting 14 girls.  I just want to have what she has.  Fearless, beautiful love for others.  An overflow coming from our Father.  I want to extend myself for someone other than myself.  I find myself asking if this is what it means to love like Christ – and I already know the answer is Yes.

no such thing as "loved too much"

To learn more about Katie and her ministry you can check out Katie’s blog here.

TRUTH THURSDAYS 3: SONGS THAT MAKE ME BRAVE

Now if you had asked me for “songs that make me depressed” or “songs that will rip your heart out and then crush it” I would have given you my entire blood & guts playlist (which is over 400 songs at last count and is really named “blood & guts” on my iphone). Unfortunately the prompt was for songs that make me brave. BLESS. Here goes:

king&lionheart

Of Monsters & Men’s “King & Lionheart”.
“Howling ghosts they reappear/ In mountains that are stacked with fear/ But you’re a king and I’m a lionheart./ A lionheart.”
I LOVE THIS SONG. So much so I want to get it tattooed on me (if I ever get a 2nd tat, this would be it!). Specifically the line “You’re THE King and I’m a Lionheart”. Notice the slight change in lyrics? I think you know where I’m going with this then :). This song in particular reminds me to be brave. The Lord is my King. I am his Lionheart. God doesn’t see me as weak. I’m his princess, made strong by who my King is. Yes, sometimes I’m the dainty feminine kind of princess…think Sleeping Beauty or Snow White. But more often than not I think He sees me as his warrior princess. (cue Xena yell).

Switchfoot’s “On Fire”.
“I’m standing on the edge of me/ I’m standing on the edge of everything I’ve never been before/ And I’ve been standing on the edge of me/ Standing on the edge/ And I’m on fire When You’re near me/ I’m on fire/ When You speak/ Yeah I’m on fire/ Burning at these mysteries”
My heartsong. I’m feel like I’m forever standing on the edge of who God wants me to be.

Switchfoot’s “You”.
“There’s always something in the way/ There’s always something getting through/ but it’s not me, it’s You, it’s You…I find peace when I’m confused/ I find hope when I’m let down/ not in me … me, in You/ it’s in you…I hope to lose myself for good/ I hope to find it in the end/ not in me … me in You”
I love Jon Foreman. I think you get that by now. Listening to his music is like reading my diary. Or at least, how I wish my diary would sound if it ever was read aloud. This song reminds me I’m not alone, it’s not me who’s the captain of my ship. It’s God. He’s got me. Hemmed me in, directing the way I should go. Psalm 139 – “You hem me in behind and before, and You lay your hand upon me…where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence?” I can’t run. I can’t hide. I need to just surrender and LOSE MYSELF IN GOD.

Craig Cardiff’s “Dirty Old Town”. Relatively unknown Canadian singer writes the story of my life.
“dirty old town, dirty old town,/ they’ve got all your little problems clearly written down./ you don’t even know, don’t even see/ oh the butterfly that you’re going to be,/ the butterfly that you are becoming./ … you’re the one, you’re the one, you’re the one./ hearts grow into hearts until hearts become one./ you’re the one, you’re the one./ i carry you heart in my heart sung with every song.”
For the longest time, I never saw myself as anything other than a dirty person inside and out. I was so full of self loathing just looking in the mirror would reduce me to tears. Who knew there was someone precious under all that self-hate? He saw it. And then He saved me. And that is the best, brightest, biggest love story in my life. Nothing will ever compare.

Lifehouse’s “Breathing”.
“Cause I am hanging/ on every word you say/ and even if you don’t want to speak tonight/ that’s alright, alright with me/ Cause I want nothing more than/ to sit outside your door and/ listen to you breathing/ that’s where I want to be”
If that’s all I get out of life-just the opportunity to hear Him breathing. To know He’s there. I’ll be okay.
Psalm 84:10 – “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere”.

Wicked’s “Defying Gravity”. Of course, we had to have some Broadway here yes? I mean really.
“Something has changed within me/ Something is not the same/ I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game/ Too late for second-guessing/ Too late to go back to sleep/ It’s time to trust my instincts/ Close my eyes and leap!/ It’s time to try/ Defying gravity/ I think I’ll try/ Defying gravity/ And you can’t pull me down!”

Kanye West & Daft Punk’s “Stronger”. HEY. I like R&B/Hip Hop/Rap. DON’T HATE.
“Work it harder, make it better,/ do it faster, makes us stronger,/ more than ever, never over,/ Our work is never over.”

Enjoy the playlist 🙂

TRUTH THURSDAYS 1: I AM HERE

starscliff

“I’m standing on the edge of me
I’m standing on the edge of everything I’ve never been before.
And I’ve been standing on the edge of me
Standing on the edge

And I’m on fire
When You’re near me
I’m on fire
When You speak
Yeah I’m on fire
Burning at these mysteries”
-On Fire, Switchfoot

This is my heartsong. It seems I’m always trying to race after who I could be. Who God wants me to be. And it seems I’m always tiptoeing the line, dipping my toe in the water, suspended in time. I want to cross over, to jump/run/dive in. Except I don’t know what it is I’m supposed to dive in to. And then when I ask for direction, I don’t hear what I want to hear. I hear things like “You are in a fog but God will give you just enough light for the next step” and “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” (that’s Romans 12:1, MSG). You mean to tell me I’m supposed to keep circling this issue? I pray about it till I’m blue in the face and all I get is “wait”? Doesn’t God want me to be living up to my full potential – in the job he has planned for me, one that will utilize my passions for his glory? With the right man, with whom I can serve him better that I could as a single? All these questions. They’re exhausting.

 
Maybe that’s where God wants me to be. A place of exhaustion. Where I’m so bone-weary-tired that I stop fighting for control (because let’s face it, I am a control freak) and surrender. Finally embrace the lessons of patience and trust He’s been trying to teach me. One thing I can say with absolute certainty – God is a master strategist. He knows exactly how long and how slow He has to go to get you where you need to be. I look back over the last 4 years and I see how he has been so patiently bringing the same issue to light over and over again. I’m amazed at my stubbornness. 4 years to learn ONE lesson. I want to smack myself upside the head. Lesson’s not over though, and maybe this time, I’ll finally get it. At least I hope so, because as I said before – I’m exhausted.

 
This is what I’m learning now. Paraphrasing my pastor – Be content. Contentment doesn’t mean settling. It’s still moving forward. Contentment is FOR THIS MOMENT – being FULL, but moving forward. The secret to contentment is CHRIST. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. When I am weak, I can still DO (through Christ). Whether I am rich or poor I can still DO (through Christ). Whether I am married or single I can still DO (through Christ).

 
I’m still asking my questions. But I’m trusting in the answer-giver. Not in the answer. Maybe I can learn to finally just BE HERE. On the edge of me or otherwise.