Friday, December 27, 2013

2014

It was a night I will never forget.

I was a student at Lee University in Tennessee, a second semester freshman.  I had spent my first semester at Zion Bible college in Rhode Island but then transferred to Lee to be closer to my boyfriend at the time who was in graduate school right near the university.  It was nearing the end of the semester and I was feeling very unsettled about my future- whether or not I was going to stay at Lee University and whether or not I was going to stay with my boyfriend.  I ended up having a vision from God that night which would leave me with a choice that would forever change the course of my life.

I was laying awake in my bed late that night when the room around me just kind of disappeared and I could see nothing left of the life I was currently living.  Instead, I could see two very clear paths in front of me.  On the left, was a beautiful almost picturesque home- your classic, two story house with the picket white fence.  Perfectly manicured lawn, a bright sunny day, and all the feelings of comfort and security that life could offer.  It was safe.  It was steady.  And I knew it could be my future.

The I looked to the right...and it was black.  I could not make out a single image.  All I could make out was a feeling- not entirely bad, but there was definitely the feeling that this future would cost me a great deal- possibly even my life.  I knew it held no security, no comfort, and no outward safety.  Yet at the same time I knew it held all the security that comes from a life lived in the perfect hands of God.

When I "woke" from this vision I knew I was being offered a clear choice from God about my life.  And it resinated in my very soul- because it was the choice I had been choosing every day since the day I gave my heart to Christ only now, it was time to actually make my life's actual path follow my heart's desire.  I immediately called Nathan, one of my closest friends, and just told him what had happened.  We talked well into the night and he just listened to me, realizing the sanctity of the moment and the weight and impact it would forever have on my life.

I made my choice.  I gave up security and comfort for something of far greater worth.  I have stepped every single day from that moment on never knowing where my foot would land.  It lead me back to Zion; it lead me to Jeff; it lead to ministering in the streets of Albany; it lead me to birth six beautiful children and lose two; it lead me to an illness so physically painful that I just cannot fully describe it to you...and that is just what I have chosen to share with you.  There is a story within a story within a story about me that I have not shared with you- but that which I have lived.  That is why I write the way that I write.  Some people work very hard to become their profession- writers, preachers, teachers, speakers...and they eventually will become very good performers.  But me?  I write from the depths of my scars.  I write from what I have lived.  From the darkness of things you will never know I have come through.  And every single word I pen is real; I never perform.  I carry many scars- some on my body, some on my heart.

But one thing I do not carry a single piece of, is regret.

If I chose any other path I would have lived with regret every single day of my life.  The road may have been dark, and it may have been painful, and it may have cost me every single piece of myself, and I'll tell you what- it has lasted until the very bitter end of this year.  I faced death.  I lost every single ounce self I once possessed...

but that is the point.  That is the awesome, incredible, amazing, blessed, BEAUTIFUL point.

Less of me.  More of Him.

I joined the ranks of those who count it all joy when we are met with trials, because "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Romans 8:18

And let me say this: resist the temptation to let your pain overtake you!  Do not let it define you or change you.  Use it- use it as a tool to shave away all the characteristics and all the traits about you that are not pleasing to the Lord.  Do not become bitter.  Do not become hard.  Fight- fight for your life, because that is exactly what you are doing.  I will not give myself over to the way this world has tried to rob me.  I refuse to feed the seeds of bitterness attempted to be planted by so many throughout my life.

There is no earthly reason for me to still be standing here today.  Many times over it was the enemy's plan to take me out and to see to it that I would not have the strength- be it emotionally or physically- to be here today to proclaim the goodness of my Lord.
And yet here I am.
Talking about the goodness of my God.

All because I made a choice long ago.  Because I chose a road less travelled.

And it made all the difference.


Happy New Year.

"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still." Exodus 14:14

Friday, December 20, 2013

True Grit

"Courage is being scared to death...and saddling up anyway." -John Wayne

I am a courageous person.  Or at least I strive to be.  Now don't go mistaking being courageous for being fearless- watch a spider walk into the room and you will very quickly see just how NOT fearless I am.  But courage is another thing.  Courage is the ability to do right even in the face of one's fears.  And that is something I place great value in.

All my life bravery has been a trademark I have looked for in others.  Whether in myself, or in movie characters I sought to identify with, or heroes I wanted to follow.  In Jr. High and High school I played a lot of sports- my two favorites were volleyball and lacrosse.  Volleyball was pure enjoyment but lacrosse- that was pure aggression.  I loved being able to combine skill and aggression on the field in a competitive way.  Mix that with the fact that I was the resident "Christian girl" at my school and you have a strange mix...I had to be brave.  I made it a point to be firm in who I was and to always stand up for others; for what was right.  That is not always the most popular thing to do and I often stood out.  And whether because I am a Navy man's daughter or not I don't know, but right up until my last year of high school I had planned to join the military.  I wanted to be brave.

Even as my life played out, courage was always a trait I valued highly.  Many years ago I was working as a bank teller and shortly before we closed for the night a man came bursting through the doors screaming "This is a robbery!".  He immediately came to my window, threw a bag at me and demanded I fill it.  In moments like that, times stands still.  It all happened in the space of a few seconds- me pressing the silent alarm, filling his bag with the marked money, him being chased out- but to me it took hours.  I can clearly recall each action I took and the actions of those around me.  I had been mentally prepared for a moment like that my whole life- my father always taught me that in life threatening situations the number one cause of death is not the immediate danger at hand- but rather panic.  Panic causes us to act irrationally and can potentially cause us to make mistakes that will cost us our lives.  Because of what my dad always said, I was able to keep my adrenaline under control- and it allowed me to keep calm and do what needed to be done...and when the robber was chased out of the building, it gave me the presence of mind to grab my assistant manager and force him to get up and lock the bank door- because my assistant manager was in a state of shock and was not moving.  Fear can be immobilizing...which is why I so strongly value the ability to rise up and even in the face of your fears be able to stand up and act accordingly.  Scared or not.

Some people take this idea and think that bravery means to walk around gun-toting and muscle bearing- as if bravery is in the body.  Bravery is a state of mind.  Courage is a matter of the heart, not the head.  Look at some of my favorite movies: Braveheart, Troy, Gladiator, King Arthur- all of the main, heroic men of these movies have more in common then just their brute strength.  Even the villains in these movies were strong. No- they were more than just strong.  They were courageous.  They fought and died for something HONORABLE.  They fought and died for a people and for purpose that they felt were worthy of their strength and even their lives.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy has another great example of this, one that women can maybe relate to.  There are two strong women figures in this trilogy to look at: Arwen and Eyowyn.  Eyowyn is of royal blood and wants so badly to break free from the palace walls- to prove her bravery.  She is tired of the evil around her and tired of watching the men she loves die fighting...she wants a piece of the action.  She wants a chance to fight evil as well.  It is a noble desire and yes, she is brave...but she is also immature in her bravery.  She disguises herself as a soldier and marches off to battle and fights well.  But through the whole movie she never really understands her place- never really knows when to fight and when to stand down.  When to draw arms, and when to support her loved ones.  She is lost- has unbridled passion.  Then there is Arwen- also a woman of nobility.  Arwen also wages war against evil- sometimes with her heart and sometimes with the fierceness of her sword, depending on which was necessary.  Sometimes she needed to physically fight in battle, and other times she needed to stand down and fight the battle in other ways- ways of the heart.  But she had wisely learned when to spot the difference.

That is real courage.  Knowing the difference between bravery and foolishness.  Knowing when we just want to pick a fight and when we truly want the best outcome for all.  That is why following Jesus has been the most amazing and brave pursuit of my life.  It calls me to do things I would not ordinarily want or even be able to do.  I want to pick up arms and fight the injustices of this world- yet God repeatedly beckons me to lay down my passion and instead to move in gentleness.  Imagine that.

I have chosen to follow a road that says if you want to be first, you have to be last.  If you want to lead, you have to follow.  If you want to truly love, then you must truly serve.  To take, you must give.  To comfort, you must mourn.  To be free, you must forgive.  Jesus is the most courageous, brave person I have ever, EVER had the privilege of following.  It takes zero willpower to fight back when attacked- but to turn the other cheek?  That piece of mastery I am still learning.

As I was writing this post it occurred to me that this would be my last post before Christmas...it also occurred to me that there is nothing more brave, nothing more courageous than what Jesus did by being born.  Nothing more courageous than coming unarmed as a helpless baby to a world that wanted nothing more than to kill Him.  The world expected to be saved through the bravery of a Warrior King but instead, the bravest act known to humanity came down in the form of a baby some two thousand years ago.  And even so, He lived a life of example continually urging us to follow that example of true bravery and learn to put others first.  To lead by following.  To love by serving.

I pray you all have a wonderful Christmas this year.  But I also beg you not to forget the many, many lessons born in that room so many years ago.  As the new year approaches, take the time to ask yourself if you are brave.  Take the time to learn what that really even means.

I dare you.


"Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point." C.S. Lewis



Friday, December 13, 2013

Serendipity

I took a personality test this week- kind of a big famous one.  A real one- and the results had me pegged.  (I am an INFJ if you know the test).  I was mesmerized.  I spent a considerable amount of time reading the pages of results- because I was reading myself.  I liked what I read, but I also see I have a lot to live up to.  And if there is one major thing I need to learn it is this: sometimes I can be exhausting both to myself and to the world around me- a world that I cannot look at without wanting so desperately for it to do and be everything that I know and believe it can be.  

Week after week I challenge both you and myself.  Deep calls to deep, and I want more than anything for you and I to experience and to be the best possible versions of ourselves that God has called us out to be.  I truly just want you to recognize all of the things that God has put deep inside you...to break free of the every day mundane.  To be the you I know you can be.

But if I say I love you, or that Jesus loves you would you believe me?  Or would it get lost in words and feelings of expectations?  Would it even be possible to break down my life to something as simple as love if I never give it a chance to be that simple- if I never give it a chance to just rest knowing that right here and right now that is enough?  

This is that day.  I don't need to say anything else...I am choosing not to "talk" today. Yes, essentially the point of a blog is for me to talk, but for this one week- I am choosing to be simple.  Because it IS that simple.

And because I do love you.  And Jesus does love you.  
And that is it.  

Be at peace today.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Voice of Truth

Wow.  You guys set two new records for me this week- most blog views in the first 24 hours of posting, and the most blog views in one week.  I am amazed.  Thank you readers.  Thank you all of you who continue to read this, week after week.  Who give me a voice and who give me a chance to speak when many days I am unable to even leave my bed.  I am living out a passion of mine because of YOU.  Thank you.  It was a perfect birthday present.

Because I turned 30 this past Tuesday.

And it was actually one of the worst days I've ever had.

Just a combination of things really.  Through circumstances beyond our control, Jeff ended up out of the house all day and did not get home until late that night.  There have been things going on in our lives that have been very hard, and very emotional.  Then personally I have had a tremendously hard few days- Jeff has actually had to dress me the past couple of mornings.  I was tired and I was incredibly lonely.  It's not that I don't have wonderful friends- but I do not have anyone I can talk to who truly understands the unique set of difficulties that a person goes through whose body no longer works right.  Unless you are in it yourself, you truly cannot understand the doctors, the medications, the pain, the wondering if every new symptom is actually something bigger- it's a lot.  I actually do have one girlfriend who I text when things get rough- she doesn't know firsthand what it's like to have physical limitations, but it happened to someone very close to her so she understands a lot of what I go through.  I texted her a lot that night and I just told her that I was very lonely- and I just wanted the day to end.

But here's the thing- the day did end.  And a new one began.  And for me, a new day means waking up in tremendous pain, being dressed by my husband, walking with a cane, and if I am lucky, maybe having enough strength to leave the house.  This year has been a real tough one for me and my family.  Most people sit on their thirtieth birthday and take stock of the previous year and maybe they even have planned for many years what it would look like, how it would feel, where they would be, what they would have accomplished, etc.

I was never like that.  From as early as I could remember my main goal- no, my ONLY goal has been to live one way and one way only- with integrity.  Not to make plans.  Not to try and figure my life out or accomplish great things with myself.  But to trust that if I gave God my whole heart and live honestly and rightfully that wherever that path takes me it will be a good one.  An honest one.

So as I sit here typing I am looking back and I am not filled with regret.  Yes, my actual birth-day was rough.  And many memories of this past year have not been pleasant.  You have noticed lately that I have been making a point of documenting my illness in picture form.  Maybe some of you are even taken aback my how revealing the pictures are.  This illness is changing me in many, many ways.  My body is no longer just my body- it was once beautiful and sensual and only for my husband's eyes.  It is now scarred and torn, a product of my illness and the tests and treatments used to try and fix me, and I want to capture that both for my own sake and for yours.  I want to see where I have come from, where I have been and where I am.  This is changing me and I am daily being forced to choose what kind of person I am going to allow it to make me become.  Today I spent and hour in my neurologists' office while he repeatedly shocked the nerves all over my body.  He then stuck several needles in them.  I was in so much pain...but I made Jeff take pictures.  Because this is still who I am.  This is still a part of where I have been.



Checking out the "zapping" equipment waiting for the neurologist
Deciding I have no idea what any of it is, and figuring what the heck I guess I am ready!
The Zapper- felt like being hit with a taser gun over and over again (not that I actually know what that feels like, lol)  

It hurt really, really bad
I made Jeff document this.  It hurt, but it is a part of the process and I am thankful that my doctors are working so hard and that they care so much.
After both procedures, trying to keep pressure on the last needle spot so the bleeding will stop.  Still cannot quite feel my leg properly from all the zapping.  I didn't cry, didn't punch the doc, and I even managed to smile a few times during the zapping

I did not plan for this.  Imagine if I had made goals for my life.  Imagine if I had sat down years ago and planned what I wanted my thirtieth birthday to look like.  What I wanted to do, where I wanted to be, what I wanted to have accomplished.  I would have been devastated...not because I am unhappy with my life- not at all.  But because on that one day- my actual birthday- I was alone.  And because for the past year I have been very ill.  Because life has not gone the way I would have planned.  

But the kicker lies in this:  I did not place any weight in those things.  I learned what really matters most to me.

I have stood and I still stand because of the person I am inside.  I chose many years ago to be a woman of integrity.  That no matter what ever came my way I would be a person who would let love and truth win out over and over and over again.  That no matter what was wrongly done to me I would return the favor with righteousness.  That if I was lied to I would respond with truth.  That if I was yelled at I would answer with softness.  That if I saw acts of violence, I would respond with acts of kindness.  That if I was slapped in the face, I would turn the other cheek.  That if I was hurt again and again, I would choose to forgive again and again.  That in a world filled with lies, I would always be a voice of honesty.  That when a hand was used to hurt me, I would use my hand to reach out and help someone.  That if I was mocked, I would give a complement.  That if everyone sees the worst in a person, I would choose to see the best in them.  That instead of political conversations, I would BE the change I wanted to see in this world.

I have failed more times than I have succeeded...but I have only been trying for thirty years.  I hope to have many more years to keep going at this.  It is my intention to spend as many years as Jesus gives me doing the best I can to be, and act, and think, and love, and serve the way that Jesus did.  Because things change.  Life happens.  You cannot predict, plan, or ever understand why.  All you can do is have your integrity ready for it and then I promise you whatever comes your way you will be ready and able to stand.

I am happy looking back at my years.  I have accomplished quite a bit in my twenties.  It wasn't because I planned it that way, it was simply because I followed Jesus and he gave me life and life more abundantly.  What a mess I may have made if I tried to do things myself.  But instead I look into the eyes of my six beautiful, amazing children and a husband that I am not worthy of calling mine and I cannot help but think that God knew all long what the absolute BEST plan was for me- I just needed to trust Him.  I just needed to let go of my own plans and release myself to Someone greater, believing that a righteous life lived with integrity really was worth living.

Thank God I did.

 "If I had my time over I would do the same again. So would any man who dares call himself a man."                  -Nelson Mandela


**And I will just say this: after my test at the neurologists office, my husband got a babysitter so we could have the rest of the day together.  He let me rest, then he took me out to eat, then he took me shopping...he mafe the rest of the day about me to make up for my birthday.  I was weak and I walked real alow but he didn't care- he made the night all about me- it was amazing.  We talked, we shopped, we rested, he hung out- he treated me like a princess.  And THAT is the memory I will have when I think back on my 30th birthday.  Things have a funny way of working out when you choose to do it right no matter what the cost.  Goodnight friends.