Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Heart

For 24 years, my relationships have been poisoned. They have suffered under bitterness and hatred and a pressing need to keep my distance from people - or keep them distant from me. It's been about protection. A wounded heart in a wounding world does not bode well; it was best to hide. For awhile, I thought I found a place - it was a place where I felt the love of others, but kept separate from it, feeling like I was just some 'project' for everyone. I worked hard to prove my worth by faithfully showing up to everything, hanging around places I never felt worthy or welcome, just to remind you that I wasn't going away. I served where there was need, even when it meant more burden and less fuel for my own spirit. In some way, I wanted to show you you could love me, to show you I was worthy, to earn your love.

Then came illness. As I wrestled between life and death, I pushed you further away. I couldn't bear you to see me like this, so weak after so many years of trying to prove my strength. And you obediently gave me my space - more than my heart truly wanted. You decided not to trust me any more, to wonder day-by-day what my status would be. You tried to protect me from myself, to not push too hard lest I push back violently against you.

But the truth is - these events had nothing to do with physical illness. They were matters of the heart. They were issues of my own fear and self-hatred. My knowledge plain and clear of the fact that I never belonged with you. Without knowing the depths of my story, the power of my darkness, you welcomed me in. But I kept my distance. I did not deserve you; I did not deserve God; I did not deserve to breathe another breath.

Yet you still took me in. At times, it was difficult as you struggled against what you could not see. Or perhaps you did see but were kind enough not to mention it. You resented my distance, my bitterness, my shortcomings of potential when all you could see was the brilliant gift of God buried in the muck. But you let me wallow, you gave me my space. And you never knew that when I looked in the mirror, I knew only one truth -

I was looking at a whore.

Your faithful love whittled away at me. God's whisper kept calling. For a long while, I rejected, wanting to stand strong on my own two feet. Wouldn't God be a handout? Wouldn't He make me feel even more unworthy? Wouldn't His goodness highlight my filth? No, I could do this on my own. Just as I always had; just as I always would.

But His whisper continued and in the darkness, I found Him. He simply sat with no expectations, no demands for my freedom. Just one simple offer.

"Come here...I want to tell you something."

After much evasion, I finally went. What would God want to tell me that I didn't already know? That I was impure, unholy, and condemned to Hell? That even His Son would not save me? Thanks, but no thanks.

But He wouldn't tell me right away. Instead, He answered the millions of questions I never dared ask. The questions of the heart and of the darkness, of evil and unworthiness, and thousands upon thousands of questions of whoredom. How does a young woman whose body and heart have been so violated ever come to feel whole again, ever come to embrace purity, ever find a way to live with a Father so different than her own, so Holy?

He answered. He answered before I could ask. He answered the rumblings and the small tingling in my heart, and He answered. Finally, I sensed what He wanted to tell me all along, what He was dying for me to hear. And I was ready - so I pled with Him.

"Lord, tell me I'm beautiful!"

"Child, you are more than that. You are beloved, blessed, and wholly beautiful. The world has made you its whore, but I have made you my daughter. This you are above all else, above all other things. You are my precious daughter. And you are pure."

From that moment, tears will not stop falling. They fall even as I write this, as my body trembles in the brokenness of releasing trauma and in the awe of God. Healing comes rapidly into my life - every day, a small step forward. The darkness sometimes takes it grip back, but I shake it off, knowing the Light and the Truth.

Yet, I am more lost now than when I lived in darkness. I find myself in a world I cannot relate to. Those who knew me well before are long gone, moving on in their lives to new adventures and maybe staying in touch, but not able to sit and talk and know my heart. Those who have known me only on the surface continue to do so. Many love me deeply, and I can feel their love, but it's a difficult concept for me. How does a whore learn God's love? not just the love FOR God, but the love OF God, the ability to love other people...and most importantly, the ability to BE loved by other people. And how do I find a place to serve when I am only coming to know myself? My heart longs to reach out, to be surrounded by you and your love. To serve you wholly in whatever capacity I can...but not in the same old ways I used to use to earn your approval. I want something different.

I long to be something different in my world. Someone walking in freedom, truth, faith, and peace instead of the bitterness, hatred, and self-loathing of so many years. It's a hard adjustment, learning to live in this place I never knew existed. Bear with me. And hold me in strength and love. Free my heart to be less lonely but never rushed, never pushed or pressured. In freedom, I will be something better in God's world.

Something more than just a whore.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

How I Fell in Love

This morning, I woke and headed out the door in less than 10 minutes. The plan was a quick stop by the post office, then grocery shopping at Wal-Mart before the crowds hit.

As I stood in line at the post office, waiting on the ridiculously inept people in front of me to figure out how to send insured packages, I glanced around. I looked at the boxes for sale, the gift wrap, the change of address cards. Out in the hall, I watched people check their PO boxes. There, behind a stout woman, his face smiled at me.

He just stood there, staring, with that smile on his face. Flattered and a little coy, I let a small smile sneak out before looking away. A few minutes later when I started looking around again, there he was - behind the stout woman and smiling straight at me. He was too far away to see if I had something in my teeth, and I knew my hair was a little frizzed but not distracting. Was he really interested in me?

I looked forward to completing my business before he left just so I could walk out through the lobby and flash him my best smile, maybe even a quick 'hello.' But when I looked up once more, impatiently tapping my foot because now, the people in front of me forgot to put something in their package (which had already been taken to the back and thus, had to be searched for and found and a million other things), the stout woman moved toward the door.

Yes! I thought. I will finally get to see him without her hind end blocking my view. Could his body be as wonderful as his face? And that smile that was still plastered across it?

As she moved toward the door, she slowly revealed more of his body. A bag was slung over one shoulder. 'How sexy!' I thought. The more I saw, I saw him finely dressed and standing casually, yet with respect and dignity. Finally, the door slammed shut behind the stout woman and I daringly looked down the hallway with the gentlest, flirtiest smile I could muster...

And saw a cardboard cut-out of a postal carrier standing next to the automatic stamp machine, staring straight at me and smiling that beautiful smile.

(It's just been that kind of day.)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

As Grandpa Lay Dying...

My grandpa, Charlie Rogers, is not expected to live for Christmas this year. In these moments, I cannot help but think back on this man.We went to Grandpa's every Christmas Eve, when he and his wife, Nancy (not my grandmother), gifted everyone one outfit, usually from L.S. Ayres. I dreaded the clothing, for what kid doesn't, and I dreaded my time there. Nancy was a stern woman, sharply cut with a sharper tongue. It was plain to everyone that she didn't like kids, not even grandkids. Each trip, I was lectured beforehand about being on my best behavior so as not to upset her. Grandpa, for as much as he could, treated me with kindness. He always gave me pennies to feed his gumball machine - fully stocked before each visit. With a chuckle, he'd hand over as many lincolns as I wanted until mom and dad told me not to take so much gum. A little later, he added a super nintendo in a quiet room. It had only one game - Jeopardy - but I liked it anyway. Still, I was comfortable to sit in the living room with him and watch golf.Other than that, we only saw him once every 2-3 years. Dad talked like he lived in Siberia, like it would take a day and a half's journey to make it there, like it was some major inconvenience to visit Grandpa; he was less than an hour's drive away. On the rare occasions we stopped by mid-year, Grandpa was just as hospitable as always. Nancy labored to set out deli meats and cheeses on a fancy platter, insisting that we helped ourselves. I played quietly with a basket full of Pound Puppies with their Cocker Spaniel while the adults talked. Once or twice, Grandpa invited me to sit down with them and play a few games of euchre. Oh, how included I felt!I always regretted that we didn't spend as much time with him as we did with the rest of dad's family - the other side of the divorced couple. I never understood that, really. All of dad's brothers and sisters gripe as much as he always did about visiting Grandpa. Like he's an inconvenience, unpleasant, someone to be patronized but nothing more. The one year dad took me to a Rogers family reunion on Grandpa's side, I was shocked at the number of relatives I had never met (and have not talked to since). Dozens of people, none of whom I knew.They were right, sort of. Grandpa was an old-fashioned man. He'd sit in that recliner or on one end of the sofa and watch television day and night. Only a few times, he would pull himself up against a walker and make his way out through the garage to smoke in the driveway. That was only after he stopped smoking in the house. Whenever a Black person came on his television, he cursed "all of those damned niggers" and was not shy about letting us know who he hated, why, and what they were doing to poison the planet. It was tough to listen to, but with a guy like that - I knew he would never change, and I knew, without details, that he grew up in a different time and place than I did. So I wasn't fond of his language all the time, but I was still fond of Grandpa.He was pretty fond of me, too. The family didn't call him "the slug" for nothing. Aside from a routine morning excursion to Hardee's for breakfast with his friends, he didn't move much. He wasn't the kind of grandpa who showed up at his children's or grandchildren's events. They said he didn't travel well. But in seventh grade, he pulled himself out of that recliner, and he and Nancy came to watch me at a tennis meet. It meant the world. And he shared a special smile for me always when I visited, and always joked about blowing up my portrait to hang on the large wall in his dining room. He joked and smiled and I knew he had something special in his heart for me.After dad died, I only saw Grandpa a couple of more times. My uncles took me with them on one visit, and Grandpa and Nancy took us all to a local pub for lunch - grandpa's treat. Even though I was too young to be in there, Grandpa talked with the guys he knew (he'd had a smoke or two in that pub before) and they let me sit at a table. We ordered, and the meals came. But mine came first. Then Nancy's. Then none. I sat and did not eat, knowing the etiquette of waiting for everyone to be served. Grandpa frowned and said, "Don't you like your food?" I nodded and said, "It smells delicious." With a spark of recognition, Nancy smiled and said, "It's ok. We don't have to wait on them. Go ahead and eat before it gets cold." I did, but I could tell she appreciated the manners. I think she came to like me. Christmas 2002, it snowed so bad that my car slid on the ice and my brother made me turn back before reaching Grandpa's. I never saw him again.Now, Grandpa lay dying. Probably in that same old spot on the end of the sofa that he's loved so well over the years. Nobody told me. They've know for months that his condition was deteriorating. I found out through my brother, who had known for awhile, as well, but just assumed someone told me, too. They never did. They still haven't. Dad's family doesn't keep in much contact with me. They blame me for his death and say I never loved him enough. It is a tough strain. Once I found out about Grandpa's condition, I wanted to contact him, to write him a letter or call him or drive up and visit him. He's still less than an hour away.But I've been told that I can't just go up there. Can't just bother him like that. If I'm interested in seeing him, then "arrangements can be made" if I fall into favor with the right aunt and jump through 30 hoops and bend over backwards. It is not a fight I can win.So as Grandpa lay dying, here I sit - reflecting on my short experience with a man that everyone else calls a "slug." Reflecting on a man who surely has a story to tell if only someone would listen. I'd listen, if they'd let me. But I can't get close to him. And now, there is no time. The doctors say he will die before Christmas, probably within the next week or two. Cancer, spreading from his bladder, is riddling his body, and he will not win.We both lose.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Difference

What is the difference God makes?

It is everything.

It is the kind of difference that takes a young woman from walking by a mirror with no reflection to seeing someone beautiful staring back at her. It is the difference that assures her she is loved, even when she doesn't know such love and that feeling scares her, just a little. It is the difference that takes her from living a mediocre life, day after day, struggling through the tough times to a life desperate and thirsty for God, to be used by Him for His greatest glory. It is the difference that makes her first thoughts turn to prayer, even in the most dire of moments. It is the difference that makes her confident enough to be vulnerable, secure enough to dare.

It is the difference between six months ago and today. It is everything.

My life is so weird right now, so different than I ever could have imagined it. God is doing a great work in me, one that I can only hope to share some day when this world is ready to listen. Much of it is in the book I've been working on, but not all. The book was my way to write toward freedom. I could feel the stirring of God in my heart, and I knew He had that greatest gift for me, but to simply accept it and move forward, I felt like I was running. So for one final time, I sat with pen and paper and wrote through my story, acknowledging the heartache, the brokenness, the sin...and finding God in so many places I never figured He would be. As I concluded, I found...I am free. It is great.

Maybe that's why I struggled so severely this week. Death knocked at my door - literally. As I sat Monday morning in a dental chair, the first shot of anesthetic sent a small tremble through my body. The dentist pushed and gave no less than five additional shots, each worsening the reaction. I've been used to having allergic reactions to this because of the medical issue I face, but this was that and much more. After four hours of violent convulsions and weirdness in the brain, I knew it was more than I was used to. As it turns out, now 36 hours later, there were two issues: there was the typical allergic reaction, which has not helped at all. And there was the neuro-toxic component I am coming to learn about. This drug poisoned my brain. It continues to do so.

Nobody can tell me how long this second part will go on. The allergy is already fading, and I am getting back to a semi-normal routine. But at times, my body takes back over and convulses and contorts, affecting nearly everything I do.

Yet, I cannot lose sight of how much my Father loves me. Even in the grips of death, in mild fear for the past nearly two days, I am not scared. I am assured, confident, peaceful. God has a great work for me; He reminds me of that every time I walk by the mirror and see a beautiful young woman where a little whore once stood. It is my testimony, and I now have the privilege of living on the other side of it. What a difference it makes - in how i feel about myself, about God, about everyone. I've wasted so much time and so many relationships being broken and in bondage. Now, I am free and even death does not scare me.

Continue praying as I try to be patient with God. Patient while He works the toxin out of my brain, and patient while He completes His incredible work in me and makes me the woman He's been providing glimpses of for several months now. That woman...she is incredible. She is strong, even in weakness, and she is pure and giving and loving and trusted. I'm almost there. Getting closer every day.

So it's weird to me to live in this new life, where this world has nothing to scare me with, where the peace never leaves my heart, and where I never lose the love of God in my heart - His for me and mine for Him.

What is the difference God makes?

It is everything.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them….” ~ Revelation 21: 1-3

We so often dream of Heaven as a place other than this. We cannot fathom the mere transformation of our broken world; instead, we long to escape it in eternal union with God. Sometimes, I wonder if Heaven is nothing more than a place of our own imagination, though, and this passage reminds me I might be right.

The Bible does not say that God lives in Heaven; it says He lives in the heavens. Remember when we say He created the heavens and earth? It’s not some supernatural place. It is a part of this universe, part of the niche that God carved out of the vast expanse.

In this passage, God tells us, through assumedly John, exactly what will happen when He returns. He’s not coming back to sweep us all up in a giant group hug and ascend us into Heaven. Not even into the heavens, as we know Jesus went. No, here He reveals that He is coming back, but He is coming back HERE. To this place. He will transform it, restore it to its created glory, and then dwell HERE with us.

What about Heaven? What about the streets of gold, the mansions, that place we long for that escapes us from this one? We want that bliss! At least, I do.

I don’t believe we will be disappointed. Look closer at the passage. “The sea also was gone.” Remember that as God created the world, He started by separating things – light and darkness, sky and not-sky, land and sea. Before He separated the waters, the sea was part of His entire universe. It transcended the line between heavens and earth. For our benefit alone, He confined it by creating land masses.

When He returns and the sea is gone, only one of two things can happen. Either we spent our whole lives searching for Living Water only to find “Heaven” a dry place. Or the sea simply absorbs and becomes part of the larger universe once more, things revert to their state of wholeness. I like the second option better.

We will have Heaven, but not as we picture it. It won’t be some other place. It will be part of our place. God is coming back down. When He comes, He will erase the lines that separate our world from His, our earth from His heavens. We will be freed into the cosmos to live in communion with Him, and He will once again live among us in tangible form.

Won’t that be great? Remember the last time an expanse of fluid constituted your entire universe, meeting your every need? The womb. Yeah, I kind of imagine “Heaven” to be like that.

This passage brings me more peace, as well, as I read that God is coming back for me. He’s not sitting in Heaven calling out my name, hoping I will come. No, He’s coming back right to where I’m at. He’s coming to meet me, to move in and set up shop in the center of my life.

This may not show me the Heaven I thought I was waiting for; but it certainly reminds me of the God I always knew – the One who meets me where I’m at.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Biblical Origins - Psalms

I've been thinking a lot about David and the Psalms, and I have a question. Perhaps some of you can help.

It seems to me that every other book of the Bible is written to tell a story. God put His story on the hearts of these writers, and they sat purposely to write a message for not only their people, but the generations to follow. Psalms does not seem to follow this pattern. Instead, we get a glimpse of David's (and some others') personal prayer life. Why, and how, so?

Was David setting out to write his prayers for publication? If that's the case, doesn't it directly contradict Jesus's later proclamation not to pray for attention? (Even though David came first, I think it is logical to assume that a man after God's own heart would not have a different directive than God was intending all along.)

Was he, as an appointed ruler, followed so closely by scribes and other officials that they wrote down everything he said and thus created Psalms for him by simply doing their jobs? What a horrible life to not even be able to pray alone!

Maybe he was like me and often found it difficult to pray. Many nights, when I cannot focus my thoughts merely by thinking of Him, I pull out a journal and write my prayers. Did David, too, have this habit?

I just wonder, is all. In the midst of the law and the narratives, prophecy and the messages God sent directly to His people, we have a prayer book. How did it come about?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

No Longer

I find that I no longer wish for the lives of others, no longer desire what they have. Their lives are theirs; mine is mine. God has set aside my own unique set of blessings and challenges, and I look forward to each one of them. Instead of looking at someone else's story and longing for that, I am able instead to connect with their story and use it to fuel my own passion and desire for my own best life.

Thank you, Lord.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Commentary on Fear

We, as a people, spend a great deal of time being afraid. Sometimes, we don’t call it “fear.” We call it lesser things like “worry” or “anxiety,” but let’s face it: it’s fear. Fear of the future, fear of the present, fear of the past, fear of others, fear of ourselves. Very rarely, fear of God.

There is such a thing as healthy fear, and I’ll get to that in a minute. But there are two primary types of crippling fear – the spontaneous and the pre-conceived notion.

Spontaneous fear, there is nothing we can do about. It can sometimes accurately be called “startle.” For example, I awoke in the middle of a dark night to make a bathroom run. While making proper use of the facilities, a camel cricket jumped INTO my pants. That’s a whole new kind of fear right there, the kind that can keep you up the rest of the night unless you take control of it.

The only way to handle spontaneous fear is to give yourself a proper moment, then move on. You can’t predict it, so you can’t prevent it, but you can limit its ability to take over your mind.

The other kind of dangerous fear is the pre-conceived notion, for lack of a better term. This is where you know something could potentially happen, so you fixate on it and ignore all possible other events.

Recently, I took a family trip to Tennessee to visit my grandmother. It’s a trip I rarely make, and one of the reasons for that is the bounty of snake stories she tells. I don’t like snakes (neither does she), so why put myself in a place where they are highly probable to appear? Even for the love of Grandma, it’s a tough situation to consciously submit to.

I stayed mostly in the house the first couple of days, avoiding the wildlife outside. When the puppy I took with me needed to go outside, I never went alone. Sometimes, I didn’t take her at all. I would not risk running into one of these things and ruining my vacation!

Late the second night, someone else took the puppy outside to potty before bed. Night was falling, but the security light illuminated just enough space to see…the water moccasin. Grandma took the hoe and chopped it in three pieces, then left it in the driveway for identification by sunlight the next day. I have to admit, I had trouble falling asleep that night.

I knew it! I told myself. That lousy snake showed up and ruined everything, just like I knew it would! Why, God? Why can’t I just enjoy a weekend at Grandma’s?

Then I realized – before that snake slithered across the driveway, even if it had never shown up at all, it ruined my time with Grandma before I even left Franklin. The mere thought of it, nay, obsession, took over any joy I could have had in those first few days. It stole those precious moments.

The next day, I sat out on the patio and walked down to the lake. If I saw one, I saw one, but I couldn’t let it keep me inside any longer. Fear is not a good way to live.

This second type of fear can also make us very irrational. I always slept each night with a series of lights on (and for awhile, slept with the TV on in case the power went out and the light stopped working). It took me two decades to figure out how absolutely irrational that was and to change it. (Have you found the flaw yet?)

Yet for all the time we spend being afraid, we rarely experience healthy fear. Healthy fear, as in the fear of God, is not really fear at all; it is more deference. It is respect. It is knowing that what we face is bigger or more powerful than ourselves, so we take a step back in humility.

Fear of God is not hiding under a rock waiting for lightning to strike. It’s not continually working harder to avoid the pit of Hell for all eternity. It’s not even the small fear of being caught, of peeking around every corner before doing something bad, just to make sure He’s not watching.

Fear of God is rooted in love. It’s stepping out into the open and humbling yourself to His care. It’s trusting Him to know you, but to love you anyway – a virtue higher than any that most of us can find in ourselves. It’s refusing to do bad whether or not you think He’s watching because you understand His greatness relative to your flesh. It’s recognizing His significance in contrast to your own relative insignificance.

So you stand, or kneel, in deference to His power, love, mercy, omniscience, grace, and so on and so on ad nauseum.

That’s the difference. It’s just the opposite of what we consider fear. Instead of living in constant obsession, fearing the possible, you free your mind through healthy fear. You free yourself into something Greater, rather than painting yourself into a corner.

Isn’t it weird to consider that the right fear can actually set us free?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wrestling with the Heart

My heart is in a troubled place, torn between freedom and captivity, between the past and the future, between God and the world. It’s an interesting place to try and process.

When, as a little girl, I dreamed of all the things I might do when I grew up, of all that I might be. Compared with the fantasies of others, it was highly realistic. I didn’t dream of going to the moon or being the president or walking on water. No, I wanted to go to college, graduate, land a successful job, find a husband, and have a family. It’s just that simple. But I might as well have dreamed about being an astronaut.

Life saw things differently for me. A lot of people make good, strong friendships throughout their years, growing up in a wonderful network of fellowship. That was not possible for me, not given my situation. So I find myself now, at age 24, with many acquaintances, but few friends. Actually, there is no one that I “hang out” with. And in pain, self-protection, and anger – that never used to bother me. But as I find my freedom, it is kind of a hard pill to swallow.

Here I am, 15 months after graduating college with an impressive academic record, and I find myself unemployed and alone. It is a life I am highly unsatisfied with, frustrated to the point of tears. I cry often over shattered dreams, of things that have not worked out as I would have liked.

Yet, as disappointed as I am over shattered dreams, I am also cognizant of the fact that God is still doing wonderful things in my life. I can’t imagine another path for myself. If life had not gone precisely the way it has, I would not know the pain of healing that I now deal with everyday. It’s a beautiful feeling. It’s like peeling the scab off a wound and exposing it to fresh air – it stings, but it also feels surprisingly good, freeing.

My freedom grows more concrete every day. I am able to think about things in a whole new way, to consider more possibilities and really open myself up to whatever it is God is (slowly) unfolding in my life. Sometimes, it even seems clear that He is purposely withholding a job so that I can focus on telling my story, on the healing process He’s begun within me and wants so badly to finish, now that I will let Him.

Physically, freedom reigns, too. Mom has a new boyfriend, and they spend quite a lot of time together, which leaves me home alone to “nest.” That’s what I call it, anyway, and it’s something I haven’t ever done and didn’t notice I was doing until I’d already done it. I’ve never had a place called home, but the more time I find myself alone in this place, I wonder, “Why can’t I make it more comfortable for me? Why can’t I make it conducive to living here and growing here?” So I change little things around the house, clean up here and there, and really just have a whole different vibe in my body when I walk around this place and think of it as my HOME. (And, I like the alone time to spread my wings a little and just experiment with the great things inside of me that God is revealing, one by one. Though, I am not condoning alone time. I’d still like some friends.)

But what I am also finding is that if you want something, go out and get it. There shouldn’t be anything stopping you when what you want is good and holy. I didn’t feel very well today, struggling with something I am not quite ready to reveal. But there was in my heart some things that I wanted to get accomplished, so I did them. When you’re in the house long enough, you start to get afraid of outside. As a kid, bugs and dirt did not bother me, but now, the thought of one gnat keeps me inside sometimes. It’s that strong of a hold when you lock yourself away. But I needed to take some photos, capture some images of sacred places before they are totally destroyed (as they are already destroyed a bit by urban development). So I loaded my big dog, Kiira, in the car, and we went hiking through the woods. For nearly half an hour. I wasn’t scared or grossed out, and I didn’t want to come home. And I didn’t feel sick in the woods like I have in this house for the past few days. Other stuff, I accomplished, too.

I’m waiting for God to move in my life. I want Him to move and bring about the glory that will come to Him through me. I want a job. I want a husband. I want a family. I want friends. And I’m willing to do whatever God requires to get that. I’ve even been thinking very seriously lately about moving. In my head, I narrowed it down to Oregon or South Carolina – places with good weather. But I also was told about a possible opportunity last week in Colorado. So you just never know.

I used to see myself staying here forever. Growing up and staying the same and just settling in for the familiar life. That seemed beautiful to me. It doesn’t any more. The only thing that seems beautiful is to get what God is giving, to take what He offers. And to embrace my freedom, gather my strength, and do more than just live another day.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New Heart and the Center of Peace

I need to get a couple of things off my heart, if that’s ok.

First, it seems to me that some people tend to get mired in the past. That’s ok, but it just doesn’t work for me. Because the problem is – they are not mired in their past, but in mine. Yes, for several years, I struggled with illness that limited me in many ways. But those days are mostly gone. With the right diagnosis and the right treatment, life has been slowly getting back to normal. And today’s reality is this: seldom does health prevent me any more from doing what I need or want to do. Sure, there are days when allergies get the best of me or fatigue sets in, but doesn’t EVERYONE have those days? I think they do. So you can understand why it pains me so much to miss out on something due to allergies or a simple case of bronchitis (which I’ve gotten twice a year almost my whole life) or something similar, piddly, and normal…only to have someone look at me and say, “Yeah, but you’re always sick.” Seriously? Have these people not been paying attention? I’m NOT always sick. I am always BLESSED. And it is ok for me to come down with a seasonal something and not have it marred by the past. It just seems the equivalent of you accidentally peeing your pants caught in a traffic jam (which could be normal, depending on who you are) and someone you knew in preschool happens to see you and declares, loudly and publicly, “Yeah, but you always pee your pants.” Maybe you haven’t since you were 3, but for some reason, that is all they will ever know or expect from you. And that’s tough. It’s really tough when people look at you, get stuck in your past, and never expect anything better. Because then, despite how much better you are, despite days upon days and months upon months of success, they will never notice that. They will wait for the next time you pee your pants, then use that as evidence to support their point.

Please, my friends, acknowledge the healing power of God in my life and do not hold me to my past.

Second, I want to talk a little bit about calm, relating to the kind of peace that I have found. The storms here yesterday were rather impressive. For while, I had a deep and profound fear of storms that I couldn’t quite place my finger on (and honestly? I’m still not too fond of lightning). As the storms rolled through yesterday, I began in peace. That is because God has removed from me the spirit of fear as of the past many months, and most of the time, I can grasp the peace that He offers in its place. But as time drug on, I found anxiety trying to settle in. And it suddenly struck me what was going on! The anxiety came from a lack of a calm center. All I could see was the storm, all I knew was the raging winds and hammering rain and constant thunder. So I felt myself being tossed about, as if exposed. When I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and realized that everything around me and in me stayed firmly planted, that the bed did not move, the desk did not move, the floor and the ceiling and the walls did not move…it was then that I realized no matter the storm outside, the inside stayed stable. It had peace and firmness. And then, I wasn’t afraid any more. That is what the peace of God does to a person. It gives her a firm, stable place where she knows that nothing is moving, nothing is changing, and no matter how things outside of that peace may be tossed around, nothing inside moves. God plants Himself firmly in the heart, and it is from here that peace and calmness generate.

Finally, I love my new self. Not mired in the past. Free from the heavy burdens that for so long, I have carried. Unafraid to try, even though success is never a guarantee, since the only failure is never to try. And yeah, I have had deep, deep sadness here lately, but it is probably not as you think. From my position of healing, I’ve undertaken the project of writing my story, preparing my autobiography. So many stories out there will tell you all the bad things that can happen, but I want to go deeper and include the healing, as well. People need to know that no matter how bad it is, there is healing out there and it is available to all. God is available to all. As I go through my past, putting words to pain, the sadness does come. For the first time, my heart responds honestly to my own story, which is SO cool. But the sadness does not come alone. It is not the same kind of sadness that draws people to hit rock bottom, for beneath my sadness, there are no rocks. It lays on a bed of hope, strength, peace, and healing. So it is really a dichotomy of feeling – the very low lows of the honest heart, but not without the wonderful gifts and blessings of God to even it out. I’m just allowing myself to feel all of those things and not be afraid. It’s really cool.

That’s what is on my heart this morning. Thank you for letting me share.

Friday, July 31, 2009

As My Heart Bursts...

I am finding in these times, as I draw nearer to God for the strength that simply does not live in me, certain things are changing. It pulls on my heart in very powerful ways, but frustrating!Where once my heart stood hardened, now it softens. It aches for the pains of others - for the love of my dog (Kiira, my protector) who now faces old age (she is 10), for the fear in the heart of the young mother who used to attend my church whose 6-month-old daughter got run over by a car, for the grief in the hearts of those in my church who lost their loved one today, for my mother who seeks but does not find, for my brothers and their wives who face uncertainty, and so on the list goes. These things, which normally ran off my back like water from a downspout, now stop me in my tracks. They bring tears to my eyes and a soft (or sometimes painful) ache to my heart.And perhaps I noticed this strongly last night, as well. The 11-o'clock news reported a break-in in my town, where two men posed as federal agents and took a house by storm to rob it. My initial response was fear, fear for my own safety. But as I laid in bed thinking about it, sadness overtook me, overtook even the fear. What was breaking the hearts of these young men that they needed to resort to this? What was missing in their lives? What could I offer them?Which brings me to another point. As I connect more with my Father who has healed me (and continues to heal me), I find that my heart bursts. It vibrates with the knowledge, or the belief, that it IS within me to bring healing to others. I close my eyes, and I can see the healing pour from my heart to my hands and outward. It seems nothing is beyond the reach of God's healing power in me. And yet, despite my desperate attempts, my desperate pleas, I am unable to bring this healing to fruition. I can't get it out of my heart and into the world, which frustrates me to no end. I want to help, I want to heal. Not for my own glory, but for God's. The world needs to know He is still here, still powerful, and still willing to heal her.It's hard to live with a vulnerable heart in this way. I'd be lying if I said I've gotten a lot less sleep as God has worked in me and given me this tender spot. How can I rest when the brokenness and neediness of the world echoes in my Spirit day and night? And yet, I cannot yet find the harness to this power.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Unrest and Freedom

And where in your spirit have you found such unrest?
Spirit? What is that? Is it that place of pain, that horrible memory that so long ago died? I believe it must be, for I know not what you speak of.
And yet, I am getting a glimpse.
Something strange has been happening to me lately, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t God and I didn’t love it.
for years, I’ve been bound by brokenness. Brokenness on all levels of my being – emotional, spiritual, physical.
At the emotional level, severe abuse chipped away my core for so many years (and in some ways, still tries to do so) that I could look in the mirror and no longer see anything – no girl, no woman, no face. I didn’t even know myself, more than to know I was unloved, unwanted, a monster. It didn’t really hurt so bad, not back then. What really hurt was love, and there were many who loved me well. From teachers to ministers to everyone in between, it pained my heart (physically, most often) to see them smile, to watch them seek for me, to know their labors to save me. That is what hurt. Everything else, everything I knew and understood, was simple confirmation of the programming.
The physical level of brokenness has been somewhat obvious, but it also has been hidden. From years of injury, my body died. No longer could I feel anything – no pain, no sensation. I often burned myself in the shower, simply because I could not feel the heat and did not know any better. In my mind, I became somewhat of a puppet – I knew my legs existed, but it was as if some other entity moved them for me. I could not do it myself; they were detached.
And how do you love and serve a God who you cannot understand, who has never been real to you, and who has yet to prove Himself? How do you listen when you don’t know His voice? How do you follow when you can’t see His path? This was the blindness I lived in, a blindness I now recognize as being caused by abusers, by a fragile young mind, body, and soul in the hands of Evil.
Some know my story; others do not. Dad said he always wanted a little girl, someone to love and to cherish, someone special. But he did not know how to love a little girl; he only knew how to love the big ones. And so I found myself often sexually at his hands, violated in ways I cannot begin to describe for you. He was sadistic, at best, and very violent. And oh, what a temper both of my parents had! I could earn a beating just by breathing wrong. Late one night, dad even stripped the skin off my legs with his bare hands, and all mom could say was “You know better than to piss him off.” I did all of the cooking, the cleaning, the washing, the care. If one speck of anything lay on the floor of my brother’s closet, that earned me reprimand, usually violent. There was no such thing as “going out to play” or “leaving the house.” No, they hovered over me like hawks. Dad even went to school with me everyday for awhile, in the fifth grade, when I got old enough to speak and he became afraid that I would. The phones were tapped, all calls recorded. My bedroom door locked from the outside, so I could be locked in but could keep no one out. And I have a photo still today as proof of the cameras that guarded me. This is only a glimpse.
Yet for so many years, I could not see my brokenness. I turned it all off, and I died. Never thought I could live again. Never thought I wanted to.
Today, my heart beats. It is alive! God has come into this sacred place of pain and has transformed it. Am I all the things little girls dream of? Nope. I never could have dreamed of this. I am finding passion simply in living, and it’s drawing me out to do more with myself.
I am searching for ways to give of myself, ways to reach out and help. And yet, I am also reaching in. There is the most beautiful, lovely young woman inside this shell that is going to do wonderful things in this world, more wonderful than even she knows. I’ve come to love the gifts that God has given me, and the ones He has cultivated through my experiences.
The best way to say it is this: my heart is melting. My core is becoming flexible as I step further into the love of God, into the roles He’s planned for me. I love to love. I seek out now to have relationships; honest, two-way relationships instead of the shallow “pay attention to me” attitude I once held. I love to live. I’m getting out of the house instead of shielding myself off. I am holding those I love close…then closer. And I am understanding the depth of the pain.
I still must grieve. There is so much here that is lost, so much that could have been but isn’t. But I am happy. Happier than I ever thought I would be. And I cannot get so lost in grief that I forget to celebrate what God is doing.
I guess you could sum it all up in just one word: I finally, after 24 years, finally feel FREE.
It is an unrest in the Spirit that drives us to grow, to learn, and to love. It is the unrest, the discontent with our situation, that sets us FREE.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


It is the celebration of the risen Christ. And the risen...Aidan?

I wish I could explain the wonderful work of God in my life these days, and though I will try, I am going to fail miserably.

The death process began several weeks ago as I grew increasingly frustrated with my current situation. How much rejection and failure can one young woman take? As we all know, when something stays stagnant for long enough (think pond water), mold and algae begin to grow. Not only is it icky and mucky, completely covering the former occupant of the space, but it actually kills the life that becomes trapped underneath. This is where I've been. But like the fish beneath the water, I couldn't tell what was killing me; all I knew was the environment continuously became less and less hospitable.

Slowly, clear eyes took over, and I began to see my life for what it truly was - a scummy mixture of pajamas, naps, pills, chat rooms, and half-hearted living. Everything I did was less than my best. Whether I was vacuuming or washing the dishes or writing or applying for a job, everything I did came out of me with a feeble sigh, an acknowledgment that really, I wanted nothing better for myself. Well, that's not entirely true. I WANTED something better, but I didn't believe it would ever happen.

As a youngster, I could have done (and did) anything. Whatever project I undertook succeeded, often beyond expectations. Those who met me held high hopes for my future, usually entertaining the idea of some sort of professional writing, among many, many other things. Those successes still make me smile, and I could rattle off dozens of awards and honors to go with them. But then, something changed.

I began to mourn.

With dad deceased and a newfound freedom of spirit that I've yet to pinpoint, memory began to overtake me. That's because, basically, there are two ways to deal with abuse such as I experienced. You can live in the moment, fight it, and hope for the best. Or you can shut off all emotions and make every day about survival. The former kills you then; the latter, later. And so as the realizations of all I'd been through came to haunt me, so did fear and inadequacy. What happened then will always happen, so why do I fight so hard to change that, I asked myself? It came to the point where all I could do was sit in my room and hide. She who hopes for nothing and expects nothing is never disappointed.

Ah, but she is! She IS disappointed! Because she knows her Daddy, the Lord, has so much more for her than this.

This was what I woke up to a few weeks ago, and found myself completely dissatisfied. I began to fervently pray for whatever the good things are that God has for me.

It's scary! I won't lie to you. Because asking God to change your life into His plan is like pitching your first advertising campaign in front of the board - there is about 2-3% of it that's good, but the rest must be scrapped and reworked. Everything I once knew, God wants to rid me of. My familiar surroundings...gone. Everything. So it's very scary.

But it's also WONDERFUL! God brings such peace amidst the fear that you can't help but take a few steps forward and realize, it's not so bad. In fact, it's better than you ever could have imagined! And then, you take a few more steps and a few more and before you know it, you look in the mirror and don't even recognize yourself.

Such is the case in my story. I'm still dealing with trauma. I am still dealing with sickness (99% allergies at this point, so if you know a good home remedy, I'm all ears!). And yet, my life is so different than I ever could have imagined it even a month or two ago.

My physical appearance has changed. My hair, cut short but GIRLISH (instead of shaved boyish), is cute and flippy. Cute and flippy enough to have guys turning their heads in public to look at me. I bought a PURSE, which means I no longer must live out of pants. This frees me up to buy some really awesome clothes that will look sharp! (Right now, I can't afford to do so, and I am a bit turned off by my former self when I look in my wardrobe, but Goodwill may help with that, when I get funds.) I wear light colors instead of dark colors, radiating life instead of death.

My habits have changed. Sitting on the internet 24/7, frequenting a chat room, all of that - it no longer holds any appeal for me. I'm more active. I get out and do more things, and I'm not afraid to get in my car and drive.

And my personal feelings and outlook have changed. I see those old successes coming back. I see happiness; I feel excitement. Yet, I stay centered, too. It's the kind of person I always dreamed about being some day, and I'm starting to see her become a reality. It's so cool!

So thank God for the resurrection of Aidan on this Easter. May she continue to grow and to become more like Him. May she continue to live in abundance and victory, as she's so enjoyed these past few weeks.

I guess the moral of the story is...when you find yourself covered in algae and mold, let God be your chlorine.

Friday, January 30, 2009

For What? (A Story of Redemption)

For what have I died? For what have I given over my spirit?

It makes me wonder about the tomb on Easter morning.

I've learned a lot about dying in the past 5 years. In fact, I've almost got it down to a science. It can almost become a very manipulative situation, as I've battled within myself to appease two opposing forces. It's not that part of me has wanted to live and part of me was ready to die; no, once death had overtaken me, it became a matter of community. Part of me wanted to do it as publicly as possible, for the only fate worse than death is loneliness, and yet, part of me wanted the dignity of a quiet process. So I searched for a way to drag others far enough into it that I could tell part of the story without telling the whole story. For those of you who feel manipulated by this whole process, let me offer my deepest apologies; it was never my intent to use people. And most of this has been unconscious.

But death was my closest friend. And I found myself quickly living a life that had no life left in it. My mind was warped to see only the bad. I lived pill-to-pill, nap-to-nap, and sometimes nap-to-pill and pill-to-nap. "Life" as I knew it was about sustaining it. Along with death came fear, which brought a facet of death all its own. What if I push my body too far, do too much? No, best not to do anything at all. It had laid in its bed so long that even the slightest activity seemed to much, seemed to push me past my physical limits. Or what if I were to go out somewhere and something were to happen? (My biggest fear has pretty much been throwing up in public.) No, best not to go anywhere at all. It got to the point where I was having panic attacks just THINKING about grocery shopping or church or anything like that.

What's weird is that when I died, people started treating me differently. They came to expect less of me, which made me, in turn, expect less of myself. When things popped up that scared me or that I didn't trust my body to handle, I backed down. "Sorry. I'm dead." And that was pretty much ok with people. Actually, it still is...with most people.

Somewhere in all of this, God's voice was lost. That is, if it ever existed to begin with. On that note, I have a bit of a spiritual confession to make.

God never really meant that much to me. As a pagan child, I think I had more faith than my first 8 years as a Christian. God was something I did because a cute boy with a rat tail led me to church one day, and what I found was that church filled a hole I had in my heart. Not with God, but with people. There were lots of people there! People who could, potentially, love me like I had always wanted to be loved, like my parents had failed to do. And in order to get these people, I had to get God. So I put on a show.

That's not to say I didn't have my divine moments. Lounging around the Bruce house or the Bruce office, talking about real stuff and feeling loved, not judged, I encountered God. Lying on the Cundiff couch, staring up at the cross in the ceiling and feeling safe, I encountered God. Hearing Ryan McCullough, standing on stage in a portrayal of Jesus and saying "I love you," I encountered God. Sitting in Ken's office, not crying, but feeling heard, I encountered God. But aside from this, most of my encounters with God were intellectual, not heart-led, and most of the things I said about Him were just repetitions of things I'd heard others say.

But these past several months, I have been on sabbatical. It's been a time "set apart," as the word indicates, just for me to wrestle with God and come to know Him. And boy, has He shown up! I read the Bible cover-to-cover, whereas before, I was only skimming to find verses for writing projects. God is more incredible than I ever could have imagined! Though I still struggle, I am learning to pray. I don't get much sleep these nights because God is usually talking most of the night, but that's ok because I am learning so much! I usually wake up with a song in my heart or just laughing uncontrollably, and I can't stop all day. There is so much joy, and I just can't explain it. Even in the bad times now, I just laugh, because it is so far beyond me, and I just can't help myself.

It moves beyond me, as well. A lot of what God lays on my heart these days is about my larger world, my bigger community. I am literally heartbroken over much of what I see and hear all around me. This is not the world God intended us to live in; we are far from Eden. And there is a pull inside me to look for a way to do something about it, even if only a little bit. In the meantime, I mourn. I literally mourn.

And so I find something deep inside of me now yearning to live. I want to let the sun hit me and rejuvenate my soul. I want to go outside and build a snowman. I want to hop in my car and drive, just pay a visit to someone who could use some company. I want to take a walk around the park. I just want to be out of this damned room, out of this damned bed.

Yet I still struggle between death (body) and life (spirit). The more I feel God pulling me to do things, the more my body comes under attack. If I just take off and go as the Spirit leads me, I find myself running frantically back home, usually searching for a pill. So I run back and forth between freedom and captivity, between life and death.

I find myself more on the "life" side as time passes by. Day after day, it gets a little bit easier to follow the Spirit and overcome death. But as I step into a new life, I can't help but ponder two ideas.

The first, I presented earlier. For what did I die? For what did I give up my spirit? The answer is not a pleasant one, but in honesty, it was for me. To give in proved easier than to fight. It was easier to lie around in death than to push forward and embrace what God has given me. After all, in death, there is no failure. No shortcomings. If I try my hardest and still fail, that is horrible. So I convinced myself it was best not to try at all.

And second, I find myself pondering the tomb on Easter morning. I wonder if Jesus found himself in the same boat I now find myself in - trying to learn to live again. A lot of people think Jesus always lived, but I doubt that. I think that for those three days, He lain dead, apart from God, apart from life. And when life returned to him that Easter morning, He had to learn to live again. You'll notice He didn't just go running out of the tomb, throwing off graveclothes and leaving a trail. He got up slowly, tidied His burial wrappings, maybe even pondered for awhile what death had meant, and then stepped back out into life.

So I don't think I'm gonna hop out and live right away, but I am definitely pondering the graveclothes. I feel the tugging of the Spirit and the defiance of the body, the life of God and the death of the flesh. It's a battle; I won't lie. But life, God, will win. In the meantime, I sit with a sense of contentment, with a presence of joy, and a stillness in my spirit...and I can't help but sing:

'Agios, 'Agios, 'Agios
Kurios o theos
Pleres tes es doxes
'o oura nos kai ge.
Panter pantor krator
poi ton ton 'olon
Soi prepe einos
doxa kai time.

For What? (A Story of Redemption)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What are you doing this evening?

So today, I was going through some of my packed-up belongings in storage, trying to purge some stuff (a great feeling!), and I found something interesting. I'm not sure exactly what year this belongs to, but I know it was some time in middle school. So without further ado, here is my "Agenda" for a typical day in middle school: (even if you think this is gonna be boring, keep reading and you WILL laugh)

6:30 Get up, Total Workout
7:15 Shower & dress, Eat Breakfast.
7:40 Be in car, totally prepared
8:05-3:05 Behave in school
3:30-5:00 STudy time & homework
5:30 Eat Dinner
6:00 Relax
6:30 Kickball
7:30 Ninja Practice
8:00 be inside & do total workout
9:00 be in bed & be asleep by 9:30

Wait! Back up....NINJA PRACTICE?

Ugh, I was a DORK! Well, probably still am. But one thing's for sure, I never became a Ninja.

I also disposed of what I call "My Life in T-Shirts." I had a T-shirt from every place i'd ever been to - every town, restaurant, event, etc. So I am donating a lot of those to charity. I no longer feel the need to cling to the past in the same way I used to. I also got rid of a lot of stuff I kept just because it was dad's. He doesn't belong to his things; they are just clutter. So I kept some important stuff and ditched the rest.