My Story (FULL)

I began this blog, initially titled “Kissless ’till Next Christmas”, in January of 2011 as I began a year-long intimacy fast. My first order of business was intimately sharing a taste of my personal testimony with my readers, which I did, day by day. Below are the blog excerpts as they were originally written. This account only tells my story LEADING UP TO January 2011… 

(Part 1)

Understand, first and foremost, that I do not share my story so that ‘Mo Isom’ can be known. I share my story so that God’s grace can be seen. I am a witness. I am a vessel. I am just one of His many tools–and proudly so. My explanations may seem vague and brief, but throughout the year and throughout my journey, details will be revealed and elaborated upon. For my trials are the stepping stones that guide my path.
My entire life has been a battle for control with our King. I was raised in a Christian household, attending church every Sunday (which, for most of my childhood, consisted of doodling on the prayer cards and fighting the urge to fall asleep during long sermons). Nevertheless, I was reared in a happy home…a peaceful home…a humble home. Being a “Christian” was what I knew and what was comfortable. But, like many young kids, that is where the pursuit of the faith rested stationary.

My parents were all that a young girl’s parents should be–supportive, passionate, encouraging, humble, patient, strict, loving, proud. (the list could continue on to fill the pages of this blog, but more will be touched on throughout the year) They sacrificed so much to see me succeed, whether it be in the classroom, my relationships, or my athletics.

Going into highschool, I wanted control. I wanted to be in the driver’s seat for this new, exciting phase of my life–I wanted to call the shots. I had ambition the size of a mountain and an ego to match. But with personal pride, comes corruption, and as I tried so desperately to steer my speeding course, I lost control along the way. The demands of my academics, the pressure of my growing soccer career, and the overwhelming expectations I felt to succeed pushed me down a slippery slope. And once I hit the bottom, I fell into an illness of obsession and control.

I developed an eating disorder that overwhelmed every aspect of my life. What started as bulimia evolved into a combination of anorexia and bulimia, some days eating so little as a piece of fruit and purging it shortly after. My illness grew to the point where I was forcing myself to throw up close to 10 times a day. When my fingers could no longer stimulate my gag reflexes, I started using objects. Toothbrushes, the base of hair brushes, anything that would cause me to vomit. Eventually, my body became so accustomed to pushing the food back up, I found that I couldn’t even keep food down.

The calories that my brain convinced me were still inside of me had to be burnt somehow. With my soccer career progressing and the pressure to be the best riding heavy on my shoulders, exercise became my absolute obsession. In the summer of my freshman year, I began exercising close to 6 hours a day. Religiously, obsessively. Running constantly, lifting weights, sprinting stadiums, then repeating it all over again. With no fuel in my body to engage my energy stores, I turned to pills. Any dietary pill I could possibly take that would provide me with energy, I took. I was weak, broken, hurting on the side, strained, tired, empty.

I’ve come to learn that our popular society today is Satan’s biggest cheerleader. Throughout all of the pain, the abuse of my body, the neglect and obsession, I found myself succeeding by society’s norms. I was finally selected onto the Regional Olympic team, began traveling the world playing soccer, won beauty pageants, fielded new compliments of “how beautiful” I looked, was signed with a prestigious modeling agency, and eventually signed a Division I scholarship. But at what cost?

I am not trying to take away from the successes and the character, discipline, and perseverance it took to achieve them, but my disorder did play a part. It defined my highschool years. It was a secret I hid so carefully, so methodically, that it would have most certainly ruined me had it gone on. Satan has a funny way of deceiving us…of blinding us to what’s True by cloaking our pain in success. But I was empty, I was broken, and I was thirsty for the Love I once knew…

So 6 months before I was set to enroll at LSU, I came clean to my mom. I spilled the darkness I had endured for 4 years and I pleaded for help. I entered therapy and consulted with a nutritionist, worked diligently to overcome my disease, and worked relentlessly to rebuild my relationship with Christ. After a great deal of learning and rebuilding, I made a very serious promise to my mom before leaving for LSU. I promised her that I would not fall back into the hands of my old demons. I promised her that I would not digress.
Through our gracious, unfailing, forgiving King–my strength was renewed. I gave control back to Christ and made my way to the Bayou…..

(Part 2)

“…For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more…” Luke 12:48

With the control placed back in God’s hands, I entered college a semester early and began to adjust to a very new life. Eager to explore all that my new home had to offer, I was consumed by the excitement and intensity of change. I stumbled, as many young freshmen do, in finding my identity and learning the ins and outs of my new routine, but I eventually found my footing and focused on my passion–soccer.

That first spring was a time of adjustment and discipline. Isaiah 40:29 says that “He gives power to the weak. He increases the strength of he who has no might.” And that was most certainly what our King did. He invigorated my spirit and inspired my heart. By giving Him control, I was able to not only grow in my faith, but physically as well, in a healthy manner. I worked, relentlessly, taking no shortcuts in my development and, come fall, I was entirely prepared to step onto the field and help lead my team to greatness.

There were many astounding events that defined my first fall season as a Tiger–many overwhelming blessings God placed in my lap almost as to say, “Here. I am rewarding you for pursuing My truth. In turn, remember where to give the glory.” Little did I know, he was building me a very large platform from which to proclaim His name. A platform that was almost overwhelming.

You see, in my second true game as a collegiate goalkeeper, I lined up to take a routine free-kick right outside of my box, and ending up scoring a goal! A 90 yard goal that took one bounce over the other goalkeepers head and made its way into the back of the net! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3E-dgyo_jw) A feat never achieved before. A feat I most certainly could not have accomplished with my own power and strength. A feat that most clearly was designed by our King. Next thing I knew, the goal was splashed across the television, magazines, and the internet. Appearing as a #3 play on SportsCenter Top10 plays (an extreme rarity for women’s college soccer), strewn across the pages of Sports Illustrated, and linked onto YouTube, Break.com and countless other sites, the energy of that play took on a life of its own. LSU Soccer was put on the map in a matter of moments, and the recognition and attention seemed to come to our team effortlessly. However, the thing I was most proud of was something that nobody else saw that day….

I remembered, as I lined up to take that kick, looking up into the stands and seeing my daddy sitting right beneath the press box. Now before I tell you of my most vivid memory from that evening, there are some things you should understand about my father. There are few other men as proud of their families as my daddy was of his. Few other men that have sacrificed more to see their children succeed, and few others that have supported their children’s endeavors more passionately. My dad was my biggest fan, my cheerleader, my coach, my jury, my confidant, my disciplinarian, and everything in between. He was a stoic man, a thoughtful man. A child at heart and an observer. A comedian with the most magnificent smile, but a private man often drowned in his inner-dialogue and thoughts. Though our relationship had experienced its share of strains and tensions (primarily due to the fact that were both as stubborn as a couple of mules), he loved passionately. And no matter where I traveled to play, my daddy was always in the stands.

But to digress, I saw my daddy beneath the press box as I lined up to take that kick. After watching the ball bounce into the net, the crowd erupted. The team came sprinting towards me, the fans shook the stadium with cheers and applause, and the announcer’s voice boomed over the loud-speaker. However, in the midst of that explosion, I could only hear one voice in the stands. A voice yelling with the echoes of a pride that is born so deep within our hearts, it cannot be imitated–only felt. A pride and excitement so organic, so true, that you feel it’s vibrations in the fibers of your being. My dad was yelling so loudly, I thought he was going to explode. Looking up, I saw a smile strung wider than any I have ever seen before (I swear his teeth were touching his ears). I saw a joy beaming so fantastically from him, he took on a glow. And as the game continued and the play progressed, that man was still screaming. Still cheering so loudly, I doubt the men in the press box could even hear themselves think. Ten minutes later…still cheering. Oozing with a passion that seemed to be waiting to overflow. A passion that a man, so disciplined in his demeanor, could not control. A passion, I would later learn, I was fortunate to witness. For that is the moment of which I was most proud.

Throughout the rest of that season, my daddy was always there. A relationship blossomed between he and I that was so beautiful and pure, I am humbled to have been a part of it. The season was record-breaking–quite literally. In my pursuit of the King, I broke every record ever set by a goalkeeper at LSU and began to contend for conference prestige. I helped lead my team to new heights and was able to experience, firsthand, the power that athletics play in so many people’s lives. There is no doubt in my mind that God constructed my platform for a much bigger purpose than I could even understand at that time. A purpose I am fulfilling now, 3 years later. There is no doubt in my mind that God fostered the improvement in my and my father’s relationship when he did for a very specific reason, as well.

At the end of my fall semester, I was on top of the world. Named All-American, Louisiana Freshman of the Year, Freshman All-SEC…I was invincible. In a passionate pursuit of Christ, I felt I had the world figured out.

That was until I returned to Georgia for Christmas break and, on January 2, 2009, my daddy didn’t come home…

(Part 3)

“Because of my chains…[I] have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” Philippians 1:14

Looking back on the winter break of 2009, my memories form a collage of imagery. A collage of simple moments that have been frozen in form. Some of beauty, some of the deepest anguish. But all of purpose. Those individuals that are familiar with the details of this portion of my story are only those closest to myself and my family–those whose lives were shattered along with ours, those who have continued to pick up the pieces these last few years. However, 1 Peter 3:15 instructs, ”But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…” Therefore, I am fearless in sharing this darkest moment, for I recognize the greater purpose that it serves.

Returning to Georgia, I was still riding high from the successes of the season. I was happy to be surrounded by the nostalgia of home and, in my blissful ignorance, unaware of any changes or tensions that existed outside of my own sense of norm. I remember my dad calling me into his room a few days after I had returned. As I crawled up into his bed, I noticed a hint of fatigue in his eyes. A dimming of the twinkle that was so familiar. Nevertheless, that sparkle was quickly renewed in his excitement to show me the reason for which he had called me in, so I thought nothing of my initial observation. On his bedside table stereo, he played the radio broadcast that was recorded during my 90-yard goal and beamed with joy. For what must have been 10 straight minutes, we laughed together, replayed the sound clip, and bounced on his bed–seemingly drunken with pride and excitement. I will never forget the joy of that moment…nor will I forget the single tear I saw him wipe from his cheek when he thought I wasn’t looking.

In the days that followed, life was every bit as normal as it had been in my youth. Our family exchanged stories, visited friends, shared laughs. Christmas was just like every other Isom Christmas–emotional, chaotic, dizzying. But comfortable. Throughout that time, my dad began opening up to me about deep, personal things that we had never discussed before. Thoughts of his childhood, details of his relationships. Looking back, my daddy was different. He made himself so vulnerable, yet so inaccessible at the same time. He seemed weakened, humbled by a greater force. Tired. But I attributed this new-found vulnerability to circumstance. We had missed each other, we were both growing older, we were both growing closer. I cherished these moments…

New Years came and went in a matter of four, riveting quarters. My family shared fantastic memories at the Peach Bowl where LSU (my team) pommelled Georgia Tech (my sister’s team) in the Georgia Dome. With unbelievable seats and friends in town to entertain, I was oblivious to the drastic shift in emotions that took place that day. I recognized that my mom seemed out of character–discontent, terrified, resentful. However, the energy of the evening prevented me from asking questions. I dismissed the situation and figured it was none of my business. My rational convinced me that God would care for our family. Whatever the problem was, God would sort it out. I was faithful to Him, so He would in turn be faithful to us. That’s how it worked, right?

January 2 was the day that everything came to a crashing halt. I remember, so vividly, standing at work that morning when my cell phone rang. My dad and I talked on the phone an average of 15 times a day, so when I looked at the caller ID and saw his name, I couldn’t help but smile. He knew I was at work, he knew I couldn’t talk. But best friends have no problem breaking the rules, and we were most certainly the best of friends. Our conversation was every bit as normal as usual. He asked me how my day was going, what I was up to at work, when I would be home. We made small talk for about 10 minutes until a wave of customers came in and I finally convinced him that I had to go.

The next thing that happened is so burnt into my memory, that the scars spell out the etchings of his words. Per usual before hanging up the phone, I casually said “Love ya!” and lowered the phone from my ear. But this time I heard his voice call out on the other end of the line. I quickly lifted the receiver back to my ear and heard, what seemed like, the voice of a different man. In a tone so eerily calm, so genuine, so saddened, my daddy said, “I love you so much, Morlan.” I stood for a moment, curious and unsettled, then replied in as stoic and truthful a tone as he, “I love you too, Dad. More than anything.” Click.
Little did I know, that was the last time I would ever speak to my father…

(Part 4)

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit…” Psalms 34:18

I returned home from work that evening around 6 o’clock and made my way inside, strolling past the vacant space my dad’s truck was usually parked. I remember finding it odd that he wasn’t home yet (considering the fact that, a family man through-and-through, he was never home later than 5:30), but I brushed off the concern and made my way up the porch steps. When I walked inside, there was an energy and tension in the house that is still difficult to describe. The air seemed tight and still. Wrapped up in my own thoughts and fantasies, I proceeded along my way.

Over the next few hours, my sister made her way in and out of my room. She seemed disheveled and concerned, asking me over and over where dad was and if I had spoken to him. I laughed off her worry and assured her he was fine, but her angst seemed to build as the minutes ticked by. I tried calling him a number of times, but after 30 minutes of his phone going straight to voicemail, my anxiety began to rise as well. Just as I was going to make my way downstairs to talk to my mom, her very voice echoed up the steps. A voice shaken with fear, a voice that demanded attention, a voice unfamiliar. She called us into the formal living room and we came down to find her feverishly pacing–each hastening step mirroring the hastening pace of my heart beat.

My mother’s face was as ghostly as an empty canvas. Her cheeks were ruddy and hot, and her demeanor was so forcefully calmed that she took on the mannerisms of a marionette. I could see that she wanted to erupt, to cry out in fear, to panic and distress. But being the woman of God and the woman of faith that she was, she remained as poised and steadfast as a she could, undoubtedly held together by Christ’s mercy alone. She proceeded to tell us of the events that had transpired in the days since New Years. She had unknowingly uncovered a secret–a lie. A lie so delicate, so intricate, so dangerous, that it had the power to destroy. A lie so meticulously constructed through the corruption of Satan, himself, that it had overwhelmed my dad.
With no time to explain, she told us that she had been trying to call my dad all day. She took us back to her room and showed us a simple, handwritten note he had left by the phone. A note that simply read “I do love you.” and had his name signed beneath it. Mind racing, heart pounding, I found my body tensing and my nerves coiling tight. I couldn’t put the pieces together…I couldn’t wrap my head around the situation. There was so little detail, so little explanation. What was going on? Where was my dad? How were we going to get in touch with him? When was he coming home?…but there was no time to process these questions or find answers.

It was then that I noticed a blinking light on the voicemail machine by the phone and asked my mom who had called. Apprehensive and scared, she told my sister and me that she had found this voice message along with the note. She pressed the button and I immediately heard my daddy’s voice resonate through their room. It was then that the reality and severity of the situation hit me like a ton of bricks–the instant I heard his voice. You see, I knew it was my father speaking on the answering machine, but it was not my daddy’s voice. It was hollow, broken, and empty. It was a voice so desperate, so shattered, that it sounded like a stranger. He sounded as though it was drawing every ounce of his energy and pride to muster a noise, draining his heart with each word.

He apologized on the message. Said that he needed to drive around and clear his head. Said that he needed to be alone for a while to figure things out. Said that he loved us and would always love us. Said that he would be home soon….Liar. His tone gave him away as soon as he said ‘home’. I knew he was lying. I knew he was scared. I knew that we had to find him.

That was when true fear set in. What was going on? What was this big secret? Where was my dad and how were we going to find him? What was the next clue? My mom, sister, and I sat up for hours trying to put the puzzle pieces together. Giving accounts of our day and the last time we had seen him or talked to him, calling friends and family, anyone who may know where he was, anyone who may be able to contact him. With each lost lead, I could feel the stinging bite of Satan’s laughter. I could feel a hot tingle slide down my spine as we tried, in desperation, to put the pieces together. I could feel Satan feeding off of our fear.
When exhaustion set in, my sister and I laid down in my mom’s bed. I squeezed my daddy’s pillow tight and sucked in his aroma as deep as my lungs could muster. While my mom sat up in the kitchen making countless calls and desperately seeking help, my sister and I cried ourselves to sleep. Holding each other tight, we offered empty assurances to ease one another’s angst. Hoping that everything would just disappear. That my dad would come driving up and that all would be back to normal. Hoping that some resolve could come soon.
That was the first night that I couldn’t pray. I was too confused, too bewildered, too blindsided. I couldn’t muster the strength to reach out to a God that seemed nowhere near. And that hot tingle that had coiled around my spine only grew in intensity.

No more than a few hours into our shallow rest, my sister and I were awoken by a scream. I could hear my mom’s feet sprinting up the basement steps and a sheet of paper crackling in her hand. “Get in the car! Now! Get in the car!” I threw on my shoes and a jacket and fearfully ran to the hallway. My mom, grabbing boxes of papers, contact information, her purse and her shoes, pushed a crumpled sheet of paper into my hands and screamed for me to get in the car.

Ironing out the creases in the paper, I looked down and realized the sheet I was holding was a suicide letter she had found from my daddy…

(Part 5)

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalms 23:4

It is hard to understand how someone could sum up their life on three-quarters of a page of paper. But my daddy’s suicide letter did just that. It was vague, empty, shallow. As my mom sped through town, stopping at every location she could imagine that my dad may be, my sister made desperate phone calls to the police, my dad’s friends, and co-workers. With life moving 500 miles per hour around me, I found myself frozen in the back seat. The world surrounding me took on an essence of molasses, slowly flowing by in a foggy, glazed state. I couldn’t peel my eyes from the letter in my hands.

He first wrote an apology. He explained, in complete brevity, that he could not overcome his own personal demons. He referred to himself as a lone soul and he offered his guidance for how we could move forward without him. Then, he wrote a small paragraph to my mom, followed by a brief paragraph about my sister. And lastly, a short series of sentences about me. His words were generic. His words were gross–stripped of any sincerity or passion. As if he were a shell, void of emotion, when he composed the piece. As if he had already accepted his fate.

When I snapped back into reality, we were pulling up to his office building and all I could see were police lights and uniformed officials. Upon my mom’s instruction, we sprung from the car and ran straight into his office, hysterically searching for any shred of evidence that might provide a clue as to his whereabouts–frantically trying to find my daddy before my daddy gave up. We were in a race against time, and the seconds seemed to be ticking by faster with each passing moment. The police filled his office building, fielding calls and tracing clues. There was so much noise–so much commotion. Phones ringing, people yelling, doors slamming. There was so much desperation.

I will never forget the moment when everything stopped. My mom, my sister and I were all behind my dad’s desk, shuffling through his files. Suddenly the air hung thick with silence. The three of us looked up at the same time and saw three officers step into the doorway. The looks on their faces were indescribable. My mom stumbled back and demanded they walk away, demanded they get back to work and keep searching. Demanded that they find her husband. But the officers stood stationary.

“Ma’am, we have found your husband…”

A flicker! A relief, oh what a sweet relief! A moment of utter joy, a moment of—

“Ma’am, we have found your husband’s remains.”

It was then that my world froze. No child should ever have to endure the sound of their mother’s heart breaking. No child should ever have to watch their sister shatter and fall broken to the ground. The sound that I found resonating from the deepest depths of my being was not a cry or a scream. It was a sound of utter anguish. It poured from me with such ferocity, I could feel the heat rise from my soul. I felt a numbness overwhelm my body and expand in the crevices of my being. In that instant, our perfect family was shattered. Our perfect lives were destroyed. Normal was an illusion.

It was January 3, 2009 that my daddy put a gun to his heart and pulled the trigger.

His delicately built world had crumbled around him in a matter of days. The secret my mom had stumbled upon was a lie woven through fourteen years of life’s tapestry. It was all so avoidable. There was no infidelity, no impurity–but there was deceit. My dad allowed his personal issues he protected so privately to snowball. By avoiding handling the “tough stuff” of life in a day-to-day manner, and instead allowing it to accumulate through time, my dad lost his way. Too proud to reach out for support, too ashamed to reveal his weaknesses, too much of a “man”, by society’s standards, to simply ask for help. He was overwhelmed, overstimulated, and found himself in a hole insurmountable in depth…

(Part 6)

“But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who builds his house on sand…” Matthew 7: 26

There is much to be said about a humble, country boy that builds himself into a man of earthly prestige and success. My mom once told me that sometimes, someone who comes from such humble beginnings carries their pride in their back pocket, along with their crisp $100 dollar bills. And while there is much to be respected and admired in men that have the strength to build their own empires, the foundations of their intentions must be pure. Never forgetting who they serve and what is required of them. Much like the parable of the two builders in the Bible, it is necessary that we build our lives on the rock foundation, rather than the sand (but that is a whole other topic for another blog post for another day).

My dad was a very proud man…but pride is sometimes poisonous. I don’t think that my father had the capacity to handle the fact that he had damaged the one thing he cherished above all else, his family. I don’t think he could face me and my sister with the truth, nor do I think he could face his own mother or his wife. He was a scared boy trapped in the body of a powerful man…but looks can often be deceiving.

My dad had panicked. He had run. He had picked up in the middle of the day and made his way back towards his humble roots. Back towards his childhood home in Alabama. He took every precaution to assure his success. He had come home to get his guns in the middle of the day, left the note and the message when nobody was around to stop him. He had turned off his phone and severed any chance of contact. Then he had driven. Driven away from his problems, driven away from his responsibilities.

I would like to think that something snapped in my dad’s mind. I would like to think that his actions were rash and that his decisions were spontaneous. But the fact of the matter is that my dad spent a great deal of time thinking that day. From the time he left his office at lunch to the time his suicide letter was received in the early morning hours, he had spent hours drowned in thought. Hours harboring an inner-war in his spirit. Hours hosting a battle of good and evil in his soul. I won’t write much more about what I don’t know. It hurts too badly to allow my imagination to wander. But I do know one thing–my dad was a beautiful man. A man paralyzed by fear and caught in the snares of Satan’s stronghold. A man that loved others far more than he was ever capable of loving himself. And that is what breaks my heart the most…

The police were only finally able to track him down because one call had been made from his cell phone in that time. One single call. A call to 911. You see, he had distanced himself. Far enough from his family, but close enough to his home. He had checked into a hotel room, neatly hung up his clothes, written on a small slip of paper what he wished to be done with his body, and called 911. (I can only assume he did this so that a maid would not walk in on the scene and be scarred by a pain she had no need to feel). My daddy then sat down on the hotel bed, put a gun to his chest, and gave up.

It was January 3, 2009 that my daddy put a gun to heart and pulled the trigger.

It was January 3, 2009 that I took back control.

It was January 3, 2009 that I began to run as far from Christ as I possibly could…

(Part 7)

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness…” 1 John 1:9

The next chapter of my testimony is undoubtedly the hardest and most painful to share. For it’s easy to write about the trials and misguidance of another, but to make public my own personal sins–terrifying. To open up about my darkest period, a period where I so boldly turned my back to our King, is not only humbling, but also embarrassing. However, the Lord ensures us that those who are faithful to Him and follow His plan for their lives will not be destroyed. Isaiah 54:4 reminds us, “Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the sorrows…” So, with the Lord as my guide and my Redeemer, I have the courage to share with you the darkness that I’ve seen.

After my daddy’s death, I was overwhelmed by a numbness. A numbness so debilitating, so crippling, it made it hard to even think. I began to foster feelings I had never truly known before. Feelings of passionate hatred. Feelings of resentment. Feelings of confusion, jealousy, pain. Feelings of envy, impatience, obsession. Feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, weakness. Feelings of fear, crippling fear, and selfishness. Feelings of abandonment–not only abandonment from my father, but abandonment from my God.

I felt a hole so deep and so painful in my heart that it literally burned in my chest. I felt numb to any kindness or compassion shown to me, convinced that absolutely nobody knew what I was feeling. Convinced that nobody could relate to my situation or totally grasp how torn my world was. I was shattered. I could feel the tightening grip of Satan’s cold fingers and the sting of his hot breath down my spine. He was gaining power, gaining strength from my vulnerability. Sucking me of my innocence, my ambition, my light. Capitalizing on my weakness and catering to my darkest emotions. He was waiting to tempt. Waiting to win me over…

It’s hard to understand how someone so wrapped in love and surrounded by support could feel so unbelievably alone. I guess I knew how my father had felt. I valued myself, at the time, as a magnificent actress. I was a modern-day Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hide. In the public’s eye and to my family, I was so strong. A woman of character and a woman of grace. A wonderful example of Christ’s mercy and love……Oh, the irony. Behind closed doors and in my spirit, I was dark. I was lost. I was self-absorbed in my own grief and selfish in my ways. I was so desperate for that gaping hole in my heart to be filled, that I lost myself trying to find myself.

I was back at LSU and back in the bayou of temptation. Though I was surrounded by magnificent support and love and friendship, I was only able to retain remnants of the strength they offered. There was a part of my heart that wanted to receive that warmth, part of me that was still that innocent girl watching her proud daddy cheering in the stands. Part of me that yearned for that normalcy and purity. But Satan capitalized on my depression. Satan was never far from me, constantly whispering to me that normalcy was an illusion. Convincing me that I would never be normal again, and reminding me that I was now in control–that I was capable of finding my own happiness. Convincing me that the only way to fill that hole in my heart was to indulge in all that sin had to offer.

Afterall, Satan told me, I had tried to find Truth through Christ…and look where that had left me…

(Part 8)

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

I lost myself in ’09. I lost my sense of discernment. I lost my purpose. I became two different people, co-existing in a turbulent state. My soul became ground-zero for a spiritual warfare so extreme, it left me exhausted and worn.

It’s difficult to recall specifics from that semester and summer. Not simply due to the lapse in time since, but because of the overwhelming numbness that consumed me. I was on auto-pilot. Unable to process through so many emotions as quickly as society demanded. I was helpless. Confused. Torn.

I was balancing precariously on the foundations in which I had been raised. Half of me pleaded and yearned to stay True. That portion of myself knew what was right and what was good. That portion of myself continued to work, relentlessly, at my sport and at my studies. That portion of myself continued to force a smile and speak of the Word of God and of the King that we served. But that portion of myself was weak and often contrived.

The other half of me was vicious. Crippled by such a dark depression that, at times, I found I could understand why my dad had made the decision that he did. I found I could relate. So overwhelmed by pain, that I began seeking attention and love from all the wrong sources. I began hoarding false idols, clinging to anything that would offer me temporary pleasure and relief.

I began filling that hole with earthly things, leaving a course of destruction behind me. At times, I found myself drowning my sorrows in alcohol, throwing my inhibitions to the wind and giving pieces of myself that were not mine to give. Living a life I was not always proud of, but too desperate to care. To many, I was just living the “college life”, but I had never truly wanted to live that life. I had always wanted to be an exception. To be different.

Fortunately, I was grounded enough in my roots to maintain a promise I made years before to myself, my mom, my God, and my future husband. I was grounded enough to hold tight to my virginity. However, to even say that much is a stretch. Though I was able to keep that thread of commitment, I pushed the boundaries so close to their breaking point, that I am fortunate to still be pure. I gave pieces of myself to any boy that could satiate my desire to feel loved. Pursued empty relationships and misguided lust. Gave and gave and gave. And in return, was left even emptier than where I had started.

Up until that point, I had worked so hard to construct a perfect perception of Mo Isom to the outside world. A perception of success and a perception of esteem. A perception of a young woman that had it so “together”, that little could shake her strength. But, in my own eyes, I was such a different person. I was a little girl lost. With such a powerful spiritual warfare overwhelming my heart, I found that in my attempt to control my own life and find my own happiness, I was becoming a monster…

(Part 9)

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the Truth with your neighbor, for we are all members of one another” Ephesians 4:25

In my attempt to balance the two powers fighting within my heart, I became something so dangerous, so counterproductive, so misguided, that I left imprints of impurity and confusion along my course. In my attempt to balance the two powers overwhelming me, I became a false witness.

For those unfamiliar, a false witness is a person who deliberately gives false testimony, or lies. In a Christian sense, a person who proclaims to know God and speaks of His Truth, but their actions reflect the complete opposite. Essentially, someone who “talks the talk”, but does not “walk the walk”. The 10 Commandments, in the simplest of terms, are a list of moral standards that Christians strive to live by–a list of the most important, most essential rules. The Ninth Commandment in the series is simple, direct, and powerful…”Thou shalt not bear false witness…”

In my attempt to control my own life, I was breaking one of the 10 most important rules. On a topic of the utmost importance, I was saying one thing and doing another, likely leaving the individuals I crossed paths with confused and bewildered. Likely leaving individuals, who had the opportunity to see the light of Christ through me, exposed to the twisted maze of Satan’s games.

It’s important for me to share something at this moment. Important for me to break from my story for a minute and humble myself to you. So please read these words with care and with sincerity. Please know that what I say, I truly mean from the deepest caverns of my heart…

To those I affected along my dark journey, I am deeply and truly sorry. For those I confused, for those I mistreated, for those I neglected…I am so sorry. I offer up my self, offer up my pride. Whether you felt the repercussions then or have felt them in any way since, I can’t apologize deeply enough. For the boys I gave pieces of myself to along the way, I’m sorry you weren’t able to see Truth through me. I’m sorry if I confused you, and sorry if I took anything from your heart, as well. I’m sorry I was a false witness and I can only pray, that from this day on, you see what God is doing through me. And you know that what you saw then was not real and was not pure. What you saw then was not God.

I digress again, back to the fall of 2009. My sophomore soccer season was not easy without my dad. Still hosting a battle of epic proportions in my heart, stepping onto the soccer field without my biggest fan in the stands was emotional. Exhausting. Trying. But the sport that had welded my father and I so tightly together for so many years proved to be a cathartic release. It was an escape that my heart needed. An escape that came at just the right time.

I was on a crash-course for destruction prior to stepping back onto that field. And though it was an extremely slow and gradual process, as the season progressed and each game slid by, I could feel a layer of the numbness slowly peeling back. I could feel hints of joy again. The competitive drive that existed so deep in my being sent sparks of hope that gradually accumulated, gradually reignited a fire in my soul. A fire that soon gave me the strength to take a stand. Take a stand against the waging forces that were tearing me apart. Take a stand against the dark feelings that were pulling at my strings like a puppet-master. Take a stand against Satan…

My mom once told me that, in life, the ways in which God reveals himself to us are often subtle and sometimes overseen. In order for Christ to pour strength into us, we do not have to witness a production of grandeur or divine splendor. No parting of the clouds or blinding light shining down. No resonating voice booming from the air above us. In fact, those types of experiences are few and far between, often sensationalized by a culture so entranced by only that which they can see, hear, and touch. But rather, God sometimes chooses to show His grace in the simplest of earthly things. It’s simply a matter of us taking to time to see them…

It took time, a great amount of time, but eventually I began to feel Him again. I could smell Him in the freshly cut grass on gameday. I could hear Him in the echoes of cheers that filled the Friday night sky. I could taste Him in the bitter flavor of a cold Gatorade at halftime. I could feel Him in the ticking seconds of the final minutes of every game. I could see Him in the moments that every athlete lives for–the moments of adrenaline and pressure and leadership. God was there. He had always been there. Patiently waiting for me to see Him in the stands…

(Part 10)

“A righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all” Psalms 34:19

No wound heals quickly. No gash is mended by freshly born skin as swiftly as we all would like. Every scrape, cut, and burn scabs. And many times, we find ourselves frustrated when, in our anxious movement after the pain has subsided, we tear those scabs wide open again. In our haste, we are again exposed to the slicing pain we first felt. But given time, and care and patience, those wounds scab again and eventually scar. Allowing us to be sewn like new, but always leaving behind a mark of our misfortune. A reminder of the pain we endured. A reminder of the lessons we learned.

Taking a stand against the spiritual warfare that was ripping me apart, I found myself scabbed. I was tender and uncomfortable and often very vulnerable, but I was beginning to heal. In the time that I was regaining strength, I was often too anxious. Often naive. I often mistook minor progress for complete redemption and, in turn, fell back into temptation and tore open those scabs, yet again. Re-exposing myself to the pain that had overwhelmed me before. Re-exposing myself to the fear. I was slowly rebuilding my strength, but Satan was not going to let me go without a fight…

If there is one thing I have learned through my athletics and my adversities, it is that this society tells us that everything must be immediate–everything must be done at speed. Fast communication. Fast food. Fast schedules. Fast progress. Fast relationships. Speed, speed, speed. What our world takes for granted is that things of true value, things of importance, take time. There are no shortcuts or quick-fixes. No miracle drugs or instant solutions. Things of purpose are developed and strengthened gradually. (But again, that is another topic for another blog post for another day.)

As I was slowly gaining strength, Satan was quickly gaining fury. As I began to deny him, he began to grow angry. I was not walking, yet, arm-in-arm again with my King, but I was trying to crawl from my captor. Trying to steal away in the night when Satan wouldn’t notice or see me leave. But he is keen, he is sharp–he is resentful. And he did notice. He was going to try anything to keep me captive. Anything to handicap my progress. Anything to keep me in his sinful snare.

I find it funny, at times, to sit back and look at the works of our God. To sit back and watch, how desperately, Satan tries to wage an un-winnable war. To sit back and watch the grace that God shows to those who seek Him. It’s amusing, truly. Amusing to watch the futile attempts the Devil makes. Painful, but amusing.

It was November 24th that Satan made his boldest effort to stop my progress, and that God put up a painful fight for my heart. Nearing the one-year anniversary of my Dad’s death, I was making headway. I was beginning to heal and beginning to seek my King’s face once again, albeit very challenging. God was forgiving. Overjoyed. Like a mother welcoming home her son from the war, my God was genuinely delighted–welcoming me back with open arms.

It had been a long day in Baton Rouge. The semester was winding down and preparations for our finals exams were underway. The soccer season had just come to a close and it was time to take a brief break for Thanksgiving. A break I so desperately needed. An opportunity to see my beautiful mom. An opportunity to wrap my arms around my loving sister. Two women that had worked so hard and so relentlessly throughout the year to pick up the pieces of my dad’s mess. To reorganize our lives and save our family from destruction. (I could write a book about the bravery and work ethic of my mom and my sister in the months following my dad’s disappearance, but that book would be colossal in size, and it is a story still being written…)
My day had been filled with distraction after distraction…task after task that arose and further hampered by departure home. I was going to drive back to Georgia. An 8 hour drive. A drive I had made so many times before. And I was anxious. Eager…eager to leave that day. Eager to leave that moment.

By the time I finally finished everything I had to do and hit the road, it was nearing 5 p.m. When I pulled onto the interstate, one thing became very apparent–I was not the only one eager to head home that day. In fact, the entire population of Baton Rouge seemed to have their cars parked on the freeway.

After two hours, I had moved roughly 2 miles. The traffic finally broke free and cars poured from the deadlock like salmon excitedly swimming up-stream. So I drove. And drove. And drove. I watched the hours click by on my car stereo clock and I felt fatigue setting in. Finally, I stopped for gas and saw a sign that indicated I was 100 miles from Atlanta. So close! Finally. I was rejuvenated in spirit and ramped back onto the interstate for the final leg of my journey. Little did I know, a war was being waged, and God had other plans. It was about to become a VERY long night…

(Part 11)

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

As I pulled back onto the interstate, I noticed a heavy fog. A fog that seemed to have gained density in the short time I was filling up my tank. A fog that eerily blanketed the road’s surface and swirled up from the grassy median like a thick stew. It was foreboding, but I was re-energized–and ready to make my way home. It was 1:30 in the morning and, as far as I could see, I was the only car on the road. I turned my stereo on and began to pick up speed, watching the small yellow road lines dash past my front tire at a faster and faster pace. I pressed the accelerator until my Jeep’s speedometer read 80 mph, and cruised into the darkness towards home.

The next portion of my story is pulled only from what I can remember. If there are gaps missing and portions that seem vague, you will understand why as you read.

With my SUV speeding down the interstate at 80, I found that my mind was falling under a bit of a spell–fatigued and mesmerized by the reflecting lights zipping past my car like fireflies. I was traveling down the left lane, and watching the road ahead of me, when I found myself in a bit of an argument with the Lord. For whatever reason, I heat was rising in my chest and a passion was growing in me that I couldn’t quite contain. I felt anger. I felt frustration. I felt abandonment. I found suppressed feelings boiling up from inside of me and, while I wanted to lash out in anger at God, there was a piece of me that just desperately wanted to believe He was real again. There was a piece of me that just wanted to feel Him again. There was a spiritual warfare that was suddenly reaching a very intense and unexpected climax in my heart, and it caught me a bit off guard.

In my frustration, I became defensive. I found bold and brazen thoughts swirling through my mind and the pieces I could pull together from the darkness I was feeling suddenly formed a challenge for the Lord.

“God if you’re so real, prove it. Show me. Flip my life upside down. Fix me. Because I don’t believe You. I don’t believe that You love me the way they tell me You love me. I don’t believe You will ever show Yourself in a big way in my life. I don’t believe that You really care. If You’re so real, flip my life upside-down…”

I will tell you now, that is a bold prayer to pray. The Lord will deliver. I challenge you to express how you TRULY feel to God. I challenge you to make yourself raw and real and vulnerable with Him. Ask Him to wreck your life, to heal you, to change you. He will do it.

To this day, I still don’t know exactly how I lost control of my car that night. I do remember what I was feeling. I do remember being distracted. I do remember being exhausted. I do remember feeling turmoil in my heart that was playing tug-of-war with my allegiance and my passion. But I don’t remember the specifics. Nevertheless, it does not matter. I lost control of my vehicle. Before I knew what was going on, I found myself bumping and pounding through the knotted, grassy center median of the interstate. With my tires twisting and jerking through the rugged terrain, it was all I could do to keep my hands on the wheel and keep control of the car. I knew that I had to get back on the road, but the power and force of the jerking wheel proved to be a challenge to control.

I squeezed tight to the damp leather and pulled, as hard as I could, to steer the tires back towards the right. I pulled so hard, it caused my upper body to turn towards my passenger seat in the struggle. And when I did that, time suddenly stood very still…

In the passenger seat of my car sat a very familiar man. A man whose smile I had missed for so long. A man whose eyes were so soft and gentle, that I swore they could see through to my heart. In the passenger seat sat my daddy.

His appearance was warm and relaxing. His eyes hung heavy, but bright. His skin took on the bronzed glow I had remembered so fondly. And strung across his face was a simple, subtle smile. A grin that curled the edges of his lips and showed a hint of that magnificent dimple. A smile that served to say, “Relax. Breath. Know that I am here. Know that I am holding you.”

I don’t know why I saw my daddy that night. I don’t know why he appeared in that moment. But I do know he was real. He was tremendous. I swear I could have reached out and touched him. I could smell his sweet cologne. I could feel his arms wrapped tight around me. I could see that assuring smile. And as quickly as he had appeared, he was gone again…

When time snapped back, I was speeding back up towards the road. The next thing I knew, my tires were slicing back across the fogged pavement and charging straight towards the right, wooded embankment. In an attempt to regain control, I tried to pull my wheel back towards the left, but it was then that I hit the deep divot.

They say that drunk drivers often survive the crashes they are in because their bodies are so relaxed that they flow with the movement of the car. (Well, I most definitely was NOT drunk, but) I realize now one purpose of my father’s appearance. He had relaxed me. His smile had assured me and his essence had put my muscles at ease. In such a terrifying, gut-wrenching moment, I found that rather than tensing with fear and adrenaline, I lost control of my muscles and tendons. My arms fell limp and my body gave way to the force that was overwhelming my car.

The next thing I remember was the realization that equilibrium was off. The realization that I no longer had control. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath in, and then, was overwhelmed by sound. Crashing! Tearing! Shattering! Twisting! Pounding! Cranking! Wrenching! Reeling! Cracking! Then, a final SLAM! And everything went black…

(Part 12)

“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

(The next portion of this story is graphic, but continues to serve a beautiful purpose. So bear with the gore and grit of the next few paragraphs if you are easily sickened or squeamish…)

I don’t know how much time passed between the accident and the moment I regained consciousness, but when I awoke, everything was very dark and very quiet. The air was as still as a placid lake and my mind was fogged and burning. I couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, but I could feel. I woke myself up coughing. I could feel the seatbelt cutting into the skin on my neck and realized I was hanging upside down, dangling like a limp ragdoll. Blood was draining from my mouth and seeping into my nose, choking me and causing me to gag. And with each cough, more blood boiled up from my chest. Unable to breath, I squirmed and writhed, trying to relieve the pressure on my lungs. But I was pinned, strung from my seatbelt and unable to wrap my head around the balance of a world turned upside down.

Realizing that my writhing was only causing more pain, I stopped and hung stationary, limp. I could still only feel. So, I started at my toes and began moving each body part slowly and methodically. Toes. Knees. Fingers. Arms. One-by-one, I moved each limb. Making sure that I was all in one piece. Making sure nothing was broken beyond repair. But the energy it drew from me to think and to move, quickly faded into a foggy exhaust. I felt the heat of my boiling blood rising into my throat and, after taking a rasping breath, drifted out of consciousness again…

The next thing I remember, I awoke on the ceiling of my car. I still don’t know how I was able to squirm from my tangled seatbelt, but I found myself sprawled atop a field of debris and glass that had compiled inside the vehicle. Dazed and confused, I sat up and tried to gain sight. A tight stream of light broke through my left eye and I realized I could partially see. I couldn’t figure out why my sight was so limited. Couldn’t figure out why my right eye was so numb. So, I tried making a noise. Tried screaming for help. But in my attempt to spew words, I instead spewed hot blood. I vomited and felt my throat strain and tighten. I tried to draw a deep breath in, but couldn’t muster any power or steam from my lungs. I felt choked and muffled. Unable to utter an audible sound. Exhausted, I laid down and found my mind wandering into an unknown state…

You see, after losing control of my vehicle, I had hit an embankment and flipped my vehicle 3 and a half times, narrowly avoiding a steel sign-pole and, instead, slamming into a tree mid-roll. The impact of the crash had ripped the front of my Jeep clean off and stripped the engine from the vehicle–leaving a mass of twisted steel and automotive debris, with my body trapped inside.

At that moment, I was completely vulnerable. Broken and raw and stripped of control. Fragile and accessible–at the mercy of the earth. I was completely alone. I was left trapped at 1:30 in the morning, no witnesses in sight, tangled amidst the stern tree trunks that lined the road.

And at that moment, that moment of complete vulnerability, that moment of raw and naked fear, I have never felt more at ease. I have never in my life felt more safe. I have never in my life felt more fearless, or comforted, or REAL. I felt something that I pray every single person has the opportunity to feel in their lifetime–I truly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. I felt wrapped in the grace and the heart of our KING! I felt consumed by the Holy Spirit and completely assured of my purpose and my worth. I felt the arms of my daddy wrapped around me and the hands of God holding me. I felt GOD. I felt purpose. And I felt LIFE.
It was in that very moment, on that eerie November night, that I fully committed my life to Jesus Christ. Bloodied and beaten and bruised–I was beautiful in His eyes. Helpless and vulnerable and broken–I was comforted by His touch. I had escaped the grip of Satan and had grasped the warm hands of my King. I was never letting go. I was captivated…

(Part 13)

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Inspired by a new strength, I sat up in a bewildered state. My head was burning and my body was throbbing, but I felt nothing other than the will to move. To get out. To tell anyone with ears of the grace I had felt.

The next thing I remember, I heard a hesitant voice stab the silence. My ears seemed to perk up like a curious dog’s and I dragged my body towards the edge of my car. I saw a light bouncing off of the shattered glass beneath me and heard the voice coming closer. I then saw a man’s gentle face pressed towards the ground, peering into my car. He had a look of such worry, a look of such concern. A look that I can only describe as the look of a man preparing to see death.

My memory from then comes only in flashes–like photo frames reeling through my mind. The sight of his face. The sound of my voice straining to whisper words to him. The sight and feel of my hand reaching through the shattered window and touching the cold, wet grass. The sound of his voice. And then numbing darkness…
My mom spoke to that man on the phone, a few days after the crash. Apparently, he had been driving with his wife and seen my lights in the distance. Out of curiosity, he stopped to check out the scene. That is when he discovered my vehicle and found me. Of all the people who could have possibly come across me on that night, this man was a retired paramedic and a member of the Navy (if that is not God showing off His grace, I don’t know what is!) In fear, the man had approached the vehicle with a flashlight, looked inside, and found me looking back towards him. He told my mom that he expected to find a dead, mangled body. He told her that he tried asking me questions, tried directing me on how to escape, and tried checking to see if I was coherent. Then he told her that all I kept repeating were 3 simple words–God is beautiful. God is beautiful. God is beautiful. He said that I was smiling, proclaiming the beauty that I’d seen.

When I awoke, I was strapped in a bed. I remember looking over and seeing a paramedic..a very cute paramedic. In true Mo Isom fashion, I milked the situation and stretched out my arm, beckoning for him to hold my hand. He squeezed my hand and told me that he was just waiting to see me wake up. Determined to make the most of the soap-opera moment, I believe I said something along the lines of, “I’ll never let go, Jack.” Realizing I was fine (and also a smartass), he dropped my hand, smiled, and left the room. That portion of the story is completely irrelevant, but I had to throw it in there for a good laugh.

My stay in the hospital was a blur. Ominous machines, tedious scans, countless x-rays. Needles, blood, IVs. Pain, fatigue, restlessness. My mom and sister’s arrival. My mom and sister revealing that they had snuck my dogs in inside of their jackets to brighten my spirits. My dogs peeing on things and barking. My dogs jumping on my fractured ribs and unhooking my IV. My mom and sister being asked to leave the hospital and remove the dogs. My mom and sister sneaking back in. It was a time of physical pain, but a time of overwhelming joy. Emotional joy and spiritual joy. Though my body was mangled and broken, my heart had been made anew.

In the wreck, I had broken my neck–fractured a vertebrae at the top of my spine. I had fractured the ribs down the left side of my body and sustained severe contusions to my lungs and liver. I had damaged my face, my eye and my jaw. Most severely, I had contusions to my brain. I was severely concussed and had bruising on my brain, but I was alive. And I was Saved. I was renewed in the Holy Spirit and I was unshakably, unmistakably a servant to my King!…

(Part 14)

“The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands, He rewarded me…” Psalms 18:20

It would be foolish to believe that the moment any one of us accepts Jesus Christ into our hearts, that Satan steps back, counts his losses, and moves on to torment another. That is far from the truth. You see, as I said before, Satan is bitter. Resentful. And keen. Individuals in pursuit of a closer relationship with Christ are not exempt from hardship or suffering or misfortune–in fact, they are often targeted. Tested. Tempted. Satan continues to wage war and continues to tease. The difference? This time, those who have accepted Christ into their hearts enter battle with a new army surrounding. An army so extensive in number, that the ranks flood the battlefield like a sea of unyielding power. With the strength of a King on their side and the love of a gentle Father picking them up when they are knocked down. With the confidence of a warrior fighting for the purpose of good–fighting for the purpose of grace–fighting for the purpose of salvation. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather give control to the King of all Kings and fight for His cause. I would enter battle any day of the week knowing I am surrounded by that kind of strength.

Recovery from my accident was not quick, nor easy. Physically, my body took a great deal of time to heal. I had to take “incompletes” in my courses and remain home in Georgia, bound to a bed, for close to two months. In that time, there was a great deal of physical pain. Complications to my condition put me back in and out of the hospital, and the mending of my broken bones was often nauseating and debilitating. Most severely, the bruising to my brain left me unable to put together complete sentences. Unable to articulate my thoughts and feelings into the proper words. Unable to speak without the handicap of a stutter.

However, the physical pain and the repercussions of my injuries were futile and petty. For my heart was strong–surrounded by an impenetrable armor and overflowing with strength and grace. I was like a young school girl enamored by a new love. I was captivated by my God and hungry to grow in my faith. Hungry to grow in the Word. Hungry to learn more, do more, and feel more. Hungry to be His priestess and share of His light and His power.

Returning to school for Spring of 2010, I was mending, but still physically handicapped. I entered into extensive physical and neurological rehabilitation. Though I was suffering from sever post-concussive syndrome and still walking around in a fog, I was able to complete my finals from the previous semester and stay on track with my courses in the new year. After close to 6 months of recovery and 6 months of walking hand-in-hand with my King, I was finally cleared by the neurologist and back in functioning form. I had been purged of my stutter and only felt remnants of the after-effects from my injuries. (Still to this day I have some short-term memory issues, but I know I will be healed of that, too, in time). I had worked, relentlessly, with the strength of my King, to get my body back into playing form and to build myself, as an athlete, back up from my broken state.

I find it enthralling to sit back and see the works of our God. We serve a God with an unbelievable sense of timing. And an unbelievable sense of humor. A day doesn’t pass where I don’t laugh at His splendor. He shows himself in the most terrific manners. It was not even a week after I was finally cleared by my neurologist that my phone rang. Confused by the unidentified number, I hesitantly answered and sat on the phone, in a state of shock, for close to 10 minutes. When the individual on the other line hung up, I dropped my phone, leaned back in the chair in the middle of Middleton Library, threw my hands up towards the heavens and simply laughed. Laughed and felt His grace fall like rain. The individual on the other line was a representative from the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. I had just been invited to compete with the U-23 U.S. Women’s National Team in Portland for a week. What a fantastic sense of timing our Lord has…

(Part 15)

“Whoever walks with the wise will become wise; whoever walks with fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20

Even though I was not at the pinnacle of my game due to the time spent in recovery from the accident and the immediacy of the invitation to camp, I was still able to have a fantastic showing with the National Team and was provided a platform to continue my discipleship.

The next portion of my testimony will be vague, because it is a topic that I want to climb much deeper into later during the year. A topic I feel will be most beneficial for younger adults and friends around my age. However, I want to include a tag to this relationship within my story, because it provided more guidance, strength, and encouragement than any I have come across before. And it also plays a part in why I have taken on the challenge of remaining “Kissless ’till Next Christmas”.

A spiritual mentor of mine once taught me a lesson that I will carry with me for all of my days. He informed me that: a woman should never pursue a man. A woman should pursue a deeper, more intimate relationship with Christ. In turn, Christ will then inspire the man, constructed perfectly for her, to pursue her heart. And in doing so, the man will be drawn closer to God as well.

It seems cliché to say that as soon as you stop looking to find someone, someone comes along. However, that was precisely what happened to me half a year after my accident. At the same time that God was rewarding me with the splendor of athletic progress, he also sent a man into my life whom I will respect and cherish forever. A man I was not looking for. A man I did not plan on finding. But a man who walked so humbly into my life, that I couldn’t help but take notice.

I met Joey when I was sharing my testimony at a FCA in Louisiana. An excellent musician, he was there leading praise and worship for the group. The minute I met him, I was entranced. He was my complete opposite. Shy, reserved, a man of few words. He was not my “type”, not my taste. But I was mesmerized. There was something different about him. Something I couldn’t put my finger on. His eyes told a story of his purpose. He was unfazed by the standards of our society. Unamused by the earthly manifold. He was living for One–and it shined through him.

Quite commonly known, 1 Corinthians 15:13 instructs us, “Do not be mislead. Bad company corrupts good character.” In turn, there are countless other verses in the Bible that assure us of the inverse. Assure us that, in surrounding ourselves with the right people and those in pursuit of Truth, our hearts can be nurtured and our spirits can grow.

Over the course of the next 6 months, Joey and I journeyed through the most Christ-centered relationship that I have ever known. It was beautiful. It was simple. It was pure, and it was healthy. It was a relationship of purpose and a relationship of love. Love for one another, but above all else, love for our King. Each pursuing Christ on our own separate walks, we were able to encourage one another, challenge one another, and inspire one another to grow. Joey was a man of conviction. He was exceptional. A man who believes every single word in the pages of the Bible and applies them, first and foremost, in every single thing he does in his life. He was a man that had a past, like many, but a man that had a future. A future with our King.

Being surrounded in the company of such conviction and strength taught me more about our Lord than any bible study lesson or church service ever had before. Because I was not simply sitting and listening to words, I was observing a man living them out to the best of his ability. Stumbling and slipping at times, but picking himself back up and continuing his journey to Christ. He was like a horse with blinders on. He had one focus, and that focus was salvation. That focus was our King. All else in his life fell perfectly into place, because he recognized true importance and invested his whole heart into it.
You may be wondering, why then, I ended my relationship with Joey–as swiftly and as bluntly as the turning of a page. But the answer to that lies in my current calling. The answer to that can only be described in feeling. A feeling God placed on my heart and a mission He desired that I fulfill. A mission that would impact so many more than just myself…

(Part 16)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Recognizing such a heavy calling on my heart was not easy, by any means. I was confused as to why God was asking me to step out of such a healthy relationship. Confused as to whether or not I was making the right decision. But we serve a faithful King, and though I knew I may not see the reason immediately, I trusted that His plan would be revealed to me in time. I trusted in Christ and walked away in November.

If you are confused as to what I mean when I refer to “having a calling placed on my heart” or “being challenged by Christ”, let me break from the story for a moment to explain. Everyone who pursues a relationship with Christ communicates with Him differently. There is no easy explanation. My prayer life is an open, running dialog with our King. He’s my best friend, so I am talking to Him and praying throughout the entire day, every day. Though I don’t hear some booming voice speaking back to me, I know that He is listening. I can feel Him, deeply. I can recognize when God is “calling me” to do something because, generally, it is an idea or a thought that comes into my mind that I would have never conjured up on my own. A feeling or a motivation to do something that is so far outside of what our society deems “normal”, that it would be so easy to dismiss and ignore. It takes a good deal of discernment to recognize what is True, but the more I have grown in my relationship with Him, and the more I have made sacrifices that He asks of me, the more I have been rewarded and seen the fruits of His grace. So now-a-days, I listen. (Again, however, that is something I will go into much more detail about later in the year).

Around the beginning of the new year in 2011, I suddenly found this radical thought popping into my mind. Immediately, I dismissed it, laughed it off as an impossibility, and went along my way. But this calling hung around. It continued to present itself and I continued to shoot it down. It presented itself in different forms and fashions, different moments and phases. This challenge was chasing me and, as many of teammates know, I’m not the fastest runner (haha). Try to share not even a kiss with anyone for a year. Try to share not even a kiss with anyone for a year. Try to share not even a kiss with anyone for a year…
Are you kidding me, God? Is this some type of practical joke? I know you’re a funny guy, but I’m not really laughing at this one. I’m a 21-year old entering my senior year of college. Get real. What if I meet someone? A WHOLE YEAR? It’s an impossibility and I’m not in the mood…place that calling on someone else, but not me. What’s the point? How is that going to help me grow in my faith?

I came up with every excuse in the book. I grappled back and forth with the thought and kept trying to shake it. I refused to take it to prayer with Him, because I was convinced that if I just didn’t acknowledge it, it would go away. But God knew who He was working with. He knew I’m as stubborn as a mule and He knew I needed that extra push. So, as I was loading up my car to head back to Baton Rouge for Spring term, He slapped me across the face with a clear sign…

As I walked upstairs into the kitchen to say goodbye to my mom, I noticed a sermon she had playing on TV. The minister was preaching on the practice of fasting. Spiritual fasting? I didn’t know that was something that Christians practiced. I had never heard much about it and had never come across it in my readings; it certainly wasn’t something that my family ever actively practiced. I was captivated by this man’s words and I started asking my mom question after question about this concept. What was a spiritual fast? Where does it talk about it in the Bible? Why is it done? Is it just done with food? How long do people generally fast? My mom tried her best to answer all of my questions, but I could feel a flame of curiosity igniting inside my mind and I was hungry for more knowledge. Hungry to know what this man was talking about and how it pertained to me. I was oblivious to the fact that God was shoving a sign so clearly in my face, but I imagine He was sitting in heaven watching the whole scene with a bit of a grin on His face…simply waiting for me to come to Him with my questions.

Little did I know at that moment, that 8 hour drive back to the bayou was going to host the longest, most amazing conversation that I have ever had with my King…

(Part 17)

“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass … Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.” Psalm 37:4,7

Two hours into my drive, my mind was exhausted from juggling all of the information that had flooded over me during the new year. I had yet to take it all to prayer because, in my ignorance, I wanted to figure it all out on my own. I wanted to have a “game plan” going into my conversation with God so I could be prepared to dodge anything outside of my comfort zone. (I’m amazed at how patient He is with us ) Finally, I gave up on trying to put the puzzle pieces together on my own. Disgruntled and frustrated, I turned off my radio, let out a grunt, tossed my game plan to the wind, and dove into prayer…

What do you want from me?! What are you asking for here? I have been faithful, I have been following You, I have been disciplined. What more do You want?! I’m trying the best I can…I’ve already sacrificed so much…what more can I possibly give?!

With all of that pent-up frustration finally off my chest, I took in a deep breath. I have come to learn, in my spiritual walk, to never expect an immediate response. That patience is key when you are searching for answers. Patience is key to a balanced sense of discernment. That is why it stunned me when, as quickly as I had cried out, He responded!…

Give Me the next level of control…

In those 7 simple words, my heart was moved. It felt like an earthquake shook through me and the doors of a dam within my spirit burst open. It was simple. Beautiful. A request of unbelievable magnitude, but of humbling nature. I had been faithful, yes. And I had been disciplined in the pursuit of Him, yes. But what He was asking for was more.

You see, we live in a world where complexity is synonymous with success. Where things must be so complicated in order to encompass inclusion for all. Where there is no simple answer or definitive position, because everyone has an excuse or an exception or a reason as to why not. But God is the exact opposite. He is simple. He asks for so little. It is all very black and white. He grants us free will; grants us the right of choice. We can choose to follow Him, or we can choose not to. If we choose to follow Him, what He asks for is simple–to give Him complete and total control. To empty ourselves of “us” and allow Him to fill us with His light. He desires to protect us and to love us, unconditionally. He desires a relationship with us–for us to give Him the reigns and allow Him to lead us for His purpose. Though that is a request of unbelievable magnitude since we, as humans, are wired to be self-centered and in control, it is also a request of beauty. He just wants us to love Him and to trust Him. He asks for nothing without the promise of greater return. Return in our earthly lives, and return in the form of salvation.

With those 7 simple words placed on my heart, I was almost embarrassed at the ignorance I had shown in my state of self-serving frustration. His request was so beautiful. True, I had given Him some control earlier in my walk, but He had worked on my heart in that time. He had been preparing me, slowly and methodically. And now, He had deemed that I was ready, and He had asked for just a little bit more. You see, God is not so ignorant as to think that the minute we acknowledge Him, we are all capable of turning our lives over to Him 100%. That is nearly impossible. He evaluates us, assures us that He will never give us more than we can handle, and tailors a walk for each of us. He prepares us, nurtures us, and when we are truly ready for His next request, He asks for more from us.

If I could have fallen to my knees in that moment, I would have. My body was made limp in His moment. It took me a while to compose myself, but when I did, I stepped back into prayer…

I am Yours. I give You control. I love You so much. Help me to love You more. I know You. Help me to know You more.

I must have prayed that prayer 500 times within the next hour. I was so humbled at His feet. It was all I could do to express the energy in my heart. I asked Him to reveal to me what He wished for me to know, and I promised Him I would fulfill His request. Then, I waited…

(Part 18)

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

I have never been fearful of the future. Like many, I have had apprehensions, questions, concerns, and desires. But, I think so many of us are so eager to see what is next, we forget to live in the moment and appreciate the “now.” So anxious to seek immediate gratification and see the fruits of our labor, that we forget to appreciate the journey. There are massive transitional phases in all of our lives: the movement from middle school to highschool, the movement from highschool to college, the movement from college to the “real world”. Transitions from workplaces, the leap of marriage, the transition to parenthood, among countless others. All of which involve change, vulnerability, and a step into the “unknown.” A lot of times we want to execute these transitions perfectly, and I found my circumstance no different entering into my senior year of college. I wanted to control every minute of my time–dictate my future, iron out my plans, call all of the shots when it came to planning my future. But, God had a different game plan. And He wasn’t shy to coach me…

After recognizing His request for the next level of control, I found myself humbled in thought. I continued to pray, asking Him to make clear His plans. It was a shot in the dark, but I was hoping He would at least give me a little feedback. Without hesitation, He flooded my heart in a sea of realizations. Realizations that, up until that point, I had refused to acknowledge and come to terms with. I quickly came to realize that, though I knew He had forgiven me, long ago, for my sins and my dark past, I had yet to truly forgive myself. I carried my guilt like a sac full of weights and allowed it to slow me in my pursuit of Him. He made it clear to me that what He desired was a fast. An intimacy fast. Though I knew close to nothing about the concept of fasting, He assured me that He would teach me. He simply asked that I oblige, and He promised He would make His purpose clear in time. He made clear to me that, in accepting His challenge to complete the year-long intimacy fast, I would not only grow closer to Him, but I would also grow closer to my own heart. It was not going to be easy, by any stretch, but He laid on my heart the purpose my journey would serve and the impact it would have on others.

So, after a great deal of thought, I entered back into prayer with my King and accepted. I willingly gave Him the next level of control and I promised Him my loyalty. Promised Him that I would show Him a mere crumb of the faithfulness He had always shown me. In my ignorance, I guess, I expected that to be the end of such a fantastic moment. I suppose I assumed that He would smile on me and I would continue on my way to Baton Rouge, left to figure out the rest in time. But, low and behold, He almost startled me when He spoke AGAIN!…
Now go. Tell everyone. Tell everything.

What?! Tell everyone?! EVERYTHING? What kind of test was this? I had already accepted His challenge of an intimacy fast, which was going to be tough enough, and now He wanted me to tell everyone? Everything!? I soon found myself back in a one-sided argument. I couldn’t believe that He wanted me to share everything. My past, my present, my future. There was so much pain, so much vulnerability, so many embarrassing mistakes. He couldn’t possibly be asking me to share everything. Who would even care to listen? (Again, I’m amazed at the patience of our King ) I must have rambled on for an hour about every fear and apprehension I had in regards to laying everything out there for the world to know. Where was my sense of privacy? Wasn’t my walk supposed to be kept between myself and my King? If You are desiring intimacy, why are You asking me to open the door for everyone to look inside? After again exhausting myself in thought, I stopped. Finally just stopped and listened again. Hoping, deep down, He would change His mind and ask for something a little bit easier…

Now go. Tell everyone. Tell everything.

Well, there was no dodging that bullet. haha. So I took a moment, sat back, and reminded myself of the prayer I had prayed just a few miles back. “I love You. Help me to love You more. I know You. Help me to know You more.” He was answering my prayer. Maybe not in the form or fashion that I had envision, but, then again, our lives are not our own pictures to paint.

So I accepted. I accepted His request for the next level of control. I accepted His challenge of an intimacy fast. I accepted His request for my journey to be publicized. I knew that He had blessed me with a platform for a purpose, I just wasn’t sure how I was going to use it…

(Part 19)

“That their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself.”
Colossians 2:2

I likened my mind, at the time, to a large craft table with puzzle pieces scattered on top. One piece being the concept of a fast. Another piece being His desire for me to be public with my journey. Another piece being His desire for more control. Another piece being my self-confidence. Another being my platform. Another, my vulnerability. And so on. It was a massive puzzle that would have been impossible for me to assemble on my own. It was a puzzle, when assembled completely, that showed a much bigger picture of all that was on my heart. A much bigger picture that was impossible to see by just studying one piece at a time. A picture of His purpose.

As quickly as I had offered up myself to Him and accepted His calling, the puzzle pieces began sliding into place and assembling themselves. It was surreal, feeling Him stringing together each piece–allowing me to see portions of His plan. The portions were beautiful. They were intricate. Little by little, everything began to make so much sense. I have never experienced anything of that magnitude before. I have never had God, so clearly, reveal to me His purpose. I was overwhelmed by His fantastic mercy and grace. Though I knew He was just giving me the tiniest taste, I was savoring the flavor–in awe of His grandeur.

He made it very clear to me that, as I told you earlier, He wanted me to give Him the next level of control. He desired a year-long intimacy fast, and He desired I make every single step of it very public. He inspired me to name my mission, and inspired me to spread His word as quickly and as passionately as I could. He purged me of my fear–every trace of hesitation, He eliminated. He assured me that, if I came to Him in prayer before writing or speaking, it would be He who wrote and spoke through me. He challenged me to be His vessel. Challenged me to be stronger than I had ever been before, and assured me He would bless me with that strength. I could go on and on about all that He revealed to me for this year, but that would take countless more blog posts and pages. The point of my ramblings is to express to you, first-hand, the unbelievable works that I have seen. By putting aside my own feelings and opinions and, instead, allowing Him to drive my course, I was purged of my fear and apprehension. I was freed from the chains of my desires and rejuvenated in His purpose. It was spectacular!

Where that leaves us, now, at the end of this LONG story, is at the beginning of a new journey. A journey that will undoubtedly be challenging. Exhausting. Emotional. But a journey to draw nearer to our King. The bright side? You all won’t have to feel all of the struggles and challenges of the mission, you all will just get to see the beautiful results each day . But in order to inspire you and teach you of His grace, I will gladly take on those burdens. I can admit that I will not always have the right answers. I am young in my journey, just as you may be, and I am bound by human tendency as well. I will likely make mistakes and stumble through. However, I WILL achieve His calling and I will always, first and foremost, be pure in my intentions. I will express nothing to you without first taking it to prayer, studying it passionately, and consulting the spiritual leaders in my life. But I want to take this walk together, and I am so grateful you have followed up to this point. I hope you will check in throughout the year and maybe learn a thing or two along-side me.

Let’s be exceptional! Let’s be different. Different from everything this world tells us to be. Let’s not just be “cultural Christians”, let’s pursue Him. Pursue His word, pursue His truth, and pursue His kingdom! Let’s give Him control!

Africa (Pt. 2): Kisses from Katie

“…even though I realize I cannot always mend or meet, I can enter in.  I can enter into someone’s pain and sit with them and know. This is Jesus. Not that He apologizes for the hard and the hurt, but that He enters in, He comes with us to the hard places. And so I continue to enter.” —Kisses from Katie, p.23

Katie Davis’ New York Times Best Seller, Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption, was the first book that began to puncture and crack my preconceived notions of Uganda. So many of the powerful words that danced through the dusty red pages of her book captivated my attention–none moreso than the simple excerpt above. And while the beauty and tragedy of her story cause one page to constantly contrast the next, I found that as I read, this contrast became unavoidable. Real. Beautiful.

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When I awoke the first morning of our journey, I was greeted by the first of many  jarring contrasts that served as a mallet to my presumptions–shattering all that I expected to find.  As I slid back the shadowing curtain and twisted open the rusted lock of my balcony door, I found myself face-to-face with a surreal paradise. Katie writes often about the vast contrast between the beauty of the land, and the ugliness of suffering for many people. Her words had painted a picture in my mind, but the sunrise splashed color and life and vibrance into my expectations.  The land of Uganda was lush, tropical, and electric. The vibrant green of the rich foliage splashed itself against a cloudless blue sky.  Tropical trees stretched towards the sun and Lake Victoria shimmered and waved in the distance. The hoots and whistles of birds spun a song of life through the twists of the breeze, and sharp red dirt roads wove themselves like thin veins across the panorama. I was breathless–overwhelmed by the raw beauty of God’s continent.

I continued to marvel and gawk at the land as we drove a few hours to the town of Jinja. The sun seemed to shine brighter on Uganda. The colors seemed to radiate more energy and joy. The now familiar scent of the land seemed to follow me, lead me, and welcome me to each new place. We bounced and bobbed down the streets, often waving down strangers for directions and finding friends in their soft eyes. There were no street signs, no traffic lights, no police wielding radar guns. There was just simplicity. And life. And the milling and stirring of activity abound. Our greatest means of asking for directions was, “We are looking for Auntie Katie.” And in a town of tens of thousands, they knew right where to point us.

AmazimaBoyWe pulled up to Amazima Ministries and parked just within the thin fence that separated the ministry grounds from a local farmers growing garden.  The expanse was easy and inviting–there was a large concrete gazebo with a straw thatched roof neighboring a few one-room buildings. Behind the buildings stretched a huge playground littered with kids.  Just as we climbed out of our vehicle, the echoes of a bell rang through the open, grassy field and kids came running from the playground and out of thick brush surrounding the area. A few children danced in from the same fence opening we had driven through, and all quickly congregated to the gazebo and lined the empty benches. It was time for “chapel”, and you could watch as the kids squirmed and rustled with excitement. They were entering in with open hearts, excited minds, and thirsty souls–they glowed with anticipation of worshipping the King they had come to know. It was time to praise Jesus.

I watched and listened in awe as these thin, dirty children raised their hands and sang and swayed. Some danced, some played, some laughed. They sang and sang and sang. And smiled. It was both enchanting and convicting to see these tiny children worship so freely. Some wore nothing but rags. Hundreds of tiny, shoeless feet dangled from the chapel benches.  Hundreds of dark, bald heads bounced and bobbed, speckled with white worms and fungus. Yet despite their circumstances, despite the unimaginable things they’ve undoubtedly seen and experienced in their short lives, despite the material things and basic necessities they’ve lacked–they praised!

I was spellbound and eager to spend time with the young woman, no older than myself, who had been so daringly obedient to God and who had built this ministry in His name.  To tell Katie’s story would take me far more space than this blog allows, so I urge you to read her book and dig into her captivating website (http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com).  At 23 years old, Katie is an adoptive mother to 13 Ugandan daughters. She has built a ministry that provides for hundreds and hundreds of children in the neighborhoods of Jinja–covering their school fee expenses, providing them with nutritious food, addressing their medical needs, and giving them a place to gather on Saturdays and praise the King who lovingly led a faithful servant to enter in to these children’s world. A very hard world. A very real world. A very beautiful world.

Amazima

And while my time spent with Katie was moving, the hours spent with the children were moments I will never forget. From worshipping and singing along with their sweet voices, to climbing through playground tunnels and playing “house” with a dozen sweet girls, I found myself in perfect peace and abundant joy. We danced and laughed. We ate rice, hot beans and chicken with our fingers. We tip-toed barefoot through the grass and spoke for hours through our eye contact, alone.  The language barrier was vast, but the translation of a smile was simple. After hours of tickling and hide-and-seek and silly animal impersonations, we sprawled out on the grass and basked in the sun together. A dozen tiny, dirty legs tangled together with mine in a sweaty pile. Sweet hands pulled and rubbed on my clothes, my face, my arms. Before I knew it I noticed what felt like fifty tiny fingers dancing through my hair.  The girls had sat me up and were busy at work braiding and twisting my “mzungu” hair. They toiled and worked and gossiped together in their native language. Every now and then they would giggle and laugh and swat away any boys who tried to join in the activity. I closed my eyes, breathed in a deep whiff of their sour, sweet smell, and praised God in that perfect moment of peace. This must surely be a taste of heaven. This must surely be a glimpse of Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.

What was unique about Amazima was the beautiful contrast that continued to echo so loudly.  The children who filled the playgrounds, danced in the chapel, and tumbled through the fields were, by America’s standards, filthy. Amazima reaches out to the children in the community with the most need. Many, if not all, come from impoverished homes, heartbreaking conditions, and jaw-dropping hardship. Yet through Amazima, some of their physical needs, and many of their spiritual needs are met. They find friendship, love, and hope. Through the selfless provision by Amazima, they find Jesus. And for these precious children, that is enough. Abundant joy and life flows through them. Smiles never escape their faces. Gladness never evades their hearts. They are so very appreciative, so very polite, and so very eager to share with you the love that has been shared with them. Radical need contrasted by simple provision. Radical hurt contrasted by simple trust. That is what defines their radical faith. Simple love.

I want to be a believer who recognizes that deeply that Jesus is ENOUGH. I want to be that grateful for every day and every blessing. I want to shine light like the Ugandan children. I found myself envying their lives. Envying the simple, unobstructed, fervent love they felt for God.  Envying how clearly God moves there. He is present, He nurtures and kneads their tiny hearts, and He comforts them. He holds them, He laughs with them, and He loves them.  As Katie so eloquently said, He enters in. And He loves fiercely.

I so deeply admire Katie for following in His example and doing the same.

(to be continued…)KatieDavis

Africa (Pt. 1): Stepping Out

I paused for a moment at the lip of the plane door.

One last moment to feel safe and secure and clean.

One last moment in my comfort zone.

I sucked in a deep, hot breath of sticky air as an unfamiliar scent encircled my head and tickled my senses. It’s hard to find words to describe the smell of Africa–it is sweet and spicy, a sort of smokey scent with dull hints of pastureland that waft in and out with the wind. The scent is aged and natural and rich. It is relaxing, and ever-present–weaving it’s way through your clothes, your hair, your being. It has a way of welcoming you, and all the while reminding you that you are far from the land you know. It is sour and sharp, yet comforting. The hot breeze steals your worries and robs you of your distractions. I long for the scent of Africa.

The smell of Africa was a perfect stranger to me, and yet it was the first hand I held as I stepped off the plane into a world unfamiliar. I found, quickly, that the hospitality of the land was a beautiful precursor to the hospitality of the people. Warm, sharp, and different…yet inviting.

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We wove our way through the Ettenbe Airport, the streets of Uganda, and the neighborhoods of Kampala. The night was deep and dark–darker than I was used to. It was impossible to survey the land as we bounced and jolted down rough streets, jerking our way through twists and turns of the city. I gazed out my window and watched shanty shops and roasting fires and busy people wiz by. The town was very much alive and milling, and I longed to interact. I longed to enter in to the lives and circumstances and thoughts of the people.  My nervousness faded as quickly as the moon in our rear view as we found our way to our first guest house and tucked in beneath mosquito nets and stirring fans. I dozed off into dreams of what our coming days had in store–thanking God for guiding my days and guiding my way to a continent I had always longed to know.

I carried much with me into Uganda–including many preconceived notions. I had a grand picture in my mind of exactly what Africa was–a picture painted by years of hearing and seeing and learning about Africa from afar. From the heart-wrenching sponsorship commercials on tv, to the stories of adoption, to the Americanized marketability of fundraising for countless initiatives. All of which had been laced with images of malnourished children, haggard women scooping drinking water out of muddy puddles, destitute conditions, and dry, lifeless land. Viewing a continent from halfway around the world through Americanized goggles and over-dramatized insight left me with, in my mind, a pretty clear image of what this place was struggling with. And it left me with a pretty bold assumption of what this place needed: Americans to sweep in and save Africa.

I entered in with this perspective. A perspective reinforced by our media, my imagination, and my westernized ego. Surely we were coming here to be a part of saving Africa. Surely we were going to be messengers of a grand call to action. Surely we were going to have all of the answers for all of this crisis. These poor, poor people. This poor, poor place. Surely we were wiser, stronger, more equipped. Surely Africa needed us.

Surely I was wrong.

The realizations of my ignorance hit me often, and hit me hard. I felt like an untrained, blindfolded boxer standing center ring, with an opponent circling me, popping me and jabbing me without mercy. Then again, there was no time or room for mercy. I had a wildly inaccurate perception of an unfamiliar land, and the continent only had three short weeks to shatter my perceptions and rebuild a reality. There was no time to waste–and I felt, often, like the land knew this. My perspective of Africa was rocked and robbed constantly throughout the trip. I was popped and punched with truth before I could even catch my breath from the jab of realization that had come before. The land swung, the people thumped, and the children tugged at my heartstrings and my insight into a very different Africa than I assumed I would find.

The sharpest and most stinging realization coming with the very first sunrise on the very first morning of our adventure…

(to be continued)

The Adventure Continues…

I’ve never camped a day in my life.

When I was 11, I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and convinced myself I was the reincarnate of Tom Sawyer.  I ran through the woods around our house, bare-footed, building forts out of branches and trying to fashion a make-shift raft for our creek.  I sweat and I climbed and I crawled. But when I heard my dad’s voice echo from our front porch, I ran home to a hot shower and a cozy bed.

That’s the closest I’ve ever come to “roughing it”.

You can imagine my surprise when my cell phone buzzed in early December and after an hour long conversation I realized that I had just committed to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. More notably, I had just committed to 8 days without a shower. In the hot season. In Africa. Did I just say yes to that?

I’m a firm believer that God has a wonderful sense of humor. And I’m a firm believer that He is going to be cracking up at the end of this month as He sits back and watches me brave the wild wilderness. Heck, I’ll probably be laughing at myself most of the time, too. But I’m more than willing to swat mosquitoes, sleep on the ground, and trek the highest free-standing mountain in the world in order to make the Gospel known.

If you’re as confused as I suspect you are at this point, allow me to rewind a bit and share with you what God is doing in my life right now.  Are you ready for the run-down? I will try to keep it concise…

After I did not make the LSU football in August of 2012, I sold all that I owned, donated the money to my sweet friend Kate (Check out her website & support her here: http://kategoeler.theworldrace.org), packed up my pups and moved back to my hometown–Atlanta.  It was bittersweet saying goodbye to the college town that captivated my heart, but I knew that God was calling me back to Georgia. And I knew that I’d always have a home away from home in the beautiful bayou.

I moved into our new house in Vinings and found myself dizzied with joy as I finally had the opportunity to spend daily time with my magnificent mom and hilarious sister.  I had forgotten how much I loved their regular company.  Through every one of the adversities and hardships our family had endured through the past 4 years, I had always been 500 miles away.  Now I had the opportunity to hug my sister, kiss my sweet mom whenever I pleased, and relish in the small daily splendors of “family”.  My heart overflowed.

I took time to settle, rekindle old friendships, and build new relationships with so many wonderful people.  I found a new church home in Passion City Church and have loved learning and growing under Louie Giglio. There are few people in this world who I believe are truly anointed communicators. Not only is Louie one of those people, he is also a beautiful example of a humble, wise, and God-fearing leader who wants nothing more than to make Jesus known. It’s been an absolute joy seeing the church-body at Passion City move in response to God’s overwhelming presence at PCC. (Plus, it doesn’t hurt to praise and worship with Chris Tomlin’s band every week!)

I started my own business–BOLDLIFE,llc–and began navigating the many obstacles of building a solid professional platform, and associating with the right people.  BOLDLIFE is a managing and marketing entity that handles all of my professional endeavors.  The largest of which being professional speaking.  I have been blessed to have the opportunity to travel the country speaking and sharing my heart with businesses, churches, youth groups, athletic teams, young leaders, and more! I have bounced from Georgia to Alabama to Colorado to Florida to Louisiana–requests have poured in and God has been so faithful in seeing to it that I have steady work and a wide reach.  2013 is booking up quickly and I am in the process of building a full website, starting a non-profit organization, and continuing to be sensitive to God’s will and direction in how He wants to use me and how I can honor Him with my days.  It is my heart to inspire, empower, and encourage this generation to live BOLDLY for the Gospel.

I have also been working some with ESPN.  While we are in the brainstorming phase of what exactly my role may look like with the network–whether we may pursue a continuation of the “Meaux Vs.” series, or structure my involvement in a different way– it has been a fun adventure visiting their headquarters in Bristol, seeing how their systems operate, and getting an opportunity to shake hands and have conversation with some influential people in the sports media world.  I have had the privilege of appearing on ESPNU’s college-geared show, UNITE, several times in the past few months.  And while I have always been a guest in the past, I am thrilled to announce that they have hired me to co-host two episodes this coming week (Monday, Feb. 4th and Tuesday, Feb. 5th). I look forward to learning and growing through the experience. I hope you’ll tune in!

It has not been easy following God’s calling in my life.  There are so many times that I–a creature that craves organization and structure–have found myself drenched in tears, frustrated, tired, and desperately bargaining with God to just show me the 5-year plan. Sometimes I wish He would just lay out what my finances are going to look like, what course I’m going to take, and the detailed checklist of what He wants me to do.  It’s hard waking up each day and trusting that He is orchestrating a bigger picture.  Yet every time I doubt His presence and His provision in my life, He never fails to gently remind me that He has a perfect plan.

Case in point: the early December phone call.

As some of you may remember, last year I had the special opportunity of sharing my testimony as a part of Next Step Ministry’s video series.  (If you haven’t seen the video, you can view it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7ptcSmKIihA ) Next Step is an organization passionate about getting kids and teens involved in missions work.  They have several locations around the U.S. that they host mission trips to throughout the year.  Each week-long mission trip hosts nightly gatherings in which a video is shown as a part of the program.  My testimony happened to be one piece of the video puzzle last year, and I was thrilled to learn that thousands of kids were impacted by God’s brilliant message of hope through my messy, broken words.

I was also thrilled when Next Step reached out AGAIN and asked me to be a part of their 2013 video series.  My thrill turned to intrigue when they continued on to explain that this year’s video series was going to be slightly different and that I would be woven through each video in the series, rather than just one. And my intrigue turned to shock when they said it was because this year’s video was documentary-style. And that the documentary was going to be shot in Uganda. And Tanzania. And, oh yeah, on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro–19,341 feet above sea level.

(My inner Tom Sawyer was giddy!)

I’m proud to announce that I will be partnering with the Next Step Ministry team as a contributor to their 2013 video series. We will be leaving February 14th and traveling first to Uganda. While there, we will be highlighting the work done by several missionaries and ministries in the cities of Kampala and Jinja.  This includes Fields of Life (http://www.fieldsoflife.com) , Sole Hope (http://www.solehope.com) , Light Gives Heat (http://www.lightgivesheat.org) , Charity Water (http://www.charitywater.org) , and New York Times Best-Selling Author Katie Davis’ Amazima Ministry (http://amazima.org). I would love if you would take the time to click each of these links and learn a little bit more about the heart of these amazing ministries.  I am so excited to have the opportunity to spend time serving with these organizations and learning more about the nation, their needs, and how these missionaries are impacting people’s lives as the hands and feet of Christ.

After a week in Uganda we will hop a flight to Tanzania and prepare to climb Kili.  This will not only serve as a beautiful portion of the documentary–interwoven into each video within the series–it will also be a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual test of endurance and fortitude.  Preparation and training for the climb has already been taxing, and I have no doubt that the 8-day endeavor will be one of the most challenging and exhausting feats any of us have ever attempted. (I’m not quite sure weight-lifting with a bunch of football meatheads is anywhere near as overwhelming as facing Mother Nature’s grandeur and finding a way to navigate terrain, climate, energy, and will. But don’t tell the big strong boys I said that…ha!)

And so I find myself here. Two weeks away from embarking on a journey I’ve always dreamed of taking. I find myself in the grip of a King who reminds me, in tiny ways and in MASSIVE ways, that He is ordering the days of my life. I find myself recklessly following the footsteps of my Lord with an eager heart and an open mind.  I find myself challenged, sustained, anxious, and eased.  I have no idea what the Lord has in store for my heart during this time, but I cannot wait to find out.  And I cannot wait to share the journey with YOU.

Would you like to join me? Your support would mean more to me than I can express.  Above all else, I would appreciate your prayers.  I am seeking, whole-heartedly, God’s purpose for my life. I trust that He is guiding me and using me as He sees fit and that, through my ministry, lives are being touched by Him.  I am just a vessel, and I want to remain a vessel that is unobstructed, flexible, and pliable to His will. I would appreciate your prayers that He continue to shape He into the woman He has designed me to be–no matter what that calls from my life.

If you feel led to support my ministry in any other capacity–whether it be through written encouragement or financial contribution–I would be honored to connect with you.  I am working to raise funds to cover my expenses for the trip (medical expenses for specialized vaccines, appropriate clothing and required climbing gear), as well as funds to allocate to the various ministries we are connecting with. If this sounds like a way you may feel led to bless the work God is doing through my journey, I would love to hear from you.  Please don’t hesitate to email me at:

moisomspeak@yahoo.com

I hope that is a sufficient recap of the past 6 months for my wonderful family, faithful friends, and fantastic followers. Thank you for your constant love and your loyal readership. I am so grateful for YOU!

NO.

A hot tear rolled down my cheek as I worked to straighten my twisted frown and fake a shred of composure. I had told myself I wasn’t going to cry.

I saw a wince dance across Coach Miles’ face as his eyes began to redden, as well. I stared into the watering gaze of a man who saw glimpses of his own daughter in my eyes. A man who recognized there was going to be no easy way to deliver any verdict.

It had been 18 months since the day I felt a stirring in my heart to begin an uphill, unexpected journey.  I wanted my life to matter. Not just in the big-picture, but on a day-to-day basis. I was tired of living comfortably and making safe decisions. I wanted to risk it all. I wanted to have an impact. I wanted to live boldly. In asking God how He planned for me to do so, I received an unexpected answer.

Football.

There’s hardly a sports tv network, radio station, or social media site that hasn’t covered bits and pieces of my story since the day a few reporters caught me training with the football team at the indoor facility. We had worked so hard to keep my endeavor under wraps. For months and months I had trained–in conjunction with training and competing through my senior soccer season at LSU–with the permission and encouragement of the LSU Football coaches, the guidance of the players, and the care of the trainers. But 6 months into my preparation the cat was out of the bag, and the fire-storm commenced.

With the media attention came the interest. With the interest came the divided opinion. With the divided opinion came every sports-lover’s overwhelming and adamant input into my motives, my ability, my strengths, my weaknesses, my intentions, my faith, my past, my present, my future, and the fact that I had a sports bra strapped to my chest rather than a jock strap between my thighs. In conjunction with the LSU Athletic Administration crew, we worked to hyper-selectively pick through hundreds and hundreds of media requests to handle the necessary evil of addressing the endeavor publicly. We agreed on a handful of outlets and I gave a few interviews, then got back to work. From that point forward, media stations aired, re-aired and shared my story and the nation began to pick apart, evaluate, and dig deeper into all they were convinced they knew about “Mo Isom: the girl trying to play football at LSU”.  All the while, Mo Isom, the girl trying to play football at LSU, was simply doing just that. Warmly accepted and gradually respected by the 100+ young men who suit up on Saturday nights.  Practicing and perfecting a newly-learned kicking form. Studying the game and studying the quirks of the specialist position.  I think the hype of the college football culture in our country often blinds people to the reality that we are just a bunch of kids–navigating our way through college classes, fumbling through the highs and lows of relationships, and ultimately playing the sports we love for the schools we’re awfully proud to represent. I fit right in with my gridiron brothers–there was nothing unique or outrageous that divided us. We were all athletes working our hardest to push ourselves beyond the limit of “normal”. My pursuit of a football career was no different.

The AC hummed as Coach Miles slowly crafted his words. There was a mutual understanding that hung thick in the room. A mutual respect. He knew all I had been through–it was an unspoken reality that demanded respect, for the commitment alone. He knew of my personal journey–the suicide of my father, the horrific car accident–he knew of my recovery, of my unflinching commitment to live life unchained by my adversities. He knew all that I had voluntarily, physically endured for 18 months–the 3-a-days, the strict nutritional regimen, the weight-training program, the injuries, the rehabilitation, the countless hours on my own. He knew that I had navigated the obstacles of being a woman in a man’s environment–that there had never been issue, never been controversy, and that the team respected me and accepted me. He knew that I had handled the media carefully, that I had garnered support from thousands, as well as faced scrutiny and degradation by uninformed, yet overly-confident, outsiders. He knew all of those things. And I knew that he had a difficult decision to make. I knew he had given me a fair opportunity–an open door and open access to his facilities, his coaches, his equipment, and his program.  I knew he had faced scrutiny as well and, likely, a little distraction in the process. I knew that he had a unique situation on his hands and that he had never complained, asked me to leave, or discouraged my goal.  He had always encouraged me, always supported me, and always granted me the opportunity to give my dream my best shot.

He had also always been honest with me. That final day, sitting in his office, was no exception.  It was not easy news to hear, as I’m sure it was not easy news to deliver. After 18 months of effort, nobody wants to hear a “no”. But a “no” was the final verdict. And I had to hold my head high, though my brow quivered and my face grew hot and speckled.

As thoughts and emotions swirled through my mind, I worked to process all that I was feeling. Coach Miles continued to talk, and while I was trying desperately to listen and process his words, I found myself zoomed out of my circumstance and overwhelmed by the weight of  the “no.”

No. Though I could strike 53 yard field goals, there were other guys already on the roster who could do the same.

No. Though I was consistent, accurate, and conditioned, there was not room or need for another specialist that particular season.

No. Though I had worked for a year and a half, extended my college education into the Graduate program, and perfectly structured my course load moving forward, I would not be competing for another fall.

No. Though the nation was on edge waiting to hear the result–though I wanted to prove all those who believed in me right, and disprove all those who had doubted and degraded me–the story was at its end.

No.  Though I believed that God had specifically called me to pursue this goal–the final verdict was NO.

No.

In the weeks that followed, I found myself confused, agitated, anxious, and depressed. All I had invested in for a year and a half was stripped away. All I had been driven by and motivated towards was an illusion. Not only was I not on the team, I was no longer a student-athlete. My eligibility was done. My college career was over. I questioned what more I could have done, I replayed every step and every kick from my tryout. All that I had planned for in the year to come was lost. I questioned Coach Miles, I questioned the motives of the decision, I questioned whether I had ever really had a chance at all. I questioned the system. I had seen how things truly worked from the inside, and I questioned the process. I grieved over the loss of my dream. I grieved over my failure.  I grieved over the “no”.

Time and time again I was drawn back to the same exasperated and frustrated question. “God, I believed that You specifically called me to this chapter of life. Was I mistaken all along? Was I just waisting my time? Am I the fool? Were those who doubted me right? If You called me to take on this challenge, and You saw how diligently and passionately I worked towards it in Your name–always giving You the glory–wasn’t it in Your will for me to ultimately make the team?”

And for the second time in a month, I was hit with the most rattling, course-altering answer…”NO.”

The resounding “no” that was now echoing in my heart gradually pushed out the doubt, anger, and resentment that had been brooding.  This “no” was humbling, precise, and revelatory.  It drew me to a realization of reality that I suppose I was intended to learn, all along. “No” is not a word of dismissal, it is a word of direction.

I was called to listen to God’s leading, take on the challenge He presented me, and passionately pursue the goal He set, in Christ’s name.  I was never assured of the result. Would I have been as willing to take on as crazy, vulnerable, and challenging a feat had I known there was a closed door at the end of it all? No. Yet God had reason for every step of my journey. Was it up to me to worry about whether those who had doubted me were arrogantly walking around with the false presumption that they had been right all along and knew all the details of the situation? No. Their hearts and their humility were in God’s hands. Was I a fool for having tried and having believed in myself? No. I was strengthened, nourished, and matured through the process. Was I a failure for having received a “no”? No. The success was not in the outcome, but in the steps of faith it took to complete the journey.

It is time for us to begin listening to God’s call in our lives and responding. His direction is going to look different in every single one of our journeys. We often have this narrow-minded and presumptuous misunderstanding that God can’t use us on a day-to-day basis unless He is using us in an extreme way. But God yearns to use us daily–in every form, fashion, and function.  Do not box God into the ways you think He can and can’t use you.  He works across a spectrum, so far beyond our understanding, to align each of our steps with perfect purpose.  His call in your life is going to be something tailored to exactly who you are–through your strengths, your talents, and your design. Allow Him to stir your heart and guide your steps.

It is not up to you to fully grasp the outcome before you ever commit to the challenge. It is not up to you to worry or stress about the elements of the process you cannot control. It is simply up to you to move forward and to trust in God’s provision and direction–knowing along the way you are bound to hit big and small “NO’s.” But that “No” is not a word of dismissal, it is a word of direction.

The Distance of A Smile

I have never enjoyed running distance.

I have always favored sprinting. Quick, sharp, concise movements. Immediate gratification. Immediate results. Fine-tuning my reaction time and response has always been far more appealing to me than building up my endurance and stamina pounding miles away on the pavement.

In addition, my body is built for power. I am woven together with tight, compact muscle fibers that thrive as they coil and release in short bursts of explosive energy. I am dense and I am thick. Goalkeeping, kicking, and explosive weight training have always come easily to me–and I have excelled in maximizing those natural strengths.

However, as my college career drew to a close and my days of competitive soccer, football training, and Olympic power lifting slowly faded past, I found myself at a crossroads.  I wanted to maintain my level of fitness, but I also wanted to lean out, lose some muscle density, and shed some of my explosive bulk.  After all, I wanted to maintain my athletic figure, but my days of maxing out and practically receiving protein shakes through a round-the-clock IV drip were done. I explored a variety of different exercise options, but ultimately was reminded time and time again that the most accessible, most affordable, and most consistent means of achieving and maintaining my ideal body goal was through running distance.

Crap.

There was no way around it. I had to embrace the logic and talk myself into dragging my dense body out onto the street, throwing on a pair of tennis shoes, and taking off. I charted out a jogging course and began forcing myself to run a few days a week. I despised it–every step. My ankles hurt, my knees hurt, my back hurt.  My muscles were tired, my body was out of whack, and every stride was dull and painful. I took off each day with the mentality of “This is awful. I don’t want to do this. I don’t like to do this. I hate that this is the best thing for me, because I’m tired, I’m sore, and I’m bored.” I ran with an exasperated look on my face–my brow furrowed, my jaw tight, my nose scrunched. I was miserable and there wasn’t a car that passed that wasn’t fully aware of how much I despised that time of day.

I finally became so fed-up with just running distance that I decided to start swimming, as well.  I figured that would at least provide some variety to my workouts. And if I had a miserable, annoyed, and painful expression on my face, at least my big head would be hidden under water. I visited the aquatic center a few times and fit in going through the motions and pretending I was Michael Phelps, though I probably looked more like a drunken seal flopping through the lane. But just as I became content in the idea that miserably going through the motions with these runs and these swims was my best bet at staying in shape, God stepped in–as He always seems to do–and put my heart through a humbling workout.

I had just pulled myself out of the pool and was sitting on the edge cleaning out my goggles when I looked up and saw a young man walking to the shallow pool. His face was so handsome. He had soft, defined features and dark eyes.  His smile stretched from ear to ear and his hair was wet and combed.  His face was so attractive that I expected to see a fine, sculpted body with toned muscles and dark features to match. But when I looked down I was shocked to see that his body was very disproportionate. He was a good bit overweight and, in looking at him, you would have assumed his head had been plopped onto a stranger’s body. There was a lack of consistency in his form and I started to notice he was walking with a slight limp. It is hard to describe, but it just did not seem like he was intended to be that heavy. It was not a natural body-type for his build and you could tell by his face that he was likely meant to be a much leaner man. But as confused as I was at the sight, my eyes kept drifting back to his contagious smile. He wore such joy.

Shrugging off my confusion about his appearance, I simply thought, “Handsome guy, but what a shame that he’s let himself go. Well, at least he’s working out…” and went back about my business.  It wasn’t until I looked up again that I found myself in a state of utter shock. As he turned his back to me to climb into the pool, I noticed a thick, dark scar that stretched from the top of the man’s neck, all the way down his spine, and disappeared into the line of his shorts. I was stunned. I watched him slowly step down into the pool, balancing the disproportionate body his searing scar had trapped him in.  But as he waded through the water and stretched his heavy limbs, I could not help but stare–at his beautiful smile.

I watched that man rehabilitate for 45 minutes.  At times he would wince, at times he would struggle, but at no point did his graceful smile ever fade.

You see, that man was bound by a body he did not grow up with.  He was bound by a scar he did not ask for.  He was bound in his mobility, his activity, his life. Yet his graceful smile never left his face.  He was bound by adversity, but he was liberated by joy as he entered that pool.  He was happy to be able to do as much as tread water–no matter how badly it hurt him. He was happy to be able to move, no matter how many people stared. He was grateful and he simply smiled.

I woke up the next morning with a smile of my own slung across my face. I had fallen asleep the night before dizzied in thought about the man at the pool, and my walk as a Christian. And the sunrise meant it was time to run.

I laced up my shoes and set off just as the sun was peeking over the Atlanta skyline.  As I put one foot in front of the other, I focused on relaxing the muscles in my forehead, slowly unclenching my jaw, and allowing the corners of my mouth to curve up in surrender. I was smiling. And I was going to smile the entire run.

Stride. Stride. Stride. Stride.

I replaced the thoughts of, “This is awful.” with “Thank you, Lord, for this day.”

I replaced the thoughts of, “I don’t want to do this.” with “I am so blessed to be able to put one foot in front of the other.”

Stride. Stride. Stride. Stride.

I replaced the thoughts of, “I don’t like to do this.” with “Thank you, God, for a healthy body and the energy to burn.”

I replaced the thoughts of, “I hate that this is the best thing for me, because I’m tired, I’m sore, and I’m bored.” with “Look at the beautiful sights of this city. Listen to the sound of passing traffic. Breath in the scent of the autumn air. What a blessing that I can run.”

Stride. Stride. Stride. Stride.

I smiled. As my ankles hurt, my knees hurt, my back hurt…I smiled. Though my muscles were tired, my body was out of whack, and every stride was dull and painful…I smiled. And soon I found that I felt those angst no more.

Stride. Stride. Stride. Stride.

I smiled.

I finished my run that day having run my farthest distance, my fastest pace, and my longest time.  My body was fatigued, but my heart was energized. My soul was overwhelmed. All because I never let a smile leave my face or gratitude leave my heart.

Every day that I run now, I smile. As I jogged to the end of my run today, I looked down at my monitor and continued to smile. 68 miles run since the day I started smiling, and I have energy and endurance to burn.

I do not simply want to be a Christian that is comfortable sprinting.  What comes easily for us may be powerful, and it may provide quick results, but I do not want to become complacent in my natural talents. I want to run distance in my faith.

You see, I am wired to function one way. Many of us are. It is easy to lean on the foundations and the teachings we grew up under and feel like once we have those fundamentals mastered, we are in great shape.  Once we’re familiar with the Word, once we’re familiar with what it means to love and serve, once we’re familiar with what it “looks like” to live as a Christian, then we are fit and prepared and can react quickly in life’s circumstances.

But a well-rounded and enduring faith requires pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones and expanding ourselves to persevere for the long-haul. We must be distance runners in our faith.  We must be willing to push ourselves, strain ourselves, and grow fatigued for the Gospel.  That cannot be done by resting on the sprinted fundamentals of Christianity.  It must be acquired through the constant and grueling process of building and maintaining endurance through hope. One day at a time. One foot in front of the other. Choice by choice by choice. Stride by stride by stride.

And while that is not easy work, while it will hurt and ache and wear you down, it CAN be done with joy and willingness. Smile. Find joy in the beauty of what’s around you.  Find appreciation in the fact that you are rising each new day. Find happiness in the simplest of wonders. Find beauty in everything small.  When you are headed up hill and your mind says to stop…smile. When you feel like you can’t face another obstacle or adversity…smile.  When you lose patience and grow weary…smile. Rewire your thoughts to find joy in your days. Choose happiness. Consciously choose to smile. You will be amazed at the difference it makes, and you will be amazed as you come to the end of the road after a long journey of life’s hardships and you find that your emotions are fatigued, but your heart is overjoyed. You’ll be energized and encouraged and alive–all because you chose to smile.

I want to be a Christian who smiles.  As I fight battles and face hardship and grieve and mourn and struggle, I want to smile.  I want to wade into the waters of life knowing, though the hardships of my life leave a scar from the top of my neck to the base of my spine, I can smile.  And though I find myself trapped in circumstances and situations that are disproportionate to what I feel I “deserve” or what I feel is “fair” in life, I can smile. Because I am the child of a King who boasts scars, as well.  I am the child of a King who endured scars for me as He took the cross so that I could live freely and smile. I am the child of a King who assures us that, though the journey will be long, He has great plans for us. He gives us hope and He gives us a future. How grateful we should be to smile.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” –Hebrews 12:1

Let It Fly

A wonderful feature piece written by Grantland.com and ESPN.com writer, Jordan Conn.

In other words, my story through the lens of another…

LET IT FLY

Clay In the Potter’s Hands: a poem of trust

I am but clay in the potter’s hands,
a mass amongst many in the workshop of life.
Formless and shapeless, no use or demands,
simple and naive, unfamiliar to strife.

To my left rest many, resembling me,
but they’re hardened and drying, crumbling in state.
Though the potter offers moisture, graciously free,
they progressively resist, hardened by hate.

To my right I see others, flexible and cool,
eager to be molded by the potter’s hands.
They are gentle in texture, a pliable tool,
for them the potter possesses great plans.

I am but clay in the potter’s hands,
of all those around, he scoops ME up.
He knows I am ready for all the demands
required to shape me into a great cup.

As he begins kneading my grooves and my dimples,
I feel the great warmth of the potter’s touch.
But soon he starts stretching me into more than what’s simple
and I’m suddenly sure he is asking too much.

I resist and I struggle, as my moisture dries,
where I once was pliable, I soon start to tear.
In distress I realize I need the grace of the potter,
for alone I am helpless, it’s too tough to bear.

I am but clay in the potter’s hands,
when he sees I am struggling he meets all my needs.
Calmly he adds moisture to my drying sands,
I am instantly refreshed, I need not to plead.

And with that he continues to mold me and shape me,
he smooths out my edges and builds me up.
Before long I can tell that his plans are much grander
than simply to mold me into a small cup.

I find myself wondering what it is he is planning
as he massages my ridges and bends my dough.
I grow anxious and ask him of what he is manning,
but he smiles and says that’s not for me to know.

I am but clay in the potter’s hands,
does clay say to the potter, what is it you make?
Worry and fear are not from which I stand,
therefore I must trust the potter’s will is at stake.

As he finishes sculpting, I know I am changed,
I can feel my new ridges and sturdy base.
But just as I find ease in what was once strange,
I see there is more ahead I must face.

Life is not easy, not even for clay,
for heat is what makes us strong.
The kiln has been burning, awaiting my day
and the licks of the flames are long.

I am but clay in the potter’s hands,
my fate is not mine to choose.
I must trust that he knows his perfect plan,
and that I have nothing to lose.

As I’m led to the fire, the potter is gentle,
he knows I can only handle so much.
He assures me the end results will be plentiful
if I trust in him and remain tough.

So I face the adversity, the heat and the pain,
knowing the flame cannot bring my end.
Though I ache and I hurt and I want to place blame,
I cling to the hope that the potter sends.

I can feel myself toughening, my sides growing stiff
as the heat of life sturdies my flanks.
And though not long before I was struggling and burning
I now find myself giving thanks.

I am but clay in the potter’s hands,
as he draws me out of the fiery baker.
He was right, I’m not broken or weakened or cracked
I’m a strong tool in the hands of my Maker.

–Mo Isom, August 2012

This original poem was inspired by this Biblical passage:

Isaiah 45:9-12

“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator.
Does a clay pot argue with its maker?
Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying,
‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’
Does the pot exclaim,
‘How clumsy can you be?’
10 How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father,
‘Why was I born?’
or if it said to its mother,
‘Why did you make me this way?’”
11 This is what the Lord says—
the Holy One of Israel and your Creator:
“Do you question what I do for my children?
Do you give me orders about the work of my hands?
12 I am the one who made the earth
and created people to live on it.
With my hands I stretched out the heavens.
All the stars are at my command.

Learning To Love Like A Penny…


Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE my pups. The word love doesn’t even really do justice. It’s the type of love where I’ll sleep in a horribly uncomfortable position on one-quarter of a big bed instead of moving my tiny dogs if they’re already comfortable. It’s the type of love where I’ll leave an event early to speed home and comfort them if it starts storming, because I know how scared and stressed they get when it thunders. It’s the type of love where I know the quirks and oddities of their personalities and find myself laughing out loud, alone, when they do something funny or entertaining.

It’s the type of love that any dog-lover undoubtedly understands…and anyone else undoubtedly finds crazy.

Before you can understand the big-picture message of this post, you have to understand a few details about my dogs. Penny is my little sausage. She’s a seven-year-old red dachshund who is the definition of a ‘stage-five clinger’. I adopted her when she was four and as soon as she found stability, a regularly filled food bowl and the world’s best belly rub, she was hooked. She’s overly protective, barks way too much and is severely un-athletic…but I love her. And she loves unconditionally. She is always by my side, always comes when called and wants nothing more than for me to know how much she loves me.

Jacey is a different story. She is my two-year-old Chiweenie (Chihuahua-Dachshund mix) who I rescued from an illegal puppy mill when she was eight months old. She had been forced to have puppies of her own when she was only 6 months old and was found in an abandoned trailer with 37 other dogs when the puppy mill was raided. After nursing her back to health and showing her consistent love, she made a wonderful transition from an overly aggressive, uncontrollable animal, to a sweet-natured, loyal, and curious pup. She is affectionate, spunky and independent. But as well-behaved and obedient as she is now, at times she still has an overwhelmingly rebellious streak.

(For any of my quick-witted readers, I applaud you for picking up on the humor in their names. Jacey…Penny…Jacey and Penny…think affordable name-brand clothing…think about iiittt…there you go! Yes, I cleverly named them after a mid-budget department store. I bet you won’t forget their names now.)

This rebellious streak gets the best of Jacey when we go outside. I’ve never been big on leashing my dogs because they are typically disciplined enough to stay by my side wherever we go. But after being spoiled by Penny’s next-level attachment issues for years, I had a hard time adjusting to Jacey. If I took my eyes off of her for a split second she would take off like a lightening bolt. Any chance at freedom, she abused. Her curiosity would take over and she would be long gone before I could stop her. In her mind, it was a chance to explore and to see what was around every corner. She did not know any better. She did not know risks. She did not know danger.

However, every time she took off, my heart would sink. Because I already knew what was around every corner. I already knew the risks. I already knew the danger. I knew that a block behind my condo was a four-lane highway. I knew that the lake to the side of my complex was filled with snakes and that she wasn’t a great swimmer. I knew that the woods on the other side of the complex were filled with animals that would love to have her as a snack, and that if she got lost, there was no way I would be able to find her before nightfall. I knew that there was a problem with people abducting dogs and using them in dog fights and as bait. What Jacey did not know is that I did not want her to stay by my side so that I could be the dominant and controlling master–I wanted her to stay by my side because I knew she was safest with me. I wanted her to stay by my side because I loved her and I knew what was best for her.

After months of frustrating, nerve-racking and patient discipline, our “runaway” incidences finally began declining. It wasn’t until just the other day that we “relapsed” and that God used my 10 pound Chiweenie to teach me the most beautiful lesson on His love and my obedience.

You see, I was heading out to go fishing on our lake and had my arms full of supplies. I hollered for the girls to come on and they ran out behind me, following in my footsteps. After I sat everything down by the water I looked back and Jacey was nowhere to be seen. Immediately, I was SO mad. We had gone so long without an incident and now she was missing. I thought we had made such progress in her training, but one tempting sight or sound had captivated her attention, and she was gone. As I began searching around the property, calling her name and directing Penny on where to go look, I found myself growing angrier and angrier. 15 minutes into the search I was sweating bullets…45 minutes into the search I was scraped up, muddy and infuriated…and an hour and a half into the search I was terrified and crying. During that time, my mind and heart had cycled through so many emotions. I had gone from absolute annoyance to overwhelming anger to utter fear. Jacey had never been gone this long and my mind was spinning on where she could be or what may have happened to her. I couldn’t believe she had disobeyed me. I couldn’t believe she hadn’t returned. I loved her so much and had done nothing but loved and cared for her. What could have possibly been SO distracting that she would run from her safety and security?

All this while, fat Penny had been searching alongside me. She was exhausted, panting and filthy, but she wanted nothing more than to help me and to follow me. She knew I was hurting and she wanted nothing more than for her mommy to be pleased. I laid down in the grass to regroup and Penny laid down beside me and started licking a cut on my arm. It was in that moment that God painted the most beautiful image on my heart…

Who are you to grow angry? Who are you to grow weary in searching? Do you know now how it pains Me when you run? You are a Jacey. How I wish you loved like a Penny.

I sat there for a moment in frustration. I had all the right in the world to be mad at my dog. She had disobeyed me and run. She had seen something that tempted her and was more appealing than following me, and she had run. Did she not know that I knew what was best for her? Did she not know how much I loved her? I had all the right in the world to lose patience…

So it hurts you when she runs from you? Perhaps now you know how it pains Me when you run. Perhaps now you know how it hurts me when you disobey Me because something of this world is more tempting and appealing than following Me. Do you not know that I know what is best for you? Do you not know how much I love you? I have all the right to lose patience and to be mad at you…but I show you grace. I never grow weary in searching for you.

I sat there for a moment in humbled awe. I looked down at Penny and she looked up at me–my loyal and faithful Penny. You could drive a truck full of bacon past, and Penny would not leave my side. You could tempt her, distract her, test her, and with one quick whistle she would be at my feet. She is faithful and loyal and obedient because she loves me so much it’s overwhelming at times.

How I wish you loved like a Penny.

I want to be a Christian that loves like a Penny. I want to be so obedient and faithful and true to my God because I love Him SO much that nothing else matters. I want to be protective of my faith and unfazed by this World. I want to bask in the joys of His love because I TRUST that He knows what is best for me. At the end of the day, He loves me unconditionally. He knows what is around every corner. He provides for me and protects me and cherishes me. He is delighted in me and I bring Him joy in my faithfulness and obedience. I want to be a Christian that loves like a Penny.

I wiped a few tears and stood up. Yes, I want to be a Christian that loves like a Penny, but just because Jacey does not grasp that faithfulness yet does not mean that I love her any less. I have always been a Jacey. Most of us are. But just because we get distracted and turn our backs to God and give into temptation does not mean that He loves us any less.

Another 30 minutes of searching passed before I finally heard a collar jingle. I whipped my head around to see Jacey untangling herself from some shrubs, exhausted and panting. She was a mess–muddy, dehydrated and scared. The entire time I had been searching for her I had been imagining all the ways I would punish her when I finally found her. But the moment I saw that little pink collar, I was overwhelmed with joy. She was so ashamed. She knew she had messed up and she slumped over to me with her head hung down to the ground. I scooped up that little puppy and hugged her so tight she squealed. I was so happy to have found my lost girl–I was overwhelmed with joy that she was unharmed and back in my care. I understood the joys of extending grace when it’s rooted in reckless love. I felt a touch of the joy our King feels when we return. Weary, tired, burdened…our heads hung in shame. He loves us all the same.

Do you love like a Penny or are you a Jacey? God is never going to leash us. When we live with Him, we live in freedom. But that freedom is not free of distraction and temptation. That freedom is not free of danger and risk. He wants us to stay close by Him because He knows what is best for us. He knows what is around every corner. He loves us and wants our company. But He will not leash you–He will not force you to remain by His side. That decision is yours.

Anyone who knows God knows that He LOVES us. The word love doesn’t even really do justice. It’s the type of love where forgiveness is infinite. It’s the type of love with no bounds or regulations or quotas. It’s the type of love that is indescribable and unbelievable. It is the type of love that loves a Jacey just as much as it loves a Penny, no matter how many times they run. It’s the type of love that loves a person for their failures just as much as for their successes. It is the type of love that love cannot contain.

It’s the type of love that any Christ-lover undoubtedly understands…and anyone else undoubtedly finds crazy.

Let that love define your obedience.