Find Unity, Seek Healing, Search for Community.

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“One of the main tasks of theology is to find words that do not divide but unite, that do not create conflict but unity, that do not hurt but heal.” – Henri Nouwen

 

I’ve been reading a lot of Nouwen lately. I’m not sure what’s been drawing me to him, but his writing is great. When I can’t find the energy to open my bible… I open his books. I delve into his journey and his discoveries.

 

This quote is one I keep coming back to. I’ve underlined, highlighted, circled, you know it– I’ve done it. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel that unity. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel the healing.

 

Our church has been so divided and torn up by the social justice issues that seem to continually plague our society. It breaks my heart to see people who are just called to love and offer peace to their neighbor, up in arms about people and borders and possessions.

 

What if, instead of focusing on the things that make us different, we focus on the things that unite us What if, instead of letting fear be a blocker of joy, we let joy eradicate fear?

 

I know this is easier said than done. I know that changes to systematic approaches and problems take time. But it starts with individuals. It starts with you. And it starts with me.

 

– – – – –

 

This may seem off topic, but let me just tell you that October’s have always been my favorite month.

 

The soft feel of summertime grass beneath my feet while brisk autumn wind plays with my hair. It’s a magical month, a time of beginning and cleansing and vulnerability. A time of “in between” and “not quite”. I love to live within those grey areas.


This year, though, I’m not finding myself excited for October. Instead, I’m wishing it would flood by quickly and move out of my life. It carries pain this year, carries memories I don’t care to relive– in fact, I’m working on rewriting them.

 

I’m hoping that October can become a month of wonder again for me. I’m tired of feeling lost and unfixable. I’m tired of putting on a brave face as the day gets closer and closer and passes me by.

 

I am reminded of the lyrics from one of my favorite gospel songs, one that I tie to this time of year especially.

 

“Lord I will lift my eyes to the hills knowing my help is coming from you. Your peace you give me in times of the storm.

 

I’ll admit that this seems impossible some days. Lifting my arms in praise is hard when life feels heavy and dark.

Peace escapes me and if I’m honest, I don’t seek it when I should. I don’t seek it when life is overwhelming. I don’t lift my eyes to the hills… Instead, I turn away. I close my Bible. I isolate myself.

This is the opposite of what God wants for us. This is the opposite of what our heart needs in times of the storm.

 

I fought off the demons by myself for far too long. The best thing I ever did was open up to another person about the struggles I had, about the difficulty I had with getting out of bed, the anxiety I felt every time I had to step out into public places, the isolation that came with being a gay Christian. The best thing I ever did was go to counseling and be truthful about the things I deal with, to accept the need for medication to become myself again, to learn ways to cope when emotions take over too much.

 

As much as I joke about and make fun of community, it so necessary and needed. Right now, I’m in a middle ground where I don’t really fit into any community around me. It’s hard and if I’m being truthful, I could try a bit harder. Invest a bit more. Search a little wider.

 

This month and season of my life feels long and endless. But like the Israelites in the desert, God is handing me the Manna and strength I need for the day and teaching me to trust He will deliver again tomorrow. Because He always does. Tomorrow is a gift and promise of His faithfulness.

 

You don’t have to hurt alone. You don’t need to feel divided. Find your people. Pour into them. Be there, in person, for them in times of joy and sorrow. Find unity. Seek out healing.

 

And remember:

People really are the greatest gift of all.

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Stay Alive // NSPD

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The first time I tried to commit suicide, I was 15 years old. Sad and lonely, I was unsure about everything– including staying alive. I remember throwing the sheet over the shower pole and my fingers trembled. I was saved when my camp counselor walked into the bathroom to announce that it was chapel time.

 

The second time I tried to commit suicide, I was 18 years old. Walking into college, I thought I would do nothing but thrive. Instead, I was floored by depression but named it “being too tired and isolated.” I remember holding the knife against my skin, thinking about how I wouldn’t be missed and no one wanted me around, as a text lit up my phone. It was a friend asking if I was free and that she wouldn’t take no as an answer. I went.

 

The third time I tried to commit suicide, I was 20 years old. My university was up in arms about LGBT rights on campus and I, a gay christian, was floundering. I was feeling alone, like I was an invalid person, and that everyone hated me because I was on the opposite side of the debate. I had pills sitting in my bag to take after I checked my CPO box. Inside, there was a letter from an anonymous student telling me that they looked up to me and my courage for speaking out and being myself. I cried and dumped the pills down the toilet.

 

~~~~

 

I still face depression everyday. He used to show up in the morning with a steaming cup of coffee, ready to begin our day together. But now, I take a small white pill everyday to keep him in another room. Sometimes, Depression calls to me and whispers lies when I allow him to get close.

 

Instead of facing him alone though, I let my friends know I am having a hard day. They send encouragement from afar and hug  me when I am close.

 

To Write Love On Her Arms chose the motto “Stay alive” for the National Suicide Prevention Day slogan. I think that is fitting. It’s so much of a choice, being here and present. It’s so much of a choice to make people feel like they can choose to stay.

 

I am here to tell you to stay. Please, stay. Stay when the days are hard, when swinging your legs out of bed feels impossible. Stay when your heart is breaking and you feel like there is no one to turn to. Stay on nights when screaming up to the stars is the only release that works, stay when your skin is crawling to be removed from your body, stay when your mind won’t shut up.

From one survivor to another, stay.

 

Whatever the situation, please please stay. 

 

You are here. You are seen. You are heard. You are loved.

You are not alone. You are never alone, friends.

 

There are people around you to talk to, my inbox is always open. Reach out, Stay alive, Be present.

 

Below I have attached numbers that are important because you are important:

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line: Text CONNECT to 741741

The Trevor Project: 866-488-7386

The Suicide and Crisis Hotline: 1-800-999-9999

A Summer for the Books

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This summer was one for the books. It began so normal. I graduated college, I was in a loving relationship with an amazing girl, I had a potential job out west. Life was… going forward.

 

Spiritually, I was praying for God place a revival in my life. I felt stale and out of touch with my faith. Maybe it was the thought of all the changes coming or taking my life into my own hands, but I wasn’t relying on God… not enough. And honestly, I was questioning my faith and was close to walking away from it.

 

So, I prayed a prayer that I paraphrased from a friend. I asked God to break me down, to strip me of all earthly desires so that I could rely on Him, to take away any idols I had in my life that were distracting me from Him. Basically, I wanted His love to destroy me completely so that He had to build me up from bone.

 

If I’m being completely open here, I didn’t think that anything would change in my life. I didn’t think that the prayer had power. But, then I didn’t take the job. And then my girlfriend ended things, and I felt stuck and destroyed and wanted something to distract me. So, I took the first summer camp job that came my way and I worked at a 4-H camp this summer.

 

To say that this camp was a formative part of my year, or even my life, would be an understatement. To me, it wasn’t even the work… the people made my life so much better. I found friends, I could open up to them—which is big because I don’t open up to people that easily. They were sweet and caring and helped me to care less about things outside of my control. They taught me how to live in the moment a bit more and to be more spontaneous.

 

Being single this summer turned out to be exactly what I needed to heal my head, heart, hands, and health. I wouldn’t have wished it upon me, but I am thankful for the lessons it and God are teaching me.

 

You see, 4-H teaches that there are 4 important H’s to live by: head, heart, hands, and health. I went into this summer with so much going on that all four were sick to me.

But I was able to clear my head; I learned meditation and yoga and, to be honest, they helped me learn to like myself a bit more and to appreciate the uniqueness that I bring to the table.

I was able to love better; yeah, my heart was so broken this summer, but I was able to love kids and they loved me. I can’t put into words how much they saved me this summer—I am eternally grateful for every bond I forge this summer.

My hands were able to serve; I was able to put the Lord’s work first, to serve His kingdom, and to pray more than I ever did before.

My health also improved; so, yeah, I have Lyme Disease, but I am also more aware of how my body is speaking to me and am empathetic to others around me.
These lessons weren’t easy, they’re things I have to constantly remind myself of. But it is so worth it. You can rise from the ashes. Beauty comes from all kinds of pain, hurt, and despair.

So, hold onto who you are. Hold onto hope. Things get better. People won’t always let you down. People will show up when you need them.

 

Sometimes, change throws you through a loop. So instead, jump through, pray the prayers that scare the living shit out of you, and let the roller coasters take you for a ride. You’ll be stand on firm ground before you know it.

Thoughts on Discipline

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After  a walk in the woods, I phoned up a friend to talk to her about some things that have happened in my life recently. And somehow she saw right through it all and told me to tell her what was really on my mind. So, I asked her why I didn’t feel God as much these days as I used too. Since graduation, I could feel my faith slipping slowly from grasp. It was like sand—the harder I tried to grab a hold of it, the quicker it slipped. So, I asked this older woman in Christ why that was. She asked what’s been different since graduation, that we should see if there is a root cause for this issue.

 

Since leaving college I have not attended church, I haven’t prayed consistently, and I have opened my bible once. I don’t talk to people about faith related things. It was like leaving the community of believers drove me to leave my belief.

 

So, her answer to my problem was that I lacked discipline. Merriam Webster defines discipline as the “ability to train oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way.” The word discipline comes from the Latin word disciplina which means instruction or knowledge.

 

Since I had left Houghton, I had not been disciplined in my faith. Even just saying the word discipline makes me cringe. It’s probably because that word carries negative connotations in our society. We hear discipline and we think punishment.

 

I think that discipline goes much deeper than that though. To be disciplined means to develop those habits. It means setting the alarms to set time aside. It means digging into the word even when it feels dry and bland. It means seeking out the community and investing in them… even if it’s for a short amount of time.

 

Discipline means getting your hands dirty and putting in the work. It means realizing that the consequences for not being disciplined are far greater than any earthly punishment. It means missing out on a lifetime relationship with the Creator of the universe, with the cosmic father who knows each and every one of us intimately.

 

For me, this means praying more and opening my bible up. It means finding moments of peace in turmoil, to seeing God in every tree and creature and person, to having hope when everything seems lost. It means showing up to support people who have supported me and to finding love on this earth. For me, discipline will be training myself to develop this as habit so that turning to God in the times of trial and times of goodness will be nothing else but a pure joy.

 

So, here’s to learning discipline: to dipping our hands into the waters of life, to getting dirty and putting in the work, to meeting God where we are- no more and no less.

 

A prayer to share: Lord, help me to want to know you more. Give me a taste of your love that leaves me thirsting for me. I don’t want this love if it’s only half there and I am all in if you are. Thank you for a heart that beats to learn discipline and grace, to be completely myself in your sight.

From Beautiful to Abandoned: The Warning They Don’t Tell You That You Needed

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(pic credit: Lily Brunner)

The other night I experienced one of the most gut-wrenching moments of my life: when someone stops choosing you. I really can’t put into words the emotions I was feeling. Through the course of the phone call, I felt mad and scared and sad and everything in between. Honestly, I still feel those things. Nobody warns you about the pain of your first real break up. Nobody warns you about the emptiness and confusion it brings.

 

I dated this person for basically 8 months. Ironically, that day would have been today. I loved this person… the first time I met them at a picnic in the woods with a group of friends, I had this feeling that this was the one. I had never really believed in “the one” until this moment. Until I saw them—the way they were kind to each and every person, the way their smile made me feel like I was staring at a star, the way their laugh put everything right in my life.

 

I saw her and everything bad melted away in my life.

I saw her… and my only thought was “I’m going to marry this girl one day.”

 

Of course, I wanted to be sure. So, I befriended her. I supported her over the summer and swapped crazy camp stories. Then school started up again and I sought her out… not because I wanted to date her. Not because I had a second agenda. I sought her out because she was such a good person, such a good friend.

 

And eventually, I realized that the feeling I had in the spring at the picnic was still there. I liked her… kinda a lot.

 

Everyone tells you about the amazing feeling of your first love. They boost it up in stories, they make it larger than life. But honestly, I think they have it wrong. The feeling of your first love is subtle. It comes on gently and builds you up like a beautiful building—foundation, to walls, to roof. It builds you up and makes you stand tall, it makes you feel like everything will be okay.

 

This first love turned a reckless, live in the moment girl to a thoughtful, awaiting and planning the future woman. This first love… it came sweeping in and softly molded me into the person I always wanted to be.

 

And yet, the other night, it ended. And I feel like a hole has been punched through my chest with a jet plane. It’s the worst feeling imaginable—to see your future ripped from your grasp and tossed aside like it didn’t matter. To be asked for space when all you want is to speak to them about the process they went through, to try to understand the decision so that you can respect them and love them through it (even if from afar).

 

And so, my only advice to those who haven’t been warned about your first break up is this:

 

It will hurt like hell. You’ll wake up every morning and forget the peace you had while asleep. You’ll cry in the kayak aisle of K-mart because they are currently on a kayaking course. You’ll try to breathe like you used to but everything is different and you need to learn to live and be again, by yourself.

So you’ll feel desolate and broken, abandoned, like a building that’s been tossed aside. You’ll cry and you’ll hurt and you’ll wonder about where things went wrong, but ultimately you will stand. And the lesson will continue to teach itself to you: love is a choice and there is always the chance that they will stop loving you.

 

People aren’t things and you can’t keep them against their will. I miss her more everyday… but I miss the friendship the most. I miss the laughs and the support. I miss my best friend.

 

Of course, I still feel the “I’m going to marry this girl one day” feeling. And maybe that is true. But for now, space and time and friendly love is all that I have to hold onto.

 

And that is more than enough when I think about the countless people who are loving me through this… even if it can’t be her.

Lies Cannot Drive Out Lies, Only Truth Can Do That

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Here’s the thing:

If you scroll through my instagram from the last five months, I can guarantee that you will see happy, uplifting posts. Rarely digging below the surface. Rarely touching on issues of the heart.

Social media has this way of covering up all the darkness in our life. It’s simple; we apply filters to the pictures and in turn, filter our lives of anything that doesn’t match our aesthetic.

Online we are scarcely honest with others, let alone ourselves. It is not something that gets shared. It doesn’t get the likes. Instead we write pretty poetic words and hide behind the screen.

I’m breaking that. I am going to be really truthful in the post. I hope you’ll stick around.

This past semester was the hardest group of months I have ever faced.

I had just returned from a fantastic summer working at a camp with the most amazing kids and fellow staff members. God was integrated into every aspect of my day and I was feeling so close to him.

Then I arrived back to school. My college is a Christian liberal arts school. It is wonderful. I honestly thank my university for the ways that it has grown me the past three years.

But things got tricky. I was in withdrawal from the community that I had over the summer but was also tired of the lying that had taken hold of my heart. I had been working for years on the idea of reconciling myself and my faith and I finally felt like I had achieved that.

So, in October, I came out. I posted on Facebook that I was unveiling the masks in my life. That there was a facet of my identity that had been hidden for far too long.

I am a Christian

and I am gay.

I thought freedom awaited me after revealing that truth.

But instead, I got messages that told me I was an abomination. Telling me I would burn in hell. That my opinion on this matter was not as equally valid as others. That people like me, who held the belief that our identity could be multifaceted, were underdeveloped.

I held a strong front. I interacted with those who openly stated their defiance to my claim and I tried to do that cordially. I met with peers, I excused their naivety and ignorance– the hurtful statements that they made and the ways that they dismissed my hurt.

I met with leaders of my school. The president of student life, of the college, of Student Government. I wanted to know how my peers could be acting in these ways, how they could be so isolating, and how my university could stand by while this all occurred.

My college did an okay job at starting discourse. There were public conversations on the changing of the covenant language to be more minority inclusive (especially in the area of LGBTQA+ youth). Professors gave talks. But still, the student voice felt muffled.

 

and I pushed others away because I couldn’t stand the feeling of not being heard or seen or valid.

 

We were throwing ourselves against an iceberg and it didn’t seem to ever move.

You can only throw yourself into something before the isolation and the pain of your breaking point is met.

I was diagnosed with severe depression before Christmas and started medication early January.

There is a stigma around medication that makes me cringe. There is a stigma that makes me want to pull my hair, scream into the void, and flush my medication down the drain.

But, I have an imbalance in my brain. The medication allows the proper amount of serotonin to be produced. It allows me to swing my legs over the side of my bed. It allows me to go to class, to get back into the conversations, to actually empathize and care about other people.

Medication is not bad. It does not zombify all people. Instead, my medication allows me to fight back against my depression. To fully embrace the person I know I am inside.

 

I’ve been praying this past week for God to break me.

That may seem drastic and insane and crazy but let me tell you why it needed to happen.

I started praying this prayer because I had built up myself into some sort of hard-hearted pirate who didn’t need anything underneath her feet but the pedestal I had built myself. I started praying this prayer because I needed God to break me down and then to build me up from bone, to make breath enter me so that I will come to life and know that He is God (Ezekiel 37:5).

 

And I am not sure yet how much I will break. I am not sure in what ways this play out. But I know that He is the source of my strength and I want to be able to stand only because it is on the rock of His salvation.

This past semester was hard and testing and trying. But without it, I doubt I would have been able to stand up so tall today and talk about love and reconciliation and prayer.

We need to love each other so much right now. With hate and darkness and not-knowing surrounding the United States right now, we need to love each other fiercely.

Because as Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Future Daughter (Vol. 2)

12/13/16

Part 1

Last time I wrote you, I told you about Joy and Despair. I told you to feel things… even when you don’t want to. Maybe even especially when you don’t want to.

This time, I don’t have a pretty little story for you. I’m sorry babygirl. Sometimes, I think of stories and go to write them down and the words don’t come.

There will be days when the words don’t come.

There will be days when the words don’t come and you will feel like your whole purpose has disappeared. You will feel distant and you will push those who care away.

On those days, pull people closer. Pull them to you so tightly you can hear the wild bird of a heartbeat raging in their chest. Pull them so tight you can feel humanity bridging itself back together.

Part two.

There will days, my angel, when the words might come but, you will wrestle with yourself to even understand if you are actually feeling the contradictions inside you. Because you are a mess of contradictions all tied up pretty with a shiny red bow. And that is okay. That is human.

It is human to be happy one second, to be eating at the table with Joy, only to find that Despair was sitting in the living room the whole time. Invite Despair to sit with you. He gets lonely sometimes, just like you.

Joy will flash him a sad smile and say “Despair, don’t you want some hot cocoa? It’s snowy and cold and grey out. We need to keep our spirits up.”

Despair will snort. “What’s the use, Joy? Do you really think that a cup of hot drink will change that it’s hard to get out of bed? And you–” he’ll whisper, turning to face you, “how did you do it? How’d you get out bed?”

Part Three.

You need to answer Despair honestly. Tell him the truth, sweetheart. Tell him about how the snow falling down so steady and light makes it easier to breathe, makes it easier to go outside because you feel the sharp intake of your breath.

Tell him how some days it’s actually a war inside your head to sit yourself up, swing your legs over the edge of your mattress, and stand. Tell him how sometimes you don’t. Sometimes, the darkness will win. And the words won’t come. And you will feel so alone.

Joy will set her hand on your shoulder now. She will sigh. Because even Joy knows that some days are hard. She knows. She fights to keep Hope around too.

Part Four.

Babygirl, keep your head up. This sounds pessimistic, but right now I am fighting. To stay afloat. To stay breathing. To stay Hopeful and smiling and holding onto Silver Linings. You’ll have those days too. You’ll have those seasons.

You will fight. Harder. Because I am a worrier, but you are a warrior. You will grasp Hope tightly and I will be there every step of the way, braiding silver linings into your hair.

You’ll be okay sweetheart. I promise you, you will be okay.

Part Five.

But don’t feel like you need to be. It is okay to not be okay, angel. It is okay to be broken and unsteady and unsure.

It is okay to feel your feet slipping under the weight of everything you are carrying. To know that on  the bad days, you need to curl up under heavy blankets and have a friend hold you together when you are breaking apart. It is okay to feel your feet give way. It is okay to feel small and insignificant.

But know that you are curled up in that bed with lies. It is time to wake up and tell the lies to leave. Tell them to get out. Tell them that they are no longer welcome, nope. Go home and don’t call again.

It is okay to not be okay… as long as you work on being okay again. Because you will be. I promise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 1

Last time I wrote you, I told you about Joy and Despair. I told you to feel things… even when you don’t want to. Maybe even especially when you don’t want to.

This time, I don’t have a pretty little story for you. I’m sorry babygirl. Sometimes, I think of stories and go to write them down and the words don’t come.

There will be days when the words don’t come.

There will be days when the words don’t come and you will feel like your whole purpose has disappeared. You will feel distant and you will push those who care away.

On those days, pull people closer. Pull them to you so tightly you can hear the wild bird of a heartbeat raging in their chest. Pull them so tight you can feel humanity bridging itself back together.

Part two.

There will days, my angel, when the words might come but, you will wrestle with yourself to even understand if you are actually feeling the contradictions inside you. Because you are a mess of contradictions all tied up pretty with a shiny red bow. And that is okay. That is human.

It is human to be happy one second, to be eating at the table with Joy, only to find that Despair was sitting in the living room the whole time. Invite Despair to sit with you. He gets lonely sometimes, just like you.

Joy will flash him a sad smile and say “Despair, don’t you want some hot cocoa? It’s snowy and cold and grey out. We need to keep our spirits up.”

Despair will snort. “What’s the use, Joy? Do you really think that a cup of hot drink will change that it’s hard to get out of bed? And you–” he’ll whisper, turning to face you, “how did you do it? How’d you get out bed?”

Part Three.

You need to answer Despair honestly. Tell him the truth, sweetheart. Tell him about how the snow falling down so steady and light makes it easier to breathe, makes it easier to go outside because you feel the sharp intake of your breath.

Tell him how some days it’s actually a war inside your head to sit yourself up, swing your legs over the edge of your mattress, and stand. Tell him how sometimes you don’t. Sometimes, the darkness will win. And the words won’t come. And you will feel so alone.

Joy will set her hand on your shoulder now. She will sigh. Because even Joy knows that some days are hard. She knows. She fights to keep Hope around too.

Part Four.

Babygirl, keep your head up. This sounds pessimistic, but right now I am fighting. To stay afloat. To stay breathing. To stay Hopeful and smiling and holding onto Silver Linings. You’ll have those days too. You’ll have those seasons.

You will fight. Harder. Because I am a worrier, but you are a warrior. You will grasp Hope tightly and I will be there every step of the way, braiding silver linings into your hair.

You’ll be okay sweetheart. I promise you, you will be okay.

Part Five.

But don’t feel like you need to be. It is okay to not be okay, angel. It is okay to be broken and unsteady and unsure.

It is okay to feel your feet slipping under the weight of everything you are carrying. To know that on  the bad days, you need to curl up under heavy blankets and have a friend hold you together when you are breaking apart. It is okay to feel your feet give way. It is okay to feel small and insignificant.

But know that you are curled up in that bed with lies. It is time to wake up and tell the lies to leave. Tell them to get out. Tell them that they are no longer welcome, nope. Go home and don’t call again.

It is okay to not be okay… as long as you work on being okay again. Because you will be. I promise.

 

Issues of the Heart. Part 1.

10/21/16

I think the church is having a major heart problem right now. Maybe this heart problem is just confined to my college campus, maybe it’s not. Either way, I feel the need to personally talk about it and address it. I feel the need because it has become a part of my story and my journey and my life.

I’m going to preface this with scripture . Mark 12:30-31 says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
No. Greater. Commandment.

 

None, zilch, nada.

 

There is nothing we are called to above loving God and above loving our neighbor.

I think we struggle with the latter. I think we have a hard time loving those who are different. The weird neighbor, the one who looks like us but has that secret—the one thing that we don’t talk about.

I’m guess I’m the weird neighbor. I have a not-so-secret-anymore secret. It’s out. People know. They talk. Assumptions get made. And honestly—the church is doing a shitty job at loving us. They are being prejudice, and extending hate over grace, and being flat out cruel.

They aren’t loving their neighbors as they love themselves because anyone who wants to feel the way that I am being made to feel needs to work on other things first.

They are making me feel dehumanized. Every message. Every insinuated post. They are making a naturally extroverted verbal process shrink inside her head and stay there.

They are making me feel invalid. Like my stance doesn’t matter. Like there is a right and wrong. It’s like because I hold the belief that I do—I am not worth hearing out. Or if they seek out conversation it’s to shove their belief down my throat or make me feel like I am somehow at fault for my view. I feel like I’m being shoved inside a box. I feel like I am being condemned.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 8:1 promises us that we are free from condemnation through Christ Jesus. We all are and we are supposed to love our neighbors.

I am instantly reminded of the story in John 8, the one with the woman who is being charged with adultery. The people of the town are about to stone her for her actions. I feel like that woman. I can imagine the fear in her heart, the way it resembles an iron fist wrapping around her ventricles and atriums, choking off her life but yet she still has to go about her days. She had to stand there and accept her fate. I feel like I am frozen and having to accept my fate.

That’s not right. And I find hope in the rest of this story. I find comfort, like I often do, in the words of Jesus. I find comfort in the implications of the line ““Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Because they couldn’t. They couldn’t throw a single stone.

Loving your neighbor means exchanging stones for grace. Exchanging stones for buckets and buckets of grace and just when you think you’re on the right track, request more grace.

I think we get caught up in the moment, of the reactions, of the feelings that we don’t match against truth. We speak out in anger and pride and self-righteousness.

But to love God with all our heart and body and soul and mind means to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Sin is a heart problem, love is not.

I’m going to say that one more time, because it’s important.

Sin is a heart problem, love is not.

Sin destroys. Sin is dark and secretive and addictive.

Love wins. Love is light and joyful and freeing.

I have sin in my life that I struggle with. I am an idolater. I place things on pedestals and let them take the place of God. I think that is one of my many sins, it’s definitely the root of many of my sins. I sin every day when I lie, lust, speak out in anger, give into my prideful thoughts, etc.

Love is not a sin. Love is waking up every single day and deciding that you are going to choose someone over and over again. Love is vulnerability and intimacy and support. It’s talking about the dark things and the light things and the medium things. It’s talking about all the things and then putting Christ at the center of everything. Love is good. Love is patient. Love is kind.

So once again I’ll say this: Sin is a heart problem but, my dear, love is not.

And I am so thankful that is so.

 

Fine China

9/29/16

(pic credit)

“Thank you for sharing your fine china, sister.”

When I was younger my mother would take me to thrift stores. I’ve always been fascinated with them, the aisles on aisles of things left behind and forgotten, the shelves full of lost things.

My favorite items in these stores were plates and cups. The way they were all created differently but had a similar purpose, to be used and to help us. I would find myself running fingers along the edges of plates and staring through the tops of cups and mugs, trying to lose myself in the curves and designs. The finer the china, the most I was enamored with it.

There was one cup I remember most. It was small and white, with dark green foliage wrapping around the base and sides of the cup. The handle was broken in half, but the cup still looked perfect. I don’t know what it was about that cup, but it look like it was suppose to be that way. I didn’t think less of the cup because it was broken, I didn’t think I would hide this china away either– keeping it safe until a special time.

Sometimes, I think our walks with God resemble the hiding away of fine china.

I met with my spiritual mentor yesterday. It was our first meeting, we were still in that awkward ‘getting to know you’ stage. I opened up way more than I was expecting to. But why is that so? Why was I going into this intentional time already prepared to filter the way that I appear? We should not be afraid of our broken handles.

So I met with her. And I told her about all the darkness that lies in the corners of my life, I opened up about the deepest of struggles– some that I haven’t even told those around me I’m dealing with.

We can’t live hiding away all the fine china of our lives. We need to open up the cupboards, bring out the plates and cups and teapots– regardless of the chips, scratches, and broken handles– and share them around the table with our friends and fellow brothers and sisters.



I’m going to say it again: we should not be afraid of our broken handles.



Sometimes I wonder why God gave me the battles that he gave me: why I grew up in the household I did, the struggle I have with food, my issues with control. I wonder why I had all the cracks in my handles that led it to breaking. But really, those things aren’t the most important thing. They aren’t the foliage on the side of my mug. They are just the rugged edge of the broken handle.

My foliage is dense and lush. It decorates me in a way that is unique: I am a musician and actress, I love heart to hearts with people, I write because sometimes the words won’t come out, and I enjoy warm coffee every day. It decorates me in ways that unite me with others: I am a daughter and a sister, I am a child of God, and I have a heart for youth ministry.

We can’t hide our fine china away. We need to share it, we need to share our brokenness with others. You need to know you are not alone. I promise you, you aren’t alone.

Tunnel Vision

9/11/16

There are times when I feel like I see my life through a peep hole in a door.

My vision is tunneled and I can’t see past what’s right in front of me. Right now, I am trying not to look past what’s right in front of me.

I am trying to see the good in everything around me. I am trying to expand this tunnel vision inch by inch but the more I try to push against the view, the more it backfires and it shrinks.

I feel stuck in a box that is closing in on me. Labels and stereotypes and stigmas. Everything I thought I had escaped when I surrendered this part of my life (you can ask me about this if you’d like, but I’ll probably not write about it) to Christ is crashing into me and I’m stuck looking at life through a peep hole.

I’m going to be honest here.

I hate the verse “come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.” I hate “for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Because honestly (and pardon my French) that is all the fucking time.

I am always tired and weary and my back always aches from the metaphorical weight I am lugging around with me. I am constantly worn-out by the load that this life deals out to us.

So yeah, I like the idea of giving my suitcases full of baggage to Christ. I like the idea that I can feel light and easy and care-free. But in reality I think you need to admit that the world is so broken every day, but also request that you have the strength and peace to move through it as effortlessly as possible. This process is a lot more like a daily cup of coffee: You need to pour yourself a cup of grace, and some days you’ll need two.

There will be days when your vision is tunneled and you can only see the things that are heavy-laden. There will be days when sitting in your room by yourself for two hours feels like an eternity. There will be days when the silence is too thick and you can’t hear yourself think over the static.

On days like this, step back. Stop looking for an alternative way around things. Just feel. Just feel all the things that you are feeling. It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to not know whether you’re feeling too much or not at all. It’s okay. You are okay.

On days like this, make sure to pour a little extra grace in your cup.

Make sure to give it to yourself, that’s not selfish. That’s not narcissistic. That’s being human and knowing that loving yourself is the only way you’re going to be able to love others better.

There are times when I feel like I see my life through a peep hole in a door. My vision is tunneled and I can’t see past what’s right in front of me. Right now, I am trying not to look past what’s right in front of me.

Right now, I am trying to extend grace to myself and love myself despite the persecution I am facing. Right now, I am trying to find comfort in a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. I am trying to find rest.

We’re okay.

We will be okay.

I promise.

Joy will come in the morning.

Press on.

Keep pressing on.

>> a prayer to share:

Lord, help me find comfort in the fact that you walked this earth and faced persecution and still you can say “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I pray that you extend the grace of your love to me Father, that you extend this peace and this light to me. Help me to rest, God. Help me to rest and to give rest to others. Amen. <<