Monday, October 16, 2017

Me, Too.

Recently, women all over the internet began posting the status, "me, too." This status is to share that someone has been sexually assaulted or harassed. As more and more of these statuses have crossed my feed, I've been shocked and brokenhearted at the amount of women who have endured this suffering and indignity. And yet ... even after seeing so many women bravely share their "me, too," it has seemed like my fingers have been frozen above my keyboard, unable to type the words.

August 20th, 2017 was the ten year anniversary of my "me, too." This anniversary came on the tail end of a traumatic procedure I endured one month earlier, removing precancerous cells from my cervix. Cells that were caused by a virus called HPV, a virus that my doctor says I was most likely exposed to when I was 19. I was 19 ten years ago.

I was a sophomore in college. I'd just moved back to school and I was so excited to start a new year. I was finally out of the dorms and living in my first apartment with a few of my friends. A guy that I had been dating casually over the summer invited me to visit him at his college 30 minutes away. He was an incoming freshman and had just moved into his dorm. Classes hadn't started yet, and I had all kinds of time to kill, so I figured, why not? I had other friends at this school and I could visit them as well.

The afternoon and evening went by without much excitement. A group of us ate together in the cafeteria. After dinner, we were all hanging out in the dorms when someone poured drinks for everyone. I had never been a drinker. I had tried it a handful of times with close friends, but I didn't frequent parties and most of my friends didn't drink either. But I thought, "What's the big deal?" I didn't think it could hurt anything to drink one or two with everyone else. In most situations, that would be true. But this was not most situations. I just didn't know it yet.

It didn't take long for me to realize that I wasn't feeling like myself. It was more than being drunk. I hadn't really had that much to drink, so I was confused as to why I felt the way I did. The guy I had driven up to visit told me he was leaving with some of his other friends for awhile, but he wanted me to stay in his dorm to "keep me safe." I wasn't sure what he meant by that, but I just wanted to sleep. I didn't feel well.

Everyone left the room.

Everyone left except me.

Everyone left except me and his roommate.

I went to sleep.

I closed my eyes, a normal 19 year old girl, who hadn't experienced anything truly "bad" in her life.

I awoke to a nightmare.

I drove home the next morning, not the same person I was the day before.  I didn't know what to do with myself. I waited until I parked at my apartment to call the guy I'd gone to see, to tell him what happened to me. I was too scared to say it in person. His roommate refused to leave the two of us alone and I couldn't form the words while he was in the same room.

I was too late.

His roommate had already given his "version" of the story, and I was labeled every other word except VICTIM.

HE DIDN'T BELIEVE ME.

I was speechless. I knew this happened to other people, but I never thought it would happen to me. I never thought it would happen and I wouldn't be BELIEVED.

I told a few of my friends and they didn't quite seem to believe me either. The judgment was in my drinking. If I hadn't been drinking, it wouldn't have happened. If I hadn't put myself in that situation, it wouldn't have happened. Yes, it was a horrible thing, but I LET IT HAPPEN. I had to accept some responsibility for that.

I was numb. I stopped believing I was a victim and I began believing I deserved it. People used many words to describe me, none of them nice, none of them comforting, and I decided they were right.

I was too terrified to tell my parents. I crawled into a deep pit of depression and began to live the way everyone already thought I did anyway. I went to parties. I drank. I was promiscuous. People started talking behind my back. I pulled away from my friends, I pulled away from my family. I hated myself. A lot of people looked at me in disgust, and I completely agreed. I was disgusting. I had DESERVED IT.

I believed that for a long time.

Several months passed before I worked up the courage to tell my mom. I texted it to her. Something so horribly monumental had happened to me and I was so ashamed that I TEXTED it to my own mother. And for the first time, someone reacted to me in love. She wasn't mad that I'd been drinking. She didn't blame me. She was the first people to tell me that it wasn't MY FAULT. And still... I didn't believe her.

I had already convinced myself otherwise.

Two months after telling my mom, I ran into the man who is now my husband. He asked me on a date and after we'd been on two or three, I shared what had happened to me. For the second time, someone reacted to me in love. He didn't blame me. He was furious FOR me, that someone would do something like that to me. It meant a lot to me that my mom believed me and still loved me, despite everything. But for someone who wasn't my family to react in my defense, instead of in judgment, changed everything for me.

Maybe they were telling the truth.

Maybe it wasn't my fault after all.

I'd like to say that things magically became all better when I decided to believe the truth about myself.

But real life doesn't happen that way.

I've had ups and downs over the last ten years. I've struggled with my self-worth and shame. I've shared my story with very few individuals because I live in fear that people won't see me the same way.

But I don't feel like it's okay to stay quiet about this forever.

Women and girls need to know that these things DO happen, and more often than you think.

We need to know that it's NOT OUR FAULT. No matter what we drink, no matter what we wear, no matter where we go... It's NEVER OKAY for this to happen.

God has been working these things out in me for quite some time, especially over the last year. When I finally felt like I was able to live with dignity and without shame, I was diagnosed with HPV, and I had to relive the nightmare all over again. 

If I've asked God once, I've asked him a million times, "why?" And there's no good answer for that. People do bad things. Bad things happen to good people. But instead of hiding away, I want to use what I've been through to encourage other women.

I felt like no one would ever love me again. But not only do I have a husband who has loved me without fail, God has never withheld His love from me. While I've been labeled shameful, disgraceful, a liar, unloved, and guilty in the the eyes of many different people, God sees me as BEAUTIFUL, full of grace, TRUSTWORTHY, loved, and FREE.

God SEES you, loves you, and accepts you.

It takes time. It takes healing. But we don't have to face it alone.

I know you've been there sweet sister. I know you've felt the same feelings of rejection and isolation.

ME, TOO.

Maybe it's time that we start facing this together.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Listening

 "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!"
Ephesians 3:20-21

It's been exactly one year since we left Florida. I can't believe a year has already passed. It's been a roller coaster for sure, but as I reflect back over the last 365 days, I can see how faithful God has been. Even when my faith wasn't the strongest, and I seriously doubted, God provided every step of the way.

When we first felt the stirrings, four years ago, that God was calling us to the Pacific Northwest, God said, "I have a plan for you."

When we got our official orders, and the location was Washington, God said, "This is just a peek at things to come."

When we struggled to sell our house, and we felt anxious and overwhelmed, God said, "Don't you trust Me?"

When we arrived in Washington with no idea where we'd live, God said, "I have just the place for you. Have faith."

When we found our church home on the first day here, God said, "This is your family. I'm taking care of you."

When we found a home in less than a week, God said, "I'll never leave you nor forsake you. Don't you believe me?"

When we connected all the dots... The call to church planting... The church God led us to... The town our house is in... God said, "Remember? I have a plan for you."

When we put Jack in public school instead of private or homeschooling, and he landed in the perfect school, with the perfect teacher, God said, "Do not be anxious. He's in My hands, too."

When I desperately yearned for friends and spiritual companionship, God said, "Don't think about the past. Start another Bible study. I will bless it and I will bless you."

When I sank into a pit of depression, feeling homesick and depleted by the weather, God said, "Here's a random sunny and beautiful day in the middle of winter. Go run. I'm waiting to spend that time with you."

One year. 365 days. A lot can happen. A lot HAS happened. In hindsight, I can see God's footprint in every valley and on every mountaintop.

Some people call me crazy. Running? In the snow? In the rain? In the cold? Why would anyone willingly do that?

I can't explain it. It's one of the things God called me to do four years ago, seemingly out of nowhere. I felt so convicted and I had no choice but to say yes. I look back and wonder, was it for now? Was it because God knew it was something I'd need when he moved us here? I may never know the answer. But I can look back over my life and see how plainly God has blessed us. Many things are with no other explanation.

I remember crying nearly all the way from Florida to Arkansas on June 1, 2016. I literally felt like my heart was being ripped from my chest. Why would God ask me to leave my home? Why did it hurt so much?

I expected to reach our one year anniversary and feel sad. Instead, I feel grateful. God has provided in more ways than we could have imagined. He who is able to do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine, He has blessed me.

Oh how He loves me.

I just need to listen.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Even When I Run Away ...

"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
Psalm 34:18

It's been over a year since I wrote in this blog. The past year has brought many life changes for our family. My husband returned from deployment and we packed up and moved across the country. I've had to adjust to a new home, a new school for my son, a new church, and new friends ...
New everything.

I haven't written in this particular blog because it's always been my place to share about my running journey and how my relationship with God has matured through that quiet time with Him. But over the last year or so, I haven't really been running. 
And I've felt further from God than I've felt in a really long time. 

At the beginning of 2017, I slowly began running again. A friend and I signed up for a half marathon and despite the sometimes awful weather here, I haven't missed a training run yet. I began to feel like I was finally getting in a good place. I was back in the Word, talking to God, developing some close relationships, and I finally started to see the sun, even if it wasn't actually shining outside just yet. 

But then I received a phone call on February 23.

When you move, everything changes. The first thing you do after finding a home is find new doctors. As a parent, doctors for yourself are the last on your list. The kids had many appointments and we were finally able to successfully deal with some things with our son. After a huge sigh of relief, I scheduled an appointment for myself for just a regular check-up.

The results came back and while it wasn't exactly bad news, it wasn't what I thought I was going to hear. 

A couple of weeks later, I went back to the doctor for further testing. I went alone because I wasn't exactly sure what was going to happen, but I thought it would be pretty similar to what I'd had done before. 

It wasn't. 

After a pretty painful procedure, I went home scared and confused. Shamefully, my first thought was why? Why would God allow this to happen to me, especially now, after a very rough year, when I felt like everything was finally falling into place? Was I being punished? I just couldn't understand and I was mad about it. Like a child, I wanted to throw a fit and just tell God to leave me alone. 

I knew in my heart that God could never leave me alone. But I could turn away if I wanted. 

So I did. 

I just gave Him the cold shoulder.

I waited for an entire week for results and when the call came, it wasn't good news.

Some people would disagree with that. Some people would hear "precancerous" and think, "They caught it early! It's treatable, everything is going to be fine."

But that's not what I thought. That's not how I've feel.

I feel like I've suffered tremendously in this area of my life after making really stupid mistakes in high school. I've not only suffered physically, but also emotionally. I've dealt with feelings of guilt and self-loathing for years and years. There have been times when I truly believed I'd never be able to heal. When I finally started to let my guard down again, I got this phone call that changed everything. It wiped out every bit of progress I thought I'd made. 

How do I move on from here? How do I reconcile my feelings to the truth I know about God?

Well, I know how I don't do it. 

I can't do it by ignoring God and giving him the silent treatment. I can't feel close to God if I refuse to hear Him speak or give Him the time of day. I can't feel God's love if I shut myself off from Him and run away.

Running is a gift God gave me a few years ago. He gave it to me as a way to run toward Him, not away. I know He's standing on the sidelines, just waiting for me to head in His direction. He's cheering me on with His arms open wide and even though I can't see the finish line yet, He's already there. 

I still don't know what the future holds. I don't know what life will look like a few months from now. But I know the one thing that never changes and that's God's love for me. Even if I tell Him I don't want it and I feel like running the opposite direction, He never leaves. His Word holds the Truth, even if I think I don't want to hear it. He will never leave me nor forsake me. When I'm brokenhearted and crushed in Spirit, He is close to me.

Even if I try to push Him away.



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Waiting

"I look up to the mountains -- does my help come from there? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth!"
Psalm 121:1-2

It's been 24 days so far. It's been a hard 24 days.

Sometimes I feel like I'm drowning.

I'm overwhelmed.

I'm defeated.

I feel like a failure.

I feel alone.

For 24 days, I've felt as though I'm barely hanging on. Some days it seems impossible to juggle all of the things I need to do. 

I feel guilty for doing anything I actually want to do. 

I finally semi-adjusted to being a full-time teacher and then our entire routine was flipped upside-down.

Just 3 days later, we found out we're moving.

Moving?!

And not just moving ... But moving across the country.

I've walked around in a state of shock for a couple of weeks now. 
When anyone asks me how I feel about it, I don't know how to answer.

Am I sad?

YES! We've made a home here!

We just bought a HOUSE here!

This is where Charlotte was born. 

This is where Jack has been raised and made friends and been in school.

We have friends here.

We have family within driving distance.

Am I sad?

Of course I'm sad!

I feel ashamed and guilty for being so attached to this house, but this was supposed to be our home. 

Our home.

And everyone can laugh if they want ... but what about the turtles?!
Jack and I love the sea turtles!

We've made so many memories on these beaches. Finding sand dollars and shark teeth. Seeing little baby turtles run to the water. Watching the sunsets.
Am I sad?

I'm heartbroken.

\BUT.

Am I excited?
Of course I'm excited!

There are so many new things to see and do in Washington!

I get to home school my babies for a year and take them on adventures!

I get to run half-marathons in a new state.

Am I excited?

Yes!

We get to go apple picking.

We get to see waterfalls!

We get to experience fall.

Charlotte won't have to ask, "Mommy, what's snow?"

The bookstores and culture are limitless.

And everyone can laugh if they want ... but they have WHALES!!

We get to ride ferryboats and see whales!

Of course I'm excited!

The road trip across the country alone is cause for excitement!

But how can I feel such strong opposing emotions?

I don't know how I've done it ... but I've shut myself down emotionally.

And then this week ... Charlotte gets sick.

Again.

For the second time in 24 days.

I missed work for two days this week and the Lord knew it was exactly what I needed.

I've felt so alone ... I've been so alone. 

God has been waiting right there and I chose to just be alone.

While home from work yesterday, I ran for the first time in forever.

God continually speaks to me through the songs I listen to while I run. 

This is what I heard five minutes into my run: 
 
 "I look up to the mountains. Does my strength come from the mountains? No. My strength comes from God ... who made heaven and earth. 

And the mountains."

We are months away from moving from the beach to the mountains. And not just any mountains, but huge volcanic mountains that I've been irrationally afraid of. 

"When confusion's my companion, and despair holds me for ransom, I will feel no fear, I know that You are near. When I'm caught deep in the valley, with chaos for my company, I'll find my comfort here, 'cause I know that You are near."

Of course by then, I looked a slobbery mess on the treadmill. It was the first time I've broken down in 24 days. 

Next, I heard, "Every moment of my life, God You've never left my side. Every valley, every storm, You were there ... You were there. I don't need to know what's next, You'll be with me every step. Through it all ... Through it all ... You carry me."

Why do I do this to myself? Why am I so stubborn and convinced that I just need to do it all ... alone?

He's been waiting right here for me to just look over and say, "I need you. I can't do it alone. I don't WANT to do it alone. I NEED YOU."

Instead, I let myself go numb. I go through the motions and I stuff my emotions inside. 

And He's so patient. He waits right here ... He WAITS for ME.

I don't want to sit stiffly with my back turned any longer. 

I want to fall into His loving arms and let Him carry me.

No matter how alone I feel ... I'm never alone.

He's waiting right here. 

He's waiting for me.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Our HUGE School Decision!

"Give thanks to the LORD and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done."
Psalm 105:1 

Although this is supposed to be a "jogging" blog, my post today will not be about jogging. It will instead be about a huge blessing the Lord has given our family. 

Around a year ago, Jack started preschool. We had him enrolled in a Christian preschool at a local Methodist church, and he absolutely loved it! His teachers were amazing, he had a great group of classmates, and most of all, Jack loved learning about God. He loved it so much, it was the first thing he asked his teacher at orientation. "When are we going to learn about God?"

I have to take a moment here to explain something. I grew up in a small town in Arkansas and public school is all I've ever known. I even decided on a public university over a private Christian university when I attended college. My degree is in early childhood education and most of our emphasis was on teaching public elementary school. I have always been a *HUGE* supporter of public school. I remember, on more than one occasion, saying,  "My kids WILL go to public school!" I felt VERY strongly about it! I felt like I had good educational experiences in elementary, high school, AND college. I saw absolutely no need to change things when it came to my children.

And then my child started preschool.

In this faith-based preschool, my son absolutely blossomed. He had no shame in praying, he yearned for God's Word, and he had such a sweet heart for other people. It wasn't long before I started to question my decision on public school for the future. I suddenly began to feel very uneasy about Jack going to a school where his relationship with God would be put on the back burner, or not even acknowledged at all. I knew it was the Holy Spirit telling me that maybe I didn't know it all. Maybe what I originally thought was best, wasn't right at all. Maybe what was best for me when I was growing up wasn't going to be what was best for Jack.

At the end of October, I knew my plans were going to have to change. Jack accepted Christ into his little heart and I knew, without a doubt, that we needed to look into Christian school for him. I had absolutely no experience with Christian school and I also had no idea how we'd pay for it. It's no secret that we're a one-income family, so that I can stay home with the kids. Although Jack is starting kindergarten, Charlotte is still at home, and while I knew God was calling us to change our educational plan for Jack, I didn't feel like God was calling me to leave my work at home with her. 

I was scared. I didn't know how we were going to do it. But we started talking about it anyway.

While volunteering in Jack's preschool class one day, I was talking with his teacher about how we were thinking about private school. Devin and I had pretty much decided on a Christian school and were discussing how we'd be able to make it work financially. And then Jack's teacher said some of the best words I'd ever heard, "You know they take scholarships there now, right?"

I couldn't believe it. Can you say answered prayer? I called the school to verify and went straight home to check scholarship requirements. I nearly cried at what I saw. We were going to qualify for a 100% scholarship. God had already taken care of everything before I even had an opportunity to really worry.

Before Christmas, we put Jack on the enrollment list for kindergarten. And then came the waiting game. It wouldn't be until mid-February before we could apply for the scholarship. I was tempted to worry, but I knew that God would not have laid this on my heart without following through. So I trusted Him. And come through He did!

Jack's future school had a parent meeting in February and helped all of us submit forms for our scholarships. In less than a week, it was official. Jack had a 100% scholarship and he was going to a Christian school in the fall!

I would have been satisfied if the blessings had stopped there, but that's not usually how God works. I'm near tears every time I think about the things that happened next!

Over the summer, God sent our family two more huge blessings. First of all, the scholarship Jack received paid for all of his uniforms! As if that wasn't enough, someone donated school supplies for the kids on scholarship, too! I still can't quite believe it. What seemed like nearly an impossibility a year ago, will become a reality tomorrow morning when I take Jack to his very first day of kindergarten. 

To a school where they will pray together. Where he can talk about God as much as he wants! Where he will learn about the Bible daily, and memorize Scripture, and where he can grow more spiritually than I could even help him grow at home. 

Our family has been so blessed! I can't think about this entire experience without Ephesians 3:20 coming to mind, "Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think."

Thank you Lord for your blessings! And thank you for loving my son, even more than I can.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

NO Judgment

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised."
Proverbs 31:30

While perusing Facebook this evening, I read an interesting blog post. The title was "Why Christian Girls Post Seductive Selfies."
It really got me thinking. 

Where was this post when I was in high school?

College?

But even if it had been around, would I have read it?

Listened?

Heeded it's advice?

Probably not. 

I was that girl.

Almost desperate for attention from the opposite sex, it reflected in the way I dressed and often in the way I acted.

"Selfies" weren't what we called them, but I definitely knew how to take the "right" picture.

I hear a lot these days that parents should control and monitor how their daughters dress/act/etc.

And that's true, to an extent.

Christian parents are judged and berated by other Christians for not "having a handle on their kids."

Well let me tell you, I have wonderful parents who were quick to let me know when I was wearing something inappropriate.

(I STAYED grounded in high school!)

But like any teenage girl, there were times, a lot of times, when I just didn't care and just didn't listen.

It wasn't until I developed my own deep relationship with Christ that I was convicted enough to care.

I made a profession of faith as a preteen, but it wasn't until I was in my 20's that I truly understood what it meant to have an actual relationship with Christ.

As I sit and reflect on this, I think I see what we're missing with our girls.
It's more than just telling our girls that dressing and acting a certain way for attention is wrong. 

Let's be honest. They already know that.

I knew that.

It wasn't until I understood God's love for me that I finally saw that I'd been looking for attention in all the wrong places.

And that's where we have to start. 

We need to teach our girls about God's love first.

Not by telling them to read their Bibles, say their prayers, and follow a list of rules. 

We need to read our Bibles with them, disciple them, pray with them, listen to them without judgment, and show them God's love through us.

Will this always work?
No, it won't.

No parent can force a child to do anything that child really doesn't want to do. 

But let me tell you a little secret.

It's not just the parents job to show our girls God's love.

It's every Christian's job, especially the women.

Don't just spew criticism and judgment toward our teenage girls and their parents.

Love them.

Love changes everything.

And that's what our girls are seeking in the first place.
LOVE.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Embracing Imperfection

"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
1 John 1:8-9

I know I've already written a blog post today, but I've had an epiphany. 
Are you ready for it?

Here it goes. 
I. AM. NOT. PERFECT.

Don't tell me you already knew that? 
Okay, you did.

And I knew it too. 

I just haven't been living like it.

You see, I have this problem. I have this tendency to try so very hard to be perfect ... and when I fail, because I always will... I condemn myself. 

I feel defeated.

I feel guilty.

Why CAN'T I be the perfect wife? The perfect mom? The perfect daughter? The perfect sibling? The perfect friend? The perfect Christian?

Oh that's right.

I'm not God.

And let's be honest, I have a head knowledge of that. 
I know that realistically, I can't be perfect.

But man if I don't wake up every single morning, making my to-do lists, and trying my hardest to prove something to someone.

But to who?

I prayed before my devotion tonight, begging God to show me what I most desperately needed to hear.

This is what I learned:

God does NOT condemn me for my sins.

I have already been forgiven.

I was forgiven the moment I confessed my sins and asked Jesus into my heart!

But yet, I constantly condemn myself.

I feel like if I admit my failures, it makes me less of a person.

But in reality, I'm less of a person for hiding them. 

There is FREEDOM in embracing my imperfections.

There is FREEDOM in letting go of my pride.

Yes, I said it. 

PRIDE.

 What else makes me want to check off a list of how "good" I've been all day?

I have nothing to prove to anyone.

Not to you.

Not to me.

Not to God.

I AM ALREADY LOVED, JUST THE WAY I AM.

I am FREE to be ME.
So here it is.

My confession.

I am NOT a perfect person.

No matter what my Facebook page or Instagram account reflects.

I mess up DAILY. 

And you know what?

I OWN IT.

My new life goal is to show you God's GRACE in my life - not my attempt at perfection.

I'm not perfect.

But He is.