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.

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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.

It’s been a while…and this one is sad.

I can’t believe how long it’s been. I’m dealing with a lot of things. Mostly the end of my engagement. Yeah… I had gotten engaged to this wonderful man and then I realized I was being told no by God. Actually, it was more like God repeatedly telling me no and me ignoring Him. I didn’t trust that He had plans to prosper me and not to harm me. As far as I was concerned, I had been harmed two years ago and I wasn’t going to trust Him completely.

I know I’m the one who ended things. I know I gave him back his things, told him when he could get the rest. He’s been so kind, so sweet that I almost want to take it all back and change my mind. Almost. It doesn’t matter how hard it is to focus on just remembering to breathe. It doesn’t matter how swollen my eyes are, or how putting on makeup is a chore because it hurts. It doesn’t matter how empty and cold my apartment feels now that all of his things are gone. It doesn’t matter how much I miss his smile and touch, or his embrace, the kisses on my forehead, holding hands. It doesn’t matter how my left hand has an indention from his ring or how it’s already starting to go back to normal.

This is the hardest bandaid I’ve had to rip off. And I feel like I’ve left some traces of the glue behind. I’m still finding his stuff as I pack up my own. A sock, some shoes, a stupid empty water bottle. And each time it breaks my heart a little more. I realize I left a journal in his car and I want it back, but then I realize it means I have to contact him. So I do, because I just want one more hug. One more glimpse of his face, a small smile. I know that it’s just making the healing process take longer, but I’m not strong enough to say no to those opportunities.

And I know that God is right beside me, rubbing my back like the good Father He is. I know God is letting me cry into His shoulder and hugging me while I’m finally following His direction. It doesn’t make this hurt any less, it doesn’t make me accept it any easier. Not right now when it’s still so fresh.

I keep listening to that Sarah Evans song, “A Little Bit Stronger.” And I keep waiting to get a little stronger. Maybe I have been? I didn’t cry again until he took the last of his stuff. But maybe that was because I knew he had to come back and that was going to be one more hug and smile and face time. And I don’t want him to be hurting, I don’t want him to shoulder all the blame. Things just didn’t work out the way I wanted them to, the way I planned. And that’s okay.

I’m still so sad that we didn’t make it to one more holiday. We didn’t get to throw a Halloween party or even share a Halloween together. We’re not going to have a Thanksgiving together (he was deployed for the last ones.) We’re not going to have another Christmas morning together. Or New Years Eve.

And I just have to trust that God has something in plan for both of us. I have to trust that there is good in this goodbye. That I’ll be able to think of him and smile and know that we grew from this relationship and will treat the next one better. God is shaping us for the people that we’re supposed to become.

And maybe one day we can be friends. We can share where life is taking us, where God is leading us. I pray for that. I pray for him. I pray that he continues to allow God to speak to him, to guide him, to come to learn God’s love for him.

He was the first guy I really let into my life after…things I’ll post about in the future. He was the first guy to make me feel like it was all okay. And I know it will be okay again. So I thank him for that. It hurts like hell right now, but we’ll be okay again.

Lord,

Thank You for being close to the broken hearted. Thank you for binding up our wounds. I know I’ve done a crappy job of trusting in You for all of my desires and needs. And I know that You still love me, You still want to guide me, You will still heal all of my hurts. I need You, Lord. I know I’ve said it a thousand times before, but please help me keep breathing. Help me keep my focus on You and where you are guiding me. Lord, I ask that you guide others who are hurting and seeking wisdom. I don’t know what others are going through, but I pray that their hearts will open to you. I pray that they will accept the peace, love, and healing that You offer. And, God, thank you for this lesson. I may not appreciate it as much as I can right now, but I know that my future and his will be better for it.

 

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).

Words and Things

I am almost done with college! I have six more months before I join the elite Class of 2013. What do I have to show for it, as of right now? I think I should narrow this down to the past year. The past four years of college would be a lot of work;  going back to high school would be crazy. 

I have written over 1,000,000 words. Essays, short stories for class, research paper proposals, and projects all tallied up to create this feat. Over 1,000,000 words in one year. I never knew I had that much to say about things I was told to research. My favorite essay (yes I have a favorite) is the one in which I highlighted feminism found in The Little Mermaid. I had so much fun watching the movie for rhetorical aspects that promoted feminism, down to listening to the soundtrack to pick up words I sang along to as a child without understanding the meaning. Did you know Ursula promotes using your body, your sexuality, to get what you want? But, she gets skewered, and so do all her anti-feminism beliefs!

I wrote a short story for class this year, Like Vines. It’s about an elderly man, widowed two years ago, and living with Alzheimer’s disease. He walks through his house, trying to remember the life he shared with his wife, recites lines from her favorite poetry, and visits the rose garden she cared for and he pruned. The story involves a lot of symbolism and imagery, and I was praised highly by my professor and peers. The bittersweet-ness of this story was inspired by my grandfather, who lost his wife and lives with Alzheimer’s, and I wish he could understand me when I speak (English is his second language). 

Enough with sad things. I’m almost graduating! I have 3 jobs as of right now. I have edited 4 books (technically 3, but I’m on my third read through of the fourth). I work in retail at the mall, so I meet new people every day and I love getting to know these strangers; even if I only know them for a few minutes and then I never see them again. I am taking summer classes, for the second time in my life by choice. I have a great internship brewing, and I’m learning all about the History of Rhetoric. This history class is nothing like I imagined. We aren’t just following Greek history, we are doing an updated version that involves Asia, Africa, and Women’s rhetoric. 

More on that class later! I’ve got to get ready for work! Have a great day, readers!