Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Slut City

A Ho-Ho.
That's what I tried to be for Halloween one year. It was supposed to be sort of punny...because my name is Debbie and a popular snack is Little Debbie, and well, it failed because a Ho-Ho is actually Hostess, not Little Debbie. Really, it was just an excuse for me to go to college party and attempt to look attractive (like a ho....) without the traditional costumes of witches, and ghouls, and skeletons.

It's somewhat mortifying to admit this to you.
I seriously attempted to dress up like a ho... you know, a whore... a slut... a prostitute? All in the good fun of playing on the snack 'Ho-Ho' which isn't even a Little Debbie.

Fail.

If we're being honest, my version of a Ho-Ho wasn't as ho-hoish as you can get by anyone's standards. With next to no cleavage, I believe my mini-skirt was the most revealing but still covered all the essentials fully and completely. My make-up was piled on and in an attempt to look attractive, I probably bordered on the fence of actually looking clownish.

It was my biggest moment of using Halloween as an excuse to dress sexy. It's this weird phenomenon that my college roommates and I made fun of (after I did it, of course)....but it's still happening. I've already seen it plastered over my Facebook newsfeed from the weekend.

Let's throw all of our morality out the window on Halloween and since it's just a costume, it gives us an excuse to flaunt it all. Or, as Mean Girls says it: 'Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.'

Well, I'm going to say something about it. Maybe I feel like I can because I've done it. Maybe that just makes me a hypocrite. I don't care.

Don't dress slutty.
Anything that you wouldn't normally wear in public (sexually speaking)...this night isn't an excuse to wear it. If you're anything like me, you might simply be thinking, 'I want to look HOT on Halloween...not repulsive!' We tend to jump from one extreme to the other. If I don't want to be a bloody, gross monster what else could I possibly be aside from a sexual beast? By that I mean something feminine...which the world automatically turns into a sexy feast. If I want to be a nurse, or a doctor, or a school girl, or a maid, or... anything...it seems that the only acceptable woman costume means that it's tight, low-cut, short and lacy.

It doesn't have to be one extreme or the other, my friends.
You can still look hot without looking like a slut.
You can still look hot while dressing modestly.

Don't throw aside your morals, don't throw aside what you know is right... just to appeal to the masses on some ridiculous costume fest of a night. There's no excuse.

I suppose Mean Girls is right. You can dress like a total slut. The question now for you to answer is: should you?
You already know what I think, but I'm not the one dressing you tomorrow night.
After all... everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.
Seek to live a life of integrity... at all times and in all things.
Halloween is no exception.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

No Need for Pity

It's windy.
And rainy.
Somewhat of an ominous feeling--particularly exciting for a Salem night a few days before Halloween. This place is witch city and the additional impending hurricane makes it all the more crazy (like a ghost town, actually). Fortunately we're not really within the line of fire (although we attempted to make it into the NYC area today but the threats of squalls and floods deterred us).

Life has been pretty low-key lately. Filled with babies and television and family and food... can you really complain about that? It's like one really long vacation, only less stressful and with some work stuff on the side.

The last few days I've realized how terrified I am about the future. Too terrified to want to make a decision that seems like a long-term commitment. It seems easier to play things by ear, to not settle down, to not decide on anything at all. Time is going by quickly though, and I'm left with some pretty big-time decisions ahead of me.

In the midst of this, I've also become very aware that I want a family. It's something I always said I wanted, but, truth be told, I think I knew I always wanted a husband but felt okay without the additional responsibility of what kids would mean. Babies were frightening and unfamiliar, toddlers were screaming, walking, needy monsters, and teenagers were out of control, near-sighted mistake-makers. No part of raising children seemed super exciting... it only seemed like one sacrifice after another. I never felt competent enough to successfully get kids to adulthood, either.

But then I started hanging out with babies. And one of my brothers introduced me to Parenthood. And then I've spent the last 2 months with my family... and I've been increasingly thankful for each of them.

I want a family.
I want to have kids. I want to adopt kids. I want to be married. I want to go through the hard stuff of everything that entails...because I've seen the joy that also accompanies it. I see the way it refines and changes you and the way you learn to live a life outside of yourself.

And so I'm scared.
I'm scared that as I'm in this period of transition that I'm just waiting for a season of marriage and family to finally kick in. It seems stupid to be waiting though. It's like I'm wasting time. I don't want to live life waiting. I want to be proactively doing things that I know I am called to, that I know I am passionate about. So, in the process of trying to sort through what that even means for me, I want to erase this thought in the back of my mind that I'm still just biding my time...that I'm still just waiting.

My oldest brother and I talked a bit about it the other night. He said, 'It seems like God has a best plan possible for you right now and for you to say that your plan is better than His is ridiculous.'  Which is true. And it's what I'm doing. I'm essentially saying, 'Okay God...I'll do this other thing until you decide to do things my way.... because my plan is the better plan. My plan is what I want more than your plan'.

The hilarious part is that everything is different in hindsight. Looking back at the last ten years of my life, I don't regret being single for a moment. I love the opportunities that I've been able to have, I love the job that I was able to do, I love the people that I got to meet, the places I was able to go... and so much of that was possible because I didn't have a spouse or a family to worry about or to take care of. It was only what the Lord had for me.

So why can't that continue to be my mindset?
Why can't I continue to trust that the Lord is taking care of me, that His plan is best... even if that never entails the things I think I want right now? Why can't I live that way without having to look back and acknowledge it was better?

It's kind of this vulnerable spot for me right now.
Still admitting that I don't have these things and that sometimes I desperately want them...and hoping that people don't ever feel sorry for me in the process. 

The good news is that I don't have to make any big-time decisions about my life today. But, when I do (which is sooner than I wish)...I'm going to walk in faith that the Lord does have a best possible plan for me right now, even if it doesn't include what I think I want. I don't have to live my life feeling like I'm waiting for something better to come along. Perhaps I might live, instead, with the mindset that wherever I am... it's good. A balance of being content, yet still pushing on toward what lies ahead...without some preconceived notion of what that actually is.

It's a funny, complicated thing.
In the meantime?
My big decision will be what kind of topping I want on my pizza. I do love pizza.

Don't feel sorry for me.
I'm doing exactly what I need to be doing right now.
And it's good. 

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sexual and Immorality

In my last risque blog about the big 'M', someone responded, asking me about ridding ourselves completely of the things that cause of us to have sexual desires. Surely if we are guarding our hearts and minds against all temptation than there would never be a need for sexual release, right?

Isn't that what it means to flee from sexual immorality? Isn't that what it means to strive for holiness?

Is it?

Do we forget that sexual and immorality don't always go hand in hand? Or do we automatically assume that when something is sexual that it's immoral? It seems that we keep raising up a culture that trains us to think that sex is bad, wrong, and nothing we should want or desire. It's wicked, is it not?

I hate this.
I really, really do.
I hate it because we've distorted something so good and turned it into evil...when it's not. Is it because we don't know how to teach about sex to our young people in a way that discourages them from messing around without just putting a ton of fear into them? Is it because we're too scared of awkward and uncomfortable conversations? It is just easier to say that sex is bad, bad, bad and don't even think about doing it before you're married because you'll either wind up pregnant, or with STDs, or emotionally scarred for life?

Do we forget the part where sex is actually good, good, good...the part where God blessed Adam and Eve and told them to be fruitful and multiply? Do we only know how to convey this through cheesy flower metaphors, telling young girls that every time they give a petal away that they'll have less to give their husbands (inevitably causing those who have already disposed of their petals to be racked with a guilt that will be hard to shake for the rest of their lives)?

I know there are truths in all of this. I know there is damage to be done the more sexually promiscuous we are--emotionally, physically, spiritually. I just don't think the ways we have taught about it have been the most beneficial. Have we not just created a culture where Christians are desperate to have sex so they get married when they're still teenagers? Have we not created an environment where rebellion is alluring? Have we not, simultaneously, created an army of people striving for desexualization?

How do we encourage people that sex is worth waiting for? How do we encourage them that it's better within the context of an emotionally and spiritually intimate marriage? Without the threats and the fears that so often accompany it? Without the negativity thrown in, causing so many young people to believe that sex, at the core, is bad. And with that mindset, how do you ever really recover?

We've cheapened sex. By being too sexually active with anyone and everyone...and also by believing anything having to do with sex is wrong and bad.

This is where I challenge you to strip away the things that other people have told you about sex. Rid yourself of the things that your friends, your parents, your teachers, your pastors, your teammates, the books have told you. Go to scripture. Find out for yourself what the Bible says about this topic. Maybe you'll find out that much of what you've been told/taught is true. Maybe you'll find out the opposite.

Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5 to examine all things and to hold onto what is good. Are you examining all things? Or are you just clinging to the things that sound good?

Don't let good things get distorted into evil.
Don't let bad things get distorted into good.
There is truth to be found--and you need to seek it. For yourself.
Don't take the easy way out in this. We miss out on entirely too much, live our lives in guilt and shame, or let the sin swallow us whole.

And maybe you'll find that sexual and immorality don't always go hand and hand after all.


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Worth Living

I'm not always sure of my salvation.

I feel like I'm supposed to be sure. But I'm not. I never have been.
It seems that no matter what I do or think or believe or say, that's there's always room for Jesus to say, 'I never knew you'.

When I admit things like this, I feel as though people quickly try to 'save' me. They try to assure me. Or else they judge me: What kind of Christian doesn't know they are saved? 

I guess I'm that kind of Christian.
I guess I'm the kind of Christian who struggles with doubt... almost all the time. Faith has never come easily to me.

I remember a communion service we had a camp this summer. It was a different sort of communion than anything I had ever participated in before...and it was good. It was more of a feast than a 'eat-your-small-cracker-and-1-oz.-of-grape-juice' type of communion. People shared the different attributes and characteristics of God that they were most thankful for and each time one was mentioned, everyone  toasted and ate and drank together. It was joyful and happy.

It was good... but it wasn't something I could personally handle at that point. I left. For as I kept hearing people stand up and confidently speak of up about all the things they were thankful for about God, I felt numb and unsure.

I found safety several feet away from the service on a picnic table and let the tears flow. A prayer that has etched itself onto my heart subconsciously flowed from my lips: I do believe...help my unbelief! Because I do believe...but I don't. Not to the fullness of which I know I could...or should. I find myself desperately pleading that He will answer that prayer. That I'll no longer have the moments of doubt that repeatedly plague me.

And then I heard this song wafting my way:
...And life is worth the living, just because He lives. 
It hit me that my anguish over my own lack of faith might not be the most important thing. As I sat there and let those words roll over me, I made a commitment. Even if I don't believe as unswervingly, as assuredly as I'm maybe supposed to....or as much as other people do...it doesn't change the way I live. Even if I get to the gates of heaven and Jesus says, 'I never knew you', it doesn't change the way I live.

How can this be?
It became very apparent to me that I was more concerned about my own salvation than most things. That sometimes the fear of the unknown in this area was debilitating. I was more concerned with the sake of believing in Jesus because I wanted my own assurance...over simply believing in Jesus because He is. It was more about what I could gain out of this relationship, out of my obedience...and if eternal life wasn't the end goal then what was the point?

As I continue searching, digging, seeking...as I continue living... I've realized that no matter the end goal, it can't change how I live. Life is worth living, just because He lives. Even if I can't always wrap my head around it, even if I don't always know what the fullness of what that means, even if I doubt... He's still worth it. Even if I get nothing out of it, even if I die and eternal life is not my reward...I've decided it's okay.

I don't know if you're a doubter like me. I don't know if you spend a lot of time wrapped up in guilt over it, or fearful that you're not truly saved. I'd encourage you to keep pressing on, keep walking faithfully...even when the faith feels absent from you. He's always proven faithful to me, even in the smallest of ways. It seems that once I let go of this obsession over whether or not I was saved, whether not I had all the right answers or was doing everything right... there was a peace that transcended. A peace in knowing that life is simply worth living, because He lives.


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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Big 'M'

Can you talk about the big 'M' without offending someone? Can you talk about it without being too crass or perverse or inappropriate?

I'm going to try to today...and I hope I don't offend any of my readers. It's been a topic that's been brought up more than once and I've been too much of a coward to blog about it. I want to talk about it now because I fear the stigma surrounding it lends itself to something we only avoid discussing, when maybe we should do the opposite.

Masturbation.
The word itself is hard to say, look at, type.
I remember the first time that I heard it in a movie and I innocently asked my three older brothers and my mom what it meant. They told me to look it up in the dictionary. I did, but the words failed me. I didn't grasp the meaning behind it and so I lost interest.

It wasn't until a few years later when it all started clicking. 'Oh, that means that??'
I can't say I blamed my family for avoiding the awkward conversation in the middle of enjoyable family time...I probably would have done the same.

It's a word that is dirty, shameful, repulsive.
Or, at least that's what many of us have been trained to think.

There's much debate over the issue, especially in Christian circles. It seems you either stand on the side of it being undoubtedly a sin, or you stand on the side of it being no big deal. There's probably a few of us in the middle... and that's where I stand.

I see both sides of the argument--but I'm not convinced that either are entirely correct. There's not a lot (or any) biblical stance on this specific issue either. Many might argue that the scriptures on lust are applicable to masturbation...and sometimes they probably are. I could never say that they always are though. There are instances where I think it can be especially harmful to someone, but sometimes I think our bodies are in need of a sexual release.

I've had many a girl shamefully confide in me about this secret habit...and my heart breaks for them. Not necessarily because of what they are doing/have done, but because of the shame and humiliation that surrounds it. There are usually always tears, and there's always the fears of being thought of differently that accompanies such a confession. It makes me ticked off at society... probably our Christian world than anything else. Masturbation, especially among women, is simply not something we do.. let alone something we ever talk about, right? And so, rather than exist in a fellowship where we can openly discuss hard topics and figure out where we stand on these issues, so many women vow to never speak of it. No one else has to know...it's soon a hidden, dark secret. The more hidden it is, the more it affects us in negative ways. It becomes a slippery slope.

I usually approach conversations with girls about masturbation in whatever way I feel like they need me to. Meaning, if you think it's a sin...I'm not going to tell you it's not. If you don't think it is, I'm not going to tell you that it is. I think both can be true. Most importantly, I want you to know why you think it's a sin....just like I want you to know why you think anything might be a sin. Sometimes I think we get too carried away in what other people are telling us is sin vs. finding out for ourselves what is and what isn't. And... isn't it possible (or just true) that sometimes what's sin for me is not sin for you and vice versa??

But, as far as masturbation goes...
Here are the instances where I think it can be especially harmful:

  • in Lust (I would say if you're masturbating to pornography, this would be a big clue... or if you're thinking about someone while doing it)
  • Addiction (the lack of self-control... of feeling like you need to do it all the time, that you can't stop)
  • Loneliness (letting it fill some sort of void, trying to get fulfillment from it)
  • Impatience (not wanting to wait for the pleasure of what sex can bring)
  • Control (doubting God's goodness in your life and His desire for you to ever have sex...so you'll just take matters into your own hands)
Be willing to ask yourself some hard questions (especially if you are in the midst of quietly dealing with this)
  • Is it always out of lust? 
  • Is it always out of your control?
  • Is it because you are lonely? 
  • Is it because you're impatient? 
  • Is it because you want control? 
Can it be done without any of these interfering? And, if so, could it ever be okay? 
Could it ever be in God's design?
Is there ever mention of it in Scripture? 

I don't want to lead you astray in any way... and I know this is a controversial subject. I just want you to be rooted in what God says about it... not what others say about it (like anything else in life). 

Dig deep.
Seek the Lord. 
Don't rationalize the things that you truly believe are sin. Flee from those things.
But don't wallow in guilt because someone else told you to. Bring everything into the light...and there you will find healing, answers.... hope. Every time. 


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Monday, October 22, 2012

Bad Boys....Whatcha Gonna Do?

I like bad boys.

There was this guy in high school that probably fell under the category of 'bad'. At least compared to me? Where I hadn't touched a drop of alcohol, I'm quite sure that he spent most of this weekends out partying and maintaing a 'man whore' type of status.

We became friends through a class period where we had to work together pretty closely. Our friendship didn't remain in the classroom. It was soon taken into the online world of instant messenger. That's a dangerous place, my friends (if you haven't realized that already).

Before I knew it, I had a pretty serious crush on this fellow. Not because he and I had anything in common, but because, in addition to the laughter and flirting and physical attraction, I felt like I had a way of reaching him that no one else had. There was a part of me that wanted to be let into the inner workings of his heart and his being... a place that no one before had dared go. Once there, I wanted to show him the hope and the change that was possible.

He struggled with wanting to be my friend. Apparently I was someone that facilitated change in his life and he didn't exactly want to change. I asked too many hard questions, I dug too deep... I demanded more out of him. I pressed in further, unwilling to give up. I wanted to see this 'bad boy' transformed. I had hope for him...a hope that he didn't even have for himself. I probably had a 'savior' complex of some sort: wanting to save him, or at least be a part of the saving process.

It didn't work out. One movie date and a terrible first kiss story and our romance fizzled into a shallow friendship. Once I graduated, our correspondence was minimal. I had failed. The 'bad boy' remained a 'bad boy' and I went on to fall for more rough-around-the-edges types of guys.

I don't think this part of me has changed much. I notice it most when I rooting for romances in television shows or movies. I'm usually rooting for the guy that everyone else thinks is a jerk....and he usually is a jerk. I just don't care. I have a hope for redemption, a hope that people can change...and, in the movies, it usually does.

In real life it can, too. I don't ever want to say that it can't. But, I think for many of the girls that can identify with my story...that we're often falling for a guy based more on who he could be vs. who he actually is. Or maybe we're too wrapped up in the idea that we might play a large part of someone else becoming a better person...that they need us to grow in that direction. And, shoot, doesn't that feel good?? That someone else could be better because of you?

Whatever way it ends up playing out, I can see how sketchy of a process this is.
It goes back to remembering that I can't save someone else. I can't be the hope. I can't be the thing that makes them want to be a better person. They have to want that on their own, without me in the picture. I can't fall for someone for who they could be and forget who they currently are. It's very plausible that they might not ever change--especially if they don't want to.

Be careful out there, as you size up available men to consider dating. Be careful as you connect with them and have deeper conversations with them. Remember that it's not your job to save them. You can't. Remember that sometimes the bad boys just want to be the bad boys..and you have to let them. You can't force change on them, you can't be the reason they better themselves.

Please don't continue on in relationships hoping that they'll change. Be ready to admit that they might never want to. Go on rooting for your favorite 'bad boy' fictional characters (like I still do!), but don't let that dictate your actual life decisions. Don't go dating them because you think you're the only one that could ever make a difference in their life.

There are guys who really are good guys...they really do exist. And they'll have their moments where they'll need your unconditional grace, love, and hope (because they're sucky people, just like you are)... but it won't always be the norm.

There are always exceptions...
But I think it's always good for us to remember that we aren't the ones that save. We aren't the ones that redeem. We aren't the ones who are the anchor of hope.

Bad boys, bad boys...
What will you do when they come for you?


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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Supposed to Hurt?

It's pretty sweet to walk a few blocks, jump on a bus and less than thirty minutes later be smack-dab in the middle of New York City. I'm not sure if I'd want it to be my entire life, but for a month? I love it. Add in the fact that it's fall and the weather has been a-m-a-z-i-n-g and I'm finding out more about the true joys of aunthood every day... it's so good.

My brother and I ventured into the city yesterday and were able to get into a Broadway show for $27.00 each. We won the lottery. The show? We hadn't really ever heard of it before, but with five Tony's and some high recommendations from people in the business, we thought we'd give Peter and the Starcatchers a chance. We weren't disappointed.

I laughed a lot at the witty lines and ridiculous facial expressions and while the show painted a new picture of Peter Pan's life for us to consider, the following line was the one that really stuck with me.
'It's supposed to hurt. That's how you know it meant something.' 
In a dialogue between Peter and Molly (the 'Wendy-like' character in a story about how Peter got to Neverland in the first place) where good-byes are painful and heart-wrenching, Molly spouts this out.

As I sat in my seat, I churned these words over and over again in my head. Is that a true statement? Do the things that mean more, hurt more? I reflected over my past wounds and deepest heartaches, recognizing on some level there's some truth to it.

The people that hurt me the most are often the ones that matter most to me.
The hardest people to leave are the ones that I care the most about.
The things I love doing are the things that break my heart when I think about never doing them again.

So, really... the pain results in the absence of the thing that matters most. It results in the absence of loyalty or love, or the absence of someone's physical presence, or the absence of getting to do what you feel like you were made to do. But perhaps it's not ever 'supposed' to hurt at all...it's the just the reality of how things are. It would seem that the 'supposed' to should actually be that the people we love/love us would never hurt us, that we would never have to leave those we care about, and we would always be able to do the things we love. Right?

I wonder if the 'supposed to hurt' is the way we now dictate how much something or someone means to us. Sometimes it's probably how we decide whether or not to remain in relationships: 'the thought of not being with you is too painful to bear, so I must care about you too much to ever let you go'. Perhaps the pain we feel can actually be the result of other things, too...and we too easily mix it up with love and passion (maybe we have an unhealthy attachment/addiction and the thought of releasing is devastating...even though the thing/person didn't necessarily mean as much as we thought it did).

This is the kind of quote from something that you remember and then take with you other places. You make it your facebook status. You tweet it. You make it look all cool and decorated and put it on your mirror. You remind yourself each day that you're supposed to hurt because that's how you know things matter.

And, I kind of think that's bogus and dangerous--especially the more I think about it.
It's not supposed to hurt.... even if it does sometimes. Pain shouldn't be the norm, it shouldn't be what we settle for, it shouldn't be what we expect. It's okay (and I think good) for us to believe that sometimes the people we love/love us won't hurt us, that sometimes we won't have to say good-bye, that sometimes we can do the things we love for the rest of our lives.

I think this kind of quote enables me to feel sorry for myself and brings out my inner drama queen. It causes me to think more about my current circumstances and forget about the eternal and the joy I have in that....all the time. A place where I'm reminded that there's no pain, no suffering, no tears.

Do the things that matter most hurt most?
Maybe sometimes.
But not all the time...
And pain should never be our gauge for how much something/someone means to us.

It's not supposed to hurt.
It can still mean something even without the pain.

Be wary of the words that can so easily be written on our hearts if they are not truth....even if it sounds catchy and witty and, well, true. Dig deeper.

We must.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Stripped.

There's no telling what's going to flow from my fingers tonight.
There's no agenda. There's no plan.

I continue to wonder how honest I am with this online community. How well do you feel like you really know me? How much do you trust me? Am I more concerned with the amount of hits I receive each day over the quality of what I'm writing? Probably sometimes, unfortunately.

I sometimes want to write about things that I'm too scared for you to see. Controversial subjects--things that may sway you to never read my blog again. Things having to do with sex, and image, and God, and doubt, and fear, and hopelessness, and hopefulness, and love. Things that are raw and honest. Things you might disagree with. Things that might make my mother cringe.

I don't think we're open-minded enough though. I think we, all too often, walk around too confident in what we believe to be true, without allowing ourselves to consider that something else might actually be true. To some extent this can be good--being firm in our beliefs. But, sometimes.... sometimes I think that our inability to even hear others out without judgement and condemnation makes us hateful and more self-righteous than ever.

I feel like I know less than I did ten years ago. I feel like I'm less sure of things...but, simultaneously more confident. It's a great paradox, I realize. Maybe it's because before I was claiming to believe things without taking the time to really know why or if I even did. Now, I'd rather tell someone I don't honestly know before taking a stance on something. Now, I'd rather hear someone else out and what they think before projecting my own thoughts and opinions on them.

For the last year I've longed to be absolutely stripped of what isn't true. To be shed of the things within me that I've ignorantly believed because it's what I was told to believe. Some of those things are true...and I cling to them. Some of them are not...and I want nothing to do with them any longer. I don't want to exist in a place where I am solely defined by American Christianity...because sometimes I think we've just completely missed the mark. Because sometimes (ironically so), this Christianity seems void of Christ....which makes me realize how, as I sought to be a 'solid Christian girl', that there are parts of me void of Him too. My strife was more about achieving a great Christian status over being more in love with Jesus.

We care too much what people think.
I care too much what you think.
I care about disappointing you.

But, I know I will. I hope you know that, too.
I hope that no matter what I post and no matter what I think, that you would be willing to hear me out. That you would be willing to consider a view that might be different than yours. That you wouldn't hesitate to challenge me or tell me your own thoughts/opinions on any subject.

I hope, in the end, that you trust that my desire is to unveil truth and to stop living according to the lies...whether that's found in the religion or in the profane. It's a journey that I'm constantly inviting you to join me in...as I hope to be constantly different, better, more in love with Jesus and who He really is.

I want to be stripped.
May everything else fall away other than what is true, and good, and pure. In the process, I pray that I learn the fullness of what it means to love and what it means to truly follow Jesus. Because, in my heart, I fear I have yet to know the magnitude of how much this changes everything.

I want to be more raw and real with you than ever before. I want the same from you.
I'm a little scared.
Maybe you are, too.
So... what do you say? Can I be honest with you?


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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

August 24, 2008


The Lord beckoned me today.

I didn’t want to go.  I was too content in my bed, attempting to sleep off a late night. 

Eventually I couldn’t say no.  He missed me.  He wanted me.  And as I followed Him through the woods, all I could think was, “Lord, what do you want? What do you have to show me?” 

I laid down on the wooden deck, uncomfortably basking in the sun.  Sweat began to form on my brow and I grew impatient.  “All of this for nothing?”  So I tried talking………and then it hit me that it had really just been too long since I had listened. 

A breeze started to engulf me, and the clouds covered the sun completely.  It was perfect. 

It was then that God reminded me that He is here.  Always.  No matter what.  
And I think that was all I needed to know. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Starting Over

Sometimes I want to start completely over.

Ever felt like that?
New place, new friends, new life...
A clean slate; a fresh start.

As I'm teetering on the edge of practically being there (new time zone, new zip code, endless possibilities), sometimes it's hard to not just take the plunge. Why not completely abandon everything and everyone I've formerly known and start over?

I feel like doing this the most when I feel like I've failed...when I feel like I've let someone down, when I've screwed up, when I can't possibly meet the expectations I sometimes feel are placed on me (whether they are real or not). I feel like this most when I'm lonely, when my heart hurts, when I realize what was can never be again.

It's a coping mechanism.
Instead of pressing further into people I care about, instead of letting others care about me, instead of walking in humility and admitting when I'm wrong...there's a part of me that would rather walk away. It's easier. It's easier to just be done. It's easier to not make the effort, to not take the time, to not admit that I'm wrong. It's easier to discard all the pieces of me from the past that aren't good and try to move into something better, into a place where no one knows my name.

I thrashed around in bed a several nights ago, unable to sleep, and convinced that this was the best solution to my feelings of inadequacy and ability to disappoint others repeatedly. Running seemed to provide refuge, it seemed to provide hope of something different and better without blurring the mistakes of the past with my dreams of the future.

And then it hit me how running away was entirely selfish. It hit me how running away, with this vision of starting over, would only perpetuate the the very things within that I longed to abolish. Instead of working through things, instead of going through the inevitable pain that always arises in the midst of the refining process...I thought I could jump ahead and get there just by being somewhere different, in the presence of different people, and doing something different. How foolish I am...

While the newness is met with open arms and the possibilities of what is still to come bring much excitement and anticipation--it's no longer met with the mindset of running away from what is hard. Do I still have to fight against that? Absolutely.
But, I know it's worth it.
I know that the more I press into others, the more I let them care about me, the more I am willing to admit when I'm wrong... the more I take the time, make the effort, and seek the Lord to do a miracle in me when I am dark, sinful and selfish... the more I will become that person who I long to be.

It's never easy...but, I think it's always worth it.
I hope you think so, too.
I hope...instead of choosing to flee from the things in your life that are much easier to avoid...that you would choose to engage. I hope that on the nights that you're lying in your bed, weeping because living another day in your current circumstances seems too unbearable, that you have hope. That instead of the insurmountable amount of things you dwell on that you think are wrong with yourself, or the people around you, or your life (in general)...that you would beg for Jesus to rescue, redeem, and change you. That you would ask Him to give you hope, to give you courage, to give you boldness.... that you would ask Him to give you energy, time, selflessness, patience, kindness and love.

Press deeper into the things that you long to run from. Be willing to ask yourself why you want to run. Be willing to recognize that your flight affects more than just you. Be willing to evaluate your motivation for running.

I don't think starting over is as romantic a notion as we long for it to be. I think we become new people without starting over. We become new people, fully aware of our journey that led us there...thankful for the experiences, the memories, the people who helped us along the way. We become new people, fully aware that it was beyond anything we could ever do on our own accord.

Be a new person. Be a better person.
You don't have to start over to do it. You don't have to run away.
Besides... starting over is virtually impossible (unless you're in a witness protection program).


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Monday, October 15, 2012

Feasting

I went to youth group last night.
It's been a while...and it wasn't my youth group, and it was comprised of strangers. But, I went. I was a judge for a pumpkin carving contest. I also helped lead a brief discussion with some teenager girls. It was a little awkward.

The topic? Feasting.
What does it mean to really taste and see that the Lord is good...in conjunction with the things we actually feast upon in our day-to-day life. We talked about food. We talked about eating disorders. We talked about going from one extreme to another and forgetting balance and moderation. We talked about how this isn't just applicable to food.

Mostly, my sister-in-law and I talked. It was a weighty subject for only a few minutes of time and when you're a newly-introduced, temporary person... I found myself struggling in how to relate. How much do I share of my own story? How directly can I ask them questions? What can I possibly say in these fifteen minutes to establish that this is a safe place, that there's no judgment, that there is hope?

I don't know how successful any of my attempts with them were, but I've been thinking a bit more about this idea of feasting...and just how much food actually consumes us. It's everywhere. My sister-in-law and I joked today about the commercials that attack us on television. Every other one is sending an opposite message and we're caught in a bipolar whirlwind of seduction. It's as though our subconscious is screaming, 'Eat more! You're fat! Eat more! You're fat!' as we go back and forth between delicious food opportunities and dieting ads.

How could we ever fully break away from the things our world tells us? How could we, when we are fully inundated by everything around us, be convinced that image doesn't matter? Doesn't it? Doesn't it sometimes matter what we wear? Doesn't it sometimes matter how much we weigh? Doesn't it sometimes matter whether or not we fix our hair? Doesn't it sometimes matter how active we are?

There has to be something to recognizing what ultimately matters...and still existing in the world and not being of it. We still have interviews, we still have jobs, we still have health to maintain. I think this is where moderation has to come in. I don't think women need to feel guilty about caring about how they look. I think the problem comes when it turns into something that is obsessed over. There's nothing wrong with looking presentable, with putting on make-up, with shedding some excess weight.

It's when we become all-consumed with what we look like...it's when our worth comes from how we appear to others that problems arise. It's when we lose sight of what really matters.In the grand scheme of eternity, how we look doesn't matter. I don't think we can ignore that it matters here though.

It's tricky.
It's tricky because it requires us existing in a place of uncertainty, a place where it's easy to waiver too far in one direction. It almost seems more straight-forward to simply abstain from anything having to do with your external appearance--because then you're not getting sucked into temptation and obsession over how you look. How do you concern yourself far more with matters of the heart while simultaneously tending to the outside in such a way that you are not solely driven by it?

Honestly-working at a camp made it easier to avoid this struggle. In an environment where it is acceptable to roll out of bed, throw on some shorts and a t-shirt, brush my teeth and walk into the office there wasn't as much pressure to look a certain way. Now that I'm entering the 'real' world, I find myself longing to live within this balance of looking good without letting it consume me. Rather than hiding behind what I've always known and staying away from fashion, I think I'm moving into circumstances where I'll need to put more effort into all of it.

But, there's a greater confidence in who I am beyond what I look like.
I hope that's true for you, too. As you figure out for yourself what your own boundaries are in terms of how much effort you can place into your appearance without letting it become all-consuming... I pray that you don't ever lose sight of what matters. I pray that as you dress, as you apply make-up, as you purchase new things, as you freak out about grey hairs and wrinkles and a few extra pounds... that you would remember that there is more than this.

Live, remembering what fades away.
Be in the world, but not of it.
Find moderation in the things you live too excessively in, or too absently from.

Every good and perfect gift is from above.
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
He has invited us to feast.
Shall we?


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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Jesus = Your Homeboy?

...Your my Brother,Your my Friend
Your my Beginning,Your my End...


I have these visions of singing this campy/VBS-y song, partnered with someone else, pointing our finger's into each other's palms...then pointing to our heads and then to our bums. I'll spare you the rest of the lyrics and motions (some of you may know them), but something rubs me the wrong way when we call Jesus our friend. 

I get it. 
I mean, Jesus (in John 15) is telling the disciples that He will now be addressing them as friends. They have moved from servant to friend, that have been chosen. No one has a greater love than this, that He would lay down His life for His friends. Most would say, that in Christ's sacrifice, that this is now applicable to all of us. We are all His friend...with the contingency of obedience, of course--'You are my friends if you do what I command you'.  Interesting friendship, huh? 

I'm not going to try and argue that Jesus isn't our 'friend'...
But, I don't necessarily think He's our friend in the way that we, in our modern-day world, think of friend. I don't really think He's just our homeboy, or our buddy. I don't really think He's our facebook friend. I don't really think we should necessarily even try to teach about Jesus by using metaphors of friendship. How often have you heard, or said, that Jesus is your best friend? 

Is He? 
What does that even mean for you when you say it? 

I think when we solely talk about Jesus in relation to friendship, that we miss so much of who He is. I think it's almost limiting. But, I think we use it because it's more comfortable for us. It's maybe easier to love a God who is our friend instead of our master. 

Perhaps when we talk about Jesus in terms of friendship, it helps foster an environment of guilt. I can't even recall the number of times that I felt, because I wasn't as excited to spend time with Jesus as I was to spend time with friends, that I was a terrible Christian. That I didn't talk to Him as much as I did my other friends, that I didn't do as much for Him, that I didn't want to meet up with Him at church.... you name it. Compare your relationship to Jesus with some of your closest friends and it's the easiest avenue to take toward guilt-city. 

Jesus is probably not my best friend....at least not in the way we typically define best friends.
But, I'm not sure if He's supposed to be. 
Is friendship today anywhere close to what it was like for Jesus and the disciples? I highly doubt it. This role we've now placed Jesus into, what exactly does it mean for us? 

Does it mean He's our confidant? Does it mean that He's always there?
If we're looking at the dictionary, 'friend' means: 
  • a person whom one knows and with whom one has a mutual bond of affection
  • a person who acts as a supporter of a cause, organization or country by giving financial or other help
  • a person who is not an enemy or who is on the same side
  • often as a polite form of address 
What do you mean when you call Jesus your friend? 
Have we reduced Jesus to t-shirts and facebook relationships and tweets? Have we turned our intimate relationship with Him into something cheap and cliche? 

He laid down His life for you. 
Blood was shed. For you. 
He is Savior. He is Healer. He is Father. He is Abba. He is Master. He is King of Kings. He is Holy. He is Love. He is Friend. It's all-encompassing. We can't lose sight of the fullness of who He is by limiting Him to one attribute. We can't base our relationship with the Christ off of our earthly friendships. It'll never work. While there are wonderful aspects of friendship which are very true of who Christ is... I wonder if we sometimes forget that He was the originator of all of them and from Him does any of that flow. Only because of Christ are we able to love, trust, be loyal and faithful. Only because He first chose us can we be His friend. 

Who is Jesus to you? 

Don't limit yourself to one thing. 
It's not a short answer. It doesn't have to be (unless we come up with some all-inclusive word to convey the majesty of who He is). 
Let Him exist in the fullness of who He is within you... and don't define your relationship with Him based on your earthly friendships. He is more. There is more. It's full of mystery and there's no room for the guilt of how you've been such a 'bad friend' to Jesus.  
Love Him. Be obedient to Him. Honor Him with your life. 
But don't reduce Him. 


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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Single Forever?

The comment:
Maybe there's a part of me that doesn't actually want to stay single forever. But it sounds easier, for sure. How can I relinquish control of that area of my heart without doing a 180 and turning into one of "those" girls who is obsessed with finding a husband? I don't even want that - I just want a person to do life with, to have adventures with. I just want a normal, jesus-loving, awesome dude who happens to fall in love with me. How can I find that without settling for a "normal" relationship, am I allowed to maintain my creative, independent, stubborn nature while simultaneously hoping God will send the perfect guy my way who loves me for all that i am? And what if He doesn't... what then?
I think there's always something to being really honest with the Lord and with yourself. It's often easier for us to deny things that we feel, think, want because we don't want to face the reality of what that could mean for our life.

In your instance, admitting that you might not want to be single forever means that you're opening yourself up to a lot of risk...and perhaps the biggest risk of all is choosing to believe that God might actually be good and give you something that you want, and then not having it happen, for whatever reason. Then what happens...? So, rather than face all of that, it always seems easier to deny that there are parts of you that may want something different for yourself.

It also sounds as though you live in extremes. You'll either want nothing to do with the prospect of marriage or you'll become obsessed with the very thought of meeting the right guy. Instead of maintaining a balance (which is attainable), you jump from one extreme to the other. I think this is where one of the first steps is just admitting to yourself and the Lord that you might not want to be single forever. I think this allows you to open your heart to the idea. Not become obsessed...but to be open to the idea that it is possible.

I suppose I don't know what you mean by a 'normal' relationship. There's probably the reality that at the end of the day, if you find someone who is 'normal' (does that exist?), Jesus-loving, and awesome that you're probably still going to have conflict and challenges. There will be moments when life might be mundane or tedious. Ultimately, I think choosing to live life with someone means choosing to love them and you'll have to let that look however that needs to look. At some point you'll have to shed expectations of your 'normal' relationship and allow the relationship to take it's own form, knowing that two people coming together are bringing two very different things into the equation.

I think you're always allowed to maintain pieces of who you are... as long as they are in line with who God says that you are. Some of the independence and stubbornness that you cling to might actually be some of the very things that the Lord longs to chip away at. Would you be open to that? Would you be open to the Lord using a partner in life to help with that refining process?

One of my favorite Oswald Chambers quotes is below:

“When He [God] talks of their losing their selves, He means only abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.”

It's kind of this beautiful reminder to me that the more pressed into Christ we are (which always means the shedding of our flesh and sometimes the very things we tend to cling to about ourselves) then we will actually be more ourselves than ever before.
So, with that, I guess my question to you is are you willing to abandon aspects of your nature that might need to be abandoned? Not for the sake of marriage, but so you might find a better version of yourself for the sake of Christ? Could there ever be the possibility that a partner in life might help bring you into this place as you are being sanctified daily?

I guess all I'm trying to say is that I'd urge you toward openness... in your own heart, in your conversations with the Lord, with possibilities of what could be, with what a relationship can look like, with what a man you could spend the rest of your life is like, with what being single on this earth could look like. Openness toward yourself being refined, changed and growing and becoming more yourself than ever (which might be very different from the girl you remember being) and letting that be okay. Openness that the unknown to all your questions could even be better than denying a desire that might exist.

And ultimately?
Ultimately trusting in the Lord's goodness and sovereignty and being willing to trust that when it looks different than anything you might have imagined--it's always better.

Be open.
Trust.


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I am Nothing.

Someone recently reminded me that I'm not the hero.

A gentle prompting to never forget that as I tell stories and share my heart, that it's not me who is to receive any credit for the change, for the good, for....well, anything. While my first response was to want to argue and defend myself, to ensure that that was never my intent... I realized it didn't matter. Regardless of intent or not, regardless for my reasons for telling stories the way in which I do... if, in the end, it's me who comes out looking like the hero, I've done something wrong.

With that in mind, I want to apologize to all my readers if that's ever been the thing taken away from a post. I acknowledge that any good that I have to offer or give is solely because of Jesus. It's only by His blood that I am redeemed, that I am counted as worthy, that I have hope. It's only through Him that I can boast about second chances.

I hope by now that you've realized that I don't have it all together, that I'm far from perfect, that I have the tendency to make more mistakes than do anything right. In the process of me sharing and writing, I sincerely desire that you walk away hopeful for better...that you might be willing to challenge and prod at the things you've claimed to believe without even knowing why. And, ultimately, that you would always be drawn back to Jesus.

I may not do that so visibly every time, as I fear becoming my own montage of cliches that continue to drive people further from truth. There may be traces of me needing to choose Jesus all the time, and my battle with not always wanting to. But, in the end, it is always He who is faithful, He who is good, He who loves first so I can also love. Without Him, I am nothing.

Thanks for journeying with me through my imperfections and struggles.
I'm so sorry for any narcissism, for any impression I may have given that I hold the key to all the answers. Most times I feel like I'm barely hanging on myself.

I want to serve you, to lead you toward better, to offer you an abundance of hope through second chances...and ultimately that comes through Christ, as He is the sole provider of forgiveness, grace, love and mercy.

It's only by His blood.
And it's only He who is the hero.


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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

You Sure About That?


I was 14 the first time I ‘fell’ in love.

He was 16, and we would often cruise around in his little, white coupe. The night he told me he loved me was the night I played him Deana Carter’s song, That’s How you Know it’s Love.
…Nothing and no one can stand in your way, to keep you from saying what your heart is dying to say…
While I couldn’t seem to make myself actually say the three little words, I tried to express to him the best I could how I felt and the song seemed to suffice. I floated home and downstairs to my basement where my oldest brother and his girlfriend were watching a movie.

In some sort of daze, I gleefully told them that I was in love.
He told me I was stupid.
Of course, it was followed up with a millions reasons why I was too young to be in love and while his words were crushing to my na├»ve heart, there was a part of me that knew that everything he was saying was true. I went back to my very new boyfriend the next day and told him we needed to start over and not rush into ‘I Love Yous’ any time soon. He was gracious and understanding and we dated for another seven and a half months after that.

One of the things my brother had said over the years that stuck with me was that if you’re going to tell someone that you love them, you better be able to back it up. Meaning, if you’re going to spout out the words, be ready to get down on one knee or put a ring on your finger. It made sense to me. It still makes sense to me.

I fear we exist in a world where ‘I Love You’ rolls off our tongue entirely too easily. And while, yes, especially for those of you who are Christians, one of our biggest missions in life is to love everyone…but just because we are ‘supposed’ to, it doesn’t mean that we do. And if we don’t, then why do we say that we do?
And if we really understand the sacrifice of what it means to love someone, why aren’t we a little more reserved when declaring our love for strangers, friends, boyfriends, family, etc.?

When I tell you I love you, I want to mean it. When I tell you that I love you, it means to me that I'm placing you above me (or at least I'm trying). It means that I will sacrifice time, and money, and energy to make sure that you’re okay—even if it comes at the expense of my own heart. It means that I'm trying to not remember the ways that you’ve hurt me, and I'm trying to not let your flaws dictate how I treat you. It means that I hope for you. It means that I understand that it’s not always about me.

I don’t tell people I love them very often…and when I do, you should know that I never take those words lightly. I try to mean what I say, every time.

I’ve been appalled out how quickly people are to shout these words from the rooftop to each other. Are you one of these people? Perhaps you mean it when you say it each time…but I want you to remember the weight of these words. I want you to remember the cost of these words. These aren’t words you say, just because you’re supposed to….these are words you say because you mean them.

Especially in relationships…be wary of how often and how quickly you throw out these three. Can you back them up? When you say these words, will you choose to keep saying them again and again? Or, is there even the slight possibility that someday you might stop…? Do you remember that love isn’t just a feeling?

There’s no room for falling out of love. There’s no room for choosing to not love someone anymore. There’s no reason to mess around when it comes to these deep and personal matters of the heart. The moment you utter those words, it’s not just your heart on the line anymore.

And, learn a little lesson from me. If you can’t bring yourself to even say the words, there’s probably a good reason for it.

It’s time for a little self-examination.
Who are saying ‘I Love You’ to?
Do you mean it?
Truly and honestly?
Are you willing to back it up?
Then do it….or else keep your mouth shut. 



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