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To Glorify not to be glorified

Why I’m struggling being 24

Why does growing hurt so much? I really don’t know. I wish that every time an opportunity to grow came along we got really excited. I’m sure sometimes we get excited. Like when we get a new job, or are dating a new person right? But not when we’re going through a break up, struggling with money, or dealing with family issues. We find it hard to jump up and down when we can’t see the positive, don’t we? I know I do.

When I was 20 and on my own for real, for the first time, I was so excited. I thought of endless possibilities that no curfew and rules only I made up would bring to my life. If I were to go back in time and tell 20-year-old me what I would go through, I’m sure I would poop my pants in fear and run home to mommy and daddy. But alas, being naive kept me hopeful. And to be frank some of the benefits I foresaw in living as an independent adult came to fruition. Partying all night and rolling into work on only a few hours of sleep occurred often. I loved the fact that I could go to my parents and have them do my laundry and feed me once and week, and then I could slip back into managing my time the way I pleased.

But then somewhere along the lines, I started to become who I am. I stopped looking for myself in what I do with my time, and more what I do with my heart. I took on responsibility. I grew up. Sorta. I sought truth and found most of it. I got rid of junk, like notes from guys in high school and traded them for things like glass ware. There were a lot of things that made me grow up. Sometimes I think I am more grown up than I’d like to be.

The reason why I’m struggling being 24 is that I feel like I’m kind of always stuck in between. And isn’t the in between part, the worst part? Because I haven’t quite arrived at the end of defining myself and into the realm of refining myself (If that ever really happens) and yet I long for the days of past. The days of the freedom to be really stupid. Although, I am very done being stupid.

The trouble is comparison. I often wonder if I’ve done enough, or if I’m doing too much. If I’m missing something. So I end up comparing my life to everyone around me. But I’m not living their life. I’m living mine. And what I’m living, with all the passion and love I throw into life, is really the best there is for me.

The repercussion to this is that comparison robs our joy. And ya know what? I love joy! I get excited and joyful over everything, even the little things. How dare I do that to myself! I have to almost hoard my joy in the way that I protect my heart from comparison. If I look around at my life, I see fullness. I see a life full of love. I see a life full of work that keeps me too busy to be negative. I see friends and family who fill my days with precious memories. I see purpose. I see LIFE! Life brings Joy! I truly do negate all the good, when I only dwell on what I don’t have and who I’m not.

I vow to savor, and not envy. To savor the moments I have, big or small and not wish for something more or an ideal of perfect. Life is beautiful, if we contemplate the imperfections alone, that’s what we’ll have. An imperfect life.

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”- J.K. Rowling

I’m not done learning to find joy and beauty in all things. And I hope that never ends.

People often ask me what the hardest part of my job is. I think most people assume that it’s the gruesome stores, my clients crying to me in my office late into the night, then going back to their abusers after months of working with them, and dealing with children who seem to be raised by savages. Although all these things are hard and each case is different, it’s not really what gets me. I’m probably a little desensitized, but for the most part my conversations with residents is uplifting and Gospel centered. So what is it then?

A few weeks ago I was talking to a client. Her son was running past me and knocked his head on the corner of the table next to me. When I heard the smack, I turned my attention to him knowing he would immediately want to be picked up and loved. As I turned to him he looked up at me, tears already spilling and cried out “OWE daddy, owe!” and reached his chubby arms up to me to be held. He called me daddy. It hit me like a ton of bricks. This baby needs his dad and is reaching to me to fill that space. It makes me a little sick to think about how I can’t be that. As I held him in my arms, he soon wanted mom and I handed him off and started to think about the role of Father in our lives.

The kids in our program have usually been exposed to more than children living in lets say a middle class family home with two parents. Drugs, sex, abuse, abandonment and neglect just to name a few. They come in and all they have is mom. She provides everything for them. Love, shelter, support, the whole enchilada. And then they meet these women running this house. All of a sudden they’re getting this love that comes with so much authority and we start to fill the role of dad. I have 3 year olds who come up to my office at night to get a kiss good night, moms begging me to help discipline their young ones, and I get to be part of their (mostly hilarious) conversation around the dinner table. This role is such a precious blessing. I love being a part of these kids life.

The problem is that I’m not good enough.

I’m not dad.

There’s a 17 month baby at the shelter, who has never experienced a relationship with his father. I’ve never known a child who realized his loss at such a young age. It’s heart breaking to hear him cry out for a daddy. To stand at the door and look outside and ask for daddy. A man who has never been a part of his life. No amount of love that I give will ever fix that.

Never in a million years would I want women to go back to a man who abused her. I want all women to be treated with love, fairness, and respect in every relationship with men. Knowing that these women are escaping abuse from men who don’t deserve their devotion doesn’t these kids need for a dad. Even though I believe a woman is totally capable of raising children on her own if she needs to, I want so badly for these women to have the support of a man and for their children to experience that love.

My purpose in writing this is pretty straight forward. I want you to hurt for these little lambs. They’ve been beaten. They’ve been treated as worthless by their Fathers. They need things their mothers will never be able to provide. They’ve watched their fathers beat their mothers. They sit at the dinner table and tell me about how their dads are in prison for hitting their mom. They’ve been abandoned. They’ve been lied to. I want to make it clear how they’ve been hurt. When Jesus walked this earth, He had a special love for children. This was not His intention for them. His heart breaks for them, does yours?

Father is a role that is so irreplaceable. Every time one of the young ones expressing hurt over their dad, I gently remind them of their heavenly father who always provides for them and loves them unconditionally. But to a 3-year-old that’s not tangible, and they need more.

Men rise up!

Be a friend to the broken. Stand beside women who have been beaten down. Find time to love the fatherless. Stand in the gap. Most importantly, fathers, realize what you represent and do it with integrity. You are the pillar of the family. Take that blessing seriously.

There is a church in North OC who feels the call to stand in the gap. They not only get up on Sundays and express their love for abused women, single moms and their children, but they come down to these women offering a helping hand. The pastors call the house weekly to talk to the moms and see how their doing. They send food over on a regular basis. Members of the Church help financially support the house. And most importantly the men of the Church welcome moms and kids with open, healthy loving arms. It is the example that needs to bleed into churches and homes across America. They are only one body.

The hardest part of my job? That I can never be the father that these children need.  I can make good dinners, read them books to bed, ask them about their day, kiss their cheeks, hold their hands in the grocery store and teach them about Jesus. But I was never meant to be in their lives in the perfection God had wanted for them. My heart hurts so terribly for the fatherless.

Can we create an environment where men of God adopt fatherless children into their hearts and love them the way they need to be loved?

 

365 days of freedom

It happened. The arrival came. Almost without warning. I woke up one day, and it had been a year. A year since the most challenging year of my life. A year since my bed knew me better than my friends. A year since havoc wrecked my body. A year of sorrow. A year of joy. It had been 365 days since the Doctor had sat with me in my hospital bed, rubbing my feet and said, “I’m going to do the best I can do, but I can’t take this disease away from you. You might only be better for a little while. I’m so sorry.”

When the day came, the year marking day, I was overcome. This past year has been so beautiful. God promised me so many things, far before I ever got sick. In being sick I doubted that I would ever walk the road I knew I had been created for. But God was faithful, and this last year has unraveled beautifully with so many blessings. My purpose is clear. And most importantly for the purpose of it being the one year marker, I have only had one day with pain (aside from healing from surgery pain, which is entirely different)

Although all that is true, that is not at all how I felt that day. What I felt was rage. Rage like, throw shit in my apartment everywhere, rage like pound my fists on the floor, rage like call my sister weeping not making a lot of sense, rage like begging God for an explanation of why He did this to me. That kind of rage. Even through all of my being sick, I had never felt rage like that before. All through sickness and recovery I had considered myself so blessed to have this disease. I see it as God’s most beautiful burden for me to carry and I am honored that He allowed me to have it.

But not that day.
No that day I was pissed.
And yah know what? It didn’t end that day.

As I’ve wrestled with God in this, my heart is slowly revealed to me.

Fear. Oh how it stings!

The story of my sickness is filled with more redemption than I’ve seen in any other area of my life thus far. I am so surrounded with love and wisdom, that even if I were to get sick again, it would be so different. But this is a process. One that I have to give myself grace for. Although I am thankful for the year I was sick, you couldn’t pay me enough to repeat it.

My body is so incredible now. The things I can do that I couldn’t before is so impressive. Yet I still worry that when I move a certain way, or try something new, I’ll be doubled over in pain. I didn’t know I had been carrying around the ghost of that time in my life. That I was just waiting for it to declare war in me once more. But I was, and when it didn’t. I got nervous.

Why am I telling you this? Because fear is a freedom stealer! Oh you already knew that right? But do you believe you don’t have to live in that fear? Do I believe that for myself? I don’t. I think I need to protect myself. Baby my body. But not just that, my heart too. I have to make sure I don’t let people into it, because that can get hurt too. And my time, gotta protect that cause this time of freedom without pain will end and I don’t want to waste it.

Oh, come on Liz you’re annoying. loosen up.

Ya, I know. But how?

With the grace that washes over me. I can’t, in my power, let go of the chains of my illness. I can’t. And I haven’t been promised that I’ll never be sick again. But I can know that Grace flows. That the expectation is not perfection. The expectation is Jesus. In my hurting, healing, waking and sleeping. Him. When my soul sees Him, she knows not her pain, but His perfection in her.

I know I’ve written these words a hundred times over. And I’ll keep writing them. Because as I grow up more, I grow in Him more and at the center of the God I love, is the Gospel I cherish.

So I’m going to go out and meet new people. I’m going to eat foods on the “forbidden for the ill list”. I’m going to go on hikes and run miles, cause I can. And I’m going to rest in His peace. It is such a hard process for me, but I’m going to. And if I ever get sick again, I won’t be afraid, because grace lives in me.

I want the record to state these words aren’t easy. That’s why they have to be spoken. Talking the tough stuff is the first step.

What parenting has taught me so far….?

Ok, no I’m not really a parent. Or some might say I’m more than a parent because at 24 I’m running a house of 16 40 hours a weeks. Whatever your perspective on my job, I’ve had to jump into parenting in ways I never thought I would. As my mother used to say “You’ll understand when you have your own kids”. Well mom I do. And this God given, fresh perspective on people is worthy of being shared.

 Before I continue, I would like to give my two largest influences on parenting. First is my mother who loves selflessly and graciously, and second is my co-worker Pam who is bold and wise in ways I can only pray to be. Watching these two mother has helped me to love all around me more wholly.

 Point number one: It is actually possible to love someone so much so that his or her actions break you. Ya, I’m sure you all think you’ve felt this in a romantic way, but it is entirely different when you are serving, molding and guiding the one you love and they break your heart by not making good choices. The depth of a mothers’ compassion on her child is unreal and is something I have only brushed the surface of.  And since I have no children of my own to love, I instead see glimpses of this compassion on the women and children I serve at work as well as m friends and family. It’s a tough love to contain. It’s hard to explain. It’s one of those things you have to wait for until you have your own kids I suppose.

Point number two: Natural consequences are the best kind! Oh ya there are! Instead of punishing people with my own actions or condemnation, I simply allow them to make their own choices and live in the consequence of that. There’s only so many times you can tell a child that something is hot and will sting them before you have to just let them feel it so that they know. People are pretty much the same way. I will give wisdom and love and will be there to kiss their boo boo, but ultimately their going to do their own thing and when we stand before God, I’m not responsible for managing their sin. This is a double edged sword because, on the one hand there is so much freedom in letting go and letting people live, and on the other it breaks my heart, as I stated earlier, to watch them do it. But they are Gods children and He loves them and will take care of them. I have to humble myself and let go of my need to control them and just love them like Jesus, without condemnation and judgment, but with wisdom and truth.

Point number three: Laughter is the best medicine. Oh how it is! The sound of a baby’s deep belly laugh or all my clients cracking jokes in the kitchen warms my soul when I’m at work. Similarly laughter breaks down walls when tears are flowing and helps friendships and romances to bond. It is a type of glue that helps the love to flow. We can’t take life or ourselves too seriously. It’s simply not worth it. Life’s too short. If you can laugh hard enough each day that you nearly wet yourself, I’d say your life is pretty successful. It doesn’t all have to be deep talks and preachering. Let loose!

Point number four: You have to choose your battles. Is a three year old having a string cheese and yogurt for breakfast worth a yelling match that ends in tears? Is your friend not telling you a small detail about something worth your bitterness? 90% of the time, I’m going to say it’s a no. So why do we do it? Pride! We need to let go. We really aren’t as important as we think we are and it really isn’t that big of a deal. Our stuff doesn’t really matter. Battle for the things that matter. Those things will not only bring your life purpose, but will do better for all around you. This perspective has made me want to take people (including myself at times) and shake them and say, “Get over it! Not worth it dude!” We as people often want to wrestle with others about God, instead of wrestling with God about people. We need to kneel before Him and plead and then let Him do the work. And when there is need to wrestle, do it in love.

Point number five: Love happens well when you do life with people. I’m not going to say it happens best, I’m not going to say it doesn’t happen when you don’t do life with people, but doing life with people makes it happen. When we live life with people we can be the most raw, we can be the most real, and let’s face it most of the time it’s the most fun. I’m not against the street evangelists, but the Gospel was first given to the disciples who LIVED with Jesus. The Gospel can also be modeled in the same way today, as we love people into it. And those people can be our children, but really anyone you do life with. Go do life with people and talk about Jesus, you’ll see.

Point number six: Without Jesus nothing is possible. After hearing my name (or my nicknames Reverend Mother or Rev) out of 15 different mouths asking for a hundred different things, I reach the end of my rope. I have come to the point for the first time in my life where I run out of energy for any sort of conversation. I run out of words.  I need to be refueled and fast! And it doesn’t end at work. Life is draining, that’s what it is. Good or bad, it just is. If we aren’t eating from the bread of life how do we expect life to be any different? He is the only fuel that lasts. It’s like trying to travel from Cali to New York. If given the choice would you rather walk or fly a plane? Jesus is the plane. I understand you’ll get to the same destination in the end (maybe, if you make it) but you could just rely on a plane and have the help and grace flowing love you need.

Point number seven: It takes a village to raise a child. I think what this saying actually means is it takes a village to support the people who raise the child. The point I’m getting at is community is essential. No matter what you’re doing you need advice, to process, to share stories and laughter and you need a break. I am so thankful for the other two women at work who help me run the home, and I am also thankful for the people that come alongside me in life and help with…just life stuff. We need people. We were made communal. The biggest lesson I had to learn was to reach out and say when I needed help or when I’m drained. We need community and we need to communicate with our community.  If we try to do things without the resources around us, loneliness is sure to consume us.

 If anyone is reading this I hope it helps you. I can take no credit for these discoveries, for I am a dumb little lamb in need of a shepherd. I think I like it better that way. It gives me grace to make all the mistakes I need to and for people to still be loved with the Gospel of Christ. For those who have prayed and supported me through this, please keep doing it. Community is so necessary! And I thank you!

The Steady Drip

The condensation surrounds the cup in my hands. I’m staring down at a red ribbon I ripped off of a box and am twirling it around my fingers. He talks to us, as I listen with a heavy heart. I sigh deep sighs. Sip the water. A resolution. I think to myself I hate these conversations. Anything worth fighting for is going to involve these tough talks. We are released from the office and back into the minefield. All in a days work. I’m back at it.

 The sweat drips from my forehead as I stare into the mirror that is fogging due to the heat of bodies. I twist my legs around each other and I feel the pinch and burn and then the release. The sweat is flooding my mat as I sit in the stillness of a room packed with yogis with one intention, strength. I feel weak, yet look at my reflection and look into the eyes of a women strong. “Back into that last position, and into downward dog.” Oh the sweat drips of the release.

 The tears drip down the face of a friend. Making promises and repentance. Clear and calm. The words spill from my mouth quicker than I’d ever like them too. I feel like I’m grasping for air. I’m grasping for something. My emotions and confusion spins as if in a cotton candy maker, all-turning into a billow of puffy nothing. No redemption is found in lost conversation.

 I look down and watch the steam pour out of my freshly steeped tea. I look at this woman, who has known me since we were both girls. Where did the time go? When did we grow? We look at each other. Laugh at the stories.  Wishing for simpler, seemingly ancient times. We whisper secrets of the past. We stare down at our mugs. We wish for times past and dread future decisions. We want simple and are overwhelmed with complicated. I pour my heart. My mind twirls slightly around complications. The conversation is better than pleasant.

 The dishwater covers the floor. My face has rich chocolate smeared everywhere, most prominently on the tip of my nose. My hair pushed back, apron on. I whirl around the kitchen, throwing this in the oven and tossing that in the sink. The women come in and ask questions “As soon as I’m done cooking I’ll take care of that.” is me simple reply. I grab a pan out of the oven wrong and the sting hits. Hits hard.  I squeeze my eyes tight as I drop the pan onto the stove top, avoiding a spill. I stare at my hand intently, expecting the worst. I rush to the sink and flip the water on. A small child walks in and between my legs, I command her out and stand and soothe my wound for a moment, and then quickly am back over the stove.

 I stand there, vacant. I stare up at the showerhead and beg the water for more heat. I run the water through my hair, as if to wash the weight I feel off my body. The long day washes from my face and I can see the grime run down the drain. I’m all talked out. Out of words. How much talking, can someone in my shoes do anyway? I watch as soapsuds collect near the drain. I stand and think. I breathe deeply. I am lost, yet here in the water I am found. I let the water, which is only getting colder, wash over me. I hope for refreshment, knowing that when I step out of the shower, I will be stepping back into the muck.

The thirst I feel seems endless. My need for truth in these times is endless. How can I know my thirst if I don’t know what I’m thirsting for? My heart has been in a steady ache. I have needed a downpour of grace and mercy. In the current of regrets, frustrations and sorrows is the water- the Truth. For Christ’s love for me has the power to quench all my thirsts. My thirst for righteousness, for strength, for redemption, for wholeness, for peace, for comfort. My thirst may be endless but the water is always there for me. The well never runs dry. What better way for me to understand my thirst, than for the Holy Spirit to guide me to pay attention to water? As I snapshot my moments of my deepest insecurities and hurts, I see that the water is all around me. Love comes like a flood that carries me. It never drowns me, never allows me to suffer long. These are calm waters. The water has come to fill my soul. It beckons me for hydration of the mind. And as I fall into the petals of His watery grace, I am whole.

I leave you to consider the women at the well. She met Jesus at the water. He told her where her real thirst was from. Her real thirst was for the endless water. She had been feeding her need with a well that runs dry, with the love the world gives. As the man who knew her past, sat and showed her His true love, she found her thirst quenched. I come to the well. I ask you to join me. Join me in the journey of the water.

Youth, it has a way of keeping you naïve, vulnerable, and making you over complicate things. As I lay my head on the pillow, on a night of great grief, I weigh the heaviness of decisions, that I feel like I would be better equipped to make when I’m 40. I know in my heart that that won’t make it any easier. The simple truth is, these emotions are mom emotions. Brokenness surrounds me. I want t to find a wooded area and run until my feet bleed. I scream out into the shoulder of a friend who feels my agony. It hurts so bad that gasping for breath is difficult. The pain is one of the deepest I have ever felt and it’s not for me. The simple reality is that sometimes the life God has called me too, although filled with such beautiful blessings, is also filled with endless heartbreak. I go home from work feeling drained, only to be overwhelmed by all the rest that life outside has to offer. My heart can barely keep up with my schedule. I follow these tired moments with hitting my emotions out on the pavement. As I run, I think about the fact that this is all a choice. I’m called sure, but I can walk away.

Would I?

No, never. It doesn’t even seem like an option. For in that, who I am would be left behind as well.

I can’t tell you how many blogs I’ve started in the last few weeks without following through. I’ve been overwhelmed with emotions this month. That’s right folks, emotions. Life’s been a little tough.

No, it’s not too much.

No, it’s not over.

No, it’s not even that bad.

Is this the nature of the beast? Yep, you bet. Should we walk around pretending that brokenness doesn’t exist?  I’d have to say no to that.

Everyday is a reminder that I can’t do it alone. And I don’t just mean without Jesus. I can’t do it without all these other people in my life who pour into me. I often try to just wrestle it out with the Father. I’m walking around limping and bruised, what makes me think I don’t need people to help put me back together. And I’m thankful for that. And still there’s the sting. The sting on my head and my heart weighs on me and drags itself into everything. Like the stretch of garbage would follow me into each room I entered, had I rolled myself in a trashcan. But still hope follows me.

Sometimes I don’t know what I’m hoping for. Sometimes my heart hurts too badly. Sometimes the stories overwhelm too much. But still the Spirit within me hopes.

For Christ was broken. He was broken for all brokenness. He was broken to remove the sting. Yea everything still hurts, but now we can cleave to the Cross-of redemption. Now we can hope on the coming kingdom. Now we come directly before the father and beckon for change. Even beckon for an answer. The Crucifixion draws me and whispers to my aching heart “I suffered too, I suffered for you. Tell Me about your pain, I want to take it from you. Cry out, cry on My chest. I want your tears.” When I toss at Him the rags that are my idols, false hope, and self-assurance, I get in returned the richness of His wisdom and the reality of His truth. Sometimes I think this trade isn’t fair. I am trading a penny for a million dollars. I’m undeserving and yet I feel too proud to take it. I push it away until I’m sick in the stomach. I must always reach out for His hand. For His hope. For Love.

So, life’s not perfect over here, but its pretty wonderful. If laughter is the cure for what ails, I’ve had plenty. If grace is needed, I’ve received. If life is better spent in the company of those you love, I’m surrounded. Yea I have a job that kicks my butt and breaks my heart, but I’m doing something hard for the kingdom. What did I expect? Walking through flower fields?

Are things going to change? Probably not. Not till Jesus comes back. So until then or until I go to my heavenly wedding (a day I look forward too), I am called to keep seeking lost souls and telling them that there is Love and that Love died to free them. Until all the lost are found, we have to keep looking for the one. I have to take care of the lambs.

So tonight, on this simple evening, I want to cheers, to new tomorrows. To thankfulness. And lastly to feelings, cause I have some of those!

Leap

2013

 I’ve seen many instagram posts and facebook status in the last few days about people’s experiences of the year 2013. Some had “The best year of their lives and cant wait to see what 2014 brings!!!” Others, “Had the worst year and cant wait to see change in 2014”.

 I seem to find my emotions swinging between two extremes, as always.

 First: Holy Hell this year was nuts! Like really nuts! I was sick for most of it. I went through financial crises, heartbreak, breakdowns, jobs loss, friend loss, moving 3 times, and lets not even begin to talk about my feelings in all this! I mean seriously, seriously I never want to relive any of those experiences. I don’t want to feel that lonely ever again. That broken ever again. That lost. That hopeless. Never ever, ever.

 Secondly: Holy Hell this year was nuts! I moved to a city I’ve now fallen in love with. I got the job I’ve dreamed of all of my short adult life and that I’ve worked so hard for. I have found a community that excites, challenges and loves me. I have a family that has proven their love for me through a rough season in my life and I have friends who will stand by me through anything. I overcame a disease that was seemingly taking over my life and I’m so much stronger because of it. I loved this last year in all its highs and lows.

 Honestly folks this year has been so hard, it really has. The amount of emotional and physical pain seemed like it would never let up. And although I don’t think if I had the choice I would desire to repeat this year, I am so abundantly blessed to have made it through.

 I know I write so often about God’s grace, and His blessings, and The Gospel, and His goodness. Guys I can’t stop. Because He doesn’t stop. He keeps loving me, and bestowing gifts on me although I haven’t personally done anything to earn them. He simply keeps giving to me because I’m His daughter. This breaks me! I am so self-righteous and I believe so often I have to do something in order to win His favor. Yet in the midst of all my brokenness this last year He keeps pouring out His never ending blessings. I can’t believe it!

 With all that I’ve received this last year, I can do nothing without a God who adores me enough to throw me into the fire and then walks into it with me, carrying with Him a hose and arms open wide! He never left my side all the nights I laid up crying. He always showed his love in tangible ways; whether it was money from the sky or a stranger with the advice I needed to get to the next step. He always came through despite how I failed.

 This next year holds so much promise, but I’m not promised tomorrow. If tonight is the last night I live, I will know that God had me here so the Gospel would be manifested in me. And that’s enough. My soul drinks up the knowledge that that’s enough. That He is enough. That He has refined me and made me enough. That death on the cross was enough.

 May we go forth in celebration of His coming! He has come, He has overcome, and He has gone before this next year. Walk in Him!

 “ ‘For ye shall not go out with haste’ As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, un-remembering delight, nor with the flight of impulsive thoughtlessness, but with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities, which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtlessness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ.” – Oswald Chambers

The Conclusion

Disclaimer: I in no way thought this would be the result of my cleanse/fast. God knows what I need SO much better than I ever will! Praise God for that!!

I usually don’t share with others the result of a fast, but I did promise to do so in my last blog. So here we go. I am going to keep it simple as to keep intimacy with God private. I hope it will encourage some of you to rest on the truth of the Gospel.

So the cleanse was relatively easy. For 2.5 days I had no hunger. No headaches. I was able to exercise and didn’t require extra sleep. My understanding is that these are not normal results, although I’m sure others have felt that way. I felt very fulfilled by Jesus, the bread of life, and was hunger pain free. It was incredible. I am off four days in a row every other week so I just enjoyed my time off, and kept myself busy with friends and errands. Very normal. But by Wednesday I was feeling the heaviness of the need for the Sabbath I was about to take. I had set aside a long period of time for God. For reading, prayer and reflection.These were all simple things. I had no idea of the wall God had planned to knock down in my heart.

Every learning curve we go through, in my opinion, is for the benefit of a deeper understanding of the Gospel and for the purpose of teaching the lost.

My mind was racing at the beginning of my time before the King. I sat there thinking ‘My mind is never going to stop long enough for whatever is bothering me to surface.’ And then out of nowhere the heavens whispered to me. That beautiful still small voice- ‘you are healed, now walk in the healing!’ In that moment I broke. I had gone into this fast praying for healing from so many things. Healing from relationships, from addictions and dependencies, for my body, from stress etc. But was I willing to accept that healing? Nope I wasn’t. I wanted to micromanage everything in my life. That control was what pushed me to put more sugar in my mouth. It’s what caused me to stress out every time my body changed and continued with the healing process. I sat there on the beach feeling the weight of all these things lift off my shoulders and immediately was replaced with reverence, at the beauty of the God I love madly and serve endlessly.

What it all boils down to is where I put my trust. Do I put it in God who has the power to heal me, or do I put it in myself? “To you oh Lord I lift my soul. Oh my God in you I trust.” Ps 25:1 As I read this verse, I could feel my gaze shifting from what it had been, to what it should be. I kept hearing the words whispered from the Gospel of John 5- Jesus heals a man sitting by a healing pool, who hasn’t walked in some time. The man never touches the water of the pool. He just heals him and says “Pick up your mat and WALK!” and you know what about that crippled guy is so interesting? He doesn’t hesitate! All I’ve done is hesitate. If I believe the promises that God has made me in the depths of my heart, I’d know that He has healed me. I don’t need to live in fear. He’s healed me from all the things I lift up to Him, that I give Him full heartedly. He has my life in His hands. So what is it that I don’t believe that arises this fear? How do I full accept Gods healing?

Really what I am not fully getting is the Grace of God. That He would desire for me to be healed for the fulfillment of the Gospel. The book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp has a chapter about this that I just so happened to read yesterday. She talks about how all is Grace. All can be transfigured. “The God of the Mount of Transfiguration cannot cease His work of transfiguring moments- making all that is dark, evil, empty into that which is all light, grace, full.” “Can I believe the Gospel, that God is patiently transfiguring all the notes of my life into the song of His Son?” Reading these words stung like darts in the dark. My answer has been – no I can’t. I have to be in charge. So yesterday I had to let go. And in that beautiful intimate let go, I found the Glory of God, which truly is my transfigured hearts’ desire.

Last night God released me of my fast. What’s the plan next? (oh come on I’m a planner. Did you really think I wouldn’t make a plan?? God knows my heart) I’m going to continue taking care of my body. I don’t have a sugar addiction. If I want to eat sugar, or corn or if all my food is cooked one day- it’s not a big deal. I am still a daughter of God and my body is healed. It can take it. I do know a lot about food and am so grateful for that. We have been given freedom to make choices with our bodies in concern to food. I know what’s best for me; I will walk in the freedom of that choice. There’s more to life than control. God has slowly started to pull my hands out of my own life, one area at a time, so that he can place my hands in the work of His plan for me. I went through a season of losing everything so God could replace it with the life He has for me. As much as that suffering hurt, I look back with joy. It almost makes me giddy to know that God loved me enough, to break me down so far, to raise me up in His glory. So my plan is to continue to “lose my life for God’s sake and the gospel {so as to} will save it.” Mark 8:35

God’s love is to the deep and untouched. Go and experience it. Push everything that distracts out. Push social media, food, relationships, work, even sleep if you have to, to go before Him, fully present and enjoy His grace. He wants to pour it out on you. For the fulfillment of the Gospel.

My Addiction

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Here I am. Pause and let’s praise God for breaking strongholds, particularly in this gals life! End Pause.

Sugar.

I’m sure everyone reading this let out a little chuckle. Yep sugar is a real addiction. And I’m really addicted to it. Sugar, like all other processed food, has mood altering properties that cause humans to use it to cope with emotions and to have a seemingly impossible time ceasing to consume it. Replace sugar for another word like alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc. and you will be familiar with the side effects.

Now in order to explain to you how I came to the realization that this was more than a sweet tooth and was a physical dependency, I need to tell you my journey with food and my body. I also need to tell you that sugar addiction is in every household. Most Americans are addicted to either chemical additives in food, sugar, caffeine, complex carbs, or just food in general. I am not alone. I am just calling it for what it is. I hope this post encourages you to evaluate your own food choices and start the journey of healing- not only for your body, but your mind and spirit.

I was raised in a family that was overall ‘junk food free’ my mother rarely cooked packaged food for us. I didn’t eat top ramen until after I moved out and fast food was not allowed. We didn’t always eat healthy, but we weren’t in taking high quantities of processed food either. As a young adult, I thought I had my body figured out. I ate tons of carbs and sugar AND tons of veggies and fruit, which for some reason I thought fixed it. I have always been a little pudgy- but no one ever said anything, because I’m not obese, and because I was doing what every other seemingly healthy person was doing. I was good. I now know how many chemicals where in the foods I thought where healthy and how much more processed the food I was eating was than I thought. Earlier this year when I got sick and found out I had an auto-immune disease, I started looking for ways to take control of my health, since my body obviously was suffering. Most people can’t explain to you what certain foods do to you; they just say “its healthy.” for example- whole grain. What does whole grains do to benefit your body and what grain are they using all of? You probably don’t have an answer for that; you just think it’s healthy. Even a pineapple. Do you know what pineapple does for the body? I’m not saying I’m an expert. I just wanted the answer to those questions. You should too!

First thing I learned: Gluten is terrible for you and toxic, as someone with an auto-immune disease you should stop consuming it immediately to give your immune system a break and allow it to fight your disease. Also sugar and carbs cause inflammation, with an inflammatory disease, they had to go. I learned that soy, along with preservatives and other additives, are also terrible for you and could be the cause of these diseases. I also learned what foods where helpful on building up the immune system. I had to cut the bad and replace it with the good. I had no other choice in order to survive.

I cut it all out, except the sugar. I couldn’t do that.

By the time I went in for surgery in May my body was at its peak. I bounced back from surgery faster than anyone I had heard of. After my surgery I backslid into my old ways for a while, before realizing once again what was at stake, and yet again threw myself into keeping my body healthy. I’m full primal (very similar to paleo, I just have a little bit of dairy in there), I run, get massage therapy, gave up coffee, eat organic, look for excuses to move my body, get out in the sunshine, get plenty of sleep, eat tons of veggies and fruit, don’t eat between meals, I don’t eat processed foods, I do all that the nutritionist say. I eat healthier than most of the people around me. But still even with all that, I am daily finding myself sticking processed sugar into my body, making excuses, wishing to stop, praying for change, and seeing little results of the other things I am doing because of the insult that the sugar is doing to my body. Sugar is so toxic for us. It immediately turns to fat when it enters the body. It release chemicals in your brain telling you your happy, even if your not. And so I keep eating it to lift my mood, to escape, or just to add more joy to my life. It’s a sickening cycle.

So finally I faced my demon. I need to get this sugar out. How you ask?

Well first I had to stop making excuses. I had to say, “Ok Liz, this is a spiritual, emotional, and physical dependency.” After that I did a ton of research. I learned more about super foods and am currently adding those bad boys into my diet. Lastly, very soon, I am going on a detox. I am purging it all out. Four days of NO SUGAR AT ALL! Just super foods and greens in liquid form, and water. When I’m done I have faith that the battle will be over. Also after the cleanse I will try to eat 51% of my meals raw. That’s a whole other thing, if your curious please ask. I am also taking advantage of this opportunity to take a spiritual retreat. In talking about this with some of my friends, they are challenged to do the same. I will be updating my blog with how it goes so people can know a little bit of what to expect. For those of you who would like to know what I’ve learned, I’d love to tell you all about it. Or you can find me in the kitchen; I have taken up residents there.

I usually don’t tell the world about my physical goals, but heck here I am pouring out my food regimen with all of you, might as well tell you what I hope to get out of it.

I’m not trying to be skinny; I’m trying to be strong. I was unfortunately born weak. I am sick. I will always be sick. I was also born with a purpose that God has laid out before me. He has given me the tools to do it, even though I am sick. But I have to take care of my body, the Temple, if I am going to do that! So my goal is to be strong. It’s also to get rid of the idol of sugar in my life. Jesus should be my only God, no other thing should go before, replace, or add to Him. I am excited for my journey of no sugar,  super foods and raw eating!

Beauty In The Mourning

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Romans 12:14-16

 The sun hangs lazily in the sky. Fat with a warm orange glow. So bright it pierces me. The foggy smog around it hovers over the earth. The knowledge that the sun is slowly making its way to bring day to the other side of the world is apparent to all the people walking the streets, but to me it feels as though time stands still. I want to pause the day as we drive through the streets. I want to put off the inevitable pain that walking back into the mourning ground brings. The overwhelming sense of compassion and sorrow consume me as I care for my friend. Gladly I would take her place. She is loosing her earthly father. A man who she so deeply loves. It was all so quick. Just a few days early we spoke of him and her simple beautiful love for him. Of his health. And then here we are in the throngs of grieving the loss of him. She has swallowed the sadness whole and now it slowly seeps from her eyes as she speaks of precious memories of a man she has always know and is now always gone.

 This is a deep sorrow. A sorrow that hangs in the air, sits in a chair in the room with you, and lies next to you while you sleep. It shows you the hopeless side of life. It illuminates moments of regret. Makes you feel worthless. It brings about extreme exhaustion. This sorrow comes quickly and takes years to leave. This sorrow turns what we know to be normal into a completely new reality.

 Most of us have walked through a season of sorrow. Most of the people I know have dealt with extreme poverty, death of someone close to them, been abused, been painfully ill, or any of the number of things that can happen that would cause this type of sorrow.

 So why then, can we not bear in one another’s burdens? Is it possibly because we never fully healed from that which brought us sorrow? Because we were fed lies, either through word or action, that we needed to move quickly past our sadness and back to life as we had known it before?

 Whatever the reason, we are doing a terrible job of comforting and taking care of those who mourn. And when I say terrible I mean that we are slicing open they’re wounds, pouring salt on them, giving them a good little slap and sending them back into the ruthlessness of life and telling them to put a forced smile on their face. There is no timeline for mourning. No cookie cutter way of going about it. No way of telling what is going to hurt whom and how much.

 I’m not an expert on mourning or death. However I have had my share of troubles though. As many of you know I was in a very dark place only a few months ago. When the pain of my disease was taking over my life and when Doctors sat in front of me and told me the end was near without a change. Directionless and in need of so much help and wisdom I had very few to turn to. The Lord blessed me mightily in this season, but people who said they loved me sometimes did the worst job at caring for me. I was so sad. Sadder than I had ever been. Sad enough to beg Jesus to take me out of this earth so I could be out of the pain, the turmoil and the loneliness. I was sensitive and people where insensitive. The hardship was real.

 So how do we change this? If the verse at the top of the page means what is says, then we are called to behave in that manner in a way that manifests Jesus. When I got the call that this was the end, and I knew that one of my closest friends was going to fall to pieces, I wondered.  What could I do? I can’t fix it. I can’t make it go away. I have no words to lessen the sting. What the hell does a simple young woman like me supposed to do? I was struck with a very foreign reality that I was now in the shoes of those who had walked with me through my season of mourning. I needed to carry her. I needed to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I had to tap into the sorrow I had just experienced. I had to feel it all over again in order to know how to soothe her.

 I can only speak from the Gospel and from my experiences.

 When I look at the life of Jesus I see that He never fled from mourning. I embraced it. He went to funerals (yes he also went to celebrations and weddings), He knelt beside the homeless, He touched the blind, and He loved all the people. Yes we see that he performed miracles, but the beauty in it is that He could have healed them from a far, but He chose to kneel down beside them, He chose to touch them, He chose to listen to them first and then speak words of truth to their heart. He was a glorious example of sitting in peoples muck with them and loving them through it. I know He still sits in our muck with us. He definitely has sat with me. Heard my cursing the wind, my begging for the relenting of a season, kissed my cheeks and assured me He was strong within me to bring me through. He loves endlessly, should we also not love endlessly?

 If I may, I need to talk about what I’ve learned about comforting the mourning.

 When I was mourning (and when others have described their feelings during mourning, these are some of the words they’ve used, but they are not limited to) I felt lonely, vacant, lost, misunderstood, and sensitive and a million other things I couldn’t put to words. I was constantly torn between sitting in my problems and weeping, and forgetting them all together. Someone once described pain as ‘holes of the soul’ I cannot think of a better description of what I felt. Bullets to my ever shriveling and fainting heart. I often couldn’t describe how I felt, but always wanted to talk about it. I often couldn’t find tears, but always wanted to cry. I often wanted isolation, but hated being alone.

 The ones who showed me the Gospel of Jesus the most were first and foremost available! They were willing to listen to me, even if I was repeating myself a million times. They answered their phone in the middle of the night if I woke up in tears. They rallied together for my cause. Secondly they prayed for me. They petitioned The Lord for my heart. For my healing. For me to see redemption. They spoke the Gospel over me. Reminded me to keep going, to continue in my fight. They kept me out of isolation by being there. They admitted when they didn’t know what to say, or when they couldn’t relate to me, but they never made me feel like I was a burden, although I know I probably was. They didn’t try to speed up the process. Never made me feel guilty that I was going through it. They simple showed me Jesus. They pulled from what they knew, their own experiences and again they never left me. They let me feel the emotions I needed to feel. That although they couldn’t always understand my feelings, they were valid. They wanted to hear them. All of them!

 The ones that hurt me most left, or ignored me when I got sick. They couldn’t deal with me. They cut more soul holes in me instead of lassoing me in for healing.

 I was blessed, more than others I’ve seen, with a true community of people who loved me, but shouldn’t it be that way for everyone when hardship comes knocking on the door? We have to stand in the gap together as believers. We have to want to see Jesus here, in us and through us.  Jesus will heal us no matter what, that is His promise to us, but He does use us to come around each other and love each other through it. Although it is not our job to do the healing, we are tools he uses to help with healing. We must be obedient to His call.

 I know this journey of carrying another as they heal is long. I know the journey of healing is long. I know Jesus cares so much about it. That’s why I want the world to be on pause, as I walk my friend through this process. I don’t have the perfect words to say. I’m hurting through this healing too. But I know I need to be there. I need to sit in her puddle. And while we sat their yesterday something beautiful happened- we laughed. And we cried. And we got annoyed. And we told jokes. And we felt awkward. And we were thankful. And we talked about unrelated subjects. And we were us. Cause we all needed that. How beautiful is Grace? That the Son of God was sent. He came for our redemption, He came for our healing. And until the day we go to be with Him, we will keep needing redemption and healing.

 So GO be in the mourning place with someone. The sweetest honey a relationship can produce is found there and you get to eat of it and keep going. Blessed be His Name.