Thursday, May 31, 2012

Going into the weekend, this is my prayer.

This weekend is going to be a particular challenge, more so than the rest of them.  Mom's going out of town immediately after school tomorrow, and she won't be returning until Sunday night.  Her lifelong best friend's daughter is having her bat mitzvah this weekend.  It starts at 10:30 Saturday morning, and it's at least a 4 hour drive, which is why she's leaving Friday.  I can't blame her one bit for going; she missed the older daughter's bat mitzvah, and she desperately needs a break from responsibility and Chelsea.  I'm glad she'll get this time to herself, even for just 48 hours, I really am.

But that also means I am stuck in this house for 48 hours alone with Chelsea.  And my grandma is going to be tied up with my cousin's soccer all weekend, like usual, which means I have no way out.  I'm trying to ignore the growing feeling of dread in my gut, but that's not easy when I know what I'm getting myself into.

That's why I'm praying for Romans 15:13 to completely take me over and consume me.  I don't like who I am when I'm around her.  And I want to change, I truly do.  I feel like this is the first step.  I said I wanted to be a warrior - well, here's a huge battle.  With God, I can do this.  That's the only way I can do this.  (Though I'm thankful I do have some friends who have already told me I can call them any time I am in need of a distraction.)  I truly appreciate any prayers you can send up on my behalf.

P.S. That letter I sent Kim and Grant?  Ten handwritten pages.  I never claimed to be a master of brevity. ;)  No, really, I wanted to share some of my story with them, too.  I'm looking forward to hearing from them again.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Looking for heaven, found the devil in me.

Tonight, I realized something.  That blowup with that friend might have actually been a good thing.

You weren't expecting me to say that, were you?

Frankly, I wasn't expecting to feel this way, either.  But tonight, I saw that it has forced me to come face-to-face with the gravity of my failures.  Failures with this friend, failures with all of my friends, failures with my family, but most importantly, failures with God.

Sometimes I think I get it in my head that I'm so much better than my sisters because I'm not crazy and I'm a Christian and I'm giving to the point I often put everyone else before myself and whatever other excuses I'm willing to feed myself.

That doesn't make me better.  That makes me a cocky little hypocrite.

I fail.  All the time.  Probably more often than I get it right.  As much as I love the people in my life, I have no doubt failed every single one of them.  I've failed them every time I get dependent on them instead of depending on God.  As my friend put it so bluntly tonight, welcome to being human.

This has made me that much more grateful for my life.  Just as I do my best to forgive those who hurt me, I am grateful for the friends I see surrounding me who see my heart beneath all the times I screw up, the ones who love me despite my failures.  I don't have much experience with people actually forgiving me and sticking around and not giving up on me, so this is a new and humbling and completely overwhelming feeling.  I will fail, but I will always do my best to love them right back.

But most of all, my gratitude increases once again for a Father who never quits on me, who never fails, and who is always faithful and patient enough to wait for me to come back to Him.  Lord, let this lesson stick this time, please.  I want to make things right with You above all else.  Thank You for never giving up on me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

His joy comes in the morning.

Today wasn't perfect (no day ever is), but today was really good.  Today, I think, was God's way of reminding me that He will give me the reprieve that I need if I will just give in, trust that He's got my back, and quit fighting for control.

Let's start off with the best thing first, shall we?  You know what I'm going to say it is.  Duh.  This kid.

I didn't get to see him for very long, but the time I did get to see him was amazing.  The fact that he happened to have the one day off this week that I would be in Raleigh  is just totally a God thing. Plus, he was willing to leave his visiting girlfriend to drive over and see me for a few minutes, and that means so much to me.  With him living in Raleigh full-time and me leaving for DC for the summer next Saturday, if we hadn't had this day, I don't know when we'd get to see each other again.  Part of me thinks 5 months is way too long to go without seeing your best friend, but honestly, I came to a really cool realization.  These past 5 months have shown me that I really am finally secure in us.  Yes, I miss him often, but not once did I question if we were still okay.  NOT ONCE.  Do you know how long I've been waiting to get to this point?!   I mean, we've always had that kind of friendship where no matter how long we go between visits, we pick up right where we left off like we'd just seen each other the day before, but all those worries I held onto for so long, worries he told me over and over and over again that I didn't need to bother with, are finally gone!  Talk about liberating.

The appointment was fine, just like I expected it to be.  The doctor just wanted to make sure that the new seizure medicine is working out, and I'm doing great.  They also took some bloodwork to make sure that the level of the medicine in my blood is okay or if they need to change the dosage, and to check on all of my organ functions.  The pancreatitis messed with my liver and kidneys, too, so they just want to make sure all is well there.  I'm expecting it to be fine.  I don't have any more abdomen pain, and I haven't had any of the issues I was dealing with when I was sick, either.

When I got out of the appointment, I got a super sweet text from my blog friend Lauren after she read my blog post from last night.  She was just really encouraging, and it felt really good to hear from someone who understood where I am because she's been there, too.  Sometimes all you need is someone who's willing to remind you that your mistakes do not make you a bad person or a bad friend, they just make you human.

Tonight, Chelsea went to check the mail, and in it she found a card for me.  It was a Thank You card from Kim and Grant, a couple whose blog I randomly found through a retweet on Twitter.  All I did was donate $5 to their adoption and send them an email, so knowing that Kim took the time to write me a short and simple but so sweet card and mail it to me just put a huge smile on my face.  This blogging world never ceases to amaze me.  People who aren't a part of it often think those who are involved in it exaggerate or are crazy for getting attached to relationships with people they only know through computer screens, but anyone who has made friends through blogs and Twitter and whatever will tell you that these friendships are just as real and heartfelt as face-to-face friendships.  I will definitely be putting something back in the mail to this darling couple in the next day or two. :)

I've spent a good deal of the rest of tonight talking to my roommates and also getting to know some of the other people doing the TFAS program this summer.  Yay new friends.  I can't wait to finally get up there!  This next week and a half is going to crawl.

This was one of those days where I didn't even have time to think about being sad.  Today was exactly the reminder that I needed: Though the sorrow may last for the night, His joy comes in the morning.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Tonight, my heart just hurts.

I'm extremely tired tonight, and I have to be up at 8:30, so I'm going to make this as quick as possible.

Mom and I went shopping this afternoon for DC stuff.  I hate shopping, but Mom loves it.  It's nice to be that much closer to being totally ready, though.  We only went to Belk, Shoe Carnival, and Walmart, so it was a really fast trip.  It was nice to be out of the house.

The rest of the afternoon/evening/night sucked pretty bad, though.  I couldn't even have a phone conversation with a friend outside because Chelsea would just come outside and scream at me some more, so I've basically done nothing but sit in my room and try to calm the rage that was being brought out of me.  I'm so ready to be out of here.  I can't stand it here.  I love these people, I do, it's just so much better for all of us when I'm not actually living here.

And to be honest, my heart still hurts pretty bad over that blowup with that friend, so I've probably been a little more irritable than usual.  But God's plans are bigger than mine and higher than mine.  His timing is perfect, and if He sees it to be necessary for this friend and I to be apart right now, then I need to deal with that.  I just pray He'll help me heal the pain, because this really hurts.  And it makes all the typical, expected stuff going on with the family feel that much more stressful.

This is a quote from an email I sent to a friend last night.  I think it pretty much sums everything up that's going on in my heart right now.  I know I shouldn't be so angry at myself because I am human and I screw up just like everyone else, but to know I basically chased someone I care very much about away without even meaning to and knowing that (at least for right now) there's nothing I can do to fix it or make it better, well, it just hurts.  It hurts a lot.  And it makes it pretty difficult not to be hard on myself about it because it is my fault.  It's hard not to feel like I'm a horrible friend.  I'm not even mad at this person because I know they were right, I just want to fix it.

Anyway, here's the quote.

"I know I'm changing and growing. I am truly in awe of all that God has done in my life and my heart since that week in Nashville. But when stuff like this happens, I revert back to that scared little girl with no self-esteem who feels like she's a failure and will never be good enough. Why am I so dependent on these people in my daily life when I know and believe with all my heart that I love God and that He is sufficient and here and all that I really need? It's like I've got a ridiculous case of amnesia.  Please, pray with me that God will give me the opportunity to at least explain my heart and my side of it to [this person]. Even if our friendship is done or at the very least never the same again, I want [them] to know who I am and why my heart is the way it is. I want [them] to understand that I didn't mean to do this. I would love a second chance, but what matters more is that [they forgive] me and [understand] my heart."

On to tomorrow.  I really hope it works out that I can see Matt because I could really use one of his hugs right now.  No one can make me feel better like that kid.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

There is no one compares with you.

Question: What's the best pick-me-up for a girl who's been stuck in a hole of feeling like she's a bad friend?

Answer: Getting to see the one person who knows her better than anyone else, and the one friend whose love she never has to question. :)

I have to go to Raleigh on Tuesday to see my neurologist.  They want to see me in person to see how the new seizure medicine the hospital doctors put me on after that nasty pancreatitis is working out.  Two weeks ago, when I called to reconfirm the time and date, I followed that up by texting Matt and tell him I will be coming to Raleigh on the 29th to see if we could work it out to see each other, even for just a minute.  I haven't seen that kid since Christmas Day, and now that he lives in Raleigh full-time and I leave for DC in less than two weeks, I don't know when the next time we'll get to see each other will be.

Here's the thing about Matt. The dude works ALL. THE. TIME.  Like, really.  Even when we lived in the same town, it was hard to get up with him because he simply had next to no free time.  So of course, when I first texted him, his response was "I'll have to see what shift I'm working and if they make me come in early."  Actually his response was, "Nope. I don't have vacation time to take a day off yet."  As if I would actually ask him to miss an entire day of work to see me for maybe an hour.  When I reminded him of that, then he said he'd have to check his work schedule.

Last night, I was bored, so I googled the distance between my doctor's office and his restaurant.  As it turned out, they're only 1.5 miles apart.  So I texted him to see what shift he was working and told him if he was at the restaurant before/after my appointment, then I could probably at least convince my grandma to drive by there for a second for me to say hi.  Well, he texted me back this afternoon, and he actually has the whole day off!!! :D  So he's going to meet me and Mommom at my doctor.

Yay.  Just yay.  This is such a perfectly-timed blessing from God.  After that blow-up I talked about last night, there is no person on this planet that can lift my spirits like Matt can.  He's the only person I've ever known (outside of my family) who I know will never leave me; he's flat out told there's nothing I can do to make him give up on me.  I don't know what made God decide to give me a friend like Matt, but I'm so glad  He did.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Weird Weekend

Well, on the upside, I only blew up one friendship this weekend.

Oh, I'll get to that in a minute.  First, the other, less important weird things that have happened so far.

I woke up with a migraine today, and I haven't had a migraine in a long time.  On second thought, that might not be so weird, considering how much I cried last night.

Mom and I started talking about what grad schools I'm going to apply to.  I can't believe I'm going to have to start filling out applications again in a little more than a year!  I can't even remember how this conversation came  out of our finding a hotel to stay at in DC the night before move-in, but it was actually really fun.  All of this has gotten me very excited about my post-Campbell future.  I mean, just think, two years ago from today, I was recovering from having my first foot surgery, and two years from now, I'll be a college graduate headed who knows where.  That's insanely cool (and weird!) to me.  Right now the plans are to apply to George Washington University (DC), American University (DC), NYU (NYC, duh), University of Liverpool (guess where that's at. ha!  they actually have a really good Master's program for International Relations), and NC State as a backup (because they actually have a Master's in International Relations and I'm almost certain I'll get in there).  I'm really excited.  A bit nervous, yes, but mostly very excited.  This summer is going to show me that I really actually can do this.

A girl that Alex knows added me on Facebook tonight.  I only recognized her name because of one time when I was texting him and he said he was hanging out with her.  But I've never met her, so it was a little weird.  When I got the request, I accepted it (because I figured, why not. I know she's a Campbell student), and I texted Alex to ask if he had any idea why she would want to add me, and he said they went out on a date the other night and he talked about me.  I later told Mom about it and she felt bad for me that he's dating other girls when I so clearly have a crush on him, but it really didn't even bother me.  Frankly, I was just surprised that he talked about me on his date with a very pretty girl!  But yeah, I thought it was weird she wanted to add me, but hey, whatever. I'm always up for new friends. :)

Okay, I'll get to the big blowup now.  I really don't want to say who it is, though, because they know about this blog, and I don't want them to think I'm totally airing our friendship (or what was a friendship) out in public.  Um, long story short, I'm an idiot and I did exactly what I've done six hundred times before.  Apparently I got too clingy or needy or whatever and this person said they need space and basically not to talk to them anymore.  The thing is, I didn't even know I was crossing a line.  I mean, I know I'm intense, but this person said they'd be there for me 24/7, but I guess they didn't know what they were signing up for, haha!  So anyway, I spent most of last night crying and hating myself for being an idiot.  Okay, not really hating myself, but hating the fact that I keep making the same mistakes.  If they are reading this, I hope they know how truly sorry I am, how much I care about them, and how much I want to fix this.  I know them well enough to have good reason to believe that if I just give it some time, they will cool off and we can at least talk this out to fix it.  This friendship and this person mean so much to me, the thought of it being over because of this seriously makes me sick.  I want to start crying again just sitting here writing about it.

So uh, that basically sums it up.  I'd really appreciate it if you could pray for a few things regarding that situation: one, that I'll quit beating myself up about it and quit telling myself I am a horrible friend, because I am human and I fail sometimes but that doesn't change that I have a huge heart; two, that because I told this person that I wouldn't contact them again until they told me they'd had enough "space", that they will come back around and forgive me and we can work this out; three, that this person will know how much I really care about them and that I didn't do this on purpose (in fact, going into this, I specifically told myself NOT to do this, and I did it anyway); four, that I can avoid doing this with any of my other relationships (the reason I said "I only screwed up one" at the beginning of the post was because I got concerned for a bit I did the same thing with Alex, but he and I are fine); and five, that I can keep my focus solely on God, which is where it needs to be, and rely on Him alone, which is what this person said the problem was (I was relying on them).

Here's the best reason I can come up with as to why this happens:  Most people have various friendships throughout their childhood, so they learn how to interact with other people and have friendships fairly early, or at least they have much longer time to figure it out.  Until about two years ago, the only friend I'd ever had was Matt.  Only having one friend pretty much naturally means you're going to get attached to that person.  So now that I have more friends, I don't know how to deal with it.  I'm not used to it, so I get intense and I get clingy and it freaks people out.

I guess a good step is that I've recognized that I do this and why I do this, now I need to figure out how to STOP.  Because this kind of pain is a really sickening, horrible feeling to be stuck with.  I want my friend back, and I don't want to do this anymore.  God, please help me.

This song has been great comfort to me today.

Friday, May 25, 2012


It finally happened!

I FINALLY got my internship placement!

In just a short time, I will be spending eight weeks as a research intern and administrative assistant at the United States Navy Memorial.  My supervisor is the Vice President of the organization.  It's actually really cool because since my grandpa (mom's dad) was a Marine for 22 years, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for all military members and their families.  Apparently this organization helps children of Sailors go to college and other really cool things like that.  It's located right on Pennsylvania Avenue, too, so it's in the heart of downtown DC (and just a mile and a half down the street from the White House!).  I'm really excited.

To be quite honest, though, really, I'm just glad something finally came!  I can finally stop worrying about TFAS finding a place for me because with basically two weeks until the start of the program, I was getting concerned.

Holy crap.  This is really happening!  I'm really going to DC by myself for eight weeks!

Now, let's hope and pray I can find a path of transportation between my apartment and the internship that won't make me want to cut off my feet...

But still. It CAME!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Open Eyes

I woke up today, and it was like yesterday never even happened.

Pain-wise, anyway.

My pain is almost gone today, and that is nothing short of a miracle.  I've been dealing with pleurisy and referred pain for two and a half years, and it has never dissipated in 24 hours.  (Of course, I've been sitting up for five hours grading stuff for Mom, so I have a whole new kind of pain, but hey, pain is a part of my day-to-day life, and it is so much better than yesterday.)

Just when I start to feel down about things, God comes in and slaps me back to reality.  Okay, maybe not slaps.  It's more like a good grabbed-by-the-shoulders shaking.  Don't you see, child?  Don't you see how good you have it?  It never ceases to amaze me what He is willing to do to get me back to that place of gratitude.

I'm not strong by myself.  (I think that's been well-established.)  None of us are.  I'm not good, and it's not in my nature to find the blessings in life when I'm upset or frustrated.  Angie Smith said in the video that I posted yesterday that God could have made that our nature if He had chosen to, but He made us all with these doubting, questioning habits because He wants us to pursue Him, and I absolutely agree.  It's the determination to pursue and praise Him despite the horrible, sinful nature of this world that keeps us moving towards the eternity where we know we belong.  Because He is worth it.

So while I appreciate all of the compliments you guys never shy away from giving me, I hope you see that this isn't me.  I can't do any of this by myself.  My past shows just how far I can drop without Him pulling me back and reviving me.  I've been in that dark hole of nothingness, feeling like I had nothing to live for, that no one cared about me, and I am NEVER going back there.  Ever.  It's simply not an option in my book.  My eyes have been opened to the magnitude and beauty of His grace penetrating my life, and I can't go back to pretending that it's not there, that He's not there.

I know my blog has been a little heavy on the "God talk" lately.  I'm sorry if you're not happy with the changes, I truly am.  I'm amazed that anyone stills bothers reading this, honestly.  But I meant it when I said that that trip to Nashville changed my life and changed who I am as a person.  Before that trip, I often wondered what it would feel like to hear God speak to me, to physically feel His presence with me, and ever since then, it's like I've been finding Him everywhere.  So that is what pours out onto my blog, the evidence of the impact God and that trip and that world-rocking experience have had on my life.

I spent a lot of time apologizing for who I am and apologizing for sticking to my beliefs, but I'm not going to do that anymore.  This is who I am, a daughter of the most magnificent God who is determined to keep her eyes on Him, chasing after Him relentlessly, letting Him use me in whatever way He sees fit.  Now, I am proud to be able to say that He is what keeps me going, and I know and believe with my whole heart and soul that He is who will give me the determination to not quit running after Him until I can look Him in the face and give thanks for all He's done.

The problem's not a gun, not a color, not a hundred dollar bill.
We think the struggle can be won with simple thoughts like 'come together, be good willed.'
The gap between the rich and poor is spreading out all the more, or so they say.
We ignore the claims.

Oh, my soul, faint not, no, faint not.
Oh, my soul, keep up, up in love.

It's not that we don't know or we're not shown the proof of poverty.
It's not that we don't have the tools to go to break this yoke of slavery.
We quit because it's not an easy fix and then forget that they are even there.
We forget to care.

Oh, my soul, faint not, no, faint not.
Oh, my soul, keep up, up in love.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, let me pardon.
Where there is darkness, let the light come, come.

Oh, my soul, faint not, no, faint not.
Oh, my soul, keep up, up in love.

Oh, my soul, faint not, no, faint not.
Oh, my soul, keep up, up in love.

Faint not.
Faint not.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What is grace?

Maybe the "be still" from yesterday was literal.

I woke up today in massive pain.  Best I can tell, my pleurisy flared up again.  That's the thing about recurring conditions - you have no idea when they're going to show back up.  In case you're reading this and don't remember what pleurisy is, it is a condition where the lining of my lungs gets inflammed.  I first contracted it in December 2009, the month after I had the staph pneumonia, and once you get it, you get it again and again and again.  And because everyone's lungs sit right on top of some other vital organs, when the lining swells up, it pushes into some very sensitive nerves, and that shoots what is called referred pain up to my right shoulder, right arm down to my elbow, and neck.  When I was in Duke with the pneumonia, I repeatedly said that it felt like a sumo wrestler was sitting on my collar bone.  This pain is a similar feeling.

So needless to say, moving hurts.  And for the better part of the day, I basically couldn't get out of bed.  Thus, I was quite literally still.  Thanks to my few select prayer warriors, though, the pain subsided enough by the evening that I was able to get up and eat and move around.  The bad news is there's not a thing I can do for it.  I just have to suck it up until it goes away.  Heat, pain meds, Ibuprofen, nothing helps.  I tell ya, I used to be a complete and total wuss when it came to feeling physical pain, but after the life I've had since 2006, I've become quite good at this!

When I finally was able to get up, I was faced with attacks that basically had the one mission of making me feel like crap about myself.  I know how I look.  I'm well aware of the shape that my body is in.  I don't need to be reminded of it.  I especially don't need to be reminded by people who know very well that a good deal of the state my body is in right now and has been in for years is something I didn't exactly have control over until recently.  Surprisingly, though, I was very calm.  I didn't get upset, even after persistence.  I guess it's because I know that God's love doesn't rely on what I look like, and I have plenty of people in my life whose love for me doesn't rely on my physical appearance, either.  So if certain people want to be like that, I frankly don't care.  The world's standards of what "hot" is are not what I live for, not anymore, at least.  And recent events in my life have shown me that some guy out there one day will love me just as I am, no matter what I look like.  I guess all of that is why I didn't get upset.  Even in the pain, I see how blessed I am.

Today, I rewatched an old video from a Bloom book club selection that I participated in at the beginning of last year, Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts.  It was on Chapter 5: "What in the world, in all this world, is grace?"  Watching that video reminded me - ALL IS GRACE.  Everything.  When bad things happen, God's grace isn't those bad things.  God's grace is found in the redemption He can bring to anything if we just let Him.  Today, God's grace was in Him letting me fall back asleep to escape the pain.  God's grace was in the pain subsiding.  God's grace was in the peace He gave me when otherwise, my first reaction would be to get upset.  He's not asking me (or anyone else) to praise and thank Him for the pain, He's asking me to praise and thank Him for His being good despite it.  I now believe with every fiber in my being that God grieves our pain just as much as, if not even more than, we do.

I can go to bed tonight simply aware of the fact that I am loved despite my screwups, God is good despite the pain, He is always here and always watching and always holding me.  It's hard to give thanks when you're upset or hurt, but it is in realizing that God is still good no matter what and that He is with me in my pain that I find the peace to know that His grace is everywhere.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Be Still

I've had one Bible verse stuck in my head all day.  I don't know that I've ever had a Bible verse stuck in my head before, so it's kind of interesting.  All that I can think is that this must be God speaking to me, trying to make sure I see the message that I need.  I've been reading my Bible a lot more as of late for the first time in my life, so I guess it makes sense that if it was going to happen, it would happen now.

Do you want to know what verse it is?

"The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." Exodus 14:14

Be still.

Two simple words, but there is so much packed into that.  How could something so simple be so utterly complicated to actually live out?  I keep begging God to give me peace, yet I'm still so resistant when He finally gives me the opportunity.  I suppose that goes back to my longstanding issue with control, but that's not really my point here.  My point is that after all this time that I've been waiting for God to show me what He wants from me at this stage in my life, I think this is the answer.

I need only to be still.

And I don't mean still in the literal sense.  Of course, I'm going to keep moving.  I think He's telling me to calm my mind and heart and soul.  God is asking me to stop trying so hard, just live my life, and know that He will handle the details.  He truly does care about the details of my life.  I need to quit worrying about what tomorrow will bring, what next year will bring, when certain things are going to happen in my life, just STOP.

My life is so good right now, guys; even with the bad days mixed in, I keep getting happier and happier.  God is asking me to quit questioning why these things are happening, why this happiness has hit me now, why these incredible people have come into my life now.  It's not about the why because in the end, the why doesn't matter.  It's about accepting that it is here and giving Him the praise He deserves.

When I arrive in DC, my life is going to get crazy.  I'm not going to have the time to stop and question why things happen.  All I will be able to do is LIVE IT.  So why not start practicing that now?

Live in the moment.  Quit thinking about the mistakes of the past because they got me to where I am now.  Quit worrying about the future because it's not guaranteed and I don't have a crystal ball.  Enjoy my life for what it is, count my blessings, and give God unending praise and thanks for all that He is and has given me.  My life is pretty amazing, and I need to focus enough to appreciate that.  God is taking care of the details, so I don't have to.  That's why He is God.

This is one of my favorite songs, and it's been on repeat quite a bit the past few days.  I think it has a lot of the same message that I'm trying to get out here.  There's one part in particular that has really stood out to me, though.  I'll put the lyrics underneath the video, and bold the part I'm referring to.  Enjoy.  I hope it speaks to you the way it has spoken to me.  "Psalm 46" by Jenny & Tyler.

The Lord is my refuge and strength.
Therefore, I will not be afraid.
Though the mountains give way
and fall into the sea, 
He will come and rescue me.

The Lord comes to me at break of day.
He reaches down to guide me in His ways.
Though the oceans roar

in this dark and stormy sea,
He will come and rescue me.

Hallelujah, He is with me.
Hallelujah, we cannot be moved.
Hallelujah, He is with me.
Hallelujah, I rest secure.

Be still and know that He is God.
He will be exalted over all.
Come and behold His strength and majesty,
yet He will come and rescue me.

Hallelujah, He is with me.
Hallelujah, we cannot be moved.
Hallelujah, He is with me.
Hallelujah, I rest secure.

Hallelujah, I rest secure.

Be still.  He is God.  He's got this.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Change me.

Note: I am not writing this post because I'm looking for a bunch of compliments about what a good person I am.  I promise I'm not.  I'm just writing this because it's what has been on my mind because of what has gone down the past few days.  That's it.

Now that I've had a day to process things, I finally have things to say about what's been going on here lately.

I've been feeling pretty down on myself the past few days.  That's pretty much entirely because of what's happened in this house.  I feel extremely guilty about the things I said to Chelsea out of anger, things I know I'd never say to anyone else, things I know I shouldn't have even ever said to her.  And so it made me start to question if whether or not I was any better of a person than her.  It's rather hard to compare our behavior because she has mental illnesses and I don't, and I have faith in God that she doesn't.  We live by two completely different ideas of what is right and wrong, and while she is the only person I'm ever truly hateful towards, she treats our entire family the same way she treats me.

That's not meant to be an excuse.  I can never excuse the things I've said and thought the past few days.  I am ashamed that after all these years, I haven't learned how to control myself better.  I'm just saying that I am never like that with anyone else, and even Matt, who has seen firsthand the crap that goes on in our family, has said that he couldn't ever imagine me not being nice.  And that's because, really, I'm nice to everyone. Even with bullies at school, I'm never hateful towards them.  But here, something about being trapped in this house makes me just as spiteful and bitter and angry and mean as she is.

I hate that about myself.  I hate myself almost immediately as soon as I say mean things to her.  I want so badly to change, and I told myself from the beginning that I wanted this summer to be different.  But I just don't know how to make that change happen.  I can prepare for the mind games all I want, but in the heat of the moment, I somehow manage to lose everything I've been taught and everything I know and become this person that absolutely sickens me.  God is here and He has control, I know that.  I mean, only God could have made it so that we went two entire weeks before we had our first big blowout.

I just don't want to be that person anymore, the person who lets her temper and her defensiveness get the better of her.  I've been praying, and some of my closest friends have been praying, so I can't help but sit here and wonder what it's going to take to change me.  I'm honestly scared to find out because things are already so bad.  But there must be something waiting for me.  There must be some lesson that I'm not seeing yet; God has the power to make this all stop, to make me stop, and since it hasn't and I haven't yet, there's got to be some part of His plan in which the reason for all of this makes perfect sense.

I want good relationships with my sisters so, so much.  I couldn't want that more if I tried.  I found some blogs the other night from three sisters (there's actually four girls in the family, but one of them doesn't have a blog), and in searching through their archives, I found this post in which they all did a video blog together, and my heart hurt deeply from being jealous at the kind of relationship they have and apparently have always had.  I feel that same jealousy when I look at my friends and I know how close some of them are to their siblings, especially the ones who consider their siblings their best friends.  I love my sisters, that's not even a question, but I want to like them, too.  I want to want to spend time with them, to share secrets with them, to be close, and right now, I honestly can't stand either of them.  I HATE THAT.  I tried so long to form relationships with them without getting anywhere, so I eventually just quit trying, but that doesn't erase how badly I wish things were different.

I think, though, that beyond the work that has to be done in our relationships, something has to be done in me.  I have to learn how to show them the patience, grace, and love that I have been given by God.  It's easy for me to do it with everyone else, so why is it so difficult with them?  I want to be released from this resentment that is holding me down.  God, even if they don't want relationships, please PLEASE teach me how to show them the love I know from You, because even more important to me than fixing these relationships is finding the peace within my heart not to harbor so many negative feelings for them.  Change me.  Consume me to the fullest extent so that Your love just oozes out of me.  By myself, I am not good at all, and You are the only one with the constant love and forgiveness that can fix this.  Heal my heart.  Give me a new name and make me Yours 100%.  I am here, I am willing, and I am ready.  Thank you so much for sending a friend to me tonight that knows my heart enough to know who I really am and wasn't afraid to remind me that I am a good person.  I needed that, but there's still so much work to do.  Make me more like You.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A thousand times I fail, still Your mercy remains.

I don't really have anything to say tonight.

Today was bad. Like, really bad.  Probably the worst day I've had this break so far.  But I still have plenty to be grateful for.

A big house full of chores to keep me occupied.

A nephew that can make me laugh just by grinning at me.

Friends who love to remind me that I don't actually suck.

And a God who is always there, always in control, always watching, who never stops loving me even when I act badly, whose mercy never quits.

Change me, God.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

I'm in trouble when I finally have kids.

Because newborns?  They're not really big on letting you sleep.  And I do not function well without at least 6-7 hours.  Maybe I'll get used to it the further I get in college.  Because the late nights are only going to get more frequent from here.

It's basically 9:00 pm as I'm writing this post, and guess what.

As soon as I finish this post, I am going to bed.  Yes, that's ridiculous, especially for a college student, especially on a Saturday, but I really don't care.  You wanna know why?

Because I didn't fall asleep till about 4:00 last night and got up at 6:30.  I then got ready and went to work with Mom for the day where I did some clerical tasks she needed done and then helped time graduation project presentations.

That lasted until 3:00, and then we went shopping for three and a half hours, and I almost passed out in the bra department at Walmart because it was so hot in there.  Awesome.

It was not a very nice day.  Mom made me cry by the time we left school (and well, I'm just a tad overemotional when I'm running on this little sleep, and I have PMS), and I felt like crap for the rest of the afternoon because of the heat.  But at least I got out of the house and wasn't home with Chelsea and Blake all day.

So needless to say, I'm exhausted.  And I'm going to crash now.

Good night, world.  I'll be back in 12-14 hours. (I hope.)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Who I am is not who I was.

I feel very misunderstood today.

I know, that sounds ridiculously dramatic.

But after a conversation with Mom earlier tonight, there's really no other way for me to feel.  It's like she has absolutely no idea who I am. She still talks to me and about me like I'm some angst-filled, spoiled, 15-year-old brat, and I'm just not.  I used to be, but I'm not anymore.  Anyone who really knows me will tell you I'm not.

And all of this was after talking about a whole list of things that I told her I didn't want to talk to about, but she forced me to, anyway.  I finally tell her as much as I'm willing to tell her, and she cuts me off and tells me to quit being so dramatic.  Like, what was the point of this then?  Besides her getting me all worked up just to tell me what she thinks I'm feeling?

I've never once claimed to have it all figured out.  Trust me, I will be the first to tell you there is still a LOT I don't get about the world and the people I have to deal with in it.  I will also admit that, yes, sometimes I can be immature.  But I have grown up a lot the past few years, as anyone would in my shoes, and she completely undermines everything that I've gone through and everything I've done to make myself better by acting like I'm still the drama queen brat that I did actually used to be.  She still thinks I hate Holly because she's prettier than me or because of the relationship between her and Matt.  Like, really?!  Has she not noticed the fact that Matt and I can go weeks without talking to each other because I am finally secure in us?    Has she not even noticed that the fact that I've had feelings for other guys, which should clue her in to the fact that my feelings for Matt are not what they once were?  Does she really not see how much I've changed?  And why does she not care enough to actually listen to me?

It's so aggravating to sit there and have her tell me "what I'm feeling" or "why I'm feeling the way I'm feeling" as if she's some sort of psychic when she actually doesn't have the slightest clue.  Why can't she just ASK ME what's actually going on in my head?  I'd be willing to tell her just about everything, but there are just some things I don't want to talk to her about (like private conversations with my closest friends) and as a 19-year-old woman, I should at least have the right to that!  Every time she acts this way, it leaves me feeling like she has no respect for me whatsoever.  Add in the fact that she basically told me that the reason Holly and I have no relationship is my fault and I'm overreacting about it, and I pretty much never want to tell her anything that's going on in my heart ever again.

My friends see the real me.  My friends see the transformation that has happened in my life.  Why can't my family?

God, please give me the wisdom in how I need to deal with her.  I'm so frustrated, and clearly every tactic I've tried thus far has gotten me nowhere.  I want her to see, understand, and accept the real me, not these assumptions she has in her head of who I am.  Please show me how to approach this.  I am so lost.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


I was literally just about to type the words "no one has contacted me in two days" when my phone buzzed and Ryann texted me. God has an awesome sense of humor.

I got my roommate assignments for this summer today.  That was exciting.  I've been emailing back and forth with one of the girls today, and she seems nice.  Things all of a sudden feel way more real (despite the fact that I still don't know where I'm interning).  Like, this is actually happening.  I mean, obviously I've been aware of that, but it's crazy to think it's so close and I'll really be living in DC by myself for eight weeks.

Thank you for no one saying anything negative about my post yesterday.  I mean, I've never received a negative comment before, but that is, for obvious reasons, pretty much the last subject I'd like to hear something negative on.  Surprisingly it got more page views than any of my other posts in the past couple of months, aside from the ones Taylor has retweeted.

You know, maybe it's a good thing my phone has been silent the past two days.  I've needed to do some reevaluating of some of the relationships in my life.  Maybe this was God's way of letting me take a step back.  It's not that there are friendships I'm thinking about ending, but I've needed to reconsider why I hold certain people so dear and if I'm letting those relationships get in the way of or take the place of my relationships with God.

Y'all know how much I love my friends; that's no question - I've said about seven thousand times on this blog just how amazing the people that have found their way into my life are.  I am so grateful for my friends, but I think my biggest issue as of late is that I was relying on them when I shouldn't have.  I was leaning on them, desperately grasping to feel love, when the only love I really need has been with me all along.  And when it comes down to it, these people will never be more important to me than God.  They shouldn't be.  They can't be.  Otherwise, I'll destroy all the work I've put into rebuilding my relationship with God the past few years.

And I think that because I wasn't putting my whole heart into my relationship with God, I wasn't able to be the right kind of friend, either.  I have been focusing too much on myself and how this life is affecting me instead of how I can affect this life.  This isn't about me; it never has been, and it never will be.  This is about God.  And I seriously need to reconfigure where I put friends (certain ones, to be specific) on the list of what's important.  God shouldn't just be #1.  God should be everything.

I guess realizing this is the first step to making it happen.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I miss my dad a lot today.

I don't know why.  I mean, I honestly miss him every day, but there are just some days, even now, almost 13 years later, that I wake up and the scar of losing my father at such a young age aches.  It's not even really a painful ache, just a dull but constant soreness deep in my heart.

Part of me feels like 13 years should be enough time for this not to happen anymore, but part of me also feels like losing someone so vital to your formative years isn't something you can ever get over.

And here I am, overthinking it again.

I don't know the man, really.  I have basically no memories of him, all I have are the stories various family members tell me, and I wish so badly that I could remember - remember his voice without having to watch home videos, remember his smile without having to stare at photographs, remember what it was like for him to hold me and to know that I was his princess, his "sweet pea," his baby girl.  I want to remember what life was like with him, and instead, my first real memory is of waking up to find out he's gone.

I'm still growing up, you know?  And every time something big happens in my life, I can't help but wonder how he'd react, if he'd be celebrating all of my victories and there to hold my hand when I'm sick or scared.

There are 24 days till I leave for DC, living in a big city all by myself and working like an adult for eight weeks.  Would he be proud of me?  Would he be calling to check in every day, or would he just trust that I could do it and wait for me to call him?  Would he be telling all of his friends that his youngest daughter was living her dreams, boasting with pride like only a parent can?

There are 30 days till I'm no longer a teenager.  And there's so much more life I have to live.  What about when I finally start dating - would he be an overprotective, sort-of-seriously-threatening dad, or would he be like Mom and be a parent any of my friends can get along with?  And when I meet the love of my life?  He won't be there to celebrate me getting engaged.  He won't be there to walk me down the aisle or dance with me at my wedding reception.  He won't be there when I have kids.

Losing him still affects me every day.  It affects all three of us every day.  When you're a girl, growing up without a dad means you lose out on a male role model to teach you how a man is supposed to treat you.  I think it's why Holly put up with that crap from Landon for so long, I think it's why Chelsea's been so promiscuous, and I'm almost certain it's why I put up with emotional abuse from guys in my past and still so desperately just want to be loved.  Because we missed out on being secure in the love of our dad as we tried to figure out how to deal with the opposite sex.

To be perfectly honest, the thing that hurts me most of all is knowing that my dad wasn't a Christian.  So even when I die, I'm not going to get to see him again.  I still think about his death.  I wonder if he was scared to face the end of his life, especially not having God to turn to, I wonder how much it hurt, I wonder if he thought of his girls when the brain tumors (the leukemia metastasized to other parts of his body at the end) didn't change him into a completely different person.  

Writing this all out, it seems to be perfectly reasonable that I still miss him.  I miss the memories we could have had, the lessons I could have learned, the love I could have felt.

I can't change what happened to him, to us.  I can't change the cancer, or his death.  Instead, I'm left living my life the best that I can figure out how and praying to God that I'm making my daddy proud.

I'm sorry if you read all of this and think it's morbid or whatever, but I had to get it out somewhere.  We don't talk about him much anymore in this family, so this was the only place I knew I could go.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Thanks to my incredible best friend Ryann, I had a bit of an epiphany tonight.

My heart has been in the wrong place this whole time.

As much as I know my life has changed since Nashville, I'm still focusing on the wrong things.  As much as I tell people I finally love myself now (and I really do), I'm still sitting here waiting for some guy to tell me he loves me so that I'll feel important enough or like everyone else.

I've been doing it all wrong.

My hope can't be in other people.  Everyone I know is going to let me down at some point or another.  Even the people I love most.  I've been putting my hope in the relationships that support me, when maybe these relationships are what is keeping me from falling into God the way I need to.

If I die alone, if I only have kids via adoption or IVF or never have any kids at all, if I never meet the man of my dreams, I am still beautiful.  I am still loved.  I am worth more than anything or anyone on this planet can ever give me because I am loved by God.  I am His.  This world is not where I belong.  But He made me exactly the way that I am, every part of me, for a purpose.  And my ultimate goal is not to be loved by people, my goal has to be to please Him.  Because that's what HE deserves.  He deserves it because He's keeping me from the torture that I deserve.

God, I thought I had it right after Nashville.  I thought I was changed.  I thought I was different.  And here I am, face-to-face with the fact that I still wasn't mentally where I need to be.  These people, they don't matter in the long run, I only need them to keep me focused on chasing after You.  I don't want to let You down.  Please, PLEASE help me forget them.  Help me to keep learning.  You are all that matters.  You are all that can save me.  Help me have the strength to cut out whomever I need to cut out because I want my focus on You and ONLY You.  Please, help me find that direction.  Help me to remember.  Help me to be the daughter You know I can be.  Help me to keep my eyes on the ultimate goal, the only goal that really matters - eternity with You.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Five Answered Prayers

First off, this mysterious thing I talked about?  God definitely gave me the peace and clarity I was searching for there.  So that's resolved, basically.  But I really don't want to say what it was about because the person and relationship it was about knows of this blog and, well, that could lead to some awkward conversations I'm not sure I'm ready for quite yet.  He may or may not figure it out, anyway.  All that really matters is that I found the peace I needed to deal with that, and I'm good with where things are.

Second, Chelsea quit her job in the middle of a fight with Mom sometime this weekend that I don't even totally understand, so I was obviously freaking out that I was going to have no escape from her for the next four weeks until I leave for DC.  Well, Mom took Chelsea back to McDonald's today and somehow convinced the manager there to give her her job back.  Hallelujah and thank you, Jesus.  Things are bad enough with her at work 40 hours a week, I really don't want to see what it would be like with her home 24/7.

Third, as Chelsea was home today with Blake (no reason other than she decided he didn't need to go to daycare if she wasn't working), I got to get out of the house and go to Jacksonville with my grandma.  I got to help her pick out a smartphone and teach her the basics of it.  I have no idea why she all of a sudden decided she wanted to learn how to text and "be in the 21st century" but she did so I went with her to give her my advice on what I thought would be the best phone for her.  And she found one she likes for a good price.  Luckily, my grandma is a smart woman, even if she is old and constantly says her mind "just ain't what it used to be", so once you show her stuff a time or two, she catches on.  It's actually rather adorable.

Fourth, there really wasn't much fighting today.  Thank the Lord.  There was still some, but much less than usual, so it basically felt like a day off.

Fifth, my friends continue to support me in all areas of my life.  I've had lots of sweet conversations with people today that just make my heart so happy.  There have been several in the past few days that have sat and prayed with me, and that warms my heart so much to know people care that deeply about me.  I don't know if God is just making up for the lack of friends in my past or what (joking!!), but every day lately I am reminded of just how overly blessed I am in this area.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fall on God.

That's what I've said to myself about six hundred times today.

Fall on God.

Today, I'm just overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed with the stress and the worry and the frustration and the anger and the sadness and the attacks and just everything.

One would think I would be used to it after basically 13 years, but you never get used to hearing a blood relative tell you they hope you die and burn in hell.  That just doesn't happen.

And now all of those overwhelming emotions are pouring over into other areas of my life with people this has nothing to do with and the last thing I want or need right now is to screw up the good and healthy relationships I  still have.

Just fall on God.  Fall on God.  He can take care of this.  He can give me the strength to make it through the next 4 weeks.  He's the only way I'm going to be able to.

I can't do this.  I think it's been well-established that I can't.  So He's going to have to.  Please, before the family completely shatters.  I'm so unprepared by myself, I'm so broken and I can't stop making mistakes.  I need HIM.  I need the peace that only He can give.

It's time to let go and just fall.  Now.  Before someone or something shoves me.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Yes, I'm going to talk about Nashville AGAIN.

This is Michal.  Her name is pronounced like Michael, and believe it or not, she actually MADE that dress!  (That has nothing to do with everything else I'm about to say, I'm just amazed that I know someone who can make something that pretty.)  Isn't she pretty? know how I just blogged yesterday about how I have these amazing friends who are like family to me?  Yeah?  Well, this lovely girl right here is officially included in that list.  Earlier tonight, we spent about an hour and 10 minutes on the phone together talking, laughing, and praying, and I can't even begin to explain how good it was for my heart to spend time with her tonight.

You may remember me talking about her in my recap of my epic night at Sanctuary in Nashville as the girl that Joe (Waffles!) introduced me to randomly after she came up and hugged him towards the end of the night.  Well, as it turns out, and I only found out about this a couple weeks ago, she was also the girl who  came up and hugged me right after I got out of the pool.  Apparently I really was in a state of shock that night, I didn't make the connection until she told me!  She later told me she was nervous that I would think she was a freak for coming up and hugging me before even introducing herself, and I told her that no, I didn't say anything because my mind was so overwhelmed I couldn't find words to say to anyone, but it was actually one of the sweetest things a stranger (because she was a stranger at that point) has ever done for me.  Besides, I love hugs.

We've been Facebook friends since the day I got back to North Carolina, but recently we started texting.  Last night, she said we might be able to talk on the phone tonight, so when things started getting particularly nasty around here, I texted her to see if she would be available for a phone chat tonight and be my distraction.  She called a few minutes later, and let me tell you, that conversation was such a gift to me.  Even cooler is that she said she needed a chat like that, too, so God knew what He was doing when He put it on my mind to text her!

I felt so much more at peace by the time we got off the phone (after an hour and ten minutes, my butt was starting to hurt from sitting on my driveway!), and it honestly (and I know I say this a lot) just blows my mind that a friendship this sweet came out of a chance meeting on what happened to be the biggest night of my life.  I felt totally at ease pouring my heart out to her, and through that conversation we both realized that we have quite a few similarities in our personalities!  Honestly, though, the sweetest part about it for me was right at the very end.  She asked if I wanted to pray with her before we got off, and once we did, she said "I love you."

That sounds so simple and small, I know, but it means a lot to me.  Making friends with other girls has never been easy for me, and here's this girl who, all she knows of me is one meeting, is already willing to remind me that not only does God love me, but also that He's put people in my path who love me wholeheartedly, as well.  It couldn't have come at a more interesting time, either, because just days ago, Taylor challenged me to think about why all of my closest confidants are guys (him, Brennan, Matt).  I mean, obviously there's Ryann who is like my sister, but in general, I never seem to really trust girls as much as I trust guys.  I don't usually let myself be as vulnerable when I'm with girls.  And then here comes Michal.  One conversation later, and this girl feels like the sister I wish I had had.  It's insane what God can pull off when He wants to.

Tonight was such good reassurance for me on so many levels.  She was actually the first to comment about how cool it is that God brought us into each other's lives and how much she loves it, us, and me.  God puts exactly the right people in your path at exactly the right moment.  I can already feel in my heart that she is going to be an amazing Christian sister to have at my side, and I know I'm going to learn a lot from her.  I already learned a lot tonight, so I can't wait to see what future conversations hold. :)

Today was just sweet.  Between this and getting to watch some of my dear friends get their diplomas via the online stream of Campbell's graduation, the magnitude of angels that God has put in my life amidst all the craziness is so evident I can't be anything but happy.

Friday, May 11, 2012

My Definition of Family

Tonight was pretty ugly in this house.  (There's a shocker.)  I don't want to get into the details of it because, the details don't really make a difference in the way I felt before and the way I feel now.

What matters is that I realized that I wouldn't change a single thing about my life.  Even in the middle of all the ugly stuff in this house (and yes, I accept partial responsibility for it), I wouldn't change a thing.

My family life may be insane, but outside of that, I am surrounded by some absolutely incredible people.  And I really don't think I'd trade better relationships with my mom and sisters if it meant I had to give up or even weaken relationships with the amazing friends that have found their way into my life.  That probably sounds harsh, but honestly, it doesn't feel harsh to me.  You wanna know why?

Because those friends?  Those kind-hearted, loving, compassionate, protective, witty, blunt, honest, amazing friends? They are just as much my family, too.  Family isn't just about blood or DNA.  Family is about so much more than that to me.  They're the family I chose for myself.  They're the ones that fit what one expects the definition of "family" to be.

They're the family that I find myself relying on when things hurt, the ones I turn to vent to when I'm frustrated.  They're the family that supports me when I'm at my weakest, instead of using my low points as ammunition to torture me later. They're the ones I always know I can lean on, the ones I know will always be there to call me out on my crap but do it from a place of love.  They're the ones I feel like I can be myself with, unashamed of who I am both as God's child and just as myself.

Does it hurt my heart that there are people I met in Nashville a month ago that feel more like family to me than my actual blood relatives?  Absolutely, of course it does.  Because I know that's not the way things are "supposed to be."  Your parents and siblings are "supposed to be" your safe place.  But you know, when has my life ever fit the pattern of the way things were supposed to be?

I am a better person because of these friends.  They challenge me to be better.  God uses them to speak to me when there are things I'm just not "getting" on my own.  They're honest with me, even when it hurts and it's not what I want to hear, but they're not shy about telling me my good qualities, either.  They help me to keep my focus off of myself.  They teach me a whole new understanding of Christ's love.  They've helped me learn how to love myself again, and how to believe in myself.

So no, I wouldn't give these people up for anything, not even an easier family life.  With God at my back and people who love me this much at my side, I feel like I can take on the world.  Their words, their mere presence the past few years (and especially the past few months), has given me a whole new sense of courage, hope, and a determination to love.  But most importantly, knowing, loving, and being loved by these angels has brought me a desire to get to know the Father that blessed me with them like never before.

And those gifts are the ones that can never be replaced or repaid.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off

Sometimes, your past creeps up on you at really bad moments, moments you didn't expect old wounds to start aching again, moments you didn't expect to be reminded of pain you thought you had long gotten over.

I spent a good bit of time texting with a friend of mine today. This is a friend who has been nothing but sweet, supportive, and just there for me in the time that we've known each other.  This is a friend who has given me no reason not to believe that there is a legit, mutual care and respect between us.  This is a friend that I am so incredibly grateful for, that it still blows my mind I've even been blessed with a friendship like this.

And somehow, in the middle of our conversation today, it all just came pouring out of me.  I said "I'm just not used to people like you."  And that opened the floodgates.

Because you know what?  I'm not used to it.  I'm not used to people actually caring about me.  I'm not used to people truly being my friend.  I'm not used to people giving to a friendship with me and not expecting something in return.  I don't know why I'm still not used to it, when my life has been filled with friends like this for the better part of two and a half years.

I don't hate people.  I think it's physically impossible for me to hate people.  I don't hate the people who tormented me in school.  I know in my heart that I don't harbor resentment for those people, in fact I'm friends with some of them on Facebook now.  I honestly don't believe that is what could be holding me back.

So if that's not the reason, what is it?  Why does that stupid little voice of paranoia pop up in the back of my head at the least expected times?  I mean, I can see how different my life is now, and how different the people in it are.  Exhibit A: the friend that this all came out onto didn't freak out or get mad or think I was crazy.  This friend just said "oh okay. I understand." like it was no big deal.  These are real friends I'm dealing with now, not the fake friends I used to have.  I have friends now that have seen me through some pretty epic screw-ups, and they forgave me.  That's love.  I have love.

I'm so grateful that that stupid little voice didn't blow up a friendship that I care a great deal about.  But does this voice mean that I'm still scared of people?  I thought I was past this.  I really thought that part of who I was was over and done with, as evidenced by the security I now feel with my relationship with Matt, and the amazing people I met in less than 96 hours in Nashville that now feel like family to me.

Brennan always tells me I'm overthinking things and JUST STOP THINKING SO MUCH.  Maybe that's what I'm doing here.  I know who I am now, and I know that the people I love know the real me.  My past did affect me, but it does not define my future.  And I have the love and grace of a Father who heals all wounds.  He's healed so many wounds from the bullying I experienced, and this could be nothing more than satan trying to prey on my weakness when he thought I wasn't looking.  I know that God will protect my heart as I deal with all of the new relationships that have been put in my path lately, because that's what He does.

I am free.  There's no ifs, ands, or buts about it.  The grace that I have accepted from God releases me from the chains of doubt, fear, worry, and pain that once held me down.  I just need to quit thinking and enjoy it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lessons from Job

I stayed up till 4 am last night, which, granted, probably wasn't the smartest thing to do, but it was so worth it.

Taylor and I spent over an hour on the phone last night talking, and it was honestly one of the most eye-opening conversations I've had in a long time.  During it, he really challenged me to dig into Scripture to deal with everything that's both in my past and going on right now.  This has always been quite the struggle for me, as you can imagine.  For quite some time, I'd wanted to start studying the Bible, but it just seems so huge that every time I wanted to start, I didn't know where to begin and ended up just giving up.  But this conversation really convicted me to start.  "Just doesn't matter where you start, just ask God and He'll point to the right place."  That's what Taylor told me.  All that really mattered was that I start.

So I did.  We had spoken about Job and his story during our conversation.  I knew the basics of the story, but I wanted to see it start to finish, so I figured that would be as good of a place as any.  Reading it....there just aren't words.  (Okay, maybe there are words. You know me.)  I saw so much of myself and my story in that book, it was like an episode of "THIS IS YOUR LIFE".

Of course, I'm not trying to compare my pain to what Job dealt with.  Job lost a lot more than I ever have.  But the emotions behind it, they're what stuck out to me.  The feeling betrayed by God, the feeling abandoned, the wishing your life had never been created.  I get it.  You know.  I went through all of those emotions.  And I had the hoards of people, sometimes well-meaning people but sometimes not, trying to tell me that if I just prayed harder or if I just trusted God more then everything would work out.  The people that meant well, I don't think they realized that they always left me walking away feeling nothing more than this is all my fault.

Even more than all of that though, what really hit me like a ton of bricks was the ending, after God has begun to remind Job of all the power that He holds, power Job will never be able to comprehend.  He's essentially asking Job why he couldn't trust a God who takes care of every possible detail, who manages to do what humans never could.  And what does Job do?  Instead of making excuses for himself, or shifting the blame onto someone else, or trying to justify his sinful actions, Job responded "I am unworthy - how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer - twice, but I will say no more." (40:4-5)  He didn't try to sweep it all under the rug.  He swallowed his pride and said "You know what, Lord?  You're right.  I messed up.  I'm sorry."  As the author notes in my Bible say "The only way to know the freedom of forgiveness is to first be willing to confess your sin."

I screwed up.  I think part of human nature is that we all hate to admit that we're wrong.  I know that I hate to admit it.  But I screwed up big time in my relationship with God.  It wasn't His job to prove to me He was trustworthy.  It was my job to prove to Him that I believed in Him.  And I failed.  Like Job, I cursed Him when I felt abandoned.  And while it might feel good when I'm with people I know to let them say "Well, we can't blame you for reacting the way you did!  You're only human, and you handled it better than I would have!" that's nothing more than letting my stupid pride get in the way.  I could've done better, and I failed.

The most beautiful part of it all, though, wasn't Job admitting to his mistakes.  It was when God erased those sins from His memory as if they had never even taken place.  And not only that, in Job's new life, he was blessed with twice what he had had the first time.  God rewarded his confession of sins with more than he had owned to begin with.  As I reached the end of this book, I was face with a feeling that was simultaneously indescribably freeing and heavily convicting.

This is the kind of love I've felt from Matt for a long time, even when I didn't know God.  He showed me the grace to forgive me for all the times that I treated him poorly, but I didn't want to accept it from him, either. I kept apologizing for things he told me I didn't need to apologize for anymore.  And God loves me infinitely more than Matt or anyone else ever it must hurt God's heart to watch me push away the grace He has been trying to give me!  I'm sitting here beating myself up for sins that He doesn't even pay attention to, and this has been going on for years!  Was I scared of something, or was I just too caught up in feeling like I didn't deserve it?  I'll never be able to deserve His grace - that's why it's grace.

I have to change.  There's no other choice at this point.  I have to start accepting the grace He's been trying so hard to give me.  I owe Him that much.  I can't change the past, because what's done is done.  What I can do, however, is make the choice to accept the life-changing, overwhelming, unmatched-in-its-beauty, God-given grace that has been waiting for me.  That grace, a gift from only God Himself, is what will change my future.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Cold and Broken Hallelujah

(Yes, that is a phrase from the song I posted at the end of the post yesterday.)

Today was hard.

Love is hard.

But being a Christian in a broken world is hard, too.

And you know what?  God never promised that this would be easy.  God never promised that we'd always be happy.  All God promised is that if we lean on Him, He will be enough.  Because He is enough.  He is always enough.

I am always loved, because He always loves me.

And I must love these people because He loved me first.  It's going to be ugly, and it's going to be hard, but I'm not willing to give up this time.  This is too important.  I have to be His light, there isn't any other option at this point.  I have to choose to love these people even when I don't want to.  And He can give me the strength, the wisdom, and the peace to do it.

Tonight, God, I give You thanks for friends who are not afraid to give me a reality check when I need it.  Sometimes I get so caught up in my own emotions, I forget that just like I wrote yesterday, everything that happens in my life is for a purpose.  It is for Your purpose.  You have put me in this family so I can show them just how amazing and filling Your love is.  Your love lasts when the rest of the world and all of the broken people in it, including me, fail.  You, and only You, can save this family.  Please, give me what I need to show them just how great You really are.

Help me to stop thinking about it so much and to just know that You are God and You are in control.  You are always here, just waiting for me to suck up my stupid pride and let go of all the things I can't fix or control.

Well, I'm here.  Please come.  Save.  Heal.  Redeem.

And thank You, most of all, for never giving up.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Monday, May 7, 2012

My Testimony

(After having the opportunity to share my testimony last night, I woke up this morning feeling inspired.  It was like I had gotten a good smack in the face, and my focus was put back where it belongs.  I've never actually written out my full testimony, with every nitty gritty detail, and after some encouragement, I decided to go ahead and do it.  So here we go.  I pray that if you choose to read this, you leave having learned something.)

When I was little, saying prayers was just something we did every night before bed.  It wasn't a big deal, it was just a part of life.  I was baptized when I was a baby, so I know the influence was there from the beginning.  I don't really remember going to church and things, though I know we did because I remember seeing the old church directories, but I remember word for word the prayer Mom taught Holly, Chelsea, and me to say: "Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. God, I'm thankful for........God, I pray for.........Amen."

My parents split up in March 1997, and my mom, sisters, and I moved to Swansboro and in with my grandma until my mom could find our own house.  We fell right in with the Methodist church in town, and it was nice.  We still got to see my dad, who still lived in Raleigh, some weekends, and we had a routine.  When my dad got diagnosed with leukemia in August 1998, my 6-year-old mind was sure that God would heal him, because that's what I was always taught God does, and healing in my mind meant I'd get to keep him.  The following March, when doctors found benign tumors in my thyroid and I ended up in Duke four floors away from my dad, I didn't even really think anything of it.  I was just excited that I got to talk to him on the phone.

Then, on June 17, 1999, two days after my 7th birthday, my whole world got rocked.  This day is the first vivid memory I have.  I woke up that morning like a typical kid, still excited about all the presents I had received, and found my mom and one of the pastors from our church sitting in the living room.  They told my sisters and me that our dad had passed away early that morning.  We sat there and listened to the pastor pray, and then I ran to my room.  A shot of me laying on the bottom bunk in my sister's and my room and sobbing for hours is still stuck in my head like a photograph.  In the days after that, I pretty much decided I was done with God.  My 7-year-old, heartbroken self couldn't rationalize how a God that was supposed to love me would take away my daddy.  So that was it, there couldn't have been a God.  I still went to church basically because my mother forced us all to do it, but I didn't listen to a word that was said.  I blocked it out because I just didn't believe any of it could actually be true.

In 2002, when I started 6th grade, I joined the Youth Group at church.  It was just what you were "supposed to do," but like before, my heart wasn't in it.  I went through "Confirmation" because people told me to and because I wanted to be included in the group.  This is also the time when I remember Chelsea's mental issues getting really out of control, which did nothing to change my belief that there couldn't be a God taking care of my family as I was watching it fall apart.  Then, in November 2003, I went with some of the Youth Group to a weekend retreat at Camp Don Lee, a Christian camp my sisters and I had attended several summers.  The Saturday night of the retreat, there on the beach in front of a campfire and a wooden cross, I broke down.  I started crying and begging God to forgive me for all the mistakes I had made, for turning my back on Him.  I remember one of the group leaders coming and kneeling beside me, and I asked her if I could be alone because I had to come to terms with everything that had happened in the past five years.  I consider that day the day I got "saved."  I told God I loved Him and wanted Him in my heart and for Him to be with me always.  Afterwards, I was pretty much on top of the world.  I told everyone I knew about what had happened, and I believed my life was going to be different from that day on.  It just had to be.  The next fall, I went back to the same retreat.  I was ashamed at what I saw as all of my "failures" from the previous year, and I again promised Christ that I was going to be better this time.

Then, I started high school.  High school was a whole new game for me.  I had always had friends, even though I had never been popular.  But in high school, the slight bullying that I had had to deal with in the past got magnified about a hundred fold.  People I didn't know were spreading rumors about me.  People, especially guys, that I thought were my friends only pretended to be nice to me so they could emotionally abuse me; I let them because I thought I deserved it, I believed them when they told me it was my fault.  This was also the point when my health issues started getting really out of control, which only fueled the rumors about me more.  This wasn't just at school, either.  In the fall of 2006, there was a blow-up at church in which I found out that basically the entire youth group, kids and adults, believed I was faking my problems.  So I left, without a second thought.  At this point, I had sunk into such a deep depression that I completely and totally shut down.  I didn't speak to anyone at school except for the one friend that always believed me (Matt, of course), ever, not a word.  At home, the only times I spoke to anyone in my family were when I needed to release all the anger that had built up inside me.  And I certainly didn't talk to God.  I resorted back to that 7-year-old version of myself, the one that believed that a God that loved me wouldn't let my life be going the way it was.  I contemplated suicide on a weekly basis, and I honestly believe that Matt is the reason I never actually attempted it.  Even when he went to college and was gone for my junior and senior year, he was still the one soft place I had to land.  So it's not too surprising that I completely fell in love with him.  I put my entire peace of mind, my happiness, my existence on him, because I didn't believe that there was a God anymore.

A month before I graduated, I returned to school after being homebound for seven weeks.  It was at this point that I realized I really didn't care what anyone in that school thought of me, and I was done trying to be who they wanted me to be.  I thought I was actually turning a corner.  That summer was really pretty good.  I had graduation and birthday celebrations, I had Matt home for the summer, and I was focused on getting out of Swansboro and getting to experience my new life at Campbell.  I was finally starting to think again that there could actually be a loving God watching over me.

If you've been a longtime reader here, you know what happened next, starting in August 2009 - six brain surgeries, several life-threatening complications, and staph pneumonia all within a three month span that caused me to miss that first semester.  I spent a total of 49 days in hospital beds that fall and I don't even know how many days in bed at home, and in those 49 days, I questioned everything about the world around me.  All I wanted was to go to college, to be a student, to have a regular life.  I was 17, 17-year-olds weren't supposed to have to deal with stuff like this!  Every time I thought I was getting better, a new complication showed up and I just got angrier and angrier.  I sunk even further into the hole of depression that I had just felt myself starting to climb out of weeks before.  I made everyone else believe I was still trusting in God's plan for my life and my health, but to be perfectly honest, I only kept saying that because part of me hoped if I said it enough I'd actually believe it.  I never did.  I was angry at the world.  I was angry that God had "abandoned" me.  I was angry that my mom was depressed and that her principal was trying to fire her.  I was angry that I couldn't catch a break.  I met a lot of amazing Christian friends through the blog world around this time, but there was nothing anyone could've said to bring me out of that.  I was a master at making them all believe that I was fine and a Christian.

That following spring, in January 2010, I went to Campbell.  Finally.  I was weak, I was constantly exhausted, but I was finally getting to experience a taste of the life I had been dreaming of.  When I went to see a podiatrist and scheduled my foot surgeries, I was actually excited because these surgeries could only make my life better!  It was at this point that I finally started processing everything that had happened to me in 2009.  I had to come to terms with what I'd been through, but the process was so overwhelming I didn't even know where to begin.  All I knew was that I was not going to let this stop me, I was not going to be "the sick girl" and let that define my life.

I didn't even really have the time to dig into that before I hit my breaking point.  In September 2010, less than two weeks after I got the cast off from my second foot surgery, I contracted a massive MRSA infection in my foot.  This infection was missed by the hospital near Campbell  , and thus got to the point that by the time I made it to my foot doctor, as I later found out, I was 24-48 hours from going into septic shock and probably dying.  I had emergency surgery on Saturday, September 25th, to clean out the infection and laying there in that hospital bed, I told the doctors that I didn't care what had to be done, this was not, under any circumstances, going to make me miss another semester of school.  And when no one was watching, I basically told God "since you apparently want to see how much I can take, how many tests you can throw at me before I break, I'll prove you wrong. I can do this."  I was more determined than ever to fight.  The only problem was that I had the wrong opponent in mind.

I spent two weeks at home before I went back to school.  I had a PICC line in my arm for six weeks with which I was required to give myself high-dose, extremely intense IV antibiotics.  I missed every other Monday of class because I had to be consistently checked by both my podiatrist and my "Infectious Disease" doctor.  Going into this, I thought it would be a cake walk compared to all of the brain surgeries.  I could do this, no big deal.  I had no idea what I was signing up for.  It was physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting to be constantly paranoid about another infection or medical problem.  But I kept going.  I stayed in class, because in my eyes, I had no other choice.  I wasn't going to let whoever was "doing this to me" prove that I was weak.

At least, that was until I hit my breaking point.  Sometime right at the end of that 6-week period, I broke.  I completely and utterly shattered.  I felt like I was suffocating and there had to be a way out.  I had no choice  but to accept the fact that if I kept trying to do this on my own, I was going to kill myself, whether I intended to or not.  I had an epiphany of sorts, in that I realized that God didn't cause my problems; instead, He saved me from them by letting me cheat death more than half a dozen times.  I was tired of fighting by myself.  I had no worldly comfort or support, as my relationships with my mom and sisters were basically non-existent and Matt and I had our own rollercoaster ride.  Somehow, I just knew that if I was going to make it through this, there had to be a God that was taking care of me, that gave me the strength to get through it, because clearly, the strength I felt by myself wasn't enough.

This is when I decided to take that same stubbornness I had felt before, the determination to "prove God wrong", and use it for something good.  Something in my gut just told me that I wouldn't have gone through all of this pain and suffering for no reason, that a God who saved my life so many times wouldn't let it all be for nothing.  There had to be a reason I was still here because, according to every doctor I saw, I should've been dead.  And so I started praying that God would show me the reason for this, that God would show me why my life was the way it was, and what He wanted me to do with it.  I prayed that I could make a positive difference in someone's life with what I had learned; then, I would feel like it had a purpose, like I had a purpose.

Months later, those prayers already started getting answered.  I got diagnosed with Bell's Palsy in January, and it went away after 16 days instead of the 3-6 months all the doctors told me.  I joined my first Bible study.  I made real friends at school for the first time, and those friends started confiding in me the things they had learned from watching me and my struggles.  That was when I finally got it.  God was using me to teach others.  I had been so caught up in my self-pity before that I didn't see it, but my life was (and is!) part of a much bigger purpose.  It was my job to show the world the miracles that had been performed in my life, and to therefore tell them of the miracles that He can perform in theirs.  I'll never forget the first time Ryann told me she appreciated her life and her health more because of me, or when I sat at lunch and poured out my entire story to Bruno the day I first met The Vespers and he told me that I was going to do big things with my testimony, "bigger things than [he]'ll ever do."

I started out 2011 with the goal of that finally being the year I found peace.  And honestly, while I wish I had known that all it took was making the decision to find peace to actually find it, I can see now that I went through immense growth during those very hard years.  I wouldn't be the same person had I not survived all of that.  That was the start of becoming grateful for everything I faced, even as far back as losing my dad, because as cliché as it sounds, it really did make me stronger.  And it took all of that to bring me back to God and make me willing to invest my heart into Him 100%.  Furthermore, once I realized the impact that my life was having on the people around me, the more I wanted to share it with the world and tell more people.  This story, my story, was giving me the opportunity to change the world, something I always knew I wanted to do.

Life is hard.  There is no way to prepare someone for it.  It's just hard.  It's frustrating, and scary, and overwhelming, and sad at times.  But you can get through this.  I am a living, breathing testimony to the power of God, to His unending love and grace, to the fact there is no limit on the number or magnitude of miracles He can perform in your life.  Don't give up.  Please.   Because once you're on the other side, you will see the purpose.  It may not be immediate, it may not even be until you're in Heaven (that's frankly when I was expecting to find out the purpose for everything in my life), but you will see it.  Everything that happens is for His will, and He will redeem every bit of pain and suffering you have faced if you let Him.  I promise.

I may not be sure of many things in life, but the one thing I am 1000% positive of is that giving your life to the God that loves each of us more than we will ever understand is a decision that you can never regret.

If you'd like to talk privately with me, my email is