All posts by scsabeti88

Long overdue.

It all started about a year ago. I had this deep desire begin to be planted within me to share my story–my testimony as it’s often called–on a broader scale, but wasn’t sure just exactly how. As I was discussing this God-given nudging with a friend, and sharing in detail a bit of my past and what God had brought me out of, she agreed to pray along with me for more opportunities and venues, as well as the most sensitive wording, to share. A year later, our prayers came to fruition as I was granted the opportunity to stand up and give my (much confensed) testimony in front of my peers at an evangelism class I was auditing this Winter at a local seminary. What can I say other than God is faithful!

Other than this blog (which I now realize while typing out this post is as a whole, an ongoing collection of my story) I had never before had such a public platform of which to share my story. And by the grace of God, I shared without a scratch in my voice or blink of the eye (are these even idioms? I probably shouldn’t be blogging late at night haha!), which to me demonstrated that true healing has so evidently occurred. Again, praise God!

So that is exactly what I wish to share tonight. Keep in mind that it was written and spoken as if to be given to a group of non-believers but also to my peers at a Christian establishment, so you’ll find it a bit more parred back than my normal posts. But sometimes, that holds just as much power, don’t you think? 😉

May we all be ever more reflective of what God has done in our lives during this Lenten season…and if you don’t know Him personally yet, I pray that you may come to know Him as I do–as savior, lover, merciful redeemer, friend.

I pray you find encouragement and are blessed by this, but above all, that it points you to Jesus, as that is always the ultimate goal. 🙏🏽

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Good evening, as I was preparing the points of my story I wanted to share with you all tonight, there’s been a song that I couldn’t keep off my lips and out of my mind and heart. It goes like this: “Old things have passed away, Your love has stayed the same, Your constant grace remains the cornerstone.”

It ’ s based off of the scripture you can find in 2nd Corinthians 5:17,“ T h e r e f o r e ,if anhome is I n Christ, he is a new creation; old things h ave passed away; behold, all things have become new. ”

This verse is especially meaningful to me given my wreck of a life before I fully surrendered to Jesus Christ. Have you ever been at the end of your rope? Have you ever gotten yourself so deep in a rut that you doubted if you’d ever get out? Have you ever been so despondent almost to the point of death?

Raised in a Christian home, you wouldn’t think that these would be questions that someone like me would relate to, but quite the contrary: I was completely broken and powerless to help myself before I truly invited Jesus into my life. I went to church, sang the hymns, read my Bible, and prayed to God. I came from a relatively stable home, yet even in that place of supposed safety I was not completely sheltered from the harm and evil intent that exists in this world.

I had my first encounter with the corruption of this fallen world when at the age of five I was inappropriately approached by a neighbor. Through the years, the initial abuse I experienced took other forms. Verbal, physical, emotional, and none of it according to God’s original design for my life. After years of harboring these injustices in my heart, a victim mindset settled in and patterns of shame, self­hatred, rebellion, promiscuity, and addiction, all wrong responses to the hurt I carried, began to surface and take hold of my life.

My heart was entrenched in bitterness and resentment, unable to forgive and not aware of my utter need of saving. I sought my self­worth in performance, both at school and on the track or in the weight room­­and later on even far more detrimental ways, in the bed of many a stranger. Throughout college, my self­destructive behavior reached an all time high, and it is truly a miracle that I am alive today to tell my story. All my vain attempts to numb my pain only succeeded in driving me farther into depression. Many times I contemplated taking my own life, as the alcohol, drugs, and other addictive habits I’d developed had proved insufficient to truly mend or heal what had been broken long ago.

I was a shadow of the joy­filled person God had created me to be. Yet, all that time, even in my darkest moments, He never left me. One day, while lying in the bed of my boyfriend at the time, I was startled by a notification alarm on my phone. As I glanced at the screen, the Bible verse of the day flashed before my eyes, and the ultimatum and words so resounding and clear rung through the entirety of my being: “If you truly believe Me you have one of two choices: you can keep on this road, which is leading to destruction and death, or you can choose to follow me and truly live out what you say you believe.”

In that instant, the Holy Spirit took hold of me and woke me from my stupor. I knelt down before Him in that bed, damaged and lost, and repented for the life that I had been living, the wrong paths I had let myself go astray upon­­and He met me with kindness and gentleness as I felt the weight of my wrongdoing and sin lift off. Later that day I booked a one­way ticket home, packed my bags, and made the decisive choice to give up my sinful life and give myself wholeheartedly to truly following this Jesus who, though I turned my back on before, had always believed in and held deep within my heart.

As a symbol of rededicating my life to the Lord, I was baptized for friends and family to witness, and from then on led a life of faith and reliance on God to meet my needs and heal my wounds. My newfound road of true faith wasn’t always easy, as I still carried hurts and “baggage” as we call it from my past, but the more and more I sought after God, the less my heart had room for anything else. The more I spent time in the Bible and in Christian community, surrounded by people who discipled and ministered to me, the less I desired to slip into old habits and the more I was transformed and my old lifestyle a thing of the very distant past. Six years later, I am truly a new creation, a radically different person. I have kept my vow renewal of purity which has brought a sense of self­worth and wholeness that I have never experienced before, and have been alcohol and drug­free since, completely liberated from the bonds of my addictions and all because I said yes to letting Jesus be the Lord or the leader of my life, and letting Him gently guide me upon this new path. He has patiently stood by me even when I may have tripped or lost my footing, and His kindness has always welcomed me back.

There is so much freedom, and goodness, and joy, and peace that I cannot ever properly begin to explain it in words. Where I formerly was weighed down by stress, anxiety, panic, depression, and hopelessness, I am now filled with inexpressible joy and peace, patience, and eternal comfort and rejoice in a hope that has solid foundation in the promises of Christ. Even in my current struggle and fight against Lyme disease, I wake overflowing with joy and fulfillment in being able to commune with God each day and to know and experience His unconditional love. My past is proof that God can deliver anyone no matter how far gone you think you might be or how difficult your predicament, or even how unlovable you may feel. He forgives entirely, heals completely, and loves extravagantly. To live my life fully surrendered to His will and His purposes, to glorify Him in all that I do and say, has truly brought me the most satisfaction and joy than I ever thought possible. He brings healing far beyond the physical, and hope that this world cannot even begin to offer. Call upon Him, and He will answer. Seek Him and He will be found. It’s a narrow road, but one that is worth the journey. I can attest to this. From a broken vessel made whole I can now say with assuredy: It is truly well with my soul.

 

 

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The worship in remembrance.

A call to remember. I can’t recollect the name of the song, the exact lyrics, or even the melody. But I do remember the call, the cry, the imploration to erect a memorial stone, an altar in one’s mind of just how greatly this God of the universe has loved and rescued His beloved; me, His child.

I don’t remember anything except the way that those words shook me, touched me, humbled me. And before even mental comprehension, I understood anew just how greatly I had been saved by this unfathomably good God. As images, memories, glimpses of the past that I had tucked away, sealed from my awareness came flooding in, the tears came pouring out. Tears of joy, of release, sprinkled at times with gleeful laughter, the delight of thanksgiving.

God, you are so good! You are SO good! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

So gracious, so forgiving; to me, so undeserving, so unworthy of the pardon He gave, the mercy He extended, the costly redemption He so willingly bought.

When I walked through those church doors I didn’t know just how much I needed to remember. Needed those reminders of how miraculously I have been saved. Not just from eternal damnation and suffering, or the universal sin nature we all carry post fall. No, none of those things, though important of reflection in their own right, but rather my own corruption. How greatly I have been saved from myself, from my own self-imposed debasement. Of all the ways I waged war on my soul and all the self-assaults I made against my spirit because I believed the wrong voice for so many years. The voice that told me the way to worthiness was in the bed of a suitor or the willingness to go against my better judgment and take another shot, another hit, another grueling set, another risk, another dare, another offer, or anything else that led to the likability among those who paid no heed to consequences; among those who would lead me down the road of my own self-destructive path.

And how ironic that the worthiness I sought in those dark places, which seem a lifetime ago, only led to feelings of more unworthiness, worthless in both my own estimation and the worthlessness I perceived in the arms of anyone else who held me, be it friend, lover, or even God Himself.

But in His great mercy and love, He reached down and stirred my soul once again and awoke me from my slumber, from the trance I was walking in, living more dead than alive. Caught in the grips of the reaper of death himself, the evil one who spoke those lies as truth to my broken, unsanctified spirit. A spirit that had been crushed, and bruised, and beyond all human capabilities to repair.

“I will exalt you Lord, there is no one like you God.

I will exalt you Lord, I will exalt you Lord,

No other name is lifted high.”

Tears streamed down my face again and again as I remembered. I cannot make light of what God has done in my life, cannot sugarcoat the depths of depravity that He has saved me from. I was utterly hopeless, and living in complete denial of how greatly I needed saving. Until that day, about five years past now, when I was roused, and I cannot forget to thank Him over and over again for doing so. For not keeping His love from me when I had kept everything else that was true from my consciousness. He saw me in my filth, in my brokenness, in my despair, and He chose to love me, to reach down and remind me that I mattered in His sight. That I was worth His rescue. That I was worth the blood that He shed. That the mess that I was, and still sometimes am, was worth it. Worth every last drop that was spilled in sacrifice for His bride. Worth the ransom all because He loved me and desired communion with me.

And even now, in this new trial of sickness, a bright and glistening future seemingly snatched, I must thank and praise Him for the deliverance that I am determined to believe is ahead. I won’t allow the enemy to steal my life a second time, though he determinately tries through the turmoil of this disease. I won’t let His sacrifice go unappreciated and unreturned. I resolve to live my life in a way that gives Him the glory due His name. That shouts His goodness from the rooftops and is unafraid and unashamed to speak about what He has done in my life. Even if I have to do so from the confines of my bed.

I may be sick now. My life may be wasting away before my eyes as I battle this disease. This diagnosis that I have been fighting for for the last year and a half of struggle and pain and searching for answers. But wait with me, and watch and see what God will do.

My God is a good God. He is a good Father. And I trust Him to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all that I can even imagine. Because that is His nature, that’s who He is, and that’s just how wonderfully He has come through for me in the past.

“Thank you for the cross that You have carried,

Thank you for Your blood that was shed,

You took the weight of sin upon Your shoulders,

And sacrificed Your life so I could live.”

You sacrificed your life. You gave Your life, shed Your blood, so I could have life. And I believe in that life, that ‘Zoe’ abundant life, both here and forever after.

Your name is above any other name. Above circumstances. Above finances. Above sickness. Above deceit. Above those in heaven. Above those in the earth and under it. Above even this final diagnosis of Lyme disease that threatens to take the life I so adamantly fight for.

And regardless of how the battle plays out here on earth, I know that ultimately I have won the victory in Him. That I will overcome by the blood of the sinless Lamb and the word of my testimony. May you bear witness to that. May you trust and believe Him to work by the same miraculous power in your own lives. And may you and I never forget what He has done and never cease to be thankful for the future He has promised and traded in exchange for our past. To never cease to recognize the magnitude and weight of the cross and the price that was paid, to win us, to love us, and to give us new life; a life beyond the pains and struggles of this world, a life we must keep our eyes fixed upon, a life that is better and yet to come.

An unintentional testimony.

Unhibited. Dark long wavy tresses hanging loose over hand-me-down sundresses as the little girl who donned them ran barefooted in and out of the sprinkler and around and around her electric green-grassed yard chasing her taunting younger brother on bright summer days. A girl who would deck herself head to toe in Native American garb, with brown-hair braided like Pocohantas and toy bow strapped around her torso, feathers sticking out of her headband and flowers braided into her hair. Bounding from one level of her hilly backyard to the next, often sliding and landing on her bottom, leaving a trail of evidence along the backside of her outfit. Swinging higher and higher in competition with her brother on the set their father had made them, seeing who could land the farthest once they made their mid-air exit and catapulted off; all of this while holding a melting ice cream cone in hand.

Catching and collecting crickets and other critters was commonplace activity, and sometimes, to their mother’s chagrin, a gardner snake, which they would promptly wear around their necks or show to their unsuspecting neighbors… Also, to their mother’s chagrin.

And then there was the infamous mint tea, made with the fresh picked herb growing right outside their door, with crisp cold hose water, all concocted in a tin bucket they found on the back porch. A tin bucket, one that only after they had all but emptied the contents of which into their neighbor’s .25cent cups, this younger brother coyly admitted he had just the day before peed in.

Yes. These precocious, but well-intentioned little children (with the help of their friends, of course) are none other than myself and my brother, and this bubbly, free-spirited little girl grew to be the same, but different, wild and brazen soul that many of you have come to either love or tolerate, in every good sense of the word.

But this little girl did not always feel free to express herself in her natural, unfettered state. For most of her adolescence and into young adulthood she felt stifled, muted, and tamed by everyone who held the power to do so. Whether it be her parents, her teachers at school, her boyfriends, her friends, she felt the resistance coming from every direction with whoever held some place of position or authority over her. And she did what any natural human being or creature does when being faced with opposition: she rebelled.

Her youth was spent talking back to her parents, her high school years running from professors in the halls marching toward her to dole out dress code fines, her late teen years organizing keggers and spending her weekends going from one house party to the next, often sneaking out of her parent’s house or lying about her whereabouts for the night, and other shameful mishaps. And then in college, the worst of her rebellion finally turned on the only true sense of stability and friendship in her life: the God who created this audacious being, and loved her all the more for it.

I will spare you the details, but during these fragile collegiate years she waged an all out war against herself, without even fully knowing it or being aware of the damage she was inflicting upon her precious soul. She had now graduated from rowdy, but fairly innocent binge drinking events with friends, to letting her heart be opened and torn apart by every male that caught her eye, and even ones that didn’t. Just as in the game of chess, when the Queen or King is left open and unguarded, exposed without protection from the other offensive and defensive pieces, she put herself in one vulnerable setting after the next and it took a good deal of time before she finally was hit so hard she realized that she had wandered into enemy territory.

Her heart had taken a beating, but something in her spirit kept prodding her back toward the One who had tried to protect and keep her safeguarded all along. As she had always done, she got to a place where she thought she had found safe harbor with a boyfriend who wasn’t all that bad, and had everything this world could offer to give; but that wasn’t enough. Something deep within her called out for more. And then one day, that more came knocking on the beaten down door of her heart and woke her up with an ultimatum that will forever be burned into her memory: you can choose to follow Me or you can choose to continue on your own, despondent path away from Me.

It hit her like a ton of bricks that morning as she lie awake in a bed that wasn’t hers, next to a boy who she knew she’d have to leave. Truth was, she was miserable, unhappy, and devoid of any of that sparkle or liveliness of the little girl she was but a glimpse of; the little girl who wasn’t afraid to eat honeysuckles and dandelions and faced life without fear or dismay.

who wasn’t afraid to face life without fear or dismay…

So she heeded the call and began the journey back to her Master, the One who had made her and formed her at the very foundation of the earth. And just for the record, I am pretty sure He used an extra bit of dirt when creating this carefree, nature-loving being.

At first, there was a lot of change to make, and like any metamorphosis, a lot of shedding the old and gawkily settling into the new.  It has been a process that has taken shape over several long years, and is even still ongoing.

“…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life… and put on the new self,  created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Eph. 4:22-24 (ESV)

And in this present day, that same girl is quite thankfully a far long way from the tangent path she had taken for those dark years of her life. But there still was a wee bit of rebellion latching on like a parasite to its host. And to be quite honest, she wanted it gone, eradicated completely. The question lingered, however, that if in relinquishing this remaining rebel within, she would be giving up a large part of the very person she truly thought she was deep down. Would surrendering in complete humility and obedience mean forsaking the free-spirited girl she so believed she had always been?

“It is for freedom Christ has set you free…”

So I come to you now, in first person, and I want to share what the Lord, my gentle, patient, and oh so loving Father has been speaking to my heart in words that have healed wounds far deeper than I even knew they cut.

As I said earlier, these past several years have been one of transformation for me, and I have been lovingly led by my Father each step of the way. About two years ago, He spoke a word to me that I did not fully understand. It came on a long drive back from visiting a friend in Spokane for my birthday weekend. I was listening to a program on the radio, the only one which would tune in at the moment, and concurrently saw a signpost that had confirmed the same message being preached.

“God chasteneth whom He loves.” It seared deep and it left an impression that I have kept close at mind ever since. The more I read and studied about the discipline of God and the more I experienced it for myself, the more I began to see the beauty and honor in this discipline unfold before my eyes. He was refining me because He was readying me for a purpose yet unknown. He was changing my name and identity from rubble to jewel, and from orphan to daughter. From ashes to beauty He has led me, and though I have resisted strongly at times, I have ultimately welcomed His will and purposes for me and vowed to live totally abandoned for Him. Even, after long struggle that still rises and abates, in this current season of sickness. But through it all He has been teaching me who I really am, and firming the foundation of my identity in Him. As one of the pastors at my church recently spoke, “He tells you who you are before He tells you what to do.”

“God “disciplines” His “disciples.” God is training us not just to live here and now, but to have life in the age to come, to share His life and holiness.” Heb. 12:3 (The Voice)

So in it all, I have been anxious and also grateful for the person He has been shaping me into. But somewhere deep inside of me I was hesitant, fearful of the moment when He would ask for the most treasured part of my spirit: my freedom. And again I shuttered at the mere thought of being caged again. I was already caged by my physical limitations, causing me to lose friends, to lose passions, to lose ability to once bound and leap across the gym and run up mountaintops. The ability to control, and the ability to sail my own ship against the crashing waves and changing currents, like I knew the route to go or held the chart which would direct my sail.

He was waiting to bring me into the fullness of my true self, where I could be free to be bold, fearless and full of adventure for the purposes He has set before me

In large part, I was still resistant. Resistant to God’s loving refinement because I was afraid He wanted to change the core of my identity, when the reality was just the opposite: He was waiting to bring me into the fullness of my true self, where I could be free to be bold, fearless and full of adventure for the purposes He has set before me instead of the recklessness that has always threatened to take my life.

All of these fears I wrongly held because I created a wrong belief that in all this refinement God wanted to tame me and not set me free. And oh, when I came to the realization and truth that He so lovingly spoke, like a kiss upon my ear, what profound joy that brought! In all of this work that the Lord has been doing upon my heart, it has all been meant for the sole purpose to mold me into the princess and daughter He has made and sees me as; guiding me into my true self in His light and leading. It became ever so clear, in a moment, that His discipline brings FREEDOM and that He wasn’t taming me to cage me, but refining me to train me to be unstoppable for Him and to ultimately set me free. FREE to be who I was all along. His workmanship, His greatest prize–as we all are as His bride— set apart for His good pleasure, and for His purposes. And oh how I laugh and I let my spirit soar in the beauty of it all!

He wasn’t taming me to cage me, but refining me to set me free.

And on one beautifully sunny, Fall day, when delivered a diagnosis that I have feared would keep me from everything I have upcoming in this next season and in my life beyond, I let loose tears of joy and release as again He spoke and calmed my fears that I would live a small life. I’ve said over and over recently that I don’t want to be heroic in my trek back to the Middle East, to ultimately share the good news of His love despite my critical health, that I will be “content to fill a little space if Thou be glorified,” as I was taught to memorize in school. But He spoke to me ever so clearly on the most cloud-free, sun-filled, bright and crisp and colorful Fall day lying on the beach and soaking up the saltwater air: “Sofia, my daughter, you were never meant for a small life. You were made for heroics.” And though my pride has often tried to intercept the purpose for this original design, I know now more than ever that the breaking has been crucially necessary for the blessing. There, on that beach I grew up skipping stones at and finding crabs, when I was tempted to yet again ignore those moments of stillness with the Lord, He came and confirmed my identity. He is always confirming who we are when we choose to listen and follow Him.

So here I am. Imperfect, but filled with a holy fervor for more of Him and more of His working in my heart, mind, soul, spirit, will and emotions. I don’t have all the answers. I never have. I never will. That comes as part of the wild, exhilirating, breath-taking journey of this precious life. But I do know God loves me, and He loves you too. If He was willing to take this matted-haired, holey-jeaned girl and transform her from that ragged thing into something beautiful, yet to be fully revealed in this life, then He can do the same for you. My heart has always been wild. But it has been wild so that I could run at any chance to set others free. And that can only come through His marvelous, unmistakable and unrivaled, lavish love.

So my ultimate message in sharing is this: Don’t let the enemy take what God meant for good and turn it into ill. Let Him work you and mold you like clay in the hand’s of an unerring potter. Let God bring to life the characteristics and qualities He embedded in you at birth, to will and to work for His glory. I promise, the final product will be worth the toil.

“The father’s job is to teach his children how to be warriors, to give them the confidence to get on the horse to ride into battle when it’s necessary to do so…” Cheryl Strayed

Because He delighted in me.

As summer draws to a close, and another birthday approaches, like the next rung added to the ladder of my life, I find myself more pensive than normal in these late August days. There’s something different in the air this year, and I’m not quite sure if it’s entirely due to the hazy smoke filled skies or the return of shorter days ushering in the coming shift in seasons. I’ve yet to pinpoint exactly what, but when I stroll about my neighborhood on any given afternoon there’s a scent and taste of an hour much later than what the digits show. Like a fight between time and space in these rapidly diminishing days, yet concurrent with a palpable sense of halting suspension. It’s as if the bullet train of time steady on its track is desperately being resisted by immovable space just wanting to hold us still for a few savory moments to take it all in. At least that’s the sense I get as I continue my daily walks, trying not to let the ritual become regimen and yet again fall into the mindless rhythm of life. I know it’s not though, as I walk for the means and not for the end, and catch little nuances like the still flowering window boxes and a green stretch of grass alongside a nondescript neighbor’s home, or the camoflauged barn owl glaring down at me from his perch atop the light pole at dusk.

With each passing day it seems I am not anywhere closer to regaining my former life of uninhibited movement and frequent physical activity, yet at the same time more of myself than I ever thought I could be apart from the things that once constituted my perceived identity.

In the sunlit breeze against my face, softly playing with my untamed tresses, I hear the whisper of wisdom from above, the deep crying out to deep, speaking these wind wrapped words: “where you once devoured life you now have learned to savor it.”

Yes, it’s true, my zest for life had turned into a rabid hunger for increasingly more, never reaching satisfaction. I was zealous for life, feasting on each gratifying event, and ever wanted more; more joy filled occasions, more mountaintop experiences, more laughter, more moments, just more. I thought in all the hectic scavenging of memories I was living life to its fullest, when in reality really relishing life runs at a much slower pace, much like the one I find myself walking in now. There’s so much to see in the tiny details so easily missed in the rushing. The rushing of time, of moments, of dates on a calendar, of appointments with friends, of empty space that we all fall into a frenzy to fill.

Standing at the edge of my all too familiar and favorite sunset overlook, I peer down at the field below me and smile as a verse from my year’s anthem psalm rises to my recollection.

“He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me,” (Ps.18:19).  And it occurred to me, at that moment, that this place we oftentimes envision as a pristine meadow full of wildflowers and butterflies may in fact be closer to this sunburnt field I look down upon, and that maybe this place could even be flanked by pain and suffering. Yet He brought me here, to this place where He resides, to His presence, because He has delighted in me. Despite any of the circumstances that exist, I can rest and in the middle of it all, in the truth and of wonder that He, God of the universe, would care to take delight in me, this bumbling, finicky, restless girl.

But He has heard my many cries, He has inclined His ear toward me, and He has come down from His throne to encounter me, to bring me here, in the midst of all my troubles, all because He sees me as His delight. What a more beautiful picture of love can there be? And in this moment when these words come alive, I am thankful for it all; the struggle, the hurdles, the pain. For now I can taste the flavor and smell the scent of a life that truly has meaning. Of a life lived entirely for Him <3.

Free to dance.

“You unravel me, with Your melody, Your love has called my name…”

Though not the exact lyrics to this beautiful, freedom declarative song, I sang the words of my heart’s cry.

“I’m no longer a slave to f–ear! I a–m a ch–ild of God!”

Over and over this morning I (correctly) repeated this chorus out loud.

Fear. Fear of many things throughout my life. More recently fear that I will never get better, fear that I will never live in the healthy, mobile, whole body I once possessed, fear that the cause of my exasperating physical agony would remain unknown; fear that healing would never come, at least not in this shell of a body or life.

Fear that has shown up through the years in the forms of anxiety, panic attacks, and irrational thoughts. Fear that transformed a girl who had no fear to think twice before speaking, acting, or stepping out in faith. Fear that took away the freedom I had to jump off stories high cliffs into the crisp, refreshing waters of Castaic lake. Fear that made me pause before tasting the wild edibles that my Turkish field guide offered as we trekked through the remote, rugged, and alluring landscape of the Taurus mountains. Fear that stole my laughter and turned it into mental lists of cautions and caged desires.

Fear that began to take root when a little girl’s innocence was stolen. Fear that robbed that same little girl’s oblivion to the outside world as she unashamedly ran, and played, and let her lungs bellow with the vocal roars of enthusiasm and zest for life. Oblivion to the gaze of others, of what they might think of her as she audaciously dashed through sprinklers in full Native American attire, who challenged boys twice her age to race her to the end of the street or hold out longer hanging on monkey bars. Who had spunk, and fire, and fervor for life before she even knew the gravity of just how precious it truly was. Who instinctively lived for each moment that invited her to savor living, for each lick of the drumstick, each swingset launch into the air, each jump from level to level of her hilly backyard, each opportunity she could take to dance upon tables or spring from bed to bed. Fear that took naivety and joy and put in place calculation and confining self-awareness to the point of imprisonment. Fear that crept in when that very little girl was coaxed into a closet and then robbed of her purity. Fear that almost keeps me from sharing what I’ve kept covered in shame for so long.

This fear that has always bound me to my pole of perceived safety and has stolen my ability to freely be that spunky, brazen, Pocahontas pretending, princess of the most High God, who always spoke her mind, the truth, and love, and didn’t give a second thought to what the world might think.

For this reason, because of this fear, for years I have been restrained from being myself; muted, subdued, confined. Kept from singing when I wanted to, from dancing when I felt my soul respond and leap to the music surrounding me, from living true to my deep and longing desires of freedom. But I’ve been set free from that fear; my Jesus has broken those chains over the course of these last several years as I’ve given Him more and more of myself, surrendering my brokenness, shame, and sorrow. And most recently in my newfound freedom I have longed to dance, though I’ve never innately had that rhythm, and I’ve prayed and pleaded for the day my body could allow what my spirit now has been let free to perform.

As I went up for more prayer for an affliction that just won’t seem to relent, I was reinvigorated to contend even more fervently. Still no miraculous, on the spot release of healing, but a word from the one whose hand lay upon my head which spoke of a vision of dancing.

I’ve seen the beautiful women over the course of this year dancing before the Lord in worship, offering up their praise in active form as the Scriptures so beautifully depict, and I felt the Lord whisper in my ear, “You’re a dancer too, and you will dance before me.” Something that all my life I’ve wanted to be as I watched a mother who so effortlessly did so and wondered why I couldn’t have inherited that too. It didn’t make sense, but something deep within my being resonated emphatically in agreement, “Yes, YES!! I will dance before you my Lord, my King!”

Today, my morning song was yet again our church’s last emphatic declaration before the Lord. We shouted and praised, and my spirit soared.

I came home, divulging in some of my favorite comestible gifts of creation: fresh figs and honey, buttery walnuts and bitter chocolate, all swirled into homemade coconut ice cream, and switched on this same song from my morning worship as I partook. Then I did something I hadn’t done in years. I opened the back door and took my full volume music outside, set the phone on the table, flung off my shoes, and began to carefully move my hindered body to the adorative gesture to the Lord, unhindered by the neighbors voices and activity around me. On the same feet that just a few months earlier had been crippled by pain, I began to alight onto my toes. In the same body that has been moving in cautious robotic motion, I began to twist and twirl in the sunlight. And under the beautiful, leaf full trees I began to dance and sing, and I danced almost uninhibited by the pain and the restriction of body that has had up until this brief, unfettered moment, kept me from living fully alive.

Today I danced despite my pain, despite this osteoporotic spine, despite fear, despite the limiting confinement of my condition. I danced because the Lord put this song into my heart and told me to declare it to Him and to declare it to you too, because doing so gives Him great glory. And I write to tell you that you can dance too. That you can dance in the midst of your joy, of your pain, of your sadness, of your fear, of anything that may be keeping you from letting your own childlike fancy unleash.

We were never intended to be slaves. At the crux of everything that “is” in this life, the truth is that we all have that gift of adoption available to us. His intention was never that we would be orphans, but instead, adoptive children and heirs.

I am not a prisoner any longer. He has delivered me. He has rescued me. I am chosen. And I am His child.

So again my friends, when against all odds and realities, I was able to whimsically dance all over my backyard today, I knew in that instant I needed to make this declaration to the world and to you:

I’m no longer a slave to fear,

I am a child of God.

I’M NO LONGER A SLAVE TO FEAR,

I AM A CHILD OF GOD.

He split the sea so I could walk right through it. My fears are drowned in His perfect love. And now before you I can stand and sing, I am a child of God.

Uninhibited, unrestrained, unafraid. Pure in heart, pure in mind, pure in deed. Not shy, or apprehensive, or ashamed, but sure in the confidence of His love. Endless, unrestricted, unbiased, unearned, overwhelming, overcoming, unmatchable, unstoppable, unquenchable love.

He split the sea of my fears so I could walk through to His promise of freedom. He gave me the faith to fight, and still gives me the strength I need to pursue this enemy in battle. To stand upon the truth of the word He has spoken and to wait in expectation of the day it will fully be manifest.

He restored me to life even amidst whatever boundaries my body has placed. I am found in Him and I am free, and I sing and dance and praise amidst fire and flood and know that He has all power to deliver from whatever may keep us bound.

For it was for freedom, complete freedom, that Christ has set us free, so let us walk, or crawl, or however else we declare to be free, free indeed.

All glory be unto you, my Deliverer, my Defender, my hope, my sweet, sweet Savior.

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Listen to this song and let the lyrics become your declaration as well. ❤

https://youtu.be/f8TkUMJtK5k

But He giveth more grace.

“Grace and Peace

Grace and Peace

Grace and Peace to you

From God our Father”

These beautiful melodic words sung by Fernando Ortega accompanied with each comforting stroke of the piano keys play over and over in my head as I drown out the obstructive noises of my second run through the MRI machine.

For some reason, each time I near going into that tube of ear piercing clamors, I become strangely overcome with emotion. I cry, I pace, I fidget, I cry some more, and then show a smile to the check in lady. I arrive promptly, and expect to be in and out in a matter of no time, just as before. I expected wrong. Waiting, and then more waiting, and more than an hour behind schedule I’m finally called back. Again, I’m reminded that things don’t always go according to my own way or plan.

Rewind again and I’m slowly waking up to a morning meditation in James 1, specifically ruminating on this translation from the Message:

“So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”

It’s not what I want to hear from God, but when I hear it I know it’s direct from Him for this particular situation and season.

Just a day after receiving confirmation from my counseling session of this revelation on patience, I am already eager to jump at the first opportunity to cut its full course short. Though plans are loosely made for today, they crumble away, and a phone call jolts me to action and instead of the agenda roughly formed in my mind, I’m now reassembling to make my way South toward possible answers that would lay at the completion of yet another test. It’s no secret; I want answers. It’s one thing to deal with pain and an entirely different thing to deal with the unknown and yet undiscovered. To live in a body you have always been in tune with, in control of in a way, and to have that deep sense of knowing that something is irrevocably, unequivocally wrong.

The one side of me wants the answer so I can begin my plan of attack and then launch headlong into chasing out this unwelcome foreigner that has resided in my body far past its due. And then there is the quieter, gentle side of my spirit which cries out to deep and cries out to me to let patience and peace rule. But oh, how my soul wants refreshment and my body relief! The force-field between spirit and soul is even still warring inside of me as the vibrational energy of the machine rattles every inch of my frame.

Fast forward and it’s over. My day is spent and I am too. One last stop at my favorite salad bar, one more divine appointment for the day as I chat with a Chilean co-op volunteer, one last soak in the sun as I chow down on some delectable eats.

Driving back North toward the bed that calls for me though it’s barely half past 7, I reflect on the beginnings of my day, the walk I take despite agonizing pain. There as I pass the same houses along the same route I daily take, I see a little girl crouching and slow my stride to catch this rare moment of childlike innocence. As she crept, I narrowed my gaze in the direction of the object that had caught her attention and then widened again to see the full picture of a sundress clad babe barely five years old tiptoeing her way toward robin red breast hopping forward for each step she took closer. She wore an expression of pure glee and hopeful expectation with not the slightest hint of doubt that her plan would fail and that the little bird would evade her. And in this simple scene of childlike fancy, it occurred to me the innate attribute of man to reach for that which he cannot have, to continue in pursuit of something which he cannot catch.

I wonder. I wonder if I am that girl, and if my final verdict is like that bird, ready just at the moment when I think it is within reach, to fly away.

And if so, can I patiently, faithfully, wait still? Wait while I continue to try and live, even if the answers I seek never come. That even in the unknown, in the indeterminate time I remain in ambiguity, I can still seek after and find grace and peace. Grace and peace. Grace and peace, and hope in the faith that sparks little girls to chase birds. I may not be able to catch them, but I must believe that He can.

Child chasing birds away

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Capable.

All my life I’ve been into making checklists. Whether it’s for the day’s errands or the year’s goals, marking off those little boxes has fueled my ambition and determination like none other.Graduated college? Check. Climbed a mountain? Check. Competed in bodybuilding? Check. Backpacked across Europe solo? Check. These are just a few of the many accomplishments I’ve planned and completed, yet many boxes still remain empty. In fact, for the past year that pen has lay untouched on top of that long forgotten list.

Capable. I’ve always had the capability, both physically and mentally, to do just about anything I’ve set my mind to do, often bypassing better judgement or short-circuiting any plans God might have tried to whisper in my season of self-reliance. In the gym, I gained respect as the girl known for bounding all across the floor performing various plyometrics, often with a barbell hoisted upon her shoulders, who could and would put her body to the ultimate test of limits. Among coworkers, often the first to pick up any extra shift, pull a double, or work as many days straight or jobs at once as I could. At home and among friends, the one who could always be counted on, a solid rock of support, advice, and counsel. Always capable of juggling all spheres of my life and the duties that called in one hand.

How quickly capabilities shatter when struck down by the blow of a single injurious moment. How in one instant you can go from capable to incapable. From confident to crushed. From steady to staggering. How the frame which once stood proud and strong now toils to get through each hour. The good book says the proud will be brought low, but one never quite really understands the measure of how low until they are knocked face up into the pit of their own pride.

We are a culture that prides ourselves on being capable, competent, and callously independent. We reward and praise those who make major achievements in their own strength and skill, and look down on those who seek input or help from others. In this day and age, it seems if you can’t do it all then you’re marked as practically worthless, or worse yet, a failure, all because you failed to keep up with the pace of perfection.Our society and generation is encouraged to push limits, boundaries, to never accept no for an answer, and to achieve at any and all cost. And for many years, I too believed that this was the ultimate path to finding worth in the world, even amidst my faith in God. But I find myself now realizing that the price of all that performing–because really, isn’t it all to gain the glory and praise of people–has been far higher than I bargained for and I am left with inadequate funds to settle the debt, to offset the balance that is weighing so heavily out of my favor.

The only failures these days it seems are those who fail to keep up with the pace of perfection, running short of super strength

When you place all of your chips on the table, the whole of your confidence on your shifting abilities, you run the risk of losing all you think you are about to gain. It may not happen this round, or even the next, but inevitably down the line your choices will catch up to you and you’ll be left scrambling with hindsight as heavy as the themes on 20/20. What I am speaking of here is not the God-given go ahead to risk all for the glory of Him who has set you on a path that requires strength you knew not you had. I’m referring to quite the opposite. We know that in Him all things are possible, all things that He ordains and wills, but on the flipside, anything done in our own power and strength is susceptible to this precarious situation. This is the unsteady, shifting sand the Scriptures talk about in the book of Matthew (7:26). Our confidence and capabilities alone are not a sure or solid foundation, though the world tries to tell us they are or should be. You can brashly live life as is you are invincible only for so long. And in my case, you can only push your body to a certain limit until it breaks.

Recently, a pastor at our church was sharing a story about his two year old son as a picture metaphor for his teaching that evening. He was describing the laborious task of potty training the young boy, and then later retelling a conversation he had with his little one as he tucked him into bed that night.

“Tell mommy I am going to wake up tomorrow, go potty, then gonna go watch such and such [silly name] children’s show on television. That’s what I’m gonna do. Go tell mommy right now!”

We all laughed, but after the amusement of this precious story wore off something stuck with me. I saw myself in that little untrainer toddler. Just like Him, I often come to God in the wee hours of morning and night and tell Him just exactly how the shows gonna go down. I plan, I decide, I dictate. In unfurling the scroll of my mapped out life, measuring and plotting each point along the trajectory of my path, I dictate to the all powerful, all knowing, all seeing God, the One who is who ultimately in control, and I tell Him just how things are gonna roll from hereon out. And even typing this admittance it hits me hard again. I’ve been dictating to God–and chances are, if you’re anything like me, you’ve done it too. We have all been that resistant child, defiant in our own stance, defiant in our perceived self-reliance and capability, but the fact of the matter is that we are all still untrained children to some degree, making messes far more tedious to clean up than a soiled diaper. It runs like a disease through the body of Christ, and it’s even more rampant in the greater culture of our world. I am sorry if I’ve stepped on any toes, or come across as condemning, as neither were my intentions. I am just a humbled girl, horrified by the wrongness of my own attitudes, and moved to repentance and action to allow the Holy Spirit to change me. To open my arms in surrender to His process of sanctification–that big religious sounding word that really just means I am ready and willing to be reshaped and remade. To rid the unholy and open my arms to heaven as I’m doused in the love-filled blood that washes me clean and pure.

And if I am washed by the blood of the Lamb, by the only taintless sacrifice, shall I not even too embrace the crucifixion that precedes this ceremony of righteousness? Shall I not also embrace the death of things in my life that have no place in His presence as much as I do the blessings He showers? Even in this death of the old, there is life, there is newness, there is rebirth. That somehow as counterintuitive and backwards as this whole transformative process of renewal is, it is ever so clear that in submission and surrender there is freedom, and that in reality it was my own self-reliance on my limited capabilities that led to my captivity of soul. That freedom isn’t found where our minds tell us it’s found, but rather where our spirit leads us when all our own methods are exhausted; to the very foot of the cross where He hung for our redemption.

Freedom. It’s what every human being inherently craves. Our souls yearn for it because we were created to be free. We weren’t created to have boundaries, or limits, or lack, but for eternal satisfaction in close cohabitation with the Creator set amidst an utopian world. But then the fall and death crept in by our own device, our own self-determination to have that which was never intended for our good, for a burden that we were never meant to carry. It was this ambition, this temptation to have more of our own strength, more of our own ability that ultimately led to our demise and to every life-sucking plague that entered this world as a result.

So this indescribable pain that limits what I can and cannot do, that threatens to rob the enjoyment of my summer, that mocks all my planning and potential pursuits, that persistently tries to convince me that its lies are truth, all stems from this post-fall desire that says we need control and power when really the only thing necessary is surrender.

So I surrender, but not to the pain that prevails. I surrender and lay at the altar this sacrifice of self-will that tells my God that I will trust and I will persist in faith, even when all else shouts otherwise. I will fight and I will summon strength, the strength that I find when I’m bowed on my knees, and in Him I will rest and find victory. His promises I will speak, and His truths I will declare. And I will fight and I will struggle against

the setbacks that aim to feed me the lie that I am limited; to keep these physical slowdowns from hindering my happiness, my joy, my peace, or more importantly, my place in His kingdom.

Despite my physical deficits I can still find surplus in His unending love, power, and strength that He so graciously promises to extend to us in the trials of our lives. I may not be capable of joining my friends on those hikes I long to complete, I may not be capable of diving into the glossy waters of Lake Jo letting my body bend and extend as it once could, I may not be capable of waking up and hitting the pavement for those morning runs I long to return to, but today I am more capable than ever of running the race God has set before me in this season, and ultimately, for the greater calling of my life. More capable of listening to and discerning His voice amidst the sea of my own thoughts and doubts. More capable of singing His praises, even when from the thick of it it seems there are no praises to sing. More capable of finding joy in the hard and weary places where it seems the light barely cracks through. And all because God was gracious enough to soften my heart toward humility instead of hardness in this season of surrender. All because I no longer will stand to allow myself to become caught in the clutches of my own control. I asked for more of Him, and in return He rightfully demanded all of me. The bargain was my brokenness in exchange for wholeness in Him. If I trust that He is faithful to hold true to His word, how could I not relinquish the pieces He longs to put back together.

There are still many things I want to accomplish in this life, still many boxes to be checked, and I believe that God-willing, one day I will. But I will do so in His perfect time, and even greater things than my miniscule mind could conjure.

So I must shut the door on the past, let go of comparing my current state to what I was once capable of, and surrender to the peace of knowing it is all for His greater glory and my greater benefit. It is all for picking out the imperfect and persevering toward completion. It is all for the joy set before me, the joy that is found in reverse of my plotting and planning and on the other side of the valley I look out upon, out far beyond my own control or my capabilities, in the very palm of His hand. That is where I must rest, and that is where I must find myself complete. Because when you have nothing left of your feeble frame to prove, no more strength apart from God to muster, it is becomes so evidently clear that in this place of utter bankruptcy of your own ability can He truly come and mobilize you with all of His empowering grace. For He is the One who widens my way, who makes me able to tread the perilous places where my feet cannot otherwise take me, so like a deer I can scale the heights even in my helpless state. For the Sovereign Lord is my strength, and I will ever sing of His goodness, until this air leaves my lungs. Of that I will always be capable.

Scripture Inspirations: Psalms 18, 2nd Samuel 22:33, Habakkuk 3:19, James 1

Stripped.

Have you ever lost a piece of jewelry or watched a similar small but valuable object inevitably careen down the drain, as it slips from your grip. Can you picture yourself in that place of horror, as you watch something you love spiral relentlessly out of your control? Can you stir up your emotions as the thing you once loved is now far from your reach or recovery?

For anyone who has ever had full capacity of their body and then have lost it in some way or another, this is about as close to relating the tumultuous onslaught of emotions as one can get.

It’s never an easy phase of life to have everything you once embodied stripped bare from the frame that once stood strong and proud. To walk into a room where you once shone and prominently placed yourself to be noticed, to hoping that you’ll fade into oblivion and not catch the eyes of those who once esteemed you. To have felt pain and pushed through, and to alternately be pushed to the brink of pain or at least what you you suppose you can withstand.

For most of my life I have identified myself as a victim. A victim of abuse, a victim of depression, a victim of anyone who has ever wronged me. My identity was entangled in every injustice that had flagged my past. Once my emotional healing commenced, and the demons of my past were brought to light in order to be disarmed, a large part of my soul lashed out and struggled through this process of metamorphosis, much like how a fish freshly caught will fight, and flap, and wrestle against its foe, resisting to the end. In both cases, a death occurs, yet in the war within our soul there is a reincarnation. With the bitter, ugly wreckage of the past resolved, one can begin again, anew, with a fresh tablet to fill. This is what Christ does when we surrender our lives to Him and allow His ultimate healing to take place within us.

It’s funny then, how with all this healing and restoration available to us, we still cling to our dusty old rags of the past. How we still want to put on our tattered clothing rather than dressing ourselves in His white robe of cleanly wholeness which He so tries to lovingly extend to us. It baffles me the strangeness of our struggle against and through the process of refinement, though we know it ultimately leads to greater perfection. That somehow, in some illogical way, we still cling to our dirty, broken, and troubled pasts for fear that if we lose our hurts, we will lose our identity, and inevitably lose ourselves. In all this struggle it seems to be that our greatest fear is the fear of what we would be without those broken pieces that we so desperately cling to.

In all this struggle it seems to be that our greatest fear is the fear of what we would be without those broken pieces that we so desperately cling to.

We so often forget that He promises to take the fragmented pieces of our brokenness so that He might replace them with His love, to mold us back together again, to give us beauty for our ashes. It’s like we don’t trust Him enough with the parts of our lives where we need Him the most. That we’ve become too independent in our stories to the point that we’ve jumped the pages and are now trying to narrate our lives when only the author knows how the story must progress to reach the desired ending. We’ve relied too heavily on the resiliency of human nature, forgetting that the only sliver of resiliency that remains in us is because He has branded it into our being. We’re forgetting the source of our strength, and we’re running to our own solutions rather than to His Grand Redemption

We’re forgetting the source of our strength, and we’re running to our own solutions rather than to His Grand Redemption..

It’s funny, really, that for all our striving and all our straining we can only move a fraction as far as we could have if we just relented to His will at the onset. And sometimes His will isn’t what we expect or desire at the outlook; sometimes it calls us into struggle, into messy areas of our lives, or into outwardly perceived road blocks which don’t logically make sense in our feeble minds. He strips us bare. But He also promises to give us far more than He would ever ask in sacrifice. Like Job, who for all his turmoil the Lord blessed in his latter days more than in his former. And one of my favorite passages in Hosea, in which the writer, calling for repentance, so beautifully states that “He has torn us, that He may heal us,” (6:1). Sometimes He has to break us to bless us, as Jacob learned amidst wrestling with God in flesh.

In spite of everything, the way things appear, the struggles we may have to go through in life, whatever the plight, the overarching message is this: God will not break us without wholly intending to put us back together. The whole purpose of brokenness is restoration. God’s will for you in your situation is the same that it is for me, the same that it’s been for all of time. He aims to heal us, He aims to redeem our failures, He aims to make us whole, He aims to make us new, and more than anything He desires to enter into an intimate, eternal relationship with us. And as I am learning through this process of renewal, this at times agonizing season of breaking, pruning, and refinement, is that anything in our lives that isn’t whole and pure and of God will keep us from closer intimacy with Him. All of the hurts we hold onto, the lies we believe, the sin we take pleasure in, the strongholds that chain us, will all inevitably keep us from complete wholeness in Him. He hates separation from man, so much so that He sent His son in the form of flesh to break that barrier once and for all. But He’s still a gentleman, He’s still not forceful about it. He still wants you to choose. And once you do, you open the floodgate for His transformative hand to rest heavy in your heart and life. It’s as if He’s gently coaxing us to give Him all we prayed we wanted Him to have.

God will not break us without wholly intending to put us back together. The whole purpose of brokenness is restoration.

And this is what He’s doing in my own life. I asked for more of Him, and He answered by proceeding to remove the pieces of my life that had to go. The bordering obsession with physical perfection, the need to control every aspect of my life, the placing of God’s gifts of blessing above the Blesser Himself. Even now, I can almost hear Him saying, “Yes my child, this has to hurt, but it will heal you if you let me open these wounds once more.” Like a skillful surgeon with the scalpel in hand He has been cutting out the things in my life that have not served His purposes for me. My pride, my haughty spirit, my idols (of which there were many), my false gods, my false perceptions of Him, my stubbornness, my lack of empathy, my impatience. The list goes on and on, but beneath them all He’s been revealing the one resistant root that may be the very thing keeping me from the harvest He has for me in this and many other seasons: my independent spirit. This self-reliance I’ve clung to my whole life that has given fuel to the fire of self-will, a defiance that only the chaff of loving and corrective chastisement can break.

Spending the majority of one’s life as a victim will inevitably lead to leaning on the self for security, for means of saving. Yes, I had become my own savior and had rejected the One who’s saving grace I desperately needed more than all my self-escape routes (of which there always were many). Though I have wrestled with God throughout life, relinquishing portions of my will bit by bit, I still had not surrendered the one thing He wanted most: my complete reliance on Him. Recently, as I found myself on the other side of the country, but a day into a women’s conference that was rapidly and overwhelmingly stirring the uncomfortable outside of me, I realized just how much my self-reliance had become my handicap. How the very thing I thought was my source of safety was actually the impediment preventing me from running fully in tune with His leading and guidance.

In those desperate hours of utter brokenness and crying out to the Lord, His Spirit began to gently and lovingly convict me of the many ways throughout the years that I had thumbed my nose at His plans and defiantly interjected my own way in the place of His, all in self-defeating effort to protect myself. And as I sat in the back of that praise filled sanctuary of fellow retreat going women sobbing to seemingly no end, I realized how much I had grieved the Lord by unawaringly rejecting Him as my true source of deliverance for so many years. And what was most beautiful about this whole scene is that there was no condemnation, only gentle and loving correction and a deep desire to rid myself once and for all of this crutch and instead lean wholly on His strength. Soon I was swathed in the embraces of three loving sisters, my roommates, covering me in love and prayer, and I sensed His Spirit beginning a work that night of this process I find myself in the midst of now, of entirely yielding myself to Him and His will, no matter the outcomes that may follow as a result.

And so, though this journey and season of loss has been anything but easy and anything but comfortable, I am finally beginning to see that it’s better not to struggle against the Living, Love defined God, but rather to relinquish and rest in whatever or wherever He’s placing you in this season of your life. Yes, I have lost much; from the outside, arguably everything I once embodied and loved. My whole identity has been forced into a process of reshaping. What I’ve gained, however, is far more than the chains I so stubbornly relented to let go. Though He asked me for my most valued pieces of life, and though I have vehemently mourned their loss as I’ve watched them slip from the clutches of my control, I see now as I look up from my despair, as I wipe the clouded tears from my eyes up to the direction of His loving gaze with eyes of faith, that He is ready to give me jewels more precious than that which I lost. That he is able to reclaim, restore, and recover all that was before and all that I never even knew I had. That His plans far exceed A or B, or any other of my own. His arms and His hands are outstretched, and as a loving Father He is affectionately whispering in my ear, “All is not lost.”

All is not lost, but everything gained, when you lose yourself in Him. So unclench your hands. Let go of that which you cling to. He has so much more with which to fill.

The “Real” Me.

Whether you were amongst them or not, it is likely that millions of Americans tuned in last night to watch the highly talked about interview where Bruce Jenner, recently one of the nation’s most controversial figures, publicly opens up with full disclosure addressing the rumors that have been circulating for some time now regarding his gender identity.

Although I wasn’t anticipating this interview nor planned to watch, I found myself tuning in along with my parents as we listened to him tell Diane Sawyer and the rest of America how he has been living a lie for the last sixty some years of his life. How he has never had the freedom to be who he truly felt and feels he is in the depths of his soul, and has thus lived out the majority of his life caught in the middle of a somewhat true and somewhat false identity.

He recounts how he avoids social situations, feeling out of place, and reading between the lines of the few wrinkles he still has left, I can see the exhaustion in his eyes of maintaining the masquerade that must drive him to that isolative state.

 Ironically, he has been an integral part of one of the notoriously explicit, “anything goes,” and revealing shows of this century. Even those who appear to be in the middle of it all, however, are often the ones who feel most alone, most misunderstood.

Recently, names such as the late and great Robin Williams also come to mind, and it seems this industry is plagued with story after countless story of lives that have been lived in fabrication of the truth. It seems we are all, in some measure or another, hiding part of our truest identity from the world. Whether it is in subtle omission of our secret beliefs or convictions that we keep from surfacing in order to maintain favor with the popular circles we attend to, or flat out falsifications of the very nature of our identity, such as we see in the case of Jenner’s story.

Initially, when I opened my laptop to type this morning I had no intentions of talking about identity or even the latest news in pop culture for that matter. But my Source of inspiration had other ideas in mind for me. Lately, I have felt incredibly irritated at maintaining this imitation of myself others have come to expect and exhausted at the mere thought of entertaining any of the social engagements that might arise. When a friend suggests a meeting I immediately feel the urge to withdraw to my tortoise shell of protection to keep from having to pretend everything is all right even though it’s not.

More and more in these days of maintaining appearances, perfectionism, and creating a persona to display to the world (don’t our Facebook profiles and feeds say enough?), it seems that it is concurrently becoming more out of fashion to be anything other than great. The dreaded, “how are you’s” that we all ingenuinely throw at one another don’t leave even the slightest bit of room for a response of anything other than “good.”

“Oh I’m good,” or “I’m doing all right,” are the most common answers to that dreaded question. Why do we even ask if we don’t care enough to listen to the real response hiding behind the hesitation of our “Oh, Okay’s?”

Is it just me, or has it become socially in-acceptable to be anything other than good? Is it completely out of the question these days that someone might in fact be NOT okay? With the rise of the new age movement, everything has suddenly become so feel good, sing songy, all is well with the world, even though it more often than not is anything but butterflies and rainbows.

Socially acceptable or not, I’m sick and tired of feeling guilty for not having the answer that everyone hopes to hear for fear that they will have to engage the truth that may be hinted at through those hestitations. The reality that your friend may in fact not be that eternally brilliant or chipper person that she portrays to the world and might in some seasons need a little anchor to lean on. Because don’t we all go through seasons of drought and withering alike the popularly showcased seasons of harvest?

Like it or not, the fact of the matter is that truth isn’t popular, it isn’t in vogue because it requires transparency and it requires pulling off the mask and facing the ugly reality straight on. And doing so demands responsibility. It demands that people step up and respond to the repercussions of their questions. It requires authenticity in relationships which scares the majority of the crowd who wish to remain in the outer circles of appearances rather than the inner depth of sharing life, true life with all its ups, downs, twists and turns, with one another. That’s what true friendship consists of and is at its core. That’s the design which our Creator had in mind when He knit us together in the depths of the earth. 

One of the first flaws in Creation that God pointed out was this issue of isolation. He didn’t intend to be isolated from His creation no more than He intended for His creation to be isolated from itself. “It is not good for man to be alone,” says the Lord in Genesis 2:18, and so He made a helper.

In a similar way, doesn’t Jesus extenuate that notion by surrounding Himself with a group of intimate confidants, those of which He breaks bread with and lives life among and alongside. Even in the midst of His darkest hours, He brings His closest friends with Him to pray, with Him in the solitude and the secrecy of His despair. You see, even in our greatest struggles we aren’t meant to live life alone. Yet so often these days that’s just what we who face these giants and Goliath’s in our lives find ourselves doing. It’s what our roaring enemy wants; for us to be alone. Not just to feel alone, but to desire that aloneness.

 And that’s just where I find myself these days, as it’s so much easier to live life honestly amidst my family and the few who really care to know rather than hiding in the facade and trying to live up to the expectations that my “friends” have come to know me by.

In the strangest way, I understand in some degree how it must feel to be invisible amidst the crowd. People see past what they don’t want to acknowledge, and they pick out the most attractive parts that uphold their false reality or beliefs about a person or a situation. They ignore what comes out of the mouths of their friends and stand by only what they see on social media, holding by that as truth and skirting the other to the wayside, back underneath the mat of denial and suppression.

I am here to say, however, that just because life isn’t okay, doesn’t mean life doesn’t go on. Life isn’t okay, but the bills still have to be payed. Life isn’t okay, but grocery shopping must still be done. Life isn’t okay, but you still have to push through and make it to work each day because there’s no other way. Life isn’t okay, but you still have to smile. Life isn’t okay, but you should still be allowed to have fun, and even if you do that doesn’t and shouldn’t obligate you to pretend like everything is okay again. Life isn’t okay, but you still have to act like it is because that is what is expected of you.

But I am done living up to those deathly demanding expectations. I am here to say that all is not okay but that doesn’t mean I am any less deserving of real, authentic relationships and real, authentic living. It’s okay to not be okay all the time. I give you permission. I dare you to give yourself permission. This is not an invitation to whine, or complain; it’s simply a call to be real and to let yourself be known, truly known. Which is what I am attempting to do, one conversation, one blog post, one day at a time.

It’s hard to explain to those who have never lost anything they loved. It’s also hard to explain to those whose character and the very essence of the person that they thought they were isn’t challenged and shaken to its very core. Many years ago I thought I was the ten year old girl who could outrun any boy on my block. At fifteen years old I thought that I could outwrite and outscore my biggest competitors in the classroom. At twenty, I thought I was the girl that could outdrink and outlook any other rival that got in the way of the boy I put my sights on. At twenty-five I thought I could push through any pain and forge my own paths in life. I thought I was invincible and I thought, subconsciously, I could pretend until the end, to “fake it” until I made it.

Well, I’ve reached a point in life where there is no more faking. There is no more pretending to be strong. There is no more perfection reflecting back at me in the mirror. There is no more validation in my body, in my appearance, in my performance, or in my self-reliance. God has directed me through this desert to break me and then remold me into the person I never could have thought I would become. It’s humbling and highly interrupting when God calls us out of the shadows and into the light of His refining fire. He is no respecter of persons, or situations, and His timing often comes right when we think it couldn’t be anymore disrupting. But He disrupts us, disrupts our perfectly calculated, planned, put on lives to save us from ourselves, from our own self-destruction and self-denial. And the truth is that there are many of us who are living behind a false identity, whether we acknowledge it or not.

So whatever issue you may be struggling with in your identity, because if we are all honest we all do to some degree, let us embrace the reality of truth, no matter how unpopular it may be. Whether you agree with the lifestyle Bruce Jenner leads or not, we can all learn a little something from his act of bold honesty, in his attempt at full disclosure whatever the consequences.

What I’ve learned through the hills and valleys of my solo struggle the past year is that life is still painful and sometimes you can either live carefully within the confinements of those limitations or you can jump the fence even if it’s going to make the pain worse for a moment, because living locked up is no way to live at all.

So even if my best attempts at honesty won’t get me closer to authentic relationships at least it will uncover the truth about who really deserves to be at arms length in life at all. And for the first time, I’m not afraid of what I might find, I’m not held captive by keeping up appearances to make everyone happy. I’m not okay and if you’re not okay with that then I’ll rest secure because I know the best friend, the closest confidant, the nearest help is just a prayer away. And no matter what I do, no matter how I feel, He is always pleased and He will always look lovingly on me.

And He waits in longing to bestow the same on each one of us.

 “Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.” Deuteronomy 33:12

So I will rest there, between His shoulders; rest away from the crowds if I must, rest away in the secret place where I hear His voice. But I also won’t rest until I make it known that this new identity that He is forming within me, the one which says I am His beloved, that I am worthy, that I am His child, won’t stand for anything false from this moment forward.

Let’s all stop pretending and start living like we were meant. Let’s stop wondering what our friends will think of the truth, wondering if they’ll like our “real” me’s, wondering if we’ll still be accepted or embraced despite our struggles. Let’s start loving one another regardless of the answers that lay on the other side of our, “How are you’s,” and let’s love like the one who is Love Himself: unconditionally.

Drifting.

I wake, I rise, I read, I pray; another day begins and before I barely even fill my lungs with mornings’ first breath my “to do” list beckons me to start crossing. Folding, tidying, wiping, washing, searching, finding; more and more tasks added to the list before the former are even begun. Morning priorities become afternoon postponements, and errands take precedence over intended productivity. Circular routes driven all over town, as round and round the stops keep multiplying in frenzied fashion. The sun rises, reaches, peaks, then suddenly sets, and just as quickly as it came the day draws to a close and it seems the next has nearly dawned.

I catch my breath. I breathe. I pause. Pause. My first of the day, and I’ve gone with such speed that it seems I’m still going, still moving forward though my feet are finally firmly planted in one spot. Like a child darting full force at the signal of their peers then suddenly stopping in their tracks as green light now turns to red. Staggering, wobbling, squealing as they flap and circle their arms to keep themselves from tipping forward, limbs fighting to work in concert with each other to stay aright. Who knew that this childhood game would all but prepare us for the grown up version of keeping up with our lives.

In one instant we go from children playing house to buying a house, from dress up to who’s best dressed, from baby dolls and polly pockets to bringing baby home. Life moves so fast, too fast, and yet so slow at the same time; and here I am somewhere stuck in the middle.

Though the day has sped along and the hours rapidly past, there are still some things which demand a certain slowness, a kind of savoring of moments. All but blocks from the most spectacular sunset view, I take time to walk to my favorite overlook; a ritual I will not lose in the chaos of the daily race.

I round the corner and my breath is taken away, yet this time not from frantic exhaustion. At the edge of this jut I stand and linger. I linger and I contemplate the sentiment that Otis Redding had when he wrote his dockside hit.

Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun

I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ comes

Watchin’ the ships roll in

Then I watch ’em roll away again, yeah

I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay

Watchin’ the tide roll away, ooo

I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay

Wastin’ time

I take deep breaths, full in and emptied out, and I open my eyes to find my own visage of a ship rolling by in real time. Though it’s too far to see clearly, I can only imagine the ripples it makes as it steams on through, making its way across the Sound. If time is represented by that agenda driven ship, then I am the piece of driftwood that is bound to be met in its passage, tossed and jarred by the effects of its wake, constantly driven farther away from the streamlined path that is forged all around me. It seems each passing day I find myself farther and farther from the course that everyone around me seems to be traveling. Unlike the targeted path of my peers, the direction I take seems to be subject to each toss and turn of the various waves of life that come my way. My ambitious ten year plan seems tens of years removed from where I am now, yet, I am strangely content with how my late 20’s have unfolded.

Unlike friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and anyone else within range of my age, I seem to be drifting away from the standard series of events that most aim to complete in some manner of order. While many are now gaining momentum in their stages of life, whether settling into career or family, I am slowly stretching this extended season of mine.

At 26 I don’t have much to show for my efforts in life. A degree that collects dust in one of the few boxes of my possessions, a handful of failed relationships, none of which promised happiness or a future I would have wanted, a savings account that has risen and dwindled as living in the moment and then paying for the repercussions of those moments have demanded a pretty penny, and a lengthy resume filled with work experiences that are about as varied as the colorful striations in the night sky I gaze upon.

I pretend to move along at the speed of those around me, but in all honesty, I’m nowhere near the current that most are being carried by. Sometimes it seems I’m in a gyre somewhere in the middle of all of these directed swirlings, going round in round in a circle and never progressing outside of the circumference that my life has made thus far, and at times oddly seeming to be shrinking rather than expanding its radius. But to tell the absolute truth, I find my little whirlpool of life to be rather reassuring amidst the waves everyone else seem to ride.

Demanding babies, demanding jobs, demanding relationships, demanding, demanding, demanding. It seems there is always something or someone demanding our attentions away from the simple sweetness of life. And in my little circle of demands, there is only myself to care for at the end of the day, and though I may often be all on my own I’ve grown accustomed to being alone and I desperately crave that space. I struggle because I know this shouldn’t be normal, this shouldn’t be what I want. But something deep within me keeps calling to a different path; a path where status quo is thrown out and I live for something higher than milestones, something less conventional than what is being sold to those around me. What this might be, I scarcely can picture, yet I know that unlike the melody that Otis croons, I cannot allow myself to remain the same. I know that I must keep trusting, keep pushing out into deeper waters, keep living in tune with the song that the Maker arranges for me, however that looks or may match up with those around me.

But for now I fight against the tide, I fight to keep from being washed up on the shore. I paddle against the current, and I fight the repetitive nature of this life.

And the brilliant sunset turns to haze and I come to reality once again and realize that no matter how far off course I might have drifted, no matter how many mile markers I’ve watched others reach and pass, none of this life has been wasted time.

I’m sitting on the dock of my bay, collecting the moments, relishing time.

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