Tuesday, August 26, 2014

In the lack of response and receptivity



  I have been wandering through the maze of faith and doubt this year like never before. Life has progressed in such a way that I feel the need to toss overboard nearly every theological bent that's been ingrained into me over the past 5+ year of intense Biblical discipleship and training. I believe that this is precisely the purpose of trials in our human existence. Hardships lead us to have decide what is truth, what is important, and what we most value. Pain strips us humans of everything. And it leaves us with a desperate ache to stake our lives into what will hold, stabilize, and support. Unfortunately, many times, it can lead the human heart to toss everything overboard...even eternal, universal truths. As for me, I do not feel shaken in regards to salvation by and through Christ alone, the Cross, and the ultimate, eternal purposes of God. To be honest, it's all that I am left with in the harsh realities that I have been awakened to. That's very good, very comforting, is it not? Yes and no. By nature, I am able to live with conceptual knowledge. I can live in my mind, my daydreams, ideas, and possibilities. None of it ever has to be tangible or immediately gratifying to my five senses. I just "get it" and I've been okay with it being untouchable. The Gospel in its fullness is very easy for me to grasp and give full mental assent to. And it's not merely cold mental assent. I can feel inflamed by knowledge. It moves me and I seek to own it beyond just agreeing to the facts. I have long pursued to connect my heart and mind in my most basic beliefs. But something funny happens with my usual way of thinking, feeling, and living when I experience heat and pressure in circumstances. I fall apart. Concepts, ideas, and possibilities don't hold anything for me. I need something to physically grasp, something that touches me with an experience that is all-surrounding and tangible to my five senses. Heat and pressure are known to reveal, to strip away, to make known what is true. It might be easy, as humans being afraid of that level of vulnerability, to pick up the scorched shreds of our existence and continue walking on as if we truly are okay, as if our whole world didn't just explode. But as much as I would like to be, I have never been very good at pretending or hiding...

   This past week, as I was purging items in my home, I decided to be more selective about what books I own in my collection. I love books, but let's be honest...am I really going to re-read all the books that I have read over the years? Not really. I could always make a trip to the local library if I really needed to read a classic again. Thus, I've made a note to keep the books that have truly touched my heart at many different seasons of my life, those books that can travel with me through all my personal changes and never grow old or under-valued. In my mind, that is what makes a book worthy of keeping. I have lots of fun, insightful, and sweet non-fiction/fiction/historical/christian living/theological/natural health selections that have been great. But many of them don't stand the test of time for me. So, out with them! As I have sifted through each selection, I have come across a few books that I never read but always meant to. One of those selections is Practicing His Presence by Brother Lawrence, a short read of personal writings by Brother Lawrence (brother of the Carmelite monastery in the 1600s) and Frank Laubach (modern missionary and mystic writer of the 1930s). I concluded that it probably wouldn't stand the test of time in my collection, but I thought I should at least read it before giving it away. Each night before bed this week, I read a few chapters until I completed it. I turned the wheels of mind, produced many questions, and pricked my heart. Both men were wholly devoted and given to God. It is admirable. Four years prior, I probably would have been so intensely inspired by this book that it would have thrown me into feverish thoughts of how much more I ought to love and pursue my Lord. This time, my heart is sensitive to its impassioned words and pious thoughts. Rather than drawing me in, it turns me away. It tires me as I have to think about pursuing God, keeping Him near in my thoughts, and keeping up with an attitude and thought-life that models selflessness. Both Lawrence and Laubach wrote of the resounding peace and joy that filled their hearts and their everyday life experiences because of God always being on their mind and on their lips. It's not like they are advocating a works-based salvation. They constantly lend full credit and gratitude to the Lord doing the work in them and producing the fruit of the Spirit in them. They genuinely loved God and truly did not desire many of the normal, earthly pleasures or experiences. With full hearts, they ran after Him. That sounds so dear, so admirable, so spiritual. It's a sweet thing that they lived such a life. However, for the past five years of my life, I have burned myself up with passion to just know that kind of life every single day, with consistency, and increasing in zeal. I never doubted that I was ever exempt from suffering. I only resolved to be thrown head along into devotion to God even through the pain.

But something changed.

I changed.

It's a confession that I still feel shame in revealing. It has exposed my pride to the depths.

Oh, how I wanted it - that Christianity that is high, almighty, ever-triumphant, ever-victorious, ever- increasing in holiness, purity, devotion, faith, and selflessness! I never felt "forced" by religious mindsets or works to pursue it. No, precisely the opposite! From the fullness of my heart, I desired that! And I wanted my relationship with God abounding in intimacy, peace, and joy. Always, I wanted to surrender everything, the wholeness of my being, to Him and be totally swallowed up in Him!

It was as if the heavens shut me out from all this. It was as if God Himself might have been mocking me, laughing at my impassioned heart obsessed with all things holy when I am really just a silly girl living in a raw and disappointing carnal world. That's when I experienced the present reality of pain and loss which feels increasingly more real than all that Christian fluff. That's when I gave up all those lovely desires of God Himself and told Him that if He wanted me, He'd have to come down to my level and bring me up to those sacred, untouchable things of heaven.

What happens when a genuine believer no longer seeks Christ?
No longer prayers?
No long reads Scripture?
No longer worships Him? 
No longer even responds to or receives anything of Christ?
And is no longer associated with a local church, a ministry, a fellowship group, or any community aspect of the faith?
What happens when a genuine believer actually finds themselves on the outside, unable to relate, fellowship, or agree with any denomination, theological circle, or group found in modern Christianity?

I ask these questions because these are real questions springing from real battles that many Christians face. I ask these questions because I am that Christian. I have had to ask those questions every day for many months. I've sat and wallowed in tears because the answers don't come easily.

All my previous discipling and theological training would tell me that I am surrendering to my flesh. It would tell me that I am sinning and rebellious and complacent and selfish. In fact, I would not deny any of these things. Objectively speaking, this is true of me. If this meant that I need to go to a special boot-camp or jail, well I'd gladly turn myself in! But I have never felt the need to hide it from God, considering the fact that He is already aware of my heart. In fact, I have thrown it in His face. He's tough; He can take it. I wanted everything that was pure, good, holy, Scriptural, and of-Him and what did I get it? None of it. All I have been given is disappointment, disillusionment, exhaustion, loss, and pain.

So, I have wasted away days not pursing Him, not responding, and not receiving.

Is the "abundant life" that Christ spoke of only achieved when we pursue it? When we act on His promises? When we respond to Him and receive what He says?

Many of the theological circles and ministries that I have aligned myself throughout the years have never once told me that I can do it on my own. They always proclaimed Christ-in-you and the powerful indwelling of the Holy Spirit. If ever I have tried to "produce" holiness, purity, maturity and ever-deepening relationship with Christ on my own, then I clearly never listened to the fundamentals of what those ministries, books, and Christians preached. So, I cannot blame any such persons. The blame must lie in myself. Or, God.

I have thrown out enormous piles of my Christian living and theology books. In the heat of my emotions, I might say it's all their fault that I am where I am. But that would be avoiding the real issue and just trying to play the blame-game. Personally, I just cannot read those books or even listen to many sermons or certain Christian music anymore without viewing it all through the lens that I once wore. Maybe I am just the exception, the "special" one that failed to live the abundant and victorious Christian life...

I like to blame myself, because it feels very noble and self-responsible. I am too extreme. Too black and white. Too passionate. Too all-or-nothing. I have never been down-to-earth. I feel too much and I'm too sensitive and too obsessive. I am too zealous about spirituality and perfection in the context of Christian living. I take everything too seriously.

Self-flagellation is one of my darkest secrets. Not many know this about me. It's self-flagellation in my thought life and its twisted and corrupted. In truth, it has no place in the life of Christ. It takes many shapes and forms through the working of the flesh....it creates lists, and rules, it tells me what should and should not be in my life now that I am a "holy Christian," it even creates demands, goals, and conditions. It calls the shots, it separates, it controls, and it tells me and others what we should look, live, speak, and think like now that we are good Christians. It's uptight. It's obsessed with restraining itself and employing discipline. It's ready to point out faults in others and even in myself! The reign of control that it spans is nearly endless. It even redefines the Love of Christ into a more Christ-like reflection...that sounds incomprehensibly opposing, doesn't it?

Truly, I am a mess these days. But what a revealing mess it has been! I sense I am becoming more acutely aware of flaws in the "system" of much what passes for Christianity these days - much that I have adopted and accepted without question for years. It has definitely not been my own ability to perceive it, but rather the fire of God in my life, tearing down and making known, as in Peter 4-17, a "time for judgment to begin at the household of God." Judgement seems like a terribly harsh word, unloving, and wrathful. Perhaps our sensitive human hearts will always initially perceive it in that way, but I am coming to see it has a sweet mercy. Whether or not I respond to the Lord, He takes great patience in drawing me to Himself by removing the boundaries, the hindrances, the methods, the lists, and the expectations. I learn every day that the Lord is ever more patient with me than I or a million godly souls would ever be with ME. So, He takes great pains to remove me from my own ways of thinking, from the ways of even the most spiritual and godly of communities. He has set Himself to the work of of my sanctification and He doesn't require me or anyone else to meddle with this process. What shall I look like on the other side of this fire? I cannot imagine and I even find myself with an irrational fear of the result. But what have I ever to fear if it means that I will come to a day when prayer, worship, and Scripture shall flow from me as natural as I breathe today? What do I have to fear in knowing that I shall one day learn to trust Him as He truly is? 


Christ my Lord, my dear Savior...He whispers to me in the bitterness of my life, "You shall love Me. You shall love Me. It will take time, my child. Do not fear the anger, disappointment, anxiety, sorrow, disillusionment, and loss of identity that seems to define you at this point along the journey. I am allowing you to taste the depth of your own humanity, the frailty of your flesh, because I love you. You will one day walk by my side with a surrendered trust that only comes through the most bitter disappointments and disillusionment with everything that your human eyes have perceived as holy, good, and sacred. You will one day love Me, not with the zealous heart inflamed by My holiness and perfection, but because of My own humility that has ever-pursued to enter into your days, including those days marked by your own flesh-dependence and obsession with My holiness. I wish for you to accept that you are pure to Me now, without blemish, glorious in My sight. But you do not know this now. Although you accept it as an objective, eternal truth, you have not accepted it as an always abiding, present truth. I wish for you to accept that I love you for who you are now - the you that I've always delighted in, the you that I not only love, but I like! The you that I not only accept, but that I want to be with! But you do not know this now. You will one day. Then, you will enter into the deeper fullness of what it means that My truth sets you free. You are free, but presently live as if you are shackled by people, theologies and ideologies represented by various communities of My children, methods, opinions, painful losses, the changing seasons of your life, and even your own manner of thinking and feeling. My heart aches that you hurt yourself with these things, pounding them over yourself each day. But I see the day when you shall become weary enough to let all of this go and take hold of my hand as if for the very first time. That day you shall also see all these confusing experiences and the losses that I did not prevent as your freedom. The greatest and most painful experiences of your life are setting you free to take hold onto Me alone. Up until now, your hands have been full of all that you have gathered along the path of following Me. I don't just want you to follow Me, I want you to hold onto Me. I want you to identify yourself with My very being. I want you to know, as you and your husband have known each other in your most intimate moments, that you are My perfect daughter, My delight, My beauty, and I withhold nothing of Myself from you ever, not even when you doubt Me, not even when you rage at Me. I am always fully yours and you are ever fully Mine. This will set you free. And you shall love Me."

  There's a sweet story that I would very much like to share. It touched my heart when I read it recently, but that shall come in the second part of these posts on my inner reflections. It should be noted that these words of mine are not meant to stir up strife or resentment. This is a snapshot into my journey. Writing and sharing about it as how I have chosen to express it. There are some in my life who have known me as aligned to specific ministries and church circles throughout seasons of my life. I have no personal qualms with anyone. It is all a very inward struggle that I communicate here and wholly between me and the Lord. I find release in sharing this struggle with honest but grace-filled words because it is my way of upholding hope that, despite the many differences within the Body of Christ today, the love of Christ towards us is and will always be central, knitting us together. Although I very much sense my "differences" in relation to many Christians, I do not see myself as separate from them although common ground between us, in regards to ways of living and thinking, may be rare to find. The Love of Christ and the work of the Cross is and always be sufficient. Thus, I do not seek others to necessarily agree with me in my reflections and conclusions. We're all on different paths with the same destination.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

prayer minstrel: Misty Edwards


Misty Edwards. Known as one of the leaders of worship at the International House of Prayer, but really just a woman living in devotion to the Lord. This thin young woman with a head full of dreadlocks has been a source of deepening comfort to me for the past three years. She seems, to me, the very definition of a prayer minstrel, delivering the heart of the Father through every song. If you are hurting, weary, lost, confused, lacking purpose, aching with the bruises of living on this earth, may your ears and heart be blessed with Misty's songs of renewal, identity, and the Father's love. Some of my most precious memories have been listening and singing to these songs during my commutes to and from my previous job. When I've struggled to place the thoughts of my mind on "heavenly" things, when I cannot remember that my God loves me, when I cannot remember that I even love Him, Misty has been my aid. She has a sweet sisterly friendship bond through her music. It is gentle, as if she is lifting you up and encouraging you onward to the throne room of grace. This is prominent quality of a prayer minstrel. They aren't just singing some great songs to lead us into worship of God. No, the heart of a prayer minstrel must come through in their gifting of music. It becomes a personal encounter with another sister or brother in Christ who serves as a supporter, an encourager, and iron to sharpen iron. Throughout her songs, many of which are recorded live, she whispers and calls out in prayers, interceding on behalf of those who may be listening and worshiping. When I find myself lost in the emptiness of desiring the things of this world, her lyrics bring my heart back to its First Love. Of her many love songs to the Savior, Let Me Love You More expresses this:

If I never walk on water if I never see the miracles
If I never hear your voice so loud
Just knowing that You love me is enough to keep me here
Just hearing those words is enough is enough to satisfy
You do You do You satisfy I couldn't leave even if a tried
I must have You I must have You


Satisfaction. Contentment. I remember that I have these things in Christ.
 I believe one of her best pieces capturing the heart's return to the Savior is her track, Eyes for Only You. To my disappointment, I was unable to find it on Youtube to share within this post, but the lyrics are below:

Your steadfast love has captured My heart
Breaking through the years of My shame
You've quickly become the Lover of My soul
And I tell You it will always be the same

For I have set My heart toward You, Oh Lord
As I dwell in Your courts forevermore
Others call My name and beckon Me to come
Oh but I, I have eyes for only You
I will always have eyes for only You

I sing this song that all others may know
My heart is steadfast, never to be moved
Distractions worthy, Oh they fight for my desire
but my devotion will only be proved

"I am my Beloved's, Oh and He is mine"
These are the words that echo through My soul
"Oh how She loves Him" the Angels do say
Through the ages the story will be told

For I have set My heart toward You, Oh Lord
As I dwell in Your courts forevermore
Others call My name and beckon Me to come
Oh but I, I have eyes for only You
I will always have eyes for only You





I have had friends who haven't enjoyed her songs quite as much as I do. Perhaps her vocals and stylistic choices aren't for everyone. Perhaps she is a bit too "Charismatic" for others (labels are such a terrible means of laying judgements!). Maybe she is a little too "lovey-dovey" for certain listeners. Maybe she is just too spontaneous and "out there". Frankly, I love her rambly songs that last well beyond 7 minutes. I love the build-up, the moments of prayer, and the repetitive nature of her music. It's not polished and pretty like songs you hear on the radio. And, yet, there is a very gorgeous feminine nature to them, with her maternal voice and her darling piano melodies. And, I love that LOVE - not just a concept, but the Person Jesus Christ - is the theme! She expresses His Love in a way that most definitely resonates with the female heart, but I don't think her wording and style choices are limited to just women. Misty can rock it! ;)

The drive and intensity behind many of Misty's song are so awe-inspiring. She laces Scripture into her songs quite often and is very bold in her use of eschatological themes. People Get Ready is one of those tracks that give you goosebumps. It's quite long, but the build up is glorious as she speaks Scripture about the coming of the Lord. Each of her albums are worth listening to from start to finish. It may not be music you just pop in to listen to everyday, but each song is carefully crafted and there is nothing quite like it in modern Christian music today. There are many live recordings of her songs, but her full albums are listed as followed: Eternity, Always on His Mind, Relentless, and Fling Wide.



In late 2011, I was taken back by the 4-song compilation by Misty Edwards and David Brymer entitled Measure of Love. These tracks are arranged simply, just piano, vocals, and strings. The songs are Measure of a Man, Above the Sun, Lord I Want You, and the Harlot. There is no doubt that this little work resounds quite strongly. I am sure this album represents the intimate encounter that every believer has had with Christ in the midst of the greatest pains. I cannot bear to listen to this EP without tears rolling down my face. It's one of the most powerful pieces of worship and I think the illustration of the album cover clearly reflects that with Mary looking upward towards Jesus on the Cross. The song, The Harlot, at 19 minutes and 39 seconds stands out as the most creative and jaw-dropping compositions illustrating Mary Magdalene's story and connecting it into our personalized account of who we were before Christ and who we are now in Him. Misty chokes out the lines, "I am broken I am wounded/I am angry and afraid/and a harlot is like a chain around my neck/it's my name/it's who I am," as if she is retelling her own story. The song transitions, almost like a movie score, to Christ interceding upon her behalf, pleading with the Father that she be with Him in glory, drinking the cup of wrath, freeing her into the presence of the Father to be known and loved by Him. Then, it ends with an anthem of the great wedding to come and singing worthy of the Lamb. It is tremendous and artistic, almost as if you are watching it on stage or cinema. If you aren't convinced that this song is worth listening to yet, then I must repeat for you to GO and LISTEN to this gorgeous, glorious song! I did not include it in this post because of formatting issues with Blogger. However, you can quickly find it by going to Youtube and typing in: The Harlot by Misty Edwards & David Brymer. You will not regret those 19 minutes.



Forgive me if I come off sounding like an obsessed fan of Misty Edwards. Music is something that lights my heart aflame and whenever I happen to here an artist that just "gets it," I am immediately attached to their songs in a personal way. I could sit here and type out why each of her songs are so glorious to me, but I will save it for another time. ;) The selections I have chosen to share below are just the tip of the iceberg. I think her albums are a treasure trove of wonders, leading me heart straight to the Treasure to be cherished above all. I could worship my God for days with nothing but these tunes. If I could, I would personally thank Misty for her contribution to the Body of Christ through these songs. Every saint needs a soundtrack for the earthly journey. Misty knows how to provide that.


 Soul Cry
As the deer pants for the water, my soul longs for You
As the body dies without water, my soul dies without You

They may say, “Come on, get over it
Drink, be merry, for tomorrow we die”
That’s why I’d rather sit in the house of mourning
Than at the table with fools
Blessed are the hungry—You said it, I believe it
Hunger is an escort into the deeper things of You
You satisfy, you satisfy

My soul cries, my soul cries, my soul cries for You
Take me to the place where You satisfy, take me to the river
I’ll do anything, God; there is no price, take me to the river

They may say, “Come on, get over it, everything is okay”
They may say, “Why the hunger?
Why the thirsting? Why the mourning?”
But my soul cries, my soul cries

All my tears You hold in a bottle; You will pour them out like rain
Weeping endures for the night, for the night
But joy comes in the morning, joy comes in the morning

Blessed are the hungry, blessed are the thirsty
You said it, I believe it; I believe it, I believe it
Hunger is the escort into the deeper things of You

Deep is calling out to deep is calling out to deep
Yesterday’s depth is feeling really shallow
I’ve gotta go deeper, deeper, deeper still
And all Your waves and all Your billows crash over me
Pulling me deep, deep, deeper
From glory to glory, from strength to strength
From depth to depth, I want to fellowship with You

You’re not so far away, it’s not too mysterious
You’re living on the inside of me, Your Spirit on the inside of me

Spring up, O well; spring up, O well; spring up, O well, within me


I Love You
A spontaneous love song of the Father to His child, the Husband to His bride. The lyrics are profound and worth fully listening to. This song is incredibly personal to me and my earthly dad. It's been one of those "theme" songs that have accompanied us along our journey.


Isaiah 49
Lyrics are underneath the video on Youtube. The lyrics are taken from this chapter of Scripture.




I will Waste My Life
(lyrics on video)

Let Me Love You More

I'm in love with a Man I'm in love with a Stranger
I'm in love with my Maker whom I have never seen
I'm in love with the Lamb I'm in love with the Lion
I'm in love with my Savior whom I have yet to know

O won't You let me love You more, this is all that I desire
Won't You let me love You more this is all that I require
Won't You let me love You more this is my deepest heart's desire
Won't You let me love You more still more and more

You could give to me the gift of walking on water
Maybe I will raise the dead
I have one life to live all I have to give to You is love
I have one life to live all I have to give to You is love

If I never walk on water if I never see the miracles
If I never hear your voice so loud
Just knowing that You love me is enough to keep me here
Just hearing those words is enough is enough to satisfy
You do You do You satisfy I couldn't leave even if a tried
I must have You I must have You

When it's been said and when it's all been done
When the race is run it all comes to love

Garden


I am a garden enclosed
A locked garden, a fountain sealed
I am Your resting place
I am Your resting place

Here oh Lord have I prepared
A place for You to dwell
Here in the reservoir of me
That You would dwell in my heart
That I would be in You and You would be in me

That I could fellowship with God
Here where it's You and me alone
The very glory of God on the inside of me
I want to fellowship with You

Here it's You and me alone God
You and me alone
Here it's You and me alone God
You and me alone

I am Your resting place
For You said that You would be in me
If I would abide in the vine
Christ in me the hope of my glory

You and me alone God
You and me alone
Here it's You and me alone God
You and me alone

And You hedge me in with skin all around me
I'm a garden enclosed
A locked garden
Life takes place behind the face

Where it's You and me alone God
Here it's You and me alone
Here it's You and me alone God
You and me alone

And You hedge me in with skin all around me
I'm a garden enclosed, a locked garden
Life takes place behind the face

Where it's You and me alone God
You and me alone
You and me alone God
You and me alone

So come into Your garden, come into Your garden
Come into Your garden, come into Your garden
So come into Your garden, come into Your garden
Come into Your garden, come into Your garden

I'm no longer my own, I'm Your garden
I'm no longer my own, I'm Your garden

 Silence

Silence calls like the rain to a parched land, I
drink You in again
No longer thirsting for what could never
satisfy, I'm thirsty,thirsty for you
In silence You call, in quiet You hide, in secret
You wait for a lovesick bride
Jesus, I'm here, Jesus, I am Yours and your
are mine
Jesus, I have come to steal you heart again

Silence call like the waver ever crashing on
my shore
this broken heart Your voice calling me
To quiet places where you hide waiting for a lovesick bride
To come and steal You heart with one glance
of my eye
With one glance of my eye

All I ever wanted is You
All I ever needed is You

In silence, in quiet, in secret

Silence comes like a rain, like the rain.



Sunday, August 3, 2014

A blog tour + my INFP ramblings


I have been too quiet on the blog lately. As it usually happens, life has been too much for me to process this past month. You know what that means for an introvert! I have to retreat to recharge and emotionally sift through what I am experiencing. I still have my blogging goals to keep to - my prayer minstrel posts being one of them - but I cannot promise myself that I will be very disciplined about them.

Recently, my friend, Kesley, invited me to take part in a blog tour. It is basically a post of answering specific questions about myself so that any readers can learn about who I am and why I write/blog. I have seen this done before, but never thought much to participate until now. Perhaps, I just want to break my terrible silence. If anything, it will help to focus me again on my passion for blogging.

So, onward to the questions!

1. What am I working on?
 So many tasks! I am currently job hunting and interviewing to become an educational assistant at local schools in this city that I currently call home. In my free time, I am brushing off my dusty guitar and mandolin, strengthening my vocals and diaphragm through daily exercises, and practicing my original compositions, some covers, and instrumentals to perform at a local market in August. My goal is to eventually play at more markets or coffee shops as I add to my repertoire. Thirdly, I am very slowly building a team of people with me in using Young Living Essential Oils. My oils blog is Ancient Essentials and I am in the process of learning even more of the history, science, and uses of essential oils for home and health. I am very passionate about essential oils and emotional support and it is something I am seeking to help others in as well. And, lastly, I am in a perpetual state of learning to live with less - purging my wardrobe, home items, books, and more. More and more, I am falling in love with simplicity and living only with what I need, use, and love. I feel as if I am in a stage of finding out who I really am, my specific tastes, and who I want to grow into being. This has required me to do intensive emotional purging, but it also manifests in the physical as well. I've been in a refining season that has not been easy or without many tears, but I sense that I am becoming who my Maker created me to be.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
 I am more of a journal and lifestyle blogger. My writing is woven together with emotions and discoveries. From what I have read of other bloggers in this genre, I would say that I do have a tendency to be more raw and emotional in my writing. Although my intention is to always be edifying and gracious in speech, I also believe in being completely honest - without throwing out all my baggage for the world to see. I am always learning the balance between discernment and honesty. I don't sugarcoat or walk cautiously around hard subjects. Yet, my aim is always to encourage and help others to better understand me or whatever topic I am writing about.


3. Why do I write/create what I do?

Very simply, because I feel. If you are familiar with Myers Briggs personality types, you would immediately understand that feeling and emotions are the basis for everything in my type - INFP. I spent years of my life viewing my inner emotional world as a negative and weak quality. Only recently have I come to embrace it as a unique and significant part to who I am. Second to my love for Christ, it is the drive behind everything I write or create. My emotions demand to be felt and expressed. Although I rarely express it through my mannerisms, words, or actions, I am deeply feeling about everything I am experiencing from day to day. It could be about the most mundane issue, but I have an emotion for everything. It can be self-destructive when I allow it to overtake me and shape my views on life, but when I give it a channel or medium to be expressed, I have experienced sweet times of intimacy with my Lord and personal maturity and growth in myself. In addition, I truly believe that joy and pain are my reasons for writing. In my recent personal post, I rediscovered my love of tender vulnerability in sharing my losses and griefs. Sorrow is such a fascinating experience and emotion to me because it is something we will only know on this side of eternity. In the world (and especially even in many church circles), where sadness and grief is hushed up and merely something to "fix," I feel the sacredness of it is lost for many people. Individuals will go years of not processing the sorrows and losses of their lives because they feel the need to be "strong," put on a mask, and hide from others. I do not believe we ever truly "recover" from sorrows. They change us. I want to express through my creative pursuits the absolute truth that our God does not waste our griefs and that, although they change us, He can use them to work in us more humility, gentleness, and gratitude. Our God isn't out to fix us; His aim is to transform us into who He originally designed us to be. It's a lifelong journey and, I believe, I want to tell that journey honestly, from my personal experience, and show how these raw human emotions can be a catapult to deeper joy in Christ. And it doesn't come through stomping on your emotions and trying to un-feel them or telling them who is boss by shoving Truth down your throat like the Law. No, it comes through allowing Christ to love me in my messy state and identify me with His life, goodness, and righteousness. Did I mention identity is another enormous reason why I write?

4. How does your writing/creating process work?
 My writing and creative process is usually very sporadic. I am not an organized or disciplined individual in this area. In my songwriting, blogging, or writing, I tend to do it in the rush of my emotions. One example of this is when I was courting Nolan in 2012, who is now my husband. During the butterfly stage of our relationship, I was so enamored by the freshness and newness of being in love that I sat down for an entire afternoon and wrote a personal love song to him. During our courtship, I was continually writing him little romantic poems as well. I do the same at times when I experiencing sadness and anger as well. If I can focus on getting that emotion outside of myself, I often create my most intricate pieces of art in that state. When I am not feeling intense emotions, I do have a more difficult time of putting something together. Thus why my work is unplanned and spontaneous. In addition, I often need essential oils diffusing and moody, epic, and inspirational music playing in the background when I am putting down words.

Lastly, I invite any of my readers to check out other blogs by some dear friends of mine...if you love creative and critical thinkers, artists, and poets, you will be so thankful you checked out these blogs!

Alexis (my ENFP cousin!) blogs at Out of the Ashes where she writes about her personal and spiritual growth, socially controversial subjects, her passions of reaching out to Hollywood with Christ, and more.

Jade (my INFJ blogger friend who I met through Blogger!) blogs at Blush of Dawn with short snippets of prose, poetry, the beauty and simplicity of everyday. Her writing is tender and sweet.

Danielle (my INTJ sister!) blogs at Danielle Pajak Illustrations where she posts her intricate art pieces. She is a graphic designer with a love for gothic and otherworldly concepts. Although she has done some extraordinary Biblical artwork, she is also adventurous and dabbles in creating images from movies and shows that she loves. Then, she preaches to you with lengthy posts on the deep significance and Biblical concepts to be found in certain modern films. I think her snarky side would say that she teaches you to put your shallow judgments down and use your brain and imagination to see beyond the surface. 
By the way, don't visit the blogs of my cousin or sister unless you want to be challenged. Tee hee! I will say that we all have incredibly feisty spirits. ;)

Monday, July 7, 2014

the rubble of my days: a personal post


For months, I have debated sharing this post as I have walked through the deep waters of grief. I do not write this to divulge my issues for the sake of divulging. Nor do I write to give away any specific details. That would be disrespectful to my family. I write to share because everyone is in the midst of their own story, joyous or sad.

I have spent a lot of time on blogs and Instagram (my favorite social media avenues). These have connected me to some very beautiful individuals who have been brave in their vulnerability and revealed pieces of their heart and lives - not to seek attention or dump their mess on others. Quite simply, they share because how could they not? They share because they know this is what we as humans were designed to do - to connect ourselves with others - community. They share because they know someone is out there, someone experiencing the same doubts and pain, struggling to grasp how valuable and significant they are through the suffering. This kind of vulnerability sparks a deep passion and encouragement in me. The world needs more people like this. They don't sugarcoat their pain and loss. They don't hide their raw emotions and thoughts. More importantly, they don't believe their pain has the final say, but imperfectly trust, then fail, and then surrender in trust again to Jesus Christ, believing that He will not ever waste their grief, their tears, the moans that go up into the night.

I don't like hiding behind social media etiquette or posting only life's highlights on Facebook or any social medium. If I am going to remain connected to friends from different seasons of my life, I need to be genuine about it or just not do it at all. I am untrue to myself and to others when I am only sharing life's happier edits. Two of my best friends, who shall not remain nameless - Elena and Elizabeth - have taught me (probably unaware that they were doing so, hehe!) this kind of honesty. Their transparency and truthfulness is beautiful. I've desired those qualities my entire life and it is pain that is finally giving me the strength to become that. 

As in all things, there is discernment. There is no need to drag every little mess out for all eyes to see. That isn't required. It's the attitude of our heart through our pain that counts for something. It is in our nature to want to hide and to feel shame. But here I am, claiming to believe in Christ as my Savior and, yet, am I willing to trust that He has declared me cleansed, righteous, holy, set apart? There is no shame in our stories, though they overflow with the sin of our humanity. When the life of Christ becomes your identity, your life, suddenly your story is no longer shameful. It is a story to be told, a story of redemption, of purpose, and significance although it is paralleled with great suffering and loss. It's a raw, true-to-life story and, yet, there emerges a sacred theme in it because suddenly it's not just merely about your life, but His Life merging with you and making all things new. He's not here to fix us or give us a happily-ever-after. He's here to give something more fulfilling - an abiding hope and life that will never allow us to walk alone again, and declares us as ones who are loved, cleansed, and without shame. In this life, He is making all things work for only good.

To quote author Shauna Niequiest, "Celebration when your plan is working? Anyone can do that. But when you realize that the story of your life could be told a thousand different ways, that you could tell it over and over as a tragedy, but you choose to call it an epic, that's when you start to learn what celebration is. When what you see in front of you is so far outside of what you dreamed, but you have the belief, the boldness, the courage to call it beautiful instead of calling it wrong, that's celebration."

Thus, I am compelled to share the current chapter of my life.

So, this is where I am.

I have been grieving.

My parents of 27 married years divorced this past year.

My grieving has been long and it has been hard. There is no end of it in sight. I have no assurance that things will be better any time soon, nor do I want any human reassurances that things will be okay. If this was not burdensome enough, I must watch (from afar, now that I reside in NM) as each member of my family grieves this in their own way. Stress, loss, and emotional trauma have taken their toll on me. Monthly, weekly, even daily emotional breakdowns are my new "normal." My physical health has been significantly effected. Obsessive, anxiety-filled, unhealthy, almost irrational urges to clean, organize, and to purge overtakes me. I frequently feel confused, lost, and uncertain about everything pertaining to life, both in daily matters and in life goals. I experience emotional triggers whenever I see, hear, or read specific things that align with or relate to specific memories. I wrestle with bitterness. I doubt God. I don't consistently trust His heart for me through this loss. My faith fails in the ebb and flow of my breaking heart. In my head, I live in the past and I fear the future. And (this is most difficult for me to confess) I do not want to talk or see some of the people I knew during my life in Arizona. This has nothing personal to do against them. It is my struggle. It is part of my ongoing battle with wanting to rebuild my life and remake my self - something very unlike the life I knew and the me that was before. This is unrealistic and, yet, it is the result of a very real "identity crisis" occurring within me right now.
To be honest, I am unable to invest in the friendships of many who I have known. I deeply love each person who has made up my life in the past 4 years and more, but I am unable to be present for them. Along with the difficulty of living in different states, I am now faced with the weakness of my emotional state and it startles me every day. I love people. I love community. I want to hear from my friends. I think of them all very often. But I am tired. Even a simple phone call is a huge task for me. In my grief, I've learned about the need to simplify my life. Because my loss is still so fresh, I hardly know how to practically apply this, but I am learning ever so slowly. I long for the day when I can be part of community again, in a physical sense. I long for the day when I can do life without this heaviness, this stress that accumulates in my body. But this is not the season for those things; now, I must learn to rest.

I don't blame my parents. I thank them for their efforts in being honest with me and my siblings through this season. Although it doesn't mend anything, just knowing the state of my parents' hearts and being fully aware of where they stand on every matter helps me to be patient and to understand. Most often, in situations like this, it is too easy to judge and to lay blame. I would be lying if I said I didn't judge or blame them at certain points along the way. But the peace has come and now, I know, every person is fighting their own battles and we cannot make conclusions about their heart and intentions when we have yet to take the time to know them and to listen with much, much patience.There are always two sides to the same story. Just because one side or the other may look more "sinful" or "disagreeable" doesn't make either person less "deserving" of love. Both individuals need patience, gentleness, and compassion.

 I love my father and mother deeply, more than I've ever known that I could love two people. Yet, I fail in exhibiting perfect, long-suffering love that both their hearts need so often. The Christian cliches, the genuine but false hopes of reconciliation, spiritual tips and advice, prophetic words or visions, or the myriad of things often found in Christian communities haven't brought comfort or aid.  Just as fresh flowers, diet advice, and promises of recovery do not take away the pain of a cancer patient, nor make him/her well again, so also nothing has proven to be of particular comfort or help to "fix us." Overly positive, victorious Christian statements and attitudes have, in certain situations, been more damaging. Not because they are untrue, but because it does not lift us who suffer from our present reality. It holds little power to capture trust, but most often will ignite bitterness and a sense of doubt towards God's heart. The ones who truly bring healing balm are the gentle ones, the patient listeners, the individuals who will "weep with those who weep" and allow the sufferer to express any emotion or thought that they are processing through. I know this now. Suffering taught this to me. Sometimes, there is no other way this humility and learning can be acquired except through your own fire.

Experiencing your parents' divorce at any age is traumatic. But, I speak only from what I know. There seems to be a certain devastation that comes from being an adult and watching your parents' marriage crumble away, even after praying the hardest and longest you've ever prayed in your life for God to restore it. In 20+ years of marriage, a life history was established. Beliefs, values, and traditions were laid down at the center of the family structure. Memories are attached to both parents being together. A large investment was made from all members of the family into the permanent vision of their togetherness. A security was well-founded in the unit of husband and wife, something that was expected to always remain. No family is ever perfect, but the permanence of mom and dad as a unit is a comfort and security that my siblings and I have always known and rested in. They shaped us, taught us, loved us, supported us...always together. They, as a unit, were part of my identity. They were my childhood. Being an adult and having the foundation of your child taken away is a loss not too unlike the physical loss of a loved one. Except, in this case, there is no burial, no ceremony, no sense of closure. It doesn't  make that previous life a lie or a false reality. But it certainly can strip the meaning, purpose, and core identity of an individual. An adult cannot be expected to handle it any better than a child. A loss is a loss and it always delivers some level of trauma. And I've just loss something very dear.

Now, that was just another life. I cannot return to it and I will never know it again on this earth.

 Some days, I do not recognize myself. I, honestly, fear myself changing because I think the loss will be too great, too fatal, just as I lost a certain aspect of my childhood in the unexpected life change of my parents' divorce. In this very insecure state, I have required daily affirmation and daily remembrance. Daily affirmation of who I am in Christ - the identity piece - the new name He calls me by. Daily remembrance of what He has done to give me Life and who God the Father is through Christ His Son. Very fundamental, extremely basic, and yet these are the only truths that I am able to entrust myself to in this season.

My life has been one of consistent solitude since moving to New Mexico with my husband. I prefer it this way for now because it is opening up new eyes for me to see, to understand, to feel, and to be receptive to the Holy Spirit's work in my heart. In the midst of this, there are three tangible things that comfort me in my affliction: music, essential oils, and my husband at my side, holding my hand. Never have I known a more undeserved and sweeter blessing than this - an enduring husband who imperfectly expresses the heart of the Lord towards me. Amazing grace. In this, I am learning something similar to what John Lynch, elder/author at Open Door Fellowship, recently wrote:

"God, if He is whom He claims to be, does not stop all pain or loss-but instead, wonderfully discloses channels of receptivity we did not previously know existed. Like new capillaries formed in training at high altitude, the capacity to receive love increases. And that, just that, somehow becomes more than enough...Or at least so I'm told. I'm still new to this chapter."

Some days, I am comforted that this is just a season of life. Changes come and go. There is time for everything under the sun. Other days, most days, I want nothing to do with this chapter of life. That's okay. Christ will see me through to the other side of this, not because it's dependent on me having perfect faith or maintaining perfect growth or maturity, but because it has, is, and always will be about Him doing the impossible, the unthinkable: Christ in me, on my worst day, cherishing me, present with me, being my ever abiding and Living Hope imparted into the very fabric of my being.


"The best life, the greatest life is not the pristine life, the fully satiated life, the fixed life, the neatly ordered life. The best life is the real one - with God receiving glory as you trust Him, enjoy Him and others, amidst the beauty and the rubble."
[John Lynch]