Category Archives: God

The Best Messiest Decade

I am 36 today and it feels huge. True to my nature, my “milestone” year doesn’t fit with tradition of the “big ones” like 21 or 40 or 50. As I go through the highlight reel of  just my 30’s, I realize I’ve made questionable/hard decisions that have yielded extraordinary new chances to live better for a lifetime. I give 100% credit to God who keeps redeeming and rebuilding me. In the words of one of my favorite bloggers, I never have my shit together, but somehow it doesn’t matter because it’s in the messes I make for myself that God does his best work.

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20160812_200526Straight out of the gate at 30 years old, I had cosmetic surgery. I don’t regret the surgery, but I do question if I’d make the same decision today. I never saw my decision as a symptom of a deeper mental health issue until I found myself in anorexia recovery four years later. Now, I am in a season of learning to love my body as is. I am connected with my physical self, and I finally understand and appreciate all the work my body does to take care of me even when I mistreat it. Optional surgery was a life-altering decision; I live with the result every day, remembering how far I have come from the inner-unrest of my past and appreciating the different perspective I have today.

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At 31 I had an affair and subsequently experienced a marital rough patch. I don’t want to relive 20160825_183327those years, and I pray my marriage doesn’t experience anything of the like again; however, if it weren’t for the two years that threatened to destroy my marriage, my husband and I wouldn’t be what we are today–grateful, humble, and in love. It was a lot of work to fix what was wrong; it’s still work to keep it strong. Nearly 15 years together, 12 of those married, my husband and I are are more in love today than ever, yet experience has taught me I cannot take love for granted. Love doesn’t just happen. We make the choice every single day, in the bustling mix of kids, work, commitments, projects, and appointments, to look each other in the eye; to wrap our arms around each other; to say I love you; to say us first, then the rest; to acknowledge I see you and hear you and you matter; to say I’m sorry; to say thank you.

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The timing of my newly strengthened marriage couldn’t have been better because the two years following that season were tumultuous for my health. At 33 I was diagnosed with celiac disease, which exacerbated the full blown eating disorder I was living with but wouldn’t be treated until I was 34. Physically and mentally, I was very ill and in danger of dying.

Even so, I ignored my body and became a Taekwondo student that season. My intention behind the menevergiveupdecision was to do something fun and bonding with my children, especially my daughter. (Shortly after I joined, I had to take a three-month medical leave to enter anorexia rehabilitation.) Little did I know the Taekwondo studio would become my training ground for perfectionism recovery and a supplemental space where God continues to show me what my body and mind can do as is. Technique-wise, you won’t find me winning competitions and awing crowds in demonstrations. I am clunky and slow and often mis-torqued in movement; however, I am the strongest and most mentally resilient than I ever have been.

My daughter and I are T-minus six months away from our earning black belts together.  Mission almost accomplished!

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portland-and-meAt 34 I entered anorexia recovery, which continues today. This has been my biggest challenge (after motherhood, of course) I’ve ever faced. I depended on anorexia for over 13 years to help me maintain the illusion that I had my life all together, but it nearly killed me. You won’t hear me use the words “I’ve overcome my eating disorder” because while I am better and don’t need the disease, the eating disorder voice is always quietly hanging out in my head. Complacency is dangerous.

With my recovery came a passion for mental health and suicide prevention advocacy. True to God’s nature he’s taken my fears and experience and rebuilt them as a platform to lift up others who find themselves struggling in mental illness.

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My dad and my daughter.

Shortly after my 35th birthday I asked my dad to go to counseling with me, which we did earlier this year. You cannot heal in the present without visiting your past. Part of anorexia recovery meant taking my dad’s hand and walking together through some painful memories from my childhood.  It was eight intense weeks of raw honesty and emotion that yielded understanding, forgiveness, and fresh space for us to grow in relationship going forward.  I know my dad loves me and he’s got my back even if we don’t agree on things. I feel confident and valued knowing my dad has my back, which is imperative as I continue to learn and express who I am without the crutch of perfection. A girl always needs her dad. <3

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My 30’s so far have been my best messiest decade. It’s the decade where God is carving away my self-made facade to reveal who I really am as He crafted me. With both discomfort and gratitude I appreciate the process, yet I am still learning how to rejoice in the results. So, happy birthday to me! And happy birthday to you if we share this day or even this season. May your fresh new year be blessed with something beautifully unexpected.

<3 Peace and love.

What if I don’t believe in Jesus?

I was 12 years old when I accepted Jesus into my heart. Choosing Jesus as my Lord had nothing to do with my salvation. At the time I wasn’t thinking about how sinful I was or staying out of eternal Hell. I was thinking about how lonely and awkward I felt in the midst of the peers and adults around me. It had finally come to my attention that who I was didn’t fit with the crowds in which I found myself at school or church or my neighborhood. The youth pastor at our family church retreat told a group of us kids that Jesus wanted to be our friend. That He loved us. If I wanted to know that love, that acceptance, that friendship, all I had to do was accept Jesus into my heart and follow Him. I chose Jesus because I wanted to be loved, not because I wanted to be saved.

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My relationship with Christ the last 24 years has never been about my salvation from Hell. I also have never worried about anyone else’s future in Heaven or Hell either. As I have grown in knowledge and experience with Jesus, there’s been confusion in my heart as to why so many Christians worry and argue and dictate over other people’s repentance and afterlife in Heaven or Hell.

A couple years ago when a dear loved one in our family passed away, a friend asked me if this loved one was a Believer (one who’s accepted Jesus as his Lord). No, he wasn’t a Believer. My friend, with a wince in her face and tension in her body, asked, “How do you feel about that? The Bible is clear about what happens to those who aren’t saved.” I bristled inside. I told my friend I had to believe my dear, sweet loved one was dancing in Heaven with his beloved wife who had passed before him.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized the general belief in current Christian culture about salvation and eternal Hell is completely and shockingly different than what I believe… what I have always considered to be true since I was 12 but never explored until now. Generally speaking, Christianity says if you don’t believe in God, then you’re going to Hell. If you want a place in Heaven, then you must be made right with God by repenting and choosing Jesus. If this is true then that means over half the world is going to burn in Hell for eternity and only a select few will enter the gates of Heaven.

Geez. God’s house must be pretty small.

It would also mean we have a cruel and exclusive God. I don’t believe this at all. This general theology doesn’t match the character of the God I have come to know and love.

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The moment Jesus died on that precious and wretched cross, everyone became saved. Whether you believe in God or not, Jesus died for you and you are welcome as a citizen in God’s kingdom. The death and Resurrection of Jesus is so significant that it was for every single person on this planet, regardless of religion, sin, sexual orientation, race, crimes, belief and unbelief. “For God so loved this world, He sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” I don’t see that second half–“that whoever believes in Him”–as a condition for the entry of Heaven. It’s an invitation to believe in a love so big and existential that our life becomes transformed and alive in a way that is supernatural here on Earth yet completely natural in the spiritual realm. If we don’t accept the invitation, we risk perishing in the consequences of our human nature, choices we make driven by natural human desire and selfishness.

The love of Jesus and the result of his sacrifice on the cross is 100% inclusive, all-encompassing and scandalous. His love and gift of salvation for all God’s children includes those whom I personally cannot even fathom loving–such as murderers, terrorists, sex traffickers, child abusers, animal abusers, (Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump! 😛 )–and people who have hurt me so badly they aren’t even safe to be in my life anymore.  But every single person in this world is painstakingly and purposefully knitted into existence by the hand of God, making each one of us His child–loved and welcomed to the gift of life He has for us through Jesus.

I believe there is Heaven and Hell, and I believe there is justice and consequences for those who choose to live a life hurting others. I also believe in the power of repentance. However, my point here today is to say God does not toss into eternal Hell those who don’t believe in Jesus. I have heard it asked that if everyone is welcome into the Kingdom of Heaven, if there is no eternal Hell, then what’s the point?  I say, take away both Heaven and Hell and God still matters. If all we’re left with is God, isn’t He enough? 

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If you’re feeling alone, cast aside, and awkward in a world where you don’t fit, please know that Jesus loves you and wants you. You’re already saved. He’s just waiting for you to take his hand and accept Him. Choose Jesus for love and watch how your life changes. A simple prayer grasps His hand, “Dear Jesus, I choose you to lead my life. Show me the way and I will follow You.” And if you’re an unBeliever in Christ–atheist or agnostic or a parishioner of another religion–that’s okay. I still believe Jesus loves you and welcomes you if you ever want to meet Him.

For my friends and family who are reading this, worried about my theology and/or think my belief is wildly misled and filled with lies of the enemy: If believing God’s love is so big that it allows for Jesus’ death to mean life for all His people, not just Believers, makes me ludicrous, then so be it. You can pray that God changes my mind, but what would it mean for your theology if He doesn’t?

 

 

Christians are not all the same

We’re not all the same, you know. Us Christians. About the only thing we have in common as a collective church is that we believe Jesus to be the Son of God and He’s our savior. When I say I am a Christian, that’s what I mean. Jesus is my savior, so I follow him. But each Christian is unique in living out what following Jesus means.

What I want you to understand is that I am not one of the Christians who will keep you at arm’s length with a Bible flapping in my outstretched hand showing you how you’re living your life wrong. (The only time I’ll keep you at a distance is if you’re physically, mentally, or emotionally harming me or my loved ones. And even then I am not going to stab you with Bible verses.)

I don’t believe you have to repent or “be right with God” before he’ll wrap you up in His arms to love you. If you want Him, if you need Him, if you desire your life to be different, then turn around right now–as you are–because He’s there with his arms outstretched waiting for you. If there’s repentance that needs to happen, it will happen and it will happen between you and God. Just the two of you. When it’s time, you’ll know because you’ll feel a conviction in your heart–a tug, a knowing, an understanding you can’t explain, a gut-wrench that pulses up your body and makes you a little bit dizzy–and you’ll want to be forgiven and healed from the wrongdoing. You’ll want to be made different.

God will never force you to be different, clean, or “good enough” the way some Christians will. I’m sorry if that has happened to you already. Truly sorry.

Personally, I’ve never seen nor experienced Jesus wait for repentance before he offers love, grace, and mercy. Some Christian’s believe grace isn’t free. I disagree. The best example I have is when Jesus was on the cross being tortured while literally hanging by nails, and he lifted a prayer to God on behalf of his torturers: “Forgive them, Lord, for they do not know what they are doing.” Call me crazy but I don’t think the lynch mob having their violent way with Jesus was “right with God” nor were they repented. Heck, they didn’t even believe Jesus was God. Yet, Jesus, went to bat for them with God anyway. Because he loved them.

He loves you the same. And I’m guessing you haven’t even lynched anybody lately. You don’t have to be a certain way to receive God’s love. Just be you. That’s enough.

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 Of course, you could say, “No way is this true. Dumb Bible speaks fantasy.” Wouldn’t it be great if it was true, though? If this God, this Jesus, this wacky Holy Spirit Christians talk about were the real deal?

Well, I believe 100%. I believe in that LOVE.

And because I believe, and because I love Jesus and I want to do my best to follow him, this is what it means for you and me as friends:

If you are labeled as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or some other sexually oriented specific gender/non-gender label, then I am going to be your friend. I will draw you in close and honor who you are without conditions. I’ll will support your fight for the right to love and live how you need to love and live. If you’re hurting then I will pray for you, hug you, and take you out for coffee.

If you are thinking about an abortion, then I am going to listen to your story, your pain and fear. We’ll wrestle through your options together. I am going to tell you that if you keep your baby, you’re going to be okay and God is going to love you and take care of you and that little baby through the hardships. I will tell you that if you abort your baby, God is going to love you and take care of you and that sweet little baby through the hardships. I’ll tell you that I hope and pray you choose life, but if you decide abortion is the only way, then I’ll help you find a clinic that is safe, help you find followup physical care and mental health support, and help you find healing for your heart.

If you struggle with mental illness and/or are thinking about suicide, then I am going to listen to your story and your pain. I am going to ask you directly if you’re safe and if you’re not, then I am going to find a way to get you help. We’ll wrestle through all your options together. Suicide is an option, but I promise there are better ones. I am going to tell you that you matter, and if no one else sees you, know God sees you and He loves you. And if you don’t believe it, that’s okay. I am going to help you find good mental health support, and I am going to pray for you anyway.

Pick a hot topic and I’ll keep going. My point is:  Right or wrong, sinful or not, I believe Jesus walks with you and God loves you. I don’t worry about nor require your repentance to accept you or hang out with you because that isn’t my concern. My concern lies solely with whether or not you feel loved by God.

Some Christians may argue that you have to repent and get right with God in order to truly earn the love and the grace Jesus offers. I am not one of those Christians. We aren’t all the same. He loves you as is. And so do I.

Green is…

I’m feeling better. Several hours after writing my last post, I lay down on my living room floor, looked over at my cat, Romey, and asked, “What is my deal? Why am I so full of angst?” I closed my eyes and prayed, “God, help me understand.”

Clear as day a memory flooded my mind from late November 2014–it was week three of my anorexia rehab. I was at my friend Jen’s art studio painting a canvas for a creative non-fiction piece I had written for my friend Kelcey called “Green Is.” I was so nervous; I was afraid of painting something wrong–mixing the colors wrong, making the lines wrong, making a complete mess of the vision that was in my head. The piece was supposed to be green and gold with the writing placed in the middle of the canvas.

As Jen guided me through the process, it didn’t take long to see why God had led me to the studio. Among other things, this session was a lesson in patience.  As I had finished applying the paint to the canvas, I was pleased with what I saw. “Great! All done,” I said. Jen grinned. “Art is never done in one application. You have to go back and fill in all the thin spots.” She held my canvas up to the window and streams of light filtered through my green and gold landscape.

I huffed.

“It takes patience.” Jen said.

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Here I was again, lying impatiently on my living room floor praying to God to help me understand why my eating disorder was triggered. I thought I was better. I’d done the hard work and even went back and uprooted my childhood with my dad. We were healing. What’s the deal, man?

Patience, dear one. I’m not done yet. Don’t let go of Me. 

Then I had the strong urge to revisit the Bible verse that had helped me compose the piece:

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Reading it, taking it in, has brought me peace. There are things about my journey I can’t see and don’t understand. It’s going to take patience on my part when I am feeling frustrations of my mental illness.  Despite the mundane-ness, my leaves are still green and I am still bearing fruit… progress is happening and I am being made new.

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“Green Is” is what I call a “color profile” of my friend Kelcey. I write color profiles about people I love, combining the psychological and Biblical meanings of a color with what I know to be true of the person about whom I am writing:

Natural and raw and unmasked, green hides nothing and exposes a balance of the heart. Green is shades of jade, not of judgment and querimonious brood but of life, compassion, and mercy. Abundant in strength and zeal, green constantly flourishes in growth; it boasts endless seasons of spiritual and emotional generosity and spreads a wealth of renewal for withering meadows.  It is the healing Chroma not easily faded, for its peaceful vibrancy remains bold against grey.  Green does not burn in firestorms, rather it braves that which threatens to destroy life and draws upon the waters of faith rooted in the depths of the heart. Green bestows and honors organic love.

Soft are the hues of this lush color in times of revival, planting tender seeds of security and peace, and promising vitality for those who rest upon the nurturing stem of the emerald spirit. Green is a canopy under which lies introspective energy and safety; a refreshing refuge for the weary and fearful.  Verdant harmonies, cast from the warmth of optimism and the coolness of insight, produce the richest of hope for mournful souls. Green is the purest giver of gentle spiritedness among an earthly grove of living treasures.

Purple Is

Cyan Is

Orange Is

Gray Is

No Longer Divided: Loving the LGBTQ Community

I grew up believing it wasn’t okay to be homosexual or bisexual. I had no idea what transgender was until a few years ago. I confess I am still learning the intricacies of what “being trans” really means. I assumed, though, that transgender probably wasn’t okay either, according to the Christian doctrine in which I was raised.

A few years ago I noticed what I had learned in my Christian faith wasn’t matching the feelings in my heart. I was hearing that living as LGBTQ is against God’s will and truth, but I was feeling God’s grace, mercy, and love is applicable to everyone. I’ve sat back for several years now, watching, listening, reading, praying, trying to sort out the confusion within myself. I’ve kept quiet on the matter believing that adding my voice to such a divisive subject only helped widen the chasm between the two sides– it’s right, it’s wrong. It’s sin, it’s not sin. They deserve, they don’t deserve. I’ve seen the Bible verses and analyses for both sides of the topic. I’ve also learned in my own life nothing about God or His word is as clear cut as it appears.

I’ve tried on “hate the sin, love the sinner.” While it seemed to make sense on the surface, it didn’t fit my heart either. To hate a sin means I have to judge something as sinful. It is not my place to judge something as sinful let alone rally around my hate of it, because I am sinful all the damn time. To hate someone else’s sin makes me a judgmental hypocrite. This quote also asks me to put conditions on my love. “I love you, BUT…”  I can’t love that way; I don’t want to be loved that way.

So, I did what I always do when I am confused. I turn to Jesus. What does He have to say to me about the issue: “A new command I give you, love one another as I have loved you.”

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When I look at Jesus, he never threw anyone’s sin in their face. He loved people–radically–despite their sins. He healed them. He talked to them. He ate with them. He stood up for them. He never shamed or condemned people for their sin. Jesus didn’t avoid or withhold respect from people who were seen as immoral or distasteful. He totally disregarded the lines of discrimination and segregation, going out of his way to be in the presence of and love folks who were seen as living “ungodly.” If being LGBTQ is sinful or a religious abhorrence, I Walk to the crosswould never know it by watching Jesus.

Secondly, I don’t need to wrestle with the question of whether being LGBTQ is sinful because it doesn’t actually matter. It’s not my job to decide if other people are sinning or how they are sinning.  The command is to love the same way He did. That’s it. No conditions.

I don’t yet fully understand what being LGBTQ means and what the culture looks like for different gender identities. I am in process of learning. But the Jesus kind of love doesn’t require me to understand. Radical love means I accept, honor, respect, protect, and support people even though something about their lives jolts my brain in a different way. While my brain might be challenged my heart isn’t.

My heart hurts when I see the suicide rates for transgender teens; hear stories of families kicking a child out of the home because of his/her sexual orientation; sense cold tension between mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, brothers and sisters because of gender conflict. My heart breaks when I hear of churches who either won’t welcome or welcome-with-conditions people of the LGBTQ community. Putting conditions on someone’s welcome into a church is a side door to discrimination. Partial acceptance is 100% hurtful to anyone, including Jesus, searching for a fully embraced relationship.

I believe every person has a right to live proudly, safely, and equally with dignity as who they identify to be. That’s just good humanity. As a Jesus follower, I get to offer a special kind of love in addition to all that. I see my faith as pathway to loving LGBTQ lives, not an inhibitor.

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For me as a Christian, to tell someone it’s wrong to be LGBTQ and/or to hatefully chastise them for living what’s normal for them would be no worse than someone telling me it’s wrong to identify myself as a daughter of God and/or to hate on me when I pray to or write about God.  I love my LGBTQ brothers and sisters and fully support them in who they are because God does. I believe He loves them and holds them close. I believe He is grieved by the hate, discrimination, and rejection they face in our world, especially by the church. LGBTQ folks are adopted and adored children of God just as I am. Their desires are the same: to be in relationship and to find happiness. There is no greater happiness than feeling the full embrace of radical love.

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My friend sent me two links to insightful, enlightening, and articulate perspectives from transgender young people, one male (Liam Posovich) and one female (Nicole Maines). I encourage you to listen with an open mind and really hear what they’re saying. My heart was absolutely moved.

Maines:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/nicole-maines-tedx_us_57360103e4b060aa781a22a3

Posovich: