2016.

It’s that time of the year–the annual December “End of the Year” blog post. So crazy. Time is a funny thing.

I started this blog seven years ago–it had a different name. I actually don’t remember it. Seven years ago in December, I was unaware that everything in my life was about to change. That it was about to be “ruined.” And that I would begin to chronicle my ruined life. Six years ago, in the ‘end of the year’ post for 2010, I wrote,

Farewell 2010. This year God ruined my life…and I am forever thankful.

I am so thankful for 2010. And for the six years that have followed. They have, by far, been the most difficult years of my life. But there is beauty in the ashes.

2016. What a strange year. It has ended rather painfully, so my brain is having trouble processing through much of the rest. But there was a lot of good this year. The Lord is always good. Even in the hard.

I think pictures will help as I gather my thoughts.

As always, in no particular order…

 

In January, I decided to get another job. I was working on campus, but felt that my health had improved enough to allow me to get a job off campus. I didn’t think I would ever return to the barista life (I should really learn to “never say never”), but I applied and started working again at the Bucks. I was nervous. I was afraid that I would get too sick to work, but the Lord sustained me. Even on the bad days. He graciously helped me feel well enough to get through every long day for the 7 months I worked there.

Working two jobs while being a full time grad student was not easy. And the long mundane work days of the (ridiculously hot) summer taught me a lot about trusting God with the mundane. Rejoicing in the Extraordinary Ordinary Life . 

I visited my beloved Birmingham. I saw an amazing production of “The Little Mermaid” and grinned from ear to ear. I grabbed the final copy of Cursed Child in Barnes & Noble and gleefully read through the long awaited play while dreaming of seeing it performed live one day. I laughed and caught up with dear friends. Visited my church. Had lunch with my voice professor from Samford. And, of course, ate a Popsicle from Steel City Pops.

I began my final year at CIU. A year prior, I didn’t think I would make it to my final year. My health was greatly deteriorating and the prospects of becoming a teacher were grim. But I’m still here. I’m about to begin my final semester. And I am so thankful.

 

In April, I turned 27. I wore a dress with ice cream cones on it, got a pedicure, ate Ethiopian food, and my friends and I played several rounds of “Pie Face” (That game literally never stops being funny to me). My life is not what I imagined it would be like at 27 (nearing 28…yikes). But I am learning to rejoice in what has been given to me, not pining after that which has not. I told my friend the other day, “We need to learn how to let go of what we thought our lives would look like and be thankful for the life we’ve been given.” Easier said than done.

I went to the beach by myself for the first time. That probably sounds like a nightmare to most people, but this introvert was so happy. I drove to Charleston one day that I wasn’t working and spent the day soaking up the sun, reading, and walking in the waves.

 

I got my second tattoo. “But if not, He is still good”

I’ve realized that Christian suffering places you within the Biblical tension of Luke 22:42. Jesus, on the Mount of Olives, prays, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Christian suffering places you in the tension of that prayer–the tension between “Remove this cup from me” and “not my will, but yours be done”. This is the tension I am desperately trying to live in. Trying desperately to breathe in. It’s suffocating sometimes. The “But if not” of Daniel 3. God is more than able to save–to heal. We worship a God we cannot exaggerate. He is able to do immeasurably more than all that we ask or think. I believe with all my heart that God is able to heal my broken body. But if not. God’s character would not change. He wouldn’t become less good, less able, or less powerful. In all things, He has never and will never become less “for me”.Relearning to Breathe

I discovered (What I already knew) that I couldn’t paint 😉 But still super fun. Also thankful for my friend, Marshall. Barista friendships are some of the best ones.

I discovered an incredible dance studio that only offers adult classes. I was so excited to put my tap shoes on again. It is incredibly fun. I truly love to tap.

I met this girl this year. She’s crazy. And loud. And “everything I’m not” (hahaha). I’m really thankful for her. And her amazing dance skills.

Danielle moved home to New York in January, and Anna moved back home to Kentucky after she graduated in May. I lost my two best friends. But in August, the “321” came to Louisville and stayed with my family. It was so much fun. I miss these two with all my heart. I am forever thankful to the Lord for placing me in the same apartment as them two years ago. We prayed together and wept when we said goodbye. Forever 321.

I fully began the MA Bible Teaching program this fall. I taught 5th graders once a week (and seriously reconsidered my decision to become a teacher at least 10 times a week 😉 ). Life went from theology books, research papers, and exegetical papers to lesson plans and teaching, and it was scary and hard and fun and overwhelming and exciting all at once. I will be student teaching in the spring and, Lord willing, I will graduate in April. What comes after that, only the Lord knows. But He is already there. I rest in that.

I WENT TO THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER!!!! Y’all don’t even know. To say I was on cloud nine would be a vast understatement. My sister had park-to-park tickets. She’s not a Harry Potter fan, but she said watching me experience it was worth it. It was the most perfect day.

I ran a few races. Before I got sick, I was working my way up to a half marathon. A year prior to the first 5K, I could barely walk and I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to run again. The Lord is gracious.

Weddings, weddings, weddings!! (NOT enough! I love going to weddings 🙂 )

Who me? I don’t like Harry Potter…

Winter Formal with the baes.

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This semester I got two new roommates. They are both wonderful. One of them has become my person. She hails from the great state of Bama, has a strong accent, adds “the” onto places (“We going to the Walmart?”), is obsessed with chili cheese dogs, and is a die hard Alabama fan (Roll Tide). Let me tell you, this girl makes me laugh. She is the most selfless person I know–always giving and giving. Always serving. She has been an incredible friend to me this semester. I honestly don’t know what I would have done this fall without her. I don’t think I would have made it. Love my Jessica. (That’s our tree, Charles Frederick Williamson, III)

Also, check out our cover of Shane and Shane’s “Though You Slay Me”: https://youtu.be/QtC3hs1XhkQ

Still rocking various shades of red lips. I think it has become part of my personality.

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Still trying to become a viral meme 😉

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Oh yeah…I read all the Harry Potter books again. (I promise I read a lot of other books too)

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I met a boy.

That might be old hat to most people. But it wasn’t for me.

I was single for over 27 years before I met a boy.

I honestly didn’t think it would ever happen for me. I wanted it to. I wrestled with my singleness. I struggled with living in the tension of desiring marriage, but not making that desire ultimate. As my twenties neared their end, the wrestling continued.

Then I met a boy.

He was unexpected. Very. For the first time in my life, I was pursued. Passionately. I didn’t know what to think of it. I was hesitant and cautious. But, oh, how he made me laugh. I was always ‘me’ with him. I felt beautiful. I’d never really felt beautiful. I felt special. And deeply cared for. I felt safe. I felt at home. We spent a lot of time getting to know each other (again, I was cautious)—and I loved every minute. He very nervously asked me to be his girlfriend one day, and after 27 years of singleness, I entrusted my heart to him and I said ‘yes.’

Then it ended.

And most days I struggle to breathe. The ache in my heart is unbearable. I don’t want to feel anymore. I have been on a roller coaster of endless feelings and I want off. I want to trade my heart in for a new one—one that couldn’t feel—one that isn’t broken. I wept deleting the photos and the videos.

Immediately, my mind was enveloped in lies. For weeks, I couldn’t shake them. Why would you think you were worth wanting? No one wants you. No one ever has. The only one who did changed his mind. You never mattered and you never will. You were just another girl. Another disposable girl. One he could just throw away. He doesn’t miss you. He never even liked you. I crawled back into bed one afternoon and I stayed there. For hours. Tears emptying onto my pillow as the ache in my chest deepened, widened, and consumed. Why did God allow this to happen? Why did He dangle this in front of me then rip it away? Why does He want me to be miserable?  The lies were endless and they were deafening.

I wanted there to be a knock on the door. And I would open it and he would be standing there. Like he used to. I wanted to text him and tell him about everything that had been happening. I wanted to listen to him tell me everything that was going on in his life. I wanted him to make fun of me for being old. I wanted him to be next to me when I was watching a movie. It was so strange how empty the couch felt. I wanted to send him a picture of the pie cutter I finally found in Walmart one day. The one I had given him such a hard time about. I wanted to tell him my placement for student teaching in the spring. I wanted him to look at me and to tell me I was going to be okay and that he believed in me. I wanted to know his opinion of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I wanted to dance with him in my living room. I wanted to be with him.

Then I found out that he had been lying. He had deceived me. Tremendously. He lied to me for five months. I, honestly, don’t know what to believe. It was all a lie. And I feel like a fool. A used. Broken. Fool. He threw me away like I was nothing. And the pain is unimaginable. Read more here: To the girl who was thrown away.

The pain is agonizing. It hurts like hell. I greatly understand being in physical pain. But heartache is a different pain. Almost more unbearable than the pain that left me bedridden for nearly a year. But it’s getting better. Slowly. Very slowly. I am fighting depression. It’s a good day if I don’t feel permanently nauseated. I am struggling to get out of bed. But, I am trying to trust. I am learning to truly release my future into the Lord’s hands. I desperately want control. 

He has hurt me so much. So much. And, from the deepest part of my heart, I honestly desire and pray for the best for him. I told him that I forgave him. But the grief is real. It is excruciatingly real. 

So I have returned to the single life. And honestly, it’s hard. I don’t want to be single. I fear my age sometimes—fearing I have missed my chance. That my window of opportunity has passed. I really loved being someone’s girlfriend. I got a picture of a possibility that I loved. I want to be married. I want to have a family. I want to be a wife. I want to be a mom. But I also don’t want to be angry if it never happens again—if I’m never again someone’s girlfriend. I am also terrified of ever being in another relationship. I don’t know how I could ever go through this again. I honestly don’t think I ever could. And I don’t know how to trust a guy again. The Lord will have to work mightily on this shattered heart.

Oh so much fear. The Lord has commanded me not to fear. But I confess I am afraid.

I also don’t want to be bitter with God if I never get married. And I don’t want to be bitter that this happened. That I wasn’t spared this pain. That the Lord allowed me to be thrown away. And that somehow that is love.

But He gives more grace.

 

More grace and more beauty in the ashes. Honestly, I am finishing up this year very sad. My heart has been ripped to shreds. I feel like I am crawling through these last days of 2016. And I think that’s okay. It’s okay to be sad. God isn’t angered by our tears. He keeps them. Grieving is part of life. But there is hope. Because of the cross, I have been given an imperishable hope. Knowing the past of what God has done, I can hope in the future—not in wishful thinking, but in certainty of the promises of God. He has not abandoned me. I may be crawling, but He is with me down there, helping me along.

And my prayer for 2017 is that I will hope in God. No matter what happens. No matter what doesn’t happen that I wish would. No matter how scary. No matter how hard. No matter how disappointing. No matter how good. That I will hope in God. That I will hope in God in my ruined life.

I wish you all the best as you bid farewell to 2016 and welcome 2017.

 “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

Psalm 43:5

When it Hurts

 

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My heart hurts today.

A deep ache that is not easily soothed.

Sometimes I think I’m okay. Then the ache worsens. And deepens. And widens.

Naturally, the lies have begun to swarm around in my head.

I am tempted to believe each one.

Battling through life with a chronic illness, the question of “Why?” always, at some point, makes its way into my mind. I’m accustomed to the “why.”

I feel the “why” today.

The “What was the point?”

The “I don’t understand.”

And it hurts.

The hurt has made its way up and out of my mouth in the form of prayer. It’s made its way out in coping mechanisms of laughter and copious amounts of sarcasm and textbook self-deprecation. It has largely made its way up and out of my eyes in the form of hours of tears.

I am reminded of Psalm 77.

I cry aloud to God,
    aloud to God, and he will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
    in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
    my soul refuses to be comforted.
When I remember God, I moan;
    when I meditate, my spirit faints.

 

In the first 9 verses of Psalm 77, the Psalmist cries out to the Lord. He is broken. He is in anguish. He doesn’t understand. He is asking why.

I love the Psalms. The Psalms are evidence that we do not have to pretend to be “okay.” We can come before the Lord broken–shattered into pieces. God is not angry at us for asking “why.” He is not annoyed by our tears. He doesn’t scorn us for being sad. It is okay to be sad.

But the Psalmist takes a turn,

Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
    to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”[b]

11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will ponder all your work,
    and meditate on your mighty deeds.

In verses 10-12, the Psalmist decides, in the midst of the pain, to choose to remember. He chooses to remember the truth of who God is. He chooses to ponder His great works and to meditate on His mighty deeds. The Psalmist does not deny the existence of the pain. He does not pretend that all is well. Rather, the Psalmist declares that, although the pain and heartache are real and very present, He chooses truth. He chooses faith.

Tim Keller writes, “Faith is not primarily a function of how you feel. Faith is living out, trusting, and believing what truth is despite what you feel.”

Faith trusts when it hurts. Faith chooses God when it hurts.

Lastly, the Psalmist continues,

Your way, O God, is holy.
    What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
    you have made known your might among the peoples.

The Psalmist finishes the remainder of the Psalm in worship. Despite the deepest possible pain, the Psalmist proclaims that God is worthy of all praise. His way is holy–His way is perfect and right–what god is great like our God?

 

My heart hurts today. I don’t understand the “why.” And the Lord knows that. He will be hearing from me quite a bit about it. I have and will continue to cry out to the Lord. But it will not stop there. I will cry out. But I will also choose to trust. I will choose to remember who God is and how He has loved me with a love I will never deserve. I will choose to remember that He has never and will never forsake me. I will choose to remember that His way is perfect. I will choose to remember that He is always working all things together for my good and for His glory.

And then I will worship.

I will praise His beautiful Name.

I will fall on my knees in adoration.

I will declare that He is enough. That He is everything I need.

That He is the greatest treasure and the true satisfier of my soul.

That He holds the world in His good and just hands.

That He is sovereign over all.

 

That He is there to hold me when it hurts.

To the praise of His glorious grace.

 

Two Years.

 

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I’ve been sick for two years.

That’s strange to say.

Strange and overwhelming at the same time.

I remember when I hit one year. I wasn’t sure what that day would be like or how I would feel. I remember waking up and crying. I cried off and on throughout the entire day. I was overwhelmed with emotion.

But I wasn’t sad.

I never felt sad that day. Not once. I never felt angry. Not for a moment.

It was just joy. The Lord gave me joyous tears overflowing from an overwhelmed heart–a heart in awe of grace.

There have been many many days since September 21, 2014 that I have been sad. Unbearably sad. I have looked into the eyes of counselors and have spoken the words, “I don’t know how to not be sad anymore.” There have been many times when I felt like a shell–a mere shadow of the person I once was. There have been times when I have begged and pleaded with the Lord to kill me. There have been times the sadness grew so strong that it almost resulted in me ending my life.

I have been sad.

There have been many many days since September 21, 2014 that I have been angry. So angry. I have come face to face with my sense of entitlement–that God owed me the perfect, healthy, adventurous life–and I have been angry that I was instead a bedridden twenty-something, barely capable of walking some days. I have looked upon others with intense jealousy, angry that God had withheld intense suffering from them; giving them their dreams and Instagram-worthy lives while seemingly destroying mine. I have laid in bed day after day and week after week, unable to function outside of it, and I have been angry.

I have been angry.

As I reflect back on the two years that have passed since September 21, 2014, I don’t see a suffering hero. I have failed every single day. I have not wholly trusted the Lord at all times. I have not rejoiced always. I have doubted.

But God.

He has been faithful when I was faithless. He has sustained me. He has held onto me when I no longer felt I could hold onto Him.

Last year on the 21st of September, I woke up and started weeping. One year later, after living with chronic excruciating pain, depression, growing medical bills, endless tests and doctor visits, uncertainty about my future–I was still sick. The Lord didn’t make it go away.

But that is not why I wept.

I wept because of His love for me. His unimaginable perfect love for me.

God didn’t heal me. It has been two years now, and God has not healed me. And He might, in His infinite wisdom, never choose to. And He loves me. This is not a paradox.

God is a good Father, and everything He does in our lives is good. Everything. He is committed to molding me into the image of Christ, no matter how painful the process might be. In Him not healing me, He is perfectly loving me.

As year two comes to its end, and year three begins, my desire is to rejoice in all that the Lord has done and all that He continues to do in “my ruined life.” I pray that I will continue to learn to lean on Him as I walk, by His grace, in obedience. I pray that I will learn to rejoice always and to pray without ceasing. I pray that He will help my unbelief.

I still battle fear. I still battle the daily living in a body that fails me. I still battle sadness and anger. Two years later, I still fail.

But God.

Every day is really hard. And I fail every day. And every day He gives more grace.

We are saved by the gospel and we never graduate from it. And I am thankful for that. I am saved by grace and I live by grace.

I am no suffering hero. Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the foremost. Two years later, “I believe, help my unbelief!” is still my heart’s cry. I fall down at the foot of the cross where there is grace overflowing. I fall down at the foot of the cross and I will not get back up.

I have been sick for two years. And I am thankful.

 

 

My Extraordinary Ordinary Life.

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Most days my alarm goes off at 4:52 AM. I (sadly) turn my alarm off, slowly roll out of bed, and, sleepily, get ready for work. I don all black apparel, grab my hat and green apron, and get into my car. As I drive past the other apartment buildings, noticing the dark windows which assume sleeping residents, a tinge of jealousy always sweeps over me.

Most days I spend my mornings serving people coffee. Most days I get covered in whipped cream and coffee grinds. Most days I make someone upset by failing to be perfect. Most days I come home with aching feet and the strong desire to take a nap. Most days I do.

Then, most days, I go to my second job. I clean and I do a lot of reading. Then I come back to my apartment. And I crawl back into bed. And 5 or 6 hours later, my alarm goes off again at 4:52AM.

My life is kind of boring.

It’s mundane.

Perhaps just for a season, but nevertheless, it’s boring.

A cyclical pattern day in and day out with rare diversions.

I scroll through my Facebook and Instagram feeds and wonder in amazement over the lives of others. My friends. My past classmates, teammates, etc. The vacations to Europe, the engagements, the exciting jobs, the musical and theatrical careers, the lavish parties, the gorgeous photoshoots. All of it, seemingly anything but boring.

And every day my alarm goes off at 4:52AM and, for minimum wage, I make coffee.

I am just kind of boring.

But perhaps life is made up of a lot of “boring.” And perhaps some seasons of life contain more of it than others. And perhaps some people have less of it, and that’s okay too. Comparison is indeed the thief of joy.

The “boring life”…IS life. And, it’s not to be dreaded, feared or, God-forbid, wasted. The Lord has placed me and has placed you wherever you, doing whatever you’re doing, for the sake of His great Name and for His glory. The “boring” life is to be lived as a spiritual act of worship. I am commanded to rejoice always. I am called to rejoice when I come home with milk in my hair because I have been blessed with a job–a job that helps pay bills, make student loan payments, and to put a little money away for my final year of grad school. I am called to rejoice when I go grocery shopping–how blessed am I to be able to afford nutritious food and the occasional box of chocolates and bouquet of fresh flowers to decorate my bedroom. I am to rejoice when I’m laying in bed reading a book or when I’m sitting on my couch watching a movie with a friend.  Both good gifts.

How often I have shaken my fists at God for leaving me in this “state of being” while those around me seemingly live lives of romance and grandeur. And it’s wrong.

Sometimes I am tempted to think if my life is not “exciting”, I am somehow failing. If I had truly given my life and my dreams to Lord, then He would surely work to make my life a thrilling adventure, right? My 20s have stood in direct contrast to this belief and it was greatly rocked when I became extremely ill. When you are mostly bedridden for a year, that theology will fail you. Because it’s not true. It puts your life in your hands, making God a sort of cosmic genie who grants your wildest dreams based upon your obedience or the amount of faith that you have. But it is not the amount or the strength of your faith, but the Object of your faith that saves you–Who saves you–who redeems and works in and through the boring life.

My prayers lately have been greatly about trust. Trusting God with my boring life. Trusting God with the mundane. Trusting God with the monotony. Trusting God with the life He has given me, even though it doesn’t look like I wish it did. Trusting that God hasn’t gotten something wrong or accidentally forgotten about me. Trusting that His ways are higher than mine and His way is perfect–even if I find it “boring.”

And praying for help to be faithful. Faithful in the silence. Faithful in the monotony. Faithful in the simple. Faithful in my boring life.

I pray that I will be faithful and obedient in the everyday tasks of every day. That I will glorify God in waking up, making lattes, doing laundry, doing my homework…That I will not waste away my days pitifully and selfishly upset about the cards I have been dealt, but that I will find my deepest satisfaction and my ultimate joy in my never changing, gracious God.

That I will be faithful in my extraordinary ordinary boring life.

So by dropping 13 years into the dumpster of history between chapters 16 and 17 the writer underscores the struggle of Abraham’s faith. what happened in those 13 years? Oh, what happened during the previous decade-plus. Abraham played veterinarian to his goats, settled scraps amount his herdsmen, sat up with Sarah when she had the flu, sent scouts out to look for water sources for the flocks-in short, all the sorts of things one does in the wash-your-face, brush-your-teeth, go-to-work routine of daily living. And year follows year that way, and Yahweh’s promise goes unfulfilled. Is the writer not telling us that time can be a severe problem for faith? That it can be hard to go on believing when you have to walk on in ordinary, run-of-the-mill living without seeing any of the fireworks of promise?

-Dale Ralph Davis

 

 

Song of Hope.

 

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Easter has come and gone but the resurrection still echoes its truth in my ears and my heart.

The song rings clearer still.

Hope.

Hope, it sings.

Hope.

I know I write often on here about my sickness. I suppose that is just the season of life I’m in. A season, I perhaps, will always be in. But only the Lord knows that.

Suffering awakened a longing within me for home. It was a longing that was there prior, but a longing that I have since experienced more deeply.

This world is not as it should be. It is broken. It is marred.

Children shouldn’t die of cancer. ISIS shouldn’t run rampant. Racism shouldn’t exist. Divorce shouldn’t happen. Politicians shouldn’t be corrupt. Poverty shouldn’t wage. Earthquakes shouldn’t destroy.

My body shouldn’t be broken.

But we live in a world that has been tainted by sin. My daily battles with the sin in my life are a constant reminder of this. In Christ, I have been saved from the penalty of sin and I have been saved from the power of sin (I am no longer its slave), but I have not been saved from the presence of sin. And the presence of sin and its effects are evident in realities such as human trafficking and the infant dying in his mother’s arms. It is in my bitter heart toward an unkind customer. And it is in my sickness.

And this is why Easter is my favorite. The resurrection sings a song of hope.

True hope. Certainty in the promises of God. Faith–the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, everything He said is true. Because Jesus rose from the dead, I am saved by grace alone through faith alone. Because Jesus rose from the dead, I am a slave to righteousness. Because Jesus rose from the dead, I have nothing to fear. Because Jesus rose from the dead, I can rejoice in hope.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, I can live with my illness.

As I walk (and oftentimes crawl) through life battling chronic illness, I rest in the hope of the resurrection.

The resurrection is my hope. It is my joy. It is my life. Without it, there is no truth to what I believe. Without the resurrection, my faith is futile and I am still in my sins. Without the resurrection, my light and momentary affliction would be unbearable.

Tim Keller writes, “Suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you.”

And, He is. I know that because of the resurrection.

Throughout the past year and a half I have reached unimaginable lows. I have pleaded with God to kill me. I have contemplated suicide.

But in the midst of my darkness, there shone the hope of the resurrection.

“Jesus lost all his glory so that we could be clothed in it. He was shut out so we could get access. He was bound, nailed, so that we could be free. He was cast out so we could approach. And Jesus took away the only kind of suffering that can really destroy you: that is being cast away from God. He took so that now all suffering that comes into your life will only make you great. A lump of coal under pressure becomes a diamond. And the suffering of a person in Christ only turns you into somebody gorgeous.”

Tim Keller

The resurrection is proof that one day He will make all things new. That one day He will wipe every tear from my eyes. My body won’t be broken anymore. I will be free from the presence of sin. I will see His face.

The resurrection is proof that one day all of the sad things will come untrue.

No matter what happens in this life, I have an unwavering hope. No matter what I get or do not get. No matter how wonderful or how painful. I have an unyielding hope.

“That which should distinguish the suffering of believers from unbelievers is the confidence that our suffering is under the control of an all-powerful and all-loving God. Our suffering has meaning and purpose in God’s eternal plan, and He brings or allows to come into our lives only that which is for His glory and our good.”

Jerry Bridges

I often long for home. But I pray that my time on this earth will be used to tell the world about that home–and the resurrection that makes going home possible.

Easter has come and gone, but the song remains–that beautiful song of hope. Oh, sweet hope. Hope that is all I have. Hope that is all I need. Hope that has set my heart free.

 

Singleness and Lies

 

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“It’s not really the fact of ending up ‘alone’. It’s the lies I believe about it. They’re the worst part.”

I held my coffee cup in my hands as I stared off blankly—a habit I have when I am contemplating and haven’t sorted my thoughts neatly into words yet (Do I ever sort my thoughts neatly into words?).

My friend nodded as she listened.

I had discussed the same idea, briefly, with a friend the previous night.

He had asked me if being single actually did upset me. I responded that it really didn’t, but every once and awhile it was hard.

And as I began to explain why, something dawned on me that I hadn’t really thought through before.

Yes, just like anyone, I desire to meet someone one day who makes me laugh so hard it hurts. I would love to marry someone someday who loves Jesus way more than he loves me, who is a humble leader, and who enjoys a good musical. Who doesn’t want to meet someone who they can cry with, laugh with, grow with, and get old and fat with?

But the possibility of never having that is not what aches when I have a “singleness bad day”. It’s the lies. The greatest pain is caused by the lies that begin to replay over and over again in my mind.

The lies of singleness that I am unworthy. That I am single because I am ugly. That I am single because, in every way possible, I am not enough. Whatever it is that is worth wanting, I am not it. I am not worth wanting. I am not worth marrying. I am flawed. I am broken. I am not desirable. I am not enough.

The lies again and again begin to fill my mind as a pool fills with water. And slowly, but surely, I begin to drown. The lies spill over into my actions and my thoughts of jealousy, bitterness, and apathy.

And that is the poison. That is what is really hard.

Yes, I desire for a partner in crime, but the issue is so much deeper than that. The fight is so much more than that. The fight is so much more than wishing I had someone to buy me chocolate and a bouquet of roses on Valentine’s Day. The fight is so much more than wishing I could plan the perfect Pinterest wedding and have someone to take hipster pictures for Instagram with.

The fight is against the lies that I feed myself.

The fight is against my battle with enough.

The fight is against my looking for joy in creation over Creator.

The fight is my tendency to believe Satan rather than God.

The sea of lies that so often accompany singleness is far worse than the prospect of a lifetime unmarried.

By God’s grace, I pray He will help me and all of us to wage war on the lies. Day by day. Hour by hour. Moment by moment. Detect the lies. Reject the lies. Replace them with the truth. 

What lies are you believing today? Reject them. Replace them. Speak truth to yourself.

Paul Tripp writes, “No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you as much as you talk to yourself.”

Tell yourself the truth today.

Your worth is fixed in Christ. You are perfectly and forever loved. His way is perfect. Trust Him today. He is the Truth. Rest in the truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Waste Your Pain

I am 27 years old and I suffer from chronic illness.

I never feel well. Honestly, I don’t remember what “well” feels like. My life drastically changed one afternoon when, out of nowhere, I began to feel dizzy and–“off”, you could say. That moment spun my health into a fast-moving downward spiral into complete debilitation. I was bedridden–moving in and out of endless doctors’ offices, seeing varying degrees of medical professionals–none of whom knew what was wrong and none who could help me.

My life now is lived at the mercy of, oftentimes, agonizing symptoms. I, as do countless others, feel sick every moment of every day.

And, this is my letter to you–whoever you might be–to you who are suffering. This is my letter to you asking you not to waste your pain.

Don’t waste your pain. 

Don’t waste your pain by doubting the character of God. 

God is more than able to heal. We worship a God we cannot exaggerate. He is able to do immeasurably more than all that we ask or think. I believe with all my heart that God is able to heal your and my broken body. But if not. No matter the circumstances of our lives, God’s character  does not change. He doesn’t become less good, less able, or less powerful. We are not always saved from going into the fires of this life. We are not promised health, wealth, and prosperity. We are not promised immunity from suffering. God may choose to allow us to go into the fire, but this I know to be true: He meets us in there. He doesn’t leave us in the fire alone. He hasn’t left you in this fire alone. And He will never leave you. God doesn’t always save us from going into the fire. Sometimes He saves us in the fire. And sometimes He doesn’t. In all things He is wise. In all things He is working for our good and for His glory. In all things He is good. Rejoice in that.

Don’t waste your pain by not seeing it as a gift. 

A gift? I know–the worst gift ever, right? But, our Father in heaven only gives us what is best for us. He is our perfect Father. As Tim Keller writes, “God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything He knows”. God is sovereign over your pain. Somehow, someway, this pain is the best possible thing for you. Somehow in the midst of pain and suffering, God has not abandoned you. The “good” in Romans 8:28 is found in Romans 8:29–all things work together for believers to be conformed into the image of His Son. God is deeply committed to our sanctification and He will see to it that you are made more like Jesus. Elisabeth Elliot writes,

“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering. The love of God is of a different nature altogether. It does not hate tragedy. It never denies reality. It stands in the very teeth of suffering. The love of God did not protect His own Son. The cross was the proof of His love – that He gave that Son, that He let Him go to Calvary’s cross, though “legions of angels” might have rescued Him. He will not necessarily protect us – not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.”

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

James 1:17

Don’t waste your pain by making healing your hope. 

Misplaced hope. This has long been a theme in my life. Looking horizontally for what I can only receive vertically. Looking to everything else but Jesus to satisfy the deepest longings of my heart. Elisabeth Elliot writes, “My heart was saying, “Lord, take away this longing, or give me that for which I long.” The Lord was answering, “I must teach you to long for something better.” To long for someone better—to long for Him instead. This is the battle I face every day as an idolater. My heart is plagued with that which cannot give me life. I often look to anything else but Jesus to be my savior, to give me joy, to fulfill me. I think, “If only I have____ I will be happy.” Then I will be content. Then I will be fulfilled. Then I will be saved.  But my health cannot save me. And, it cannot save you. Don’t want to want to be well more than you want the Lord to be glorified. Don’t want health more than you want Him. It’s hard. So hard. Praying for healing, but trusting the Lord’s goodness if He does not heal. Desiring to be well, but not letting that desire rule your thoughts and to become ultimate. Learning how to rejoice always, even when the darkness will not lift.

I pray for healing every day, but I don’t want my hope to be found in being well. Our pain is not wasted when we declare that God is better than healing–that His glory being made known through pain, is better.

Don’t waste your pain by not allowing God to teach you.

I have learned so much this past year or so walking (sometimes crawling) through life with chronic illness. I have learned dependence. I have learned to pray for the Lord’s help constantly–for help to take a shower, to go grocery shopping, or to sit in a coffee shop and read a book. All of which, are sometimes extremely difficult. I have gained a new longing for eternity. I long for the day when Jesus returns and restores this broken world. I have learned to more deeply hate sin for its effects on the world that include sickness. This has deepened my desire to fight against the sin in my life and to long for the day when sin will be no more. Being sick has also made me a more patient person and someone who can identify greatly with deep pain. The Lord is always teaching me about Himself and others through this. Don’t waste your pain by not allowing God to teach you.

Don’t waste your pain by believing yours is a wasted life. 

Lastly. You are not a wasted life. I understand the bitterness and the jealousy that can come from observing others with seemingly carefree lives. I have always been a “doer”, and my symptoms often rob me of the ability to “do”. My life may never look like how I imagined it would. I can play the comparison game and feel as though my life lands short of others’ lives who do not suffer from chronic illness. This is a lie. You are valuable. You are of great worth. God wastes nothing. And He hasn’t and will not waste you. Yours is not a wasted life. Whether you get well or not, trust that the Lord’s plan for your life is perfect. Be willing to let go of your plans and take hold of His. This God, His way is perfect. You are not a waste.

Don’t waste your pain.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

Revelation 21:3-4

 

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2015

My 2015. Beauty in the ashes.

It’s hard to know where to begin. This is the sixth “End of Year” post I have written on this blog. Crazy. As always, the years go by fast, and I feel as though I just wrote the last one. This year–wow. It’s hard to find the words. I would dare to say this has been the hardest year of my life. But. 

I feel as though that sums up this year–hell, but. Brokenness, but. Helplessness, but. Suffering, but. 

2014 ended painfully, and I brought in 2015 completely debilitated–my body relentlessly torturing me day and night with symptoms caused by an unknown ailment. An “ailment” that remains, to this day, unknown.

I have been in and out of so many doctors’ offices this year. It’s hard to remember them all. Some kind, most not. I spent a great deal of the first half of the year in bed. Some days I thought I would lose my mind. Some days I did. I have cried so much this year. I wept onto the pages of my Bible crying out to a God who I doubted was even listening. But. 

I had incredibly dark days. There were days I begged God to kill me. I didn’t want to go on. Not like this. Not in constant pain. I sat numbly in counselors’ offices. I didn’t know how to not be sad. The sadness would not go away. I felt like a mere shadow of the person I had once been. I felt like a shell. The Lord had ripped everything away from me, and I had nothing left. There were even darker days. One day in particular, desperate to be “normal”, I tried to drive myself to Starbucks, and all the while I was thinking about ways to drive into traffic and end it all.

But. 

In May, I didn’t think I would be able to continue with grad school. My symptoms made school incredibly difficult, and I didn’t want to go through it anymore. Additionally, my symptoms would make becoming a teacher impossible. But. 

A LOT of really crappy (in the non-edited version in my head, I used a different word) stuff happened in 2015. But. 

But the Lord was faithful. But the Lord sustained me. But, whenever I fell, the Lord never once failed to pick me back up. But the Lord graciously placed incredible people in my life whom I do not deserve. But I had beautiful days. But I laughed. But I danced. But I ice skated. But I saw plays and musicals. But I saw incredible sunsets. But I went to weddings (FOUR). But I wore red lipstick pretty much every single day. But I ran miles. But I stayed in school and earned a 4.0 both semesters. But the Lord changed me. But I found a church and became a member. But I have worked. But I went to the beach. But I drank delicious coffee. But I cooked and baked. But I read. But the Lord worked in and through me to the praise of His glorious grace.

But I lived.

I have failed every day this year, but the Lord never fails. He has never changed through the ups and downs, the highs and the unbearable lows. I have learned so much about His love this year–and, how my battle with sickness is Him loving me. He is committed to molding me into the image of Christ, no matter how painful the process might be. This year has been filled with a lot of sadness, but, also with so much peace and joy. I have written about many of the lessons I have been learning in previous posts, so I will not delve into them all here. I cannot point to anything remarkable that I have done this year, but, I can tell you a lot about the Lord’s goodness. I can tell you a lot of about the beauty that is found in the ashes.

Alright. Picture time! (in no particular order)

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I got glasses! I can finally see things. It’s fantastic (and slightly annoying to always wear).

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My roommates made me an incredible book shelf for my birthday. It is the most beautiful shelf in the world.
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Speaking of birthdays. I turned 26 this year. It was rough.
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I also FINALLY found my name.
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I went to see a lot of neurologists. I spent 4 1/2 hours in an MRI machine. I’ve never had so much fun!
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And paid a lot of medical bills. Oy vey. Currently searching for a platonic sugar daddy.
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My roommates and friends. I love them with all my heart. We had each other at hello.
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Blueberry picking! In maternity overalls I found at Goodwill.
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I was published! Bedlam Magazine published my first article about living with chronic illness in June. I couldn’t believe it. Check it: http://www.bedlammag.com/relearning-to-breathe-learning-to-be-okay-with-a-chronic-illness/
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I read all the Harry Potter books again 🙂

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I went to a million weddings. A million.
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I became friends with this guy. We became friends under heartbreaking circumstances, but I am really thankful that we did. I can’t imagine this year (or life) without him.
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Halloween 🙂 Arthur and Buster forever.
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Birmingham ♡♡♡ (I also bought a selfie stick) (Also, can I just move back to Birmingham already? K, thanks)
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Attempted and failed to become a viral meme. My goal in life. It’s going to happen.

 
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Had the best hair day of my life.

 
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Cooked my first turkey for my friend and I on Thanksgiving.

 

imageI taught Bible stories to Indian women using henna. It was amazing. Hoping to continue this year.

 

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I am still single. The Lord continues to teach me through lifelong singleness. With my health, I have wrestled a lot with it. But, strangely, I have felt much more at peace about it this year. Some days are a little harder, but, I, honestly, am not upset about it. I enjoy laughing about it and making jokes here and there, but, it is my normal. I am not bothered by it. But, I have written about my single lyfe, so feel free to peruse past posts 🙂

 

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Nothing is wasted. This year, no matter what I feel, has not been wasted. I am not a wasted life. His power is made perfect in weakness. He gives more grace. He holds me in the fire. He will never let me go.

Almost 6 years ago, I asked God to “ruin my life”. He did. And, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

May He be greatly glorified in 2016.

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Misplaced Hope.

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“We all still tend to look horizontally for what we will only ever find vertically.”

My health won’t save me.

My friend and I walked out of church on Sunday, walking briskly in the rain, avoiding the puddles, and discussing the sermon. She asked me some of my thoughts.

“I often think that if I get better, my life will be perfect. If I get better, everything will be fine again. But that’s not true. My health can’t save me.”

It’s hard for me to talk about life sometimes without tearing up. With my friend’s upbeat nature, it was easier to keep it together.

But I’ve discovered recently this thought process in my life. This thought that, if I was well, everything would be great. I would be whole and free and happy.

But that’s not true.

Granted, life would be easier not living in constant pain and sickness. But being well won’t save me. I can’t place my hope in being well.

Misplaced hope. This has long been a theme in my life. Looking horizontally for what I can only receive vertically. Looking to everything else but Jesus to satisfy the deepest longings of my heart.

Elisabeth Elliot writes, “My heart was saying, “Lord, take away this longing, or give me that for which I long.” The Lord was answering, “I must teach you to long for something better.” To long for someone better—to long for Him instead. This is the battle I face every day as an idolater. My heart is plagued with that which cannot give me life. I often look to anything else but Jesus to be my savior, to give me joy, to fulfill me. I look to the longing for marriage, when a husband cannot save me. I look to my own righteousness, when God sees Jesus’ perfect righteousness in my stead. I look to approval and affirmation from people, when I have already been fully accepted in Christ.  I look to my future plans and ideals, when being a missionary or a teacher cannot bring me ultimate satisfaction.  I think, “If only I have____ I will be happy.” Then I will be content. Then I will be fulfilled. Then I will be saved.

Thankfully, the Lord is not content to give us our idols, but, graciously, albeit painfully, works to rip them away. One by one. He works to teach us to long for something better—to long for someone better—to long for Him instead. To replace our idols with Him, the only One who can satisfy our deepest longings. He is the only One who can give us true and lasting joy.

My health cannot save me. I don’t want to want to be well more than I want the Lord to be glorified. I don’t want health more than I want Him. But I confess that it is hard. So hard. Praying for healing, but, trusting the Lord’s goodness if He does not heal. Desiring to be well, but, not letting that desire rule my thoughts and become ultimate. Learning how to rejoice always. Even when the darkness will not lift.

I am so tired. So exhausted of my illness. But my hope cannot ultimately be placed in being healed.  May my ultimate hope be found in God, not in being healed.

My health cannot save me.

Today.

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I am learning to hold things loosely.

Corrie Ten Boom once said, “Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”

He is prying open mine.

I have always been guilty of discontentment–always looking to the next thing and to the next. It never mattered how great the “now” was, I eagerly awaited the future. The next week. The next month. The next year.

My illness, strangely enough, has helped me in my fight against this.

My future greatly depends on my health–or lack thereof. If I never get well, my future drastically changes. I won’t get “what I want”.

If I never get well, I cannot finish my degree and become a teacher. I would most likely never get married or have children. I would not be able to travel or serve years overseas. My illness limits. My illness clips my wings desperate to fly. My illness does not give me what I want.

Yet, in the heightened “unknown-ness” of my future, a future that once troubled and worried me before I became ill, the Lord has oddly set my heart at peace.

I do not know the future. Nor can I control it. And, through my battle with chronic illness, the Lord has lovingly loosened my grip–loosened my fingers that held my future tightly in my hands.

When living with a chronic illness, you live from day to day–sometimes hour to hour. You begin to describe days as “good days” or “really bad days”. You don’t think so much about next summer because you have a marathon of a” today” to get through.

I have learned to appreciate the little things. My prayers of thanksgiving have flourished during this past year. I thank God all the time for helping me through little things–like grocery shopping or sitting in class. I have learned the pure joy of going for a walk outside. Treasuring that walk. Because the next day I might not get it.

When all you have is today–you learn to live in “today”. Tomorrow doesn’t matter as much. You’re not there yet. You just get today. And, I’ve learned, through the pain, to find joy in “today.”

I don’t have many victories. But, I feel like this has been a small victory–although it remains a “learning” and not a “learned”. I have, at last, begun to trust the Lord with my tomorrow and my “next years”. I think, largely, because a chronic illness reveals to you your utter dependency on Christ. I need Him to get me through today and, by His grace, carry me into tomorrow. I think I felt far more self-sufficient when I was well. I have realized, what was true all along, that He knows my future. He is already there. And He alone can get me there.

And, through all of this, I am learning to hold my future loosely. Because my desires for my future may not be His. I may not ever be “okay” again. My future may not involve anything that I have dreamed it would. God might not give me what I want.

But in Him not giving me what I want, He is giving me something better. In Him not giving me what I want, He is loving me. In Him not giving me what I want, He is doing the best thing for me. He is working all things together for my good (to be made into the likeness of Christ) and for His glory.

I am learning to hold my wants loosely–ready to surrender them for His. This is not easy. I cried earlier today thinking about all that I might never have or get to do.

But the Lord is not content to always give me what I want–what I think will make me happy. He is not content to give me my idols, but, graciously, albeit painfully, works to rip them away. One by one. Prying my fingers open. He works to teach me to long for something better–to long for someone better–to long for Him instead. To replace my idols with Him, the only One who can satisfy my deepest longings, the only One who can give me true and lasting joy.

I am thankful for today. Today I spent time with friends and went for a long walk in the woods. Today was a good day.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. But I know God is there.

And He who has been faithful today will be faithful tomorrow.

Elisabeth Elliot writes,

“The life of faith is lived one day at a time, and it has to be lived – not always looked forward to as though the “real” living were around the next corner. It is today for which we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow.”

God still owns tomorrow. And even if it’s never “what I want”, He is good. And will give me only what is the best thing for me. I have no need to worry. I have no need to fear.

And, by His grace, I am thankful for today.