Category Archives: Faith

Something like Heart Surgery.

Everything feels hard and fragile at the same time. And it feels that way because it is the way things are right now. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t been actively blogging for a while now. I was in the middle of a move so I let things slide and then I tackled true and real vulnerability which took all of the emotional effort I had at the time.

And then, November 2016 happened. The Cubs brought me great joy. America brought me great pain. I don’t even want to single out the president because yes, that’s painful too (growing increasingly worse) but what he revealed about this country, about us, about people I love, about institutions (like the Church) that are important to me was gut-wrenching. It still is most days. That night, when the results came in, I was torn to pieces in a way I did not expect and was useless for a week. You’d think I’d have put the pieces back together by now but I haven’t. I’m functional (because that is something I know how to do: function in a crisis) but I can’t go back to before. The scales have fallen from my eyes. The fact is, I am still processing (every single day since that dang day there is something new to process so I don’t even have time to ever really truly process…I’m sure some people can relate) and so to write things down, concrete things that will be here on the internet, well it just seems difficult and maybe even unwise. (I mean, I do it for a living but it gets more personal and less formal here).

But here I am.

My convictions are not weaker. In fact, they are stronger. But when I write something here, like this, I have to dig deeper than I do on Twitter or Facebook. And even though my convictions have grown deep and true roots, there are still things I am processing. Like my faith. I never stopped loving Jesus but I did stop loving people professing to be Christians (or at least loving them as easily as I did before). That’s a hard truth right there to write.

It isn’t what Jesus has asked of me (love God and love others). But, man, I wish I had the words to explain how hard I have prayed for help to love people who loudly profess ideas and ways of thinking that are hurtful to me, hurtful to other people I love, and so hurtful and destructive to whole groups of people. I mean, I have repeated Jesus’s command through gritted teeth to myself too many times to count. I have wrestled with God over all these people using his name for ugly at best and evil at worst. And yes, I know he’s got it. I know that what they mean for evil, he will use for good. But watching it…watching it hurts.

Loving people through gritted teeth has meant unfollowing some people on social media (not that big of a deal but it took me awhile to realize that was the loving thing to do instead of seething with anger and hurt over their ignorance). It’s meant not discussing politics with others and not because conversations aren’t important (I believe they are more important than ever…and I had/have them) but because nothing but a heart change was going to be effective. It’s meant praying for people I do not like very much. It’s meant grieving over the beliefs of people I love.

It’s meant examining my own privileges. It’s also meant admitting, “I don’t know” to questions and problems. Maybe if more people were willing to admit what they don’t know, the world would feel different. It’s meant clinging tightly to people who get it, who are in the struggle, looking for answers, coming back with nothing, and then going out and looking again. It’s meant new friends and saying goodbye to old ones. It’s been a time of grave disappointment in people I thought I knew but maybe I didn’t.

So while all that is happening, I have also been experiencing incredible happiness. I fell in love and we decided to marry one another. We’ve been growing together and we are getting marriedwe are getting married. I’m not one to gush but I truly do not know what this last year would have been without the discovery of two things. First, that I could love and be loved, deeply and truly and completely. Secondly, in the midst of such difficulty, I could know such happiness. I’m a different and better woman having met this man and working towards marrying this man. That is a blessing that could make me weep and those tears would not have anything to do with romance or mushy-gushy stuff but God’s mercy to me in bringing me and C together. Just like I can’t get past the incredibly tough stuff, I can’t get past God’s benevolence to me.

But the question I have struggled with is: how do I write from this place? How do I write from a place of such pain while some of my long-held dreams for my life are quietly coming true simultaneously? Some days I feel split in half so writing about it seems absurd. Literally every time I have thought, “I’ll write a blog post about the wedding, like how I used to. I’ll talk about colors and flowers” something horrible happens in the world and I am back to processing things.

I haven’t added my voice to the fray because there is such a clamor right now. That isn’t to say I don’t speak or use my voice, I just didn’t and don’t know how to do it here, in this space. So, I end up with this rambling thing that may not make sense but I’m going to push through because I’ve got to decide if I am going to maintain this space. And I can’t make that decision when I don’t show up. So I am going to try and show up and see how it feels.

One thing has not changed and that is my trust and belief in God. I will be the first one to say that I don’t get it. I don’t get how a sovereign God is at work right now but I believe he is. I have been beyond disappointed in the Christian machine this past year (specifically white evangelicals). I didn’t realize how insidious and disgusting this cancerous way(s) of thinking had spread (which shows you and me my privilege) in the community I used to call home. Maybe that’s why this is happening? Maybe our racism, our sexism, our xenophobia, all of our ugliness that we have internalized needs to be exposed.

When my mom was in her twenties, she found out she had a large hole in her heart that had been there her whole life. It was now compromising her life but this hole–the circumference of an egg–went unchecked for over twenty years. Until a strange exhaustion set in. Until her entire color changed. Until all these symptoms revealed the very real problem that required open heart surgery.

Maybe what’s happening all around us is surgery. The thing about surgery though is that it hurts a lot. Its goal is to heal but man, does it hurt and it is incredibly violent when you consider it. You have to cut and bleed before you can stitch and heal. Then, there is a long recovery. So my hope cannot even be in the process because that sounds horrible. My hope is in the Surgeon. But this is so hard.

I think of my mom, the scar she still bears so many years later.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:7,8 ESV

Subscribe to the Monthly Newsletter!

* indicates required

Engaged!

I meant to write this awhile ago and I just didn’t (I even wrote a draft in a notebook that now I am completely ditching). But, if you don’t follow me on social media, here’s what’s up: I’m engaged.Pink with Diamond Icon Photo Engagement Announcement

The past few months have been filled with peaks and valleys that are just a part of life but all the while my relationship with C has deepened. He is an incredible teammate, kind, patient, and funny. It’s been a few weeks since he proposed and it still feels surreal even though we are in full wedding planning mode.

If you would have asked me if this is where I would be one year ago, I’d have laughed. And I know that C can say the same. The way God knit together our story is so unique. Parts of it are so special that I am keeping them private. At the same time, I want to share our joy and excitement with you all since you have been with me through other seasons of my life too.

We are better together than we are apart which is what makes it so cool. At the same time, I’m very aware of the parts of myself I am stubborn or prideful over. Like all things, God is using this relationship to sanctify both C and I. I’d just say this feels very intense at times. And from what I’ve been told from what married friends, that will only become more intense. I’m more aware of my need for Jesus than ever and we are both keenly aware that our relationship needs Him too. He is, after all, the author of it.

So, some questions you may have…

How did he do it?

I always say I want to be surprised but I also am so impatient that they never work out. So the day it happened, I knew it was coming. But when he told me the plan for the day he talked about going to several places that are important to us and dinner. It made me think he would do it then obviously. Instead, he surprised me as I was getting ready for the day as in if he would have done it two minutes later, I might have been wearing a face mask and there was a podcast blaring as I settled in to “get ready.” So I didn’t imagine I would be in the middle of washing my face with wet hair but it was perfect. He ended up actually proposing in front of a piece of furniture I helped him to make. (He is a woodworker as a hobby and I was his assistant on his project). I cried. He cried. I whispered the word, “Yes,” way more quietly than either of us imagined and then leaped into his arms.

When are you getting married?

March! C is a teacher so to a certain extent we are the mercy of that calendar. Originally, we considered doing it over winter break but the way the holidays fall this year would have made it very difficult for the people we love and would like there so: looks like Spring Break!

How is planning going?

In fits and bursts. A lot of things have (thankfully) fallen into place in a beautiful way. C has been helpful and both of our families have also been supportive. The main stuff is booked and now we just have random things to nail down.

We are also making the conscious choice not to just be planning for a wedding but a marriage. So it means premarital, financial courses, etc. That’s really important to us, building a foundation, and knowing that it doesn’t just happen. But that’s something that is just important to us. Everyone and every relationship is different.

Dress?!

Not yet. I’m waiting to be able to share the day with my mom, who isn’t local. So that will be in a few weeks. I have no idea what I want except that I would like it to be flattering and comfortable.

To be honest, one of the biggest challenges to wedding planning has simply been that I never really thought I would meet the guy and get married. So I never really was that little girl who pictured some things. I had some vague ideas like I would like for it to be in church (Spoiler: it’s not because of my chronic illness we are doing everything in all one place because I want to make it through the day and to my wedding night too! I’ve waited a long time. Ha. So that means cutting down on anything that would expend more energy than necessary and one of those things is travel in the city. What a nightmare.).

But anyway, because I hadn’t dreamt of this day my whole life, only just hoped I would someday be married, I didn’t really know what I liked or wanted. After a lot of talking with C and pinteresting, we definitely have a vision and a vibe.

But as for a dress, I just want to be comfortable in the dress and in my own skin

Where’s the ring?

I’m a little paranoid so I have been really careful about what I post on social media and here too. I did want an engagement ring but I had no idea what I wanted so C suggested I go look. I fell in love with a yellow gold setting but he surprised me with the shape of the center stone and I’m so in love with it. It’s everything I never knew I wanted and I can’t imagine anything else on my hand. Although I am still getting used to having it on my finger and will be for a long time. I feel like I can objectively say it’s beautiful and classic with a twist (which is the perfect mix of me and C to be honest. Ha!)

If you made it this far, you’re kind and sweet. I am so behind in announcing it here but I do want to chronicle the wedding planning process to a certain degree. So…here we go.

xo

Subscribe to the Monthly Newsletter!

* indicates required

You Will Make All Kinds of Mistakes.

senioryearquoteThis is a post that I have meaning to write for the last two and a half plus years of blogging but just never got to it. Now, invites are going out for my high school ten-year reunion and I found extra senior year photos when I was moving (so if you want one, let me know…ha!) so I just think, now must be the time to write this thing.

When we had to pick our quote, I did not yet know what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus. I believed in God and everything I was taught in Sunday school. It was important to me and always had been.  When the time came to pick my quote, my faith was actually more important to me than ever before. I had just come out of a very dark time after my parent’s divorce and it was God who saved me quite literally (another story for another time). Still, I just had never seen someone’s day to day walk modeled to me.

Coming out of a time of hardship would influence my choice. But I also wanted something no one else would use. This quote by Winston Churchill fit the bill as I had never seen it before and as I read it, I realized that it reflected my beliefs. And though if I had to pick a quote now, it probably would be a Bible verse, I can’t help but see the theme of grace I was already learning for the first time in this Churchill quotation.

Before that dark time in my life, it would have been very difficult to wake up every day knowing I would “make all kind of mistakes.” But the year before the bottom had dropped out from under me and I hadn’t handled it well at all. I made lots of mistakes. And God had been so faithful to me. He showed me his generosity, truth, and his ferocity in loving me. I would not have been able to give you a definition of grace at this point (unmerited favor) but when I read it now, that’s what I see.

I was already swallowing as much of His grace as I could, learning as I went along. To this day, I still believe this quote. I will make all kinds of mistakes. But he will be there. And I cannot hurt the world because God is sovereign and in control.senioryearquote1

I’ve been going through a rough time lately, though nowhere as difficult as the time I mention here. It’s been a hard year so far, one hit after another, starting with one huge mistake, and it’s only March. But writing about this time in my life, writing about this quote, reminds me of the light at the end of the tunnel that always comes eventually, fighting off the dark. It gives me hope and reaffirms my faith.

And I don’t think it is any coincidence that after listing this as a topic to write about on my blog for over two years, I am writing about it now.

Do you remember your Senior Year quote?
Signature

 

 

Visit the Peony Sponsor:

Subscribe to the Monthly Newsletter!

* indicates required

A New Thing in 2016.

2016Happy New Year! I love this verse and I come back to it often. Though it is a great verse as we begin the new year, it’s also just as great on a random Tuesday when I need to remember that God can and will do a NEW thing, a thing I could not imagine or plan.

This year I want to believe big things of God. I am letting go of the former things; I am no longer considering the things of old. I am waiting with eager anticipating for those rivers in the desert and the way in the wilderness because He WILL do it.

Enjoy the first day of 2016. Let’s let go of what was in 2015. Let’s let God do a new thing in 2016.
Signature

 

 

Visit the Peony Sponsor:

Subscribe to the Monthly Newsletter!

* indicates required

I can’t do that anymore.

firsttheycameIn high school and college, I followed politics voraciously and closely. I was up for any debate. But then I slowly took a step back,  burnt out and disillusioned as the country and world became increasingly hostile and angry (as well as the lack of bi-partisanship, and frankly, aggression, between parties). I stopped following the news as closely, staying informed, but removed emotionally.

I can’t do that anymore.

It would certainly be more comfortable for me not to speak up. Many bloggers I know make the choice not to make their feelings on “issues” public (including myself). I get it; I have been there. At best, it takes a lot of energy to dialogue in a respectful way and at worst, it becomes mud wrestling in the comment section. Announcing opinions on the internet does not always leave room to change one’s mind.

Let’s face it. Who actually likes those people on Facebook who are constantly posting politically incendiary things, no matter the party? I don’t. I can’t. It’s like sensory overload. It’s easier to keep my opinions to myself, to close my computer.

But I can’t do that anymore.

You see, when I took a step back, I just expected other people to do the work. I expected others to course correct when a person or political party said something ridiculous or there was an absurd proposal. It’s not that I didn’t care. It was that sensory overload, an emotional exhaustion, and I just figured others could pick up the slack.

But I can’t do that anymore.

I can’t avoid online conflict because the fact is, whatever its size, this is a platform. And for me not to speak has officially become more terrifying than standing up for what I believe is right. Let me tell you why.

It started a few weeks ago, in the wake of the Paris attacks, when Trump* announced he thought there should be a database for Muslims (afterwards, he amended his idea to monitor Muslim refugees and “some” mosques).

Was this real? Could a front runner for president from our country’s two party system actually say (or perhaps worse, think) such a thing? My insides started to quiver. It brought to mind two instances–a hint, a faint whiff, subtle–where a group of people were monitored based on their faith or ethnicity: the days of Nazi Germany (it started as “monitoring) or what we did to the Japanese during WWII (they were forced to leave their homes, jobs, businesses, everything, to live in interment camps).**

When it comes to the latter, let me emphasize: we did that. Things like that can happen in America. Sometimes I think we–I know I do this–all believe we are a little protected because this is America. That word, this place brings to mind the Statue of Liberty, the American Dream, the Bill of Rights, and so much more. We believe we are the good guys and that we will always be the good guys.

But I can’t do that anymore.

Trump’s plan was only the beginning. Within a few days, over half of America’s governors signed their names to a document saying they would not accept any Syrian Refugees. When I tweeted my shame that governors in America did this, someone I respect greatly pointed out that whether refugees are accepted or denied is a federal issue. The thing is, I knew that. But I didn’t care. They signed their names to a document that said the people, the refugees of Syria, were not welcome in America. 

That’s shameful.

Writing about controversies here is not fun. As a blogger, in two years, I have maybe posted five truly controversial posts and then signed my name to those posts. I’ve had plenty of opinions but I haven’t written them here. I haven’t signed my name to them.

But I can’t do that anymore.

Then there was the mayor in Virginia who said this: “I’m reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from Isis now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.”

My insides began to shake, not just quiver. Could this really be happening?

But then the latest plan of Donald Trump’s: “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”***

This is happening here. Right here. I understand that it’s a proposal. But he’s the frontrunner for president from the republican party and to not take him seriously would be a mistake. For a long time, when he said things I found absurd, I didn’t take him seriously because I saw him as the guy who put huge letters on the building near where I worked in Downton Chicago and told people, “You’re fired” on The Apprentice. I was wrong. It’s not just polls either. People I respect, people I go to for life advice, believe he is the best candidate. I underestimated him.

But I can’t do that anymore.

I know it’s nice to go about our days. I understand it is easier to go about life as normal and I would prefer to run my errands and shovel my snow and cuss that I forgot to buy milk at the grocery store, be wary of the laundry pile, wish my kid could sleep through the night, change the sheets on my bed and curse that damn fitted sheet (or whatever your version of normal is). I understand. I do. Because I am trying to move right now and everything in my life is a mess. I would prefer to handle that and only that.

But I can’t do that anymore.

If I don’t speak, if I don’t use whatever “voice” I have, to denounce all of this, then what? What is next? Each time one of these things happened I could not believe it and yet I never expected it to get worse. But it is getting worse, increasingly so.

And so I cannot be quiet anymore.

Recently, I saw a comment on Facebook. Someone was complaining about something that the federal government does–imagine taxes, insurance, all that pesky stuff that is annoying. This person’s complaints were not out of line but then this person said something like: I usually don’t like to talk about politics but this is really ridiculous.

It hit me that this translates to: I usually don’t like to talk about politics but this affects me so it’s different.

This person is not an anomaly. This person is you and this person is me. Even as I write this, I am trying to put my list of things to do (rental insurance, changing my address, packing, etc.) out of my head. We care when it affects us.

But I can’t do that anymore.

These are dangerous times.

Here is a story: I fell behind in answering comments and so a few days ago, I replied to a comment originally written about the post I wrote in reaction to Paris. She said something about how crazy it is and how sad, that she can no longer think when an act of terrorism will happen but only where it would be, that these horrible events feel inevitable.

Do you realize, I wrote back, that by the time I am replying there has already been an act of terrorism, a mass shooting, in San Bernardino?

These are dangerous times.

A man running for president, the canidate who has by far gotten the most media attention, and continues to be the front runner for one of the parties in our two party system has said that he will not allow Muslims into this country.***

Don’t worry though. If you are Muslim and already a citizen, he isn’t going to deport you or anything.

Don’t worry though. If you practice another faith, this won’t affect you either.

Don’t worry though. They’re talking religion. Your sexual orientation, your skin color, the amount of money you make, you won’t ever be affected based on those things.

I hope you sense my sarcasm because I don’t believe him. I don’t believe him–and people like him–at all.

I’m not suggesting this is the Holocaust.** But what I will say is that Hitler did not announce out of the blue that he was putting all the Jews, the handicapped, the elderly (and others) on trains to concentration camps where they would be killed in gas chambers. It never happens like that.

It happens slowly. It creeps along, hatefulness like this. Have you ever heard the anecdote about the frog? If you boil water and put a frog in, it will jump right out. But if you put a frog in some water and turn up the heat slowly, the frog does not jump out. I can’t say whether this is scientifically sound but it feels like we are all the frog, that the water is slowly warming.

I’m a Christian and everyone is welcome here. But I am calling out my fellow Christians: we can’t do it anymore. 

We cannot be silent. We cannot ignore the commands of Jesus. We cannot pretend that this is not happening. We cannot try and justify the policies of people in a certain party because we have voted a certain way our whole lives. We cannot raise our voices over abortion and not raise our voices over this. We have to seriously examine the intensity of the connection between claiming to be a Christian and not just defending the right to bear arms but an unwillingness to examine gun control in this country. We must recognize that according to the Bible we are sojourners here, that we are citizens of Heaven, and as such we are refugees too. We cannot ignore passages like this one, Jesus’s words, because it is just easier:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-46).

A part of me does not want to publish this. A part of me is afraid. In the past, that fear would dictate whether this actually was posted.

But I can’t do that anymore.
Signature

 

 

Visit the Peony Sponsor:

P.S. I tried to cite everything and use a variety of sources (because it is important to me that I am informed by a variety of sources) but since some of the things I talk about happened in the recent past and every day there is a new headline, I did the best I could.

*I wrote this before Trump’s CNN interview. I have no idea how that is going to go. Also, this is not about Trump but rather a series of events that have had me examining my own heart and the Gospel. I hope that is clear.

**I am not comparing Trump to Hitler. I hope this is obvious but I am putting this here just in case. I find that argument to be insensitive to the atrocities that took place during the Holocaust when Hitler committed a genocide against a race of people.

***There are caveats to his plan.

Finally, Jen Hatmaker said it better than I ever could .

Subscribe to the Monthly Newsletter!

* indicates required