A Peace of Our Future

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Last night I came home from a long day of work and socialization and I slid into the kitchen. As I reclined against the counter, I began to chat with my roommate and before I knew it it’s suddenly two hours later. How does that even happen?? Somehow she and I managed to discuss love, family, career, school, God, marriage, singlehood, summers, finances, etc and now that I think about it, I’m surprised two hours was all it took! But here’s the beautiful thing: we found peace.

All too often I get to thinking outside of my present. Frequently, I spend time in my past. So much has happened back there that I’m still processing, and I am constantly living in it. Living in the past is difficult because it is so tempting to live in those memories of pain and hurt. But I am a different person now, and I have a different goal. By spending time in my past, I am attempting to try and finally free myself from those sneaky little triggers that set me off. Sneaky little traps were set back there, and I need to find them and disengage them so I can live life with confidence in the now.

But this post isn’t about my past (for once). It’s about my future.

If I spend time in my past with intentionality, then I spend time in my future with massive uncertainty. I mean, who doesn’t? The thing about the past, is that we were there. We know the details of the story. With the future, there is no solid facts. It is a haze of ideas, plans, hopes, dreams, and fears. It is a story that is yet to be written. And for those of us who appreciate a little assurance in our lives, it can be hard to find rest in the future.

Which leads me back to last night’s conversation.

As I spoke my worries, dreams, and plans into reality by sharing them with a friend, they suddenly seemed more real. And that’s a little terrifying. But something came over me last night as we conversed. Suddenly the knot in my stomach relaxed and I realized that no matter what comes, or what I decide to do, it is already redeemed. My soul suddenly found rest by something that I can only label as the peace of God. And forgive me for being cliché, but:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” // Phil 4:6-7

You see, last night reminded me of something wonderful; that God is over all things, including my future. All I have to do is turn around and see how he was over all things, including my past. There is such a thrill in realizing that I can and will screw up, but that His joy over my victories far exceeds my shame over my mistakes. With this realization comes an blessed assurance that though I know not what the future holds, I know who holds my future, and I couldn’t be in better hands.

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Home. Less.

What made me think that I belonged?

I call myself a fool as I shame myself for getting my hopes up, for building expectations, for familiarizing myself with a home. I fell in love with a family that I desperately wanted in place of my own. I fell in love with a building and an opportunity where love, encouragement, and support abounded. I anticipated and worked to become a part of it. I should have instead anticipated the moment where I stood helplessly as my structures fell apart. Then I wouldn’t be hurting so badly now.

What does it mean to have a home?

Is home where the heart is? Because my heart burns with yearning as I remember my eight weeks in Michigan last year. I miss it so much. Yet I cannot consider that my home. Not only is it 2000 miles away, but my relational roots there are weak. Is home where you find your family? Because my family is a disaster, existing in a broken web of unhealthy relationships with one another. No way can I consider my parent’s house my home. Nor can I consider the place I live my home. It is so temporary as I move around from year to year and live with different people my age. Home should not be so transitory. Then there are the families that I’ve made for myself. Their homes are welcoming, safe, and kind. But in the end, I must leave because I am not an actual member of their household. I still have to return home.

Home.

Is home where you belong?

Belonging is when you have a community in which you enjoy each other. There is a space for vulnerability and encouragement. It is a place where, not only would you be missed if you were not there, but the community would suffer a significant blow should you leave. And there is an acknowledgement, either spoken or understood, of commitment to those who belong to that community. That no matter what, where, when, or why, the community will respond to the needs of those who belong to it.

Every time I believed that I have found belonging, I was painfully reminded, or revealed to before long, that I was mistaken. No one missed me when I was gone. I was replaceable. My thoughts, my opinions, carried no weight. I did not truly belong.

Home. Less. What else are you when no place, no house, no family, no community, is yours?

I am a home-chaser. I am a belonging-chaser. I work work work to fill the gap in my heart that yearns for the security, love, and peace that comes from belonging in a family, a community, a place, a home. I have searched searched searched for a place, for a family, for a community, for a friend, who could give me the feeling of belonging that I so desperately desired. I have failed. Failed.

Failed to find my home.

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” – C. S. Lewis

“Eternity has been etched into your heart” – Ecclesiastes 3:11

Le sigh.

Nothing is so incredibly frustrating and yet utterly peace-giving as the gentle reminder of how wrong I am and how great my God is.

There are few things I desire in this world more than I desire for a home. A family. A sense of belonging. But this world has yet to satisfy me, and I have come to the conclusion that it never will. For if eternity was etched into my heart, then only eternity will be able to make my heart complete. And if this world refuses to satisfy me, then it is only a reminder of the kingdom come.

God knows that people can and will spend their entire lives searching for satisfaction to fill the hole that eternity left inside of our being. Yet there is nothing, not family, not experiences, not love, not relationships, that will bring fulfillment. So He gave us a great gift. It is only through the Holy Spirit, that we find a hint of that satisfaction, of the living water which quenches our thirst that we never need to yearn again. Praise the Lord that we will not be stuck in yearning forever.

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Home. Less. A wanderer, belonging nowhere, to no community. A young woman, who just wants to feel complete, who knows in her heart that when she turns her soul to the Giver of all that is Good, she already is.

Banishing the Skeleton: depression, one year later

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I want to talk about something that has been weighing on my heart.

As a recent university graduate, my mind has been very retrospective as I reflect on where I am in life and where I want to be. I think about school, friendships, family, relationships, and adulthood. But the one thing that continues to take over my thoughts is the memory of my encounter with depression.

I was diagnosed with depression thirteen months ago. Unbeknownst to me or anyone else, I had been living with the illness for five years, and upon diagnosis it morphed from a personality trait into an all-consuming power over my being. Funny how once something has a name, has an identity, how it comes alive. Even when my depression was named for what it was, I chose, and still choose, to call it by a different name. I still try to have an element of control over what power this illness holds over me. I call the turmoil my skeleton, because it lives in the closet of my mind, and that is where I like to keep it. I try to deny it’s existence, to keep it ignored. But when it does come out to play in my moments of weakness, it takes over, and there’s almost nothing I can do but surrender to the ceaseless tidal waves of overwhelming emotion. My skeleton whispers lies in my ear, teases me by playing tricks in my mind, and takes over control of my body.

At the time of my diagnosis, my behavior was marked by extremes. Over the course of a day I could go from head-over-heels in love and friendly to all, to choking on self-loathing and despair, drowning in the sheets of my boyfriend’s bed, my prison. And when I found myself in the emotional pit of darkness and hatred, there was nothing that could get me out. No effort of my own nor anyone else’s had the power to lift me from my hardened heart and hurricane of emotions.

Hysterics. Deadened. Fragile. Anger. Hurt. Shredded.

“I wish I was dead.”

The words that landed me on the doctor’s examination table. The words whispered as I soaked in my tears on the living room floor. The words in my mind as I considered my options of death over life. The words my skeleton embodied as it dominated my entire being.

One day I will write about the details of that hell. But not today.

One day I will also write about the details of my recovery. But that too is for another time.

It shall suffice to say that my collision with God in the months following my emotional and mental breakdown is what tipped the scales to once again favor life over death. I had a little pill, a furlough away from the circumstantial chaos, but most of all I had Truth being poured into my soul where before there were only lies. Like waves of golden light driving out the demons, I began to be renewed.

These are the memories that continue to grasp my attention.

And yet, I still have depression. I am by no means an expert, but I do not believe that once you recover from the bout of depression that landed you with a diagnosis, that you  are healed of the illness. It has been my experience that my skeleton still comes out every now and again. Several months ago it was so bad that I once again began to lose control of my behavior. When I realized that I was entering a place where my depression had more control over me than I had over myself, I about lost it in terror. Sheer panic at my emotional state as memories of the hell I had escaped less than a year earlier came flooding back. I couldn’t reach God by myself in that moment. I praise the Lord for the friend who guided me back to His goodness, truth, and faithfulness to me. I poured truth over myself to drown out the lies, and eventually managed to avoid the spiral into the depths of torment.

So. A year later. I no longer have a pill and I am no longer hiding from the things that bring me anxiety. But most importantly, I no longer fear the power of the skeleton. You see, I came across a realization a little while ago that about blew me out of my chair when it hit. It started with a song I heard performed, called “Ghost.” The understanding is this: that although I live with a skeleton inside of me, I also live with a ghost. A Holy Ghost. A ghost with the power of the God of the universe. A ghost whose mightiness and glory and strength is greater than any illness known to man. A ghost who tells me truths, banishes the darkness, and who pours comfort and grace over my soul.

A ghost who will always win. Who will always rise in victory when pitted against my skeleton.

My battle with depression has undoubtedly been a life-changing journey. One that will always be on my mind as long as I struggle with my emotions. But it does not define me. Only my title as a Beloved Child of God does that.

Singlehood

The State of Being Single

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Or better known as, my personal Hell.

I am a wannabe flower-child-pnw-hipster and I have been single for 3100 hours. Hours of tears, pity, shame, confusion, and misery as I try. Try to do what? I’m not even sure.

Why am I single?

Because every time I allow my heart to fall, it falls like a carnival glass bowl over oil-stained concrete. Because every time I choose a man, I choose out of selfishness  to fill the emptiness in my heart. Because every time I invest in another, my worth is so tied up in their love for me that I cannot stand the thought of having to be enough for myself. Because yes, though God is my God and my worth and value is forever defined by him, sometimes I feel like I might mean more to Him, than to myself. And what’s more, I feel like He would love me more if I was in a relationship.

How do I feel about my singlehood?

First, I feel depressed. I question everything I am. Why am I not good enough for him? What if I was prettier? I wish he thought my jokes were funny. I must be garbage if I did all this and he didn’t even notice. Then, I feel angry. Why does this always happen?? What am I missing? I have feelings for him, and yet I cannot date him. This isn’t fair. What do I need to do different? Because I’d do it in an instant. Finally, I feel ashamed. I am reminded that God’s timing is perfect, and I regret my tantrum and self-pity. And I remember how it felt when my heart shattered, when my body went through agonizing withdrawals, when my mind was swallowed up in the hurricane of my untamed emotion. Then I quietly swallow my pride and apologize to my Father.

Why do I feel like this?

I ask myself this question frequently. My emotional roller coaster is fueled by a struggle to find my worth in God and God alone. My biggest hurdle in this is living in a world full of people. People who build me up, tear me down, and tell me all sorts of things about who I am. Therefore I allow people to tell me who I am. I care too much about what they have to say. I allow them to define me, encourage me, destroy me, torment me, and calm me. I recognize that this is harmful, since my God gave up everything, his very life, to give me joy, purpose, and a future, because He loves me. But sometimes it takes a while for these truths to journey from my head and into my heart, where I can fully embrace them. Until then, I just have to remind myself of my incorruptible worth in Jesus every time my heart starts to storm over with doubt.

What could I have done differently?

Simple. I could have actively worked to prevent heartbreak by pursuing my relationship with God before pursuing my relationship with men. This is what I need to work on most in my blasted singlehood. Finding acceptance in who I am, where I am in life, and in what I mean to those around me.

Can I accept that I did my best?

No. When I look in retrospect at my past relationships, it is clear as day that I was living so selfishly. Those moments were not my best, and to make matters worse, I knew it. There is so much pain and regret in my heart now because of my past selfishness, and I am torn between hating myself for it and just letting it be. I am constantly told “Those experiences shaped you into who you are today, so you shouldn’t want to take them back.” And while there is truth in that, I mourn the time and innocence that I lost through my investments in unhealthy relationships. Thank goodness I have God’s grace to cover my old life and the mistakes I made there. I may have regrets about my past decisions, but at least they don’t have to define me.

How can I love myself today?

By repeating God’s goodness out loud every time I rise from my bed and start to feel the creeping tendrils of doubt and worry sneak into my heart and into my head. CURSE YOU LIES OF SATAN, I AM A BELOVED CHILD OF GOD AND NOTHING IS EVER GOING TO CHANGE THAT.

Psalm 139:13-16 // For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

 

Do I have it all figured out? Of course not. I despise my 3100 hours of singlehood, but I know I’m walking through this period in order to grow. I know that this is an opportunity to seek God’s face in the midst of the hot mess that is my emotions. And I know that while there is a very real possibility that I will be single for the rest of my life, God is Good, and God is in Me. He is good all of the time, and His will is perfect.

So I will continue to seek after God in my singlehood. And He will continue to hold me as I scream and yell and pull out my hair at my frustration, but I will walk in obedience, no matter the cost. I am His Beloved. That is all that matters.

 

Thoughts from a Musician

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What does it mean to be passionate?

As I sit at the breakfast table, slowing sipping my coffee, I reflect upon my adventure last night.

Images race through my brain of bright strings of lights, cheerful faces, and shining instruments. Sounds echo in my ears of voices, laughter, and electric hums. My lips are tugged up in a smile as I remember the feeling of hugs, of joy, and of complete and utter contentment.

There’s a pause in my reminiscence. Contentment? I just had a terrible two weeks at school. I feel content? Just the other day I was complete worn down, drowning in heartbreak, stress, hunger, and despair. And yet, I cannot deny the warmth in my heart. Why is that? And then it dawns on me: when was the last time I allowed myself to fully engage in something I was passionate about like I did last night?

Passion in my eyes is one of those God-given gifts to humanity that gives us a glimpse into heaven, and when we allow ourselves to let go of all worries and instead completely engage with what we’re made to do, we experience the Kingdom.

So again I revisit last night in my mind. Myself and five other of my close friends held a benefit concert to raise money for college students to attend mission trips. Together we planned out a night of music, from blues, to heavy rock; from ballads to twangy folk, and MAN we sounded good. I look around and I am surrounded by incredible vocalists, soloists, and musicians who are passionate. These are people who are not afraid of what people think of them. People who, once they embrace their instrument in their hands, they embrace it with their whole being, and create beautiful art.

I feel incredibly honored that I got to be a part of that. That I got to join them in the artistic frenzy, and use the gifts God has given me to participate in something wonderful.

So yes. This morning, I am filled with contentment from indulging my soul in freedom. From taking a deep breath and inviting the Kingdom into my daily life.

I think I need to allow myself to be passionate more often.

The Ghost on My Shoulder

“All good things must come to an end”

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I have a question for you readers concerning matters of the heart. Let me tell you a little bit about my Problem.

It started just over a year ago. Ever since, no matter where I’ve been or what I’ve been doing, I have been carrying around a little ghost on my shoulder. This ghost is my problem. It has a name, and yes it’s a real person. But no, that person is not actually dead. No, in fact, he is very much alive and therein lies the issue.

My ghost’s life is full and real and active, but I only ever see reflections of it. Seeing his life in full is a privilege I have never known. I will notice the underlying whispers of his goings-on or glimpse images of his interactions out of the corner of my eye. These little bits of him are more or less infrequent and come as interruptions to my day. However, every time I catch these reminders of his actual existence, the figure on my shoulder comes into focus, taps my head, then waves at me with a grin upon his face. It is a mocking grin, but a beautiful one nonetheless.

This relationship between me and my phantom is a strange one. You see, as much as I enjoy having a little follower, I often wish him gone. Every teasing smile, every blurred image and series of sounds are coupled with a punch to the gut and a blow to the heart. Talk about an interruption. Sometimes the pain isn’t so bad, and it’s easy to just continue on with whatever I was doing. However, sometimes the pain is searing and it takes me a moment for me to catch my breath. The pain is rooted in that grin; the one that reminds me of the man before the ghost and the scars that he put on my heart.

There once was a time when my ghost was not just a remnant of a being, but a fully realized individual with blood pumping and thoughts thinking. It was during that time in my life that his face delivered not pain, but joy. His words were full of sustenance and his actions a comfort. Before my ghost was transformed into his present state, he was the oxygen I breathed. Like tobacco, I inhaled and exhaled so much that by the time I reluctantly quit, the damage had already been done. His presence had infiltrated my body and mind so much that during my withdrawals I obtained my little ghost who has yet to ever fill the shoes left by the human being I had come to love.

So every now and then I get poked by this apparition and I see the grin and I feel the pain. I feel the agony of his happiness without mine. The reminder of our once blissful times compared to the current reality of my loneliness. And yet, I carry around my ghost, my Problem, because something is better than nothing, right?

At what point do you choose to forget the one you once loved?

Geekery

“…because nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. Hank, when people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.”

-John Green

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Everybody is a geek about something, and that is something that I’ve come to appreciate more and more as days go on. For me it’s music. I love playing instruments and using songs to build community and bring people together. Something about the way we create art through sound holds captive my imagination. For others it’s nature. There’s no where else they’d rather be on a free weekend than at the top of a mountain. Maybe it’s sports that fills you up; leaving your stress behind as you reach for your goals. And then there’s fiction. Be it books, shows, or movies, some find that the best way to escape is to do it through the life of another.

I believe we are each born with passions that develop as we grow. When it comes to nurture versus nature I think that God gave us tendencies which manifest themselves differently depending on the opportunities we’re given through life. The best thing we can do with these passions is to find out how we can better our world with them. Humans have a responsibility to this earth and the people on it, and we fulfill that by giving back with our gifts.

So how will you use your passion today?