my heart is afraid

Twice last week I found my heart gripped in terror. Once was a gals dinner out. I racked my brain, trying to come up with a good reason, excuse, to not go. I could not come up with one. I hesitantly went. It was fun and I was happy I had gone.

The second time was not so successful. Warm weather had decided to grace us with her presence. My husband, all filled with excitement, said “Let’s go outside and be neighborly!!!” Several of our neighbors were out. My heart screamed “NOOO!!!!!” After taking as long as possible changing my cloths and grabbing several projects that required the outdoors to be accomplished, I dragged my butt into the backyard. By this time all the neighbors had gone inside.

Those were my clues.

The walls were finding their way back around my fragile heart. I had taken them down before. I had opened my heart to people. I had learned the beauty of being vulnerable. The healing power within it. Then the inevitable happened, they left. The moved. Far away. We moved. Not super far, but far enough to be in an entirely new community. The walls had come back up and I didn’t even realize they were there.

My heart is more afraid of the abandonment in being vulnerable, than it is of being hurt again. My heart comes up with excuses to justify the walls. It says that my story is heavy and a bit of a mood killer. It says that people will just leave again. It says that it’s just too much to burden others with. It says I can’t keep people from hurting me, but I can keep them from leaving me. It says I’m in control. It lies.

I have been trying to process this myself. This weekend I was forced to start to outwardly process this. I finally allowed Jesus into the conversation. He had a lot to say. He told me that the truth is my story is worth being shared, being heard. The truth is there are people around me who want my heart to be known. Truth is I am not starting from ground zero. Truth is I have already started. Truth is my story is filled with joy and redemption and not sorrow and pain. Truth is I am loved, even if I can’t always see it. Especially when I can’t see it.

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The Guilt of Possessions

For a while now, I have been really struggling in my heart to resolve two very different thoughts. Thoughts that almost seem like they are complete opposites of the spectrum and there is no way for them to collide. No way for them to exist together.

The message of guilt is very popular and used too much, in my opinion, in the Christian faith. It is taught over and over. Most the time I don’t think we even realize we are doing it. We have taken the faith of Christians in the U.S. and made it nothing. We compare our faith to people in countries where it is illegal to be a Christian and say that their faith is so much stronger than ours. Reading my Bible, I don’t see that to be true. Yes, I will agree that it takes a lot more courage to become a Christian in those countries. But are we really going to stand and say that the struggles between what is culturally popular in our country and what the Bible says is any less of a conflict? Does it really take any less faith for us to publicly live what we claim to believe and go against what our world says is right? Because someone isn’t trying to kill us, our faith is the tiniest faith you could find on this earth? I say that’s crap.

Jesus didn’t have secret meetings. He talked to thousands and thousands of people, out in the open. He performed miracles in the synagogues, on the streets, in wide open spaces, on the water, in people’s homes the list goes on. He and his disciples were not forced to live with the fear that if they dared utter his name, someone would kill them right there and then. Yes, the risk of life became greater the further into his ministry he went, but still he didn’t have to hide away and make sure the general public didn’t know where he was. However, he did live with his name being slandered. People who believed in him and were fully committed to living out his words, had to take risks that were just as dangerous as those who live in fear of their lives. Their livelihoods were in danger. Their education was in danger. Their standing in their community was in danger. The loss of friendships was in danger. Their names were dragged through the mud. And this sounds more like the country I live in.

My current struggle has been with the idea of giving everything up for God, being sold out to him and accepting, receiving and living in his blessing. I will agree that it is a lot easier to live in the U.S. and be a Christian and never have to majorly stand up for one’s faith. It is easy to just go with the flow of things and slide through life. Which is why we currently have an abundance of books and messages being preached and taught about ‘a wimpy’ Christian faith. There is a need for Christians in our country to take courage and stand up for what the Bible says. It MUST be done in LOVE or it is wrong! So, there are books out that are talking about a need for a radical change in the Christian faith in the U.S. I love them! They are great! They make very good points. However, have we swung too far? The message is very easily transferred into the idea that it is wrong to have stuff. To own a house is a luxury. To have one car, much-less two or more is a huge luxury. People all over the world live in shacks and don’t even have a car. Jesus and his disciples didn’t own things. They didn’t have a house or furniture or animals to travel on. We have now entered the guilt Christianity movement.

What about all the other people in the Bible who followed after Jesus? There weren’t just 12 of them. What about the crowds that believed in Jesus? What about the people who were healed by him and he told them to go home and tell no one? What about the people who wanted to follow him like the disciples did and he told them to go home and sin no more? Was he rejecting them? Did they not have faith strong enough, like the disciples? If that were the case, then that would contradict everything he stood for. That would completely invalidate my faith. Actually, Jesus very rarely told people to sell their homes, their lands, their belongings and follow after him. To my recollection, which could be a little off, there were only 13 people he asked to do that. His 12 disciples and the rich young ruler.

So, how do I resolved the idea of having stuff, having wealth, with giving up everything for Jesus?

My husband and I have been married for a little over a year and it has been a very blessed year. God has showered us with more than we need. We have a house, which is crazy and a long story for another time of how God brought that all about. But in the grand scheme of things, do we reeeeaaaaallly need a house? No. But we have one and it is very clearly God’s hand that led us to it. We have been able to almost completely furnish our house for very little money, through gifts and finding brand-spanking-new-still-in-the-box furniture at auctions and thrift shops. We don’t really need a buffet style table thing, or even two of those in our dining room, but we have them. We don’t need all the knick-nacks we have to decorate our house, but we have them. However, in every piece of furniture or decoration in my house, I am reminded of how God brought about each find or gift.  Our company has been immensely blessed. We have been able to triple in size in six months time! We have a lot of luxury items and we don’t need them. I feel guilty. Are we not giving everything up for God? Is having all this stuff wrong? But what about the fact that these things are clearly God’s blessings? Is it wrong for me to think that his blessings come in the way of things, when people all over the world, including here, have less than me? What exactly does it mean to give up everything for God?

That last question is where I found myself a few days ago. I’m currently reading through a great book, I’m only 4 chapters in. :) The third chapter talks about a man, who the guilt Christianity movement would say is a weak Christian. He was wealthy. He didn’t give up everything and follow Jesus. The chapter explores this man and the fact that Jesus lifted him up in Scriptures. He was exalted. He was talked about as being righteous. He was important and a crucial part of Jesus fulfilling prophecies. But he was wealthy! He had stuff! He didn’t abandoned his home town. Isn’t that wrong? Shouldn’t he have sold all his belongings in following Jesus? Shouldn’t he have left home and gone far away?

I have been sitting in all of this, letting it swirl around in my brain. Trying to make sense of it all. Then it hit me. Giving up everything for God, doesn’t literally mean selling all my stuff and living in a shack. It means to not hold on to all MY things. That MY things become HIS things and if he wants to take them from me, I am OK with that. I can have stuff and things that really aren’t necessary and still follow Him. My car and my home are filled with blessings. I feel his love when looking at and enjoying the blessings he has given me. I hear him whispering to me that I am his beloved and he longs to lavish his love upon me. I am worthy of these blessings, these visible signs of his affection for me.

I am worthy of these blessings, these visible signs of his affection for me.

Stuff is not wrong. Letting the things I have control me and my life choices are wrong, but having things is not wrong.

Finding Hope

It is hard to be an adult and feel as if I don’t even know who I am. Struggling to make sense of the past. Asking God why. And feeling lost. Who am I/are we? For so long we were told who we were and what we were to do. It was easy. Follow the rules and do what your authority figures are telling you. Read the books you are given and follow those principles and you will have a successful Christian life. We did all the right things. We went to all the seminars. We bought and read the books. We did the stuff we were supposed to do. We wore the right cloths. We acted the right way.

Yet it all felt empty. So, I tried harder. I tried to forgive and forget. I listened to the instructions on crying out to God. On how to pray. I learned the “correct” way to cry out to God. I’d heard the stories of deliverance and restoration that came from crying out to God. It didn’t work.

It didn’t change my family. My dad didn’t come home and we didn’t have the restoration of a family that was “whole.” You know the kind of family that has both parents around following God, with 10 thousand children, because those are the families God will use.  At conferences we were told to try harder, do more. If you did it right the things that had happened to my family wouldn’t be happening. My mom wouldn’t have been hurt. My dad wouldn’t have left. We wouldn’t be stranded out from under the ‘umbrella of protection’ that God has designed for family. If we were doing it right, God would miraculously change my dad’s heart and turn him into this superhuman Christian.

We were all playing a game. A game run by a man, who should not have been given the power to run our lives and families the way he was. It was all a lie. I know it, but I still played along, I didn’t know anything else.

As a young adult, I tried many times to break away from all the bondage and lies surrounding a lot of my growing up life. Then I would get sucked back into it. Some people, who have been inside, have called it a cult. Many/most people outside have called it a cult. I would agree. It’s a little scary to think that one was ever part of a cult. The best kinds of cults mix just enough truth with their lies to draw people in. And boy were thousands upon thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people drawn in. It is so hard to try and muddle through it all. Searching for truth. Completely changing your way of thinking. Learning that words like forgiveness, authority, submission, obedience, modesty, etc are not meant to bring fear. Learning what those things actually are and that they are not meant to oppress and keep us in bondage and darkness. They are beautiful words to bring freedom and love.

For so long, I had very successfully pushed this part of my life into a nice little box. It was locked with a pretty, but incredibly strong lock and tied with beautiful ribbon, that could not be cut or untied. Or so I thought. Then social media exploded with people all over talking. Telling their stories of horror and pain and hurt. It was this strange uniting of people, some familiar and some complete strangers. It was beautiful. There was a glimpse of hope. There was comfort, yet sadness, that I wasn’t the only one hurt.

At first I ignored it all. Then I slowly started reading more and more. Thinking about the amount of people who have been hurt so badly and the people who have turned their backs on a God they had been taught about and thought they knew. Truth be told the god they taught was only a tiny part of the God of the Bible and mostly part of a man made god. I was angry and a little depressed. I wanted to just crawl into a hole thinking about how evil our world is, how easy it is for that to creep into and destroy people’s lives.

My husband and I recently went and saw the movie Son of God. The cross scene struck me. As people around me were crying and I myself was crying, I found myself feeling peace and joy. At first I thought what is wrong with you? This is horrible. They just portrayed Jesus being beaten over and over. They just put him on a cross! As horrifying as that was, I felt peace and hope and yes, joy. I was overwhelmed with the love displayed in that scene. So much pain and yet there is hope.

This part of my story is painful and filled with so many lies, but it’s not the end of a story.  It is just a part of it. I get to choose how big a part of it, it is. I have made some of the dearest friends and have had some wonderful memories, I wouldn’t exchange for anything. There is hope. There is restoration. My God is much bigger than ATI and all of it’s twisting of Scripture. He is all about healing, restoration, growth, and community that is real and allows for the freedom to tell your story. Healing, restoration, and growth can only happen in real community, when there is freedom to be honest about what you’ve been through.

February 16th

So, I guess it’s better late than never… : ) Here are pictures from a year ago!
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Read through some of these today… So, blessed and thankful for the people who celebrated that special day with us. And for those who have been a part of lives since.

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dress duty…

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How many bridesmaids does it take to put on this dress? Apparently four and my mom helped a little too. Tiffany was supervising. ;)

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My beautiful momma!!!!

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The dress preview…

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How cute is this little guy?!

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Woohoo! : )

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We did it!!!!!

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Unofficial cake feeding. See how nice I am?!

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The public one… Ok. So maybe not so nice… ; )

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Who is this lady?! LOVE YOU!IMG_0732

Seriously, my grandma is so cute!!

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My beautiful sisters!

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Make a face. One. How did we all end up making the same face in every face picture I have? And two Beks cooperate! Weird faces.

 

 

These ladies are so freakin amazing! We have been inseparable (mostly. lol ;) loves to you Hanny.) from a very young age. I could not ask for better sisters! They are amazing women that I am so proud of! I am so thankful for all the good and bad that we have been through, that has shaped us and continues to shape us into the beautiful women that we are.

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The brothers. We’re such a loving bunch! They think I’m an angel and perfect. ; ) bahaha! At least we have fun! : D So thankful for each of you! You have been there for me through thick and thin! I have so much respect for each of you. You have become men that I am proud to call my brothers!

 

 

 

 

 

This woman? She rocks!!!! Love her so much! She is so strong and incredible! She is my hero! Thanks mom for teaching me to love and forgive. Thank you for giving up everything for your kids. Thanks for always loving me. And mostly thank you for teaching me how to live my life.

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Then there are these awesome people! Seriously couldn’t have had our day be so perfect without you guys! We are so thankful for each of you! You have been awesome friends and support system for us! You have challenged us and encouraged us.

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They are a little strange as well… but that’s ok.

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Now for the most important part…  ; )

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So, very thankful for this man! He is kind and loving. He refuses to allow me to lie to myself or believe lies about myself. He encourages me to dream. He never takes anything for granted. He has this heart that is so big! His love for people is huge, but his love for God is even greater. I am so thankful for him and the redemption and healing God is bringing to my life through him.

 

 

Now it is time for me to go and spend time with him!

See ya…..

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The Nasty Word: Abuse

Facebook, the news, and conversations have involved the topic of my story. Nothing specifically pertaining to me, but all surrounding the subject: abuse -spiritual, physical, sexual, emotional. I have been angered by the things I’ve heard. Not at the people, but at the evil. Then I tried to ignore it all. There isn’t just one isolated event. There isn’t just one abuser. I didn’t want to think about the past. It’s like opening pandora’s box.

Then today I read this.
I cried. It was like my life being told by a complete stranger.
I wanted to share it, but didn’t. I was too afraid.

I was afraid of the judgement that I knew was going to come from it. People were going to be angry with me for going against “Godly” men.

My abusers were “nice guys.” Everyone loved them. There is no way they could have done what they did. But they did.

“- where whole communities don’t rush to support the perpetrators of abuse as victims who need to be protected from the people they’ve abused.” source

My mom was told that she had ruined someone’s life by speaking out about my the abuse. Essentially I had too, as I was the one to originally speak up. We ruined his life??!

We went to get advice from someone we thought we could trust. We were told reporting abuse was wrong. It was to be kept within the church. It was only ever to be dealt with within the church. The Bible says it’s wrong to ever involve the courts. Why? Because they are not living and making judgments based off of the Bible. All lies, but we followed what we were told. And I was thrown to side and stomped down. I was not worthy of being heard.

I was told to forgive my abusers. and forget. I was condemned anytime I brought it up again. Obviously, I hadn’t forgiven them, because if I had I would never talk of it again.

The sad thing is that recent events have made it even more public, how responses of disbelief and condemnation towards abuse victims are not just limited to the Christian community. The world as well, cannot reconcile “nice people” doing horrific things.

I was asked if I had seen this. I hadn’t. I was told not to read it, because it would make me angry. I did. It did! Then it made me sad. What made me sad? The title “A Handy Christian Chart to Make Sexual Abuse Victims Feel Like Shit.” This was being posted by someone “named” ‘Christian Nightmares. You should read the comments. Heartbreaking. I know where that chart came from and let me tell you that is NOT Christianity! The place that came from is taking the name of Christianity and twisting it to control and abuse others. I know, I grew up in it. It is sad that the part of Christianity that gets the most attention is not Christianity at all.

Church where are you?!

Why do we not look more like this?
– where women are not shamed because of their bodies, where men can take responsibility for their own sins rather than trying to oppress and control others.
– where victims of spiritual, emotional, and sexual abuse are celebrated for their bravery in coming forward rather than being told that what happened to them was their own fault.
A world where church is a refuge rather than a manufacturer of nightmares.

I started writing just for myself. But then I decided that it was time to be brave. It is time to fight the evil we have allowed to creep into our beliefs. So, here I am feeling about as strong as a newborn, but standing for myself. I know some people may not like this, but I have a community that loves me and has shown me what real Christianity is.

…feel free to comment, but know that any nasty, rude, oppressive comments will be deleted. : )

How strongly do you believe?

Towards the beginning of last week I was nonchalantly asked a question that came from the small group I am in. The question was: How strongly do you believe in the truth of the Gospel? I responded quickly with, Very. Conversation moved on and I didn’t give it another thought.

The question came back up recently. This time God was the questioner. I responded as I had before. Then he asked, Are you sure? I, quickly and thoughtless, answered with, Of course. There was a little moment of quiet. I was almost as if I could feel him sighing. Then he asked me to think about the question. What does it mean? What is the truth of the Gospel? After serious thought, my confidence in my original answer faded quickly.

Growing up in church it’s so easy to just rattle off all the answers. I know all the right things to say. But what are those “right” things? Are they just answers or are they based on my personal beliefs? The truth of the Gospel, is that I had a debt. A huge debt and there was no hope of my, or anyone else, ever being able to repay it. So, Jesus came to do just that. He paid my debt and there is nothing left for me to do, but to accept it. In accepting it I have been made perfect in him. Due to my continuing to live in a fallen and broken world, I still sin, but that does not take away from the fact that my debt is paid in full and in him I am perfect. I am his child. He is enough.

After answering that question, I stopped. These are not just flippant words to be thrown around as if they mean nothing. These are powerful and life-changing words.

Jesus paid my debt.

I am made perfect in him.

I am his child.

He is enough.

If one believes something, it only makes sense that they would then live out of that belief. How much do I actually live out of belief in each of those things? Do I live in the freedom and joy of what he has done for me? Or do I live in the judgement and fear of who I once was, but am no longer?

My heart was heavy and saddened by the reality of my answer. When we have been done a huge favor or even a little one, it is natural to want to show how much we appreciate what was done for us. In relationships, we strive to show people how much we care about or love them. My answer showed a lack of understanding and appreciation for what has been done for me. It showed a selfish focus on myself. Selflessness is talked much about by Christians. We are to be selfless to those around us and in our service to God. But what about a selflessness in our gratitude and love for who he is and who he has made us to be?

It is a beautiful thing to be his.