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.

Seven Times Seventy

I’ve been wanting to write about forgiveness for the last two weeks. Okay, that’s a lie. I haven’t wanted to write about this which is why I haven’t posted in two weeks. It’s been heavy on my heart and I’ve been struggling because I don’t think I’m really one to talk.

It’s a difficult thing to do, to forgive someone who has hurt you. How do you know if you’ve truly forgiven them? Do you just accept the apology and stay friends? Sometimes you know that the friendship isn’t healthy for both parties, but if you don’t stay friends did you really forgive?

The answer is yes. You don’t have to maintain a friendship just to forgive someone. You can part amicably and never have the cloud of unforgivingness over your head, or even worse, the resentment toward them in your heart.

What happens if you forgive someone, but they continue to mess up? Do we forgive even after they come to us asking for forgiveness for the fifth or twelfth time? In Matthew 18:22, Jesus says, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” If you don’t have a calculator handy and are as terrible at math as I am, that looks like this:

7 x 70 = 490.

Jesus says to forgive someone four hundred ninety times. Now, should we attempt to keep track of how many times we’ve forgiven someone?

What if Jesus did that? What if, throughout our entire lifetime, God was counting the amount of times we apologized for our sins? Do you realize that God views all sins on the same scale? We as humans don’t. We feel certain issues are worse than others. But it’s all a sin against Him. Jesus did not die on the cross to only save us when we lie, cheat, or steal. He forgives murder, abuse, and rape. He was on the cross, telling His Father, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Those people hadn’t even started to ask for forgiveness. They were dividing Jesus’ possessions instead of apologizing for crucifying Him.

I know forgiving someone who has hurt you is hard. It doesn’t matter what the deed was, how easy it should be to get over it or not. If you claim to love the Lord and trust in Him, you need to forgive. “For if you forgive men for their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men for their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:14–15).

Onto part two of this struggle: Accepting Forgiveness.

 I thought forgiving someone was hard. I thought that trying to move past sins committed against me was hard. I thought writing about forgiving others was difficult. Admitting your own struggles is more difficult. Nothing is more humbling than realizing you are wrong and having to apologize. Nothing is worse than someone telling you that you are forgiven but you still feel guilty. You still walk around feeling that nothing you do is good enough. That you’ll never be forgiven entirely. That what you’ve done is too big of a deed to ever be completely forgiven.

For me, it’s not something that I’ve done against a friend or a stranger. It’s something between God and me, as a result of things that I am working on forgiving others for. It really calls into light Matthew 6:15, “if you do not forgive men for their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins.” I have lost sleep praying and crying. I have spent days in bed, not feeling strong enough to get up. This guilt, shame, and hurt just hangs on my heart, holding me down.

I’ve recently started going to church again. I thought everyone would just know what my shames are, what my fears and struggles are. But they didn’t. They welcomed me and I thought I could just keep hiding things. But God’s been working on me, more like in me.

The messages I’ve been listening to keep repeating in my head. I’ve opened my Bible more times a day in the last few weeks than I have in the last twenty years. Verses that I’ve heard in church before, so many times, are still being repeated—but I’m understanding them now. And on days where I’m feeling so low that I wonder if I really have any worth, that I’m afraid of not being valuable, Scripture starts running through my mind by the grace of God. Matthew 10:29-31 (my favorite Bible verses) says,

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore do not fear. You are more valuable than many sparrows.”

And 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:

“What? Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God, and that you are not your own? You were bought with a price.”

Our God sent His only Son to die for all of our sins (John 3:16), not just the minor ones. We have to accept that the Jesus who forgave those who crucified Him is the same Jesus who forgives us. Then, we have to release that guilt that burdens our hearts and live.

Lord, 

I pray that whoever reads this can have a sense of peace in their life, over their struggles and hurts. Lord, I know I have a lot of growing to do. I know that I am not perfect in any sense of the word, but I ask that You help me to accept Your forgiveness and that You help me forgive daily. Every time resentment stirs in my heart, every time the same people apologize for the same mistakes, I will forgive and move on. I will not carry guilt or shame in my heart after I lay my troubles out to You and seek Your forgiveness. 

In Your name, amen.

Things They Don’t Say About Growing Up

Back when I was so excited to grow up!

I remember being a kid, being told to enjoy my life because it becomes more complex when you get older. I remember being in elementary school and developing my first (of hundreds) crush on a boy—and being told that there will be time to like boys when I’m older. I remember running to the mailbox and hoping I would receive one of those pretty envelopes that my parents received, being disappointed on an almost daily basis (thank you to my grandparents and Toys R Us for mailing me something for my birthday!), and being told that those letters weren’t fun. I remember watching my parents swipe their plastic to purchase something and being told that I should never use the creditcard for things. I remember all adults telling me I should do as they say and not as they do when it came to certain things because habits are hard to break.

Fresh college graduate!

Now that I belong in the young adult category, I must say that all of those pieces of advice were actually useful. Things are definitely more complex now. Boys have become men, but I’m still trying to figure out when the time is right to like them. And while they don’t throw a crayon to tell you they like you, they also don’t just tell you that they like you (at least the ones you wish would… long story). Those letters that arrive in pretty envelopes, those are bills. Those are not fun. I miss my Toys R Us and grandparent’s letters, although now I get ones from Starbucks and Joanne’s. Credit cards are a beautiful evil, and when you’re tempted to buy something you should always make sure you can pay it off that same month/week/day. I’m also glad that I didn’t pick up some bad habits, although coffee is an addiction I’m okay with.

 

However, with all the advice about growing up I received, I was never told a few important things.

My little brother before he started school

Number one: it hurts. When you finally get grown up enough to move out of your parents’ house and receive the pretty envelopes, it is so exciting. You have daily phone calls with your parents, sometimes talking on the phone two or three times a day. It’s not quite the same as being there, but it helps. After a while though, the phone calls aren’t as long or as often. And you’re a little sadder when you hang up because you weren’t there to get that goodnight hug or kiss. Then come the days that you’re not feeling well. All you want to do is lay on the couch and have dad bring you soup and have mom rub your head while your little brother goes and picks some flowers and says he hopes you feel better. Then comes the day that you meet a boy and things were great but then they’re not so great. And all you want to do is have your mom hug you and your dad get you chocolate and your brother make a house in Minecraft, dedicate it to said boy, and throw in so many explosives that the world has a huge crater in it (in the game, that is). And you want your friends from back home to come, make you get dressed up, take you out, and show you all the much more attractive boys the world has to offer the way they did the last time you had your heart broken. Then comes your first birthday without your family. And you miss them so much that you practically spend the whole month crying—at your desk at work, in the car on the way home, curled up on the couch on the weekend, etc.. Every time you notice the countdown to your birthday, you die a little inside and wish you could postpone it. Growing up hurts.

Favorite home-cooked meal

Number two: it’s beautiful. Yes, it hurts. It hurts a lot and you have days that hurt more and days that hurt less. However, you also have these beautiful moments when you do things you never thought you could. You buy your first bed, first couch, first dining room set. Your apartment starts feeling like a place you really can call home. Then it becomes messy and it is just like your room back home (sorry, Mom and Dad). The first time you make a meal from a random recipe you found online and it tastes incredible, for instance. You take pictures, post it all over Facebook and Instagram, and call your mom to tell her. And your dad, and your aunts and grandparents. And your friends back home click the like buttons and you are so incredibly proud of yourself. Granted, it took a few months and some really terrible meals to get to this place, but you had a kitchen all to yourself to experiment in. Then come the second and third meals, and soon enough your Facebook and Instagram is full of pictures of home-cooked meals. You get your own animal and start training him and feel a sense of pride in that. You play with him, walk him, have a companion that licks your face when you’re crying, and you don’t feel so lonely. You go back home often enough  (it’s so fun to surprise your family and just show up when you miss them a lot!) and make it a point to see some of your old friends. Those moments are even more special because they’re rare. You start making friends at work, you get introduced to their friends, and you start hanging out with them outside of the office. Granted, these people are not the same friends you had back home—no one can replace that group—but it’s time to accept that. It’s time to see how you are growing up and how beautiful that really is.

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My fluff ball, Rupert, and I.

Number three: it’s an ongoing process. This part is kind of annoying. Growing up comes in phases, and when one is finishing the next one is beginning—and it’s hard to tell when that moment is occurring. Writing things down on a never-ending to-do list is important. Doing laundry is important. Forgetting to do laundry sucks. Forgetting to make a payment/change the account number on payments sucks. You find a new apartment, maybe with your spouse, maybe alone but less expensive than your first place. You get to make the new apartment start feeling like home. You learn what events and holidays need to become priorities in your life, and sometimes you change those around. You meet the new guy who makes you smile and want to get dressed up, and you thank God that the last relationship didn’t work out. We are constantly changing, learning, relearning, meeting people, feeling sad, feeling happy… We’re constantly growing (up).