Sunday, April 26, 2015

My Letters

The latest Anima video is called "F is for Faith", and it goes through every letter of the alphabet talking about God, faith, and being a Christian. You should watch it. It's good. (But really, all their videos are good, so that doesn't say much. But seriously, you should watch it.)

Jon asked, "What are your letters?" and as soon as I finished the video, I sat down and started writing pieces of this post. So Jon and friends, here are my letters. These are the letters that, to me, represent my life and my story.

A is for Aware. For the fact that even when I wasn't aware that God cared, He was aware of me. He was aware of my pain, of my struggles, of my fears. Even today when I'm not aware that's He's moving, He's aware of that, and constantly coming up with new ways to make Himself, His love, and His presence known to me.

B is for Breakdown. For the breakdown I had when everything changed in my life. The walls broke down and I finally accepted the love I'd been running from for more than a decade. The moments when I've been breaking down, God has sent people to come alongside me and show me that I don't have to hide it or do it alone. There are people who care...and a God whose heart breaks with every tear that I shed.

C is for Campbell. For the school I fought for my life to get to. The school that, by the time I did get there, I wasn't too thrilled about because I didn't want to be surrounded by talk of a God I thought had just spent months torturing me. The school who led me to meet a band that would change my life. The school where I found my best friend, my sister. The school where I found two sets of rowdy brothers, one who taught me that there are still Christians who can love you without ulterior motives, and the other who taught me that my self-image is not how others see me and I don't have to try to fit in to be loved.

D is for Dare. For every time God has dared me to move. To step outside my comfort zone and trust that even though what I'm being asked to do terrifies me, it will lead me to something far better than I could get without it. Like telling my story for the first time. Or joining a class of guys to run a Twitter account. Or talk to someone new. Accepting these dares to move leads to far greater happiness than I'd have had without doing so.

E is for Enough. For the reminder that I am enough. I am enough for God. I don't have to change. Or try to get rid of my issues. Or apologize for the thousandth time. Or get "better." He loves me. Right now. No conditions. As long as I surrender, that's enough. And God is enough for me. That's all the love I need to get through.

F is for Forgiveness. For the lessons I'm learning about forgiving myself the way God already has. For letting go of the past. For trusting that when my loved ones say they've forgiven me for a mistake, they mean it, and I don't have to keep apologizing to them.

G is for Grace. For the grace I need to get by. For the grace I'm still learning to show myself when I feel like I'm getting everything wrong. For the grace that puts life back in my bones when I don't want to move.

H is for Healing. For the healing I found in Jesus' sacrifice. For the healing I found in the water in that church in Nashville. For the physical healing I'm still waiting on, though I know I may not get it this side of heaven. For the emotional healing in my life during my college years. For the promise of healing yet to come.

I is for Imagine. For "Him who is able to do more than all we ask or imagine." For the knowledge that I never could have imagined my life would turn out this good. I can imagine where I want my life to go from here, but I can't begin to predict what He has in store for me. And for the trust that it takes to accept that what He gives me will be the best, even if it's not what I imagine or plan on.

J is for Joy. For the happiness that can only be found out of this world, not in earthly circumstances. For the joy the people I love tell me I exude to others even when I don't realize I'm doing something special. For the joy that I feel when I know that I'm helping people. For the joy that comes in knowing that when I don't know what's coming next, I know that I'm taken care of.

K is for Know. For the chance to know what real love looks like. For the reminder that even when I don't feel God, even when I don't know what He's doing or how I'm going to make it through a struggle in my life, I know that God is good and He loves me. For the fact that what I know isn't based on my fluctuating emotions. It just is.

L is for Loss. For the loss of my dad, my first struggle of faith and trust in God. For the loss of my old identity, something that nearly broke me but ended up being exactly what I needed. For the loss of relationships I fought to hold on to, when God knew He needed to take them in order to make me better.

M is for Music. For the songs that I've sung to God through tears, when I wasn't even sure how much I believed what I was singing. For the songs I've sung to feel close to God. For the songs I've sung when I didn't know how to put the cries of my heart into my own words. For the songs I've sung when I've been so happy music seemed like the proper response to that much joy.

N is for New York. For a new chapter. For taking me out of my bubble. For letting me find out who I am and what I'm capable of when I'm uncomfortable. For new friends, new love, new experiences, and new places that have already taught me so many things.

O is for Ocean. For all the times I've stood on the beach looking out at the water and wondered how the God of the universe could really care about the details of my life when I'm so small. For the reminder that the God who makes the ocean waves crash knows me intimately and His love and grace for me goes deeper than the bottom of the sea. And for the ocean of life I've often felt like I was drowning in, because that drowning feeling is what has drawn me closer to the only one who could pull me out.

P is for Push. For the God who never pushed to get me to open my eyes; He was just there, waiting for me to be ready to change and to accept what He had for me. And for the friends who pushed into my life, who pushed to love me when I was terrified and fought to keep up the walls I'd grown so accustomed to.

Q is for Question. For every question I've been afraid to ask. And for the lesson I have to learn again every day that the God who died for me isn't afraid of me asking questions and grappling with the hard answers.

R is for Redemption. For the story of redemption I've been given. For the God that I serve who is in the business of redemption. For all the pain and confusion and tears and frustration that have been redeemed more beautifully than I could have ever imagined. This was the first letter I thought of, one that popped into my head before I even got to the second half of the Anima video and heard Jon mention it in his R, too.

S is for Sanctuary. For the worship service (of the same name) in Nashville, the one I went to that I thought was just a chance to hear good music and hang out with two of my best friends, and instead ended up being the place where everything changed. For the first Christian community that ever felt like home, the first one where I ever felt truly accepted. For the sanctuary I found at Campbell. And for the sanctuary I find in God when I am in desperate need of rest.

T is for Trust. For the trust I'm still building. For the trust I have to focus in on when I'm scared or angry or hurt. And for the trust I'm thankful to be able to place in a God who created everything from the sun to the trees to the ants on the ground.

U is for Unusual. For my unusual life and my unusual story and the magnificently unusual God that I love and gave my life to.

V is for Vespers. For the band who led me back to God after so many years of running as far away as I could. Who never evangelized the way I'd grown up around, and instead loved me just as I was and took me in and waited until I was ready, answering questions as I asked them. Who was there on the biggest night of my life and celebrated it as their own joy.

W is for Welcome. For being welcome in the arms of God no matter what I've done. For being welcomed by strangers that beautiful night in Nashville. For being welcomed in by people I never thought would be my friends, who love me as I am without question, and who show me Jesus every day just by the way they love me.

X is for Xerox. For the God I know who doesn't make copies. We are all unique. Each made with a very specific story and a very specific purpose. And for the reminder that nothing about me is a mistake, that it's better and so freeing to be myself, instead of wasting energy trying to avoid being the Mal that God intentionally created to be different from others.

Y is for Yearn. For the yearning I feel to know God better and closer. For my yearning to be more like God. For my yearning to be more of the Mal God created me to be. For my yearning to please Him. And for the yearning I feel He must have had for all those years when He was waiting for me to come home.

Z is for Zeal. For the zeal I have for sharing my story. For a zeal for making connections and getting to know people and their stories, too. For the passion I feel deep in my soul for helping people through their troubles. For the constant burning desire I have to be there for the people I love, no matter what is going on in my life. And for the outrageous excitement that gets me fired up when I think about how good God really is and everything He did for me that I could never earn or deserve. That zeal is why I do what I do.

Jon and the Anima crew have been such a sweet encouragement for me and my blog, telling me to keep writing and sharing my posts inspired by their videos. I sure have a lot to be thankful for with them, and that's only a small part of the reason why I so passionately share and talk about their videos. This one was probably the most time-consuming for me to write, but I loved every second of it.

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