Sunday, May 31, 2015

Brokenness Aside

The first time I heard this song, I wasn't a huge fan. But now, I'm hooked. It's called "Brokenness Aside" Will your grace run out if I let you down? Will you call me child when I tell you lies?

You take brokenness aside and make it beautiful. 

Something I struggle a lot with is jealousy. It's one of those struggles that's on the "inside" so it's something I can hide. It's one of those that can be disguised as good, because it can push me to do more and be more and attain more. It's something that can encourage me to work harder. It's also something that eats me up and swallows me. It's something that I have always struggled with. And some days I do better with than others.

Here lately, I've been losing the battle. Typically, I'm genuinely excited and happy for other people and their lives and accomplishments and such. But there are times when...not so much. And the not so much part comes from a lot of my own insecurities, the root one being that I'm not good enough. Which is something that has been woven throughout the writings here, something I've been able to start to verbalize or write and wrestle through. Again, some days I do better than others. Most days, I do better than before I could talk about it. And I do even better since I was able to identify it.

And what I just so love about Christ is that I can be comforted in that I am enough. And more than that, He is enough. A lot of Christianity is about how people sin and screw up and really, about how we aren't good enough on our own. But that's the just the first part. If you only look at that part, Christianity is kind of mean. But it's so beautiful because Christianity is also about this God who loves people so much, despite everything, and he came in the flesh and met us in our brokenness. And he said I love you, I love all of you. He takes my brokenness and makes it beautiful.

There is another fantastic song by Shane and Shane called "Embracing Accusation".
The father of  lies...All of my hopes of being good enough, I hear him saying cursed are the ones who can't abide. He's right. Alleluia, he's right. The devil is preaching the song of the redeemed, that I am cursed and gone astray, I cannot gain salvation. 

It then goes on to say...
The devil is singing over me an age old song. That I am cursed and gone astray. Singing the first verse so conveniently over me. He's forgotten the refrain...Jesus saves! 

We so often forget the refrain when looking at brokenness and sin. Yeah, it's there. But that's part of the beauty of Christ. Jesus saves. And alleluia, that is beautiful.

I struggle with jealousy. I let people down. I lie to myself and sometimes to others. And yet, I'm still loved, I'm still forgiven, I'm still redeemed.  

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Role Clarity

I'm wide awake, draw me close, stirred by grace
All fear removed, I breathe you in and lean into your love

I'm not always good about extending grace to people. I like labels, I like boxes, I like role clarity. This past week, I've been really focused on role clarity. I was feeling off and my supervisor asked if I felt supported and I sat and thought and said, you know...I don't actually. And we talked about what I wasn't getting and they've responded really well.

One of my issues was role clarity. I was unclear of my role when it seemed to overlap with others. Our job descriptions started to bleed into each other and I was unsure. I needed role clarity, I needed to know what my job was, what was expected of me, what was not expected of me, and to clearly know what parts are actually unclear.

I have also realized that this extends to my personal life, not just my professional life. I need role clarity. I need to know my role in other people's lives. I want to know if I'm just another person, a friend, a good friend, a confidant, a best friend, a sister, a student, a daughter, an acquaintance. I am, for the most part, fine once I know my role. Even if I don't like my role. But I need to know my role and I struggle when I don't know who I am to someone.

But life is messy and relationships are messy and I can't always get role clarity and a label and a box like I want. And I get frustrated and lack grace. Because I'm messy, too.

But I can be confident, right now, in my role with Jesus. That right now, I can just lean into his love. And I can breathe here. And I can be sure in that. And that's enough. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Jesus Feminist

I've read about 4 books in the past 2 weeks, one of them was called Jesus Feminist.

In college, I took a history of women and gender studies class and I hated it. Nearly every person in that class were those who would truly embrace the word feminist and I didn't want to be that. I'm not sure how long the reclaiming of the word has been (I really hated that class) but over these past few years I've been noticing a shift in a lot of words and reclaiming of them. And I've since realized that actually, I am a feminist.

Not in the way that my classmates were in college, but in the way of believing that women are people and women are worthy. Just as worthy as men. And to be honest, I'm not even sure if I've totally believed that my whole life and just didn't put a name to it. I have had a lot of questions regarding the Church and women, I just didn't know what my questions were. And I didn't know how to ask or who to ask.

A lot of this "blog" is me processing through my questions. Because I have so many and so much of my life was to not ask questions. If you have questions, you're stupid. I don't know where I got that from, because my parents are awesome and I had pretty solid schooling, but somehow that statement was ingrained into me. And as such, I didn't ask a lot of questions, K-12. I sat in class, or sat in church, took notes, and tried to figure things out on my own.

Anyways, back to questions regarding womanhood, feminism, and Christ. And I saw this book in two bookstores and decided to buy it.  (That links to Amazon.) I didn't know how to correlate my passions for education and career and work with the Church and ministry. I didn't know how to be a woman wholly in love with Jesus. I didn't think I was allowed to be a warrior, in any sense of the word. I didn't know how to say,

I'm a woman and that's beautiful and my Jesus loves me and I can be part of His mission. 

Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist, makes the statement,"patriarchy is not God's dream for humanity" (p. 14) and that resonated with me a lot. Because, doesn't it feel like that's what the Church says sometimes? 

After years of reading the Gospels and the full canon of Scriptures, here is, very simply, what I learned about Jesus and the ladies: he loves us. He loves us. On our own terms. He treats us equals to the  men around him; he listens; he does not belittle; he honors us; he challenges us; he teaches us; he includes--calls us beloved...Jesus loves us...In a time when women were almost silent or invisible in literature, Scripture affirms and celebrates women. (p.16-17)

There is so much more, each chapter is strong and pieces of it resonated with me. And I may continue to process here. There were discussion questions at the end too. Overall, I loved that it was a book that said, hey there are different points of view and that's awesome. It wasn't a book that said this is how it is, but rather a book that said, hey, here's what I'm getting. What do you think? Let's wrestle together. 

Another part I loved was this (I hope I'm not breaking copyright laws!):

Stay there in the questions, in the doubts, in the wonderings and loneliness, the tension of living in the Now and the Not Yet of the Kingdom of God, your wounds and hurts and aches, until you are satisfied that Abba is there too. You will not find your answers by ignoring the cry of your heart or by living a life of intellectual or spiritual dishonesty. Your fear will try to hold you back, your tension will increase, the pain will become intense, and it will be tempting to keep clinging tight to the old life; the cycle is true. So be gentle with yourself. Be gentle when you first release. Talk to people you trust. Pray. Lean into the pain. Stay there. And the release will come. 

I know you have questions, and they're much bigger than the whole church-women-feminism-equality issues. I know. Me, too. Still. So I'll carry you in my heart. Stay as long as you'd like; I'm in no rush. Hurry wounds a questioning soul.

--pg 52. 

I have more to write, more to process, more to share. I was able to gain some good insight from the book, not because it gave specific answers, but because of what was on page 52. Particularly the parts bolded and underlined. Bessey reminds us to ask the questions and wrestle with them. And overall, what I started realizing as I was reading is what's up above in pink. 

To be a woman isn't to be lesser than. I can work alongside my brothers and I am just as loved and just as valued. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Foster Care

After finishing up graduate school, several of my friends worked in foster care. Months later, a few of them approached me (all on separate occasions) and asked me if I would be interested in being a foster parent. I didn't think they were serious. They kept asking. I kept thinking they were kidding.

Me? I'm barely able to afford my own rent and bills. I have a degree where I don't know if I'll ever make more than $50,000 at the peak time in my career. I am single. I am young. I'm barely 24 years old. I don't know what I'm doing with my life. I don't know how to take care of another person. I don't know how to cook. How can I feed them? 

I kept offering excuses, which I thought were legitimate reasons. The people who are supposed to be foster parents are the ones who have a home. Who have a family, who have a partner, who have age on their side, who know how to do life. They're the ones that should be stepping up. Not me. I thought our focus should be spent trying to get those kind of people becoming foster parents. Not me.

But my friends kept asking. And I finally stopped and said, "Wait. Are you being serious?" And they said, "Well, yeah. I thought you knew we were being serious."

What? No. I didn't. You can't be serious. And again, with the excuses. And around and around we went.

After several months of this, one of my best friends, who was also one of the ones to approach me about this idea, told me she was for real considering and for real wanted me to consider it.

And then I moved. But the seed had officially been planted, but I never shared it with anyone, other than that one friend, but even then I didn't say a lot. Finally, one day I brought it up with another best friend. I shared the conversations, my thoughts, my excuses, my questions, and we had solid dialogue about it. And we continue to have solid dialogue about it.

It was either that same weekend that I brought it up to my friend, or shortly thereafter, we made a last minute decision to go to church with my brother. (We had gone the night prior to another church and had another plan for Sunday morning. At 11:08am, we realized we couldn't do our original plan so decided to go to the 11:30am service). And that sermon was all about foster care and caring for the world. We just looked at each other and cracked up.

In fact the next several church services I went to, and since I've just moved and trying to find a good church, was a different one every week, and almost every single one of them was about foster care and adoption. And how as a Church, we should be leading the way.

It really started when I read these words from "You and Me Forever" by Francis and Lisa Chan:

We need to learn to err on the side of action, because we tend to default to negligence. So many won't do anything unless they hear a voice from heaven telling them precisely what to do. Why not default to action until you hear a voice from heaven telling you to wait? For example: Why not assume you should adopt kids unless you hear a voice telling you not to? Wouldn't that seem more biblical since God has told us that true religion is to care for the widows and orphans (James 1:27)?

I read that before the move, before the conversations. And ever since started realizing the truth in that paragraph, erring on the side of action.

So I stopped with the excuses and started trying to figure out what to do. And that led me to having a conversation with that best friend. For my new job, I had to attend the same training foster parents go through. I talked to a few of them. I talked to the director. And they all said go. Get started. Do. Doesn't matter my age or that I'm single. Doesn't matter. What matters are those kiddos in foster care. And I can do something about it. So I started reevaluating the reality of it. And as of right now, my living situation does not possibly allow for it.

While I get my life in order in those ways, I've moved forward in other ways. I can't have a kid live with me right now. But I can sponsor a kid. So I just sponsored a child through Compassion International. And I support through Kiva. And if you have foster kiddos, I want to try to make it easier for you. I can hang out with them (for free). I can hang out with you. I can send jokes. I can hear about the crappy parts of the system. I can try to provide rides.

I'm working towards getting my living situation in order so it can be conducive for another human (and puppy, I really want a dog) to live with me. Instead of waiting. I want to do what I can. And if you have other ideas, let me know.

To be a Christ follower means to love and err on the side of action. It means even if it doesn't make sense to the world, even if people tell you it's ridiculous. I wouldn't have thought about foster care, me being part of it, if it weren't for my friends who told me I could do it. People already believing in me, despite all of things I lack. And I would have discounted it if I hadn't been reminded by the words of Francis Chan that my default move should always be to go. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

This is My Story.

I didn't believe I had a story for a long time. When people talk about someone with a story about the change from God, it's usually about Paul. He went Saul to Paul, he persecuted Christians in horrid ways and then was blinded by God for a few days, was encountered by him, and then became a Christ follower. He wrote most of the new testament. His story is found in Acts 9:1-19.

Eventually, I learned I had a real story. And to say I don't have a story that matters is to say I don't matter.

This is my story. 

I wasn't born in the Christian faith, because it's not something you're born into. My parents knew Jesus and I did grow up in the church, though. I loved it. I loved church, although I didn't always love getting up early on a Sunday morning. I went to church at least three times a week (bible study, youth group, and church, plus any additional church events), knew the Bible backwards and forwards, and could give you all kinds of Bible knowledge facts. I knew there were 66 books in the Bible. I knew the words to the songs sung in church.

And when I was 9 years old, almost 10, I knew there was something more. I didn't exactly know all about the whole Jesus thing--I knew the story, but the part about having a for real relationship with Him was a little confusing. But I knew that's what I needed. I remember the pastor asking me several times, as did my parents, if I was sure about this. I was so confused as to why they were asking, because they were the ones teaching me this. Eventually I understood--my parents and the pastor knew the reality of committing to Jesus. They knew it was a personal decision. They knew it wasn't how much knowledge you had or what your attendance chart looked like, and wanted to make sure it was me making the decision for legitimate reasons, not because I am blindly agreeing to what they say. Much later, I realized how much I appreciated them.

My decision at the age of 9 only made me more excited for church. I brought so many friends to church in middle school, it was almost ridiculous. I loved church and I loved learning about Jesus.

When I was 14, the church I had attended for the past decade began to fall apart. I was devastated and allowed that to destroy my faith. I was hurt by the church and was unwilling to forgive. I harbored hatred and anger for many, many years. The latter part of my sophomore year of high school, I began to engage in church again. There, people rallied around me and supported me and encouraged me to ask hard questions.

I realized that while my decision to follow Jesus was legitimate, I wasn't appropriately fostering or growing my faith. I was afraid to ask hard questions, I was afraid to be angry, I was afraid to be hurt, and I was afraid to question and doubt. I'm nothing like Paul, the guy mentioned earlier. I am like Thomas.

Thomas' story is found towards the end of the book of John. He is often referred to as "Thomas the Doubter" and people sometimes hate on him. The gist of the story is that after Jesus rose from the dead, Thomas was the dude who said, "Hold up, this doesn't make sense. Prove to me that you are Jesus, that you for real died, and that you actually rose from the dead". He was the guy who said, "I'm not sure, show me" rather than "Yeah, okay, I believe you without hard facts". What I love so much is that Jesus met him where he was at. Jesus showed Thomas what he asked and gave Thomas the evidence Thomas sought. Thomas wasn't rebuked for questioning Jesus. I really believe that Jesus welcome questions, welcomes doubts, and wants to meet us where we are at and provide answers. That's what happened with Thomas.

So sophomore and junior year of high school, I questioned, I struggled, I doubted, I grappled. But I did not to lead me astray from my faith, but with the genuine, earnestness of wanting to learn more. I refused to blindly follow, to just accept things on the surface. I wanted to be a for real, legit, hardcore follower of Jesus and what that really meant. This is when I really started to own my faith and make it for real mine. Where I seriously started to "get it".

A big part of Christianity is that "we are all sinners". AKA we all screw up. And while I knew this, I wasn't sure if I really believed it. Because seriously, I was a really good kid. Other than the fact that I hate mornings and wasn't good at waking up, I really didn't know how I was a "sinner". I didn't really lie, I always did my homework (so much so, my teachers told me to not do homework sometimes), I didn't party, I didn't do drugs or drink, I got along with almost everyone, etc. To the world, I learned that I wasn't a "sinner". Because on the outside, I do look good. It's the inside where I am a mess, and that's where my sin was revealed. I struggle with pride. I struggle with jealousy. I struggle with self worth. I struggle with vulnerability. I screw up way more often than I ever want to admit, and it's rarely on the outside. Most of it is on the inside. That makes it difficult for people to really hold me accountable and for me to fight. It's really easy to hide and that's one of the reasons why I continued this blog, to increase my vulnerability.

In Christ, I have been able to find my identity and worth in Yahweh, the God of Jacob. I know I am worthy and I know I matter. That revelation didn't come easy and something I value more than anything. Knowing my identity drives me, my passion, my desires, my dreams, my values, my choices.

There is another thing I am learning with Jesus, particularly throughout college. My heart has changed for the world. As told through this blog, as this is the seed that planted this blog. I have learned that God is bigger than America. And I need to love the world. Not just America. Not just the part of America I am in. But every place. Because God is so much bigger than America. He knows more than the English language. He is the God of the world and for me to say I love God means I need to love the world.

I also have had, and continue to have, questions. I am logical. I am rational. I think things through. Senior year of college I started to wrestle and doubt and struggle with new ideas and new questions. Questions I hadn't thought about before. And I ran.

I had started to lose some of my support network in regards to my faith, because I was so focused on my job in college. And I moved to a new state, where I had zero support network. I struggled. A lot. After a long while, I started to slowly share it with a few people. And then I had a massive head injury that lasted 9 months. And then I remembered I had questions. And I didn't know where to go for answers. But I knew I needed to do something, because the running can only work for so long. I re engaged in Church and found a home church. And I started to once again see the beauty and intimacy of God. The love and desire and yearning and passion he has for people. All people. I continued to be reminded that God loves us. Regardless of whatever mess we are. And I continued to ensure that I rationally understood what I believed. I started asking my questions and had raw conversations.

I've never had blind faith. But I have had muddled faith, times of confusion, times of running away, and faith that is shaky. And I've learned that that is okay. And as I continue to engage in those questions, continue to build a support network, continue to seek understanding, I don't get afraid of posts on social media. I don't get afraid of conversations related to God. I don't get afraid of other people's questions. I don't get afraid of my own questions. Because I can be sure in the steadfast love of Christ.

My story isn't about me, really. It's about God reaching out to me, pursuing me, not giving up on me. My story is similar to millions of others who have committed their life to Christ. The details are all different, but the shift, the purpose, the point is all the same. Weird analogy, but it's like how The Lion King is similar to Hamlet. The details are different, but the premise is the same. My hope is that when reading this, you maybe learn a little more about me, but you learn more about God. Because that's really what I've learned is the purpose of a testimony. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


I'm working on writing out "my story". Re: my testimony. Here are the key points (more for my benefit, I like outlines):

1. My heart changed for the world.
--As told through this blog. God is bigger than America.

2. My sin was revealed.
--I screw up more often than I ever want to admit. And most of it is on the inside.

3. Hurt by the church...learning forgiveness

4. Rationally understood what I believed

5. Found my worth.