Monday, January 23, 2012

My Heavenly Father

Collisions 3:21 "Fathers, do not embitter your children, lest they become discouraged."

My Typical Sunday: Get up, get dressed, leave for church, sit in pew, sing songs, listen to preacher, retain some of the information (Optional). Sounds pretty simple right? Well, there's no such thing as a "typical Sunday" when you're a follower of Christ. God always does this crazy thing where nothing goes the way you plan on it going. So, here's the crazy story of God working in me today.

For the past few Sundays, I've been church hopping on the weekends when I'm actually on campus. I wanted to find a church that I felt almost at home in. So, when Michelle causally mentioned that she was going to church with her roommate and Kady, I decided that I wanted to tag along to see what church they were going to. So, we all got up and dressed and left for church. I always get nervous when I go to a new church. I feel the need to run random bible verses through my head, that way if someone comes up to me, I don't give off the impression of...something. I'm not sure why I do it, it's just something I do to prepare me for the unknown. If you know me, you KNOW how uncomfortable I get in new, foreign, situations. I know that every church is different, and I just want to be as prepared as possible, JUST in case someone decides to come up and talk to me. (It never happens, but that's beside the point. It COULD happen someday...)

 Anyways, back to story. So this Church's name is Epic. I know, it's a pretty awesome name. So that eased my nervousness a little bit. As worship starts, I notice that they play really contemporary music. Which was great, I LOVED the music that they played. Announcements, Welcome, blah blah, more Music, Preacher! I know I'm not supposed to judge people based on the first 5 seconds of meeting them, but I'll be honest...sometimes I actually do. :O But, He preached an amazing message. He talked about how as Christians we need to step out of our comfort zones and act in his will, not just what we think is God's will. He said "So often in our lives we mistake what's going on in our little bubble for God's will, that we often are blind to his will taking place outside of our bubbles." It's in the wee hours of the morning and I still remember that, so you KNOW it was good. As the service was ending, I started thinking about all the things in my life that God is asking me to step out of my comfort zone and take action upon. I wrestled with this question all the way back to the college, and even through going out to lunch. It wasn't until we were going back to college after lunch that I finally had answered all the questions that I had spinning around in my head.

God has this funny way of  taking the things that I'm not exactly comfortable with, and pushing me head first right into a situation dealing with things of that nature. We rented Courageous. A movie about Fathers. TERRIFIC. That's just the type of movie I want to see after being told to step out of my comfort zone by God. (sarcasm) Although it's not the movie I wanted to see it was a movie I NEEDED to see.

That whole 'Father' not...not my Favorite thing to talk about. Who is my father? It depends on who in my family you ask, me and my brothers have a very, VERY contrasting image of who he is. Even though we were all raised in the same house, and share the same mom and dad, we all turned out so very different. I'm not sure exactly Lance's opinion on him, but Ryan and Wayne see a man who has no faults, a perfect father, and a perfect model. I wish I had the heart to tell them how wrong they are, but I can' might crush their entire world. The very first memory I have of him is anger. When he got mad, he got violent. And then, I got really good at hiding from him...most of the time. Second thing I remember about him, his sexism. There is nothing more painful than watching your brothers be showered with affection from both parents while you sit in the corner wishing with all your heart that you could be loved like they were, instead of just ignored. When I wasn't ignored, I was either being yelled at..or something much worse. Not to mention that I was told on a regular basis that I was not good enough because I wasn't a boy. Instead I was this weak little girl, who was absolutely worthless to him. My mom didn't help the situation at all either, she was too busy swooning over my little brothers to even acknowledge that I was there. I tried to be as perfect as possible but nothing I could do would ever be good enough for him, and nothing about me made him proud of me, just more angry that I was not a boy. Third thing I remember about him, Alcohol. He was a very angry, violent drunk. He would come home from work, drink, and then get angry. I remember so many nights being thrown out of the house because he would get so angry with us kids being up late and playing in our rooms. It didn't matter what time of day, or what the outside was like, we were forced to be out there. We weren't allowed to come back inside until my mom got home, usually around early morning. After we left him, he became a stalker, found out where we were staying, and tried to take us back, several times. Hence all the moving we did, trying to escape him. Eventually mom filed a restraining order, and the first time he violated it, she called the police and he was arrested for aggravated assault on one of the police officers. Shortly after that, we were taken away from mom and placed in foster care...if you're interested in THAT story and the rest of my life, come find me sometime and I'll be willing to share with you my life story and testimony. (Bring some snacks, It's about 3 hours of story.)

After being abused, watching him abuse my mom, the harassment after we left, his assault on a policeman, watching as my family was torn to shreds over this, and the entire foster care situation that followed that situation...I have so many reasons to be bitter. I know deep down in my heart, I know that I am. I'm bitter towards the absolute hatred I felt from him growing up. Nothing I did was ever good enough for him. I've spent the majority of my life living my life in a way to somehow make him proud. Nothing ever worked, it didn't matter how smart I was, what my GPA was, or what extra-curricular activities I was in. He didn't care. I know I'm still bitter because I'm hurting from all the things that he said and did, and everything he should have said and done, but didn't care enough to do. Watching Courageous today didn't help anything in the "getting over the abuse" section of my heart, instead it just made me wonder why I had to have a terrible father figure growing up. I know there was a purpose in it back then, but I could never see it. It's hard to see God's plan in the present, but you can clearly see him working in your life in your past. God was all over my past. I didn't see it though, until I came to know Christ, and looked back over my life to see how far I came and changed in my life.

I think though, my brain might have a unorthodox way of dealing with bitterness, instead of hating my father with a burning passion, shortly after coming to college, I was filled with the conviction to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with my father. Yeah, you're about as surprised as I was when God laid that sucker punch on me. So, I wrote my father a letter explaining my faith to him and why He needs to come to Jesus and realize that he's not as big and controlling as he thinks he is. Yeah, he may have been big mean and scary when I was little, but my HEAVENLY father is so much Bigger, so much Stronger, and (to be honest) so much Scarier than he will ever hope to be. I realize that now, but for the longest time, I let my fear of my father get in the way of my relationship with my heavenly father. I read somewhere (MAJOR paraphrasing Alert) that people's first impression of God is the impression that their father's had made on them. I know that sounds maybe a little inaccurate, but it was true in my life. One of the hardest things that I struggled with as I was becoming a Christian and accepting that this whole "God" thing was pretty legitimate, was the fact that I had no idea how someone who was a "Father" could love all of his children equally, and with no judgement on what they had done in their past, but loved them for who they were in the present. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the whole "unconditional love" concept. A father who loved me no matter what mistake I made, or how often I messed something up? I couldn't fathom that that type of love actually existed. How could I know what unconditional love was from a Father I had never met, if I hadn't even received conditional love from a father I spent the first six years of my life with?

The best thing about God though, even through all the crap that I've been through, I've still managed to come out as a half way normal person, even though I might be a little too weird for some. I know that My God will be here for me, no matter the circumstance, no matter how many times that I mess up, falter in my faith, doubt him, doubt myself, that is at the very nature of God's unconditional love for every single person that He has made here on Earth. For a God to love everyone on this planet equally, and without favoritism or fault, He has got to be Bigger than what we can comprehend, because we has humans can't quite grasp that whole concept completely. We can imagine unconditionally loving a few people, but loving every single person equally, and without fault? That blows my mind, I can't even imagine loving my enemies with the same love that I have for my friends and family. But I don't have too, because God knows what He is doing. God is the reason that I'm so much more "normal" than what I would have become had he not stepped into my life. To be completely honest, I have no idea who I would be, or what kind of person that I would have become in life had I NOT accepted and found my way into the arms of Jesus Christ. I'm actually kind of thankful (in a roundabout way) that my Earthly father did decide to not be a part of my life anymore, it just allows me to have a closer relationship with my Heavenly father instead. And God is capable of giving me the right amount of love, the type of love, and how I recieve love, because He's gotten good at picking up the broken, abused, and hurting people of the world and turning them into some of the most important/influential people in the word. This is why I refuse to give up hope that one day, ONE day...things will eventually start looking up again. And I know that God's in charge of all of that happening, I'm excited for reaching that place, but I'm still terrified of the journey that takes me there. But He's got a plan, and He will never abandon me. Ever. That's why I love God, so very, very much.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Taking Chances

Psalm 56:3-4
 "But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?"

I'm going to be straight up honest here, I worry. I worry A LOT. Far more than I probably ever should. I tend to over-analyze, over-think, and sometimes, I even tend to over react. I know, it's shocking. It's almost like I'm human or something ridiculously absurd like that. When I worry about something, I always  have to make sure that I have every single possible solution worked out in my head, before I even think about taking action on it. I'm not one for chances. I don't like the feeling of not knowing, the feeling of uncertainty.There's just something about not knowing the outcome of a conversation or an action that drives me absolutely bonkers. I don't like making myself vulnerable in any way, because I'm afraid of getting hurt. Woah, it's like I'm the only one who actually feels like that. Just kidding, it has to do something with being human I guess.  Although it may seem counter-intuitive, however, I do like surprises. Not knowing that I don't know something is infinitely better that knowing that I don't know something. Makes sense, right? Once I realize that I'm missing knowledge though, I try everything that I can to learn it. I love knowledge, but at the same time, I really hate that I can't let things go. There are things out there that I know I'm not ready to learn yet. I have so much to learn in life, and I'm just getting started with my life. The thought of not knowing what the future is both terrifies me and excites me all at the same time. 

So, I'm the type of person that if you want to talk personal walks, and back story, I will sit and talk back story. I love hearing other people's back stories. Although mine's not the happiest, and it has dark and twisty times, I've found that telling my story and how I ended up as a Christian really inspires people. (disclaimer: That's just what everyone tells me, so I guess it's true?) The fact that so many people face trials and tribulations of various kinds, and they still somehow manage to become a strong Christian really inspires me to become the best Christian that I possible can. Using the pain and misfortunes from my past has allowed me to build a heart of compassion for people. All the pain and bitterness that I have towards my past, I used as fuel to become the exact opposite of what the world expected me to become. I had the opportunity to share a bit of my testimony today with someone. And they asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I had told them all about my plans for becoming an alternative education teacher, and then also starting some kinda of Foster Care ministry and they asked me why I wanted to do what I want to do. A very short summary of dark back story, and then they understood. As I sat on the floor mulling over what I had said (I tend to do that a lot as well), I realized that although my past may have been filled with so much pain and hurt, it lead me to where I am today. If I had the opportunity to go back in time and change what happened, I'm not entirely sure that I would. The scars of my past have lead me to being the person that I am today. I have many insecurities about myself, and I know I value myself far less than I'm worth, but I'm changing that perspective ever so slowly. Day by day I've been trying to find something in my life that I'm confident in and I feel good about. It's going to be a long uphill battle, but I know with God, loving friends, and prayer along the way, I'll end up seeing myself for who God sees inside of  me. 

A few weak points of my faith are how much I undervalue myself, and how much I struggle giving things over to God. I know now that I mean so much to God, and he made me to be me, not who the world tries to tell me to be, but who I am deep down inside. And I know that I struggle letting things go to God. I have this stupid habit of taking everything that I'm struggling with and shouldering it all by myself. Because I'm strong enough to handle everything that Life throws my way right? Wrong, and last semester was so painfully obvious with that. I was fooling myself that I could handle falling back into the self harm and eating disorder cycle that I've been struggling to get out of since I was 12. It's been six years, and I'm still dealing with the same issues that I was back then. I can't do it without God. I keep forgetting to remember that. But, God's here for me no matter how many times I keep forgetting knowledge that I should never forget in the first place, to be replaced with knowledge that I don't need. That's one of the most amazing things about God, He loves us no matter who we are, where we've been, or how we came to be where we are now. He's bigger than any problem I'll ever face, and there will never be a question that I have that He can't answer. There's something about the intimacy of having a personal relationship with God that I can't quite get over. It's a known fact that I talk, and I talk a lot. Sometimes though, I do get tired of talking to people, and I just want to talk without the worry that I might say the wrong thing. Those are the times when I love talking to God the most. I can be so open and honest with him, and He listens, not because He doesn't know what I'm thinking and feeling, but because He cares. He'll never grow tired or weary of listening to me talk to him about little problems that I have, or the really big ones that I really need some guidance on. After I've finished talking to God, I always manage to feel better. I don't have to worry about offending him, hurting him, He's God and He's bigger than anything that I can throw at him. Hurt, Anger, Sadness, Happiness, Fear, Worry, Anxiety, the list goes on and on. He loves me so much that He listens to everything I worry about, I over-analyze, over-think, and over-react to. That's only one of the many, many, MANY reasons why He is God, and to be honest, I wouldn't want him any other way. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Year's Realizations

Ephesians 4:31-32
 "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

I know that I haven't updated this is so long, and so much has changed. Life update: Went off to college, fell back into a cycle of self-harm, and then that brought back my issues with Bulimia. Then I got into a really bad car accident, and then that kinda flipped my life back around. Although it didn't stay like that for long, about two weeks after, I fell back into cutting, except it came back ten times stronger, and cutting just wasn't enough. I also took one of Mom's lighters and started burning myself again also. I hid it from people here on campus, and it came to the point where I couldn't hide it anymore. That was Thanksgiving break, and I ended up going to the hospital, and long story short...I've been clean for about two months. WOOT! I'm on the road to recovery. It's a hard path, and I'm taking things one day at a time. But, The most important thing is that God is guiding my every step. So I know that I will eventually get to where I know I need to be. And then, two weeks ago, We lost Amanda...I've never lost anyone that close to me before...and it hurts. I know that she's in Heaven, and not in any pain anymore. So that helps, a little bit. 

But over the last few days, I've come to realize so much about myself. I let the pain of my past control my life. There were days that the memories were so vivid, that I felt like I'm a zombie, just going through the motions. I've been shorting myself of so much life. I've always had a problem with seeing myself in a positive light. Over the last few days, I've realized that I was so wrong. I am worth something, something very important to so many people. People like me for who I am..I don't have to be perfect, I just have to be me. And I know that I am worth something to God, but I never felt like I was worth something to people. I could never believe when people told me that I was important to them. Now, I realized that I was so wrong. I  keep looking back at my past and I can't believe that I've been lying to myself for so many years. 

I just really have come to realize that I've got a lot of things to work through. I've got so many insecurities, and things that I can't believe about myself. When I've looked at my reflection, I've never seen the good qualities that people say are there, I've always seen the scars, and the weight of my past. I suppose that a lot of people might be surprised by how low my self-esteem/confidence really is. But now, I realize that the things that I believed about myself aren't true. I'm starting to see what people see in me. And God has played a HUGE part in this. He's given me so many friends here on campus, and they have been here to help me when I've fallen down. I know I have other friends, but I don't see them day to day like I do the people here. I've been asking God for a place that I feel like I belong in for so long, and I've finally found it. He's blessed me so much these last few months, even when I was putting a wall between me and him. 

But that's God, even when we fall away from him, He's still there for us when we come back. And even when we're far away from him, He never stops loving us. That's one of the most valuable part of my relationship with God. He'll be here for me whenever I need him, and even when I forget that I do. He's bigger than everything I'm going through, and sometimes I have to remind myself of that. Giving everything over to God, from the small things, to the really big things has always been my biggest struggle in my faith. Sometimes I forget that I have a God to walk beside me in life, and that I don't have to go through all my problems alone. We all have things that we struggle with in our personal walk with Christ, and He still loves us. He looks past our flaws, and He sees the perfect person we are meant to become. I could go on for hours about how great God is, but odds are, if you're actually reading this you know how great He is. 

I just wanted to share what's been going on in my life recently, to keep all the internet informed of what I've been up to. And as I look at the clock and realize that it's 3am, and I have a class at 9...I'm going to have to cut this short this time. I will try to keep this updated at least once a week. So, I look forward to having you read this again. I encourage you to remember how much God loves us, and take the time to see how He's blessed your life.

P.s. If you're not too busy, would you mind saying a quick prayer for me? As this new semester starts, I want to not go back to the person I was last semester. Thank you!