My First Love

I sat in the conference room across from a good friend.

Loneliness had been stealing my joy for days and he was willing to pray with me.

“What’s on your mind?” he asked.

“ Really lonely lately I guess” I whined

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, and self-control. If someone is rooted in the Spirit these are evident in their
lives”

The truth behind my loneliness sunk in. Fruit has not leaked from my heart in a long time.

He quoted Rev 2:4 “Yet I hold this against you; You have forsaken your first love.” and
the tears piled up in my eyes.

I have forsaken my first love. I have decided He is not enough and I want more. But was He ever my first love to begin with?

Eleven years ago I got on my knees and gave up. I surrendered my life to Him. I was tired, lonely and nothing I did improved my situation. I was not in love with Him or even grateful that He was forgiving my sins.

Through the years there have been moments of untold joy, peace beyond understanding, and provision from Him alone. But the loneliness has remained. A haunting spirit in my heart that is a barrier between Me and Him.

Was there ever a moment where I truly loved Him?

Have I adored Him just for who He is not what He has done.

Can I envision the way He adores me?

“Like and Apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love. Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love. His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me.” Song of Songs 2:3-6

Over and over I have begged God for the Abundant life He promises. It has been within me all along. Abundant life can only be found where my soul dances with His Spirit. It is found in the countless hours soaking in His word, merely because I long to hear His voice. It is found in the song of my heart as praise erupts from my lips. Most importantly it is found in my unashamed adoration for who He is.

Do I wake up and go to sleep with Him on my mind, for He never leaves my thoughts?

Do I talk to Him without ceasing because I value His opinion above all others?

Do I walk in obedience because I long to never leave His side?

No I don’t.

Instead, I have chosen pain and misery over His peace and love. I have chosen food and men over self-control and faithfulness. I have chosen anger over my circumstances instead of kindness for those around me. Worse than all of that, I have refused to love myself. To look at myself through His eyes and see what He sees. Cause in the end how can I love any of His creatures if I can not love the one He loves?

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Is He? Enough?

It is amazing the difference a day can make when God is involved.

Last night as I lay in bed, these words rushed through my mind.

What if all the crap isn’t true?

What if this is all life is? Little moments, that make little impacts, that ripple through the world.

What if life isn’t an adventure; He has no path planned for my life?

What if I never have financial security, or take that trip to Bora Bora?

What if this IS the abundant life God has planned? No husband, no children, no family of my own. Just a daily struggle to make it from sleep to sleep.

What if this is all life is? Is He Enough?

Is He?

Enough?

Can He take the place of my carefully laid plans? Can I trust Him to create me a path and show me where it is?

Can I love Him enough to let Him be my husband, my children, my adventure?

That was last night.

This morning during devotion the speaker accused me of quitting (well he was talking to everyone, but I heard it straight from God)! I shrunk in disbelief, “How did He know?” About a year ago I gave up. I stopped writing, I stopped taking pictures, I stopped chasing God and I sat down. I have floated through life. My days have been lonely and miserable.

In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus tells The Parable of the Talents. In the story there are three servants. Each servant is given a specific number of talents(money) from his master. Each man does something different with it, the last one buried it because He was fearful of his master. That last one is who I have become. I am the one who is terrified of failing, or more likely, succeeding.

I have refused to make my talent work for him. Instead I have chosen to bemoan my past, claiming it as a burden instead of claiming His victory over it. My burden is actually a platform that allows me to tell the world how blessed I truly am.

Last night I laid here asking myself all those questions. Tonight I have answers.

The little moments are what truly matters the most.

He has a plan to use my pain for His glory.

Life is an adventure that He has laid out for us to take together.

There is an abundant life available all I have to do is ask, seek and knock.
“Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened…how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matt 7:7-11

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I am woman, hear me roar.

Women are unique, not just in our gender but in our personalities. I believe God did that for a reason. When he created woman he endowed us with mercy and compassion that isn’t as natural in the male gender. He gave us a desire to nurture those around us, as well as selflessly give of ourselves.

But it is our unique personality traits that I want to focus on today. It never ceases to amaze me how beautiful women are. Wether short or tall, skinny or fat, we are all made in the image of the one true God. However, I don’t see myself that way, I have always struggled with who I am and how I look. From a young age I knew I was different. Not only do I look different, but the way I look at the world is different. I have been gifted with an intuitive sense for other’s feelings, as well as the eye to capture God’s creation through photography. But I also tend to always feel alone, detached, separated,weird. In fact I’ve gotten pretty good at hiding who I am from those around me.

In fact most days I struggle to even feel connected to the people around me. If I do find someone I connect with, I cherish that relationship. On top of that I don’t understand why people love me and miss me, in fact it confuses me. I don’t understand how they can love me, when they don’t even know the depths of me. It’s not their fault they don’t know, I tend to not share my dreams and desires. I hold things pretty close to my chest, holding tightly until I am ready to tell the world.

Why do I tell you all of this? Several years ago I took something called the Meyers Briggs personality test and I was typed as an INFJ and I left it at that. Then I found this group, 34 other INFJ’s. See we are a rare breed, only 1% of the population falls into this box. Through this group I have began to see myself as not alone, but as uniquely created by God. In the past emotions would overwhelm me till I could no longer process them and I would end up in a puddle of tears. It was here that I would find myself before the throne of God, questioning why He made me this way.

And He has answered, over and over. I am finally getting it. He made me for a specific purpose. I am not an accident, nor am I mass produced by an uncaring God who is bored with His duties. NO! From the beginning of time, I have been meticulously handcrafted, etched, carved, and shaped until my uniqueness and flaws shine for the world to see. Because it is those ‘traits’ that create my voice, my will to write and my ability to articulate my feelings and the feelings you have as well.

The trait that overwhelms me with emotion causing me to feel trapped in my own mind, misunderstood by the world around; is the same one that demands I explain myself to the world. It demands that I express these feelings through words, paint, wood, pictures; what ever God puts in front of me.

The trait that makes it difficult to connect, gives me the ability to see the loneliness etched in so many womens’ faces around me and strive to connect to them. And this one is why I write. I want you to know, you are not alone. There is someone in this world going through the same thing you are. Not only that Jesus Christ left His throne in heaven to be born as a baby to go through the same struggles we do and to show us that we can persevere.

I want to connect to you, I want you to know you are valuable, you are loved and you are unique for a purpose.

What is something unique about you? Do you love that uniqueness, or do you fight to be ‘normal’?

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I quit

Have you ever given up?

Stopped striving for what you thought God wanted?

I have.

Last year I quit.

I stopped doing everything I loved and enjoyed. My camera has gone months without seeing the light of day. This blog has more cobwebs than words. My muscles ache to be used to run, lift, squat, and strain. And my creative eye went blind. I was done.

For ten years I had thrown myself into God’s process of transformation for my life. Each step I would think, “I’m almost there”. But where is there? That is the question I pondered at the end of last year and the answer surprised me.

Since coming to Christ in 2004; I had moved to two different states, made countless acquaintances, racked up months of counseling, and read through the bible at least two times. I gave up my life to follow His, spent 18 months living in a missional environment and always made sure I was volunteering at church. Where had all of this striving taken me?  To a state that was literally trying to kill me( allergies ugh), a depression so deep I never thought I would find my way out and a job that made me want to pull my hair out in boredom. I was exhausted, and God was telling me that I was missing the point.

So I quit.

And He took over!

He pushed me out of my comfort zone and into a job that stretches me everyday. With no experience for this position I had to rely on God to give me the focus and character I needed to excel. Everyday I am in awe that I work where I work, do what I do.

Then came the new church. The moment I walked into Grace Chapel my whole body screamed home. After the service I found myself volunteering, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. A small group welcomed me into their midst but I had to wait on God to begin to develop deep friendships. And He taught me that to be loved, I must love first.

Finally, He opened my eyes up to who I am. He taught me to see myself as He does, and to focus on my strengths instead of my weaknesses. And He showed me that His blessings can not be earned. There is nothing I can do to change His heart for me, I already have it all.

Are you striving to earn His love?  Do you need to quit?

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The In between

“Where to hide?”  They start to sing
The corner engulfs me, as the truth assails me
I’m a fraud and I stand in the court of the king.
 
“The stains” I gasp as I scrub at my dress
They’ll know, they’ll see, I’m not supposed to be.
What a disaster, what a mess!
 
“I didn’t know”, I whisper.  Its a foreign land, a foreign place
The culture abuses, the rules ensnare
Won’t they let me plead my case?
 
The prince arrives, He glows with mercy and love
No where to hide, no place to escape
I push into the wall, trapped like a caged dove.
 
“My Love” He whispers, His fingers brush my chin
his eyes pierce my soul, love burns as He pays my debt
dross burns away, I am cleansed from within.
 
“Finally” He sighs, “my love has arrived”

 I wrote this poem a few months after I stumbled into Christ’s arms.  I was lost in the ‘Christian culture and confused by everything.  My defense had always been an ability to blend in, but I had no context and couldn’t blend.  I stuck out like a snowstorm in the desert. Ten years later I still do the same, here in the bible belt the tension is even greater.  It is easier to just go to church on Sunday and pretend the rest of the week.  In the in between I find myself drifting more towards the world than towards Him.  Luckily He always finds me in my corner.

Truth is he is my corner, He is the strong tower I huddle against and He is the hand that brushes my tears away.  He is the one who laughs with me and pierces my heart when it gets too hard. But the tension between Him and the world, has always been hard for me.  I’m a peace maker, I don’t like conflict.

But is that tension really conflict, or is it the dance with our savior in the In Between.  While I walked the beach several years ago, He showed me just that.  as I walked, the waves periodically lapped my feet, sometimes up to my knees.  Then they would ebb and I would be left on the sand.  But for a moment I was in both worlds, the sand under my toes, the slight touch of the water and we began to dance.

In the middle I stand alone.

One foot in the world, one foot in the Kingdom.

I like it here.

Different days I venture one way or the other.

Neck deep in the Kingdom, to drown in the light of His love.

Or into the world to spread seeds from above.

But in the middle I stand alone,

Alone with Him

I like it here.

Sunset Walk

I long for this dance every moment of my life.  And someday, when my time here is done, I will dance with Him forever.  Until then, I will ebb and flow with the beat of this life; being in the world but not of it.

How do you handle the tension of being in the world but not of it?

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Legacy

Legacy: “Something handed down or received from an ancestor or predecessor.”

Legacy in is the good stuff, right.  The great genes passed to me by mother that help me look at least 5 years younger than I am.  Or my love of music, also from my mother’s side of the family, which produces a constant flow of music from my heart and pours out of my lips.  I can’t stop it, I can’t start it, it just is.  So I praise the Lord for the Legacy left me.

Legacy has a dark side though, all that negative stuff is passed down as well.  Recently I met a large portion of my mother’s extended family.  Great aunts, regular aunts, and uncles whom I cherish and love.  I noticed a trait that all the women had in common.  Our stomach area tends to be whee we all carry any excess fat.  Whether short or tall, thin or not so thin, there it is.  For years I have hated my body because of this trait!!  Forcing myself to look at the dark side of legacy brought peace and a new acceptance of myself.

I have another legacy,from the dark side.  This one spews from the same same heart filled with music, and from the same mouth, that sings God’s praises.  I am a fantastic smart ass.  I mean, I am good, I can get people rolling!  And most of the time what comes out is harmless, just funny,  and focused on myself.  Lately though, I’ve noticed the mean tone I take when I focus it on others.  And that tone rings with more truth than I want to admit.

I noticed it at the reunion, when one of my uncles recoiled at a comment I made.  (And he is the one with thick skin.)  Or the blank stares from new friends who don’t realize I am ‘just kidding’ (or am I).

Yesterday, I said something to a new friend that, at the time, I thought was funny.  That friend did not agree and those sharp knives returned to me in full force.  Looking back, it was something I am frustrated with and instead of being honest with myself it spewed out through sarcasm.  As I reeled from the knives sticking out of my heart, I sat in the place where all my previous stings had landed.  I didn’t like it.

Can legacy be changed?  Can a way of speaking,started in my youth, be shut down?  I hope so because apologies really don’t take those words back.  “I’m sorry does not apply balm to the wound”.  I have apologized to my friend, and I have yet to hear back.  My uncle, I owe an apology to (hopefully he is reading this).  But my Lord, I have wounded Him the most.  He blessed me with a voice to speak kindness and encouragement to others, and to make beautiful music in His name.  Instead I have used it for a vile purpose and wounded those He loves (and I love).

This is my new prayer, would you please pray it over me, for the one who gives life is the only one who can take this away.

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

 

 

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The Day The Depression Won

The rain pelted the windows that morning.  The dim light shined through the windows and reminded me that the sun would not appear today.  I snuggled in further to the warm bed and started the habitual morning debate:

“Get out of Bed Angela!”

“I don’t wanna” as I shoved my face under the covers.

Sunset walk

It was Sunday, the day for worship with fellow believers and to learn more about the man I love.  Of all the days of the week, shouldn’t this one be different?  However, a brick the size of Texas had settled itself on my chest and my limbs no longer had the strength to pull me up.

Eventually, I swung my legs off the edge of the bed and sat up.  It was too late to make it to my usual service, but if I hurried I could make it to the 11 am.  My legs didn’t move, any will I had, had been used just to sit up.  Life had lost all its meaning, all its joy and all its purpose.

I finally shuffled into the kitchen as my roommate left for church:

Roommate:  “Are you coming this morning?”

Me:  “I don’t think so, I feel like I just need a down day.” I shrank inside as the words escaped my lips.  I had been needing a lot of those lately.

Roommate:  “Ok, but if it is the depression, don’t let it win!” she walked out into the rain.

I watched her drive away and plodded back to my room.

The argument resumed:  “You should go.”  “I don’t want to go”.  “Then get up and do something productive.” “why there is no point”.  For a split second my will returned and I found myself slipping into a pair of jeans.  Then I collapsed into a heap and began to sob uncontrollably.

“God, why did you make me this way?  What possible purpose could I serve when the act of brushing my teeth is more than I can handle most days?”  Silence, not even an echo from the void inside.  I felt Him wrap His arms around me and I continued to cry.

“Lord heal me, please.” I begged.  “Make me different.”

He rocked me back and forth.

After a while I rose, and plodded around the house.  I got dressed, ate, watched TV, and played solitaire on my phone.  Christmas was coming soon, so I forced myself to work on presents.  I love Christmas and look forward to carefully crafting each present I get.  But the joy of the season was no where to be seen.

All this time I held the tears at bay and attempted to ignore the uncontrollable outburst that morning.  Soon my roommate strolled in from her busy day and sat down on the steps.

“How was your day?” She asked.

It all spilled out.  The growing complacency with life, the desire for it all to just be over.  I finally admitted I was depressed and I needed help.

That is when the defeat set in.

I couldn’t beat this without medication and I no longer had the strength to beat myself up about it.  (I might write about this another time)

The next month was spent gasping for air each day as I waited to see my doctor, waited for the medication to kick in, waited for the side effects to abate.  I am one of the lucky ones, it only took me about two months to find the right medication and the right dosage.  By the end of January I was starting to level out.  My world was looking much brighter, and I began to find hope again.

I still struggle with side effects from the drugs, my hands have an uncontrollable shake that affect my ability to take pictures.  The weight gain through the depression and then the drugs was horrible.  But my Lord has carried me through.

You may be thinking, ‘My Lord, aren’t the drugs the ones that helped her?’  Yes the drugs helped.  But my Lord was the one who held me that day in November.  He is the one who pulled me out of bed each morning and pushed me out the door.  His peace and comfort are the only things that kept me away from suicide.  And His eternal Hope gave me a light to focus on as I clawed my way out of the pit.

The depression may have won the battle, but My Lord has won the war.

 

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Fireflies in the meadow

Hi there, my faithful reader.  Did you miss me?  Thank you that you are still here.

Do you ever have those days or times in your life that you feel like punching God in the throat?  I do today.  I am just frustrated with my life right now.  My body won’t do what I need it to and every time I look in the mirror all I see is a fat girl.  I have several photographs taped to my refrigerator and this evening they caught my eye.  The girl in the pictures is beautiful, her eyes sparkle and her smile lights up the room.  She is loved by so many and loves them in return.  The girl in the picture is captured at times when life is good.  At the coast with her mother, on her best friends wedding day or playing around at the rose gardens.  She is stuck in that moment, no future and no past, just is.

Then I walked into the bathroom and I was struck by the difference in my attitude.  The girl in the mirror is overweight.  She is lacking color and went and cut her hair short(stupid!).  Death has walked over her grave if the bags under her eyes are any indication.  She is forgotten, abandoned and unloved by all.  And the big one, she is unforgivable and despised by all (all in my head I know).

As I stare into the clear blue eyes I wonder what the difference is.  Why do I envy the girl in the picture, and despise the one in the mirror.

The one in the mirror has issues.  Her past chases her day and night, destroying her dreams so she wakes tired and feeling gross.  She struggles with money, and most days chooses to cry instead of running away from the mountains of debt she has.  She gets angry when she tries to run and her body just won’t work.  Her hips get stuck or her calves turn to rocks.  She has hopes and dreams for a time when life won’t be this hard.  That maybe those days will hold more laughter and less tears.  More hugs and less solitude.   And someone who can’t wait till the end of the day to reconnect with her and share their days as they sit on the patio and watch the fireflies dance in the meadow.

Someday, the girl in the picture and the one in the mirror will be the same woman.

 

 

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A little Friday afternoon whining

I have stared at my post on depression for two weeks now.  Each time, I shut down.  There are so many things I could talk about, but the words just don’t come.

I could talk about goals, and how it sucks that I seem to always fail at them.

I could talk about how I can’t seem to focus for more than a minute at a time.

I could talk about the frustration of feeling like my faith is in question.  I take my asthma medications religiously, why is this medication any different?

See, so much to talk about. Instead my brain freezes and my brain follows another rabbit trail.

If you are reading this, please pray that this is only temporary.  That soon the medication will settle down and I will have my brain back again.  That there is an end to all of this.

Thanks for following me, and hopefully I have more next week!

 

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Giving Thanks

“It is easy to be thankful for the good things in life”.

I have no idea whether I heard this or read it, so I can’t give credit. As I scrolled through all the Facebook posts about thankfulness, it got me thinking.  Can I be thankful for the hardships in my life?

Let’s find out.
1) I am thankful for my parents divorce. It destroyed my faith, because it was weak. Since I drifted so far I now have no doubt that God is real, that He is good and He is trustworthy. For that rock I am very grateful.
2) I am thankful for my divorce. It helped me to better understand my mother and why she did what she did. I have been blessed to share this story to help other women see what abuse really is.
3) I am thankful for the day He brought me to my knees in repentance and tore the sinful heart from inside me. The pain and suffering of redemption and forgiveness is nothing in comparison to the pain I caused myself all those years.
4) I am grateful for the heartache of missing friends and family. This means I am capable of love.  For many years I was so numb I felt no emotions except sadness.
5) I am thankful my Oregon family (The Macy’s). In their home God taught me unconditional love and what reliance on Him looked like. it was here I truly learned to live.
6) I am grateful for my family. In-spite of our brokenness, God is bringing us back together in a more healthy version.
7) I am grateful for my years of singleness (yes, this one is hard). In it God has changed my view of relationships and marriage. I have learned that physical attraction really doesn’t matter in the end. The spirit in my mate and how he treats me does.

I have always loved the song Hallelujah, but never really listened to the lyrics before.  If you don’t have time to listen, at least read the lyrics.  At the end it declares that love of God(paraphrasing here) is ” a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah”.

So maybe God really doesn’t want our praise for the good things in our life.  But He longs for us to praise Him for the hard times. For truly loving Him is is to see His hand in the hard times and praise Him as your heart breaks in two and the tears stream down your face.

Hallelujah Video

Hallelujah Lyrics

 

What do you think about what God wants to hear?

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