Fight the New Drug

FTND status update that hit me real hard today and inspired this outpouring of real talk you’re about to read.

I cannot stress this enough: pornagraphy is dangerous. It is harmful. It is damaging. Pornography addiction is a very real thing– don’t be deceived, it is something both men and women  struggle with.

To be real with you? I used to struggle, too. It started small and grew into something more… at first I was disgusted and looked away. But there was something about it that drew me in deeper. Within weeks I was addicted to lesbian pornography. I went further into that realm of the Internet than I EVER intended to go. I even recall being so intrigued by the idea of being pleasured by another woman that I created dating profiles on sites strictly for women in search of others who just wanted sex. 

I was also drawing pornagraphy in the form of furry art. And for the longest time, I saw nothing wrong with it. Because friends were into it, I figured it was harmless…. but it hindered more than just my spiritual growth. I bought into the lie that it is okay to experiment sexually. I fell into the trap that so many others have. I saw how certain friends were living and began to grow curious. I delved into the world of lacy lingerie, adult toys and lubricants, bondage and even considered experiencing dungeon activities.

I had never felt so lost and empty. 

It bred insecurity. It unearthed new anxiety. It unleashed a part of me that I lost control of for a little over 3 years.

It wasn’t until I had women looking at my profile wanting to hook up that something broke inside of me.

It wasn’t until I caught myself lying to my mother about Pure Romance and why I was willing to sell it that I realized how far I had gone from the “good Christian girl” I was supposed to be.

It wasn’t until I proudly showed her the more “tame” of my scandalous art and hid the nudity and sexual scenes on a private Instagram account before I finally saw how I was appearing to others:

A hypocrite.

A sex addict.

A contributor to the sex and porn industry.

I called myself a Christian but I was living in sin. Not only on my own but with my boyfriend at the time. I was sitting in church, on the rare occasion that I visited it, pretending that things were fine. Every now and then, I would attempt to make changes but they never stuck.

“Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, not to awaken love until the time is right.”

– Song of Songs 8:4

I understand this verse now more than ever. There is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 11), including sex.

God designed sex! It is supposed to be a good and blessed thing– between a man and a woman who are married to one another. When you are deep in sexual addiction, it does something to you. You lose sight of what is “right and wrong”. All you care about is getting your fix, your high, your climax. 

Sex connects two people- two souls- mentally, emotionally and physically. A soul tie is created, or what scientists have called “sex glue”. Outside of marriage, this is dangerous! It complicates things.

In person, you are bonded with those you engage in sexual acts with once you’ve reached orgasm. It’s the same with pornography. You are connecting with an image on a screen in the most unhealthy and inhumane way….. and this is becoming the societal norm.

For years, this was my norm.

I felt broken and worthless. Porn didn’t make me feel any better about myself. It didn’t improve my life in any way. It didn’t help my self esteem. It landed me with an addiction that made me feel dirty. It made me feel like an object, cheapened to the status of just another sex toy- only slightly better than a blow up doll. And I let random strangers sext me and treat me as such. 

I was at an all-time low, and if you’ve been following my blog or know my story, you will understand how all of this and more lead up to February 9th, 2015.

…..

But God.

He brought people into my life who cared enough to be by my side and love me back to life.
God blessed me with a community of women from ParadigmKC who unknowingly gave me the strength to be vulnerable. Once I found my voice, I was able to overcome and recover, slowly but surely. 

Being heard and NOT judged was what I needed. Having others by my side who knew exactly what I was going through was what I craved- I was not alone. Hearing about their triumphant moments was encouraging. Seeing them live out life day by day, still struggling yet still holding on to the hope they had in Jesus was inspiring. Experiencing true biblical community lead to real life change for me, and I am forever grateful.

I am not the same woman I once was. And I don’t want to ever go back there.

I thought I could move past my pornography addiction on my own, but I am only as strong as my sinful nature and I failed time and time again.

I have only shared with a select few individuals in my life what my struggle used to be. I was terrified of being judged by the world…. 

But after more than a year of true community, I see the importance of transparency and vulnerability. You never know who may need to hear your story or see your scars in order to find their own voice, their own healing.

For years I had been ashamed of where I had been, who I was, what I had done…. I realize now that the past has no hold on me. Whether or not you, dear reader, decide to judge me for it is entirely your prerogative. 

Jesus Christ redeemed me from my past choices! It is all covered by His blood! In Him, I have been made new ♡

“If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

– 2 Corinthians 5:13-17

I share this part of my story now because it’s not about me

God deserves the glory for my story.

Because of God, I am not where I once was- extremely insecure, overwhelmingly depressed, addicted to porn and craving sexual attention, feeling hollow and alone. 

God saw me and met me in my messy life. He held me close and brought me to a place where I could find healing alongside other broken and hurting individuals. He sees you. He knows your struggle. Will you cry out to Him?

“In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. He reached down from on high alongside did took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.”

– Psalm 18:6, 16

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Looking Back

Time seems to move at a more rapid pace as the years pass.

It can be rather easy to lose track of time, waste time, take time for granted, and even forget tidbits of time we once had. 

It can also be tempting to purposefully ignore the good times because in our minds, the bad outweighs the good. But is that really how things are?

All I have seen lately on social media are copious amounts of updates blaming 2016 for so many things: crime, death, failures, humiliation, racism, financial issues, relationship struggles, misery and woe, etc. Almost every post declared war on the past year and seemed eager to put everything behind them, making idle threats to 2017 that it had better be a “better year” or else.

As if that would change a thing.

This next year will be no better or worse than the last one without effort from us. As cliché as it may be, we have to be the change we wish to see (and I am preaching to the choir here, folks). No amount of complaining and passing blame will change much of anything.

Sometimes, life is extremely difficult. It can be painful and full of situations that seem to either make or break us. In my experience, it’s the reaction during the storms that make the most difference.

As I look back on 2016, I can hardly believe just how much really has changed. It was not an easy year. If someone would have had a written account made of my year and read it to me in January, I would have scoffed at them. I couldn’t have imagined my future without some of the people I had clung to so tightly. I wouldn’t have been able to dream up the different scenarios I faced and obstacles I overcame. There was absolutely no way I would have willingly let go of certain relationships and things. But that’s exactly what had to happen in order for growth to occur.

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to havest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and and time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.

What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” 

– Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

Some chapters have to come to a close in order for the page to be turned.

Even amidst the mess, there was beauty in 2016. Yes, there was pain, heartache, and loss. Brokenness and hatred seemed to spread like wildfire. Even so, if you take the time to really look? There was also love and life. 

Couples that had been trying for years one day woke up to the beautiful realization that their prayers had been answered and a new life would soon enter their world. Kindness was shared when people chose to see the good in those around them rather than accept the status quo of fear. Lives were saved by individuals who have dedicated their lives to protecting and serving others. Children in desperate circumstances found out that home isn’t so much a place as it is a new family who gets to show them every day that they are wanted and deserve love. Elderly couples celebrated anniversaries of well-over 60 years of dedication and hard work with one another. Lives were forever changed as children and adults alike fell in love with Jesus Christ. Mothers made the bold choice to give their baby life even though circumstances were not at all favorable. Someone decided to put down the blade and has gone 6 months without cutting themselves. A father chose to quit smoking for the sake of his children. A mother has been 2 months sober and has a new view of just how precious life with her husband and kids can be. A couple decided to seek help from pornagraphy addiction and are experiencing freedom for the first time together. Someone became a grandmother for the first time- others for the third, fourth, or even fifth time. A teen decided not to take their own life and is taking things one step at a time.

There is beauty even in the ashes.

I look back over this year and I see God’s hand in so many things. It almost feels like the events that occurred did so over a span of a few years rather than one.

February was hard. After celebrating a year of life on the 9th after my suicide attempt in 2015, I said goodbye to one of my best friends on the 28th… I had been convinced that I was going to marry him one day. But after 3 years, time seemed to move forward without that promise. I was living in sin, and as much as we tried, the cycle was never fully broken. God spoke to me through my community and while I loved him, I let him go. I honestly never thought I would make it out of that and find healing or love again.

God had other plans.

On April 2nd, I traveled back to the campus of my ex and that was one of the hardest days amidst my heart trying to find healing. But that day in itself was therapeutic. I had my sister and my parents by my side, and God saw fit to speak through me to a crowd of hurting individuals who had lost someone to suicide. I saw my ex volunteering, pouring into others. It was awkward, but it was necessary to see him and for him to see me. That was the last time.

Speaking to a crowd of around 300 people about my story, which cannot be told without Jesus Christ. It was an emotional day.

April was also the month I served alongside my sister and many others who participated in Love KC with Abundant Life. It was also the month my nephew Nikolai was born! It was a month of searching and growth, and moving forward.

Precious little Nikolai

May 1st, my parents and I took the Next Steps class to become members of Abundant Life. 

May 3rd, God and answered prayer from April 27th about funds for a mission trip. He came through and I was absolutely astounded by how He provided…. this was also the first day in a year that I picked up my alto saxophone and played.

May 7th, I spent the entire day with my brother, Jeremy, and my dad. We went fishing and I caught the only fish for the day. That was the first time since we were little that we spent quality time together. It was awkward but fun, and hasn’t happened since then but… I am hopeful. God can restore even the most broken of relationships.

My brother, Jeremy, and I enjoying the breeze at the lake.

May 15th, I became an official member of Abundant Life, my new home where God has me spreading my wings and growing roots.

June was an exciting time! 

From June 6th to June 10th, I went on my very first mission trip. My sister, Brianna, was right there with me. We went to Detroit, Michigan with a team of fantastical individuals and that was a pivotal time for me. Seeing the desperate situations and experiencing what it is to show love and overcoming racial divides was something I will never forget.

Our row of excited faces on the plane about to head off on an adventure to be living proof of a loving God to a watching world!

June 26th, Brianna’s birthday and the day of my third and final baptism. I was surrounded by loved ones as myself and 49 other individuals of varying ages were baptized in the Blue Springs Lake. It was a beautiful day and I will never forget that experience. It felt amazing to be out in nature, following in Jesus Christ’s footsteps- a picture of my old life dying and the new life beginning.

My mom captured my smile right after the public profession of faith. My heart was so full that day.

Even during the blissful and life-altering moments, I had weak moments, too. Moments where flesh won out. Moments where, despite my best intentions, I went against everything I told myself I would never do again. 

Never say never.

I met a young man at Paradigm. He was not who he appeared to be… and I was wounded in more ways than one after that brief and highly toxic relationship. Insecurities resurfaced and new ones formed after that door was closed… insecurities I am still struggling to stifle. However, I needed to go through that storm. I needed to grow and learn more about myself and God, and gain even more perspective. I thank God for that experience- there were sweet moments within the bitter. I discovered two toxic relationships because of my time with him and have since then moved on. God showed me exactly what I didn’t need and prepared me for what He had in store. He gave me comfort and reassurance that He would accomplish infinitely more than I could ask or imagine…

And He did.

August held so much growth within it. August 19th through the 21st, I experienced my first Paradigm Retreat: AWAKEN. Testimonies were shared, love and truth were spoken, bonds were made and chains were broken… Sky Ranch in Oklahoma will forever hold a special place in my heart. God is using a people at that place to rejuvinate His people.

The prayer walk at Sky Ranch in Cave Springs, Oklahoma.

Throughout the next few months, I experienced personal growth through Lysa TerKeurst’s Unglued and Uninvited. Those books and the studies that occurred because of them are such a blessing. Rejection and emotions can be hard to deal with, but God uses His Word and the words of His servants to reach the hearts of others… 

My baby, Chewy, and a few of my favorite things: my Bible, my journal, and Uninvited.

September 8th through September 10th, I experienced my first Women’s Retreat with Abundant Life: BRAVE. Oh my goodness. The amount of healing that occurred that weekend… my mother and I shared that experience together. I am so thankful for the growth that we have shared since then as mother and daughter.

The dynamic duo: my momma and I right before leaving for Oklahoma.
Conquering fears and embracing Joshua 1:9 at the BRAVE retreat. This rickety bridge was an obstacle on the hike up to the zipline.

October brought with it new challenges and experiences. As a result of a Digital Media and Design class, I had an internship that was interesting to say the least. God used that time to grow my spiritually and I am thankful for that. 

Sunday October 23rd, God brought a man into my life who has since then been showing me exactly what the answered prayers of a 5 year old girl look like… God has blessed this relationship. It has become abundantly clear to the both of us why we met when we did. It took two churches falling apart for us to meet. It took years of heartache and a lot of personal and spiritual growth to prepare us for one another. As we experience life together and talk about where we have been and where we are now, the things we both went through make sense. Everything is clicking. Obviously things won’t be easy, but knowing we are on the same page with one another in innumerable ways makes my heart soar. There are no doubts, no gut-checks from the Holy Spirit, no constant undercurrent of sin-issues, no lies…. just answered prayers, God’s grace and obvious fruits of the Spirit on both sides… and love.

This fantastical human being has been such a blessing… God truly provides for His beloved. That much is clear. I have found the one whom my soul loves.

November and December have been a whirlwind of activity since our first date on November 5th. I said it that night and it rings true even now… it’s as easy as breathing.

Thanksgiving was my first away from my family and I spent it with Joel and his family. They are so full of love and life- already I feel as though I’ve known them for years on end.

Ladies vs. Guys photo: who wins? Ladies from left to right: Leah, Karina, Jill, and Laura. Gents from left to right: Josh, Chuck, Joel and Christian (such goobers).

December 18th, my family had a game night and Joel got to experience our silliness… He fit right in.

Heads Up shenanigans at the Battaglia household!

Christmas was busy, but worth it. I was able to spend it with Joel and his family, and my family as well.

Our little family. We have grown so much closer together this past year. My parents have helped me through some of my darkest moments and their love for one another has withstood copious amounts of trials. They show me every day what it means to love and be loved.

December 29th, I met my sweet niece Lilianna and held her for the first time in the NICU at Children’s Mercy hospital. 

Sweet little Lilianna. Holding her for the first time, I was overcome with emotion.

There have been so many coffee dates, testimonies shared, laughs and hugs throughout this year and I am so blessed to be able to go through life with such inspirational women by my side.

Coffee and Bible study dates have been a big blessing this year! Doing life together with my community has brought me so much joy and I have learned so much from the ladies I’ve met with.
My community group. We are experiencing life together, supporting one another, loving each other and growing through the difficulties… together. You cannot do life alone!
Alyssa and I: another sister of mine. She is a bundle of cute, sassy and geekiness. She is beautiful inside and out! I am thankful for her presence in my life.
Community Halloween Party!!! I won the costume contest as a sugar skull hehe. I’m beyond thankful for this lady pictured beside me. Kirstie is an inspiration and I love her heart!
Lauren, Brianna and I: my sisters. I love them dearly and cannot wait to see where God takes us!
With the Christmas Concert ended my year of serving alongside some of these ladies. God has done amazing things through ParadigmKC and I can’t wait so see what He has in store for us all next year.

2016 was full of growth. It was full of laughter and tears. I am not the same woman I was upon entering January 2016… since then I have let go of toxic relationships. I have gained community and new friendships, as well as strengthened the existing ones. With God leading my every step, I was able to overcome some difficult circumstances and close certain chapters of my life permanently. I have been able to move forward, looking back fondly on even the most painful of happenings because they have made me who I am. I will not stubbornly and foolishly choose to forget my past. I want to learn from it. I want to be able to look back and see God’s protection, His provision, His blessings and even the lessons He allowed me to learn and grow, and I have more thankfulness in my soul for Him now than I ever have, and I cannot wait to see even that increase.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

– Ephesians 3:20

This is why I journal. This is why I blog. I know I am not alone, and there is someone out there right now that is searching. I pray that God would use me and my words as He sees fit to reach those who have felt as if they were alone, or as if they somehow didn’t matter. 

This life is not easy. And each year brings forth new struggles but with those struggles are moments to strive for. Moments where you feel the most alive. Moments that remind you why you are here in the first place. Moments that take your breath away, and moments that push you to keep breathing, even when it hurts.

Your year, your 2017, is what you make it. If you want it to a better than 2016, then you have to be the one to make the change. Look over the past year and find the things you are most proud of. Recall the blissful moments, and yes, even recall the moments filled with sorrow. Look at where you are today and instead of complaining, find something to be thankful for and make it a goal to be somewhere else tomorrow. Even if it is a small step- like starting a budget, changing eating habits, losing 5 pounds, changing your hairstyle or cleaning out the garage- whatever you need to do to move forward? Promise yourself to take that baby step and do it. If not right in this moment, then mark the calendar and set an alarm to get started tomorrow.

Don’t let the time you have pass by without having done something meaningful with it.

My constant reminder to do the things I am most anxious of, because God did not give me a spirit of fear! Courage is NOT the absence of fear, but rather the conquering of it in the scariest moments… push through the anxiety. Push through the fear.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

– Joshua 1:9

WorryWorm

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 4:6-7

I tend to worry.

A lot.

In those moments of worrying, it’s not like I am intentionally telling God that I don’t trust Him or that I think I can handle things on my own, because He and I both know that I can’t.

Still… this is the message my worry sends to God.

Worry says, “I don’t think You can handle this.”

Worry screams, “I HAVE TRUST ISSUES!!!”

Worry whispers, “I am all alone in this.”

Worry lies, “There is no hope.”

Worry (verb): to give way to anxiety or unease; to allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.

When we worry, it is a choice.

Ouch… yeah, that even stings a little for me. This means that when I worry, I am willingly taking my issues out of God’s capable hands and holding onto them for myself. I am choosing to give way to my anxiety, letting it take over. I am choosing to allow myself to dwell needlessly on something or someone.

When I worry, I become a mess. I cry. I shake. I crave endless amounts of chocolate. Sometimes I have panic attacks.

To worry is to choose these things.

I know. I get it. Who would choose to be so miserable over trivial (or worse) things?

But you did. And I did, too.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
– 1 Peter 5:7

The Bible tells us to cast our cares, our worries, our troubles, our anxieties on God. He is able to handle anything we could ever throw at Him, be it fear or even anger. Even if your anger is directed at God? He can take it.

In fact, He wants to.

What?

O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen
on your walls;
they will pray day and night,
continually.
Take no rest, all you who pray to the
LORD.
Give the LORD no rest until he
completes his work,
until he makes Jerusalem the pride of
the earth.

– Isaiah 62:6-7

Yep! He wants to hear from you, no matter how you may be feeling towards Him personally. He wants to hear your voice. He knows your struggles and He knows your heart, yes. But isn’t it so much more satisfying and meaningful to hear the words, “I love you,” from your significant other rather than just assuming or knowing they somehow feel this way? It’s the same with God. Sure, He already knows. But it means so much more for you to open up to Him and tell Him what’s bothering you so that He can fix it. The relationship between us and Him is a two-way street, and when we are silent…. well, the relationship doesn’t exactly develop. He talks to us all the time, but most of us are too distracted to even notice.

God even appointed people to pray– that’s how much he longs for us to communicate with Him! “Give me no rest,” in other words, “BOTHER ME! DON’T STOP BUGGING ME! Don’t stop talking to me! Don’t stop petitioning me! Give me no rest until I answer you.” – GOD

He longs to hear from you, sweet friend. He knows what is on your heart and He wants you to trust Him enough to whisper to Him in the dead of night when sleep evades you. He knows what you are going through and He yearns for you to lean into Him as the tears fall from your weary eyes. His arms are ready to carry you to a safe place where all your troubles are heard and cared about. He is the best listener. He won’t tell you that you’re stupid for feeling how you feel. He won’t reject you because of your struggle. He won’t alienate you because of that secret sin issue that hardly anyone else knows about.

He is here. He always has been. He wants to hear from you. Before you post your struggle to Facebook, before you tell Twitter and Instagram. He longs to take care of your burdens for you- only He can truly take them away.

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
– Matthew 6:27;30;34

Worrying hurts. It hurts us far more than whom or whatever we happen to be worrying about.

Those people that hurt you? They aren’t the ones sitting up late at night dwelling on your pain. The person who denied you the loan? He isn’t worried about where your next meal will come from. Your high school crush? They aren’t dwelling on each word they said to you at lunch today, and they certainly aren’t preparing themselves for what they will say tomorrow.

Everyone you are worried about is not focused on the fact that you are worried, and most of them aren’t concerned with your pain. It is far from their minds. Dwelling on every possible detail of what went wrong and what you could have done will not help the situation. Dwelling on “what if”s and “could be”s are just as toxic.

Worrying hurts… it hurts you. Not them. You.

Why worry? Why willingly put yourself through even more suffering?

It’s not because you “can’t help it”, because as we discovered earlier, worrying is a choice.

Do we worry because it’s a semblance of control? Do we think that if we have a say on what we choose to worry about, it will somehow remedy the hurt we feel?

Why DO we worry?

It boils down to a lack of faith. A lack of faith and a lack of trust in the One who holds your tomorrows. The One who knows the exact amount of hair on your head- including the ones that have fallen out recently. The One who knows how many tears you have cried, how many miles you have walked without the help of a Fitbit and how many sleepless nights you’ve spent staring up at the ceiling.

Choosing to worry is telling God that He is incapable of understanding you. The Creator of the Universe and the very same Creator of YOU. Worry tells Him that you don’t think He gets it. Worry tells Him that you don’t trust Him to know you inside and out, or to even understand how to fix the problem you’re having.

Choosing to worry is telling God that you don’t believe. You don’t believe that He can sort things out; you don’t trust that He has things under control. In fact, you think He couldn’t care less about you or the problems you’re dealing with.

Choosing to worry is choosing to stiff-arm God. You are saying, “Whoa there, God! I have got this- You stay out of it!”

I don’t know about you, but that image right there makes me uncomfortable. I certainly never intended to do that to God! I would never say that to His face, much less ever think it. But… when I worry? That’s exactly what I’m doing. When I go to social media and complain about my issues rather than go to Him, that’s what I’m doing. When I choose to wallow in self-pity rather than ask Him for help, I am rejecting God. I am casting Him aside. I am spitting in the face of the One who loved me enough to die for me.

Have you spat in God’s face lately? Have you been dwelling on something for weeks on end without asking Him for help? Have you avoided His Word because you know deep down that He will speak Truth you need to hear but desperately want to ignore?

Do you want to change? Or do you want to hold on to these worries, these fears, these grudges and other things, just so you can have something- anything- to “control”?

Sweet friend, I am in the boat with you. The waves are rocking, the sky is terrifyingly dark, and I am just as scared as you. But God has not forgotten us! He is walking towards us in the midst of our storm. Here’s the thing…

Do you let your faith falter during the storm?

Or will you cry out in faith rather than in fear?

Will you let Him climb into your mess with you?

Satan will feed on your pain and he is currently thriving on the doubts, worries and fears that you have been having. In this world, we will have trouble. We are guaranteed that fact:

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
– John 16:33

This trouble can be emotional, mental, physical, environmental, relational… and it will happen. We can see it all around us- the shootings, the mass hysteria, the beatings, the murders- we are in the midst of a mighty storm filled with terror and pain. But take heart! Take courage! Be stilled by His peace! He has the victory. In Him, you are already victorious. He has overcome the world.

Don’t let the enemy make you feel defeated in whatever storm you might be facing right now. If you feel the urge to talk to someone about your pain, please do so! It helps to go to a trusted friend or family member about what you’re going through. But don’t forget about God. You were never meant to carry these worries beyond the cross. Whatever it is, especially if it’s an insecurity or something bubbling up from your past? It’s covered. Jesus already paid for that. And don’t think for one second that He wouldn’t do it again.

Open up to Him about your struggle and be willing to actually let go of it this time. Whenever you feel the urge to take those worries and doubts back, pray. Even if you’re in your car, turn off the radio (GASP) and talk to God. You don’t have to close your eyes to talk to Him. Even if you’re walking down the hallway at work, you can pray without outwardly saying a word. That’s what Paul meant when he talked about “praying without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians. 5:16-18). It doesn’t mean literally 24/7 eyes closed and meditating. It means that whenever you feel yourself struggling, immediately telling Papa God about it. Prayer is our instant line to God. He speaks to us through the Bible, through music and even through other people, and we speak to Him through prayer. It’s meant to be a two-way conversation.

Worrying will not help your situation, friend. Nor will it help mine. It’s a hard lesson to learn, because it seems like all I can do in a tough spot is worry. This is why God’s grace is so wonderful- He understands us so well that He knows we are going to struggle. He knew we would fail miserably at this whole praying and not-worrying thing. And that’s okay. The important thing is to keep striving to do better. To admit when we mess up and keep going.

Take a moment right now to thank God for being here with you through your struggle, even when you didn’t realize it. Then, take your struggles to Him. Tell Him everything on your heart, even if it’s painful to admit out loud. If it helps you, write it all down. This is why I prayer journal- I write down most of my prayers. This helps me not only stay awake (because we have ALL fallen asleep while praying) but it helps me focus. I can look back and see where He answered prayers… and that’s one of the neatest things. I encourage you to give it a try!

♥ You are not alone in your struggles. Feel free to reach out about what you’re going through! We cannot do life alone. ♥

Level-Up!

Each year as I gain levels in this dungeon of life, I tend to pause and think of how far I’ve come. There have been many boss battles that I have narrowly escaped, and most of those battles were not won alone. As I ponder upon this past level, I recall some wonderful memories… and of course some not-so lighthearted ones tossed into the mix.

It’s strange to think that I am now at level 23. How did time pass by so quickly?

Sometimes, if I’m not careful, I can get stuck in stinkin’ thinkin’. Those moments can be dangerous, because I dwell on the “could have beens” and “what ifs”. I look at others besting dragons and making life seem so easily conquered and compare my successes (and failures) to theirs.

Thankfully, I have been blessed with wise parental units that encourage me through these self-defeating moments. I also have many trusted friends, some of which have been with me since the lower levels of the dungeon, others I have met along the way. These allies remind me who I am when I lose sight of me.

The 22nd level was no easy feat. There was more conflict than I had expected, and it took everything in my power to resolve things rather than run away and hide. In fact, more times than I can count, I did hide. I refused to face my fears head-on. That’s when I had to rely on the one who knows all- the mighty Dungeon Master (God). Even though I was afraid to move forward, He helped me put one foot in front of the other. One step at a time, we conquered each fear together. I still shake in my boots occasionally, but I can rest assured that I am not alone in this dungeon. I have my sword (the Bible) and the DM’s guidance to get me through. Sometimes I can look at the Walkthrough to get some helpful hints as well from those who have gone before me.

I had to learn to let go of things and people I held dear… and there were days where it felt like there was no point in continuing to the next battle without them by my side. At one point in time, I held on so tightly to them that it was as if my next breath was dependent upon their exhale… No human can be my life-force. That is way too much pressure for anyone to handle. So I have been learning to let go. It definitely has not been easy, but I must admit… it can be rather gratifying to let go of the past and move forward. I have gotten to the point where I can look back and smile at what once was, rather than break down in a puddle of tears at the thought of what might have been. I will always be thankful and grateful for the lessons I learned and the people that were my teachers, whether they are still around or we have parted ways.

Towards the beginning of this year, I wandered in darkness for a while. I let things cloud my vision and my thoughts, and though I had a flashlight to guide my steps, I still couldn’t see the path before me. I felt like I was blindly going through the dungeon, stumbling over both good and bad things as I went. Once I finally had the sense to take a leap of faith and turn off what little man-made light I was relying on… I discovered glow worms illuminating the way out. Now I am in the light and let me tell you, it is a glorious feeling to have somewhat of an idea where you are headed.

On the other hand, there were miraculous things that occurred on this level that I never would have anticipated. I met some fantastic travelers who were each on their own path. I am so grateful that our individual journeys have intertwined, whether for the time being or for more years to come. We’ve had many fun adventures together, and I am excited to see where we each will go as time continues on.

Recently, I set off on an adventure that is proving to be quite the blessing. This experience has been very eye-opening thus far, and I feel like I have finally found my niche in this world. I have hope again- hope that I haven’t had in 5 years. Acellus is a phenomenal program and just to be a part of something that is impacting millions of children for the better is special and so worthwhile. I still don’t know exactly what twists and turns lie ahead of me, but I am trusting that I am in this position for a reason. Thankfully, I don’t have to be in control- that’s the DM’s job!

With each boss battle I’ve walked away from, I’ve left with scars and ample lessons learned. I wouldn’t take back any experience, though, no matter how horrid it was. These scars, in their own way, are beautiful reminders that I have survived the very things that I feared I wouldn’t. Though some of those battles I never would have willingly walked into, I can honestly say that I am thankful for having experienced them. With each scar comes a story, and with each story is an opportunity to help someone else through the same battle without facing the same dangers, toils and snares that I fell into.

Level 23 is already shaping up to be full of surprises. So many unexpected things have already made themselves known… I’m excited to traverse down this path, and I’m thankful that I won’t be alone (because we all know it’s dangerous to go alone). Who knows what could be in store right around the corner?

All Bottled Up

A few days ago on my way to work, I spent some much-needed time talking with God. This is something I really should spend more time doing… lately I’ve been so distracted. Most of these distractions have been on purpose.

See… if I’m busy, I don’t have time to truly deal with the complicated emotions swirling inside like the tempest that seems to be threatening to break me down at any moment. Though I realize that this is no excuse.

Work and fun events have been wonderful distractions. I am beyond thankful for this new experience- it’s a definite blessing. But I must admit, I’ve been pouring my heart into it so much that I’ve left no room for myself… or God.

I had the radio set to Air1 and was singing along to a song- I honestly can’t even tell you the name of it, which is strange for this musical personality. I was running on autopilot, singing yet not really feeling the music, driving the same route I’ve driven many times now. Suddenly, I felt compelled to turn the radio off. As I did, I looked to my right and saw the most breathtaking sunrise.

Hues of lush pinks and oranges blurred together amidst the clouds that were tainted purple and dark blue. The sun shone a reddish orange and hid behind dark, wispy clouds, barely peeping through. Rain was threatening to cascade down by misting every now and then.

Have you ever looked at the sky, wondering if God thought of you as His hand caressed the clouds, forming them into their billowing shapes? That He might have chuckled to Himself, knowing that with each brushstroke of color you would be in awe of His latest masterpiece? Have you ever just stared at the sky and smiled up to the heavens, nodding at His artwork, feeling as though He chose those hues and patterns just for you?

There was a sudden warmness inside of my chest, making its way up to my cheeks. I took every chance I could take to look at the miraculous scenery before me.

As I accelerated through the curves of the highway, taking in the changing leaves that were falling around me, I noticed another beautiful sight. A rainbow was just ahead of me. It was barely visible, like mine and God’s shared secret. It was as if He was reminding me as I poured my heart out that not only was He there, listening, but He was also in control.

“Okay, God,” I muttered, letting a sigh escape my lips. “I trust You… You are good. You are in control and You know exactly what You’re doing. I trust You to take care of my heart. I trust you to love me like no one else possibly could. I trust You to lead me, to grow me and to chisel away at my imperfections. I trust You, LORD.”

Saying these words out loud was harder than I expected. I had to keep repeating that same phrase, “I trust you, LORD,” so that hopefully it would sink in. I believe that God is good. I believe that He is good to me. He is for me, not against me. So why was I having such trouble truly entrusting everything to Him? He is capable of absolutely anything! Why was I struggling with giving my fragile heart over to Him so that He could mend and protect it?

It’s funny how simply seeing a glimpse of a rainbow or a brilliant sunrise can remind us that God is in control. He has us in the palm of His mighty hand, and He does have it all figured out. We have a purpose! We are not simply here just to exist. There is so much more to this life than we know… and the great thing is we don’t have to know it all. I’m pretty positive that if I knew every detail of what would happen in my life before it did, I would obsess over every little thing. I would become even worse of a perfectionist than I am now. I would fret over silly things, thinking everything had to be “just so” in order for it to come to pass as I was told it should.

God knows me. He knows I can only handle so much… and when I try to take too many things on, I become overwhelmed and stressed, sometimes to the point of getting ill. He only gives me little tidbits when He knows I can handle them.

Right now, my heart is still in the process of healing. I guess I didn’t realize just how broken I felt until a recent conversation with the Young Adults pastor of ParadigmKC. Through this conversation I discovered that for some reason, I had been subconsciously beating myself up just for feeling hurt, as though I had no right at all to my feelings… when I definitely do. And so do you.

No one, not even me, can write-off feelings. Real or imagined, they are going to happen. The important thing is to not look at life through the lens of our feelings. These feelings are fickle- they will not always be present because they can change on a dime. We need to look at life and different situations through the lens of God’s Word, which is unwavering in truth.

Honestly? If I looked at everything in this way, my feelings would not rule over my heart and decisions so much.

Another realization brought on by this conversation was that I haven’t been extending the same grace that has been bestowed upon me. I have been distracting myself on purpose to avoid dealing with the elephant in the room. Instead of addressing the heart issue,  I would rather run from conflict, bottling up my feelings, thinking that it would somehow make things better.

Ha-ha…. no.

I don’t know your personal situation, dear reader, but I can tell you from experience (and lots of it) that bottling up your emotions will not end well for you. Have you ever noticed that you never feel any better while you’re hiding your pain from others? That’s because in the end, the only one who is hurt or bothered by your whistling tea pot of emotions is you. You can’t expect things to get better if you keep how you are feeling to yourself. You’re no mind-reader! Neither are those who have hurt you. There’s a pretty good chance that they don’t even realize that they have hurt you and are moving on while you sit and stew.

Not helpful.

You might have the mindset that they need to be the ones to come to you and apologize for what they have done, which I completely understand. Hello! Been there. Practically made a banner and a Facebook page for it. However, the other party involved won’t always be the first to come to that realization. Sometimes, people just say or do things without thinking about what it might do to those around them. I am sure I’ve done this, and as you read this I’m sure you can think of a time where you’ve accidentally stepped on someone’s toes, too. 99.9% of the time, those who have hurt you didn’t really intend to do so.

Bottling up these feelings also gives the enemy plenty of ammo to use against you. So many triggers ripe for the picking! He hardly has to try to put you on edge or to get you to wallow in self-pity. With all of those emotions built up, you’re practically a ticking time-bomb, and Satan will gladly light the fuse.

So, how do we mend this sticky situation?

Prayer and conversation.

Eeek! I know. The confrontation stage of a discussion is never the most comfortable scenario. It can be extremely awkward and every fiber of your being will be wanting to bolt right out of the coffee shop you agreed to meet this person in. I’m right there with ya, friend. It’s not easy, but it is worth it! Every second of that uncomfortable, stomach-knotting and thumb-twiddling conversation means you are closer to freedom from those feelings… and closer to the possibility of reconciliation.

Step 1. Prayer:

Seems easy enough, doesn’t it? Au contraire! I’m not talking about spending a mere 5 minutes talking with God about how frustrated you are and then leaving it at that. Trust me, I’ve been the one to do that and it got me nowhere. When I say prayer, I’m talking about taking the time to really dig in deep in a conversation with Papa God.

  • Spend time writing down your thoughts and then speaking them aloud. God knows what’s on your heart, but that doesn’t mean that He doesn’t want to hear it from you!
  • Pray for the conversation to go not as you want it but as God would have it go- He knows best!
  • Pray for your tongue, that it might not be on the defense- that you would seek to understand rather than to be understood.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” -Proverbs 15:1

  • Pray for the other person in this, that even if things cannot be patched up between the two of you that they would forgive you for your part in the conflict and vice versa.

Whoa, hold- up. Did you read that right? Yep! I said YOUR part. It takes two, my friend. Even if you had 1% or 35.6% in the conflict, you still had a part. Be willing to own 100% of your 1%. Even if that means apologizing for running away and pretending for weeks that you weren’t bitter, when in fact, you were.

  • Pray that God would help you speak in His love rather than in your hurt feelings. Separate your emotions from facts, here.
  • Pray that you could extend the same grace that God has given to us all. You may be thinking, “I’ve forgiven them. I just don’t want to have anything to do with them ever again.” That’s not true forgiveness, nor is that grace. What would we do if God had that same attitude towards us? Think on that for a moment. What if God forgave us of our sins, yet completely cut us out of the blessings of knowing Him? Praise God that He forgives us totally and opens the way for genuine reconciliation! He calls us to forgive others in the exact same way:

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” – Colossians 3:12

  • Pray that no matter the outcome of the conversation that you would walk away knowing you pursued the other person the way Jesus would have. That instead of fighting tooth and nail to avoid conflict, you ran towards it in an attempt to mend the broken bridge.

Step 2. The Conversation:

Be sure to have this conversation in private. Even if you have talked to others about this, ultimately it is between you and those initially involved. If you have tried to talk to the individual and they weren’t willing to listen, then it is okay to invite someone else in to help mediate.

Take a deep breath. Take your time- don’t rush into spilling your guts just yet. See if they would like to speak first. Be willing to listen and do so intently. Let the other person see by your actions that you are sincere in wanting to resolve this issue.

“Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” -Proverbs 18:13

When it is your turn to speak, be careful not to let your hurt feelings take over! If it helps, have the facts of whatever occurred written down in bullet points so you can point out actual events rather than assumptions of what you perceived happened. This way, you can say, “________ happened this way, and because of that, this is how I’ve been feeling.” You won’t be over-exaggerating and you also won’t be letting your temper lead the conversation. You’ll simply be stating the effects these events had on you.

Though it may be extremely difficult, be honest with yourself and with them. If you truly have been having a hard time because of this issue, let it be known. You don’t have to go into gory details of the sleepless nights and tears shed, but let them know that you have been agonizing over the issue. They need to know your heart.

Now, take another deep breath. Prepare yourself.

Take this moment to apologize to them for your part in this conflict. It doesn’t matter if you think you are completely innocent in the matter- trust me, you aren’t. Set your pride aside and think, “What part did I have to play in this issue?” Think on these questions:

  • Did I bottle up my feelings for weeks on end, giving the other person the cold shoulder without explaining why?
  • Have I been avoiding them?
  • Have I made vague posts to social media without naming names about my pain and frustration?
  • Have I gone behind their back and gossiped about the issue and how horribly they treated me?
  • Have I called them names, whether aloud or in my thoughts?
  • Did I say anything cruel or snippy to them, whether to their face or in passing?
  • Have I dragged other people into the issue, baiting them to take my side even though they don’t know the whole story?
  • Have I ever, even once, thought to myself how much I dislike or even “hate” this person?
  • (Enter your own questions here- you get the idea)

Ask for feedback from the other person involved. Give them a chance to tell you how they feel the situation could have been handled by you. It may sting to hear their opinion, but sometimes we need a healthy dose of humble pie. We can learn so much from encounters like these so that hopefully we won’t repeat the same actions in the future.

“Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.” -Proverbs 18:2

Trust God throughout the entire situation . He will not give you anything you cannot handle! He will be with you as you speak with this person. He has already gone before you, so you have nothing to fear.

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” – Deuteronomy 31:8

Remember that you cannot expect them to approach the situation in the same way that you are! We have no control over how others act and react. What matters is how YOU approach the situation. You can either choose to do so in love or in anger, but it is my hope that you would go for the former. There is a good chance that they may come into the conversation prepared for a verbal throw-down, and you need to be prepared for that as well.

For example, I faced a situation in college where my roommate was prepared for just that. She wasn’t expecting me to handle it in love or maturity. I had written down all of my feelings and asked for her patience as I read it all to her. I was honest in how I felt, and by the time I finished reading, her expression and body language had gone from confrontational to apologetic and understanding. We ended up having a heart-to-heart and aired both of our grievances. We worked everything out and even laughed together by the time the conversation ended. Later on, she gave me a chance to “chew her out” because she believed that she deserved nothing better, which broke my heart. She is a wonderful individual that has had pain in her life, and I didn’t want to make her feel as I had felt before… God was telling me in that moment to give her grace. We aren’t as close as we were before, and we may never be. However, I can rest assured that the conflict was pursued whole-heatedly. I no longer harbor any ill-will or bitterness towards her as I once had.

Sometimes, these conversations don’t go as we would have liked. And you know what? That’s okay. If, in the end, the conflict isn’t resolved and you tried your hardest, there is nothing wrong with loving them from a distance. Yes. Love them, not curse their very existence for not resolving things with you. As I said, we cannot control how they react. We can only prepare ourselves and approach these situations as God would have us do.

Forgiveness is not easy. It takes daily commitment to forgive and to do so fully. Sometimes, it helps to think, “I forgive you,” any time you see or think of that person. To live out forgiveness and grace in our daily lives, we need to keep these things in mind after a conflict:

  1. I will not dwell on this incident.
  2. I will not revisit this incident or use it against those involved.
  3. I will not talk to others about this incident.
  4. I will not allow this incident to stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.

Forgiveness is a spiritual process that you cannot fully accomplish on your own. As you seek to forgive others, continually ask God for grace to enable you to imitate His wonderful forgiveness towards you. Seek Biblical counsel from others! We cannot go through this life alone, and sometimes we need help from others to keep us grounded and to remind us of how God would want us to handle these sticky situations.

Let’s be honest, sometimes our initial reactions to conflict aren’t the most “Jesus-like”. We are human, after all. It’s in those moments where we can be especially thankful for God’s grace. He gives us thousands of second chances to get things right, so it’s up to us to do the same towards others.

………

Even though it took some time for me to come to my senses, it is nice to know that God won’t give up on me. Seeing that sunrise and a glimpse of a rainbow that morning gave me reassurance that I don’t have to be in control. I am in good hands. I can only control how I go about living life and treating others. This conflict that I’m faced with has essentially been “dealt with”, but of course it takes more than a conversation or two to mend a hurting heart. Thankfully, it is also in very good hands.

I just want to encourage you today. If you get nothing else from this post, I hope this can sink in:

You are not alone, even in those moments where you feel as though you are. You are not the only person who has been hurt, and you are not the only human in this vast world who struggles with bitterness, loneliness, forgiveness and so on and so forth. We are in this together, my friend! And we just so happen to have a mighty God on our side who knows our pain- He has faced everything we will ever go through on this side of heaven. Don’t think that just because we can’t see Him that He isn’t here. Don’t underestimate Him! He warned us that we would face difficulties in our lives, but He also gave us hope: He has already won the battle. We are more than conquerors because of HIM!

So, even though we will face conflict… in the grand scheme of things, it is something so very small. In the blink of an eye, this too shall pass. One day, we will look back and wonder why we were so bent out of shape over something so insignificant in the light of eternity. Though it may seem big now, sweet friend, I promise you… it will get better.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33

Wait.

Waiting is definitely something I have struggled with. Just when I feel sure of myself in my wait, BAM! Impatience, doubt, worry, fear and sometimes even frustration set in. I’ve even told myself that this season is just a “waiting period” and that it will be over soon. I console myself by thinking of possible outcomes, all of them colored with my desires rather than God’s.

It appears to me that I have more of an issue with placing my faith in a favorable outcome rather than a God whose favor I am undeserving of yet have anyway.

Honestly, take a moment to evaluate the season you’re in right now. Are you content with where you are, trying your best to make things work? Or are you chomping at the bit to move forward and get this part of your life “over with”?

Regardless of where you are, not only do I understand completely, I have experienced both of these scenarios recently.

Six months ago, I was trying desperately to hold on to what I knew God wanted me to completely let go of. I wanted so badly for Him to do what I wanted… not the other way around. I was stubbornly hoping that in the end, things would resolve the way I intended them to…. boy was I sorely misguided.

God began working on me… and slowly I began to realize that all He wanted was me. Not who I could be or who I once was. Just me. And in order for that to happen, I needed to focus on Him. I was so distracted by my selfish desires that I was hindering the blessings He had in store for me.

Did you catch that? At times, we are the ones who stand in the way of the blessings God wants to bestow upon us. 

How terribly unfortunate!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

When I finally let go? He blessed me in more ways than I ever expected. Different doors began to open and since then, I have learned quite a few lessons:

He taught me that His plans truly are better. We may have our own agendas, but in the end, He has something far better in store for you and I. Twice now I have thought that I found my future husband, and twice now I have been wrong. God chose to close those doors for me… to protect me. Then it hit me: I thought that I found. I didn’t trust in Him or even truly dig deep to see if I was following His will or my own selfish desires… it was definitely the latter. I didn’t wait for His “green light”, so to speak. He keeps surprising me after each hard time and heartbreak, though… always bringing me through to something much better than I could have imagined.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” – Proverbs 19:21

He showed me that right now, I need to be single. I was so excited about the thought of commitment and a future, I let myself get too vulnerable too soon. Instead of guarding my heart and keeping my boundaries up, I let the idea of love fuel my actions. You see, I met someone through the young adults group I attend regularly and now serve at. Instead of staying grounded in the Truth, I followed my emotions and what I thought were clearly “signs” from God. As a result, it ended rather quickly. I am actually thankful that it all happened the way it did… because what I thought I wanted was not what God desires for me. He wants me to focus my attention to His plans for my life right now, rather than worrying over who I will marry someday. The truth is I’m not as ready as I thought for forever.

“I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him.” – 1 Corinthians 7:32

“Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” – Song of Solomon 3:5

He is teaching me what true forgiveness is. I thought I had things under control. I told myself that I had forgiven people from my past as well as recently. I underestimated the power of unforgiveness! It can fester under the surface, much like a sink hole. Eventually it catches up to you and collapses, taking you down along with debris and whoever might be near. Bottled up feelings always do. In reality, I hadn’t completely dealt with my bitterness and it came back to bite me. It reared its ugly head amongst other situations that had nothing to do with my past, and now I’m learning how to properly deal with it. Forgiveness is liberating! It frees you from the damage you’ve been putting yourself through all that time whilst harboring a grudge. Unforgiveness hurts you much more than it does the other party. Sometimes, most times, they are unaware. Silently suffering, you watch them move on while you can’t understand why you’re stuck in the muck. Forgiveness is freely given to us by God even though we don’t deserve it. Others may not “deserve” forgiveness in our opinions, but God loves them just as much as He loves you and I. He forgave them, and He has more than enough reason not to… we can forgive them, too. We all desperately need forgiveness.

“But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” – Mark 11:25

“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” – Micah 7:18-19

Again and again, He helps me realize that He’s in control. I am one of the biggest worry worms out there. I definitely have gotten better, but I tend to take up worrying any chance I get. It’s not good. Still, every single time I worry… God is right there gently nudging me to give Him my anxieties, fears, doubts and struggles. He patiently waits until I figure out, once again, that I can’t do this on my own. Praise God, I am NOT ALONE! He has surrounded me with such wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ who are here to pick me up when I fall. They even keep me in check when something isn’t quite right. They edify and observe me and vice versa. He has provided me with ample resources- He equips others with specific gifts to help one another, so it’s foolish to not reach out and tap into that blessing! I look back and see His hand in everything that has happened, and I’m learning to see it even now. He is with me. He is for me. I have no reason to worry about anything.

“…Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of opposition, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, Your Savior. I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom; I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place.” – Isaiah 43:1-3

“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?… And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?” – Matthew 6:27;30

He’s showing me how to let go. I hold on to things so thightly that sometimes it hinders the blessings God is wanting to bestow upon me. For example, I did not want to let go of my first love. Despite the issues we were having, I did not want to see what God was trying to tell me. So He spoke to me via friends in my community who were worried about me being unequally yoked. They saw the issues clearly; I wanted to ignore the issues for the sake of my selfish desires. I loved him. I wanted that to be enough. But it wasn’t, and God had other plans. He needed me to let go on my own so that Joey and I could breathe… and grow. Here I am, nearly six months later, having grown so much… I have experienced my first mission trip, delved deeper into God’s unconditional love and His word, I’ve made new friends and connections, and I am healing. God wanted me to let go completely so that He could stretch me, teach me, protect me, train me and ultimately so I would learn to lean on Him instead of others.

I am finding my worth in Him. For most of my life, I sought completion and value from other people. I thrived on their opinions of me. If they didn’t like me, I was crushed. I looked for my worth in boys, thinking that the only way to gain their approval or affection was to give them what they craved. I lived on the next “like” on social media, brainwashed into thinking that the number on the notifications screen determined how beautiful I was. God was always there, trying to erase the mean things I’d write about myself in journals, holding me when I cried myself to sleep, replacing all the bullies’ harsh language with His thoughts of me… Now, at 22, I finally hear Him. I see what He thinks of me, I know that I am worth so much more than the world told me. Beautiful. Beloved. Cherished. Valued. Wanted. Delightful. Mended. His. I was bought at a price and Jesus thought of me on that cross. I am worthy of love. He loves me with an everlasting love. To Him, I am priceless. No man will ever complete me, and only One man died for me. I am a daughter of the One True King and that makes me worthwhile. Not because of anything I’ve done but because of everything He has done!

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

– Luke 12:6-7

Right now, the season I am in isn’t glamorous or where I imagined I would be by August of 2016. I thought I’d be a senior in college by now, finishing up my BME at Northwest Missouri State University. I figured I’d be pretty darn close to marrying my first love. I never dreamed that I would be living with my parents and searching for a job that could end in a career. I never imagined that I would be afraid to go back to school. I definitely didn’t plan on being single.

There are a lot of uncertainties in my life presently. And you know what?

That’s okay.

God is preparing me for something far better than the things I planned for myself. He has me right where I am supposed to be, home to heal and serving at my church. He is on the move, closing various doors and setting things in motion for specific doors to open. I won’t try to predict His next move… but I will continue to trust in Him and live for Him while I wait.

Unexpected things have happened, and while some have been painful, I will not be shaken. There is a purpose for my wait, a meaning behind this season. I’m not just sitting around waiting for God to move, oh no. That’s not how it works. We have to be proactive in the wait. So right now, I’m proactively searching for jobs. I’m getting out of the house and joining the living. This weeked I’ll be enjoying a much-needed retreat with fellow ParadigmKC leaders. In a month I’ll be going on a Brave retreat with many other women from Abundant Life. I’m plugging in and serving God and others, as well as digging in to community and study groups. I will be finishing Discipleship 1 soon, and I will start D2 as soon as I can afterwards. I’ll be continuing counseling and begin training at a gym once I have the means to do so.

Life goes on, even during a time of waiting. Regardless of our relationship status, job situation or whether or not we’re going back to school, we have to keep going.

Keep fighting to discover your purpose. Don’t quit and give in to laziness and heartache just because life isn’t going the way you planned for it to. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, good or bad. It’s up to us to decide whether we’ll stay defeated by our circumstances or rise above it.

Have hope in your wait. Something is coming- God has not abandoned you. Don’t let the enemy talk you in to doubting God or yourself. Satan loves to keep us down and defeated! Take refuge in God’s sweet love. Let Him pour His comfort over you. Take the time to tell Him your fears and worries, looking to His Word for reassurance that He’s got this, and He’s got YOU. 

“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place od undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know thay they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” – Romans 5:2-4

“We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)… And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good od those who love God and are calles according to his purpose for them.” – Romans 8:24-25; 28

 ♡

When “I love you” Isn’t Enough

To those whose hearts are hurting,

My sweet friend, you are worthy of love. I see the bittersweet tears cascading down your cheeks and I have cried them, too. I know that ache in your chest all too well and I promise you this isn’t the end of you.

I know what it is like to open your heart and let someone in. You allow the walls surrounding such a tender thing to crumble, entrusting it to this person who is just as scared as you are. You notice his smile, you fall deeper in like with his character and the simple, mundane activities you do together, like washing dishes. You crave time with him, and feel as though there is never enough of it.

Before you know it, you have fallen. Hard.

It doesn’t matter how long it took- whether it was a few months or a year. The fact of the matter is, you can see yourself with this other human being for the rest of your life. You allow yourself to daydream, thinking of what an adventure it would be to endure life’s hardships together. Let’s face it, this life is messy! There would be arguments and misunderstanding, hurt feelings and confusion. There would be stress and frustration, but amidst the not-so good moments… there would be moments of bliss. Moments where you sit in a candlelit room together listening to instrumental music while reading. Moments where you poke fun at one another and laugh until you cry, then laugh some more. Moments where you find yourself staring at them as they light up about something they enjoy, and you can’t help thinking how much you adore them.

You have already thought about the “L” word, and when would be an appropriate time to finally say it aloud. Those darn butterflies flutter around in your stomach at the thought of being so vulnerable. You blush when you think of their reaction to the words…. and you absolutely do not want such a tender phrase to lose all meaning.

So you wait.

You continue getting to know this person, and as they slowly open themselves up to you, you feel the “L” word at the tip of your tongue even more often than before. You start to over think, wondering if they feel the same as you or if you’re the only one falling faster and faster as the hours tick by. You start to feel those doubts and nagging insecurities creep in… You try your hardest to ignore them, but it’s as if they’re screaming, “You’re not good enough! How could they ever love you!?”

So you wait.

And wait…

Finally, something wonderful happens. This person, who seemed so closed off before, has a moment of vulnerability with you. He paces and distances himself from you as he speaks, unsure of how to properly articulate how he’s feeling. You wait patiently, understanding how difficult it is for him to be so open after being so hard and cold towards the possibility of a relationship. As you wait, he fills the air with words that tickle your ears and cause your cheeks to flush. Those words coat you in a dazzling warmth as they make their way to your heart. You hear him telling you, for the first time, how beautiful you are to him. He tells you how much he admires you, how proud he is of you for making it through so much turmoil in your life and still being who you are today. He tells you so many sweet things and it overwhelms you to the point of tears. He tells you he didn’t fall in love with you for your appearance but for your character…. you noticed he mentioned the “L” word and you can’t believe this is happening.

And then he really says it.

“I love you.”

Your heart skips a beat and you smile, feeling so giddy you could fly if you wanted to. He repeats himself and you embrace… surrounded by his warmth and reassurance, you finally feel safe enough to let him in completely. You know that once you say that phrase, you mean it. Once you say that phrase, you’re “all in” and don’t intend on giving up easily.

So, you take a deep breath… and you let him know that you love him, too.

In that moment, things seem to be going so well. You both finally reassured one another of your feelings. You’re both happy and are willing to figure the relationship out, one moment at a time.

He has met your parents, and they care deeply for him, whether he is aware of it or not. He asked them for permission to date you and they were beside themselves- no one had taken the time to do so before. They respect him, and expect him to take care of their daughter. Especially because he has talked of building a future with her, publicly and in private.

The day comes for you to meet his parents and you’re so nervous that you go all-out. You wake up early so you can get ready. You take a shower and primp. You pick out a lovely dress and heels to match. You take the time to put on makeup and do your hair just so. Your heart is beating a mile a minute, but you want to make the best first impression possible. His parents mean so much to him, and you want the evening to go smoothly. You look in the mirror and feel confident, ready to meet the most influential people in your boyfriend’s life.

The evening takes a turn in another direction, and you’re told that he is having doubts about your relationship. Your heart sinks and you begin to panic. You tell yourself to calm down, not wanting to ruin the work you did on your face. You try to reassure yourself that everything will be okay. You love each other, right?

You end up going home, dress and all. You’re shocked and don’t know what to do, and you’re hurting more than you let on. You start thinking about the worst possible scenarios. Your mind is reeling as you sit there in your dress, humiliated, explaining to your parents why you’re home early instead of meeting his parents.

Soon, you find yourself fighting against insecurities of your own. And it hurts that he doesn’t seem to understand, that he isn’t as patient with you as he said he would be. He even gets frustrated with you when you don’t immediately articulate what’s wrong. He distances himself and doesn’t comfort you when that’s exactly what you need.

You feel him pulling away. He told you he loved you, yet he is closing himself off to you. He told you he wanted to marry you, and you were perfectly fine with waiting for his debt to be taken care of. His goals were important to you, too. You wanted to see him succeed. You were excited to continue getting to know him as the months passed on. You were intent on being there to support him and love him through whatever trials and hardships came your way.
In the end…. your love wasn’t enough.

In the end, his goals were more important. You became a distraction. An obstacle. You were no longer a person, and your feelings no longer mattered. Somehow, in a matter of days, he took you from planning a future together to ending the relationship.

And you know what?

You, my friend, are going to be okay.

I know it doesn’t feel that way right now. You’re frustrated and hurting, and rightfully so! You poured yourself into another person only to find out that it wasn’t good enough that they were not ready for a relationship. They were not ready for someone with such a big heart and great capacity to love so much. This is NOT your fault.

You, sweet sister, are not broken. You are not unlovable. You are so full of life and joy that it might be intimidating to the weak of heart. God has a purpose for you, even amidst the pain you’re feeling in this moment. You are His beloved daughter. You are immaculate! You are so beautiful, inside and out. He designed you with His own hand, He looks at you and sees a flawless masterpiece. What you see in the mirror is a distorted view of what He sees. Why? Because we are our own worst critics. And we have the enemy pouring ideas into our minds that we are less than what we are.

When “I love you” isn’t enough for someone else, that is their loss. Not yours.

When your words of encouragement and support aren’t enough for someone else, they have no idea what they are missing out on.

When things like this happen, it is obvious to me that the other person has some growing to do. They have their own demons to fight, and until they sort themselves out on their own, you don’t need to be a part of it. The mental game that was played is toxic for your mind and heart. If you have to constantly be worried that they will pull away when things get tough, that is not healthy for YOU.

It is okay to think of your well-being! It is not selfish to protect your heart from further damage. You are allowed to lick your wounds and take time to heal. Allow yourself to mourn the loss of a potentially wonderful relationship, and thank God that He saved you from something you thought was for you when it obviously is not. Not right now, anyway.

Who knows what the future holds? God may work on the both of you and bring you back together in His timing. He may take you separate ways. Either way, He knows what’s best for you. He is on your side! He is FOR you, not against you.

Girlfriend, you have so much to offer this world. Don’t let one person determine your future. Don’t allow the pain from your past dictate how you will live in the present. The past mistakes and failures are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ- there is absolutely no need to keep looking over your shoulder!

You owe it to yourself to keep moving forward. Take this time to focus on your relationship with God. Spend time with Him daily and lean in to your community. God places people in our lives for a reason! He doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. Those people surrounding you? They each have a valuable role to play. Some will teach you hard lessons. Others will encourage you and lift you up. Be willing to accept the help that God has surrounded you with.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” – 1 Peter 5:10

God will HIMSELF restore you. In this world, we will have pain and we will struggle. He reassures us many times throughout the Bible that He is with us. This verse reminds me that my struggles have a purpose. He allows me to go through them so I can grow, learn and ultimately lean on Him through it all. I have hope in HIM alone because I know He will never leave me broken or defeated. He HIMSELF will bring me back from the pain and I will be stronger for it.

 “… Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of opposition, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, Your Savior. I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom; I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place.”

– Isaiah 43:1-3

He calls us by name. He is with us no matter what the circumstance. We have nothing to fear in this world. Not even heartache.

Ultimately, our worth and contentment should come from God. Not another human being. Why? Because we are all flawed. We all are broken in a way that only God can heal. Each of us make up a mosaic of pieces that have been shattered in one way or another. God is the glue that pieces us together to make something beautiful out of the broken mess that we are. He can see the completed image- we cannot since we are in the midst of the mess. That’s the point. We need to humble ourselves and realize who He is and who we are. We need Him.

When “I love you” isn’t enough….

God’s grace, mercy and sacrifice is. His love for you cannot be measured by time or space. He will never leave you brokenhearted and confused. He will never take advantage of you or lead you along. His love is pure and unhindered by selfish ambition. He just loves you as you are. He loves you right now, flaws and all. He doesn’t love some future version of who you could be. He accepts you in your mess, with that past you’re ashamed of… those insecurities and fears that control you? He can set you free from their grip. All you need to do is ask.

Chin up, darling.

You are cherished. You are beloved. You are desirable. You are wanted. You are talented. You are strong. You are brave. You are beautifully and wonderfully made.

God is not finished with your love story. He hasn’t given up on you. Don’t you dare give up on yourself.

– Love,

Leah ♡

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