To the girl I was:

Girl I Was,

This letter has taken five years to write because the woman I am is still developing. I had to realize that this was a letter for you, and not for him. I had to thank you for being the girl I was, to honor you for all that we lost.

Girl I Was, I miss you. You could make a brick wall talk to back to you and laugh. You could stand in a line of strangers and make them feel good by finding something nice to tell them – about their outfit, their kid, their order choice, a snarky comment about the line taking forever, anything. Girl I Was, you were so funny that you could diffuse a tense situation in seconds. You weren’t perfect, not by any means. You had a temper that could ignite a forest in a second. You loved too quickly and let your heart take a few too many beatings. But you were innocent. You were me. And then, you were gone.

That night stole part of you away. You went from trusting to wary. Light-hearted and happy to reserved, forcing fake smiles because no one could know that you weren’t you anymore.

I still see you curled in a ball on the floor and crying, hurting, and wondering why God didn’t protect you – why He left you the moment you needed Him to intervene the most. My heart still breaks at the feeling of abandonment and neglect. This is a weight you carried alone for far too long.

I wish I could go hold you, Girl I Was, and whisper the things that I know now. I wish I could remind you that you are more than this. I know this sent you spiraling into a mess of hating God and wishing He would save you at the same time. You can’t see it now, but He already saved you. He never promised you would be given an easy life, though it seemed that way until now. I couldn’t see it then, but He was about to use this horror for so much good.

Genesis 50:20 is now my life verse: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He put me in this position so I could save the lives of many people.”

Girl I Was, you bore this burden of guilt and shame because of what a man did, what a man stole. But when you finally start opening up to people, you’ll see how not alone you are. This was not your fault. This is not a burden of guilt and shame that is supposed to rest on your shoulders. 1 in 4 women go through similar situations, and some of those women don’t have God to lean on.

Girl I Was, when you find your faith again it is so much stronger than you could have imagined. Yes, when this week comes I still cry. But I forgive him for what he took. I forgive him repeatedly, every day this week and I pray for him – not what you thought would ever happen when you lived in fear for two years. Not what you thought would happen when you went from one bad decision to another in your spiral.

I still do not love that this happened to me, but I am thankful that I am able to use it to help save others. Girl I Was, I am a teacher now. I have the lives of students in my hands, and so many of them have struggled with this same thing – or they will struggle. I pour God’s love over them every day, and I am blessed when they trust me enough to tell me their heart hurts.

Girl I Was, purity is more than virginity. Purity is in the heart, and my heart is still pure. I know you wished to be Ruth waiting on Boaz instead of feeling like Gomer. Girl I Was, you are more than those choices. You are more than mistakes. You are worth so much more than you believe.

Girl I Was, you’re not gone completely. I still see glimpses of who you were in who I am today. I love people freely, even when it gives my heart a new bruise. I still give compliments, even though it’s hard to step out of my new comfort zone. I still have a temper that can ignite a forest, but the flames tend to be doused quickly. I’m still funny.

Girl I Was, I think you would be proud of the woman I am. I fight for the rights of others with a flame can withstand a hurricane. I turn to God more and seek His guidance, even when I make mistakes. Especially after I make huge mistakes. I know He loves me. I trust that He will never abandon me, that He never abandoned me. I trust in His protection. I trust in Him even when I feel anxious about situations. I’m still working on being more open with people, but I also trust that God will let me know who those people should be. I am not ashamed of my past anymore, though I know the enemy will throw my mistakes in my face when I feel weak. This is not something to be embarrassed about, but to know that I am strong because I walked through the fires.

I’m ready to be the woman I am meant to be because of you, Girl I Was.

Thank you,

Woman I Am

As small as a mustard seed

Jealousy is an ugly emotion. It wraps around the heart like a poisonous vine and squeezes until all that is left is hurt. Fear stems from jealousy. The fear that you are not as pretty as her. The fear that you are not as smart as him. The fear that you are not as funny, or as charming, or as gifted. Then there is the fear that you will never have your dreams while your cousin, sister, best friend, general Facebook acquaintance is posting pictures of theirs. With every image, the vine squeezes just a little tighter, reminding you that you do not have what you desire. It reminds you that the clock is ticking, that your running out of time – of youth. Or, it reminds you of the diagnosis that doctors said will prevent you from ever having your dream. Jealousy is an ugly emotion. It wraps around the heart like a poisonous vine and squeezes until all that is left is hurt. Your cousin, sister, best friend, general Facebook acquaintance is posting pictures of their dreams come true. With every image, the vine squeezes just a little tighter, reminding you that you do not have what you desire. It reminds you that the clock is ticking, that you are running out of time – of youth. Or, it reminds you of the diagnosis that doctors said will prevent you from ever having your dream.

The hurt flares up every time you hold your best friend’s baby. The hurt flares up every time you see your Facebook friends post pictures of their handsome husbands and beautiful wives. You feel it every time you find your praying knees, asking God why. Why hasn’t it happened yet? why does every relationship fall apart? why were you diagnosed with that disease? why were you betrayed by the people you valued most?

The vine spreads throughout your body and becomes the lump in your throat when someone asks if you are okay. You nod and force a fake smile and continue on your way. Maybe even tell a little white lie: “I’m fine. Just tired.” The vine becomes the ache in your stomach when you see a pregnant woman smile at her husband and rub her rounded belly. The vine becomes the headache as you slide through social media and stare at smiling faces and perfect makeup and posts that document a wonderful day.

Then fear settles in. Fear stems from jealousy. The fear that you are not as pretty as her. The fear that you are not as smart as him. The fear that you are not as funny, or as charming, or as gifted. Then there is the fear that you will never have your dreams. The “what if’s” that echo through your thoughts every second of every day. “What if God lied to me? What if I imagined that vision? What if God tricked me into believing in it?” Fear is the weight settling on your shoulders. It presses down, creating a strain in your neck. You can’t turn your head away from the barrage of pain headed your way. You are stuck.

Sometimes you share your emotions with a friend – who swears that it can still happen.
Sometimes you share your emotions with a relative – who tries to remind you that God has the final say, not doctors.
Sometimes you share your emotions in a journal – where you battle with yourself and feel insane as you pour everything out with tears streaming rivers down your cheeks.
Sometimes, you share your emotions with the world – wondering if anyone is struggling as you are.

Sometimes you pray. You pray so long that the day ends and the next one begins. You remember the vision you were given of your own belly rounded with a baby. You remember the vision of yourself holding hands with your husband. You remember that new beginnings sometimes start with painful endings. You remember that God is in control and that His timing is perfect and yours is not. You remember that Fear is a liar trying to rob you of your happiness. You remember that God only speaks the truth, God loves you, God is not a trickster aiming to hurt you, God will remove the vine from your heart and the weight from your shoulders.

From the prayers and reminders, a seed of hope is planted in your heart. It’s a small seed, no bigger than the tip of a pencil, “yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches” (Matthew 13:32).

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Photo by Akil Mazumder on Pexels.com

It Gets Better

On my worst days I wonder “would it really be so wrong?

If I took that curve a little too fast, a little too hard.

If I didn’t see the red light, or dead end sign when the road was long.

It was a decent try, but you let down your guard

Too fast, you let your heart stay open

Maybe it would beat better in another’s chest

Here we go, here’s hopin’

That I’ll finally get a little rest.

‘Cause staying up ‘til two and waking up at four

Can only last so long before I crash at dawn.”

And then I hear words slide through my head once more

“You’re not too far gone.

Swerve. Avoid that disaster.

It’s a new learning curve as you steer through life.

You’re still the master.

And even though you can still feel that knife

As it twists and falls from your hands,

You just have to find the light.”

It’s like I’m free falling through a dream afraid to land,

Afraid to discover that I still have to fight.

But it’s like someone else once said,

“Every time you make it through the dark,

You learn how to do it once more. Now go to bed.”

I’m stronger, I can make that spark.

And on my best days, I remember I made it through the worst.

I rebuild and remind myself that I’m still a work in progress.

Thanks, Marshall, you saved me with your verse.

I just have to take a breath and press

On through the flames and keep up the fight

‘Cause sometimes that’s the only way to make my own light.

 

 

 

The Battle Goes On

This past week has felt harder than the entire month of April combined. It was one spiritual attack after another, dredging up more memories than I could handle and really trying to break my heart again. I started receiving e-mails from websites I had unsubscribed to, phone calls from a few venues I had already told the plans were cancelled, calendar reminders I had deleted, etc. I kept meeting people with his same name. I even heard a story that sounded similar to mine (down to the name, the way they met, and his job), except this girl was getting the happy ending I turned down. Each time I was feeling low, I would journal. I would praise God for the knowledge I gained after going through those situations, and I would hand Him my anxiety, my frustration, fight.jpgand my hurt. My journal got pretty well-used with short prayers to Him.

I stopped fighting it though, closer to the would-have-been anniversary. I started letting myself fall into the sadness of the day, internally. Externally I was smiling, pretending like I was perfectly okay. Yet I couldn’t help thinking about what I would have been doing around this time had certain events not taken place. Dress fittings, bridal showers, bachelorette parties, venue meetings…it’s hard. It feels like I’ve taken a few steps forward and then fallen back down. And just when I ready to let it go, to stop thinking about “what if…” a would-have-been family member started to follow one of my social media accounts.

I was at church, enjoying fellowshipping with some of the greatest people I’ve ever known, and I just wanted to break down and cry. But it wasn’t out of sadness this time. It was frustration. I made the right decision. I don’t doubt that anymore. I just want to close that chapter of my life and leave it there. I’ve opened it enough, read through the pages enough to see where everything was going wrong. I’m ready to take what I’ve learned from that experience and bring the knowledge into my future. But the enemy doesn’t want me to leave behind the hurt that came with it. So he’s been trying to make my bad unbearable. I had to block her, and a handful of people from that part of my life. I still pray for them, I just can’t see them.

Last Sunday, Pastor Franklin preached about when things become unbearable (watch it HERE). It was powerful, but I didn’t fully grasp it at the time. The devil will push us through the bad, make it worse until we can’t stand it — until it becomes unbearable. That’s his mistake because that gives us the biggest opportunity to turn to God and let His miracles happen. God is faithful to us, He keeps our story going.

This is where I am today. I’m done letting the devil wreak havoc on my heart and mind. I know God has a plan for me and I am waiting on Him. I’m listening to Him and taking steps on the path He paved for me. And I’m happy with that. I’ve been really happy lately, even through the difficulties of this month. I’ve met amazing people that I’m “doing life” with. We hang out, have movie nights, go hiking, fellowship, and so much more. I’m so close to my godson that he immediately reaches for me when I see him. My brother and I are so much closer that he comes home from school and talks to be about his struggles. I’m able to be there for him, in person. My life has changed for the better ever since I moved back home. It’s all because I stopped running from God’s path and started running toward it. I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for Him. I’m ready for my next step.

Love Languages and God

The other day my dad called my mom while he was on his way home and asked what the family wanted for dinner. We couldn’t decide on a place, as usual, so he made the decision to go to Chick-Fil-A. My mom and I shrugged and agreed and my brother nodded.  Then Dad asked what our orders were. Peter smirked and said “if you know me, you’ll know what I want,” and my first thought was oh, here comes a blog post! My dad was flabbergasted since Peter tends to change his order pretty regularly. I stepped in and said “Spicy chicken sandwich, no pickles,” and Peter smiled at me. “You know me.”

Later on, the family and I were sitting around the table with my dad passing out our orders from Chick-Fil-A. Dad started getting picked on since he didn’t get our orders 100% correct – not that we had exactly told him to get well-done fries, diet Dr. Pepper with no ice, or bar-b-que sauce. We just decided that he should know those were our extra requests. “I think I know why it bothers me so much that Dad didn’t know what I would have wanted to drink,” I said. Everyone looked at me with a puzzled expression.

This incident had me thinking about our love languages. My dad looked hurt at our comments, my mom was frustrated, and I was disappointed (Peter got exactly what he wanted because I ordered for him). “It’s because my love language is Gifts,” I said simply.

“What does that mean?” Peter asked. My dad also gave me the same puzzled look and I could tell my mom was trying to figure out where I was going with it.

“Well… there is this book I read called The Five Love Languages. It helps you learn how to make others feel loved. My language is Gifts. That means I like receiving something that makes me feel like you thought about me when you saw it. Or you knew I would appreciate it. So to me… when Dad didn’t get me something I would like, I felt like he didn’t know me enough.”

Peter nodded and looked over at our dad. “What’s his love language? And mine? And Mom’s?”

“Dad’s is Words of Affirmation. He loves being told he’s appreciated. So when we tell him how we’re not pleased with something he did for us, it hurts him more than it would hurt us. ” I went on to explain how different and similar we all are, according to the book, and how knowing each other’s language helps us all feel like we’re known and loved. Peter smiled after I explained and nodded. “You really do know me. You spend a lot of that quality time with me.”

 

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After dinner I started thinking about God’s love language. Is it gifts too? People used to offer their harvests to Him, and now we tithe in His name. That counts as a gift. Or maybe His language is quality time. We are supposed to seek a space to be alone and dedicate time to him. Could it be acts of service? He has called us to work for His good, to spread the gospel, to be His light in the world. Surely it’s not physical touch…although He heals us with a touch and we can feel His presence.

I think I’ve settled on my answer. He is all of these languages. How could He not be? We are made in His image. We never have to say “if You knew me, You would….” to Him because He knows us intimately. He is pleased with us when we spend time with Him, praise Him, do good in His name, offer Him gifts, and seek the presence of His Spirit. Since we tend to give others love based on our own language, He accepts our love in each way. He also gives His love in each language. He offered His son for our sins. He spends time with us when we seek Him. He performs miracles. He gives us the warmth of His presence.  His Word guides us and tells us how much He loves us. And since He loves us all equally, no one language is worth more than another. Psalm23_64

What is your love language? If you don’t know, you can go here and take the quiz: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/.

Do you agree with my thoughts? Let me know!

To the ones who feel un-useable,

There is a phrase Christians throw around a lot that is meant to make everyone feel worthwhile. Perhaps you’ve heard it: “God can use you right where you are.”

Am I right? I’ve been struggling with that phrase lately. I feel like I’ve been called to do something, something that will make me vulnerable to a lot of people that I don’t know. It requires opening up about my past…but there are some skeletons in there that I’d rather keep hidden. I spent this morning talking to God about it in my journal. So I’ve decided to share that page of it with you, whoever is reading this. I pray that it helps you take your step forward in obedience, wherever that step may lead….

Lord,

It’s hard to feel like I’m completely useful as I am. I feel like I’ve made too many mistakes to be taken seriously. I feel like You’re leading me to write my story, but I feel like so many parts of it are embarrassing and shameful; I don’t want my family to know most of it. It’s like… it’s okay that You know. I just don’t want to come clean to anyone else. And the weight of that shame and fear is a heavy noose around my neck. 

But then I wonder about the girls out there like me — afraid that their past is going to haunt them for the rest of their life. I hate that I’m more afraid of what man will think of me than I am of not walking in the path You have laid out for me. I know I’m forgiven by You. I know You love me, no strings attached, and I don’t have to pretend to be anyone but me. 

But still…sometimes I wish I could just start over, not make all of those mistakes. I’m sure that people have already forgotten who I was. I’m just still afraid that if my name is out there, I’ll be discredited easily and I’ll be even more useless for Your kingdom. 

Yet, even as I write this, I feel You with me, telling me that I’m not useless. I’ll never be useless. That I was made for Your kingdom. That You knew all I would do, all I’ve done, and all I will do — and You’ve still chosen me to further Your kingdom and to find Your other lost children.

So I will. I will write my story and pray it ends up in the right hands…and I know it will because of who You are. 

Okay, so I edited my spelling errors and tweaked a sentence to make more sense as I typed it. You can’t blame me for that. But I still felt that pang of anxiety as I wrote it for you. I still feel anxious now, wondering what you will think and if it will help.

As for my next act of obedience… I’m writing down my story, starting with where I am now. We’ll see where it leads.

Lord,

I pray that You bless whoever comes across this page. I know Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light (Mt 11:30), and I know the plans you have for me are “plans for peace and not for evil, to give [me] a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). I know that You wrote my story, and every bump I felt was helping me help You. I trust that I can follow Your guidance and that my future will be filled with Your love. So, Lord, I accept Your yoke and Your burden and I place mine at Your feet. 

In Your precious name, I pray. Amen.

Small Moments, Big Memories

It was late at night when I was finally getting ready for bed last Saturday. I’d said goodnight to my parents and then headed to my brother’s room to collect my dog. (He likes to keep our pets until I go to bed. It’s our new ritual.) I had guilt on my heart – I had scared him by shutting off all the lights right after his shower as a joke, not knowing how scared he would actually be. He wouldn’t tell me why he was so afraid, so I teased him about it. I know we’re siblings and we tease each other all the time, but this round felt bad. I told myself that if he was still awake, I’d apologize.

I opened his door quietly and checked. He was asleep. I sighed, leaned over to give him a kiss on the cheek, and jumped when I felt his hand hold onto my arm. “Do you really want to know?” he asked, his eyes opening and landing on my face. I nodded, pet our dogs lightly, and focused my full attention on him.

He explained his bad dream, how it had been pitch black and this thing was coming from the ground and reaching him. Actually, he didn’t say “thing.” He called it the devil, and he was afraid of it. I nodded and started asking him questions: “Did it touch you? Were you afraid in the dream? Did you wake up before it could touch you? Did you pray when you woke up?” He’d been nodding yes to my first questions, but shrugged and shook his head no at the last question. I was tired and it was late, but I knew this was important.

I explained to him how God pulled him out of that dream. The devil cannot touch him because he is a child of God. He is protected by the Father for as long as he keeps God in his heart. (At church, our pastor mentioned that we draw our protection from God as long as we continue to seek Him. The longer we go without keeping the Father in our lives, the further away from His protection we get.) We continued talking about his prayer life, about whether he has accepted Christ into his heart. Then we talked about what that meant – to accept Christ. It’s a lot for a twelve-year-old boy to understand…. it’s a lot for an almost twenty-six-year-old woman to understand. I told my brother that I pray the sinner’s pray almost every week – not because I’m unsure of my salvation, but because I want to continue to invite Christ into my life. I made the mistakes before of sealing off doors of my life to Him. I thought I knew better, that my way was the right way. I explained that to my brother, making sure that I didn’t give too many details that could distract him from the point of our talk.

We talked about fear, and how we shouldn’t let that control our hearts and minds. We talked about how the worst thing that could happen to us on this Earth would be dying. And then he said: “But when we die we go to heaven, so that’s a good thing in the end.” I couldn’t have said it better. Then he asked: “I just hope it won’t hurt too long or too bad.” I sighed and nodded and then replied: “Yeah, but it’s nothing Jesus didn’t go through, too. He was beaten and broken and hung up for us. There is nothing you can go through without Him having done it first. Of course, we all want to go to heaven in our sleep, but even if it doesn’t happen that way you are never alone in it.”

Then, I leaned over to kiss him goodnight again; I whispered a small reminder to say his bedtime prayers. He grasped my arm again and asked me to pray with him. In that small moment, it didn’t matter what time it was or how tired I was. I nodded, asked him if he wanted to go first (he didn’t), and then I began praying. I started with thanks: “Thank You, God, for our many blessings – those we have already received and those You have yet to give us. Thank You for our family, our friends, and our pets. Thank You for Your guidance and Your protection. As we get ready for bed, I ask that You shield our minds from unwanted dreams and thoughts. I ask that You continue to protect us all night, and help us slip into our dreams quickly.” Then I nudged him to continue. When we said amen I gave him another kiss, scooped up my dog, and closed the door behind me.

I know it’s easy to get swept up in our fears, our worries, and our concerns. I know it’s easy to forget that no problem is too big for God. I also know how easy it is to get overwhelmed when we’re struggling with bills, family, and trying to have a social life. The ease of keeping these problems makes it difficult to trust that someone else can take care of them. But that’s also the best part. We don’t have some random person that we can’t trust to take care of our worries and our strife. We have God. We have the awesome creator who can walk on water, who loves us more than we can imagine, who WANTS to take on our problems and show us how good life can be. We just have to let go and let Him.

Father,

Thank You for the small moments I get to share with my brother. I hope these lead to memories he can rely on when he needs them. Thank You for answering my prayers when I ask You to grant me the right words to tell him.  I know I’m not the best at letting go of the control I try to have, but I’m working on it and I’m pretty sure my brother sees that. Lord, thank You for always being by my side, especially during the times when I felt abandoned and lost. I know You held me in those days a little tighter. Thank You for protecting my family and I. I know the devil is always waiting for a moment to distract us from Your mercies and blessings, and I am so thankful that You provide us with blinders when it comes to that. I am thankful that even when we stray Your hand is always there to guide us back to the path You have created for us. Help us to always remember You are there and that we don’t have to carry the weight of our world on our shoulders.

In Your precious name, I pray. Amen.