Morbid Thoughts on Turning 31

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We are all running out of time. 

My sophomore year in high school I received a call from a childhood friend. I was living in a different state for over a year at this time, but she kept in contact with me fairly frequently to let me know how the gang was doing. This phone call was unlike any I had received up until that point.

One of my closest childhood friends died that morning.

Like many other mornings before, she got into the driver’s seat of her car with her sister in the passenger seat and they headed off to school. Less than a mile from her house, she came up over a hill and slammed into the back end of the bus we used to ride. My friend and her sister died on impact. We were told sun had blinded her vision that morning causing her to not see the bus.

I was devastated.

I still remember endless hours spent playing in her back yard and exploring her brother’s tree house. During the hot summer days, we’d swim in a kiddie pool her parents set up for us. When we wanted to get out of the sun, we’d go inside and watch “The Baby-sitters Club” movie. We giggled as we laid on her ruffled comforter talking about boys, as most little girls do, and would dream of the future and what it held for both of us.

If you would have asked us then, we would have probably told you we had a lifetime ahead of us to accomplish those things– to get married, start a family and complete our bucket lists. Turns out, lifetimes vary in length. 

It’s been 14 years since the accident.

Since then, I’ve lost others. Each one another reminder that I can never be sure how long I’ll have left on this Earth. This week alone we’ve heard of terrorists killing school children in Pakistan, terrorists taking hostages in Australia and our own local news reels reminding us of violent acts committed daily. There are people dying from terminal illnesses that sprung up just months ago after they had lived a fairly healthy life.

It’s all a mess and we’re all dying.

I had that realization 8 years ago standing over the casket of someone I love (still love) very much. I had a choice in that moment– how would I spend the rest of my days? Knowing that we aren’t guaranteed another breath, let alone another tomorrow, how would I choose to live my life? Now with another birthday on the horizon, I am asking myself those same questions.

Last year for my birthday, I wrote about what I would tell myself if I knew then what I know now.

This year, it’s a bit more simple.

Love more.

If this was my last blog post, that’s what I’d want you to know. That after 31 years, it boils down to love and how I want to give more of it away.

I wouldn’t be worried about what I didn’t get to cross off my bucket list– how I hadn’t stepped foot in all 50 states or how I didn’t get to ride in a gondola in Venice. Those things won’t matter in the scheme of things. Sure, they’ll make for great stories in the nursing home and your grandkids will make a fortune writing a book about you.

I’m not concerned about having my name in lights, I’m concerned with bringing Light into people’s lives.

Recently, I came across this quote by C.R. Bittar: “No matter how destroyed she was, she still believed in love.” That’s the type of woman I want to be. That no matter the depth of my brokenness that I would still choose to love. And love extravagantly.

Broken people become bitter people when they stop loving. I don’t want my brokenness to destroy me. I don’t want the circumstances of the day (or of my life) to dictate whether or not I love fully. I never want to second guess it or hold myself back in fear.

Whether I only live 31 years, or die at the seasoned age of 91, I want to be known as a woman who loved and who loved well.

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When Holidays hurt.

when holidays hurt

Holidays don’t summon happy memories for some people.

No matter how many happy moments have tried to crowd the painful ones, the painful ones still remain. Sometimes these memories are hidden in the dark corners of our hearts where only a few have been allowed in.

As much as we don’t want our past to effect our present, we struggle to forget. Believe me, we wish we could. We long to forget. Instead, we do our very best to celebrate with those who are celebrating.

But what about grieving with those who grieve?

It’s a toss up, I’ll be honest. It’s not that I want people to be miserable. Hell, I don’t want to be miserable. I want to be celebrating with everyone else– wearing red and green flare, singing Christmas carols and giving off that Holly Jolly vibe. Ok, maybe not that much Christmas spirit.

Instead, I feel like I’m in a hole. I can see the colored lights, hear the singing and smell the homemade cookies, but all around me is dark and lonely.

Lonely.

I’m not lonely because I am alone. In fact, I am not alone at all. I have some of the most amazing family and friends around me. You can’t fix an internal problem externally, though. As much as those closest to me shower me with love, my heart still hurts.

On December 4th, I had given up. I texted my best friend and told her how badly I wished for this dumb holiday to be over already. All I wanted was to get through it in one piece. I was a broken, weepy mess.

As she tends to do (thankfully) my bestie brought it back to Jesus.

“I just want to enjoy Him,” she confessed.

::sigh:: Me too.

It would mean I’d have to turn my eyes from my grief to someone else. Someone much more beautiful than all the pain and hurt.

So, I decided to do something I had never done before. I decided to celebrate Advent.

christmas

Since then, I’ve been reading portions of Scripture that talk about the birth of Christ. The reading isn’t super in-depth, a verse or two in length making it easy to follow through on daily. I made a similar calendar for my best friend, too, so we could share the experience. Just the thought that at any minute she could ask me if I’ve done my reading is enough motivation (…guilt…) to keep me on task.

Confession time….I’m still sad. I’m still hurting. I still feel like I’m in a hole. Some days, it feels unbearable.

What gives, Jesus?! I thought if I did the Christian thing that I’d get my happy shot and be good to go until Christmas. That all of a sudden my frown would be turned upside down and I’d be walking around with a smile plastered across my face. Instead of choking back tears anytime someone asks me “How are you doing?”

Maybe you’re like me and you’re hurting, too. I don’t know your story or the reasons why you’re hurting. I won’t pretend to have any answers. All I can do is tell you what I’ve decided to focus on despite the pain.

His name is Immanuel, which means God WITH us. That simple, but profound truth is the hallmark of my days. The powerful reminder that He is:

With us in the pain.

With us in the tears.

With us in the brokenness. The anger. The grief.

The nights I have fallen asleep with tear stained cheeks, He’s been there.

The days where I can barely respond to a text message asking how I am, He’s been there.

The days when my little girl heart was crushed, He was there.

And He’s there with you too. In all of your loneliness, in all of your unpleasant memories, in all of the questioning He’s there. I know you may not feel Him. I know you may not hear Him. But I pray that you would. That in this holiday season, you would experience Jesus…IMMANUEL…in a deeper, more real way than you ever have before.

Lessons from the Queen

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A few years ago, I was a crumpled pile on the floor of a church at a youth conference.

I was one of the chaperones that weekend, and I could easily blame my lack of sleep for all the emotions, but there was something much deeper going on in my heart. In those moments, on my knees, I was asking God a lot of “Why?” questions. The same questions I had asked Him numerous times before and would continue to ask Him numerous times after.

As I wept, someone came to me and prayed for me. I don’t remember the specifics of the prayer, but I do recall that she was praying that, like Queen Esther, I would see the experiences of my life as preparation for the amazing things that would come. There was a sense of hope in her words…there was something more for me than tears and grief.

But that’s how Esther’s story began– with her own set of trials and obstacles. Esther was an orphan and had been taken care of by her cousin, Mordecai. Esther was not only an orphan, but a Jew, during a season when the Jews were being targeted for persecution.

At this same time, King Xerxes was in search of a new queen. He had just banished his wife for her refusal to come when he had summoned her and now needed a replacement. His men went on a  search for the most beautiful virgins to bring to the king. Esther was chosen (as in– she didn’t have a choice) to be one of the candidates.

Esther, pulled from her home, now must go through a rigorous 6-month beauty regiment in order to prepare her for her meeting with King Xerxes. She is soaked, shaved, perfumed, primped, primed, lathered, moisturized and plucked for MONTHS. As much as I’d love some pampering, this sounds like a bit too much maintenance for me, but the king wants what the king wants.

We’ll get to more of her story in a few minutes, but now back to me.

I find myself in a very similar place to where I was a few years ago. Actually, that’s exactly what has me so discouraged. I feel like I’m in the same exact place as I was then. With a birthday coming up this month and many unmaterialized dreams, it seems like I am getting no where. Yet again, I find myself broken, but God continues to speak to me while reaffirming these truths to my heart using Esther.

Preparation is not wasted time.

I imagine in those months of preparation, Esther wondered if all of the work was worth it. There were after all numerous women going through similar treatments and the king would only select one to be queen. How many times did she think, “What are the chances he’d pick me?”

My season of preparation has been long and as time continues to tick away it becomes easier and easier to wonder if all of my hard work will actually pay off in the end.

While God is working on you– cleansing, purifying, sanding, stretching and repairing–take comfort that all of that preparation is not wasted time. There is purpose in this season. You may not see it now, and Lord knows it sure doesn’t feel like “real” progress, but rest assured it is necessary.

You’d never go into battle without being trained and outfitted as a soldier, and the same goes for whatever it is that God has called you specifically to do. There are lessons to be learned, muscles to be strengthened and hurts to be healed.

If you don’t do it, someone else will.

Let me share a little more from Esther’s life. After all the treatments and her meeting with King Xerxes, we are told the king loved her more than any other woman and made her queen. Her preparation hadn’t been in vain!

Although, it seemed like things were going well for Esther, it was not going well for the Jewish people. King Xerxes had signed a decree that said all the Jews needed to be destroyed. The king still unaware that his new wife, Esther, was a Jew as well.

Mordecai is obviously distraught. Wouldn’t you be?! He tells Esther she must convince Xerxes to withdraw this death sentence, but she knows if she approaches the king without his bidding she would be killed! Things aren’t looking good– and Mordecai responds to Esther’s fear with this:

“If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.”

I can’t get that phrase out of my head– maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.

Fear keeps trying to muzzle me: just stay silent– don’t cause any waves.

But then I hear that voice say, “This is YOUR time. Speak.” There’s risk involved. I’ve received backlash for articles. People telling me I’ve lost all biblical morals while others still are convinced I’m on the wide road to hell. All I know is I’m doing my best to be obedient to the call of God on my life and keep a humble heart while doing it.

Go to the King.

In the end, Esther did go before the king and she ends up saving her people. Her actions required not only courage, but intimacy. If she didn’t have favor and relationship with Xerxes, she wouldn’t have had a chance.

Be bold in your requests to the King. We have found favor with God because of Jesus. We don’t have to tip-toe to the throne, but can approach with confidence. You don’t have to be afraid that He will somehow be offended or will want to strike you down like some worthless peon. You’ve got royal status, friends.

Intimacy is key. If I didn’t have a living, interactive relationship with God there’s no way I’d continue on this path. It is through His urging, encouragement and prodding that I keep speaking. I can tell you though, if I wasn’t convinced it was His leading I would have abandoned this ship long ago. I would have etched out a much easier, more pleasant path.

Esther made a choice to be obedient. In her obedience, she was a conduit of salvation and a reflector of the glory of God. May that be our testimony as well– that we would allow God to use us in this season and for this time.

Allow God to prepare you. Let Him use you. And because He has prepared you and because He has called you– you can do what you were called to do BOLDY.