Sunday, March 31, 2013

He is RISEN!

I don't have time to say a lot because it's almost midnight and I still have to fold all my laundry and make my bed before I can go to bed and then I get up at 6:30.  Yay college.

Anyway, my day started with some early morning babysitting as Mom took Chelsea to work.  Good thing this kid is easy to appease with cartoons at 6:30 am.

After that, I went back to sleep for a while, and then spent most of the afternoon on Blake duty until Chelsea and Mommom got home around 4:15 because Mom was cleaning and cooking.  Good thing, too, because this meal was SO WORTH IT.

Cornish hens, sautéed green beans and onions, garlic mashed potatoes, homemade mac and cheese, fresh sweet corn, and baked asparagus wrapped in bacon and drizzled with butter, brown sugar, soy sauce, and something else that I'm forgetting at the moment.  Oh my word.  That was the first time Mom made those and they were INCREDIBLE!  So incredible that Mom is actually making another huge batch on Tuesday (yay for her being on Spring Break) and bringing me some on Wednesday. :D

We finished dinner just in time for Duke's Elite 8 game, and towards the end of the first half, we had dessert.

Flavored cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory.  Mom had strawberry and Mommom had blueberry with white chocolate.  I had chocolate mousse, and it was hands down the best cheesecake I've ever eaten.  And that's coming from a girl whose favorite dessert is cheesecake!  I was so amazed by the first bite that I literally forgot to chew it for a minute.  And yes, I really did take a picture after I'd eaten half the piece.  I didn't remember to before I started eating, and if anything of the meal was worth putting on Instagram, this was it!  Classy, I know.  ;)

Mom and I went over to Mommom's house for the second half of the game because Blake wouldn't stop screaming and Mom and Chelsea couldn't stop fighting, so it was just easier this way.  So after I packed the car and before we left, I got one last picture with my sweet boy.  :)

Then we got the heck out of there before he fully comprehended that I was going back to school, because the poor kid goes into full-on meltdown mode when he knows I'm leaving.  He likes me just a little bit. ;)

Duke's second half went horribly, so Mom and I ended up leaving before it was over.  I got back to school about 9:45.  Unpacking, yada yada yada, and now I'm just sitting here listening to worship music reflecting on what this day means.

I've said several times to people recently, "Jesus died so that I could have hope.  Giving up is not an option." And it's true.  He died to give me a promise of a brighter future, an eternity without pain.  That's what I hold on to.  People think I'm strong...I'm not.  He is pulling me through every day one day at a time because I could never handle this on my own.  Never.

I am so blessed to live the life that I do, dysfunction and all, to have the love that I do, in all its forms.  This Holy weekend really hits it home for me just how undeserving I am of all the blessings He has given me and the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.  I can't earn this, I could never, and to me, that's the most beautiful part about it.

This is another song that I've posted here before.  It's been in my head a lot this weekend because I truly just can't imagine the depth of God's love that is exemplified in this Holy weekend.

This is a song that a blogger I follow posted today, and its lyrics just spoke right to my heart (as cheesy as that sounds).

This is my song right now:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future

And life is worth the living just because HE LIVES.

I hope you all had a beautiful day celebrating our Savior!  Joy to the world, He is RISEN!

And for my Orthodox friend, hope you had a good Sunday. ;)

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Day In Between

Silent Saturday.

That's what I heard someone refer to today, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, as.  And thinking on what the disciples must have felt as they grieved having watched Jesus' crucifixion, I think it fits.  They had been told by Jesus himself that he would rise on the third day, but being human, it's understandable that they were skeptical that he would literally rise from the grave.  Once we lose that child-like faith, we're all doubters.  Yes, he said he would rise again, but what if he didn't?  Such a miraculous feat seems pretty improbable to human minds.  All they knew for sure was that Jesus was gone.  And anyone who has ever lost a loved one can tell you that the silence left behind in the place of that person's missing presence can be deafening.  The Gospels say many times that everyone remembered Jesus saying he would be resurrected and believed it would happen just like everything else Jesus had said would happen had happened...except his disciples.    They were expecting somebody to remove his body from the tomb to trick people, not him to leave death in his grave and come back to them.  So, knowing that, I think this day must have been a day of intense grief and mourning for them.

For everyone else, though, the ones who remembered and believed that Jesus would be resurrected, I think this day was one of anxious anticipation.  It was a day of waiting.  They had just witnessed the Savior they loved and adored be tortured and put to death; now, they had to wait for him to make the glorious return that he had promised.  I wonder how many of them had moments of doubt, times where they thought they were crazy for thinking a man could actually die and then get up and live again.  I know what he said, but will he actually do it?  We all do that, and usually over things way smaller in scale than an event like this.

I see myself and my struggles intertwined so deeply in this.  I've found myself saying numerous times to various people, "I know that God can heal me, but I find myself doubting that He will."  Even when I hear from so many others who know me, even people who don't know me that will saying things like, "I believe they will find out what's wrong and you will get better!"  They're so confident, so sure of what they're saying, and yet I still struggle to truly, fully, wholeheartedly believe that God is going to take away this pain.  It's so hard for me to believe that something will happen while still accepting the fact that it may not, especially when it's something I want so desperately as I want to be free from this pain.  There's always a part of me that thinks I'm going to be stuck with this.

The thing is, though, God's healing doesn't always happen this side of heaven.  21-year-old college seniors get taken to heaven days before their sister's wedding.  Kids join Jesus before they ever really have a chance to experience life on this earth.  Parents leave behind children.  It's stories like this that get caught in my head, that hold me back from having the confidence that my friends do that I'm going to get my healing here on earth.

So I wait.  I wait like the masses of people who waited for Jesus to fulfill the promise of his triumphant return.  Hoping for the best, but preparing for the fact that I may not get what I want.

I wait for answers, praying as hard as I can for those to come with my neurosurgeon appointment this coming Wednesday, and thanking God that so many others are joining me.

I wait to be introduced to the plan that God has for my future.

I wait for more opportunities for Him to use me in the midst of my trial.

And as I wait, I remind myself that I am working on His timetable, not the other way around, and just because I haven't heard from Him yet, that doesn't mean He's not working for my good and to orchestrate the plans for the story He had written for me long ago.  Because He is.  He promises me so, that He has plans to prosper me, not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future.  As much as it drives this Type A control freak crazy, all I can do is wait.  I have already done more in my life for His glory than I ever could have dreamed possible, so I know that He has something great in store.

When His answer does come, well...I just pray that, unlike the disciples, I will recognize His face.

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Why it's good.

"'GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD,' John writes, 'that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.'  That is to say that God so loved the world that he gave his only son even to this obscene horror; so loved the world that in some ultimately indescribable way and at some ultimately immeasurable cost he gave the world himself.  Out of this terrible death, John says, came eternal life not just in the sense of resurrection to life after death but in the sense of life so precious even this side of death that to live it is to stand with one foot already in eternity.  To participate in the sacrificial life and death of Jesus Christ is to live already in his kingdom.  This is the essence of the Christian message, the heart of the Good news, and it is why the cross has become the chief Christian symbol.  A cross of all things - a guillotine, a gallows - but the cross at the same time as the crossroads of eternity and time, as the place where such a mighty heart was broken that the healing power of God himself could flow through it into a sick and broken world.  It was for this reason that of all the possible words they could have used to describe the day of his death, the word they settled on was 'good.'  Good Friday."

- Frederick Buechner, The Faces of Jesus

A writer I love to follow posted this on Facebook this afternoon, and I thought it sums up so beautifully why a day that is in remembrance of a brutal death is called "good."  This is a question I've heard several non-Christians ask, and it's an understandable reaction for someone who doesn't believe in the sacrifice that was made when Jesus went to the cross.

Good Friday isn't good simply because Jesus died.  Good Friday is good because God sacrificed his perfect child to die like this so none of the rest of us would have to.

Good Friday is good because even in his death, Jesus showed the ultimate love when he cried out, "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do."

Good Friday is good because even though the enemy thought Jesus was dying that day, death actually died in his place.

At least, those are some of the reasons why it's good to me.  It's a reminder and a chance to really reflect on a love that is so far beyond my comprehension.  God gave up his child to protect me, and I get to have a real relationship with him.  In my World Religions class, we've discussed several religions where to the adherents, the supreme god is this unreachable, so far off figure that isn't to be bothered.  But my God wants to know me.  He wants to know the people he sacrificed so deeply for.  I am seen, and I am intimately known.

Through some Facebook and YouTube surfing, I came across this recording of a Sanctuary performance from the end of last spring.  I thought one particular verse was so perfect for Good Friday.  The song is "You're Beautiful" by Phil Wickham.

I see You there hanging on a tree
You bled and then you died and then you rose again for me
Now You are sitting on Your heavenly throne
Soon we will be coming home
You're beautiful

Because he died and rose again, Jesus sits waiting on his throne for God's children to come home to him.  What is more beautiful than the knowledge that he laid down his life for us?  He didn't just die and rise again, Jesus died and rose again for me.  For you.  For my family.  For your family.  For the ones who don't believe.  For the ones labeled lost causes.  For all of us.  Perfect love went to a cross and suffered to ransom me.  I owe him everything, and I'm happy to.

Good Friday is good because the story doesn't end with Friday.  Sunday is coming.


I've posted this song before, but it's something I've been reflecting on a lot today, and I want us all to remember these words as we move through the weekend (and every day, really, but especially this weekend).

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke with the keys
Of hell on that day
The first born of the slain
The man Jesus Christ laid
Death in his grave

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ugly and Raw

I'm warning you now - this is going to be one of the ugliest posts I've written in a very long time.  But it's going to be ugly because, for once, I'm going to be completely honest about the one subject that I don't think I'm ever 100% honest with anyone about...because I hate who I am in it.  But this time, I'm leaving my heart open raw, because I just can't hold it in anymore.

20 seconds, if that.  That's how long it took from the time my mom got home tonight for the yelling to start.  And it all basically went downhill from there.  I spent the next 3+ hours trying to smother the urge I had to get up and punch my sister in the face while still managing to enjoy my mom and my sweet, sweet nephew until my mom and I locked ourselves in her room to watch Grey's Anatomy and Scandal while my sister and Blake went to bed.

I haven't even been here 24 hours and I'm already wondering why I bothered coming home at all because right now, even the joy of seeing my always adorable nephew doesn't seem like it's worth the stress and misery of being stuck in this house for even 72 hours with someone who seems to live to terrorize the rest of us.

I've told the few people that I've talked to in the least about this that I love Chelsea...and I really do want to believe that I do.  But I don't know if I can call what I feel for her "love."  I've always said that I would die to protect the people that I love, and I can easily name off many people that that includes: Mom, Blake, Holly, Matt, Ryann, all of the Vespers, Caitie, Kyla, Mommom, and on and on.  But I started really thinking about this question when I was in the shower tonight, and if it came down to it, if I had to choose between giving my life or Chelsea's, I'm not sure that I'd die for her.

And I wish I could accurately describe how much it pains me to write those words, but nothing will ever suffice.  I wish things were different.  I've waited for so long for things to be different.  I've told myself over and over again that next time I would be better.  And it never is.  I walk in this house, and I see how she is, and I remember the 13+ years of torture she's inflicted upon this family, especially my mom....and I just want her gone.  I want her to give custody of Blake over to Mom so he can have a shot at a stable life and just...disappear.  Every time I see my mom cry because she's so stressed from living in this mess 24/7, I think about how much better all of our lives would be if she were just gone.  I think that we could be a normal family that didn't live in a constant warzone if she weren't a part of the equation.

Please, please understand how much I absolutely hate this part of myself.  I hate that I can't love her through the brokenness she calls a life.  I hate that I can't really, permanently forgive her for the damage she has caused.  I hate that I can't be the light of Christ in her life, even for just a minute, no matter how badly I want to.  I hate that I have a hard time remembering that God created her for a purpose just like He created me, or that Jesus went to the Cross to save her just like he did for me.  I hate that I think I'm better than she is.

Because in reality, I know that I'm not.  I know that in God's eyes, I am just as deserving of the brutal death that Jesus received as she is, but it's only because I found my salvation that my eternity looks different.  I know that I am just as broken as she is, and just as in need of a Savior.  I know that my God doesn't play favorites, He doesn't have levels where someone is above someone else, He is fair and just and loves us all equally.

I keep begging for the Lord to change me, but I think that I have to want that more than I want Him to change her before anything will happen, and that's why my family is stuck in this life-sucking quicksand.  I just don't know what it's going to take for that to happen.  I don't know what else I need to do, what else I need to say to God, what I need to lay at the foot of the Cross before I can witness God's merciful redemption of this horrible saga just like I've seen Him redeem everything else in my life.

And what scares me the most is that at the rate things are going, my family isn't going to be around long enough to see it happen.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013


It seems that the days where I can't even manage to get out of bed for the majority of the day are happening more and more frequently.  I forced myself to get up to eat but that's it.

That means I missed yet another day of classes as well as small group today.  I'm not sure which frustrates me more.  One thing is for sure - my teachers are angels.  They all could technically fail me for absences but instead have told me not to even worry about it.  They just want me to get better.

I don't know what else to say.  I'm exhausted.  I'm frustrated.  I just want this pain to be gone.  But I'm not worried.  I'm slightly amazed that I'm not worried, but I'm not.  God is with me.  And so many people are praying for me.  God says that wherever two or more are gathered in His name, there He will be.  So that's a good reassurance.

I'm tired, but not enough to give up.  I'm going to keep living, and I'm going to live for Him.  Tomorrow I'm going to force myself to get up and go to class.  It's one class, a tutoring session, a quick interview, and then I'm headed home for Easter weekend.

This weekend is the celebration of Jesus' victory over death.  Jesus died so that I could have hope.  Giving up is not an option.  Instead, I'm going to celebrate.  Celebrate the love of a Father that has changed my life. Celebrate Jesus' perfect love.  Celebrate His sacrifice for my utterly broken soul.  Celebrate His victory.  Celebrate the hope I found in Him.

So yes, I choose to celebrate.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013


(Whew.  Nothing like an interview, 3 back-to-back tutoring sessions and a meeting in one afternoon/evening to wipe you out.  It's 11:50 and I'm just now starting this post.)

Last night, right as I was getting ready to climb in bed, I got this text from a friend.

"I find it more than a little interesting and coincidental that you would be attacked in such a way the day after you experienced so much joy participating in worship.  It seems that when we have those moments we are attacked the most to see if we will hold on to what we have gained.  I will continue to pray that you have the strength to carry on and the faith to hold on no matter what is striking at you."

Yeah, believe it or not, the idea of a spiritual attack never crossed my mind once in the mess that was last night until I got that text.  But once I read it, I really felt like this friend of mine was right.  The timing of it was just too weird.  I think satan was mad that I had experienced so much joy leading worship at church and hadn't let fear hold me back, that he wanted to try to pull me away from that feeling and, more importantly, the God who gave it to me.

But he didn't.  He couldn't.  I wouldn't let him because even through my tears, I could still say that God is good.  And I am so thankful for that.

It's gotten me to thinking, though.  I feel like the closer I grow to God and the deeper my relationship with Christ becomes, the more the enemy is going to try to destroy that, like these attacks are only going to come more frequently.  He's telling me that I need to be ready for them.

So my next question was asking God how I'm supposed to be ready for them, and the answer immediately came to me..


Scripture is wholly and purely absolute Truth.  Truth is the best and only real weapon one can use to combat vicious lies.  I have to immerse myself in Scripture more and more every day in order to avoid sinking into the death trap that is satan and his lies.  This is definitely an area that I can improve in in a major way, and doing so can only help prevent these attacks from crushing me (even temporarily).

I don't have to fight the enemy.  That battle has long been over and won when Jesus took the death I deserve.  I just have to hold on to His Truth to guide me day by day when things are good and to protect myself when things are bad.

How deeply God loves us, to put a guidebook that doubles as armor right in front of us.  My heart aches for the Christians around the globe who don't have access to a Bible.  This lesson I've gotten today just makes me want to treasure mine even more.

And not only is it my protection, it will connect me straight to the heart of the Lord, strengthening my love for and relationship with Him.  It's long past time to make a big change in this part of my life.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

When Plans Change

I'll be blunt: Today, I got really, really mad.

Like, sitting in my dark dorm room crying, screaming at God in my head all the questions that have been rattling around in my brain since the time when I realized that this pain wasn't going to go away easily, mad.

I know You can heal me.  Why won't you?

What can possibly be better about me being in this much pain than the story I could tell of Your healing me?

What are You doing with this?

Why can't I just be a normal college student and go to class?

What's the point in this?

Mostly, though, I just wanted to feel Him.  I wanted to know where He is when I'm alone in my room in tears and feeling so incredibly alone that the walls feel like they're closing in on me.

I called my sweet friend Jess because I just wanted to hear someone's voice, and she said what a lot of people say: she doesn't understand how I deal with this.  And it's the fact that none of my friends, no matter how much they love me (and I know how deeply they love me), can really understand how exhausting this is that just adds to the loneliness.  But I just wanted to talk to someone who would let me tell them how angry I am and tell me that it's okay.

I think the thing that strikes the anger in me the most is the thought that all of this, this whole seemingly never-ending painful mess, is so far from what I planned on.  There I go again, thinking about my plans.  From the time I found out I had to have brain surgery just days before I was supposed to move to Campbell, I've been  stuck in this thought that my life isn't going the way I planned it to.  It feels like everything in the world is trying to get in the way of me and my college graduation.  I want to know why He keeps erasing the path to the dream I've fought for for so long and redrawing it straight through the center of valleys that, in the moment, I feel like I will never escape.

None of this makes sense to me.  It doesn't make sense to me that God sees it better that I suffer through this much pain instead of Him healing me.  And for the first time since all of this started, as I sat here crying alone, I felt my faith waver a little.  I felt myself really doubt if God was here and He was taking care of me.

But then I talked to Jess, and after I got off the phone with her, I thought about Pastor Sean's Palm Sunday sermon.  How he talked about in the span of six days, from Sunday to Friday, the people of Jerusalem went from shouting "Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!" which literally means "salvation is here" to screaming "Crucify him!".  Six days was all it took for them to want to kill the man they started out believing was there to save them.  I want to do everything I can to keep myself from turning into that.

I know that God is who He says He is.  I know that He is faithful, because He was faithful to save me even when I hated Him.  And I don't hate Him now; on the contrary, I love Him more now than I have in my entire life.  I can't hate Him just because He isn't doing exactly what I want Him to.  He didn't come here and lay down His life to save me from the physical pain that I live with; He sacrificed His life to save me from sin and Satan, who will do anything to drag my heart away from my faithful Father.

I just want this to make a little bit of sense, because right it makes about as much sense as if you set a book written in Chinese in front of me.  That doesn't sound like too much to ask, right?  But as I sit here, I feel like God is telling me that this doesn't have to make sense to me.  And it doesn't matter if He changes the plans I had for my life, because in their place He's going to write a story more beautiful than anything I could imagine.  Every time I fight and get mad and cry, I'm standing in the way of fulfilling the perfect plan that He has written in the Book of Life for me.  I just have to trust and I have to have faith, things that seem so easy in words but are so hard when the weight of my pain feels like it's about to beat me down.

Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  That's why it's so hard.  That's why it's so difficult for non-believers to understand why we believe in the power of Christ.  But Jesus gave us EVERYTHING and all He asks is that we give Him our hearts, that we surrender everything we feel is tying us to this world, lie it at His feet, and hold on to the hope that our real citizenship lies in heaven where none of the stuff that seems so mind-boggling and huge right now will mean anything.

I know how far God has taken me.  Just in case I ever forget, I am reminded of it every time one of my faithful friends comments on the transformation they have seen in me.  And I know that I am never going back to the girl that I used to be, not for anything.  I am His.  My heart is His.  That much I know.  Even when I'm angry, sad, frustrated, and crying so hard I feel like I can't catch my breath, I know that I am His.

When plans change, and I don't know which direction I'm headed or when or where to take the next step, the only choice I have is to hold on to the Light that guides me through every day.  And with each step, my faith grows a little bit more and I draw closer to the Savior who has been next to me from the very beginning.  I just have to trust in the knowledge that the One who knew the number of days I have on this earth long before I was even conceived will never steer me wrong, because He won't.

After all, I serve a God who wants nothing but the best for His children.  That's why He sent Christ to take what I deserve so that I can have what Christ deserves.  I may not know where I'm going, and the questions I have may not get answered until I'm sitting at His feet, but I know who He is.  I know that I don't have to conquer this pain because He already did.

And that is enough.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

My Everything

So I realized while looking over yesterday's and Friday's blog posts that I repeated the news about me performing with the worship team.  Oops?  It's been a long weekend, and I was exhausted.  Stuff happens.

Anyway, I didn't fall asleep until about 12:30 last night, and for once it was actually because I stayed up doing homework instead of goofing off.  Needless to say, however, 5:30 came very, very quickly.  When I went to bed, I was sort of dreading my alarm going off, but when I woke up, I basically didn't even care because I was so excited.

I honestly could not have been happier to have been there today.  This is the tweet I posted immediately after I left after the second service.

Like, seriously, y'all, today could not have gone better, in my eyes.  Remember how absolutely nervous I was the day of the first full group practice back at the end of January?  When I got the email on Thursday that I was performing today, my mind immediately went there and how badly I didn't want today to be like that.  I texted Kyla, Caitie, Bruno, and Taylor because they were the ones I told when I first decided to join the worship team that I was performing and asked them to pray that God would help me keep my nerves in check today.

Well, uh, mission accomplished.  Prayers answered.  I wasn't nervous at. all.  :)

There was even supposed to be another girl there singing backup with me, but she didn't come for some reason, so it was just me and the lead guy on vocals.  It was so awesome.  Even during practice, when you could definitely really hear me, I wasn't nervous.  I was singing a lot higher than I normally do, and I wasn't nervous.  The guy backed out on vocals a couple times, and my voice held.  He's super musically talented, and he even told me I sounded good.  I know today wasn't about me, but that made me feel good.

Part of me figured that the nerves would hit once the services started and other people were watching, but THEY DIDN'T.  I was so caught up in praising my God and singing that I could seriously look out and see people watching me and it didn't freak me out at all.

It felt so good to be able to help lead worship today, and I had so much fun.  Now that I know I can do it without nerves, I even asked if I could do it one more time before I leave for the summer.  (Agh, I am going to miss my church family SO MUCH!)

But honestly, the importance of today for me personally goes so far beyond the fact that I did it without nerves.  It was healing.  The last time I performed in front of anyone ever was at my hometown church with the teen worship band before they kicked me out.  That was more than six and a half years ago.  One of the last things I heard before I left that church was about my "lack of talent".  So I didn't perform in front of anyone...until now.  And today, I know I screwed up a few times, but no one here cared.  And I didn't care because I was so genuinely caught up in praising the Lord that I forgot to care what anyone else thought.

One of the things that Pastor Sean said in his sermon was "Jesus is sovereign in your life right now.  He is sovereign, right down to the smallest detail, the things you think are insignificant."  And today was such a sweet reminder of that for me.  Jesus is sovereign, and he cares about every small detail of my life, even things like my nerves about performing.  He went above and beyond what I asked and prayed for about today - I prayed He'd help keep my nerves under control, and instead, he made my nerves disappear.

My sweet Savior, who came into the city where He would die humble and meek and riding on a donkey, was with me today in such a purely joyful way.  Just as He entered Jerusalem and sacrificed Himself to bring peace, He offered me peace in a completely unexpected way.  That's why I'm going to spend the rest of my life singing His praises, not just because of today, but because my life is full of moments like this.  His love ransomed me; I owe Him everything.

Just as I sang this morning, Jesus, You are my everything and I will adore You.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Story of my life.

Too much work, not enough sleep or energy.

I've spent all day doing homework.  And laundry, but mostly homework.

It's almost midnight, and I have to get up at 5:30 tomorrow.

Because guess what.

I'm performing with the worship team for the first time tomorrow at church.

Say a prayer that God helps me keep my nerves in check.  I'm excited.  :)

Okay, I seriously have to get to bed.

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Nothing to say.

I'm exhausted.

I have a lot of work to do.

It was a long day.

I have so much to do this weekend in order to get caught up.

NC State lost and is out of the NCAA. .Boo.

I'm finally performing with the worship team for the first time this Sunday.  Yay.  Pray God helps me keep my nerves in check when the time comes.

12 days until I finally get to see my neurologist.  Yay.

16 days until The Vespers.  Double yay.

Did I mention I'm exhausted?

It's gonna be a long day of working tomorrow.

Good night.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Believing for the Day

It's been a hard day, and apparently not just for me, either.

My pain continues to get worse, but more than that, I have been so burdened for my friends and the pains they face.  So many people I know are facing their own hurts and pains and stresses and fears and it makes me forget about me.

This world is hard.  We are told it's going to be that way with verses like John 16:33.  I think it's the struggle to find hope in a broken world that draws us closer to Christ when everything else fails.

To me, this is why community is so important.  Because each of us reaches the point where we just need to hear a voice on the end of the line, an obvious and undeniable reminder that we are not alone and someone else is there.  You don't have to know what to say, just listening can sometimes dry tears.  I've been on both ends of that.  And as much as I well know that God is enough, there's something very special about having a friend who is there.

And right now, I don't know what to say to the people in my life that I see hurting.  I try to say something even though I know my words will forever be inadequate because I feel like the silence is breaking my heart as much as it is breaking theirs.  But it doesn't do much because in the end, I'm as human as they are and I can't fix their hurts anymore than any of the people who love me can heal my physical pain.  Wanting something to be so only goes so far when you're human and you're ultimately incapable.

So I go to the one thing that is always reliable, the one thing that I know is the best thing I can do for the people that I love: prayer.  I take them straight to the Father, the One filled with love to depths that I can't begin to comprehend.  He loves my friends immeasurably more than I am capable of loving them, and He's the only one that can truly comfort them the way they need to be.  But what about the ones who don't know Him?  What about my best friend, who thinks God and religion in general is a waste of time?  What about my mom, who has had her heart broken time and time again by this world and did the same thing I did by putting the blame on God?  What about my friends who label themselves Christian but who only seem to be one on Facebook?  How is He going to reach them?  How can I show them Him?

The idea of these people that I love not spending eternity with Jesus scares me, but I keep remembering something Brennan told me very early on in our friendship.  "Mallory!"  He practically had to yell to get my attention.  "It's not your duty to fight for their salvation."  Convincing this control freak that I can't save them was a hard lesson to learn, but one I needed because it's true - it's not my job.  I can't save them.  All I can do is pray.  All I can do is pray that He can break down the walls and transform their lives the way He did for me.

So that's what I'm doing tonight, praying for the people I love to be drawn closer to Christ.  Not just the ones who are going through stuff right now, but all of them.  I pray they realize how desperately we all need Him before it's too late.  Because I know where I'm going in the end, and I want the same for them.

This is one of the songs I've labeled "Sanctuary songs", meaning I heard them for the first time at Sanctuary.  The lyrics remind me of Caitie always being so faithful to remind me that my pain won't last forever.  I know I've posted it before, but I need it tonight, and maybe one of you does, too.  I'm crying it out tonight not just for me, but for all the hurting people I know.

On that day when I see
All that You have for me
When I see You face to face
There surrounded by Your grace

All my fear is swept away
In the light of Your embrace
When Your love is all I need
And forever I am free

Where the streets are made of gold
In Your presence, healed and whole
Let the songs of heaven rise to you alone

No weeping, no hurt or pain
No suffering, You hold me now
You hold me now
No darkness, no sick or lame
No hiding, You hold me now
You hold me now

In this life, I will stand
Through my joy and my pain
Knowing there's a greater day
There's a hope that never fails

When Your name is lifted high
And forever praises rise
For the glory of Your name
I'm believing for the day

When the wars and violence cease
All creation lives in peace
Let the songs of heaven rise to You alone

No weeping, no hurt or pain
No suffering, You hold me now
You hold me now
No darkness, no sick or lame
No hiding, You hold me now
You hold me now

For eternity
All my heart will give
All the glory to Your name

For eternity
All my heart will give
All the glory to Your name

For eternity
All my heart will give
All the glory to Your name

For eternity
All my heart will give
All the glory to Your name

No weeping, no hurt or pain
No suffering, You hold me now
You hold me now
No darkness, no sick or lame
No hiding, You hold me now
You hold me now

No weeping, no hurt or pain
No suffering, You hold me now
You hold me now
No darkness, no sick or lame
No hiding, You hold me now
You hold me now

No weeping, no hurt or pain
No suffering, You hold me now
You hold me now
No darkness, no sick or lame
No hiding, You hold me now
You hold me now

I pray that each of us can rest secure in the knowledge that He holds us, right now and always.  There's a greater day waiting for all of us, and the best part is that we don't have to do anything to get there except believe.

Add this to the list of things I know to be true about God:  He is enough.  His grace is sufficient.  And He never quits holding on to us.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Wednesday.  Small group day.

I always look forward to this.  I've mentioned it many times before.  But tonight is just a little different.  Tonight is different because I finally got to tell this amazing group of people something I've wanted to say for a very long time.

"This church, this small group, is the first time I ever felt wanted or accepted by a church.  Ever."

And rewriting that line brings tears to my eyes out of sheer gratitude that I finally have something like this.  That I finally let go of all the fear that was holding me back from trusting churches and walked straight into one of the best things that's ever happened to me.  That I have a church family again, but for the first time, I have one that I trust, that I can be vulnerable with, that I know loves me.

Sitting in a circle around Kevin and Amy's living room, the love was palpable.  A dozen or so people that not only truly love Jesus, but who really do love each other.  It's the kind of crowd that can joke like family, that isn't afraid to tell the truth about how we feel or the way we see things because we know the relationships won't change.  I know that no matter what happens, these people are there to encourage me and pray for me, and it is my honor to do the same for them.

And they know this.  They know that I love them.  But what I'm not sure if they know is the real impact they have had on me personally and my trust issues.  Every week that I am able to sit there and talk openly and freely with them is another week that a little bit more of the scars left on my heart from my hometown church are healed.  This crew, in the way they own their imperfections, has taught me how to really forgive the hurt I suffered at the hands of Christians years ago.  Because of the love they have shown me, I learned how to completely and truly let it go.

Just tonight, one of them reached out to me to let me know that he could relate to my issues with loving Chelsea in all of her sickness.  There was no judgment, just honest words of advice from someone who's been there, someone who has felt some of the same things I've felt and am so ashamed of.

But even more than that, I think back on all the years that I spent drowning in my own hurt, believing with everything in me that no one would care if I just disappeared.  And these friends of mine, these sweet brothers and sisters in Christ, remind me that I am wanted with every conversation, every meeting, every prayer.  And in turn, the depth of that love reminds me that I am wanted by God.

Ephesians 3:20-21a is one of my absolute favorite lines from the Bible.  "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or Him be the glory..."  Not even after my baptism could I have imagined that I would be here now with a church family that I adore, that the longtime outcast could really and truly feel like I belong in a church.

I couldn't be more thankful.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I know You're there.

Today was another very painful day.

I made it through my French Grammar test at 8:00 this morning , but then I came back and stayed in bed basically all day, save for getting up to eat so that my blood sugar didn't crash and to cancel my tutoring sessions for today.  The weird part is that I got almost 8 hours of sleep last night.  I still feel like I've been hit by a truck, and am incredibly nauseous and lightheaded.

The good news, though?  I've had the feeling of Jesus being right next to me the whole time.  I didn't feel sad or stressed out or angry or frustrated or any of those negative feelings I usually have when I have really bad days like this.  I guess that's what peace from God does for you.

I am so, so blessed, y'all.  Seriously.  He never gives up on me no matter how badly I screw up.  He gives me the reminders I need that I am never alone.  He is always with me.  And because of that knowledge, that security, I know I will survive because He will pull me through.

He is so good and faithful to make His presence known when I am at my weakest and most broken.  It's taken everything I have in me just to get up the past few days, but every day, He has breathed life back into me and given me strength I wouldn't have otherwise.

Nick posted this on Twitter last week.  Bold statements like this always hit me the hardest, but I just found this to be especially true and profound.  Too many people leave God in a corner as some figure worthy of praise when there's "time" for it, trying too hard to do things on their own because they don't know there's another option.  God doesn't need us.  He wants us, though, always, every part of us, every day.  We, on the other hand, need God, yet most of the time act like we don't want Him, and when we do, it's to get Him to do what we want or to be the figure we want.

Hello, irony.  Nice to see you again.

I'm not passionate about God because it's fun or cool or I want The Vespers or anyone else to like me.  I chase Him because I wouldn't be alive without Him.  I need a relationship with Christ to keep from feeling like the weight of the world is going to crush my chest.  I need Christ so I don't give into the thoughts that torment me some days.  And it's days like today, days that would have made the old me fall even deeper into that pit of depression, that remind me why I want to pursue Him.  Because He is so faithful to lay with me in my pain.  Because He waited for me.  Because He's full of second chances.  Because He loved me first.

Just as the Bible says, I can do anything with Christ, but every day that this pain continues, I learn that the opposite is also true - I can do nothing without Him.  And after everything that's happened, I don't even want to try.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Measure in love.

I've had this song stuck in my head tonight.  It's probably one of my all-time favorite songs, one of those songs that you keep going back to, even after you have a long period when you don't listen to it.  I just love it.  It amazes me how such a simple song can say so much.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?

How about love? (3x)
Measure in love
Seasons of love (2x)

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand journeys to plan
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned?
Or in times that he cried? 

In bridges he burned?
Or the way that she died?

It's time now to sing out
Though the story never ends
Let's celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends

Remember the love
(Oh, you got to, you got to remember the love)
Remember the love

(You know that life is a gift from up above)
Remember the love
(Share love, give love, spread love)

Measure in love
(Measure, measure your life in love)

Seasons of love (2x)

(Measure, measure your life in love)

It makes me think about how I measure my days, my years, my life.

I don't want to be so busy counting down to a doctor's appointment that I need, to a reunion with some of my best friends that I want so desperately, to summer vacation or graduation that I forget to focus on right now.

I don't want my years to be measured by tears or pain or sadness.  I want them to be measured by the things that make me laugh, even the unlikely things like Dr. Steegar picking on me in Phonetics.

When I am at the end of my life, I'm not going to remember the late nights I stayed up studying for class, or the tears that I cried from hurts of all kinds.  I won't remember all the people who hurt me or the times I did the hurting.  I won't remember the stress or the fear or the what ifs.

I will remember the love.

I'll remember the love of my God who loved me unconditionally and passionately even when I denied His existence.

I'll remember the love of my mom who taught me about perseverance and independence.

I'll remember the love of the friends who stuck by me when I didn't deserve it.

And not only that, I want to be remembered for my love.  When I am gone, I want people to say they remember the love that I gave.  I want them to see Christ's love for them in me.  I want people who know me to know that no matter what kind of person they were or what story they had, they had a safe spot and a friend in me.

That's the kind of life I want to live.  That's the kind of life I want to live because that's the kind of life Jesus lived.  I want to be a conduit for Him to show His love to the people around me.  I can't imagine a more fulfilling life while in this broken world.

A year is so much more than 525,600 minutes.  It's countless opportunities to share the Gospel and show people the love that we have found with God.  Our experiences are a part of our lives, yes, but tears and burned bridges or hard lessons learned do not define who we are or the kind of life that we have.

At least for me, love does.  I measure my years in love.

And considering I have the endless, boundless, fiery, never-changing, never-failing love of God, I'd say I'm pretty golden.

How do you measure your life?

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Sunday, March 17, 2013


One of the biggest discussions I see going on in the blog/Twitter world is about being real and authentic versus only posting the positive parts of your life for other people to see.  Usually, this is centered around moms and motherhood and certain mom bloggers (usually more well-known ones) coming out and talking about how they don't want people to think they have it all together because they don't.  Obviously, I can't participate in that conversation seeing as I am not a mother, but it's been on my mind a lot today.

I think the same idea can be relevant in other areas, as well, even just with being human in general.  I've been wondering if part of the reason my story hits people so hard isn't just because of the details, or because of how I am now on the other side of it all, but if it's also because people just haven't heard stories as extreme or intense as mine.

Here's what I'm trying to get to, though:  There are plenty of other stories like mine out there.  Heck, there are people who have lived through horrific tragedies that I couldn't even imagine surviving (though competition is far from my point right now).  I just feel like part of the reason my story is such a special thing is because lots of other people who have powerful testimonies like mine have been shamed into staying silent.  They want to appear like they have their faith in check, that they don't struggle with God, that they're "fine" and always have been, because if they voice their problems with their faith, they'll be told or made to feel like they're just not a "good enough" Christian.  I've heard so many times that if my faith had been stronger, I wouldn't have faced all the problems I did, and well, I'm just grateful I have enough wisdom to know that's not least, I do now.

Beyond the fact that I think the whole "you can't have God- or Bible-related struggles or questions or you're not good enough" mentality is damaging to a person's spirit and heart, I think it stands in the way of one of our greatest avenues to spreading the Gospel.  Our testimonies are one of the strongest ways we can show non-believers what the God we serve is really like.  Our testimonies are one of the clearest ways that we can strengthen the faith of the believers that walk alongside us.  God gave them to us for a reason.

So you story is not special.  I am not special.  I am only different, radical, because I freely and openly tell the world just what my God has done and can do.  And if God wants to use me as a stand-out to bring people closer to Him with the intense, epic story that He has given me, then that's great and I will gladly take it and run with it and keep doing what I've been doing.

But right now, my prayer is that more people will start talking, that they will stand up for the God that has given them everything and tell everyone just who He is.  I'm far from the only one with a story of great redemption.  Your life doesn't have to be one that the world has labeled "difficult" for it to mean something.  One of the most beautiful testimonies I've ever heard, which was from a friend who slowly found his way back to Christ, didn't have a single, earth-shattering, heartbreaking moment.  It was beautiful because it was his and he was honest.  It gave me the same reminder that God never gives up on pursuing the hearts of His children that I know my story has given to others.

You may think your testimony doesn't have much power or won't really matter because it's not epic or gruesome, so telling it wouldn't really make a difference.  But I'd be willing to bet that if you think that, you've never actually tried telling anyone.  I didn't even know my story had power until I met The Vespers and talked to Bruno that first time.  So start talking.  You'll be amazed at how God changes people through you, and you might just meet a kindred spirit along the way.

There is power in our testimonies.  Humbling, grace-filled, power that draws you nearer to the Lord.  It's not our power, it's His, but that power can't be made known unless we tell people.  And that's why I'll never stop talking.

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

I have to guard my heart. Or something.

I keep writing and rewriting something, not sure how to say it or if I want to say it all because no matter which way I put it, it all sounds wrong and I feel like an idiot.

Like maybe I'm not quite as different from the old me as I thought I was.

Like I should've known better.

And the words "guard your heart" echo in my mind like the sound of a ghost that's haunting me, constantly creeping behind waiting to reach out from under the bed and grab my leg when I'm just getting to sleep.

I probably sound crazy right now.  I feel crazy.  A very large part of me is hoping I'm just overexaggerating this whole mess and things will go back to normal.

I don't remember the last time I had this nagging feeling I got used/played without any solid proof behind it, or if I've ever had this feeling before at all.

And no, for a change, this isn't about Brennan.  As a nice surprise, things with him are still fine.  He's actually on a medical missions trip to Guatemala right now, so if you'd pray for him and his team, that would be very kind of you.

In other news, it was a very long day.  Saturdays are usually my day to sleep in, but today I had to get up early to go to a required enhancement training session for tutors.  Then I went to the post office and my meds finally arrived.  Then, I took a quick nap before the basketball conference semifinals.  Then I've just done homework and laundry and watched Dateline: Real Life Mysteries (my usual Saturday routine) and somehow managed to stay awake..

And now I'm going to bed simply because I can.  If you've got any suggestions on how to get better at guarding my heart so I don't get quite so emotionally invested into every single friendship I make, let me have 'em.

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Friday, March 15, 2013


I was up half the night feeling incredibly nauseous from sheer pain.

Um, yeah, that was fun.

Or not.

So since my morning tutoring session was canceled, when I tried to get up this morning and couldn't do it, I doped myself up on more Phenergan and went back to bed for a few hours.

Thankfully, I was able to eat something around lunchtime and stay up for the day.

I made it to my Phonetics test, which I feel better about than I did with the first test, and Public Policy, and my afternoon tutoring.

The rest of the night has consisted of homework and watching the ACC basketball tournament.

The bad news?  I have to get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to go to a required training session for tutors.  Blah.  But at least I'll get it done and over with.

Oh, another not so fun part of the day.  My grandma put two of my medicines in the mail Wednesday.  They usually only take two days to get here.  I only had one seizure pill left after I took this morning's dose.  The meds didn't get here today.  I spent half an hour trying to figure out where they were only to find out they got stuck at the plant in Raleigh and didn't make it on today's truck.  Pray they get here tomorrow!

On the upside, the replacement gift for Taylor's birthday package did get here.  I was just talking to a friend about The Vespers earlier, and I told him how it's kind of driving me nuts that this is the longest I've gone without seeing them since we met, especially since after Nashville, Taylor and Bruno basically became my big brothers.  But April 7th will be here soon enough, and I finally get to introduce my mom to them! :)

I'm so tired.  Pain that makes you nauseous sucks.  I'm debating whether I'll stay up for the rest of this game.  I know I need to at least eat before I sleep.  Good night.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Who You Are

April 3 feels like forever away.

Even though I know it's not.

Even though I know that it's only 20 days and that, with school, those 20 days will be gone before I know it.

It still feels like forever away.

Especially on the days when I can't even make it to class in the morning because the pain is so bad that all I want to do is cry.

I just want it to be April 3 so I can have another shot at getting some answers to this pain that I am so, so tired of.

I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining, I really don't.  I try very hard not to complain about my situation and instead focus on the numerous blessings that I know surround me, but it's hard to do that when I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes begging God to help me overcome.  My general method for this blog is I sit here and just write whatever comes out, and this is what is coming out tonight.  I am tired, I am in pain, and I need to feel God's presence with me in a real and tangible way.  So I have "How Great is our God" playing on repeat hoping that will help me focus on what I know to be true.

My God is great.  He is faithful.  And the times that I can't walk another step are when He carries me.  He is mighty to save.  That's what I know.

I just thought of this quote I heard on a video somewhere a long time ago - I really wish I could remember where I heard it or who said it, but I don't - and it fits exactly the way I'm feeling tonight.  I don't remember the exact words, but the person basically said that the difference between a complaint and a lament is that a complaint is rooted in frustration and displeasure, while a lament is rooted in grief and is a way to verbalize sadness that you feel but still tells God that you know He is good and you trust Him.  I mean, there is an entire book of the Bible called Lamentations and so many other places in the Bible where people are basically venting about the terrible situation they're caught in but still voice their faith in God.

I feel like that's where I am right now.  I'm being honest with God about how I feel, I vent freely because I know He can handle it and I need to let it out, but I remind myself at the end (because let's face it, He doesn't need reminding) that I trust in who He is and what I know He can do.  Not once in all of this have I lost my faith in the Lord, and I am so grateful for that because it's kept me from taking steps backwards so many times.  Like I told my professor the other day when I had the opportunity to witness to her, that knowledge is the only thing that keeps me from going absolutely crazy some days..

I know that God cares for me.  I know that I am His, and He is mine.  Even though I sit here crying as I write this, I know that God knows I'm not angry about any of this.  I'm just tired and weak and confused and broken and more aware now than ever before just how in desperate need I am of His saving grace.  I don't know what He's doing, but I know who He is.  That is enough, and so is He.

Jesus, lay with me tonight.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013


I love Wednesday night small group at Kevin and Amy's house.  It's gotten to the point where generally the same crowd shows up each week, and we laugh and joke and pick on each other like old friends but still have some convicting, powerful discussion about God.  It's simply beautiful, and I am blessed to be surrounded by that group each week.

Right now, we're doing a walk-through of the book Multiply by Francis Chan, and it's all about how we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, are called to go out and make more disciples who love the Lord and chase after Him with their whole heart.  Having read Crazy Love, I knew this would be good, but I'm amazed at how much I loved it and how much gentler this one felt (then again, we only hit Chapter 2, so that could change as we get further into the book).

Tonight's chapter was about the command to go make disciples, The Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20.

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (copied straight from the book, not sure which version/translation it is)

Then, Chan examines each part of the command: go, baptize them, and teach them to obey all that Jesus has commanded.  It was the part on baptism that really touched me:

"But the simplest things to understand are often the most difficult to put into practice.  Let's start with baptism.  In your church setting, baptism may not seem like that big of a deal.  Maybe that's why so many Christians today have never been baptized.  But in the early days of the church, baptism was huge.  Baptism was an unmistakable act that marked a person as a follower of Jesus Christ.  As Jesus died and was buried in the earth, so a Christian is plunged beneath the surface of the water.  As Jesus emerged from the tomb in a resurrected body, so a Christian comes out of the waters of baptism as a new creation.  When first-century Christians took this step of identifying themselves with the death and resurrection of Jesus, they were publicly declaring their allegiance to Christ...Baptism was a declaration that a person's life, identity, and priorities were centered on Jesus and His mission."

I'll tell you the truth: just like my old stance on going to church, I never understood why being baptized was so vital to being a Christian...until it happened to me.  And growing up in the Methodist church where they do the infant sprinkling baptisms, as opposed to Baptists who baptize people of any age with full-on immersions, there were questions of how I was supposed to know which one was the "right" way.

But then, April 5th happened.  Reading these words from Chan tonight, all the memories of the night I got baptized came flooding back, and I understood what he was talking about because I'd experienced it.  I remember taking off my glasses and everything feeling like it was fading away as Brennan dropped me back into the water.  I remember opening my eyes as he lifted me back up because I wanted to see everything as I reached the air.  I remember putting my glasses back on and getting out of the pool, completely unable to focus on anything but taking one small step at a time on the tile floor and keeping a tight grip on Brennan's hand.  I remember the girl coming up and hugging me in the lobby while I was still dripping wet but being completely unable to look her in the eye or say anything in response.  I remember everything finally coming back into focus when Brennan and I stepped on the stage, he lifted my arm in the air and the entire room busted out in applause.  That was when I remember thinking that my entire life had just changed.

I had heard people say before that they were new people after their baptisms, but it honestly sounded like nonsense until I lived it out.  My mind was running in fast-forward for most of the night, and I remember saying that night to Taylor and Bruno and Brennan, and in the days after in emails to friends telling them the incredible story, that I really did feel like a completely new person.  That simple act changed the way I saw God, the world, myself and my role in it instantaneously.  I realized that all the seemingly-cheesy things I'd heard about baptisms and what they do to your heart were actually true.

Quite possibly my favorite part about the whole thing is the ways in which I see my baptism still making a difference in my life today.  I look at my friendship with Taylor and think about how us celebrating that night together was the start of what has become one of my most valued friendships.  When I'm feeling angry with God and struggling to let go of it, I remember that night and the pledge I made to be His...forever.  The times when I get nervous about sharing my testimony with people, I remember that night and the promise that my baptism was to make my life's priorities focused on Jesus and His mission of bringing more people to know and have a relationship with Him.

That declaration of my love for Christ truly was just the beginning of the most amazing ride I've ever been on.  I never could have predicted all the ways that letting go of control and answering God's call to go and get baptized there that night would change my life, but I could not be more thrilled about it.

One of the most vivid pictures I have of that night is telling Brennan through teary eyes to promise me that he would never stop helping people and having him look me right in the eye and say, "I promise.  Promise me you'll never forget how you feel right now."

I've said it before and I'll say it again:  I remember everything about that night; I don't think that will be a hard promise to keep. :)

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Today, I received a message from this guy named Tate, who is one of the people who responded to my post in Chris's church's online community.  He originally sent me a message because he noticed I said I'm from North Carolina, and so is he.  It's always fun to meet people, even online, with whom you can connect over commonalities like that.  In the last message I sent him, I talked about how I love to share my story with people and why I do it.  This was part of his response today that really struck me:

"As for your story, I think people like me who have been Christians for a while honestly forget how incredible and life-changing God and the gospel can be.  So, hearing stories like yours is a great reminder of these things for people like me.  This is another reason why your story is so valuable to share and how God can use it to minister to people who have been Christians for a while or are new believers like yourself."

It made me think of this post and the correlating conversation I had with Taylor about how sometimes I feel out of place trying to give advice to people who are much stronger Christians than I am or who just have been Christians for a lot longer than I have been.  After that conversation, I thought the way I needed to look at the situation was that we are all equals, which is true, but what Tate said opened my perspective to a different way of looking at it.  I never once thought to look at being a "baby Christian" as a good thing.  I thought that my refusing to submit to the Lord for so many years was a bad thing, a choice that had kept me from the joy that I know now when it was within my reach.

Yes, I realized quite a while ago that if I had found God years before I did, I wouldn't have the story that I do now, but I think a part of me, even maybe subconsciously, held on to the idea that I had screwed up, that I had failed by trying to fight on my own for as long as I did.  But those words from Tate made me realize that my "newbie status" is actually a blessing.  The memories of the transformation that God did in my life to get me to where I am now are still so fresh and so very real to me that they just add to the enthusiasm that I have for telling other people about Jesus.  It made me understand why Lynn thanked me for talking and sharing my story with her.  Faith was always a part of her life, so a story like mine is something quite different from what she knows.

Because it took me so long to truly find God, I have the ability to affect longtime or lifelong Christians in a way that stories from other strong, longtime Christians may not be able to.  That is a blessing.  Now, I can look at something that I used to let hold me back in a positive light.  It still honestly blows my mind that at 20 years old, with there still being so much I don't know but am learning about God, that He's using me to reach people.  I just never thought that my inexperience would be one of the reasons I am able to do what I do.

If anything, learning this lesson and having my eyes opened tonight only solidified a belief I have had for quite a while:  I wouldn't change the story God has written for me for anything.  I am immeasurably blessed to live this life, to be a vessel for God to reach the hearts of people, to be able to take part in God redeeming all the pain of my past.  Every time someone tells me talking to me or knowing me has changed their life, it reminds me that I only want to be known so that I can make Jesus known.  He's the one that deserves the attention, not me.

My favorite kind of blessings are the ones that are found in places you never expected to find them.  It's such a bright reminder that God's ways are so much higher than ours.  Tonight's was a reminder to stick to the path that I am on, because He can do things that I never could.  Like flipping my opinion about being a baby Christian on its head.  I love how my story served as a reminder for Tate, and his words served as a reminder for me, too.  How great is our God?

Now, I guess all that is left is to keep praying that God will continue to bring me opportunities to boast about His life-changing power.  I know with every part of me that I am all in.  Whatever God wants me to do, wherever He wants me to go, I'll do it if I can tell my story to more people and see more people realize all over again just how wonderful, loving, and perfect God really is.  Because the feeling I get when I see that happen after I've talked to people makes me so thankful for every ounce of pain that I've faced.  That feelings is redemption in action.

And I just pray that recognizing it never, ever gets comfortable.  From now to the day God takes me home, I want the realization that I've strengthened someone's walk with Christ to bring me to my knees.   I couldn't do any of what I do without Him, anyway; it isn't me changing people, it's God changing them through me.

I'm just blessed to be a part of it.

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Monday, March 11, 2013


I love this picture.

(Yes, I took it, no, it's not from today, and no, it's not edited at all.)

I especially love it because it just reminds me of today.  It reminds me of how I can have a day that's going along just fine, nothing really spectacular happens, but at the end of it, I'm filled with this inexplicable joy, anyway.  Which is doubly inexplicable today since it's the Monday after the Daylight Savings Time change and the Monday after Spring Break.  But still:  joy.

First, my 10:00 tutoring got moved to Wednesday, so I went to the post office.  I had two packages waiting; one was the new Bible I ordered for myself (as I've been borrowing one from Elizabeth since October and I just now had the money to get one) and it was there several days before it was supposed to be,   But there was also the three things I ordered Taylor for his birthday.  I was so excited that it got here that it wasn't until I got back to my room and opened and inspected everything that I realized one of the items was damaged.  The customer service people were so nice and a new item, one I actually like even better than the one I originally ordered (they had to send me something different because the original item is now out of stock), will be here by the end of the week because they also gave me free expedited shipping (and a $10 credit to my account). Yay nice people!

Not long after all that, I went to grab lunch, and then Taylor called.  I got to spend more than an hour on the phone with that friend of mine that was simply beautiful.  We talked about a lot of different things, so many that I couldn't recap them all here even if I wanted to.  One really humbling part was when I said something about how God has changed my perspective on my story, and Taylor responded, "That could be the title of your book."  I just sort of chuckled it off, but at the next pause in conversation, I asked him if he really thought I could write a book one day, and he replied, "Yep.  You sure have a lot to say."  So matter-of-factly.

The realization that someone thinks I'm worth listening to (a realization I seem to have over and over and over again) made me think of this old post of mine.  The very first sentence of it reads "I feel like no one hears me."  That post is the writing of a very broken little girl who was just desperate to feel like she mattered to someone, anyone, that someone saw her, that she wasn't invisible, that someone wanted her around.  That was me, just 20 months ago.  I just wanted to feel like I was important to someone.

What I realize now is that God heard me all along.  The whole time I was begging for Matt to be that someone for me, a person he could never be, I neglected to realize that the Lord was listening all along.  And it was when I realized that His attention is the only one I ever need that my life started to change.  I'm finally learning how to rely on my friends for support without replacing God with them, which is, quite frankly, what I did with Brennan in the beginning, even though my intentions were the exact opposite, but I also have done it with a lot of other people in my past.  And still He waited, waited for me to recognize Him, waited for me to admit to my brokenness, waited for me to swallow my pride and admit that I need Him..

And I'm noticing that the more I trust that God hears me, the more it feels like my friends hear me, too.  When I trust that God is right by my side, I don't feel alone, whether or not my friends are around, because sometimes it's good for me to just be by myself.  I feel like I'm finally starting to...get it.  At least maybe a little.  Like maybe a lesson is finally sticking.  Like maybe I'm really right where God wants me to be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually so that He can mold me more finely and use me to affect more people.

Friendships like the one I have with Taylor are God's redemption in action.  It's amazing how something as simple as hearing Taylor say he considers me his little sister can show me God's love for me, but it did and does.  He and several others are so loyal and faithful to let me know that I am always wanted, that I am always loved, that I am accepted just as I am.  I mean it when I say people like Taylor, Bruno, Caitie, and Kyla show me Christ every day just by the way they love me.

God is so good to give me these reminders that He sees and hears me exactly when I need them most.  Because of that, because of Him, I really don't remember the last time I felt truly alone.  In 1 year and 8 months, I went from a girl who felt invisible to the world to a girl who feels constantly touched by love.  And for a girl who spent the great majority of her life wondering if she would every truly matter to anyone besides Matt and her mother, that is a most blissful feeling.

Tonight, I pray that you rest assured of the fact that you are under the loving care of a God who knows your thoughts before you think them, a Father who hears your every cry.  Your prayers are not lost at the ceiling.  He hears you, He grieves your pain with you, and He is working to bring you to the best possible future you can have as long as you trust Him to get you there, because trust me when I tell you that you can't do this alone.  He has already fought and won the battle for you, a battle only He could win, because He knows you are worth it.  That right there should be proof by itself:

You are heard.

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Home, where my love lies waiting.

Back to the grind.

I got back to my dorm about 2:15 today, and man, it feels good.

There's no doubt in my mind, this place is my home.  And it's even gotten to the point that Mom referred to driving me back to Campbell as "taking [me] home" today, so I'd say it's pretty official that I'm an adult or something now.

When did that happen?!

Truth is, it was nice to have a week break from classes and waking up at 6:30 in the morning and all that, but it's good to be back.  I've realized that I thrive on routine and school gives me that.  Plus, as I've said before, I'd rather be insanely busy and exhausted here than bored with nothing to do anywhere else.

This is home.  This campus is home.  My church family is home, and they're just a few miles away.  At least for the next 14 months, this is where I belong.  And it's a really good feeling to know that.

I'm really tired.  Daylight Savings time change (boo spring forward) + taking a muscle relaxer and sleeping pill at 6:30 every evening will do that to you.

I've spent quite a bit of time just cleaning up and unpacking and reorganizing my room.  I've talked to friends and just generally been pretty lazy, which I think I've earned since I got all of my Spring Break homework done over the past couple of days.

Revenge just ended (man, I love that show), and now I'm going to eat a snack and go to bed.

I am home.  And it feels good.

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

I'm a mess, I confess.

Today, I've been struggling with fear.

And then, consequently, I've been struggling with how to get rid of that fear because I know I'm not supposed to be afraid because I have God with me.  And then that just makes me think about how Chris and Brennan like to tell me that I need to JUST STOP TRYING which makes me get frustrated with myself.

Yeah.  I'm a mess.

Basically, I think Satan is just trying to mess with me.  I keep thinking about my upcoming appointment at Duke on April 3rd, and all these fears have come out of nowhere about that day turning into a repeat of August 2009 and my shunt will be broken and I'll need surgery and it'll be a mess.  It started last night with me having a dream that instead of getting to hang out with The Vespers when they come to the area on the 7th and 8th, they came and visited me in the hospital.  So basically I started off the day on a freaked out note, even though I know those sweet friends of mine would come visit me in a heartbeat if I were in a situation like that.

But still, I have nothing to be afraid of.  Do I want to have surgery?  Uh, it's not exactly at the top of my bucket list, but if my shunt is actually broken, then yes, I do, because it will give me an answer to the months of constant, incomprehensible pain.  And the things that happened back in 2009 with my brain surgeries were freak complications, there's no reason for me to think that having another surgery would mean similar things would happen.  And if I'm going to have surgery, I'll be in the hands of doctors at one of the best hospitals in the world.

All of that is just me trying to appeal to the rational-unemotional part of me.  Because believe it or not, that does exist.

The REAL reason I have nothing to be afraid of, though, is because I know God is who He says He is.  He's taken care of me through so many other things, and I know He's going to be right with me through this appointment and whatever may come of it.  My God is bigger than any of my health issues, but more importantly, He is bigger than the enemy who is trying to distract me from the things I know to be true about God with fear that has no place in the heart of one of God's children.

The Bible tells us over and over again not to fear.  As I sat down to write this post, this verse popped into my head.

1 John 4:16-19 "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.  In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  We love because He first loved us."

Perfect love casts out fear.  God is perfect love.  That means that God is the only one that will be able to get rid of this fear.  It's not something I can get rid of on my own.  Like David defeating Goliath, Jesus took this fear to the Cross with him, so I'm just going to have to lay it at his feet and pray that God will overtake every piece of me and make all the negative thoughts disappear so that I can focus on the security that is found in Him.  He's got to take this, because I can't defeat fear on my own.

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Short and Random

It's late.  Very, very late.

I spent pretty much all day working on all the reading I had to get caught up on for my classes.

Then, I got so tired of doing that once I got my to-do list chipped down to just one chapter of French grammar assignments, that I decided to quit for the night.  I'd had a hard enough time staying awake all day as it was.

So after that, I did some more work on Caitie's present, and during part of that I watched this livestream of the Porn Kills Tour, and before I knew it was past 1:30 am.

The good news is that Caitie's present is soooo close to being done now.  I just have to put the finishing touches on it tomorrow, and it's good to go.  I'm glad, because my hand was seriously cramping after several hours of that.  Hers may have been the least expensive by quite a bit (but she asked me not to spend a lot of money on her), but it definitely took the most effort.  But I'm happy about the gift and was super happy to do it, and I think she's going to love it.  Under the 1 month mark until the return of The Vespers!  I'm so excited!  Bruno's present is done, Taylor's present should be waiting for me when I get back to Campbell, and Callie and Phoebe's presents are just cash so I can do that when I get my March paycheck.  I just love giving gifts.  Seriously.  It makes me giddy.

Oh, and I'm going to see my neurosurgeon on April 3.  So there's that.  We'll either get some answers or eliminate my shunt as a cause of these problems.  Or maybe both.  Dr. Fuchs is pretty much the best of the best.

Man, I'm tired.  Good night, world.

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Not Done Yet

We as human beings differ greatly from each other.  That's not news.  But there are many things that can connect us, make us not feel so alone if we just take the time to really know people beyond the surface impression they give out because they're too scared to let people in.  Making friends, the real, authentic, there when things are ugly kind of friends, means making yourself vulnerable, and vulnerability means you risk being hurt.  So we keep things casual because casual is easy.

But here's the problem, as there's always a problem with the "easy" way:  For a lot of people, with that casual acquaintance lifestyle comes the overwhelming fear that you don't matter.  We all, whether we admit to it or not, just want to know that we are loved, that we are seen, that we are truly wanted for who we are and not what we can give.

Today, my sweet friend Lauren directed me to this blog post by Beth Moore.  It's called "He's Got Your Back," and it directly addresses the question that nags many of us, and I know it's been hiding in the back of my mind for a long time:  Does God really see me?  Does He really see what I'm going through?  And more importantly, is He really doing something about it?  These are the kind of questions that haunt me on my bad days, when I'm just so tired of the pain and am begging God to just hurry up and help me already!  I feel like maybe He's just so busy with everyone else, or I haven't been faithful enough that He's going to wait for me to get my act together before He answers my cries.

In our desperation, our pain, our frustration, we forget one very key trait of who God is.  Y'all we serve a God that never, ever quits.  Not for one second.  Nothing we do or say will change His dedication to or love for us.  He is always working to lead us in the right direction.  Beth said it best, and most simply: "In your WAIT, He is at WORK."

Reading that post today reminded me of when Kyla told me that God isn't done with me yet, and the recent times when both she and Lauren have texted me to say that God has used me so much and is using me in big ways right now even though I find myself caught in the middle of a very tough situation.  That's evidence of Him working right now; even though I can't see the resolution to this part of my story yet, He's using this piece of my journey to teach people, me and those who are witness to my life.

I told Lynn Tuesday night on the phone that I know He's not done with me yet because I've survived things beyond any medical explanation.  That seems like reason enough, but then one of the kind people from Chris's church who responded to my post in their online community left this verse at the end of his comment, and it was such a great reminder of the Truth that has been shown to me so many times as of late.

Philippians 1:6 "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

He will finish the work He has begun.  That's a statement, not a question.  He will finish what He has started, in me, in you, in the person in your life who seems to be beyond all hope.  Until the day God brings you home, I pray that you take comfort in knowing that He is at work, redeeming and saving to move you towards the perfect, holy creation you were meant to be from the beginning.

No matter what this broken, wicked, sinful world may tell you some days, you are not forgotten.  Not for a second.  Whether you're a Christian or not, He sees you.  And He is mighty to save.

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