Posts Tagged With: christianity

Come, Follow Me

Sometimes the best seat in the house is the one in the corner at a rare table of family and friends, left empty, because of artificial lights and temporary highs. Sometimes winning the race means slowing down and inviting others to catch up.

 COME, FOLLOW ME

        Throughout our college years, a friend and I did a lot of line dancing. Twice a week, we’d pull on whichever cowboy boots had the least amount of horse poop on the bottoms and head out for some fun. We knew every dance to every song, even those at the highest level of difficulty. I took pride in my abilities. Knowing I was one of the  best dancers on the dance floor gave me a great sense of accomplishment.

This past summer, I was reunited with family, friends, and relatives that I hadn’t seen in years. For the first time in a half decade, I found myself once again headed out for a night of dancing. Most of the group had never line danced before. Nonetheless, we were looking forward to a fun evening. My old dancing partner joined us as well, and I reveled in the deja vu. It was a different crowd, in a different city, with different dances and songs being played, yet I felt like I was suddenly plucked through the strands of time and placed back in my old college days.

Shortly after we arrived, the local line dance instructor held a “lesson” where she went through a lower difficulty dance step by step several times before adding in the music. I quickly picked up the moves and fell in step with the music, eventually adding in an extra spin where I could which increased the level of difficulty.

One of my mother’s friends was trying to follow me by watching and copying my footwork. As she tried to copy my extra spins and other added moves, she found herself getting lost. It seemed she was having fun anyway, and with a laugh I said, “Don’t follow me!”

I was more absorbed with my appearance and achieving the highest level of difficulty in the dance than I was with being conscious of how my less experienced friends were faring. Most of my group quickly gave up, unable to keep pace with the steps. My old partner and I danced a little more, while the others gathered at a nearby table to talk and enjoy each other’s company.

It wasn’t until the night was over that I became aware of my own selfishness and became filled with regret. I lamented over what I had missed out on- the opportunity to help someone who didn’t know as much as I did about the dance.

Sometimes things feel good in the moment, and in that moment, feeding my own ego felt better than slowing down to help someone else. Promoting myself felt better than lifting up my mother’s friend who was trying to follow me. Had I been more aware, I would have realized……..

Read the rest HERE at The Kingdom Life Now!

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Categories: Spirituality and Faith | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beckoned to the Cross: An Easter Story

As a kid, I looked forward to Easter due to the inevitable colorful basket full of chocolate  treats and other goodies, the messy fun of decorating eggs, and even the pretty little dress and bonnet I got to wear to church. Though church was the afterthought. I could hardly sit still through the service in anticipation of the delicious brunch sure to follow, topped off with the sugar rush from the dessert I was very rarely allowed to have. I planned to take full advantage of that small window of decadent opportunity. As the priest spoke of an empty tomb and a risen Lord, I was visualizing all the places at the park I could think of where they might be hiding the Easter eggs, pre-planning my searching strategy.

My dad would grimace at the $10 spent at the mall for a Polaroid with a faux celebrity rabbit, that would almost certainly have been better spent elsewhere. I would wait in line with my mom, slightly intimidated, yet in awe, to meet the talking two-legged bunny twice my size who delivers those baskets full of goodies, because that scenario didn’t strike me as the least bit odd.

image via robbwolf.com

image via robbwolf.com

Fast forward 20 plus years, and Easter still wouldn’t be complete without a chocolate bunny, let’s be real, but…now it’s personal. I always knew Jesus died on the cross for my sins on Good Friday and rose on Easter Sunday, but one Saturday morning in January of 2008 that knowledge crossed the bridge from my brain to my heart.

I was in rehab, a small residential group home for young women with eating disorders, and it was one year to the day of experiencing rape. One year filled with multiple overdoses and suicidal behavior, and darkness and brokenness and self-hate and self-destruction. I was the first awake that morning, and as I walked through the living room I flipped on the light switch, then headed to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. In the middle of the living room a voice suddenly spoke, “You don’t have to keep punishing yourself. I’ve already paid that price for you.”

I froze. I immediately knew it was Jesus. And I could hardly believe what had just happened. Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. “Out loud? Uh, you think maybe it was just in your head?”

I don’t know. My ears processed the voice as “out loud” but if someone else was in the room would they have heard it as well? Would Jesus even have chosen that moment if someone else could have overheard and verified my story, or would it only have been at a moment when I was alone? Could it be out loud but in my head at the same time? If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it still make a sound? …and the temporarily dead Harry Potter looks up at the permanently deceased Dumbledore, in all his gray-bearded-wisdom, “Professor? Is this real, or is it just happening inside my head?” He replies, “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on Earth should that mean that it is not real?”

image via Harry Potter wiki

image via Harry Potter wiki

Wise man, that Dumbledore. Confused yet? Yeah, that’s how I feel when trying to explain what happened that day. To many, it sounds like it doesn’t make any sense or can’t possibly be real. But I heard what I heard, and doubting that fact isn’t going to get me anywhere.

I picture Jesus with long hair, though less gray than Dumbledore’s, on the hill of Calvary with outstretched, nail-pierced hands, beckoning me, the defeated cross visible behind him. I always knew I was offered forgiveness and redemption and freedom, but I couldn’t own it, I couldn’t accept it. It wasn’t until that moment that I understood what my inability and refusal to accept forgiveness really said- that I didn’t accept Jesus’ death. That I was taking what He did on the cross, the whipping He endured for me, and throwing it away. If I didn’t accept my freedom, then all He did was for nothing. It was moot. Wasted.

When I was younger I was told that every time I sinned it was like shoving another thorn through Jesus’ head. So I saw the blood soaked cross as a source of shame, as proof of my sin, rather than deliverance from it. Over the years, I chained myself to the cross, inviting the suffering I knew I deserved, without realizing the shackles weren’t even there. They had already been broken, the blood debt paid. I was always free, I just didn’t know it yet. It’s as if I finally looked up from the floor of the self-made jail cell and realized the door was actually open.

That’s Easter.

The debt is paid. The tomb is empty. He is risen.

The stations of the cross that I learned about in school, that we went through in church, are really components of a love story- the story of restoration and redemption…should we choose to accept.

easter-2013-easter-sunday-2013-easter-resurrection-spirit-greeting-card

Categories: Spirituality and Faith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Only Love Thaws a Frozen Heart

frozen_french_poster_2847     So I finally watched Disney’s Frozen, the movie that has taken the world by storm as of late, the highest grossing animated movie of all time worldwide, and one of the top ten of all time period. I loved it, but that’s not really unexpected because I admittedly am a 27 year old woman who still watches the Disney channel on a semi-regular basis, and no, I don’t have kids.

I loved the message of this movie. It is one that resonated deep within as one I know to be true because it is a story of my own life. It’s a story I’ve lived. I must say, Disney, I concur.

When asked how I recovered from an eating disorder, sometimes I fumble with my response. 3.5  years of hospitalizations, inpatient, outpatient, and individual weekly, sometimes bi-weekly therapy, or a culmination of all of the above? The heart to hearts with my therapist/surrogate best friend-mom-older sister-teacher, the picking apart of each and every semi-traumatic moment of my childhood, the educational aspects, the cognitive changes, the life skills learned…none of it feels like the right answer. Something is always missing.

Because in the end, it was love.

Yet, when you tell someone you were loved back to health, you tend to elicit odd looks and skeptical responses. When you say Jesus healed your heart and put back together your fractured soul, people aren’t quite sure what to make of that, other than maybe you overdosed one too many times and left your brain a bit addled. People want something “concrete” to hold on to, some tangible method or a “how-to” list.

I can craft a “how-to” on formulating a meal plan for a person in recovery based on if they need to gain, maintain, or lose weight. I can draft a step-by-step on utilizing cognitive behavioral therapy in order to change your thoughts or dialectical behavioral therapy to combat the general inability to deal with life, and I can even pick apart all the ways the scale does not necessarily give you an accurate representation of your weight. But these things change behaviors, and even thoughts, but it takes one step further to reach the heart.

I didn’t fully recover until I had a change of heart. That is why even after the eating disorder behaviors mostly acquiesced due to the all, but not limited to, aforementioned treatment, I continued to self-destruct through the underlying borderline personality disorder. And I continued to hide under the covers in a mental fog due to the chronic depression.

When I say I recovered, it’s more like there is another step past recovery. Recovering from something means you were at one point not recovered, or rather, afflicted and struggling. And every time you say the word “recovered” you are still attached to what got you there in the first place. So yes, I feel there is another step. Where you’re healed past the point of “recovery.” You are no longer just recovered. You are free.

Free as in freedom as in it’s as if it never happened and your memories feel like they more appropriately belong to a character in a movie you once watched a long time ago and barely remember rather than a younger version of yourself. How did this happen? How do you go from having a frozen heart to being thawed and plumb cozy?

Frozen-Quote

 

Only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart.

I propose, the ultimate and most sacrificial act of true love ever known to the world- the cross. Jesus died on the cross to thaw my frozen heart. The nails that pierced His flesh, were driven straight through my chains until they snapped. And this love is so true that it’s the all-consuming, life-altering, redemptive kind that once you are aware of, every part of you gravitates toward it naturally like growing flowers leaning into the direction of the sun.

Healing was a process. It started with the love I found in the hospital for the first time, a level of compassion and tenderness so foreign and strange as people saw me beneath the outer layers that hadn’t been peeled back in years and I felt safe enough to remove the “Keep Out” sign from my heart and dust the cobwebs from around the door. Then I learned to express love for animals and accept the unconditional love they offered. I learned how to care for something, how to support another living thing, as I slowly learned how to care for myself. It continued with my parents and learning each other’s different love languages and how to better express them to each other, the discovery of the love that was there all along without me ever having understood it before. And ultimately, when I was ready and in a position to recognize it, the transforming love of my Creator. Once I finally felt the full power of this grace-filled love there was no turning back. Ultimately, it was the love displayed at Calvary on that old wooden cross.

It was Jesus. It was always Jesus.

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From the start it was the Holy Spirit loving me from the inside of those placed in my life, those trying to fight for my very existence. It was His creation and His heart that shone in the eyes of my first horse that gave me one of the first reasons I had found for choosing to live. It’s His hand in my family that led us to find not only mutual ground, but a relationship grown from our love for each other so full it overflows. And it’s the Holy Spirit within me, that loved me from the inside out, that delivered me from my deepest darkest brokenness to one who has found her light.

It was Him, always Him.

Only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart.

 

(And now, not because it fits with the theme of this post, but purely because I am utterly obsessed with it- the primary song from Frozen, “Let it Go.” Idina Menzel’s voice is pure genius, by the way.)

 

 

—–EDIT 5/22/14: This post was published in the May 2014 issue of The Kingdom Life Now, an online Christian women’s magazine! http://thekingdomlifenow.com/love-thaws-frozen-heart/

Categories: Mental Health and Recovery, Spirituality and Faith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments