Posts Tagged With: God

A King Among Beggars: An Easter Story

Recently I saw my first bald eagle. I was driving home from class, winding through North Florida country- woods on my right, woods on my left, and a curve ahead. I slowed slightly while rounding the curve, and tapped the break a bit more upon glimpsing the flock of vultures partially in the road, to allow them an extra few seconds to gain some altitude. Only half paying attention to the flapping wings, I suddenly caught sight of a white head providing stark contrast to the others. I did a double take, and after a quick glance in the rear-view mirror, slowed the car to a stop with a nod in silent gratitude to the country roads that bask in solitude. I craned my neck hoping to find him, and sure enough the white headed wonder was soaring just over the tree tops.

Maybe it’s a result of growing up in a big city, or just my long standing fascination with birds of prey, but I felt humbled by this stoic, proud, fearless, unapologetic creature. He is it. The king. The lion may be king of the jungle, but the eagle is king of the skies. Every knee shall bow.

What I couldn’t resolve, though, was the question of why in the world this bald eagle appeared seemingly out of nowhere in the midst of beggars. What possible business does he have sharing air space with them, or a meal, if that’s what he was doing? It’s just unbelievable.

But the answering thought was,

“Because that’s what the best kings do.”

The best kings walk among beggars; a true Savior befriends sinners. 

Whether risen from a roadside grave, or a tomb of stone, a true King is unmistakable. He befriends vultures: the lepers, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the cowardly, the drunks, the suicidal, the afraid, the abused, the abandoned. A true King doesn’t care what the world says of you, or what you’ve done…only your heart and your response to his outstretched hand.

As I watched the bald one circle and rise, unchained to any earthly anchor, the beggars followed suit, unashamed. I thought to the cross, to this day, to Easter. I thought of my Savior, the One unchained. The One the earth couldn’t hold. And I thought of the beggars. Because that’s all I am- a beggar.

All I am, is a beggar, with a King who unbelievably walked with beggars on Earth, so that when He rose, when He called my name, I would have the freedom to follow suit, unashamed.

 

 

Thank you, Jesus. I will follow. 

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

A Gift Of Freedom Gold Can’t Buy

october15     October 15th is always a day that carries with it the light and dark of so many past Octobers. It’s a day that He makes all things new, a day of beginnings, of healing, of fulfilled promises, and of learning what it means to be held.

This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We’d be held

-Natalie Grant “Held”

Ten years ago today I left the hospital after a two-week stay, and my Dad boarded a plane with me to Wickenburg, Arizona, where he dropped me off at an eating disorder treatment center in the middle of the desert. Even though this was just one of several places that came to be a temporary home during the roughly four years of my treatment, it was the most significant. I walked through those doors in fear, feeling as if I’d made a huge mistake in agreeing to go there, and begging my Dad not to leave without me. But during my almost 3 month stay, while I did not find an immediate cure, I did come to 3 new and very important things: hope for a life beyond my illness, a personal relationship with Jesus, and the choice to live. It had been years since I’d dreamed of living past my 20th birthday, and a life of freedom was completely incomprehensible.

I had left college two weeks before arriving in Arizona, when I finally realized that if I stayed any longer I was going to die. But being scared of dying, and choosing life are not mutually inclusive thoughts. I lingered somewhere in the middle where I could no longer handle the miserable existence I was creating for myself, but the highest my aspirations went was for an existence more manageable and just slightly less miserable.

I was devastated that my choice must include abandoning my Big Ten college volleyball team in the middle of the season and walking away from everything I had worked so hard for for years. Even though I told my coaches I’d be back in the Spring, I think I knew deep down that I had played my last game, that I was surrendering all my dreams. But I also knew that I couldn’t hope to play professionally overseas after college if I couldn’t even make it through college. And if I was really being honest with myself, playing wasn’t even fun anymore. After all, I was at that point a state and national champion, and a starter on my college team as a freshman, and I couldn’t even enjoy that because I was too busy berating myself for any imperfections. I couldn’t enjoy the sport I loved because I was too preoccupied in my own head in this other game that demanded all my attention and energy. It was devastating. And being in treatment, living amongst strangers who knew nothing of my athletic pursuits was the first time I had to actually find an identity in something other than being an athlete. I didn’t know who I was, or what my likes and dislikes were, or strengths and weaknesses outside of sports. As uncomfortable as shedding that persona was, it was time to find out who I really was, and who I was to my Creator.

grain of sand

That time in the desert was the biggest turning point of the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life- recover. Every single day was like visiting the battlefield in my civil war of one. But when I got back on a plane to head home in January, I was unrecognizable from the person I was on October 15th.

This is where the healing begins,
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you’re broken within
The light meets the dark

-Tenth Avenue North “Healing Begins”

That was where my healing began. That was where His light met my dark.

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October 15th is a day of beginnings. A day to cherish life and health and new chapters, and a day of promises fulfilled.

Four years ago today I met the man that is as much of a soulmate as one can be, if that kind of thing even exists. He fulfilled a promise made to me by God. You may think that sounds silly. How could God have promised such a thing to me? I’d argue that God made promises to those in the Bible who were also just ordinary human beings, and he made promises to humanity as a whole. He’s the same God today as He was then, so why wouldn’t he still be in the business of making and fulfilling promises? If you’re curious, you can visit the link above and discover what I am referring to, but if not you’ll just have to trust me.

Nonetheless, October 15th once again was a turning point in my life. It was the first day of the best 4 years of my life thus far. I am so blessed and grateful to have a partner in life that was seemingly appointed by heaven itself. Someone who anchors me, encourages me, challenges me to grow continuously, and loves me without condition.

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October 15, 2011 found me unrecognizable from the person I was on October 15, 2005. And while October 15, 2015 carries with it my resemblance to the person from 2011, I am once again not the same. This year finds me stronger, braver, and with a bit more wisdom after a few more years under my belt.

Looking back, I can see that all along, I was being held. There were times in the Arizona desert and throughout my treatment that I felt the miraculous presence of God, receiving immediate undeniable answer to prayer, in a way in which no mere “coincidence” could provide explanation. And there were other times of prayer throughout the years when my knees hit the ground and I felt largely unheard. But some of those times, I found in His time, not mine, that he did answer after all. He always answers. We just aren’t always patient enough to listen.

One day I asked God for a sign. As I was driving, I asked Him to give me the biggest hawk I’ve ever seen as I round the next curve on that 2 lane country road. To just place one right in the middle of the road as I come around the corner, as confirmation that I was on the right path. I didn’t get my hawk that day.

image source: ejphoto.com

image source: ejphoto.com

A year and a half later I went home after taking my College Algebra final exam, evidence of tears of joy still glistening on my cheeks as I secured an A in the one subject that challenges me, and the one class I didn’t dare believe I could get through without damaging my GPA. I immediately jumped out of the car, changed shoes, and jumped on one of my horses bareback, feeling a rush of peacefulness and pure joy wash over me. I took him into the woods, and rounded a curve just beyond the mouth of the trail. I had to hold in a gasp that almost escaped my lips before I could catch it, because a dozen or so feet in front of me, perched on a branch jutting out over my path was a red-shouldered hawk- by far the biggest I’ve ever seen in person. He turned and looked at me, his steel gaze piercing right through me, and held it for what seemed like an eternity. Time stood still. He stayed for probably no more than 20 seconds, but 20 seconds in a staring contest with a bird of prey, close enough to count his feathers, while sitting atop a large animal who doesn’t want to stand still is a really long time.

It was one of those moments in my life many would chalk up to coincidence, or not even think twice about. But for me, in that moment I just knew. I knew God was finally responding in a way that He knew I would recognize. It was just an acknowledgement of what I at times have begged Him for- confirmation that I’m doing okay, that I’m moving in the right direction, that He is still holding me.

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Why do I share all this? Why do I publicly reflect on the meaning of landmark Octobers and answered prayers? Why take you back a decade to a different lifetime that seems more like memories of a movie I watched about someone else’s life, than the one I actually lived myself?

Because I feel the responsibility that comes from having known darkness, yet finding redemption. The responsibility to be a voice and an example. If one person might see this and may find hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that things really can get better then I need to be here to say it.

Because there is hope. Because you’re not alone. Because after 7 years of being recovered, I can tell you that my absolute worst day, amplified, is still worlds away from my best day with anorexia and bulimia. Because even though sometimes choosing life is the hardest thing you will ever have to do, it is worth every single second.

Maybe you’re struggling with that choice. Maybe you’ve made it but don’t even know how to start picking up the pieces. Well know this: I found my life when I laid it down. Maybe you can too.

image source: spiritualgym.tumblr.com

image source: spiritualgym.tumblr.com

Categories: Mental Health and Recovery, Spirituality and Faith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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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Speak Life or Not At All

image credit: Daria Zaytseva

image credit: Daria Zaytseva

I don’t think of myself as a complainer. I certainly don’t complain any more than anyone else does. At least, I don’t think I do. Maybe even less. I used to complain a lot, the kind that stems from depression and victim playing, but I’ve come a long way. Now? I don’t really think about it. Well, over the past few weeks, I’ve read and heard things that continuously present the same message- “Don’t complain.” I’d read something in a devotional and then hear the same words later that day from a radio host through my car’s speakers. Sometimes when the same lesson repeatedly pops up and grabs our attention, I think it’s more than coincidence. I think God is trying to teach us something, trying to convict our hearts of something he wants us to learn.

 I don’t think of myself as a complainer. But it wasn’t until I started paying attention that I realized I do complain more than I thought I did.

Now, let me insert this disclaimer: Complaining and sharing disagreements in a constructive manner are not the same thing. Sharing disagreements with the person in question, on a mutual platform in order to find common ground and work out differences to find peace and share feelings is one thing, but complaining, as in whining, as in gossiping about co-workers or feeding frustration toward customers is what I’m discussing here. This is not the same as saying “no” or standing up for oneself or constructive criticism. That being said…

The Bible tells us if we seek, we will find. I think it also holds true, that what we seek, we will find. The more we complain, the worse we will feel. Giving our voice to a thought and speaking it out loud gives it more power. We can either speak negativity or speak life. What we focus on becomes our reality, grows bigger than itself

I started paying attention to the times I use my voice for negativity. Finding myself the object of misplaced blame or feeling a bit more like a dancing monkey than a person, or even the tiredness of inescapable drama or inequality are all examples in which a jury would probably agree I am justified in voicing my irritation.

Do I not trust God to be the ultimate Judge? Do I not trust Him to take care of things, to be bigger than my circumstances? It is not up to me to make all things fair, and yet I feel the need to whisper my two-cents to those in agreement. That sort of gossiping suggests self-righteousness and the neglect of His people. It suggests an idea that I’m right and they’re wrong, forgetting that “they” are His sons and daughters and recipients of Calvary’s sacrifice.

I’ve paid more attention and felt the nudge of my Father on my conscience when engaging in such non-productive speech, yet I’ve mostly ignored it. Until the final straw, when one day I realized I was complaining about someone else complaining! I was doing the very thing I disliked in someone else. I was just as bad as they were! Sure, I thought my grievance was justified whereas the other person’s was not. I thought my complaint more noble, while theirs silly. Sounds like self-righteousness to me. As the light bulb went off and I was faced with a big pill to swallow, I knew what I really needed was big ole’ dose of humility.

It’s as if God is leaving a trail of crumbs that are seeds planted in and around my heart and take root and grow until it is impossible to feign unawareness. And each time I feel the hammering of a new convicting nail in my mind, the weight on my heart will grow until I stop pushing aside and address the issue.

I pray daily that God allow me to be His hands and feet, that He use me to bring others closer to Him, that he let me reflect Jesus and be the proof of His love. And yet, when he gives me instruction on how to do just that, I ignore Him! I hear what He is saying and yet I rebel. Amazing! And by amazing I mean ridiculous.

Sometimes I feel stuck in the routine of daily life as if there is no forward motion and I ask God for help. Yet, it is highly possible that I am blocking breakthrough in my own life through my own stubbornness. It is possible that as I pray for direction and for the path to be revealed, as I pray for God to show me what’s next, God is patiently waiting for me to catch up to what He’s already showing me. Just like we must get certain grades in school before graduating, or gain experience and better weapons in a video game before one can level up, maybe the lessons God presents are like that. Maybe I have to learn to obey and master this lesson, before He can unravel the next one. Maybe obeying one instruction is what will lead to hearing more of them.

It doesn’t matter if I don’t complain more than anyone else does, or if when I do, there are “legitimate” reasons. I’m not striving to be more like everyone else, I’m striving to be more like the One who wants me to hold my tongue even on those seemingly small instances. If the words I speak do not offer help or contribute to community and life, then they are useless. 

Fortunately, we have a patient Father. He is willing to work with us no matter how long it takes us to get the picture and His arms remain forever open. After ignoring Him time and time again, the lesson has finally become resonant. And as I ask, “Father, forgive me?” Somehow, with abounding, undeserved grace, He does.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” -James 1:19

Categories: Spirituality and Faith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Trusting in His Promise

There are truths we can claim over our lives as believers, promises God has given us in His word. We know we are reconciled to God through Jesus’ death. We know our sins are forgiven. We know God is with us wherever we go. We can claim His strength in the midst of difficulty, provision for daily needs, comfort in hardship, wisdom in the face of challenges, rest when we are weary, and an escape when we are tempted. These promises are forever.

But what about more specific, individualized desires of our hearts? Our hearts are of utmost importance to God. Therefore, I believe He cares about what we care about. Even when our cares seem insignificant….

To read the rest of this article and to find out how God promised me that I would find love, visit The Kingdom Life Now, an online women’s magazine HERE!

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Mercy Reaching, Jesus Speaking

image via tarnmoor.com

Rising panic. I can’t get away. I feel used. I’m dirty. Disposable. There is pain. And darkness. All I see is darkness. Just hurry and get it over with…

My eyes flashed open with the clash of conflicting emotion and the pounding of my heart against my rib cage. There was relief that came with realizing it was just another nightmare. Yet the dream felt so utterly real, and my anxious mind was still reeling. The unwelcome physical sensations lingered as I fought to catch my breath.

I wish my sleeping subconscious didn’t insist on reliving that terrible and confusing night. Though there was a drastic difference between these dreams and the night they reference. In these dreams….

TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN THE JULY ISSUE OF THE KINGDOM LIFE NOW MAGAZINE, CLICK HERE!

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We Accept the Love We Think We Deserve

we-accept-the-love-we-think-we-deserve

There was a period of my life where I was surrounded by people who cared about me, but the pain inside kept me blinded to it. Some may have spoken a different love language,  or showed their love differently than the way I was hoping for, but for whatever reason, I couldn’t see it. I was so sure I was unlovable that even when people bent over backwards and jumped through hoops to fight for me, I’d set them up for failure by waiting for the inevitable one thing they would do to eventually disappoint me and prove me “right” that they didn’t care after all.

It could be one unreturned phone call after years of taking my calls at all hours of the day, or the volleyball game they didn’t come to after a lifetime of coaching me and practicing with me. It would be the time they left because I pushed them too hard and too far, after innumerable times standing by my side when no one else would.

I’d put people on a shaky pedestal which one day I would topple to the ground. And then at that moment with grim and rueful satisfaction I’d claim victory. “I knew they never loved me.”

It was misery of my own making, like clinging to chains in a prison cell with the door open. A prison where all interaction with others was a projection of my own inner voice. I deemed myself unlovable and unworthy so naturally I believed others must also. I figured any evidence to the contrary was a lie, a lie others told me to keep me from hurting myself. Even wrapped in a curtain of love, I was afraid the same curtain would be used at any moment to sweep across the stage and signal the end of some Tony Award winning play. The world was a stage, the scripts were full of lies, and all acts come to an end.

We really do accept the love we think we deserve.  The world would be a much less lonely place if this weren’t the case. This truth of human behavior holds us captive in a mythical world where we are barricaded from a much greater and far more powerful truth.

YOU ARE LOVED BEYOND MEASURE.

No matter how alone you feel, I guarantee you you’re really not. Many times people in our lives love us but don’t know how to show it or don’t show it in the way we need or are simply incapable of expressing it. If this is the case then it is up to us to look elsewhere to get our  needs met. Even if you still argue, ” I really am alone, I truly have no one,” it’s still not true. I promise.

There’s still Jesus.

Jesus loves you. He loves you enough that He died for You. Whether you want to believe it or not, can accept it or not, changes nothing.

Every hurt, every disappointment, every mistake was nailed to the cross with Him. And there’s not a single thing you can do to make Him love you any less.

You are never alone.
You are loved beyond measure.

Claim this as your truth. Keep saying this out loud, every single day, for as long as it takes for you to believe it!

Today, may you begin to accept the love that is freely bestowed upon you as a child of the King. May you find Him in the midst of all circumstances and even when the sky is falling and the ground is shaking, may you remember beyond any doubt that you are never, ever alone.

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

Birds of the Air, Ducks in the Road

It was a coffeerough start.

I was supposed to be at work a little early, and hit snooze one too many times leaving me rushed. My Magic Bullet rebelled while blending my breakfast smoothie, allowing ground up bits of blueberry to seep out down the sides, and as soon as I sat down in my car I spilled coffee on myself.

I drove to work with frustration claiming every thought and steam blowing from my ears.

Why is life so hard sometimes?”

“I don’t even want to go to work! This means-to-an-end job I had never planned on still doing at my age…” (insert grumbling here)

I listened for an answer from above, knowing fully that my little mental tantrum had spoiled brat written all over it.

How ungrateful. How blessed I am, how wonderful a life I’ve been allowed to live, and yet this particular morning I was just insistent on throwing my sucker in the dirt and whining to the Lord about whatever I could find fault with. Though really, I just didn’t want to admit that my poor attitude was stemming from something completely within my control which was a fault all my own- that dang snooze button. I swear that thing is like an addictive drug. I’ve been pressing it my whole life and now that I’m older and trying to be more responsible, I just can’t stop.

My superficial complaints didn’t deserve any acknowledgement from God. But somehow, He was gracious enough to give me one anyway.

Driving down a busy street, my irritable inner monologue is interrupted as the corner of my eye catches the duck family stepping out into the middle of traffic, about to cross right in front of me. I slow my car to a near stop to allow two adults, and three fluffy yellow chicks safe passage, and silently will the cars coming in the other direction to slow as well.

image via thebookangel.com

image via thebookangel.com

In spite of myself, a grin cracks across my face as this little family snaps me back outside of myself and somehow manages to remind me of perspective. I’m immediately reminded of Matthew 6:25-34:

  • “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
    “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

As I watch this little duck family I realize that God knows even them, and feeds them, and for today, allows them safety. It’s a reminder to chill out, that no matter how big of a mess I may be on any particular morning, He is still sovereign, His grace is sufficient, even then.

The duck parents step out from the curb, and the babies follow, both groups in blind faith, without worry of the cars or what may happen before they reach the other side. They just put one foot in front of the other and simply go.

Jesus, when it comes to my walk and any potholes or large moving obstacles along the way, help me have the blind faith of these little ducks. Help me look forward to the other side and see only You, instead of the distractions all around. Where You go I’ll go, where You lead, I’ll follow. 

image via myra.lifewithchrist.org

image via myra.lifewithchrist.org

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

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.

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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