Honoring the journey to wholeness

                When I started this blog, I knew I wanted to speak to women. I wanted to remind my sisters that wholeness is possible, necessary even. What I didn’t know or understand then was hoe much more I needed to learn and grow, how much I needed to learn how to love H.E.R. myself. This journey to wholeness has been one of the hardest, most painful, most challenging work of heart that I have ever done. And, with all the growth I have achieved and all that I have learned, I admit that I have yet still more work to do. This journey will never end, and I am okay with that. I am here to tell you that this journey is not for the faint of heart, or for anyone who is unwilling to be honest and transparent with themselves. But the most important thing is that you must want to be whole, and you have to want it for yourself. Living from a place of health and wholeness allows you the ability to live, learn, love and serve in a far greater capacity that you could imagine. It allows you to fully embrace who you are, flaws and all, and see the beauty and find happiness. It empowers you to love yourself completely, which then enables you to love other openly, and with more compassion and less judgment.

                I have personally been walking the journey and doing the heart work necessary to come to a place where I genuinely love and honor the woman that I am, the woman God created and called me to be. And, because I am healed in some areas and still healing in others, I feel restoration and see restoration in my life. The most amazing feeling is soul restoration. For a long time, I felt disconnected from myself, from my true center, and from my Creator. My personal time and prayer time felt shallow, hollow even at times, but that didn’t stop me from praying or seeking. If anything, it pushed me to press deeper and seek more fervently. I now have a new understanding of Jacob, who wouldn’t let go of the man of God, as well as a deeper appreciation for the determination of the woman with the issue of blood, who pressed her way through the crowds for her healing. In many ways, I identified with her. The more I realized that I needed healing, the more determined I became to get it. I wanted what that woman, and every other woman who is hurting and in needed of healing wants – FREEDOM. I had no idea that I was living in bondage, enslaved to heartache, heartbreak, and fear. But I was, and I was able to see it and work through it because I was open to growth and allowing God to uncover my hidden chains. I had to be honest with God and with myself, and then I had to be honest with people in my life, both past and present. The hardest part about heart work is acknowledging your mistakes and then making amends and apologizing for them. It is an incredibly humbling process. I wrote letters and apologies to people I didn’t realize in the moment I had wronged. But, because I was willing to do the work and own my mistakes, and be transparent, a relationship was restored, a special one at that. Not only did I have internal restoration, I received external restoration, and that brought such joy to me that I cannot begin to describe.

                Now that I personally know the benefits of loving H.E.R., I can encourage others and share wisdom with my sisters about how you can find freedom for your mind, body, and soul. I want you to be healed, empowered, and restored now more than ever, because I know how it feels to be free, to feel that weight lifted. And it all starts with seeking healing for yourself.

 

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.”

~ August Wilson

Mutualism and the Biology of Teamwork

Friendships, romantic relationships, familial relationships all have something in common: they are usually mutually beneficial. In our most healthy and valuable relationships, the characteristics that we value the most are those things that improve or add positive energy to our lives. I personally place high value on loyalty, respect, authenticity, and compassion. I recently did an exercise of listing my personal core values, and those four things were near the top or at the top of my list of values. Why? Because they reflect a personal commitment to oneself and to others to honor the relationship they have with you as a part of the community to which they ascribe.

In symbiosis, the word for such a relationship is mutualism. The name speaks for itself. In a mutualistic environment, the organic interaction is mutually beneficial, both organisms supporting the other’s highest good and survival. They make each other better and look out for one another’s best interests. There is a pooling of resources, each organisms acting in their strengths for the collective benefit of the interaction. Another way of describing this is reciprocal altruism, a behavior where one organism acts in a manner that temporarily reduces its fitness while increasing another organism’s fitness, with the expectation that the other organism with act in a similar manner at a later time. Sounds a lot like the covenant of marriage, doesn’t it? But this level of commitment to mutual “fitness” is not limited to marriage. This is the way the early church functioned after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. There was such a sense of community and shared responsibility to and for one another. Every member brought what resources he or she had, in an effort to make sure that every need was being met. And this is what we do in our personal relationships when they work well. One of the things I find myself saying often to the people with whom I share a relationship is “If I have it, you have it.” It’s a statement that I genuinely mean, and what I am really saying is that, whatever resources I have that can help you, I will use to that end. It may not necessarily be monetary in nature. It may be running an errand, sharing my time and strength to lend a hand, or even something as seemingly simple as a listening ear. We often hear the word “resources”, and immediately think financial. But resources are not limited to the financial. Resources include anything that you can do or share that will uplift and “increase the fitness” of the other person.

By no means do I mean to say that relationships will be perfect. The truth is that relationships are messy, and that, to some degree, is by design. Humanity is generally flawed, which means, at some point, we will fall short of the mark. You are going to disappoint people, not intentionally, but it will happen. The key to successful relationships, no matter what setting or relation, is an abundance of unconditional love, grace, and mercy. No one gets is right all the time, and no relationship is 50/50 all the time. Often times, it is 80/20, 90/10, 25/75, 0/100, etc. But, as long as the balance sways in the other direction, you will find value and merit in that relationship. Remember the concept of reciprocal altruism, and you will get much further in said relationships. There is one catch: Don’t expect the pendulum to swing back in your direction the exact same way you swung it away from you. There is a well-known relationship book called “The Five Love Languages.” In it, the authors list the five main ways we all receive and feel love. And, while there are people who share similar love languages, no two people share all in common. In an ideal world, we communicate to others in their love languages, and they respond in ours. But, you and I both know that the world is far from ideal, and this is where grace is important. When the ones we relate to attempt to reciprocate and it doesn’t translate quite the same way, we need to remember to honor the effort they showed.

Psychologists like to call this relationship interdependence. Interdependence is the mutual reliance between two or more groups. In relationships, interdependence is the degree to which members of the group are mutually dependent on the others. In an interdependent relationship, participants may be emotionally, economically, ecologically and/or morally reliant on and responsible to each other. An interdependent relationship can arise between two or more cooperative autonomous participants (e.g. a co-op). (via Wikipedia) No matter how you frame it or redefine it or label it, it all boils down to the same basic concept of understood give and take between persons who are in a healthy and thriving relationship with one another. In such an environment, people not only survive, they thrive. In this safe place where they know that they can depend on others if needed, but are also encouraged to be independent and supported in those endeavors. This is why this is a healthy environment – it promotes growth and healthy change.

There is an area of concern here that one must be aware of. Healthy relationships always have the potential to become unhealthy relationships if not maintained well and regularly evaluated. Some of the closest and best relationships often devolve into parasitic relationships (which I will get into in the next blog post) simply because people are not diligent to prevent it from happening. And it usually happens slowly over time. This is usually the infamous one person “outgrowing” of another in the relationship. You are doing your best to continue to grow and be better overall, while the other person contributes less and less over time, until you wake up one day only to realize that you are no longer in the same place with this person. You have grown apart. It’s okay; sometimes it is a necessary part of the life journey and the growth process. There will be different people who will be pivotal to your growth process at different stages. And not everyone will understand or support that growth or the new place of self-worth that you achieve. These are the people who you must choose to release, or you put the growth that you achieved in jeopardy and you run the risk of regressing, all for the sake of “preserving the relationship.” This is an unhealthy choice. You are never to sacrifice your health and well-being – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – for the sake of saving a relationship. If that is what is required of you, it’s not worth it. PERIOD. The most important thing I have ever learned from being burned over and over again by people who clearly did not care about my well-being in a relationship is that you are allowed to WALK AWAY from anything that threatens your peace of mind, body, and soul. End of story. And it doesn’t require being nasty or mean. But it does mean that you have to know where your boundaries are, and assertively protect them at all costs. I won’t get into this too deep, because I will address it in the next post, but it needs to be said here as well. In good, healthy relationships, people who love you and value you as a person will, not only honor your boundaries, but they will defend them.

 

The Biology of Relationship

    Science, for me, has always pointed to the brilliance of the Creator. Biology, in many ways, mirrors how we function and dysfunction in relation to one another. After have a discussion with my mother about relationships, and the more I thought about it, I began to realize that, all I needed to know or learn about the nature and function and purpose of relationships, I learned in biology. Human relationships are quantified or categorized based on status and value of the relationship, what they contribute to your life journey. Nature categorizes organic interactions in very much the same way. Human interaction is called relationship; organic interaction is called symbiosis.

    Symbiosis is classified based on location (internal or external), connection (together or separate), necessity to survival, and consequence (benefit or detriment). If you think about it, we could define human relationships in very much the same ways, although the labels and adjectives would be a little different. Here’s what I have learned about life relationships through the study of science.

    In symbiosis, the three most common scenarios are mutualism (both organisms benefit), commensalism (one organism benefits without doing great harm to the other), and parasitism (one organism benefits to the detriment of the other). These have parallels in the sphere of human relationship, with slightly different labels but the same understanding. The bottom line to all this is that each and every relationship has and serves a purpose. No encounter or experience is wasted once you understand and embrace that truth. Whether it is intentionally mutualistic, or unintentionally parasitic in nature, there will always be a lesson to be learned – about life, about relationships, about oneself. The purpose and goal of life is to learn from and grow through each and every experience, and then share that knowledge and wisdom with others. Every victory, every defeat, every heartache and heartbreak, every disappointment is an opportunity to grow. Remember this: Defeat is not defeat if you learn something. We were created to live in relationship — with our Creator, with ourselves, and with one another. And, when we neglect or deny that innate part of who we created to be, it causes us great pain and the journey of life becomes much harder. Therefore, it is imperative that we engage our relationships and do all we can to learn as much as we can so that we can get the most out of those relationships. So, with that in mind, what follows are the things that I learned in life that symbiosis has helped me better articulate and share the wisdom that I have gleaned so far.

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Light Shine Bright

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

                A year after Freddie Gray’s death, we are still fighting for freedom. We realize that freedom isn’t free. The cost of freedom is high, really high. The pursuit of freedom will cost you everything in the fight to be “free.” And those who fight for freedom in any area understand this. Immigrants understand that freedom costs you the comfort of home. The slaves of the 1800s understood that freedom cost the lives of their loved ones. Jesus understood that freedom cost both his human life and his connection with God the Father, albeit a temporary separation. And, in spite of all this, there are many souls and voices yet crying out for freedom. So why can’t they seem to find it?

I remember visiting the Statue of Liberty as a child with my mother and brother, not really grasping the weight, and significance of such a monument that continues to stand as a symbol of hope for all those who wish to attain “a better life.” When the monument was first built, America was seen as a land of promise and hope for those who wanted to make more of their lives, and leave a better legacy for their children. The same is true for the Gospel, something we have somehow lost sight of. Listen again, and see if you hear it.

[Matthew 11:28-30 ESV] Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

[Isa 61:1 ESV] The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…

            Can you hear it? Can you see it? We are all familiar with the excerpt from Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” that is etched on the pedestal on which Lady Liberty stands, but we are not familiar with the poem in its entirety.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

            Lady Liberty is calling out to the outsiders, the outcasts, “the homeless,” those who are searching for a place to call home, to be free. And so is Christ in Matthew 28.

“Give me your tired, your poor…”

“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden…”

“…He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives…”

You see, just as the Statue of Liberty stands as a monument, a symbol of hope to immigrants traveling to a foreign land in search of freedom and a fresh start, the cross stands as another monument and symbol of hope for those traveling this side of eternity in search of freedom and redemption. Etched in the nail prints in His hands and feet are the words of Matthew 11 and Isaiah 61. I can see in my mind’s eye, a tablet at the foot of the cross on Good Friday, leaned against it, with the words written, “Come and find rest for your souls.” While Emma Lazarus, hundreds of years later, penned the words, I hear the voice of Christ echoed in the words: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” The message of the Cross is hope – hope for freedom; hope for healing and forgiveness and a fresh start; hope for transformation; hope for grace and mercy. The Cross is the spiritual Statue of Liberty. And, as we encounter and embrace and accept all the hope that the Cross offers, we, too, become the manifestation of that hope in a world that is dying and in need of that same hope.

[Matthew 5:14-16 ESV] “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and pit under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

            We are called to be the torch carried by the cross. As we seek to mirror the life and ministry of Christ, we allow Him to shine through us and influence the lives around us. And how do we do that? By acting with compassion and love and grace. That same hope that the cross offers, that is the hope that we must offer to those around us. We are called to be the visible manifestation of the invisible God, through our hands and feet and mouths. We are commissioned to be the ambassadors of His grace and mercy, of the redeeming power of His love active and alive in the life of the one who chooses to trust Him with all they have.

“From her beacon-hand glows worldwide welcome.”

            We are Jesus’ spiritual welcome wagon, greeting people in love and inviting them to participate in and embrace the rest that comes with an intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe. The price for freedom has already been paid. There is nothing more that is required of us but to enter that rest in the presence of a Creator so incredibly enamored with us that He took care of the tab for our freedom for the rest of eternity. And yet we fail time and again, because we somehow have been deceived into believing that we are allowed to determine whether or not someone is “worthy” of God’s rest. This is not the way of the Cross, nor is it the message or the purpose of the cross. It is not our place or within our authority to disperse the infinite grace provided by the cross. It is available to all who believe and embrace it. Our place is to love and embrace all, without a second thought to whether or not they are “worthy.” The truth is that none of us is “worthy,” and yet God sent His Son to die and pay the price for our freedom anyway.

Marianne Williamson said it best:

“We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

            Our purpose is to shine in such a way that it draws out the light that is already in others, to be the glow that beacons the world to draw closer, and catch fire. The things that bring us together are the things that are similar in all of us. Each light is unique, and yet it shines brightly and encourages others to embrace the unique light that lives within their hearts and souls. And when we find the light in one another, we find home and freedom that can only come from the Creator, in Whom we are all one.

SHALOM.

Embrace the Journey

Three or four months ago, I noticed that the teenagers coming into the office were wearing these silicone bracelets with one white ball and one black ball. I originally blew it off as another teen trend, until I was introduced to them personally. I fell in love with the concept of the lokai bracelet as soon as I understood what it meant and where it came from. A gentleman had a life-changing experience in his college years when he found out that his grandfather was suffering from Alzheimer’s, and would have to helplessly watch his loved one deteriorate from such a sinister degenerative disease. In the midst of and because of that situation, he understood two things: (1) Life is a journey, not a destination; and (2) life is full of ups and downs, and it is up to us to find balance within ourselves in the midst of that. So he created a physical token to remind him of those things. He took water from Mount Everest, the highest point on earth, as a reminder that, when you are at the top, you must remember to stay humble. And then he took mud from the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the earth, and, incidentally, a desolate place, and that is a reminder to stay hopeful when you are feeling you’ve hit a low point.

Me being me, I immediately fell in love with the concept. Life is such an incredible journey. You meet people, you lose people. You have failures and successes along the way. You learn invaluable lessons, and you get knocked down a few times in the process. But it all serves a purpose, both good times and bad times. I attended a prayer breakfast yesterday, and one of the teaching points was that suffering has a purpose. We usually don’t see it that way when we are deep in the trenches of suffering. But the truth is that some of your greatest moments of growth have been birthed out of your greatest times of struggle and suffering. It’s in those life-changing moments – the loss of a loved one; the loss of a job; heartbreak from a relationship; an unexpected tragedy, that we learn the most. We learn about life, we learn about ourselves, but, most of all, we learn about the character of God. That’s why it’s so important to remember to hold on to hope when you hit a low in your life, when you encounter a valley experience in your life, because God promised that you will come through on the other side, and you will be better for it. Job said this when he was going through:

[Job 23:10 NKJV] But He knows the way that I take; [When] He has tested me; I shall come forth as gold.

The Bible is full of promises that we will not be overtaken by the hard times that life throws at us…

[Romans 5:1-5 NKJV] 1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only [that], but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

 

[Romans 8:28 NKJV] 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to [His] purpose.]

 

[James 1:2-4 NKJV] 2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have [its] perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

At the same time, the high points in life are times to remember to be humble. It’s not a time to gloat, because not long before, you were at a low point yourself. It is in the times that you find yourself at a peak, doing well and feeling good about life, that you should take a moment to look back to someone else who is still pressing and speak life to them. Speak a word of encouragement and empowerment to them, so that they can draw strength from that and be able to press the rest of the way through their struggle.

[James 4:6, 10 NKJV] 6 But He gives more grace. Therefore, He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” … 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Everyone’s journey is different, because each person learns differently, and grows at different rates and in different ways. So it is important to honor your own journey, and not compare it to anyone else. But it is also important that you not judge the journey of others based on where you are in your own journey. It’s important to take ownership of your journey, to honor your energy, and embrace your purpose as it grows and matures in your journey. And, when you have learned the lesson and learned it well, make sure that you share your story with others so that they will see and know that where they are and the struggles they face are not unique to them and will not be the end of them. One of the most comforting things to hear when you are having a hard time is that someone sees you and they have been there and understand how you feel in that moment. Understand that sometimes it’s not saying that they will survive that is comforting and encouraging, but they are not alone in that struggle and that they are not out on that limb by themselves. Beloved, embrace the journey and the beautiful road that will lead you to your best self, and remember this: Life is a journey, not a destination.

 

[Hebrews 4:14-16 RSV] Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

He Sees You

We all have moments when we feel invisible, when we feel like all we want is for someone to “see” us and to acknowledge that we exist. We even have moments when we are so wrapped up in ourselves, in what we are struggling with, that we are blinded to the needs and feelings of those around us. I have a few of those moments this week. I struggled with fighting not to lose my physical voice this week. I would wake up in the morning with a scratchy throat and as hoarse as ever. This right after I had signed up to participate in the Christmas choir at my church in two weeks. For three mornings, I woke up hoarse and frustrated. I drank lots of tea and water, trying to coax my voice back to normal. I even tried whiskey in my tea one night (side note: that was one of the nastiest things I have ever tasted! Talk about desperate.) Anyway, by the third day, I was tired of being hoarse, and fighting to get my voice. I couldn’t sing in the car on the way to work because my voice was gone. I had trouble talking to my patients at work because I spoke too loud, I would strain my voice. I was over it. But in the midst of it all, God kept reminding me that He saw me and He had me covered. Well, on the morning of day three, I went to the Starbucks drive thru for tea, and they were out of the flavor that I wanted. I am slightly ashamed to say that I threw a mini-tantrum in my car. So I ordered tea, but not the one I wanted, and I fussed in my hoarse voice in my car through the drive thru, and out of the drive thru, and pretty much the rest of the way to work. I was tired and frustrated and that was just too much for me. And then I received a text message from a dear friend who had just hosted a seminar on soul care the weekend prior. Attached was a YouTube video of a performance of a simple song that we sang during our time of worship at the seminar. The words simply said:

I find that I’m safe and warm in Your loving arms

I find that I’m safe and warm in Your loving arms

You see me, You know me, You love me

Through and through

You see me, You know me, You love me

Through and through

 

That’s right – He saw me. He saw me, frustrated, tired, fussing like a five-year-old about my tea that I didn’t get, and He still loved me, through and through. She had no idea what life she was speaking into my space in that moment. I had been fighting not just with my physical person, but with my emotional person throughout the week. And, every time I brought my crazy emotions and laid them at His feet so that He could shed His light and truth on them, I was gently reminded that He sees me, He knows me, and He loves me through and through. And, in that moment when I was having my own personal meltdown, He tapped me on my shoulder to tell me that it was going to be okay because He sees me, He knows me, and He loves me – wholly, completely, deeply. Through and through. As soon as I heard that, all the uproar and upset and frustration that I felt just melted away. I was safe in His arms, and He loved me, with all my shortcomings and weaknesses. Beloved, that is the message that I pray with all my heart that you grab on to. No matter what is going on in your life right now, whatever is stressing you out or causing you heartache, please hear and know that you, too, can find that you are safe and warm in the loving arms of your Creator. Why? Because He sees you and He knows you and He loves you THROUGH AND THROUGH. That means that nothing about you is hidden from Him, and He still loves you wholly, completely, and unconditionally. I want to speak that life into your souls today. Nothing can separate you from His loving arms, absolutely nothing. Nothing you can say, nothing you can do, no mistakes that you have made, nothing that you have not done, NOTHING. His love is unconditional, because His very nature is Love. Walk through this week knowing and embracing the fact that, no matter what you may face or encounter this week, you are safe and warm in the loving arms of a loving Creator who sees, knows, and loves you, through and through.

 

[Rom 8:35-39 NLT]

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below–indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

**Take time to watch this and I pray that it blesses and encourages you.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/5Y7h6K13z0I” target=”_blank”>Through and Through — Song

Positively ME

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I thought that I would be talking about purpose for tonight’s post, but instead I feel that I should share from my heart and be transparent. This past weekend I attended a women’s conference that was themed around being seen, being heard, and being known by God. For me, the most incredible part was that I could be me, with all my shortcomings and weaknesses, and be accepted and loved and encouraged in a safe space with other women who were seeking God and yet willing to admit those same shortcomings and weaknesses. It was a very comforting and cathartic experience for me. You see, I have always been a strong woman. I have a strong personality, and it is something that has become a double-edged sword for me. Those who have been around me for an extended period of time, have come to see me as a formidable source of strength and encouragement for other people. And, most days, I embrace that.  However, the unfortunate drawback of being the strong person in your inner circle is that they often forget that you are human too. So, when you have a moment of weakness, it becomes this monumental occurrence, instead of one human expressing a moment of weakness to another human who is equally susceptible to moments of weakness.

What I found to be so profound and such a blessing this weekend was that I was allowed to own the fact that there are things in my life that I struggle with from time to time, and be met with unadulterated compassion. I can be really hard on myself. It’s true that I am my own worst critic in life, but here, in this space with these women of faith with feet of clay like mine, I found genuine grace. When I admitted that I struggle with feeling like a failure, I wasn’t met with spiritual clichés or dismissed altogether. I looked into the eyes of my sister in the faith as I shared from my heart, and discovered that I was not alone in the way I felt, or the struggles that I face in life. I realized that, more than anything, I simply want to be accepted for who I am, with all my flaws and struggles and moments of weakness. I want to be able to look into the eyes of at least one person in my life who appreciates my strengths, but makes room and provides a safe space, full of grace and unconditional love, for my weaknesses. And this weekend, I reconnected fully to my First Love. This weekend, the unconditional love that I have been seeking after all my life materialized right in front of me once more, and I encountered Love in a way that I have never encountered before.

You see, the abundant life that Christ spoke about was an abundance that flowed from the inside out. There is a God encounter so profound, so life-changing, and so deep that it draws out of your heart and soul such a sense of connection to your Creator that nothing can shake your confidence in His love for you. This weekend, I fell in love all over again with the Man who gave His life for me. I had been going through life, encountering people and things and places that saw how strong I could be, and chose to only see that. I suffered in silence, in private, without a second thought, because I felt like I wasn’t allowed to be human. I had been robbed of the very thing that brought me life – my humanness. I couldn’t be emotional, or sensitive. I couldn’t be upset or fall apart. I couldn’t live, because other people’s lives crowded out my ability to live fully and authentically. But the most important thing I learned about myself this weekend, and my relationship with my Creator, is that I don’t have to do anything but be me with Him, and that’s enough. I don’t have to be strong, or smart, or brave all the time. I don’t have to be articulate or profound. I don’t have to be flawless or have it all together. Because He sees me just the way that I am, every strength and weakness; every mountain and every valley; everything I am proud of and everything that I have allowed to cause me to feel shame. He sees me, ALL OF ME, and He still loves me UNCONDITIONALLY. I don’t have to put on a brave face or put on a show in order for Him to accept me or want to spend time with Him. He sees ME, He loves ME, He knows all about ME, and He wants me just the same. Not only that, but He thinks I’m AMAZING! He’s enamored with me, obsessed with being in relationship with me, so much so that He sacrificed a part of who He is in order to bridge the gap, mend the rift that was torn when Adam and Eve fell in Eden. Just for me! He sees my heart and soul, and says she’s beautiful, an incredible work of art. This is the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I don’t know where you are in life, or what has happened in your life that has you worn down and torn down. But this one thing I know for certain: Your Creator sees you, flaws and all. He knows you, inside and out. And He wants to have a deeply, intimate relationship with you, where His all-encompassing love can wrap you up so tight that it mends all the broken places. Because, the truth is, I am broken just like you, and I have been more broken in the past. But the love of Jesus has made all the difference. He loves me, and you, enough, to walk with us on the journey to wholeness. And it doesn’t require that you do anything before coming to Him. You don’t have to get yourself together before you come to Jesus, because that’s His job, to put you back together, whole and healthy and complete. Don’t hide from Him because you think that you are unworthy; He doesn’t care about that. He will do the work with you, so long as you are willing to do the heart work with Him. Take it from me – there is no other love like the love that He will pour onto your soul. The warmth and healing and restoration that takes place in the presence of a loving and compassionate Creator is the most incredible encounter you will ever have in your lifetime.

I’m broken, and I’m okay with that. It may make other people uncomfortable, but I wasn’t created to make other people comfortable with who I am. I was created to reflect the glory of God in the earth. He is more than about to redeem and restore the broken places in my heart and in my life, where I have been humbled and brought low by the trials of life, and raise me to a place where I can openly share about the pain and turmoil that He was able to turn around and use for my good and the good of others. I’m so glad that He sees me and knows me and wants me, ALL OF ME. And the same goes for you, dear one.

 

SELAH.