Where’s God when you need him? : Learning to find God in the darkest of times.

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i don’t recall this photo. more specifically, i don’t recall sitting there when my husband took this photo. the grand canyon was so breathtaking that its massive beauty swallowed me up, took my thoughts captive, and literally kept me from thinking– it forced me to be present.

being present is something i’m not very good at. i’m exceptionally good at being in the past- just ask my close friends and family, or strength finders 2.0. it’s not that i’m comfortable with my past, it’s that i’m terrified of my present.

mentally, i was always in another world growing up. always imagining a different life, a life that seemed more real to me than my ‘real’ one. i believed i didn’t belong in the world i was in, and now i know why. because i don’t, none of us do.

this year i turned 30, and as is the expectation of all 30 year olds in this worldly culture i took a mental screen shot of my achievements. scanning my bucket list to make sure i’ve accomplished the appropriate amount of “experiences”, so i can wander into the last 1/3 of my life feeling successful and satisfied.

according to culture, i have not succeeded in this.

i am childless, unless you count my fur baby, and from various social media posts i saw on mothers day there are quite a few mothers who ultimately disagree that fur baby mothers deserve recognition on the entirely fake holiday created by hallmark to make money [insert raised eye brow and pursed lips at the silliness]. my job consists of completing odds and ends for my husband’s business, maintaining the household and focusing on writing and speaking <– none of this brings in an income, and according to others, this does not qualify as a “job”. i don’t own a house. i haven’t taken an art class or a cooking class. never been sky diving/bungee jumping. i haven’t run a marathon- unless you count running around my thoughts, because if so, than i’ve ran a million marathons. i haven’t done most of the things listed on the multiple 30before30 lists you can find on the internet.

ugh- just listing all that makes me sad.

we went on a huge road trip for my 30th, making a point to see friends we haven’t seen in a while,  and places we’d never been to. i was excited. i was terrified. i expected the worse. prior to leaving, this trip was full of deserted towns except for the two guys who ate all the travelers who were stranded. and it was full of filthy bathrooms which required a hazmat suite just to enter. my imagination was running rampant before the trip. i packed our rental to the max, taking anything and everything i thought i might need. in the end though, i only needed 1 thing.

to be present to the Lord in my life, in that moment, in every moment.

going backwards, i could list a few places where i felt the Lord wasn’t with me. i’m sure we could all list out a few occasions where we wondered where He was. but then, i think about the times when something should have happened but didn’t. like the time i walked down the beach at close to midnight in a foreign country with a guy i’d just met, or the time yellowstone park had to be shut down because i was “lost” and wandering around the forest looking for my campsite during the highest season for bears to be out- entire campsites were closed due to bear sightings. i did some silly things when i was younger (insert laugh from much older me at the absurdity of me calling my younger than now self “young”)

when everything pointed towards something bad happening, nothing did. but when all arrows pointed to safety, something did go wrong. i can’t help but continue to ask the Lord why?

why, Lord. why did you let that man do that to me? why do you let anyone harm anyone?

sure, i could insert the obvious “free will” answer, but somethings tells me the answer isn’t that simple. so rather than answer it, i will continue to wait until he reveals the answer to me and get on with this blog.

getting to know who God is can be really draining, especially in a world so full of distrust, at least it is for me.  trying to understand the who, what, where, when, why, and how of God is like, for me, trying to solve a math riddle. impossible (seriously, let’s just have a funeral for X)

i knew the devil before i knew God. i knew his scheming ways. the way he covers his lies with partial truths and never fulfills his promises. but at the time, the devil was reliable. he was there. always making himself known to me. going out of his way most of the time to draw attention to himself in the moment. even going so far as to remind me of who wasn’t there.

for as long as i can remember, i ran my life with fear as my guide. and being present wasn’t even an option. i needed to be far away. i needed to disappear from the feeling of my skin and the pull of gravity. every now and then i’d catch myself being present, in a good moment. the smile would stretch upon my face, laughter would escape my vocal chords, my face would loosen, my body relaxed and then the sirens would go off. i’d retreat back into myself where even the devil wasn’t welcome most times, though i’m sure he didn’t mind. he’d stand guard on the other side of my bolted door, and wait for me to come out of hiding, just to remind me it wasn’t safe.

by the time we got to the grand canyon, i’d already faced two days of driving through ghost towns, where to my surprise there were no people who ate people. rather than leading with fear, i led myself with this motto, “the only way back, is forward.” i refused to retreat. refused to run back into myself and lock myself in. i willed myself to move forward, one mile at a time. when the enemy would whisper his lies into my ear, i’d tell him to leave and i’d check in with God.

i would check in with God. i became present to God’s presence.

too often we buy into the idea that God is going to hunt us down when we’re hiding from him. sure, it looks like he “hunted” adam and eve, but upon closer inspection he did no more than he does to us. genesis 3:9 says,

but the Lord called to the man, “where are you?” {emphasis added}

God called after adam. God went to where adam was, but he didn’t force adam out of hiding. what he did was invite adam to make himself known, to God.  i see His question as more than a just a physical one. God was asking adam where he had retreated to in his mind as well, what he was hiding from, what lie was making him fearful.

“i was afraid because i was naked; so i hid.”

so often we read this verse, or rather these verses and we focus on the punishment, we call it the original sin verse, and look at our life as penance for this moment. but dare i say i think God is trying to get us to see it from a different angle. God never abandoned us, we abandoned him. we shoved his gifts back into his face and said it wasn’t enough. we blamed him for our downfall. we believed that God was hiding something from us. and somehow, over time, the enemy has made us believe what God is hiding from is, is God himself.

but, from the very beginning, God wanted us to check in with Him. He wanted us to be present to Him, because He is always there.

isaiah 41:10 “fear not, for i am with you; be not dismayed, for i am your God. i will strengthen you, i will help you, i will uphold you with my righteous hand.”

jeremiah 23:23 “am i a God who is near,” declares the Lord, “and not a far off God.”

acts 17:27 “that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope [reach] for Him and find Him, though. he is not far from each of us.”

for the longest time i believed the lie of the devil. that God didn’t care about me, because if He did, He’d fight harder to keep me safe, to let me know He was, and is there for me. after all, why wouldn’t the creator of me make himself known to me more than the one whose jealous of me.

but that’s just it- even this shows God’s character. the devil has an innate need to be recognized, to be seen for the beautiful and intelligent being that he was and is. i’m not saying i’m a devil worshiper, but God created lucifer to be the most beautiful, the most intelligent, the most talented. this is why our enemy is so cunning. he was the most of anything for a very long time, until we pathetic humans came around. i liken it to the way my niece acted out after her brother was born- there was most certainly times when she acted out, hoping to maintain the amount of attention she got before her brother in those beginning days after his birth.

in my darkest moments, the devil wasn’t only drawing attention to God’s apparent lack of presence, but he was making himself more known, more visible. and just like eve in the garden, we’re all too quick to ignore what we know and pay attention  to what we see. but God doesn’t have an innate need to be seen. God wants to be loved, but whether or not we love him doesn’t destroy Him, it doesn’t anger Him. He wants us to love Him, He wants us to recognize how we need Him. He mourns with us. He mourns for us. He mourns beside us. His presence is calming, soft, and quiet. like 1st cor 13: 4 says (i’ve written on it before)

love is patient, love is kind it does not envy, it does not boast. . . .

this trip has made me realize even more how loved i am by Him. we were unbelievably blessed on this trip. the trip wasn’t without the usual road-trip excitement like empty gas tanks, not having a spare tire, the air conditioning breaking down in 100 degree weather for a bit, and a lost husband at devils tower, etc. but through it all, God didn’t abandon us, and in those scary moments (most of them) i clung to Him.

as i closed my eyes on my 20s and reopened them facing my 30s, i have to say i was never calmer, more excited and more at peace with myself, where i’m at in life and who i am. despite my living in a state i dislike strongly, i’m happy with my life. despite not having gone surfing, or sky diving or what ever those website people declare of must dos before you’re 30, i’m happy.

my 30th birthday was full of peace and beauty as we drove through some beautiful scenery on our way home, something we hadn’t planned on doing until the day prior. we were blessed with a beautiful suite at one of the best hotels in montana and got to stay there for free because our friends know the manager. the only thing wrong with the hotel was that i didn’t get to stay there longer and enjoy more of it’s comforts. our phones were conveniently “out of service” for 3 of the states we drove through that day, which meant i was forced to stay present, unaware of the going ons on my social media, wondering who called me and who didn’t to wish me a happy 30th.

it was, a great day.

so today, as i learn how to reign in fear and find a post to tie it up to, i’m excited to finally allow God to lead me. i have no expectations. kids or no kids. money or no money. fame or no fame. ocean or no. . . well, wait- maybe i’m not at THIS point yet. 😉

the point is, i’m excited to be present in my 30s rather than waiting to achieve some level so i can move on. i don’t want to move on from anything other than fear.

as always, i leave you with this. how often are you checking in with the Lord in the moments you need Him most?

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My prayer for Redemption and Grace in my own life: Part 1

image found on google

image found on google

can i get real with you? i mean raw, unfiltered, and pure vulnerability. i’ve been thinking about redemption and grace lately. in my line of work this isn’t spoken of often. many people are fueled by anger, ‘justified’ anger. the kind of anger that is backed up by experiences of being violated. the type of anger that should force the people who’ve never experienced that level of violation to be quiet and listen. yet, i can’t help but see the hypocrisy in this. you see, we long for grace and redemption but are unwilling to give it back.

i’ve garnered a lot of self-esteem from helping people for as long as i can remember. the idea of standing up to the big kids on the school playground when they made fun of a friend didn’t seem foolish to me, it seemed like the right thing to do. without question, i stood up when standing up needed to happen. i’ve always liked this aspect of myself.

this was one of my coping strategies. i felt no one protected me from being abused as a child and i was desperate to make sure no one else would feel the way i felt. of course, looking back on this as an adult i’ve got a better insight into why i was abused. i wasn’t abused because my parents didn’t protect me. i was abused because someone who was entrusted to care for me violated that trust. my parents didn’t not care about what happened to me, my parents didn’t understand it, neither did i.

my spirit did. that little girl, who hid somewhere deep inside my body while my body was used as a vessel of pleasure for someone else, wasn’t capable of understanding the messages she was receiving were lies. lies that had dug themselves so deep into her that she’s completely forgotten where she begins and the lies end. i operated out of the belief that i was unworthy of love, protection and real relationships. i believed no one would love me if they knew the truth. sex was mind boggling to me.

faith and religion were synonymous with unforgiveness and a hateful God while i was growing up. while others around me worshiped the Lord, i worshiped the lies the enemy told me. i took it upon myself to save myself, and felt the weight of the world on my shoulders.

throughout all this, i had a couple friendships. through all the chaos in my life, these were the stable points of focus. this would not change, i’d tell myself. though i hear adults say we rarely keep our childhood friends, i’d smirk knowing this wouldn’t happen to us.

but things changed. i changed. i struggled to see myself outside of the lies i had been believing. i struggled to be seen. i clung to my past while my future pulled me towards her like gravity pulls me down to earth. in the process, i found myself.

it’s important for people to know that child sexual abuse doesn’t just impact the child for a couple years but has the potential to impact the child for a very long time, in ways you’d never imagine. not only will it impact the child who was abused but every person that child has a relationship will be impacted by the abuse they endured.

i’m the first to admit that growing up was difficult for me. not because i had crappy parents, but because i experienced some crappy stuff. stuff i lacked knowledge about. to add insult to injury i didn’t recall the abuse until i was 12 or 13 years old. right as puberty was reminding me i wasn’t a child any more, my memories reminded me i hadn’t been a child for many years.

i remember being upset with a close friend of mine because she suddenly lost interest in the music we used to like. i thought, how is she so easily given up our jams? most of my friends stopped playing with dolls long before i did. i begrudgingly gave ’em up, but continued watching nickelodeon. (truth me told, if i still had cable i’d probably find myself watching many of the tv shows on there).

a lot of times, my anger was displaced. but then a lot of times my anger wasn’t displaced yet was continued to be treated as if it was. my feelings were brushed off as “another one of those days for our crazy friend”. i finally began standing up for myself in ways i hadn’t done before.

in the past couple of years so many things have changed in my life. i’m only 6 or 7 years into living with Jesus as the center of my life. a concept i don’t think i’ve fully come to comprehend. what does it really mean to live a Christ centered life? how does living this lifestyle impact my relationships with co-workers, friends, new friends, and family?

before i gave my life to Christ i looked at His followers in dismay. i judged them. i thought many of them were missing out on life. i thought many of them blindly followed a man in a black robe who knew little to nothing about real life. at one point i argued with a missionary who came to my college campus and preached on a hill in front of the main building – mostly because i enjoyed a good debate, but also because i hate when people preached fear over love and acceptance.

then i became a christian. i suddenly began to change. my thinking was changing as was my behavior. i saw the ways i treated some of the people closest to me and felt ashamed. i saw the way the abuse as a child impacted me as an adolescent and young adult. i saw the ways i took credit for things i never had the right to take credit for.

[for] they were hungry, so i fed them. they felt satisfied. they grew proud. then they forgot me. hosea 13:6

after reading this verse, i broke down and cried. i asked Jesus to come into my life and change my heart and heal my mind.

i mourned the loss of some of the friendships that were no more. i tried to make right what went wrong, but this was not possible. i hung on to relationships that should have been let go of years prior. why? out of fear that this lost relationship would make me a failure. that somehow what happened to me as a child would win and control my relationships.

but the words of some of the adults in my life echoed in my mind. a song my dad used to sing to me when i was little, you may know it. “Make new friends, but keep the old ones. Some are silver while the others are gold.” or something like that. i hadn’t known which ones to let go of. i didn’t want to lose any of them, who does? but i was terrified of building new friendships, i’d never realized that until the Lord pushed these friendships out of my life.

hindsight is always 20/20. one can always look back and play the “shoulda/woulda/coulda” game, but none of this changes the deeper messages i’m battling with these lost friendships. the reason’s these relationships ended had nothing to do with our innate lack of worthiness of grace or forgiveness/redeeming qualities, but of our cultural inability to have grace or forgiveness for one another.

i think about the pharaoh in exodus and how the Lord hardened his heart and it was only once his son was killed in the plagues that the pharaoh agreed to let “my people go”. this isn’t the first time God harden the hearts of his people. he does it throughout the bible. this has always bothered me. why would he harden the hearts of people? wouldn’t that just cause more sorrow?

i don’t think God harden’s our hearts. i think God allows us to harden our own heart with feelings of false righteousness, and pride. after all, it’s easier to be angry at another person than it is to reflect on our own bad behaviors. like eve and adam, it is too painful to admit we messed up. we instantly feel shame for our behaviors. we feel embarrassed. it goes straight to our idea of worth and value. our identities are attacked. we don’t simply make bad choices, we ARE those bad choices.

i’ve wondered what it would take for reconciliation. what would that look like? would i be ready should it ever happen? am i willing to forgive these individuals for the violations i felt during the friendship? am i ready to take responsibility and repent for the violations they felt in the relationship?

yes. the answer is yes.

not because i long for these relationships to be back in my life. i don’t believe reconciliation always means the relationships come back. these relationships will never be what they were. we simply aren’t the same people. i believe God called these people out of my life for a reason, and me out of their lives for a reason. yet this doesn’t stop the hurt.

recently something popped up on my facebook feed that struck me. my mind and heart were instantly consumed with hurt. i found myself thinking all sorts of terrible things about myself. i thought of all the reasons why i was hurt and i tried to get angry. why? because culture says being angry is more respectful than being hurt and sad.

the sad truth is the last conversations i had with these individuals was horrible. i felt more hurt with the last words spoken to me than i think i felt when the relationships were initially called into question. but i long for reconciliation. i long for the value of a relationship to be placed above the value of pride.

i’m not perfect. i’ve fallen more than once. i’ve made mistakes. i’ve said hurtful things. i’ve acted immaturely. but as i sit here and acknowledge these incredibly personal things, i wonder if they have. and then i conclude, they haven’t.

not because they are horrible people, because they’re more certainly not. but because when we feel hurt we harden our hearts. we justify treating others horrible our of some false belief that they deserve it. we ignore people. we disrespect people. we name call. i we build walls. lock closet doors. we walk away. because sometimes blaming others is easier and less painful than seeing our own responsibility.

yet, today i learned a value lesson. as i processed the hurt i was feeling and recognized the awful pattern this experience has developed in my life, my mentor reminded me that my value and worth are not locked up in whether or not another individual was capable of seeing it. i’m not incapable of being a great friend simply because i struggled with one. i am not unworthy of grace and redemption simply because another can’t grant that to me.

i strive to be a better person. a person who fully encompasses the characteristics of Christ. i will fail at this. i will not always talk out of compassion, though i will strive to always. i will not always love unselfishly, but i was always strive to. i will not always not boast, but i will strive to listen more than talk. i will not always be free from envy, but i will constantly strive to accept what i have and be grateful. i will not always love others the way they wish to or need to be loved, but i will always strive to love others according to their love languages.

what i’ve discovered today is something i hope will stick with me. i have high hopes in the women and men that the Lord has brought into my life today. that these relationships would encourage me to be a better person. that the people around me would seek to see me for who i am, not who they want or need me to be so they can feel good about themselves or their lives. that the people who seek to challenge me and speak up about when my actions are not aligned with one of the characteristics of God.

i’m hopeful for honest relationships that don’t have to physically last a lifetime, but will change me for a lifetime. i ask for grace. i ask for patience and i pray that i would be able to continue to have revealed to me what needs to be revealed.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…” ephesians 2:4-9 esv

*to be continued . . .

To You: An Open Letter To The Man Who Raped Me.

you will likely never read this. in fact, you probably don’t even remember who i am, apart from my various body parts. to you, i had no name. to you, my purpose was a place to pour all your rage and frustration with life into.

the after school specials taught my friends you only existed in the shadows, but i knew better. you were in charge of my livelihood, and apparently i was in charge of yours.

you were in my life briefly, the exact minutes/hours/days/years, i’ve since forgotten. a blessing from the Lord, really. my memory of you is limited. but what i do remember infuriates me to my core.

while you may have physically been in my life a short period, you’ve remained mentally, emotionally and spiritually with me for as long as i can remember.

sometimes it’s you i feel when my husband touches my shoulders. i cringe under the phantom callused fingertips. hands that feel too large on my skin. sometimes i start to suffocate under your phantom body. my chest tightens, my heart pounding on my lungs to breathe. but i can’t move.

for most, the late 80s/early 90s motif is an awful reminder of terrible decorating habits, but to me it’s a full on attack on my body and mind. shaggy carpets rubbing against my skin, the colors brown, green and purple scatter in my memories.

i’ve become friends with my shower loofah, for only she knows the depth i’ve gone to rid my body of your touch, your sweat and saliva. yet it doesn’t matter, she reminds me. i’ll be back under the scolding hot water the next time your phantom touch crosses my path.

some in my life say i’m dwelling. to them, i congratulate them on having no invisible friends to remind them of the violation they’ve experienced. because of what you did to me i’ve been labeled a drama queen, dramatic, over sensitive, and even mentally ill. i’ve struggled against these labels for as long as i can remember, yet they remain. almost as if they’ve been branded into my skin. they’ve become my counterfeit identity.

because of what you did, i suffered in silence, my screams only represented in the slashes on my skin when panic would arise late a night and there was nothing to comfort the invisible pain my body felt. confusion rose as my age did. the reality that i lived in a world that delighted in what you did to me sent me spiraling downwards. i nearly drowned in my tears when i realized my dreams of being a mother were only attainable through being a willing participant of the things you did to me.

so i shut my dreams down. a mother, i’d never be. a wife, i’d never be. i became a builder. a builder of walls. my wall was built with bricks of resentment, hatred, jealousy, frustration, and fear. like a solider, i stood watch. guarding my heart and my body. i became weak fighting battles i was never meant to fight. i was wounded and naked barely able to stand, and utterly alone.

a knight came. held out his hand and promised safety and did his best to pull me from my post. on my knees, i pleaded with him to leave. it wasn’t safe here, in my heart. it was a dangerous place to be. because of you. but he wouldn’t leave.

my savior came. in his arms he carried a pile of armor. he laid it at my feet. “put on your whole armor, my child and you will not find need for this wall.”

the armor was heavy. too heavy for my weakened body. i cried out. my knight sat by, head bowed into his hands. my savior came and whispered,

“my child, your burdens are too heavy. you carry the weight of another. you fight to fulfill the authority of flesh, an impossible conquest. for fear motivates the world. this battlefield you linger in is merely a representation of the devastation this world sees. the smell of death as it’s perfume. but come to me and you shall see the truth. a kingdom of righteousness awaits you.”

slowly, my bruised and bloody fingers reached towards the pieces of the armor. the first piece. a belt. I wrapped it around my waist and fiddled with the large piece that hung off the side.

“this holds your weapon. truth. a reminder of who i am.”

i reached for the next piece. a breastplate. i looked to my savoir, my arms shaking as I placed it upon my breasts and abdomen.

“this is to remind you of who you are. righteous. this protects your heart.” he placed his soft hands on my abdomen. a shiver went through my body.

sandals laid out before me. i grabbed the soft, worn leather bound souls and wrapped my blistered and dirty feet in them. as i tied them, my savoir placed his hands on my hands, pausing me momentarily. he moved my fingers and began twisting the brown straps around my ankles.

he whispered, “to ready you for your journey, peacefully. as you walk, you’ll be comforted by the peace of me.”

i reached for the next piece. a helmet. i slid it onto my head, it’s warmth circulated around me.

he placed his hands on the sides of my head, “salvation is yours. this protects your mind from the lies of my enemy. you are saved through me.” he laid out his hands, palms up. beckoning me to take them. my knight, still bowed with his head on his hands. i laid my shaking hands on his palms and he pulled me up.

he lifted a large shield, the tip narrow at the bottom and widened further than my shoulders. the shield stood to my chest. he flipped it. a large strap clung to either side. i slide my hand and forearm into the strap and lifted the shield. his hands on either side of it.

“have faith my child. faith in what i tell you. believe my message. and you will be safe. and lastly.” he laid out a small dagger like sword, and put it inside the pocket that hung on my belt. “use my words to defeat my enemies. for when my name is uttered, they must leave.”

i stood, fully clothed, in front of the wall i’d built. my knight rose and stood beside me. i turned towards my wall. grabbed my dagger and slammed it into the wall. dust rose. screams from the enemy echoed in the abandoned field. when the wall fell, you stood behind it.

you were always the strength behind my wall. holding it up whenever i’d try to tear it down. forcing me to believe i needed it to stay safe. you crammed your way in between my knight and me. but not anymore.

today, i’m a warrior. today, i take back my dreams.

what you did to me, didn’t destroy me. it destroyed you. i see you clearly now. your brokenness. i’m not going to thank you, because you did nothing to earn my gratitude. but i am going to do something i believe you’ve never had done to you.

forgive you.

i forgive you for tainting my life with your darkness. i forgive you for accepting the devils will over your life rather than the Lord’s. i forgive you for attempting to condemn my life. i will continue to forgive you each time your phantom smell or touch invades my life.

i forgive you for raping me. i forgive you for making me think that rape and sex are the same things. but what you did to me wasn’t have sex. you delighted in my pain. you delighted in the control you had over my frail body.

the enemy tried to kill me through you. he failed.

my forgiveness can only go as far as you let it. i pray you can forgive yourself. i pray you can take responsibility for what you did to me.

i will no longer bear the weight of your sin. i am not responsible for your behaviors. my worth is no longer entangled with what you did to me.

i know who i am. i know who you are. and i will never forget what you did, and neither will you. my memory is stained with images of you. but that is where you shall remain. a memory which will propel me further. to the darkest of the darkest places. on my knees i will fall to pull others out from the enemies grasps.

but know, this isn’t because of you. i survived because of God. you have nothing to do with where i am, or who i am today. you can have my past. but God.

God gets my present and future.

image found on google

image found on google

Fear: Still learning to conquer it.

image found on google

image found on google

i was thinking the other day, as i often spend my time doing, about all of my dreams. there are two types of dreams i’ve found; the type i want to come true and the type i just like to dream about.

i’ve dreamed about going to ireland since i was a little girl. i vividly remember my dad calling me from ireland when i was little and telling me it was very green and everything had clovers on it. i’ve since discovered that while the land is very lush and green, the emerald isle is not in fact, completely green and covered in clovers. yet, this hasn’t curbed my love of ireland.

i credit my love affair with ireland to God. after all, why else would a little girl who hadn’t taken geography or world history find herself utterly in love with a country not of her own, which she’s never visited?

i vowed i’d get married in ireland when that special man came into my life. nearly 20 years later that vow would be kept as the Lord ushered in my best friend and husband, and held his part of the deal by allowing us to have a remarkable and unforgettable wedding.

i’m convinced ireland is the garden of eden. truly, it’s beauty and her peace dug herself deep into my spirit and now i long to be there almost daily. we’ve talked many times of going back for a visit. i read ireland travel books and highlight new areas i’m interested in seeing. we’d sit down and carve out a tentative date to go back, and i’d get excited.

then, that little voice tells me of the woes i’d face on the airplane ride. i’d listen to the whispers and convince myself i didn’t need to go back to ireland. in fact, i even told my husband if i died i wouldn’t regret not going back there. i tried to believe this. i tried really hard to make this true in my heart. but the truth is, i’d be heartbroken if i never saw this beautiful land again.

what’s up with fear? why is it so powerful?

my experiences as a child led me to live a fearful life. i’ve constantly questioned peoples’ motives, especially men. as a woman entering the faith i’ve faced other hardships, such as thinking my only purpose as a female was to have babies and be a wife. i have no babies, does that mean God is disappointed in me? from a cultural perspective i’ve been taught that women are untrustworthy. i operated under that false belief for most of my life, questioning the girls closest to me.

when i debated whether or not i should leave a paying job for a non paying job i was terrified. i sought out lots of advise and got mixed reviews. while some encouraged me to pursue my dreams others told me i was an idiot and i would ruin my career options, not to mention put undo stress on my husband.

but i’m a dreamer. my favorite past time is dreaming. this means i think a lot. this also means this is where the enemy attacks me most. in my thoughts. it makes sense to me that i’d be attacked with thoughts of worthlessness and walk down the road to ending my life. the enemy knows where i have the potential to be the strongest, and that is inside my thinking. my dreaming.

say what you want about the devil, but never say he’s without intelligence. even with that in mind though, he doesn’t need to use his intelligence because we easily give up our power.

i’ve written about this before. God gave us power and authority over satan before we fell from the garden of eden. God destroyed satan in that moment, yet we sit here and continue to believe otherwise.

why?

because bad things still happen. because there is still famine, hatred, war, rape, suicide, murder, disease, and poverty.

the other day i read a post from a friend of mine on social media. this person has cancer. with one doctors appointment this person’s life, and everyones’ in their life, was radically changed. faced with possible certain death, the questions of God’s goodness abound.

yet as i read this person’s writings during this time in their life i see them not cursing God but imploring others to see His goodness inside the badness. it brought tears to my eyes.

this got me thinking on a deeper level about my fear. i asked myself, “if i was given x amount of days/months/years to live, what would i change about my life? about my thinking? where would i go?”

the answer blew me away. immediately, ireland came to the front of my mind. my spirit leaped for joy, and then i wept. i then asked myself,

why do i need to be faced with certain death in order to do something i love so much?

i think about the food i eat, the lack of exercise i grant my body, and the negative thinking i pollute my mind with and i ask myself why it would take being diagnosed with a disease by a doctor before i realized i already am dying by one.

fear.

i’m terrified. of what you ask? you’d be better off asking me what i’m not afraid of. for one thing though, i’m terrified of plane rides. this is a new fear. when i was diagnosed with a stomach condition fear sort of took control. i’m constantly worried about finding a bathroom, and a clean bathroom at that. at times i’ve avoided food like it was the plague, because who the heck knows how my stomach will respond to it. needless the say getting on a plane with potentially only 3 bathrooms among 100 people is terrifying. what happens if the bathroom is occupied and i need to use it? what happens if i’m in there and i can’t leave when someone else needs to use it?

even going to my friends’ and family’s houses are anxiety triggering for me. my anxiety will become so great some times that i go into a full blown panic attack. there have been points where my husband has had to lay on top of me to calm my body from shaking. if you’ve never had a panic attack, imagine having an earthquake happening, inside your body. it honestly feels like you’re dying.

actually, as i’m writing this perhaps it’s not plane rides as much as the judgement i receive by others, that terrifies me most. oh yes, and the occasional thought of pooping my pants isn’t too calming either. 😉

about 2 years ago i considered going back on anti-anxiety medications, since prior to being diagnosed with the stomach condition i had been on medications for depression and anxiety (linked to the PTSD i’ve since been diagnosed with). i’d always struggled with anxiety, but now the panic attacks were so great i wouldn’t leave my house. even just to go down the block to get dinner.

and it wasn’t just food triggering me anymore. as more memories of the abuse i experienced as child came to the forefront of my mind, smells and even people triggered me. i’d start to disassociate and lose grasp with reality, feeling like i was a child again. there have been moments when i’ve wanted to crawl into the corner and cry. i felt like a failure, but the thought of never leaving my house again was down right depressing.

that’s when i considered a service dog. but even with the hope of healing, fear kicked in.

people were going to judge me. friends and family would judge me. people who knew nothing about my past, nothing about my diagnosis or the hardships i face were going to say rude and ignorant things. there are times i’m getting ready to leave with him and i think to myself, “do i really need you today?” but really what i was asking myself is, “can i really face the judgements today?”

i compare myself to others’ who have SDs. i ask myself if my diagnosis really warrants this. all of this is ironic since one of the reasons i have him is because my panic attacks and anxiety. i’ve learned a lot in this process with him. i’ve learned i have a lot more strength then i gave myself credit for. i’ve also learned that while it’s great to have him, there are times when i wish i didn’t have to bring a dog to certain places. i wish i could be “normal”.

ugh- the dreaded word that is meaningless in a world of abnormalities.

i guess what i mean, is there are times when i wish i didn’t have a debilitating disease. i wish i could just walk around, get on planes and do normal things like “everyone” who judges me can- without the dog.

but the truth is, i can’t at this point in my life. the truth is, i am battling a disease. and while this disease isn’t as recognizable by the rest of the world, it is one that kills more lives than cancer, AIDs or famine. because what could possibly be worse than breathing, yet not living?

fear tries to kill my dreams. fear tries to kill my strength. fear tries to kill my spirit.

but i’ve been given just one life to live, and i don’t want to take it for granted. because unlike the thousands of individuals facing certain death, i’m only fooling myself into believing i’m knocking on deaths door.

both my husband and my SD are blessings from God. and while it’s a challenge to go certain places because i know the looks and the comments that will be made, i have to learn to shrug ’em off. because  while everyone is busy judging me, i’ll finally be doing what i was put on this earth to do, the one thing the enemy doesn’t want me to do.

live.

Sherlock!

Sherlock!

The reviews are in: My thoughts on the movie Fifty Shades of Grey.

image found on google

image found on google

i’ve been excited to sit down and write about fifty shades of grey since seeing the movie. my mind was spinning with thoughts about the movie, both good and bad. my friend and i sat down afterwards and just processed how we thought it went. we ended up chatting with another woman about the movie for about 30 minutes.

one things for sure, this book and movie has opened up our willingness to communicate about sex, domestic violence and rape culture more than i’ve ever seen. i find it interesting. it seems like the only time people are willing to talk about rape culture is when a movie about consensual sex that doesn’t fit the mold of a “healthy” relationship is about to debut.

i think of all the blogs, and articles that have focused so much on this movie and book and yet paid so little attention to the actual sexual violations going on around the world. just food for thought.

i think the movie was a lot more tame than i had expected. i enjoyed the movie. i thought it really put a lot of focus on the basis of their relationship and the struggles they would experience as their relationship moved forward. of course, they left out some major parts of the book, but that’s to be expected any time a movie is based on a book.

i want to talk about the end of the movie though. the very last scene. if you’ve not yet seen this movie and plan to, i’d bookmark this page and check it out once you’ve seen the movie. i’ll wait.

alrighty, now that it’s just us. let’s chat.

the first book ends with anastasia breaking things off with christian after he shows her “how bad it could be” in the “punishment” department of his bdsm desires. in the movie, i think jamie dornan does an excellent job displaying the struggle he has with feeling sexual release from whipping her, but also the sadness that comes with that. this is a new feeling for him. he’s used to submissives. he’s used to people who’ve enjoyed this type of behavior in the past. and furthermore, he’s used to having zero feelings towards someone.

it’s important to note that the above isn’t an accurate description of qualities dominates tend to have. you have to remember that the majority of relationships that include some sort of bdsm behavior in them are based in love and mutual joy and consent to these behaviors. dornans’ character is interested in bdsm for protection because of his brutal past.

during the scene where he is punishing her with the belt, we see her struggle. she has tears coming down her face. it’s important to note here that she DOES have a safe word, and she chooses not to use it.

here’s my conflict with this: while she could choose to use the safe word and he’d stop immediately, there’s no reason to believe (so far in the relationship) that he wouldn’t be upset with her because she wasn’t trying hard enough to be a good submissive. if you remember, he’s already asked her to push aside her feelings for the benefit of him. we’re left to assume that she didn’t simply forget the safe word, but that she was trying to do what he asked her to do.

** in a healthy bdsm relationship, this wouldn’t be the case. any party can say a safe word at any point and should not feel shamed for that. **

once he’s done he leans down to hug her and she pushed him off. she’s visibly upset and disgusted by the idea he wants to see her like this. hurt. he struggles even more at this point. he loves this woman. he actually doesn’t want to see her hurt but he has no idea how to make the relationship safe for him.

for the first time, she uses the spare room he’s provided for her in his home. she asks him to leave her alone. in the morning, she returns the gifts he’s given her.

this is the part of the movie that i love most! and no, not because it’s over, but because they made this scene so incredibly important. as ana walks to the elevator, christian get’s up to go to her, to beg her not to leave. she turns and say’s his name. he keeps walking. she yells, “NO!” he stops.

the movie ends with the elevator door closing and we’re left sitting in the dark waiting for the credits to roll.

i like this scene a lot. i’ve struggled to come up with the words to describe why i like this scene so much. i just think it sums so much up about the book. i think it forces us to see the main character as a strong woman who, despite what many have said, does know what she wants. it also forces us to realize that christian isn’t the abusive man he’s called, but truly a man struggling to make sense of his life and current feelings.

i enjoy the above comic that i’ve posted in this post. i think it also goes well with this post, since that is in fact how the movie ended.

so there you have it. my quick review on the movie. i’m excited for the next ones to come out.

did you see the movie? what were your thoughts?

Let’s talk about Sex: How Not to read/see Fifty Shades of Grey as a Sex Manual

image found on google

image found on google

the day has arrived. fifty shades of grey is out for all the world to see, review, drool over and . . . yum. . . yea.

i almost wish i would have written this post for earlier this week, before people went to see it. i mentioned in a previous post that fifty shades of grey isn’t a how-to manual for relationships, bdsm or sex, but i can’t help but wonder if people really understand that.

the author has stated she isn’t “apart of the bdsm community” and while she said she wouldn’t release details about which parts of the book are true to her own life, we’re left to assume she has little to no knowledge of this type of relationship.

of the things i enjoyed about this book, the one thing i did enjoy was this comment by christian after a “scene”. anastasia was really upset and confused about what had happened. she didn’t want to open up about it, but he came back and told her that she needed to be honest with him if their relationship were to work.

he says, “do you feel this way or do you think you ought to feel this?” [emphasis added]

why do i like this question? i like it because it draws out a huge message of shame many people feel when it comes to their sexuality.

have you seen ‘forgetting sarah marshall”? there is a christian couple who is honeymooning in hawaii where this movie takes place. we watch just snippets of the couples discussions surrounding the sexual activity they will participate in. while one person desperately wants to do certain things the other continues to say, “it’s ungodly!”

i find this comical and sad. the truth is, no matter where we are with our faith, we have likely experienced some form of shame around our sexuality. this shame drives people to keep themselves hidden and never truly explore the way God intended sex to be.

sex is supposed to be an experience that is different from all other pleasures. it bonds two people together for life. it can create life! there are tons of how-to guides on sex. as i’ve mentioned before there are tons of books directed towards women on how to enjoy sex, even when you don’t want to. what? how is this a real thing? more importantly, why do we, as a culture, still buy into this idea that sex was created for men to enjoy and women to suffer through?

fifty shades has a bad rap for focusing on christian grey’s pleasure in “beating” anastasia. but the “deeper” message of this book, what i think drives women to want to read this book, is all the sex scenes in this book begin and end with a mind-blowing orgasm for anastasia. (okay, there are like 1 or 2 scenes that don’t end that way.) isn’t this something i hear women complain about a lot? that their spouse or partner doesn’t know how to “please” them?

this book makes sex seem like a great thing for women. i only wish it didn’t have to be full of “abusive” tendencies. i absolutely think this book has the potential to cause more women to open up to their spouse about what they’d like. i’d encourage everyone to think long and hard about the ramifications of engaging in bdsm, and rather get down to the basics. what does sex feel like for you? what do you want sex to feel like for you? are you willing to completely submit yourself, not only to your spouse, but to your body?

right after christian says the above qoute he says something that angers me, “if you do really feel this way, then do you think you could just try to embrace these feelings, deal with them, for me? that’s what a submissive would do.”

um. . . no. i’m not a submissive, and even i know that in a “healthy” bdsm relationship the submissive doesn’t just submit to pain and shaming that they aren’t okay with for the  benefit of their dominate. this is false. this message, i believe correlates to the broader idea that a lot of christian women hear about sex. the idea that a wife should have sex, for their husbands, not for themselves.

let’s be clear. God created sex for his children. i am his child. my husband is his child. so, basically philosophy skills tell me that sex was created for me just as much as for my husband.

so what does the bible say about sex?

Leviticus 18

  • you should not go near a person of your own family
  • do not take the clothes off a woman and her daughter
  • do not go near a woman to take off her clothes during the time when she has a flow of blood.
  • do not have sex with your neighbors wife
  • do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman.
  • do not have sex with any animal

well, the old testament certainly has a lot of “do not do” directions. we see in the new testament some of the same stuff being said about homosexuality, but more of what we see in the new testament is “how-to love” someone. i’m left to wonder if this passage is how God designed sex to be,

love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. it does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it keeps no records of wrongs. love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” nit 1  cor 13.

and because i love definitions so much, let’s look at the definition of dishonor

the state of one who has lost honor or prestige or to feel shamed.

whoa, do you see a familiar word up there? to feel shamed. God is telling us that we are NOT to feel shamed when love is present.

then why do i feel so much shame about sex? then why do so many churches and pastors, and christians, and religious people shame others into hiding their sexuality?

songs of songs is beautiful book of the bible. did you know the catholic church didn’t want this book in the bible? they believed it was too sexually loose and not from God. i like this book. it’s beautiful and poetic. it talks of the love that two people hold for one another. it talks of the way they love each other, shamelessly.

this is where i want to see us, as a church, move. i want to see us revel in the beauty that God created. i want to see us teach morals, i want to see us talk about the importance of sex, the positives of sex, what consenting really means and looks like. i want us to stop teaching that sex is for the pleasures of man, therefore, “boys will be boys.” and begin teaching that sex is for all God’s children (obviously, of legal age).

i want to teach our boys that sex isn’t just for them, that sex is not selfish. i want to teach our girls that sex can be enjoyable. i want to teach our girls that we have a choice of whether or not to engage in sexual activities no matter our marital status.

i want victims of sexual assault to no longer feel shamed into silence. i want wives to no longer feel obligated to have sex, but to look forward to having sex. i want husbands to acknowledge they don’t own their wives. i want us, as a culture, to stop looking to books, or diagrams for how to have a better sex life, and start talking to each other.

we don’t need to hide behind books like fifty shades of grey or the karma sutra book to say, “i think i’d like that.”

look your lover in their eyes, break down the shame wall you’ve built up around you and talk.

To see or Not to See… Fifty Shades of Grey.

image found on yahoo

image found on yahoo

when i first read fifty shades of grey, the movie was already in the process of being made. i thought, why wouldn’t i go see a movie based on a book i read? i mean, that’s what people do, right? you read ‘lord of the rings’ you go see the movie. you read ‘something borrowed’ you go see the movie, etc. at first, my only reservations were whether or not i’d be going to see an x-rated film with my friend and a bunch of other people, who i considered “too young” to see it.

memories of twlight swirled in my head. the constant giggling, “ohhing” and “oooing” at almost every scene making me want to scream, “ugh- just shut up already!”

i said, “this is a mature movie! it needs a mature audience.” and then i tried moving on with my life while i waited patiently for the movie to arrive.

in the last couple of weeks, i’ve read almost everything i could get my hands on about fifty shades. no, i’m not obsessed. i’m intrigued. i’m interested in all the views on this topic. nothing sets up a heated debate like sex or politics. it’s truly fascinating to see how heated people become.

as the opening night of the movie draws near, i’ve been feeling a mess of emotions. i’m both excited and worried to see how the screenwriters wrote the characters. when there was talk of making this movie in two versions, nc-17 for mature audiences and rated-r for general the publics viewing, i became even more worried. one thing’s for certain, i am not into seeing an nc-17 movie.

in fact, i would actually prefer the movie removed as much of the sexual content as possible. i mean, the lifetime channel seems to do a good enough job insinuating sex without having to show the actual activities. i think my imagination is better than any actors portrayal. but, that’s just me.

i know. i know. the book is erotica. lots of people are only going to see it because it’s the “porn that’s okay to admit you watch.” but, i like the series not for the erotic nature of it, but for the depth of the character, christian grey. sure, the author wasn’t the best writer. sure, christian grey isn’t as nearly dark and deep as heathcliff, from charlotte brontes’ novel wuthering heights. but his story is interesting none the less, and pulls at the heart strings.

i wonder what seeing this movie says about me, as a christian woman. will my friends and family judge me? will the christian community say, she’s not christian enough? or perhaps, she is just struggling with sin still?

this got me thinking about temptation.

when we talk about defeating temptation we often talk about removing the temptation all together. for instance, whenever people go on diets you hear them say, “yep! i decided today is the day, so i removed ALL the “bad” food from the house. it’s just easier that way.”

there’s nothing wrong with doing it this way. some people may even loose the amount of weight they wanted to by doing this. but, does this ever truly get to the root cause of this individuals need to eat these types of foods? does removing the temptation ever give you the strength to over come it?

when my husband first asked me out on a date, i was ecstatic. i couldn’t wait to get all dolled up. i wanted him to be blown away by my beauty, as most ladies do. i wore my favorite shirt and jeans that flaunted only the best parts of me. i jazzed up my eyes with some pretty shades of purples and pinks. threw on some pink blush and lipstick and felt pretty. my husband dressed in his sunday best.

i thought everything went great, but the following day i had a disturbing conversation with him. he told me he thought i looked beautiful the other day but, he thought it would be ‘better’ if i didn’t wear clothes like that or put on as much make up. he said when i dressed the way i did it made it hard for him to not think of me sexually.

. . . {insert folding of the arms movement} . . .

i considered myself pretty modest compared to the way other girls dressed. this came to me as a shock. but more importantly, i was offended by him asking me to not tempt him. i was offended by him asking me to modify myself to make him more comfortable. he was asking me to remove his temptation so he could see me the way God intended him too.

now, before we all get mad at my husband, my husband was simply believing a lie that many people believe. a lie that perpetuates rape culture in so many ways. the belief that what i wear is directly correlated to the behaviors of other people. now, we both look back on that moment and laugh. he actually enjoys it when i get all dolled up or put on make-up. he likes me to be me. he loves me for me. make up or no make-up, in a dress, or sweatpants.

but what does this have to do with fifty shades of grey? since this book is erotica, the question remains on whether or not this movie will be soft core porn. there are some people who believe this movie will perpetuate rape, sexual violence, and indoctrinate our women and children to engage in abusive relationships and godless sex.

as i mentioned in my post the other day, i believe this movie has the potential to make all of the above happen. but if we’ve ever taken an economics class then we all know that demand drives up supply, not the other way around. porn isn’t the problem. porn is the symptom. we need to treat the infection. but how? oh, what i wouldn’t give to be in the garden of eden where temptation never existed.

wait. . . temptation DID exist?

adam and eve lived inside the garden with temptation. the forbidden fruit was inside THEIR home. even God Himself didn’t remove “bad food” from the His home. adam and eve likely saw this fruit on a daily basis. they were tempted constantly. they gave into temptation only when presented with a lie. a lie that said God was holding out on them.

we were never without temptation.

but isn’t that the whole point? to be tempted, but choose God?

as i continue to contemplate what i means if i go see this movie, i’m reminded that temptation only has the power i give it. if i don’t see this movie, which movies are okay for me to see? you may say disney, but have you seen the dresses these female characters are wearing? not to mention the story lines always implying women are incapable of doing anything other than look pretty and wait for prince charming to come and rescue her? sure, there’s no violent sexual activities shown, but disney movies don’t exactly scream womens’ equality, either.

many abc family shows are out. the sexual content in our tv shows directed towards youth is far worse than anything i remember watching as a teen.

my point is, we see sex and sexuality on a daily basis. i read and see news stories of sexual assaults and murders weekly. magazines are infiltrated with images of women as objects and play things for men. believe me, i see the value in avoiding pornography. i see the value and importance in making sure our kids have the right idea of what sex is, and who created sex.

i see this as a moral dilemma. i see this as an opportunity to check in with God. i see this as an opportunity to bring a voice that has long been gone in this fight for sexual justice. our culture needs to loosen up on our restrictions when it comes to expressing our sexuality, or we will continue to fight the symptom of sexual sin.

pornography won’t leave until we stop giving it the power we’ve given it.

porn doesn’t cause rape, but it certainly impacts it. it certainly destroys the way God intended sex to be. it certainly changes our brain chemistry. it certainly causes depression and eating disorders in women. it certainly gives a false representation to what sex is. it certainly makes individuals desensitized to seeing violence against women. rather than fighting about the negatives of porn, let’s talk about the positives of sex. let’s make people want to have consensual sex more than watch non-consensual sex on the computer screen.

let’s not blame fifty shades of grey for perpetuating rape culture or increasing mens’ desire to act violently towards women. let’s not assume all women enjoy being slapped and controlled like the character in this book does. let’s take this as it is. a movie. a form of entertainment. a symptom of a larger issue in our spiritual lives.

my desire is to stop arguing over whether or not seeing a movie is giving into temptation and rather begin a discussion on how to cure the root cause of sexual sin.

are you with me?