The In Between

Imagine today, back then, with the disciples of Jesus. The day after. The day before. The in between time. The loss they were going through; feelings of sadness, anger, fear, and guilt.

They didn’t know, like we do, that the cross was not the end. He was their everything. They had to wonder and wait. What’s next? What do we do now? What’s left? The paralyzing numbness of it all.

This teaches me about faith. About following my Savior even though I can’t see the path; even though I can’t see Him. Moving, breathing, though you aren’t sure how, or even why, sometimes. I’ve felt that before. I know that feeling of being in between.

Have faith. Everyday. Even on the most difficult of days. Just take another step towards Him. The Cross is not the end. The Son will come up tomorrow.
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(Thanks to my friend, Kris K. for provoking my thoughts about today.)

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I’ll Follow Him

On our way to someplace new, I followed along our Lord. But towering hills & valleys deep, laying down, I was floored. And so I cried out “wait Lord, don’t get so far ahead. I’m tired and cannot move forward”.

He said, “child gain your strength from me, I’ll go before you and clear a trail for you to pass more easily. I’ll move these mountains and valleys deep, if you’ll take one step toward Me. Trust in the path I’ve forged for you, and trust me with your steps. And when you can’t see Me through the fog, because I’ve gone so far ahead, keep moving in my way. I’m with you always, though seeming far, you will find me in your heart each day.

At the place I’ve gone to make for you, we’ll meet again and stay. The glory and the wonder will fill your eyes, not tears. And my peace will fill your heart with love, they’ll be no room for fears.

And so I trusted in my Lord, and to this day I do. Take the next step on the path that He has forged for you.

Categories God

Ladies, IF you could, would you?

The @ifgathering community is now availabe 24/7 on your phone! We pray for a generation of women who disciple women. Beyond excited to be a part of this next step in meaningful, daily community. Download the free app here: ifgatheringapp.com.

And read my post below about my experience with IF:Equip and IF:Gathering, and how it changed my life. It was a big change. Reading the Bible for the first time.

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*post and picture by IF:Gathering.

Part 3: The blessed darkness.

This is the hardest post I’ve written so far. This post, when written the first 3 times, included my family and my husband.

But I trashed all those drafts. This is my testimony. Mine. Not “ours”. I had to find a way to tell my story, which I’m so ready to tell, without disrespecting the privacy of the people in my life.

My mom introduced me to Mark around 2004 and we fell in love. I remember when he told me he loved me. I said “I love you too”, but he protested, saying “no! This is my time, I’m loving you right now”. He’s loved me that way ever since. Even when my moods and addiction made it difficult. He loved me despite me being me. I still don’t know what I did to deserve such a loving man. Not everyone saw that though, which is my fault. I was never really good at sharing myself, or my life, with family or friends. After all, I had a secret to hide, and my bipolar mood shifts didn’t help. So opinions of Mark suffered because of my selfishness. I’m so sorry for that.

Relationships are being healed now. Slowly but surely. I love my family and their willingness to just love purely. Despite mistakes and lies, despite time lost, my family has always loved me. They always will. I have no doubt about that. And for that, I know I am one of the lucky ones.

Mark & I moved in together, and lived in several cities, moving for jobs. At this time the economy was faltering and jobs were difficult to come by. But life was difficult for many reasons. Self inflicted reasons. Like razors taken to the goodness of the skin of my life, my poor decisions cut that goodness into bits and pieces.

One day I’ll be able to fill in these blanks. When I’m ready. When we’re ready.

I’m skipping a lot of years here because I haven’t figured out how to talk about those years yet as just my story. But I want to keep going so I can tell you about my Savior, and we’ve still got two years to go.

We landed in Jacksonville in 2012 for the best job I’ve ever accepted. I was so happy to be leaving home. Honestly, I was always happy to leave home. My life was so miserable there because of my poor choices. Choices which affected everyone I loved, and the guilt of which is so hard to let go of. I’m good at letting go of anxiety, fear, sadness. But guilt? Guilt is difficult to get rid of, to leave at the foot of the cross like I do with my other negative emotions. Guilt sticks like a stain in your head and heart that you just cannot get rid of. That guilt, is always in the back of my mind, and has seeped into the depths of my being. I carry this guilt of what I did to my family. Hopefully one day I will learn how to let that go.

Am I even supposed to let that go? Because I feel like I deserve to carry it with me forever.

After one month of working at that job I moved to Jacksonville to accept, I was fired. They never told me why. Shortly thereafter we were evicted from our apartment, which was always more expensive than we needed. We moved into a hotel. We thought it would be temporary, but it wasn’t. We lived there for almost two years.

And so here we are, the point in my story where, believe it or not, things start getting really difficult. I was spiraling downward faster and faster. Life actually got worse. Worse than the years I cannot talk about yet because they’re not just mine to tell. Worse than the years I spent in South Florida in a relationship with a serial cheater. Worse than threatening myself with suicide.

Things were about to get real.

What comes next are the darkest of days. Days when I didn’t know what I would do from one second to the next. Times so foggy that I could not see beyond the next second of life. When I didn’t know if there would even be life in the next second. It was so dark, I couldn’t see myself in the mirror anymore. It wasn’t really me I was seeing. My mind was failing, then my body started failing. It was scary and strange. For example, at work, I could not type as fast, my fingers were slower. Something was wrong with my neurological system. My whole body with being affected by the darkness in which I was dwelling.

I can now say that I now thank God for those days. The days full of prolonged seconds which seemed to last hours. Those millions of miserable moments spent alone in the darkness of my mind. I lost myself there. And although I didn’t realize it at the time, that was the best thing for me. I needed to lose myself before I could find God.

But like I mentioned, we’re still 2 years from that. I was still trying to fix things on my own. I hadn’t yet considered giving God a chance. God wasn’t a blip on my radar, or a thought in my head. Not yet. God was the furthest thing from my broken mind . Or so I thought.

God was there, but it would take a miracle 20 years in the making for me to see Him, and one question to one friend that would change everything.

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Part 2: “I was back.”

When we were last here I was sitting on the floor with a bottle of pills, a bottle of vodka, and my car keys. Like I said, I remember that night vividly. I was ready to get in the car and drive around drunk hoping something, anything, would happen. That’s just how bad I was, and how badly I wanted help, even if it meant jail or worse. I wanted help, but I didn’t want to ask for it.

But my dog, who I loved dearly, was sitting there on the floor next to me. If I got in my car and something happened to me, there would be nobody home to take care of my dog. I don’t why I stayed home, but I did. Maybe I never really planned on getting in my car after swallowing those pills with the vodka. Perhaps I was just threatening myself. Maybe my dog saved my life that night. Maybe something, or someone, else did. 

Shortly thereafter I called my mom and told her I needed to come home. I believe it was around New Years because that’s the only reason she had the time off from work. She told me that I could not bring my dog with me if I was coming to stay at her house. We went back and forth about that for a while. Finally, I gave in and said “if Pooky can’t come then I’m not coming either, never mind”. But the next day my mom came anyways. I packed all I owned into her car, and Pooky and I rode back home with mom.

It was a very difficult time, full of doctors appointments to properly diagnose me. They said I had bipolar disorder. I was prescribed every medicine under the sun until the doctors found something that helped.

At home I had to sign a “suicide note” promising my parents I would not hurt myself in any way. That’s how bad off I was. I was very depressed, very addicted, and going through withdrawals (which I hadn’t told anyone about at the time). I had no friends anymore where I lived. So month after month I sat my mom’s house taking my medicine and waiting to feel better. I was fighting to feel better, but there was such guilt. My little sister hated me. I know this because she told me, and rightly so. She had been home all those years I was gone. She watched what my disappearing from real life (because I’d become an addict) did to my parents. That was hard to think about, it still is.

Eventually my parents decided I was well enough have my car back, and I was well enough to get a job. A friend of the family got me a job at his business. I ended up working there for 5 years, it was a great job. 

I remember one day eating at a restaurant called Sonny’s with my dad. He sat across from me. I remember the exact table where we sat, near the front of the restaurant. I was facing in towards the restaurant, watching all the tables. He noticed me looking around, “people watching”. He was happy about it, and I couldn’t figure out why. He said I was so much more alert, wasn’t just staring into space as I had been for months. I was looking around, noticing things and people. “It’s like you’re back”, daddy said. 

I was “back”, the medicine was helping, and I wasn’t using illegal drugs. So I worked and made friends and started living a normal life. I was back … for a while. Then I left again.

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Categories God

Part 1: Y2K didn’t change the world, but it almost killed me.

This is Part 1 of my testimony. There will be many more parts. I hope you’ll be back to read the rest because this story, though messy at times, ends beautifully in the arms of Jesus Christ.

The year 2000, is when it happened. I was living in South Florida, going to college, and working at Hooters. Yes, I was a Hooter’s girl for about 7 years. It was an awesome job at the time. I made tons of money; none of which I put to good use. Now stay with me here because it goes with the story: most people think that having large breasts are a requirement for working at hooters, but you’d be wrong. I didn’t have large breasts, though most of my friends did because they’d gotten breast augmentation surgery (that’s the nice way to say “boob job”).

I promise this is going someplace; please keep reading.

I decided to get a “boob job” too. Some of the girls I most admired at Hooters, the pretty ones, the cool ones, the ones I wanted to be like, were getting boob jobs. So why not me? I said it was for my self-esteem and happiness. However, in the background of my life there was my boyfriend (now EX-boyfriend, a man who I’d rather not talk about because he’s not worth it). He whispered in my ear his nicknames for my breasts: “droopy” and “floppy”. My self-esteem plummeted. So, did I get the surgery for myself, to inflate my self-esteem, or to inflate “droopy” and “floppy” for his sake? It doesn’t matter, that’s not the “thing” that happened – you know, that thing I mentioned in the first sentence of this post.

After the surgery, I was prescribed painkillers. Most people take painkillers and get tired or nauseous, but not me. Painkillers deceived me; they lied. They made me feel happy, cool, fun, strong, invincible, and confident. But truly, I was none of those things, and after some time, they made me addicted. My doctor kept prescribing them much longer than he should have, and after that I found a way to get them on the street. It was a dangerous and expensive endeavor.

So, sixteen years ago, I was 22 years old, 500 miles from home, and addicted to painkillers. My addiction got much worse, along with the rest of my life. I dropped out of school and left my boyfriend. I was very manipulative and promiscuous to get what I wanted, and “couch hopped” (which means I was homeless), until I ran out of money. Then I sat and tried to figure out how to end it all.

I remember that night vividly. Sitting on my friend’s living room floor around New Year’s Eve. She was away visiting family. It was a beautiful apartment, nothing I could afford on my own. I was alone, except for my beloved dog (pictured below). I was trying to figure out how to get help without actually having to ask for help. I came up with an idea. The idea involved a bottle of pills, a bottle of vodka, and driving until something happened.

Please come back for the rest of my testimony. I promise it’s an amazing story.

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My Shih Tzu, Pooky. My reason for staying alive that night.

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Awe and wonder.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to split my wondrous story of coming to Jesus into blog sized posts. It’s a difficult task because there are so many amazing things I want to tell you. So many epic ups and downs and moments that will steal your breath away. So today, I thought I would just start with the basics. What I’ve learned. The treasures I hold dear to my heart.

God’s love is indescribable. So why am I trying to describe God’s love here with mere words? This is my feeble attempt to express my awe and wonder at the Glory of my Savior. God loves you. No matter what you do or say, God loves you. Nothing can change that. God knows the answer to your question before you ask it. God has gone before you and solved your problems before you even know you have a problem. God knows what we need everyday, he knows what’s in our hearts and our minds. He provides for us every minute of every day. So I thank Him. I praise His name and I’m sharing my story to bring glory to God for saving my life.

The only thing I could possibly compare it to is the love that my earthly daddy has for me. My daddy’s love is undeniable, unconditional, uncompromising, and never ending. So is God’s love.

God’s love is never ending. He waited for me, watching over me, day after day, year after year, until I finally opened my eyes and saw Him. Even during the years when I didn’t love Him, when I was denying Him and saying blasphemous things, He loved me. He never gave up on me. And that, friends, is exactly what my daddy does for me.

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God heard me.

Last night was very stressful. Mark and I are concerned about something important we have to decide.

I emailed my pastor late last night, explained the problem and humbly asked for help from the church. I hate asking for help, no matter the situation. I’m very independent and do not like asking people for anything. However, I decided to go ahead and email my pastor to let him know what was going on, it just seemed like a good idea at the time. He wrote me back almost immediately.

My heart was filled with joy as my eyes overflowed with tears when reading his response. To me, his email was a confirmation that God had heard my prayers. His response didn’t offer any immediate  solution to my problem,  but it let me know that God was listening. Not that I didn’t think God was listening before, but to have a sign like that, the email from my pastor, was so special to me.

I told him how I felt, that his response was a joyful and exciting realization that God heard me. My pastor said he rarely checks his email, especially his work emails, from home that late at night. He mentioned that maybe the Holy Spirit led him to check his email and find my message.

God is so good. He hears our prayers and knows our needs before we even speak them. When praying, I always thank God for listening. It’s such a special thing that Jesus did for us, giving us a way to communicate with our father in heaven.

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Philppians 4:6
Categories God

The best decision I almost never made.

She said “you should join this online Bible study called IF:Equip“.

I respond “me, a Bible study? I’ve hardly ever even opened a Bible. What good would this do me? What would I have to offer? I’d be a kindergartner in a college class. No, I can’t do that.”

She kept encouraging me. I kept saying “no”. I said no 10,000 times (approximately) before I finally said “OK”, and I signed up for the online Bible study IF:Equip – http://www.ifequip.com.

I get one email a day with scripture to read, a short video to watch, and a place to leave comments.

I thought surely these Christian women, who had been raised in church, would laugh at me and scoff at my lack of knowledge. But they didn’t. They welcomed me with warm virtual hugs, positive and uplifting words, advice, explained the confusing things and helped me. The accepted me. They took me in like one of their own despite my flaws, my age, and my sins. I had become a sister in Christ. 

I credit IF:Equip with bringing the Bible alive and relevant to my life. I am blessed, daily, with the women I spend each morning there with discussing the scriptures and life in general. We lift each other and pray and share our stories. It’s amazing!

I miss it on the weekends. I’ve made so many new friends through that site that I cannot keep track. When I first accepted Jesus, I had one Christian friend, now I have hundreds. A God given gift. And to think I almost didn’t join the site.

Right now I’m in the process of trying to retrieve my posts from the site because they chronicle my life as I came to know Jesus. They are like gold to me and I wish I’d written them in a journal instead of on an online site that can be changed; losing my posts forever.

If you’re a woman, and you haven’t joined IF:Equip yet, please do. You won’t regret it. In fact, for me, it was the best decision I almost never made.

Right now I’m trying to go back and retrieve my posts all the way back to when I started in December 2013. I’m doing this to help me remember what I was learning, feeling, and going through, during my budding relationship with Jesus. Priceless words, comments and advice from other readers. I’d like to use them to add to this blog.

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IF changed my life.