Wrapping Up A Grace-Filled Year

 

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” –Galatians 2:20

 

There is no verse more fitting to conclude my year-long intimacy fast than Galatians 2:20. The 1,000+ words I’m about to type can’t even come close to summarizing 2011 as eloquently and simply as Galatians 2:20. Perhaps I should just stop typing now…

On second thought, you all know I’m far too long-winded to do that. ūüôā

Wow! WHAT A YEAR! What an intimate, challenging, powerful, humbling year! I cannot believe 2011 has already come to a close. It seems like we began our journey only a few days ago. But the year is set in stone. Another year of life in the books. A year we will never get back. Did you make the most of yours?

There are SO many different ways I could structure this final “Kissless ’till Next Christmas” post. And SO many words I could type. So many things I never had the time to share throughout the year. But, I figure the easiest way to summarize this fantastic journey is by answering some really common questions I got throughout the year, and since the year has ended. Ready for a little Q & A?

Q: Did you REALLY make it the WHOLE year without sharing even as much as a kiss?

A: I sure did. Absolutely. Without a doubt. Did it. Made it. Loved it! It was not an easy year, by any means. It did not come without great sacrifice, bouts of loneliness, apprehensions. At times it really hurt. At the beginning of the year I tried to rekindle a relationship (void of the physicality) with my then-boyfriend, but that wasn’t what God had asked for. He had asked for all of me. 100% of my heart. So I had to cut myself off from a wonderful man and move forward with my pledge to our King. Is that normal? Probably not. But was it worth it? Without a doubt. I am a woman who honors my commitments, and I made a commitment to God. There was nothing that was going to deter me from my promise. Satan tried, Satan failed. People tried, people failed. There was plenty that could have distracted me, but as time progressed, God revealed Himself in such beautiful ways. As time progressed, He cleansed my heart of temptation. He cleansed my heart of lustful desire. He cleansed my heart of negativity, apprehension, fatigue. He cleansed my heart of so many of the emotions and desires that young adults get caught up in. And when my heart was scrubbed clean, He filled it with so much Light! So much hope! So much joy! I would say that after the third month, reliance on a guy was the last thing on my mind. I was, and continue to be, so wrapped in such an intimate and filling relationship with our Lord, that words can’t even do justice for His sufficiency. His grace was enough.

Q. So you didn’t even date?

A. Nope! No dates for me. I feel like half of the people reading this, who have never met me, must have this crazy image in their head of a pale, lonely girl locked away in her apartment with a metal chastity belt strapped on like underwear. HAHA! Get real! Just because I wasn’t out hooking up, dating, or searching for a relationship, doesn’t mean that I wasn’t out living life like a normal woman! Throughout this year I continued to hang with friends and have fun. By tom-boy default, most of my closest friends are guys. I spent plenty of time with them! Heck, I was training with the football boys the entire year. There was no avoiding the smelly testosterone! But, contrary to popular belief, it IS absolutely possible for a girl to have normal, healthy friendships with guys. Those friendships are made even stronger and healthier when you take any chance at physicality completely off the table. I’m not naive. I know how a man’s mind works. I’m well aware that some of their thoughts likely weren’t as pure as mine. But I’m also a firm believer that men aren’t as one-tracked as society makes them out to be. And I have plenty of amazing male friends who would back me on that. Consider it field research. Women, if you want a man to treat you with respect, earn their respect. Don’t assume it will be given. Especially when you are the one teasing them with what you wear, how you act, and the games you play. It comes down to respecting each others’ hearts by being intentional in your actions, intentional in your interactions, and intentional with your words. No dates for me, but so many amazing friendships developed.

Q. Now that the fast is over, have you kissed anyone? Are you going crazy?

A. Probably the most frustrating, and most common, question that I’ve gotten since the end of 2011. *Deep breath* If, by now, you are STILL under the assumption that this year-long fast was simply and solely based around the physical component, you are so far off track. Biblically, fasting and prayer are emphasized as sacrifices to God. In denying ourselves of something, we are showing obedience and discipline to the Lord. We are trusting that He will provide for us, answer our prayers, and nourish us with what we lack. Psalms 35:13 so beautifully states, “I humbled my soul with fasting …” People fast in all different ways. Many will fast from food and drink, some will fast from activity, etc. I was simply moved to fast from intimacy. Not because I was some wild girl before, not because I wanted to cover up my past and let everybody know that I was new and changed. Absolutely not. Why would I have given up an entire year of my life just to prove a point to people? Get real. If those were my motives, I never would have made it. I was solely moved to make this sacrifice by God, alone. And I am so glad that I did. He has changed my heart, piece by piece, from the inside out. He has given me new perspective, new appreciation, and new drive. Those of little faith may assume that a fast only leads to great hunger. But a fast supplemented by the grace of Jesus Christ, leads to wisdom, refinement, perspective, and faith. His grace is so sufficient. I never hungered and never thirsted for intimacy. His love was too abundant. I stand now with arms high and heart abandoned, chained only to the love of Jesus Christ. I have not kissed a boy since my fast ended. And I am planning on saving my next kiss for a man I feel God has very purposely placed in my life, and perhaps has designed for me to marry. I don’t know that man yet, but I know he will come along on God’s timing. And I am more than willing to wait…

Q: Do you feel like you missed out on anything this year?

A: Not at all. And I say that in all honesty. The Lord assures us that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. He assures us that if we honor Him with our time, our talents, our hearts, He will honor us with blessings, adornment, and comfort. That Man comes through on his Word! Ha! This has been the most unbelievable, fulfilling, overwhelming year of my life! I have lacked in nothing spiritually or emotionally or physically. He has flooded my heart with humbling grace and perfect love. He is all I need. Anything after Him is just icing on the cake. Blessings that I look forward to receiving and then distributing for His Glory and His name! Maybe I sound crazy to some, but I am being absolutely honest. And absolutely transparent. I can promise you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if you give a piece of yourself to the Lord, as much as you can muster, He will complete you. He will free you from the bondage of this temporary life, and reveal to you what Life in Him looks and feels like. Man, it’s amazing. And it only gets better. No matter your circumstance, your history, your background, your present…HE has a future for you! And it’s beyond your wildest dream.

Q: What did you learn through all of this?

I was so naive to think that when I began the fast, I knew exactly what God was going to do in my heart and to teach me. I thought I had it all figured out. I thought I knew what He had in store. Man, was I wrong! If I tried to list everything the Lord has revealed to me this year, I would run out of blog space! He taught me what it means to seek His face. What it means to be a Godly woman, and what that looks like. What a Godly man looks like. What it means to truly be in a Christ-centered relationship. He taught me trust, compassion, love. True love, and what that entails. He taught me dependence, unbridled faith, unashamed Life in Him. He revealed to me boldness, courage, and heart. He revealed to me what it looks like for my will to align with His. He taught me the joys of the fruits of labor done in His name. He taught me how to read the Word with clarity. He taught me how to boldly pray. How to constantly pray. How to fearlessly pray. He taught me how to love others based on the foundation of my love for Him. He taught me that He will teach me my whole life. That I will never have it fully figured out, but that it all is based in the root of love. God’s love for us, God’s love for His Son. His Son’s love for us, our love for Him. He taught me more than I can teach. He taught me Truth.

Q: What’s next?

Now that the year is over, a new year begins. And a new journey begins! It is time to live life unashamed. It is time to live life for His glory! As I take on the uncertainty and excitement of this new year, I hope you all will join me! Join me in following the steps I take in my walk with the Lord. Join me in redefining our lives based NOT around the odds and chances of the world, but based solely around God’s Odds. Devalue the doubt and live boldly!

The odds are in your favor! Do you believe?

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What Does It Look Like?: Godly Men (part 6)

Picking up again, let’s continue to dig into what it looks like to be a Godly man. I realize this study is taking quite a while, so I am going to begin to pick up the pace a bit. After all, I am still eager to break down what it looks like to be a Godly woman, as well as what Godly relationships should look like! There is so much, still, to cover. However, I appreciate you all continuing to follow. The feedback I have been receiving from both men and women, alike, has been so beautiful. ¬†I am humbled in your interest and so affirmed that the words decorating this blog are inspired by and blessed by God. ¬†So, if you are just joining, take a look at parts 1 through 5 of this study before you read this portion. But here goes…

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to but one wife, temperate, self-controlled…

…respectable, hospitable…

Chivalry is dead. How many times have we heard this saying? ¬†It’s become an all-too-familiar mantra in our society. ¬†But who’s to blame? Who’s responsible for the murder? Are the men to blame…or the women? And is chivalry truly lost–or is it harbored in us all, stifled by the norms of our culture–left unlearned and uncultivated?

My opinion: I blame the women. And I blame the men. But I don’t blame them for the death of chivalry–I blame them for giving life to the silly phrase. For exacerbating the problem. ¬†For giving in rather than rising up and requiring more. Is chivalry dead–no. Is it wounded–MOST DEFINITELY. And who’s truly to blame for that–Satan. ¬†Before you dismiss me as crazy, give me a chance to explain. You may find that I support your side of the argument, after all.

Throughout this entire study of what it looks like to be a Godly man, one of the most prevalent reoccurring themes is that living for the glory of God is NOT easy. ¬†I’m not trying to fool anyone here. ¬†It’s tough stuff striving to live a righteous life. ¬†We fail a lot; both men and women alike. ¬†We are fallible, we are human. That’s our nature. ¬†Fortunately, we are saved by grace. And every time we fall, God gives us the opportunity to stand up, brush ourselves off, and start fresh with a clean slate. ¬†We can never fail too many times, His love is unconditional. ¬†He is always prepared to forgive us and always proud to love us. That’s what Jesus Christ’s sacrifice did for us.

So why, with all that said, do we not capitalize on that forgiveness and that grace? ¬†It is offered to us in¬†limitless quantity. Yet when we stumble and we fall, we settle for a life in the dirt. ¬†Is it guilt that binds us? Is it fear? Guilt and fear aren’t in God’s dictionary–so why do we allow them to be in¬†bold¬†in ours? ¬†This portion of the 1 Timothy verse addresses a man’s responsibility to be respectable and hospitable. ¬†Two terms that many may argue are framework terms to define chivalry. They are powerful requirements, they are character attributes that take work and commitment. ¬†Yet God calls us to strive for them. ¬†So why do we settle for less?–because Satan makes anything “less” SO much easier.

It’s no secret that our society’s view on manners and behavior have drastically changed over time. ¬†Men used to open doors for women. Now women kick down doors for themselves. Men used to court women patiently and lovingly. Now Vegas offers quicky-weddings and quicky-enullments in a package deal. Women used to respect themselves enough to hold on to their purity until their wedding day. Now we have middle schoolers pressured to have sex to feel accepted and popular–to “keep up” with society around them. ¬†I don’t mean to be crude–I mean to be REAL.

I’m going to be painfully direct, blunt, and straightforward here. So if you don’t want a harsh reality check then skip the next two paragraphs. ¬†This is going to call out men and women, alike–no one is safe. Men: get over yourselves and man up. For real, man up. ¬†Stop settling for what’s easy. Stop settling for what’s temporary and fast because you don’t want to put work in. ¬†You’re weak if that’s how you function through life. ¬†The quick-route requires low integrity, low discipline, and low self-esteem. ¬†I don’t care if that’s what the rest of the world praises and exaggerates. ¬†I don’t care if that’s what your friends or your teammates or your buddies are doing. ¬†Grow a set and be different. ¬†Set a better example. ¬†Stop numbing yourself and be a REAL man. There’s no more “This is fun now while I’m in college, I’ll man up later when it matters…” ¬†Man-up now. It matters NOW. You have the power to be a real leader. ¬†You have the power to inspire. You have the opportunity to experience grace and be strengthened in Christ. ¬†Stop trying so hard to control it all on your own–you’re not good at it.

Women: it’s not all the men’s fault. ¬†We are just as big of messes as they are. ¬†Stop making it easy for them. Stop settling–better DOES exist. ¬†Stop giving to the temporary and start valuing yourself. ¬†Snap out of the self-esteem issues–there are people that are much worse off than you. ¬†There are people who are truly suffering. ¬†You comparing your beauty to other women’s beauty and then giving yourself up to men in order to feel desired–it’s a tired routine. ¬†You are worth a King’s life. ¬†Start living like that carries value to you. ¬†Start living like it matters to you that Jesus Christ died for you. ¬†We are fallible humans that are easily tempted. Stop teasing men. ¬†How can we expect them to treat us with chivalry and respect and hospitality if we are tempting them and teasing them and inviting their imaginations to wander? ¬†If that’s what makes you feel better about yourself, I feel bad for you. ¬†Have some self respect. ¬†If you want more from men, there has to be a give and take. ¬†RESPECT THEM BY RESPECTING YOURSELF, FIRST.

Satan is having so much fun with our world. ¬†He is tearing it down, bit by bit, and celebrating our society’s slide towards heathenism and self-obsession. ¬†What adds fuel to his fire?–When we confirm his corruption by feeding into phrases like “Chivalry is dead.”¬†Chivalry is NOT dead.¬†¬†Nor will it ever be. ¬†They may be few and far between, but there ARE men out there who are striving to live righteous lives. ¬†There ARE men out there who are holding fast to what the Bible asks of them and who ARE respectable and hospitable…and temperate, and self-controlled, and faithful, and all of the above. ¬†Have those men lived perfect lives? NO! Have they never slipped of failed or denied Christ? Of course not! Nobody is perfect. ¬†But there are men who desire to be BETTER. ¬†I believe that with my whole heart. ¬†If you are one of those men, you have my respect. You may be different…you may stand out…you may not be accepted as easily because you make different choices than the average man. ¬†There is NOTHING wrong with that. ¬†In fact, celebrate it! Because YOU are a real man–and you will be rewarded. I can promise that because our King promises us that.

Stay encouraged, men. Fight the good fight of faith. ¬†And stay encouraged, women. ¬†The less we settle, the more it requires of men. ¬†You deserve the best, so require the best. ¬†Don’t let that self-worth waver. ¬†Men and women, if we want to improve this world, if we want to be a generation of change and righteous growth, we HAVE to require MORE from one another. ¬†We HAVE to hold one another responsible and we have to be unashamed of standing out–no matter how much scrutiny or doubt or criticism we fall under. ¬†Chivalry is very much alive because the words of the Bible are very much alive–nothing should ever shake our belief in that.

(to be continued…)

Under Attack

“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. ¬†In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ¬†John 16:33

Satan is clever. ¬†He is sly, and smooth, and cynical. ¬†Satan is patient. He waits calm, and quiet, and still. ¬†Satan is smart. He is crafty, and tricky, and subtle. ¬†It’s almost been a full month since I have posted last. ¬†Can you believe that?–a month. When I began this blog, I was posting every single day. ¬†Heck, I was so eager to write and to share, I was writing 3 to 4 posts a day, and saving them so that they could slowly filter out. ¬†I was on fire! Passionate, burning, uncontrollable. ¬†Obsessed.

Have you been there? Riding strong on a spiritual high? Invincible in His grace. ¬†Unashamed and impossible to silence? Thirsty for the Word and nourished by devotion. ¬†Obsessed? God fills your thoughts, He fills your time, He fills your mind. ¬†Every decision you make is decidedly executed with Christ in mind. ¬†Every word spoken is delicately selected and the words pour from you with energy and passion and joy. ¬†There is a light-heartedess in your spirit. ¬†There is a curiosity and a desire and an eagerness to learn and to share. ¬†You scoff at your old ways, baffled by how you could have ever been tempted by that which was earthly–how you could have ever been so naive. ¬†Committed to living for Christ–committed to maintaining this sprinter’s pace and committed to being the absolute best example you can be for your friends, your family, your co-workers. ¬†Committed to being different.

Then 6 months pass and you find yourself in an uncommon moment. ¬†A moment of free time in your crazy schedule–a moment of quiet time that you typically would have filled up with another check off the “to-do” list. ¬†But in that moment you take the offered breather and you think…life is still on course. ¬†It is comfortable, steady, placid. ¬†You flip through the elements of your “world”. Work…school…family…finances…schedules…vacations…boyfriends, girlfriends…sports……………faith. Hmm, faith. Well you went to church a few Sundays ago. You prayed a few times when your best friend’s mom was sick. You tossed a few coins in that homeless man’s cup. ¬†You wrapped up all of your emails with a “God Bless!” Oh, and you posted a few Bible verses on facebook and Twitter. ¬†You let your mind wander, you feel that guilt start to boil up, you list off mental excuses and exceptions. Then you rationalize that you will read your Bible more often. You’ll go to church this Sunday. ¬†You’ll start praying every night again.

Have you been there? Be honest. Are you there right now?

I am.

I’m ashamed. Ashamed because I know¬†Satan is smiling. ¬†In a swift six months he has done it again. ¬†He has slowly and steadily weaseled his way between myself and my King. ¬†I know what you’re probably thinking–“Oh my gosh, she’s about to tell us that she cracked. ¬†She had to have broken her ‘Kissless ‘Till Next Christmas vow. She didn’t make it! She…” ¬†Take a deep breath. All is well. I am still going strong on the intimacy fast. In fact, stronger than strong! Yes, the first few months were tough, but we serve a fantastic King. And He lifted that temptation and pressure with ease. So no, I haven’t struggled with the intimacy element of the fast, but I have allowed Satan to sit down at the table and deal his hand of cards.

Just so you know, I’m choosing to share this next portion with you, because I want you to see just how human I am. ¬†Ever since I began this journey, I’ve received so many messages and comments challenging my position. I think people, especially young people my age, have been so confused as to why I would ever start an intimacy fast.–For God? Are you crazy? You’re a senior in college. What are you trying to prove? Who do you think you’re better than? Oh man, you must just be the perfect Christian. ¬†You’ve got that whole God thing figured out, huh? Guess you’re ‘Holier than Thou’. Bible-thumper. Jesus Freak. Blah…blah…blah…–You name it, I’ve heard it. ¬†And while it breaks my heart that people are so apt to put up walls so quickly, I hope some people can come to understand that I’m just as human as everyone else. ¬†My walk is filled with just as many ups and downs. My relationship with Christ is filled with just as much confusion, and inconsistency, and challenges.

Case in point: the place I’m at right this moment. ¬†The other day an executive producer from Fox flew in to spend the day filming me so that they could show my story on an episode of “The Real Winning Edge”, a nationally-syndicated, Christian-based television program that runs on their network. Holy cow. ¬†That is a big deal for a number of reasons: #1. It was overwhelmingly humbling that they wanted to tell my story. ¬†I’m still so incredibly honored to have even been a part of their production. #2. A CHRISTIAN-BASED television program on a major network like FOX? That’s rare. So rare. And so special. #3. This was a project with a great deal of money invested into it, and it was all for the glory of God. All three of those things still boggle my mind. ¬†And the reason I explain it all is so that you can appreciate how rare, how special, and how divine this whole production truly was. A once-in-a-lifetime type opportunity. ¬†How could anyone be anything but overjoyed to be a part of something like that?

I wasn’t. ¬†I woke up that morning irritable, cranky, hateful, and shrewd. ¬†My precious mom had flown all the way in from Georgia to help me throughout the day, and from the moment I woke up I was nothing but short with her. ¬†We had a production schedule that was so jam-packed there was hardly a moment to breath, and this was a day that needed to go off without a hitch. ¬†I was bloated, I was stuffed-up, I was hot, my skin was breaking out in rashes, I was miserable. ¬†Throughout that morning, I was able to put on a smile for the producer and crew, but anytime I got behind a closed door or alone with my mom, I turned into a monster. ¬†Everything was going wrong, we were off-schedule from the start, and I was as cruel as cruel comes. I couldn’t wrap my head around why I felt so terrible. I couldn’t wrap my head around why I was so hostile and irritable, and filled with empty tears. ¬†The best way I can describe it is to say that I felt like I was about to explode. ¬†I was at a breaking point….

Right before lunch, my mom sat me down on an empty couch we found while we were waiting for the crew to gather their equipment. ¬†Without saying much, she simply took my hands and began to pray. ¬†My mom must have prayed over me for 4 or 5 minutes, but time seemed to pause. ¬†As I heard her intently and diligently praying words of simple beauty and earnest request, I found myself in that “moment” I mentioned at the beginning of this post–a moment of stillness and peace that I hadn’t experienced in far too long. When had my passion softened? Where had my enthusiasm and spirit and energy been hidden? Was it beneath my heavy summer school load? Had I overshadowed my eager faith with the complications of my crazy schedule? When was it that I allowed my time to be filled in front of the TV at night, rather than in the Word?

I realized that Satan had been sneaky.  He had been slow and subtle and sly, as he usual tends to be.  As the months had passed since the beginning of the year, Satan had been patient.  He had slowly and purposefully distracted me, simple moments at a time, from growth in my faith.  It started with missing my quiet time in the Word, one night, because I was simply a little too tired.  Next, it was putting off posting on my blog, because I had a school assignment I had procrastinated on.  Then, missing church, too exhausted from workouts throughout the week to pass up sleeping in just one day.  Little things became often things. Often things became regular things. Regular things became forgotten things. And six months later I found myself weak enough to be vulnerable to attack.

Have we not all experienced it? Mountain-top spiritual moments, followed by gradual valleys in our faith. ¬†Too busy, too tired, too tempted. I found myself weakened to a dangerous point on that special day, a day I typically would have rejoiced in, made the most of, and celebrated for Christ. ¬†On that special day–a day dedicated to the glory of God–a day specifically devoted to sharing the gospel and sharing how our magnificent King has moved in my life–a day perfectly constructed to inspire and teach and love–Satan attacked. ¬†I was overwhelmed by a spiritual warfare and under absolute attack. You see, Satan knows how to hit us the hardest. ¬†He knows where we hurt the most. ¬†For me, when he bullies me, he doesn’t aim to affect anything around me–he goes straight for my body. ¬†He attacks my health first. ¬†My body ¬†has always manifested grief and stress physically. ¬†I get sick, I get hives, I run fever. I battle nausea, my skin blisters, my stomach nots. ¬†He loves to toy with my body, he always has. ¬†And he knows how ill I truly become. Then, he attacks my emotions–capitalizing on my resting depression, capitalizing on my quick irritability and my trauma-proned anxiety. He wraps me up in my own head, distracts me with myself, and laughs as I weaken.

You see, that’s how Satan works. ¬†He slides in, inch by inch, when we allow our lives to run us. He waits, patiently, gradually distracting us. He takes small opportunities, wins small battles in our spirits, and then when he deems fit, overwhelms us and wins us back. ¬†He makes us feel like we’ve fallen too far. He makes us feel like if we go crawling back now, asking for forgiveness, God would surely judge us. ¬†Others would surely judge us. ¬†We’d slipped up yet again, surely we’re out of chances.

WRONG! So wrong. So fantastically wrong. ¬†Don’t let yourself believe Satan’s lies. ¬†Don’t let yourself get tangled up in guilt! As my mom prayed over me, I literally felt a cloak of anxiety, depression, fatigue, heat, weight…lift completely off of my back. ¬†And where the nasty cloak lifted, a cool and reviving stream tickled up my spine. ¬†An assuring, comforting, loving GRACE blanketed me in peace. ¬†With the freedom from that cloak, a fresh page was turned. ¬†I was breathed new life, literally relieved from attack. ¬†Do you understand? God never tires of turning that fresh page for you. ¬†Guilt, depression, anxiety, hatred…these are all things of Satan. These are all things that God yearns to relieve us from! Jesus Christ died on the cross for our souls so that God can turn a new page every single time we come to Him. The rest of that day I was alleviated from my angst. Rejuvenated, positive, and able to rejoice in the purpose of the moment. ¬†My mom’s tiny hands and heart-felt prayers packed more punch than Satan could ever handle. How? Because she called on the Holy Spirit. ¬†She prayed to a God that makes Satan look like a chump. ¬†She prayed to a God who assures us that no task is too big or too small for Him to overcome. ¬†She prayed to a God who yearns to hear our prayers and to work through us. ¬†Through those simple, sweet hands, she silenced Satan and freed me from an attack that had been in the works for months.

You guys, I stumble. I stumble and fall and stumble again. ¬†I let Satan get in the way. I let my schedule get in the way. I’m dismissive to conviction and I ignore God, daily. But, you guys, life is a marathon, not a sprint. Runners in marathons need fuel–FUEL YOUR HEARTS WITH SERVICE FOR OTHERS. Runners need water–HYDRATE YOUR SPIRIT WITH CONSTANT PRAYER. ¬†Runners need rest–REST IN THE WORD OF GOD! Serve. Pray. Read. I often have to remind myself, that I am literally filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is literally living in me. What’s impossible? Nothing. ¬†What can’t be overcome? Nothing. Satan is good at waging war. He will be patient and take small battles. The only thing preventing us from freeing ourselves from his grip is OURSELVES. Set aside time, set aside pride, set aside self.

Be revitalized! God is ready to turn your page and reignite your passion, too.

Be still. Know that He is God. Know that HE has overcome the world…

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” ¬†2 Corinthians 12:9

“Fight the good fight of faith…” 1 Timothy 6:12

What Does It Look Like?: Godly Men (part 3)

(…picking right back up where we left off. If you are just joining, read part 1 and 2 of this series before reading this portion. A continuation of 1 Timothy 3:1-7…detailing what it looks like to be a Godly man…)

‚ÄúHere is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.¬†2¬†Now the overseer is to be above reproach…

…faithful to but one wife,…

Read these 5 words again. Now read them a third time over. The depth of these 5 words could fill the pages of an endless novel. Be reminded, these words are Divinely inspired. These are the Words of God. God is calling man to be faithful to but one wife. Turn to 1 Timothy 3:2…it is right there in black and white. Seems simple enough, right? Ha! You don’t get off that easy, guys. You would be doing yourself a great disservice to simply skim over this passage and take these words at face value. There is much to be learned from these 5 telling words.

There is a MASSIVE difference between a Godly man’s call to leadership BEFORE marriage verses AFTER marriage. In order to understand this passage, you have to dig back and first understand that distinction. Unless you are married, you are “single” in God’s eyes. It doesn’t matter if you are dating, it doesn’t matter if you are in a relationship, it doesn’t matter if you are engaged. Until the day that you and your Divinely designed partner take a vow of unity before God, you are SINGLE. Don’t cringe. Being single is an absolutely beautiful thing. ¬†This society makes “single” seem like some type of disease. ¬†If people hear that you are single, their first response is this muted sigh and pitiful face. Haha, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Their ingrained reaction is to feel pity for you–the forehead wrinkles, the mouth twists into a side-smirk, the first words that roll of their tongue are typically, “Aw man, I’m sorry to hear that.” or “Really?! I never would have guessed…” Heck, occasionally you’ll even get a sympathetic hug out of it. It’s actually pretty entertaining to watch people and see the timeline of thoughts that roll through their minds. Step one: the feeling of sympathy. Step two: they comfort you, as if to assure you that someone will eventually love you someday (haha). Step three: *this step is typically marked by a little glimmer of excitement in their eyes* they recognize that you are most DEFINITELY in need of their match-making services. Step four: the hunt is on. It becomes a mission to find you someone to love. Haha, now maybe I am biased, as a female, and describing mostly how other females react. I feel like in the guy-world they hear that you’re single and the typical initial reaction is a high-five. Afterall, now you’re a perfect wing-man candidate. And now you can bang out all the chicks that you want, right? You’re free to do whatever you want. Or may they feel a little bad for you because you’re only gettin’ it from your left hand. No steady lay. Isn’t that how it works? HA! The humor lies in the truth behind those last few statements.

But there is absolute power in being single. This society typically stamps “single” with a negative connotation. Synonyms include: unattractive, unlovable, desperate…or in my case, VIRGIN. haha. But the fact of the matter is that we should celebrate being single! The label shouldn’t carry a negative connotation, it should carry respect and admiration. Why? Because in God’s eyes, prior to marriage, you ARE single. Single in your walk with Him, single in your pursuit of faith. That is exactly how He intended it. He is SO jealous for your love and SO jealous for your growth in Him, that He yearns for you to be utterly and completely in love with HIM before you ever get wrapped up in another person. ¬†Remember the quote that I shared with you all a while back?

“A woman should never pursue a man. A woman should pursue a deeper, more intimate relationship with Christ. In turn, God will inspire the one man, designed perfectly and ¬†specifically for her, to pursue her heart. And in his pursuit of her, he too will be drawn closer to Christ.”

Guys, do you get what that is saying? There is no guess work in your end of the deal. ¬†You may not admit it, but I know that men desired to be loved just as much as women do. And so often, single men grab any woman who¬†will give them the time of day in order to create that synthetic love. In order to feel wanted, and to feel that control over another’s emotions. To feel that ingrained desire for leadership. But just stop. Take a breath. LOVE GOD. God yearns for your absolute love. Luke 10:27 tells us to “Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind…” If you can strive to do that…if you can genuinely seek that love, He will hand you the woman you are intended to marry on a silver platter in HIS timing. He WILL provide for you the woman who¬†will change your life. ¬†The woman who¬†is designed from you and for you (think back to the Adam and Eve reference from the last post.) You don’t have to search desperately and turn every rock and leave a tattered wake of women behind you in your quest to manhood. You are called to live above that temptation. You are called to train yourself in your single life. Train yourself to be a Godly man. Grow in the Word and dig in the Truth and then APPRECIATE, truly, the magnificence and beauty and grace in the perfect love God presents to you in the form of your perfect wife. Man, powerful stuff.

I’ve so deviated from my initial point that it’s nuts. Haha, sorry, sometimes I just get rolling. I told you there was great depth to those 5 words. Anyways, the reason I talked so much about the glory of single-hood is because your role as a leader in your single life is to do exactly what I mentioned above. Grow, personally. ¬†Train yourself, biblically. Strive to know Christ more. Strive to love Christ more. Strive to better yourself and prepare yourself to be a Godly man and a Godly husband–having unshakable faith that God is preparing your future wife in the same way. And recognize, that beyond a shadow of a doubt, your walk is entirely independent with Him. You are called to be a Godly man and to lead by example, but if you are not married, there is an INCREDIBLY fine line as to how much you can lead a woman. Men, the explanation of that could fill a whole other blog post. I encourage you to find a strong, male, believer who can better counsel you in the details of this principle. But, to put it quite simply, your walk and her walk MUST remain entirely distinguished and separate until the day you say “I do.” It doesn’t matter if you have been dating a girl for 10 years. You’re walks are NOT intended to intertwine while you are single. ¬†You can lead by example, but it is not your place to become her spiritual leader or spiritual teacher. That can become a messy situation when you intertwine unmarried love with spiritual guidance. A VERY messy and misguided situation.

With all of that said, your role as a leader completely and utterly changes when you say the words, “I do.” Now, we will look deeper into the specifics of marriage at a later time, but, for the sake of this transition, let’s look back at the book of Genesis and the story of Adam and Eve. Genesis 2:24 explains marriage very poignantly in saying, “That is why a man leaves his father and his mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Woah, say what? One flesh? Yes. BOOM. There it is. The Word of God. The reason your commitment to become a Godly man and a Godly leader is SO important–when a man and a woman are married, they literally become ONE FLESH in God’s eyes. Their separate walks and united and intertwined. They are viewed as a unit. As one singular flesh. As one entity. Man oh man, men. Do you get what this means? You are called to be FAITHFUL TO BUT ONE WIFE (finally linking it back to the initial scripture). Why is this? Because in God’s eyes, when you are married, when you can call a woman your WIFE, you both are ONE FLESH.

Take a look at your body. You are one, whole flesh. If you were torn about a decision–for the sake of a decent example, let’s say that you are torn about taking another job–would it be possible for half of your body to rip away and go complete that job, while the other half of your body stays your current career? Could your torso go be a coach, while you legs are still working in a cubicle? (Okay that was a really lame example, but cut me some slack, it’s finals week and my brain is fried…) Anyways, no. It couldn’t be done. You would be destroyed. Without the guidance of your brain and the mechanics of your body all working together, you would die. And it would be incredibly painful. Apply that metaphor to a marriage. You and your wife are ONE FLESH. If you fail as a leader and take it upon yourself be unfaithful to your wife, you are ripping the legs from the torso. You will be destroyed. That flesh will be mortally wounded. Your marriage could be destroyed. Your merit as a Godly leader would be absolutely destroyed. ¬†There is no way around it. There is no excuse or permission. Satan is REALLY good at convincing millions of people across our planet that infidelity is acceptable and that you can get away with it and that it’s worth it, but guess what…Satan’s wrong. The Word of God explicitly states that a Godly man–a Godly leader–is the brain of that “one flesh” that you and your wife become. YOU are called to be the leader. You are called to possess the character to lead properly. You are called to stifle your human desires and temptations and to be a husband and a man of integrity. You are responsible for leading your walk, as well as her walk, because in marriage they become ONE walk. You are called to be a man of discipline and to love your wife as Jesus loved the church. LOVE and LEAD in a celebrated single-hood. LOVE and LEAD in a faithful marriage.

(to be continued…)



What Is Salvation? (part 1–the original sin)

We have talked all about our position in Christ and our condition in Christ. We have looked at a graph that depicts these two things, and we have talked about how we can grow in our conditions.  We have defined what righteousness is and we have found countless scriptures that illustrate this very topic. We have learned about the change that takes place within us when we believe in Jesus Christ, and we have studied why it is so very important that Christians strive to grow and to teach. But all the while, we have danced around the topic of salvation. What IS salvation? What does it mean to be saved? What does it look like? What is the significance of believing in Jesus Christ? What does His life even represent?

There are so so so many questions that surround the idea of salvation. ¬†There is so much confusion and misrepresentation in our world today, as well. So I want to start at the beginning and break it down, piece by piece. ¬†To reintroduce topics that are overlooked and to clarify points that are often left in the shadows. ¬†Ah! I LOVE this topic!! The salvation that is offered to EVERY SINGLE PERSON on this planet is so unbelievably beautiful, and SO unbelievably humbling. ¬†This is the bread and butter…this is the mac-daddy…this is the grand prize! Let’s take a look.

Okay, in order to understand why it is even necessary to care about what Jesus Christ did, we have to rewind allllllllll the way back to Adam and Eve. ¬†I am going to explain all of this in the simplest way possible, because I don’t want to throw anything over anybody’s head or drown this awesome message in excessive detail and historical overflow. (Plus, I am still learning about it all, as well!) But here is the deal…after God created the heavens and the Earth and all that is encompassed within that perfection, He created man. He created Adam, and eventually Eve, in His image. ¬†At this point, there was already an existence of evil. ¬†Satan had already defied God and descended to hell, so God had already acknowledged the right of free will. (That is, the ability for man to choose between right and wrong.) ¬†The book of Genesis describes of the perfection of this garden. Adam and Eve had all they could ever want and need there, and there was no existence of sin. They were simply instructed not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. ¬†Essentially, they were commanded not to disobey and sin against God. ¬†However, Satan appeared in the form of a serpent and tempted Eve to eat from the tree. ¬†In the truest¬†and simplest of terms, this was the first presentation of evil. And temptation. And deceit. ¬†Eve was drawn to sin through Satan and she then led Adam to eat from the tree and sin, as well.

BAM. There it was. In the instant that Adam, the FIRST man on this planet, sinned again God, everything changed. ¬†Sin was born in man. You see, every single person on this planet is a descendant from Adam and Eve. So think about it…Adam committed the first sin. Adam and Eve screwed up from the get-go and, therefore, every single person born from that line is embodied in sin. ¬†We are born into a world of sin and we are prone, as humans…as descendants from the very first sinner…to sin. ¬†We are all sinners because we are all human. ¬†Because of this original sin, every person born from that point on was doomed.

Well, crap…thanks a lot Adam. ¬†Thank a lot Eve. ¬†So now we stand no chance. ¬†Now we are all screwed because of that one man’s decision. ¬†An interesting concept, huh? That ANOTHER person’s sin could affect OUR salvation…(we will look at this in more detail later, and I will share with you the most earth-shaking realization I came to in my personal life with regards to this subject.) So there we were, a bunch of humans being bred from sin. A bunch of humans whose souls were fair game to Satan. Just imagine how upset God must have been…these beautiful humans he created hardly lasted a blip in time before they sinned! So what now? This is where the Old Testament takes shape. ¬†God understood that man had sinned. And that now, every man was born from that original sinner. ¬†So, he worked with us a little bit. ¬†Rather than damning every sinner to hell, He began to establish rules. ¬†This is what the Old Testament is full of…God set forth rules, communicated through divinely inspired prophets and other individuals, for the people of the Earth. ¬†He basically said, Okay, everybody, if you want to stand a chance to spend eternity with me, you have to follow these rules. ¬†Though you will never be completely pure, if you follow these rules, I’ll cut you some slack and you can strive to purify yourselves. (Those weren’t His exact words, haha, but work with me here. I’m trying to keep it simple :). )

The Old Testament of the Bible lays out what these rules were.  If you read throughout the Old Testament, the rules were insanely difficult for any human being to obey.  They were extensive and specific and very challenging.  And basically what the entire Old Testament explains is that nobody could do it. Every single person failed. Every single human being was incapable of following all of these rules and living a perfect life. So every single human being born as a descendent from Adam, a descendent of the original sin, was imperfect and sinful and flawed.

This is when God sat back and was like, Alright, time for plan B. Haha. There was a clear recognition that none of these people stood a chance. ¬†Because of this one man’s original sin, humans had wound themselves into a web of tangled sin and greed and lust and deceit and all that is unrighteous. ¬†Human beings were caught in Satan’s snare and stood absolutely no chance of achieving salvation. ¬†They all stood no chance of spending eternity with God. ¬†So what did God do?….Enter, Jesus.

(to be continued…this next part is great!)

Position .v. Condition In Christ… (part 1)

After feeling drawn to go off on that emotional tangent in the last post, I sat down and spent a great deal of time in prayer about the direction of the blog right now. I know I told you we would start by evaluating love and relationships (and TRUST me, I am pretty neurotic and want nothing more than to stay organized in the sequence of posts), but I really don’t believe that’s what He wants right now. ¬†So, I am going to put a pause on our study of love and relationships and rewind us a bit. ¬†I want to take us back to the basics again. I really feel like there is much more that needs to be elaborated upon and taught, pertaining to the fundamentals of our faith, so that we can better appreciate the journey. ¬†It would be a futile attempt to teach if I continue to write about what “Mo” wants to write about and didn’t listen to what He wants, so let’s take a step back and understand the fundamentals a little deeper.

One of the most important and mind-blowing understandings that I was recently introduced to was the difference between our “position” in Christ and our “condition” in Christ. ¬†Understanding this principle serves so many purposes. ¬†It has been instrumental in pushing me towards self-forgiveness. ¬†It also allows us to understand the true definition and magnitude of God’s grace. ¬†As well as appreciate the significance of the forgiveness offered to us by Jesus Christ’s life. ¬†It is all relative to our assurance of salvation and what it truly means to be saved.

Below is a really basic, really helpful visual that totally altered my outlook on my salvation when I was taught what it meant. ¬†(You’ll have to forgive the handwriting, I had to write it all backwards because the camera was flipping the image. haha.) So let’s take a look at this overview and, over the next several blog posts, we will break down exactly what it means…

Okay, so before you let your mind wander and you get confused, let’s break this down piece by piece. ¬†This is a graph that illustrates our hearts and our walks with Christ. Every single person’s graph looks different. Every single person’s is individually tailored to them throughout their lifetime. ¬†This one simply serves as an example. Along the bottom is our time here on earth (this graph stretches to 100 years). ¬†Up the y-axis is a measurement of our righteousness. ¬†In other words, it is a measurement of how “Christ-like” we are living. Synonyms for this would be our purity, or our morality, etc. This is what we strive for, as Christians. ¬†1 and 2 Timothy are fantastic resources for “defining” what righteousness really is. If you have a Bible, jot down these verses and take a look at them–1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:22, 2 Timothy 3:16. (Again, Righteousness is something we will elaborate on more later.)

If you look at the graphed line, it starts at our birth. Though we are each perfectly and beautifully constructed by God, we are born into a world of sin. So we start at zero. The dark line shows our lives before we are truly saved. Before we truly accept Jesus into our hearts and recognize what He did for us. ¬†As we are exposed to the Word, we grow and mature, so that line tends to crawl upwards. ¬†However, just because we go to church and hear the Word, does not mean that we are saved. A tough lesson I had to learn: going to church isn’t just our “ticket in”. ¬†This line looks different for everyone. The variations of this line are innumerable, but they all start at zero.

If you notice, this line is in a “zone” that is shaded in¬†red. Any red on this graph represents Satan. ¬†Yikes! I just got a little scared, too. But this is the fact of the matter. If we live our lives in the zone that is shaded red, our spirits and our souls are fair game. ¬†God grants us free will. He grants us the right to choose. He is a just God. ¬†But if we live our lives in this zone, then we are still subject to His wrath. ¬†Unfortunately, Satan still has equal access to our spirits. And trust me, Satan LOVES when people’s souls are in this zone. He thrives on it. He loves when people turn from Christ and refuse to recognize the truth or are captivated by what this crappy world has to offer. ¬†Because, sadly, this world is Satan’s playground. So think about it…what happens here? What happens if you die in the red zone? What happens if your brother, or your best friend, or your teammate or your boyfriend dies here? What happens if they live their whole lives and never recognize Christ as their Savior? I mean TRULY recognize Him?…….Do you get it? THAT’s the urgency here! That’s why it’s so crucial that, as believers, we spread the word as fast and as passionately as we can. ¬†Because if someone has been exposed to the gospel and they die in the red zone–if someone’s life is cut short, or even if they live a long life and never humble themselves to the truth, it’s game over. Satan wins that soul.

So now you’re probably wondering what the giant dot represents. Ahh! I LOVE this part! So we live our lives in the red zone for a while. ¬†We live our lives in this dangerous place. But the moment we TRULY recognize the magnitude of what Jesus Christ did for us…BAM! SAVED. Holy cow…SAVED! Can you even wrap your head around that? That instant, that moment that we truly let Him into our hearts, that moment that we are truly filled with the Holy Spirit…BAM! GAME OVER, SATAN. Good try, big guy, but you lose. AHH! Doesn’t that make you want to jump in the air and give a massive fist pump. GEEZE! God is SO GOOD! That moment that we let down our guards, that we fall on our knees to His power…in that moment, our spirits are locked and sealed and we are SAVED. Man oh man, this is a topic that I could sit here and type on forever, and we will look at it in more detail soon, I promise.

But, wow. So incredible.  Okay, so we hit that dot on the graph. And if you notice, the red zone disappears and several different lines break from it. Now, what does that mean? What does that represent? Who are we after we are saved?

(to be continued…)

 

 

My Story (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… ūüôā

(to be continued)

My Story (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, once and for all. 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. ¬†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, Satan had other plans. It was about to become a VERY long night…

(to be continued)

My Story (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…

(to be continued)

My Story (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…

(to be continued)