Wednesday, April 6, 2011


 I once had a friend who told me that cardigans were my trademark.  Not my strawberry-red hair, my very pale skin, the way I laugh, or a repeated phrase I use- but cardigans.  Before I had time to question if he thought I dressed like an uptight librarian, I took it as a compliment.

You see there is a man that I truly believe may be the greatest American hero.  In fact, during my junior year of high school, for a history assignment, I called him just that.  While students around me debated between Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln, I closed my history book and delved a little deeper.  In the background, silly girls debated if they could convince the class that a musician or actor could be crowned such a title.  I had a hard time believing any celebrity could really be given such a valiant honor.  And as I sat there a little longer, it came to me.  Mr. Rogers, everyone’s friendly neighbor, was truly the greatest American Hero.

Now before you go thinking that I spent a little too much time in front of the television as a child or that Mr. Rogers doesn’t fit the quintessential mold of a hero, hear me out.  I believe that he was more than a man that appeared on our screens every morning, meant to distract children and allow mothers to sneak away for a quiet cup of coffee.  Here was a man, who dedicated his life to instilling love and worth in the lives of little children.  His goal was to not only show us how to love one another, but most importantly how to love ourselves.  If I could have known at the age of five, the battle I would face in loving myself, I would have been taking notes.  He once stated that his entire goal in broadcasting was for the viewer to know that, “you are an important person just the way you are.”  What a mantra for such a young target audience.

I remember watching “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood” as a child and while it wasn’t my favorite, I know I enjoyed it.  Something about it I found comforting, much like resting my head on a cool pillowcase before falling asleep.  Here was a man, a very simple man, who had no interest in being flashy or famous.  He wanted no business in bombarding his audience with typical media messages.  Messages that at a very young age begin to tell us of what we are lacking or what we desperately need in order to be of value.  Mr. Rogers’ messages were quite the contrary.  He whispered through our television screens, and reminded us time and time again, that we are special just the way we are.  He literally embodied the unconditional love of Christ in his mission to build healthy self-esteems in America’s youth.

Later on in life, after my high school report had been turned in and graded, my respect for Mr. Rogers crept on.  I began to learn more about his life outside of television.  I read books and interviews and discovered that who he was on camera was just a small glimpse of the greatness he was off camera.  I learned of a man, who found value in every interaction he ever had.  He did more than just exchange pleasantries to his fans and friends.  He invested in the lives of others.

Mr. Rogers was best friends with a man named Henri Nouwen. He was a man who was an internationally renowned professor and beloved pastor, who wrote over 40 books on the spiritual life and dedicated his life to serving the social outcasts and underprivileged. Nouwen was a very great man, to say the least.  But if you should know one thing about Henri Nouwen for the sake of his friendship with Mr. Rogers it is this: Nouwen was a man who felt very alone, who struggled with his identity, and often found that his greatest challenge was loving himself and believing that God loved him. 

I don’t find it ironic that God placed these two together as kindred spirits.  Henri was a man who needed to know of his worth and Fred was the man, whom God knew would know just how to speak value into his heart.  I imagine there times together, hunched over tables, holding napkins of spilled tears, praying together and reminding each other that in Christ they are so dearly and completely loved.

The scriptures are filled with the promises that God loves us.  And not only does He love us but He loves us without us having to do a single thing.  We don’t have to tap dance our way into His heart or spill a cup of coffee to grab His attention.  He simply loves us.  In Psalm 117:2 it says, “For great is His love towards us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.” 

There’s no catch.  He just has love and when He looks at us, we are worthy of His love just as is.  I don’t need a nose job, a Bentley, a well stocked fridge, or a clean bathroom sink.  I can wake up, decide not to make the bed and great is His love towards me.  Towards you.

The hard part is that sometimes it is impossible to see.  We look around us and in a life and in a world that demands more and more of us-we can’t possibly believe that His love for us endures forever.  But I have to believe that our God cloaks us in cardigans.  He shields our bare shoulders and with His hands, He fastens each button, speaking the truth of how vast and how high, how rich and how deep His love for us is.

When I say that having a cardigan trademark is a compliment, I mean that I hope in some way I resemble Mr. Rogers, the way in which he resembles Christ.  With each sleeve, he was a man who taught me more about grace.  In looking at his life, I wonder if each day, while changing into his cardigan, he was preparing for battle.  As he zipped into the knitted yarns of his sweater, he raised up the shield of Christ.  Through every interaction, he fought against the devil’s schemes and abolished the lies we so often believe.  The lies that tell us we aren’t lovable, desirable, or precious.  And in the comfort of his cardigan, he extended to us the truth that we are special just the way we are.

In looking at my closet I can see why that old friend believed it to be my trademark.  It certainly is my wardrobe staple.  But these days, it’s more than just a layer of clothing.  I strap on a cardigan every day, much like a bulletproof vest, to defend myself from the mixed messages I receive about not being enough.  I button it to remind myself that He loves me just the way I am, and I hope and pray that there are moments where God can use me to extend it around the shoulders of a stranger or a friend, who is hunched over a table, clenching a napkin filled with spilled tears- to whisper the truth of how greatly they are loved, just the way they are.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Keep Us

If you’ve been a bride, a bridesmaid, known a bride, or simply don’t live under a rock you are aware that planning a wedding is difficult work.  There are details after details to be attended to, decisions to be made about food and flowers, and the ultimate task of choosing what to wear, among many other things.  Will we sip champagne, should we hire a band, will the reception be lively enough to keep the guests dancing all night long?  Decisions, choices, and demanding details all run their course as plans for the big day unravel.

When Nate and I began planning our wedding we knew we wanted to dance under the stars and for our closest friends and family to celebrate with us.  We looked forward to a reception filled with sweet laughter and soft candlelight.  But, our main concern was the words we spoke before the celebration.  For us, our ceremony was what was most important.  Of course we wanted a lively reception and a chance to share with our guests the moments of our day- but before the celebration we wanted our hearts to be heard in our ceremony.

The ceremony was our chance to come together, as a couple, and not only commit our lives and love to each other, but devote our relationship and marriage to God.  The vows we spoke softly to each other were also offered to Christ.  As important as it was for each of us to become husband and wife, we had a greater desire to come together, as two instead of one, and offer our marriage to the Lord, in hopes that the sum of our parts would be greater than what either of us would ever have to offer on our own. 

After exchanging rings and speaking words of promise to each other, we wanted our first few moments of married life to be spent in communion.  As we broke bread and drank wine, as symbols of Christ dying on the cross for our sins, we had our dear friend, Alex, sing a beautiful song. 

We chose a song with lyrics that are a prayer.  Nate and I saw this song as a prayer we so desperately wanted the Lord to hear, from our hearts.  The song is called, “Keep Us.”   It is a prayer asking God to keep us from the storm.  That when the rains set in, when the world turns upside down, when the ground shakes, and when we’ve had enough- keep us.  It speaks of two lovers, lying hand in hand, as the world outside rages and they ask that in the safety of their home, that they are kept.

To us, it wasn’t a prayer asking God to keep us from harm, but a prayer that pleaded that when the storms arise, as they certainly will, that in the midst of the struggle, that He would keep us.  Keep us together, hand in hand, and keep us safe, in His arms.

In the bible it says, “You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat…” Isaiah 25:4

The Lord is a refuge and a shelter.  When we are poor, needy, broken down, and in severe need of shelter-He is there.  When we feel beaten down and scorched by the sun, He is our shade.  We can retreat to Him and He will “keep us” from being overtaken.

When Nate and I got engaged, after only 6 months of dating, many people questioned us if it was too soon.  But, the people who knew us and who had traveled our journey alongside of us, knew that we had already weathered all the seasons.  We had already encountered storm after storm and surely did not have our head in the clouds about a “happily ever after.”  We already knew of the wind and rain and had prematurely had the chance to stand together in the storms.

Our wedding was my most favorite day.  I found the perfect dress, decided on simple music, fresh flowers, and to sip on sweet champagne.  It was filled with love and hope.  We celebrated being man and wife with all the ones we love most and most importantly committed that our lifetime of marriage would be spent serving God.  On that day, during the most precious moments of our ceremony  and for every day after, it has been our prayer that the Lord would keep us.  No matter what waters rise and rivers overflow that He would hold us and keep us within His grip.  We know that there will be times of pain and times where our own legs shake beneath us, but God is our shelter and our refuge, and He will grasp onto us in His love and hold us steady.

My prayer for you is this:  Wherever you are; if you hear the thunders roll or if you’re looking dead on into the eye of the storm, remember that He has promised to be your refuge and ever-present shelter.  The world may turn wrong, but in the safety of your Home with Him, you will be kept.

These days, while Nate and I lay in bed, the rain seems to be relentless right outside our windows.  And often times we find ourselves thinking that perhaps we’ve had enough.  But, as the waters rise, we lie hand in hand, and whisper a song that He would keep us. 

To hear “Keep Us” click here.

Friday, April 1, 2011

He Fights For Me

When I was younger, the evidence needed to determine what kind of night’s sleep I had was in the sheets.  If the sheets lay flat, it was probably an indication of a good night’s rest.  Yet, if blankets had fallen to the floor and my sheets had come un-tucked, it was a good sign that my night was filled with nightmares or wild, crazy dreams.  Making my bed was always more difficult if the sheets and blankets had been strewn around the room and as a little girl, after an eventful night’s sleep, I would often ask for my mom’s help in putting my bed back together.  As we re-tucked, pulled, huffed, and puffed my mom would always ask me if my night had included wrestling a bear.

Some nights, when my dreams leave me twisted and tangled, I wake up feeling tired.  My mind is racing and it seems as if my time to rest has been interrupted by a host of snarled dreams.  Instead of feeling refreshed and ready to face a brand new day, I have prematurely face planted before even placing my feet on the ground. 

During some seasons in life, we feel the same way.  Twisted, tired, and tangled among our circumstances.  There are times where we feel conquered.  We drag our bodies round and round, clench our jaws in frustration, and brace ourselves for impact around ever corner.  With no warning at all, our covers are stripped from our bodies and we lay cold and exhausted.  We try to run, to stand up and fight, but just like in our dreams, our movements are played out in dramatically slow motion.

Our natural instinct in times of distress is to rise up and fight.  We keep pushing and straining ahead.  If we can only just move forward- the key is to keep moving.  In the madness of the world, in our disappointments, tragedies, and fears we crawl uphill.  In the rain, we carry heavy wet blankets of our pain, sorrow, and strife.  We tell ourselves that if only we can keep moving, then we will be okay.  As long as we toss and turn in our sheets, the battle continues and we are not knocked down and destroyed.

But, only for so long can we continue.  Soon we are too tired from wrestling the the bears and utterly exhausted from the wet blankets on our backs.  The last thing we think we can do is rest.  Yet, this is just what He calls us to do.

One of my favorite verses in the bible is a promise found in Exodus 14:14.  It says, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Still.  I only have to lay still.  In this scripture we are promised that He will fight for us.  His strength will save us.  We can give him our heartaches, transfer our worries to him, and lay flat as He continues the fight.

I find that to be such sweet relief.  I can unravel the sheets from my ankles, drop the heavy, wet blankets from my back and I can rest.  Not only do we not have to face the torments of life alone- but also He takes up our battle.  It’s no longer a dreadful diagnosis of cancer that we must bare or the untimely death of a loved one that we must survive.  Instead, we can be still and He will surround us in His love, compassion, peace, and comfort and He will fight for us because He knows it is too much for us to handle. 

In being still, there is no more waking up in cold sweats from nightmares.  Wrestling bears is a thing of our past.  Our beds have been re-made with fresh sheets and properly placed comforters.  We lay still as the Lord tucks us in and takes on our battles.  And while I rest, close my eyes, and crawl underneath my cool covers- He fights for me.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opening Day

In my family, today’s a holiday.  It’s Opening Day!  Spring training has come to a close and baseball season is officially underway.  With it, we welcome long, sunny nine inning days, home run screams, and seventh inning stretches.  Opening Day’s rainbow is a promise that summer is quickly approaching and the long dark days of winter are almost just a memory. 

For your team, it’s a new beginning, a chance to start fresh and charge the field with fervor.  Players approach the game with their bats held high and the missed opportunities of last year’s season behind them.  Before the first ball is pitched, each athlete is filled with a confidence of big dreams.  Mistakes have yet to be made.  The diamond sparkles and for a moment failed seasons of the past are obsolete. 

However, after the first pitch is underway it’s only a matter of time before failed at bats, wild pitches, and fielding errors.  An imperfect season is inevitable and at times agonizing for a team and its fans.  For me, it feels a lot like life.  We arrive with the best of intentions and championship dreams and simultaneously begin dodging the curveballs life throws in our path.

Last night I felt like I was standing in the middle of a losing season.  I lay on the couch and desperately tried to wish it all away.   I felt covered in grass stains.  It’s been strikeout after strikeout of health grievances and financial overloads.  We feel like we’re on the road, far from a home game, and each loss tears at our spirits. 

Flat on our backs we called to God.  “Hello?  We know you’re there- but look at us, Lord.  We’re barely hanging on.”  And in the dark hours of the night, we lay exhausted from a day that resembled being hit by pitch after pitch.

Today, when I opened my heavy eyes, I was reminded of His promise.  “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

We are not consumed, in His love and compassion we will not fail.  Each morning, God’s mercies are new.  No matter how dark the night can be, His light comes in the morning.  I don’t have to wait through a long season to bounce into life again.  With Him, each time I awake it is an Opening Day.  He is faithful and by His love I am restored every morning.

I need to be reminded that each day, He is there.  My pain and my financial worries do not consume me.  Every day, He opens my eyes with His love and fills my mind with His mercies so I can begin again.  His great faithfulness helps me back to my feet so that I can approach the day with confidence.  I can hold my bat high and hold onto a hope of homerun dreams.  I am not withheld from His love.  By His compassion, when I awake, it is always Opening Day.

Play Ball!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Back Up Plans and Perfect Provisions

Tomorrow morning I planned to pick up one of my dearest friends from the airport.  Her name is Dena and she’s a lovely soul.  In fact, she’s more two parts sister and one part friend.  You know the kind of person I’m talking about.  Someone you can say anything to and do absolutely nothing with; a person who has seen you at your lows and toasted with you at the highs.  In short, she just gets me and as an added bonus likes me still.
Her visit was supposed to last 6 days.  It planned to be her first visit up north to see us as well as her maiden voyage to Seattle.  I saw us dancing in rain boots, drinking large doses of hot chocolate, and gallivanting on adventures to discover hidden treasures by the fist full.  We both have had our calendars marked for months and tomorrow we planned to temporarily cure the long distance of our relations.

As the days have drawn closer to our impending time and the countdown dipped into the low single digits, I began to feel anxious over our visit.  Not in a single way did I not want to spend time with my soul sister, I just grew frustrated that our visit might become less than intended.  You see, by now you know I prefer things to be perfect.  Anything less leads me to believe that I have failed someone, which coincides with my biggest fear of letting people down.  And as I began to imagine Dena’s trip to the Pacific Northwest, I knew it would heavily contrast perfection. 

I haven’t been feeling well for quite sometime.  I’ve been dog-paddling in pain, suffering from little sleep, and racked with unending nausea.  It’s become a chore to get out of the apartment, much less my bed.  I have been on the hunt for suitable doctors in our new town and finally, just recently I think we stumbled upon someone we can trust.  Long story short, I am prepping for another surgery.  Yet another incision, which will lead to another scar, all to clear my body of the disease that ails it.  Of course it leaves my spirits weak as reality sets in, over again, reminding me of my fragile frame.  Everything is harder when you don’t feel well.  Smiles are harder to come by and patience is scarce.  And in a city of almost perpetual rain, it’s harder to pull yourself up by the boot straps and venture off into an unforgiving world.

All I could think to do was pray.  I asked Nate to pray and dialed my mom to assuage my concerns.  And so I prayed.  I prayed that God would provide me with strength and smiles.  I asked for the ability to enjoy my days with my dearest of friends and for anything else I believed could muster me through.  I knew that it would literally take Him to accomplish anything at all.  So I bowed my head, and I prayed.

I’m embarrassed to say that when He answered, I was surprised.  Maybe even shocked.  I figured He’d answer my prayers through the course of our six day visit and I’d find myself on the other side, smiling and spent.  But, I was wrong. 

Last night, I received a text from Dena.  She was asking for prayer.   She informed me she was feeling quite ill herself and if she didn’t feel better soon she was afraid she’d have to cancel.  I responded saying that I was feeling less than myself as well and that I would pray.  And then it hit me…was this His answer?  So I offered my thoughts to her.  “Do you think this is God’s way of telling us we had better postpone?”  And her response, “I’ve had this feeling, all day, that you were in this same place and I actually think that is what we should do.”  We both wanted this visit to be wonderful and well consumed because on our budgets they seem to be so futile and far between.  But, unsuspected circumstances inevitably would prevent that from happening so we postponed and God answered.

In the bible it says, “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.” Psalm 6:9

And yet when He accepted my plea and answered in such a tangible way, I was shocked.  It seemed unexpected.  He heard me?  God has provided a way?  He is bestowing mercy and grace?  No way! 

But, of course He listened to my plea.  He promises to hear our cries and while I thought He’d provide in a different way, His way was better.  Instead, this answer fills Dena and I with ease.  It’s not one friend bailing on another.  Now it’s two friends going with our Plan B and His apparent Plan A.

I know sometimes His answers are not so cut and dry.  Often they’re blurry and keep us second-guessing ourselves.  Other times the answers themselves seem like simply no response at all.  But that’s just the thing, what seems to us as unanswering is actually just what we need.  As my Dad has told me time and time again, we must expect the unexpected when it comes to our God.  He frequently provides in what appear to be round about ways and while His answers may not be our first choice, they are exquisitely beautiful because they remind us of His promise to hear our prayers and accept them.

Dena, you know I’d sit on a couch with you- anywhere, any day.  But, God’s Plan A is for us to meet together another time and perhaps another place.  I’m hoping it also includes healing for both of us in ways of physicality and emotional grace.  I love you, my sister, so far away- but know that He has heard our prayers and has bestowed us with peace amidst our failed perfect plans.

And God? Dear God… Help me to, among my prayers, have confidence that when I call, you will answer.  Open my eyes to see your answers in canceled plans, unsuspected pains, and promises revealed in time.  Thank you for your patience when it takes me more than a second to see it’s not my backup plans but your perfect provisions.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Needy Thanks

 On Sunday afternoon I received a text from a family friend requesting a need.  Her youngest daughter was on a trip in Washington and her perfectly mapped out itinerary had taken a detour, leaving her without a place to stay the following night.  Thankfully, Nate and I were able to rise to the occasion and welcome her daughter, whom I once used to baby-sit, into our home.  I could tell, as any other appropriate parent would be, that the mother was worried about her daughter being stranded in a city not her own.  And she spoke tears of relief when we were able to meet her needs.

So Monday morning, I opened our doors and welcomed in a friend in need.  We watched movies and talked of her academic dreams.  Later that afternoon, after Nate was home from work, we took her to dinner and then made milkshakes back at home, mid way through another movie.  When it came time for bed, we covered the couch in blankets and sheets, found a nightlight, and gave her a choice of two pillows.  Come morning we chatted over toasted bagels and juice and listened to music.  Later today, we will drive her to the airport, where she will board a plane headed home, safe and sound.

Last night, as Nate and I lay in bed, wishing ourselves into a deep sleep, Nate whispered how happy he was to have had the chance to supply her needs.  He recognized how many times others have opened their doors to us as a couple and an even greater amount of times that others have helped us out individually, before our love story began.  People have lent their ears, have cooked meals, and shelled out bits of advice.  Others have offered their homes, provided transportation, and slipped us checks to pay medical bills.  While what we had the opportunity to do last night was just a small taste of what others have done for us, we were grateful to be used in such a way.  A menial meal and some covers on the couch was all it took to supply a need.

A need is defined, as something required because it is essential or very important.  It expresses a necessity.  We need water.  We require food.  Shelter is a necessity.  And then we have or “wants.”  The things we desire to possess or do.  I want a new camera.  I desire to travel more.  “Wants” aren’t needed, they are extra. For Nate and I, these days it is about our needs.  Of course, there is so much more that we want but the basics are all that we need.  And by His provisions we have everything essential.

In Phillipians 4:19 it says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

Without a doubt I know that this is true.  He supplies our needs.  My God meets all my necessities.  I will be the first to admit that sometimes I doubt He will provide.  I wonder if He sees my needs or is aware of the minimal requirements.  But, there has yet to come a time where He hasn’t shown up or where I have failed to be blessed in His glorious riches. 

You see, like our recent houseguest, we can set out on our perfectly mapped out itinerary.  But as sure as you think those plans are or that your bank account is set, you can be equally asssured that the course you are on will involve some detours.  Many of which you will not be able to provide for on your own because sometimes it isn’t about just food and drink.  There will be times when you need strength and moments that will require a tremendous heap of hope.  In times of fear, you will need to be brave and when you feel consumed you will need comfort.  It is He that can provide that to you, to me, and to all His children in far off lands.  Our God will meet all of our needs.  And often times, even greater than that is that He will choose to use us to meet the needs of people in our lives and of perfect strangers. 

Rest assured that you cannot do it on your own; no matter how hard you try.  And wake up to the reality that there will be times when He chooses to use you as a vessel in His providential care.  My God has met all my needs and I am beyond humbled when the blessings He has given me allow for me to be a blessing.  He is supplying our needs and choosing to use us to meet the ones of those around us.  It’s an amazing double blessing as we are provided for and also given the gift of being used in other people’s detours.  His plan includes meeting all of our needs. When I find myself back at the point of thinking I have it all figured out on my own, I will remember these days where our story included both needs and being needed and I will remind myself of His never ending capacity to supply our needs, even in the detours we thought we’d never see.  I am thankful to be needy when I realize He is all I need.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Perfection Reflection

I spent much of this past weekend trying to figure out what I needed.  I wasn’t standing in front of an open fridge surveying what I needed from the market to complete dinner’s recipe.  No, I was standing in front of the mirror, inflicted by my own reflection.  With my own eyes staring back at me, I searched for what I lacked.

I’ve been my own worst enemy for as long as I can recall.  I have cast disapproving glares in my own direction.  I’d even go as far as to say that I’m among professional ranks when it comes to introspective fault finding.  I am constantly concerned with not being enough and often question what it is that I am lacking.  This weekend in particular I found that not only was I lacking long hair, but with that discovery I only opened up a host of many more apparent absences in other areas of my life.

Let me rewind.  This Saturday morning I had an appointment to cut my hair.  I wavered back and forth and side to side whether to leave it long and go with a trim or chop it off and cut it short.  Either decision should have suited me just fine.  I mean we all know that cutting our hair is not life changing in the least.  On the drive to my appointment, I thought I had concluded that I would opt for a healthy trim and leave it long, however at the last minute, while sitting in the stylist’s chair, I gave her permission to cut it short.  Almost as soon as she started the cutting I was filled with ten million ounces of regret.

Regret? Over a haircut?  How silly can I sound?  But, soon after the damage was done, it was the mirror and I, hurling insults back and forth.  The discussion about the hair lasted no longer than 2.5 seconds and then we got down to business.  With the shorter cut and concern for how it looked, came bigger questions.  Could I not pull off my new ‘do because I lacked poise?  Or perhaps I lacked beauty?  Was it my face, my bone structure, or did I need longer eyelashes?  It must have been my body.  Too round, too soft?  And then it was about my brains.  For what I lacked in length could I make up for in wit?  In intelligence?  Maybe my skin?  Too fair, too impaired by blemishes?  Then the digs dug deeper.  Who could love me with this hair?  I began to believe that I wasn’t good enough.  Not good enough to be liked and certainly not loved.  My heart not sweet enough and my mind not great enough.

And as I stood in front of the magnifying mirror, I realized it wasn’t about the hair.  Not even about the eyelashes or wit.  It had nothing to do with being round or soft but everything to do with falling drastically short of perfection.  It’s been about that for quite some time.  I’ve stood in front of my personal pantry for hours on end, searching for all that I lack.  What is it that I need or what can I add that can make me the best version of me?

And you know what I’ve found?  I have found that I am asking the wrong question.  It isn’t about what I can add or what better ingredients I need.  The truth is that it is about what can be taken away.  And not even what I can take away but what He can.

In Psalm 18:32 it says, “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.”

He makes me perfect and not in terms of beauty or brains.  He makes me perfect by stripping me of the lies in which I have been deceived.  The world all around us tells us of what we apparently lack or goals that we have failed to reach.  We are inundated with pressures of perfectionism and they scream of what we supposedly need.  But the truth?  The truth is that He makes our ways perfect and He arms us with strength to stay the course.  Because with Him, perfection isn’t attained when there is nothing left to add, but rather when there is nothing left to take away.

So, He takes from our shoulders our false preconceived notions of what we lack in order to be loved.  With our God’s hands, the fog of lies that scream we are unworthy are wiped away.  He removes from us the burdens of pretended perfection and lifts the veils  we have hid under in shame.  And in place of all that has been washed away, He covers us in Truth and Strength.  We are filled with His love and find identity in His ways.

The world tells us of our need for perfection.  Its voice can be so loud, to the point it had me debating of whether to scrounge around my apartment for spares of my once long hair to scotch tape back to my head.  But God’s definition of perfection is nothing like the worlds.  He is perfect and He calls us to strive towards His perfection.  Meaning we grow more grace, cloak ourselves in compassion, and shed ourselves of the lies.  It does not matter, my reflection in the mirror.  What matters is that He offers me strength as he guides me in His perfect way. Through His mercy He takes away all I have added in my false attempts of perfection and as I abide in Him He blesses me as I strive to see glimpses of Him in my reflection. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Good Year

I’ve found that in talks with businessmen, when you ask how things are going, they often respond in terms of years.  “Well, it’s been a hard year…” or “This year has been great for business…” and they measure their company and its value in years.  If the economy is failing, like most recently, years are rough.  And if their industry is expanding years are great.  Each year tells a different story, sets a different tone.  Some tales are tragic and some years are marked with prosperity.  And while I don’t own a traditional business, I am part of a family.  And in the business of my family?  Well, let’s just say 2010 was a good year.

My family has probably been under harsh, relentless attack since 1997.  This isn’t to say that there were never blessings in our midst, but overall things were very heavy.  In fact, amongst one of my brother’s circle of friends we were known to have the “Scudder Curse.”  If something wrong could happen, we found ourselves in the very middle of that rubble.  We faced illness, the darkest throws of depression, a drug addiction, and you name it, it happened.  In some ways it became tragically comical.  There we were, holding on for dear life, and taking breaks to laugh in the absurdity of it all.  The pain grew us stronger as a family.  We found comfort in each other’s arms and solace in our prayers.  Our faith was tested and tortured but we managed to keep our grips.  Many times it was all we had.

Each of us was exhausted.  Overwhelmed in our defeats and crushed down by the weight of each other’s pain.  Yet, somehow we still believed.  We believed God’s love and His presence in spite of our circumstances.  In the middle of the troubles against us, we were given eyes to see His blessings and in 2010 they came in full force.

In the spring, we all felt the joy of planning a family wedding.  It was a do-it-yourself endeavor that had all hands on deck.  We worked hard in our joy, as we hosted the wedding of my dreams on my parent’s property.  It felt like we were all conquering bits of sickness and pain on the day that I wore white.  Under a fresh, cool mountain sky we drank wine and danced in fancy clothes. 

A month or so later, we cried happy tears at the baptism of my brother.  We were bursting with joy and basking in His faithfulness when my brother, who once was so very lost (more on that next week), was dunked under water and raised up into new life.  After the baptism, we celebrated with omelets and coffee cake and we all felt so proud.  Around that same time we eagerly sat and watched another brother receive his Master’s degree.  We clapped and cheered and I took one too many pictures of him standing so tall in that cap and gown.

Soon after, we celebrated the birth of a new baby boy.  My sister and her husband adopted a baby for us all to love.  We held him and congratulated him on getting the best new mom and dad.  He captured our hearts in an instant and his sweet baby smell remains in our memories.  And in September we threw a party, to celebrate the best man we know, turning sixty.  We toasted to our Dad and indulged in fitting southern barbecue for our southern gentleman.  It was a night of laughter and thankful tears.

And as silly as it sounds, we sat on top of the world when our more than favorite team won the World Series.  My brothers dowsed themselves in champagne and we called each other screaming in our unbelief.  You could hear our smiles over the phones, states a part, but sharing in our celebrations.  Finally, as the year drew to a close, we piled into my sister’s home and celebrated Christmas, all together, with two more members than the year before.  We watched our nephews open presents in their Christmas pajamas and continued in the tradition of feasting on a big brunch.

In the business of my family, it was a good year.  We needed it, more than I think any of us realized. In Joel 2:25, the Lord says, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten--the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm--my great army that I sent among you.”

Our celebrations were restoration for the great locusts we faced. God gave us a season where we could take deep breaths and an open opportunity to feel more than the troubles that were encroached upon our hearts.  While He allows desolate times and places in our lives, He redeems us from the locusts of our lives.  Times that are spent in steady suffering are given light by His blessings.  It is crucial that we remember He hears our hearts.  God is aware of our pains and attune to our tiring trials and in His time He has promised to repay us for the times we have lost, from the good we have been kept from.  Our job is to remain faithful, no matter the stage, and He will make good on the locusts of life.  And for us, He repaid us for the locusts that out numbered us, in 2010.  It was more than a good year; it was the year where we clearly saw His promises.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

With Each Stitch

I’ve broken my heart more than once.  In fact, I think if you could open my chest and get a real true picture of my heart you would see staples where each time someone lost my trust.  It would be wrapped in scotch tape from moments of unrequited love and held gingerly together by knots of twine in the places where the aches have leaked through.  We’ve all been in that place, crippled by broken hearts that seem to be barley beating.

Truth be told, I have found myself in that place more times that I’d like to admit.  I’ve been broken by boys, by things that may have never really been mine, and by ending in places I never hoped to find.  We have all been let down by loved ones and felt like someone was throwing us away with the garbage.  And in the moments of heaviness, where it’s a task to even swallow, I look down at the pieces that I’m sure will never be put back in place.

The first boy that broke my heart was the one who gave me my first kiss.  He first was my best friend and then I began wishing for something more.  It was my senior year of high school, a challenging year for me to say the least, and He was my best friend.  He was one year older and off to college for my final year at home, but he was still the last one I talked to at night before going to sleep and the first one I wanted to tell all about the details of my day.  When I began to harbor more than friendship feelings, we began to talk about becoming more.  Was it worth it, to risk such an amazing friendship?  Would it even work?  We pondered the thoughts and ended up with a decision to give it a shot. 

Now I had never been kissed and I had the mentality that I wanted it to be special.  I desired to spend it on someone worthwhile.  It was something that I respected myself for and equally found embarrassing.  There I was, age 18, about to graduate high school, and still without my first kiss.  While I wanted it to have meaning it wasn’t a fact I paraded around.  And then one weekend, while I was down visiting him at school, he took me to the beach and kissed me.  It was perhaps the single most awkward moment of my life.  I was nervous, okay terrified, and all in all it was a big fat fail.  Typical of me, I was over thinking the whole thing and to this day when I think of that moment I cringe and duck hoping that maybe it was just a bad dream.  Luckily, he was my best friend, we laughed, and vowed to try again, another day.

I returned home from the weekend and simultaneously stopped receiving any phone calls from him.  It was torturing and I wondered if my awkward kiss had scared him away.  Then on a Thursday night my phone rang.  All he had to say was that it was over.  Cut and dry, we were through.  Through?  But hadn’t we just started?  I felt cheated, robbed, and mostly betrayed.  My best friend was no longer my best friend but the boy who broke my heart.

That first night was the worse.  I cried, I cursed, and I begged for the pain to subside.  I gasped for air and when I caught a glimpse of my blotchy, tear stained face in the mirror, I cried again.  I thought that I would never be the same and believed I would never be whole again.

While that was the first boy who broke my heart, it wasn’t my first heartache.  Life has been filled with them.  Friendships have crumbled, dreams have been crushed, lives have been lost, and secrets have been told.  This world we live in is drenched with ways in which to break us.  Devastation lurks in the crevices of every day life.

They say that time heals everything and while the reality of that is overbearing, it is truth.  But I believe in a bit more.  I will take a stance and say that in time, it is He who heals all wounds.

In Psalm 147:3 it says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
He picks us off of the bathroom floor, wipes away the pool of tears and blood, and wraps our wounds.  In his arms, he swaddles our souls and kisses our foreheads.  Our God reminds us that His love heals and He bandages our skinned knees and bruised souls with grace and peace.  He makes space in time to bind our broken parts.

Life can happen to us.  It can knock us down, leave lumps in our throats, and drop us barefoot into a pile of our broken pieces.  But, we can take comfort and claim in faith that he will pick us up, remind us of our worth, and heal us of all of our ailments.  My heart may be battered but it is still beating. In the aftermath of every ache I can look down at the pieces and know that by His mercies He will make me whole.  Again and Again. With His skillful surgeon hands he stitches us back together, covering our incisions with His truth.   With each stitch, He heals our heartache.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Here and There

 I awoke this morning tired for what the day had in store.  I was already tired at the thought of fighting rush hour traffic to take Nate in to work and for the long conversation I would have with a new doctor about my complicated health history.  I took a shower and packed along God for the ride.  I wasn’t sure we’d talk much or if I’d get the chance for a proper prayer but I knew better than to leave home without him.

When I saw the sun, I thanked Him for a break from the rain.  While at the doctor’s I let Him quiet me in my fears during an intense exam and He helped me breathe when I received the tragic news.  I received a text informing me that someone in our best friend’s inner circle had committed suicide.  My heart was immediately heavy with their pain and their cries.  What horrific news to receive, on any day, at any time. 

Immediately, I began to pray.  Lord, be with my friends, comfort the family, do anything and everything to free them from such pain.  And almost instantaneously I was embarrassed.  Embarrassed that I so desperately call out to a God who is busy dealing with obviously much bigger things.  Then my prayer began again, “Don’t worry about me, Lord.  Please go and attend to much greater things.”

I prayed this same prayer a couple weeks ago.  It was late at night and I was up past my bedtime, watching the wreckage in Japan.  I saw footage of the debris left in the aftermath of the earthquake and I watched live as the tsunami uprooted and destroyed everything in its path.  Later that night, as I lay safe in my bed, I felt guilty that lives were being lost in mass, while I was simply falling asleep.  I prayed a prayer for the victims of Japan and then I laid in shame for my past pleas to God.

Have you ever felt like that?  Like life walks up, slaps you in the face, and your perspective is totally changed.  Who am I to bother God?  My depression, my pain- it’s all so insignificant compared to everything else.  But the beauty in our constantly broken world is that He is with us, all of us.  He is with you, here with me, and present among all of them.

In Matthew, Jesus says, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Who am I to bother God?   Well, I am His child that He loves.  While other cries may be more prominent, we worship a God that is big enough and great enough to attend to it all.  He hears my silly grumbles and is still able to offer peace in the midst of tragedy.  With assurance and confidence He says, “Surely I am with you always.” Today, tomorrow, and forever, I am with you and I am upholding them.

It comes down to this.  God was busy today.  While I awoke this morning tired, fussed over what to wear, and worried about what to cook for dinner, He heard my grumbles and the cries of every other person on this planet.  He never wakes tired because He never rests and meal times don’t concern Him because He’s too busy for a bite to eat.  But, he is busy because He is there.  I don’t have to worry about leaving home without Him because He is everywhere.  He sat with me at the doctor’s office, was with you during your morning coffee, and accompanied many more on an afternoon run.  It was Him that held me in my frustration and pain, brought comfort to those devastated in Japan, and listened to the very last whispers, in the final moments, of that hurting man’s life.

He hears every cry and is present in every place.  The earth will tremble and the seas will roar and our God is with us.  I don’t have to wish Him away to be with those more battered than me because He is more than able.  God is capable of hearing my silly problems and attending to their wailing grief.  And He carries us all. 

Now I can pray, “Thank you for being here with me and there with them.  For loving me and listening to them.  I will rest in your presence while you hold them in their confusion and sorrow.  You are greater than any other.”  Surely He is with us.  Here and there.  Always.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Just the Same

As a little girl, I would sit on the stoop of our front porch and pretend to be a movie-star.  I’d sit with my heart-shaped sunglasses, my baby in a stroller, with a purse by my side and I would imagine life as a celebrity.  I would make-believe to my imaginary friends, the ins and outs of my famous life, and I’d dream of happy-ever-afters.  When I look back now, my adult-self recognizes that I had a desire to be known.  I still do.  In fact, I believe that each of us wants to be known.  We yearn for a life filled with reciprocal relationships and interactions and exchanges that make us more than just a number.  We want to be known.

Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, when someone knows more than just our frame, we feel valued.  It surprises my husband when I can pre-calculate his response to a certain situation.  He is always astonished exclaiming, “How did you know, I’d say that.”  And each time, I smile at him and say, “…because I know you.”  I know that according to him there is a right way and a wrong way for the toilet paper to roll off its dispenser.  I know he likes to whistle in the shower and that he likes to drink water from his cereal bowl when he is finished eating.  He is very adamant about how he washes his face and how he dries it off.  I know that his face lights up when he sees babies or little children and that he worries about blocked arteries and cholesterol more than most.  He may find it silly that I can recall to memory the little things that make him who he is but I know that when I recognize all his unique parts, he is made more aware of how much I love him.

We desire to be heard, to go noticed, and to be known.  As much as we are frightened by vulnerability, we desire to share our secrets rather than live an anonymous life.  However, it is common that we want people to see our good, just not the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I know that for me, I want people in my life to know me, but probably only to a certain extent.  I would hate for them to see my ugly thoughts, my angry grunts, and my judging ways.

We’d be okay if being known meant that people had a photo-shopped image of us and were barred access to any paparazzi photograph that catches us in our imperfections.  It would be less stressful if we could arrange bouquets of words to describe ourselves and send them out in brilliant press releases.  Yet, the truth is to be known by someone means that they recognize your good and extend grace on your faults.  Few of us ever bask in the gift it is to be truly known because we are afraid to bring light to our dark spots.

In Psalm 139:1-4 it says, “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, oh Lord.”

My God knows me.  All of me, in fact.  He knows my thoughts and is familiar with my life.  The God of the entire universe knows me and in more ways than I can could ever even conceive.  He and I are on more than just a first name basis.  He knows my thoughts before they are even my own and He loves me still.  My God knows me completely.  He is aware of my jealousy, my impatience, and my frustrations and He cares about all of it.

Can you even imagine?  This God knows it all.  That’s enough to send me into a frantic sweat.  But the verses go on to say that there is nowhere we can hide from Him.  No place where we need to hide because even from the far ends of the earth He will guide us and hold us.  We are truly known by a God that loves us.  There isn’t a need to conceal the bad and the ugly because He already is aware and still has chosen to love us and call our names.

On a brave day, I let Nate in on one of my “keep it to myself” thoughts.  I start by stating that it will be very unattractive, I word vomit my blood boiling secret, and then I squeeze my eyes shut and hold my breath.  It’s like I am waiting for him to look at me in disgust, break his vows to love me, and walk away.  Instead, he finds a way to encourage me in my imperfections and loves me just the same.  Nate, like God, knows me and even still loves me.

My little girl dreams were built on being a celebrity.  I wanted my name in lights and for people to think that I was beautiful.  Those dreams have since faded and my desire now is to simply be known in the hopes of being loved.  I am blessed to have a man, a family, and friends who do just that.  But, the one who knows the whole truth- every treacherous thought and twisted logic, lifts my head from being hung in shame and reminds me that no matter where or what, He has searched me and loves me just the same.

Monday, March 21, 2011

One Stumbling Step

 I like to have my ducks all lined in a row.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love a spontaneous adventure, but find comfort in knowing things will work out just fine.  Unfortunately, life isn’t about guarantees. Often the roads we travel, to the places we end up, make absolute no sense at all.  If there is one thing we can be certain of it’s that the end results we see come about out of changed plans, rerouted directions, curveballs, and the aftershocks of being thrown for a loop.

Towards the end of my Master’s program, my studies took me overseas to study abroad in Asia.  The trip was set to include time in Hong Kong, Mainland China, Korea, and Taiwan.  Every few days we would change locations, lugging our books and baggage to another ancient land.  My closest friends on the trip were all boys, a few who had become my lifelines throughout my grad school days, but I formed an instant connection with a girl named Sara.
I knew who Sara was, prior to the trip, but we had never officially been introduced.  Our first stop on our journey was Hong Kong and Sara and I immediately bonded over a fear for our culinary options and while shopping in the crowded, humid, street markets of that international city. 

The trip was enjoyable for the first four days and then my world was tipped upside down.  We were staying at a university in Korea and one afternoon, we Americans, thought it would be fun to challenge some of the local students to a basketball game.  Quite a crowd gathered around to watch us play and we were off to an early lead.  While defending my opponent, who had possession of the ball, my leg buckled underneath me and before I had any time to react I had fallen onto the ground with my entire body weight landing on my right arm and wrist.  I quickly got back up and new immediately that my arm was broken.

Now breaking your arm stateside is one thing, but breaking a limb where western medicine is not quite up to par is a whole other.  I received a ride to the hospital on a bumpy, windy back road while trying to stabilize my mangled arm.  When we arrived at the hospital, I watched large bugs scurry across the floor as we attempted to translate our needs.  The doctors offered me their best pain reducing meds, something very similar to ibuprofen, to quiet the pain.  Suffice to say, it did not do the trick.  After a few rounds of x-rays we discovered that my wrist, hand, and arm were all broken in several places.  As the doctors went about the task of resetting my arm, they managed to dislocate my elbow and tear a few ligaments and tendons along the way.  I was put in a splint until the swelling reduced and a few days later in Taiwan was fit for a cast. 

The cast I received in Taiwan was a complete laughing matter.  The size of the cast, once wrapped around my hand, wrist and upper and lower arm, was larger than my upper thigh.  It took around 4 days to dry and ended up weighing between 15 and 20 pounds.  As a right-handed patron, life, let alone traveling were my arch nemeses.  Lucky, for me Sara was there to help me laugh through this awful reality.  She helped me tie my hair, put on deodorant, and change in and out of clothes.  In fact, she literally became my right hand man.  There we were, two brand new friends, thrown into a comical situation that required her to extend grace to me and I had to allow myself to become vulnerable in front of her. The two of us superficially found common ground for the first four days of the trip and then we became sisters.

I enjoyed Sara’s company and had fun shopping with her but I never imagined having to ask her to help me complete such intimate tasks.  It’s odd to have to ask some to button your pants or tie your shoes at the age of twenty-four.  I, myself, was equally embarrassed and humbled while Sara was willing and able.  God often brings us to places of complete dependence in order to show us His paths.

In Proverbs 16:9 it says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

I had a plan to travel to Asia, finish my degree, and have a little fun along the way.  No disasters, no casualties, and no life-changing relationships.  But, the Lord had a different plan.  He didn’t want me to just experience Asia and walk away with a completed Master’s diploma.  He planned that I would walk away with a best friend.  Sure, traveling would have been less hectic, I may have been able to enjoy a few more things with the use of all my limbs, but God wanted me to learn more than just international business and chopstick fluency on this journey.  His plan was to humble me and simultaneously provide for me.  I believe that Sara and I would probably still be friends to this day without a broken arm but I’m not sure what it would look like.

We, as humans, like to take control.  I am guilty of desiring the ability to make a way for myself.  Yet, God’s way always seems to be better than our own.  It definitely throws our ducks out of order and may appear to make no sense at all but in the end, we are stronger and blessed by His provisions.  Life isn’t about guarantees but with Him guiding our steps we can be certain that He knows what He is doing.  God has already made a way for us.  It may seem terrifying and dizzying but when we submit ourselves to His plans and the steps He has for us we can rest assured that He has our best interest at heart.  No matter what, He promises that He will determine our steps.  We can try and make our own plans and map out our own ways but He leads us on journeys far better than our own.

With one stumbling step, that I didn’t have planned, I broke my arm and gained a best friend.  Traveling to a foreign land always forges a thousand memories.  But for me, Asia provided more than just things to be remembered.  I found Sara, my lifelong friend.  She has seen me through heartache and pain. She has listened to me cry and done her best to make me stronger.  Sara was the first friend I introduced my future husband to and she knew he was the one for me.  We have shared dreams and disappointments.  On her wedding day, I stood beside her as her Maid of Honor and on mine; she stood there with me just the same.  Today we share a long distance friendship that covers many miles but I know she is always just a phone call away.  God’s plan included me breaking an arm in order that I might find depth with a new friend.  His plan was better than mine.  While my right arm may never function the same, the Lord led me to a friend, who changed my life for the good.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Faithful Provisions

Currently, I dread when the conversation turns to me.  I am afraid when people ask what my life looks like because I am embarrassed of the successes I have as defined by the outside world.  While my parents paid for me to receive an education at a private university and I delved into a life of student loans to fund my graduate endeavors, I sit here with nothing to show for it.  The diplomas are proof of a well achieved academic life and the student loan statements provide the undeniable evidence that it was I who earned a Master's degree.  Yet I am unemployed and not by choice.  I have spent a few years applying, interviewing, and desperately longing for a 9-5.  I've lost track of how many applications and cover letters I fill out and send.  And after each interview that I think I have nailed, I sit on the couch in my own disappointment, with tears burning my eyes, as I receive the news of yet another rejection letter.

I want to know about my friends lives and I don't want to be sparred the details.  I desire to encourage them and cheer them on and then I hope for the conversation to end.  Not because I don't enjoy the company of their phone calls but because I don't want to have to tell them that I think I've failed.  For a girl who lived as an over achiever, I get panic stricken when I don't have any successes within my grasp.  While I know I am the luckiest girl alive to call my husband "mine," I wonder what comes after the white dress. 

I am filled with envy when friends plan trips, make plans to buy new cars, and post pictures of new fashion ensembles.  I wish that that was our life, our dream vacation, and our shiny new car.  I believe those things aren't ours because of me.  I don't believe they are the definition of happiness but I resent myself for not being able to supplement my husband some well-deserved fun.  And so each week I wrestle with myself, my purpose, and my failed attempt at success through unemployment.

I wonder what my friends think of me.  Do they think I'm lazy, unmotivated?  Do they believe I lack drive?  My family reminds me it does not matter what they think because we know the truth.  I know my circumstances and I know that a full-time job would wreak havoc on my fragile body.  I spend my time volunteering and looking for ways to still feel alive.  And I cry.  Angry tears because this is not how I pictured my professional life.  And tears of sorrow and shame because I don't know if things will ever change.

That's just it.  I don't know if things will ever look different than right here and right now.  Sure we may one day have more than one car and a one bedroom apartment but will I always be embarrassed of my tiny list of professional achievements?

In the bible it says, "Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands." Deuteronomy 7:9

Faithful?  My God?  I will admit I don't always understand His definitions of what it means to be faithful.  Sometimes His extensions of faithfulness, the olive branches He brings, seem like just the contrary.

But my God, He is God.  And today, I have to believe that there is faithfulness in the unemployment.  That His covenant of love for me is even present in this situation.  There is a reason for where I am at.  While financially we may hunt for more, Nate and I know that there is faithfulness in keeping me unemployed.  Only God knows what my body can withstand.  He is the only one who knows the amount of pain I am in and so He keeps me here.  Worldly successes aside, He is faithful and knows what we need in every season.  His covenant of love is apparent in the faithfulness He has provided in a loving husband, a roof over my head, and food to nourish me.  My God is a shelter in the storm.

No matter our circumstances, we must remember that God is God and He is faithful,  every day.  In unemployment and in pain, His promises are kept.  Life's aim is not to be happy or to have things to show off to the world.  Life is about loving and recognizing the blessings of His faithfulness in our insecurities.

I still cringe at times when the conversation turns to me, but He knows what is best.  And while God's faithfulness does not always look like what we might dream up on our own, it still remains.  Perhaps he hasn't left me here, in a state of unemployment.  Yet instead, He has been faithful in giving me the right conditions for my body and health in this place.  Call me crazy, but hey, He is faithful.  It's up to us to realize his provisions right in the middle of our believed to be problems.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Author's Note

The following series is about a very personal, raw part of my life.  I am unable to convey through words the experience in its entirety.  This is my first attempt to write about it.  I realize the sentences may be jumbled, the words may not always flow, but I ask for grace, from you, the reader.  I was unable to capture the whole experience in words but it was important for me to share what I could on this day.

Half Past March- Part III

 His first attempt to save me came in the form of gags.  I clenched fist full after fist full of pills, some little and some big, and with each swig of water I gagged.  My body shook as I tried to swallow down my escape.  I fought back the urge to vomit while panic seized my body.  I answered my phone for one last conversation with my mom.

I told her it was too late.  I relayed to her that I had taken, at the very least, 300 pills, and now it was only a matter of time.  I stayed on the phone with her as things began to get hazy.  I cried and asked her why God didn’t care.  I wanted to know what I had done wrong and why I had no strength to go on.  She listened as I recounted events from my childhood.  And then I began to get very sleepy, minutes would go by and I would not say a word.  I would wake back up to the screaming of my name.  She yelled to me, begging to wake me from my trance.  Through her fear and mine, she reminded me and kept telling me that even though I could not feel it and even though He seemed so far off- God was with me in that moment.  She begged me to cling to Him and I told her I was trying.

The truth was that I really was trying.  I was hanging onto the side of a cliff and I was still holding on.  My intelligence told me that He was there.  But, my heart- my poor heart could not feel His presence.  I was consumed by a lie, fed to me from the enemy, that my God, my Savior had forgotten me.  I believed that I was not worth it to Him.  I cried for His strength because I was emptied of my own.  As I lay my head on the steering wheel I begged for Him to hold me.

I’m not sure how much time passed before I heard their yells.  I heard my name being yelled and he sounded angry. I was collapsed over the steering wheel of my white Jeep Grand Cherokee Dream car and I was wracked with fear. “Kathryn Elizabeth Scudder,” he yelled.  He knows me?  The people pleaser in me jumped to attention.  I struggled to lift my head and there they were.  With rocks in hand, they begged for me to open the car.  I was afraid to let them down and so I think I leaned over and hit the unlock button.

They rushed me to their guardian angel mini-van.  Alan, a long time family friend, received a call from my dad who had asked him to pray.  My dad was getting on a flight to come to me but he was asking Alan, a trusted friend who was already in southern California, to help in any way he could, while my dad waited to board a plane that would take him to that same place.  After hanging up with my dad, as I am told, Alan got in his car and drove the hour to get to my university.  In the parking lot of my university, he ran into Daniel.  Daniel, the kindest of men, had heard the news of my disappearance and Alan urged him to get in his car.  Alan told Daniel that he would drive and Daniel would navigate where they were to go.  And so they drove.  They prayed that God would direct their car to me and He led them thirty miles, down freeways, up mountains, and around the final turn where they spotted the white Jeep.

Alan asked Daniel for the nearest hospital and Daniel relayed the directions and we began a bumpy ride down the mountain.  Alan took charge in the front and Daniel held me in the back.  His hands cupped my face just inches from his own and he begged for me to speak to him.  I remember being self-conscious of my breath as he asked me questions about my family. We talked about how my dad would make a good president, we shared our love for the San Francisco Giants, and then I gave him my final instructions.  I told him the name of each of the girls in my small group and I made him promise to look after them.  I told him what they needed prayer for and I think I cried because I knew I was letting them and my family down.

We arrived at the hospital and I remember very little from there on.  I vaguely recall doctors feeding me charcoal to absorb the poisons in my tummy and I know that I flat-lined more than once in that emergency room.  The doctors were not sure of my chances and I know I stumbled out of my coma to the sound of my brother’s and sister’s voices a day or so later (but that is a story for another day).

What I do know is this:  I called and He came to my rescue.  He sent his angels up that mountain so I would not have to make the journey down alone.  I am also sure that our faith is not a faith of feelings.  In my darkest hour, I not only felt that God was absent but I believed that He no longer cared for me.  I thought I was a disappointment to Him.  The truth is that He loved me all along.  He delivered me from the depths that I pray no other man has to see.  The Lord quieted my tears.  And when I cried out to Him, He answered me.

In my pain and exhaustion I was blinded to the truth.  My attempt to take my own life was not because I thought life would be better for the ones I loved without me around.  It was the answer to the lie that my God no longer wanted to hold me, that His strength was no longer available to me.

In the scriptures it says, “ The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:4

I take my stance behind Him.  He is my rock, the fortress in which I reside.  My God delivers me and is where I find refuge.  My power, my strength, comes from Him. 

We must believe in His promises.  They must connect from our head to our heart.  The promises He has made are true.  I must rely on the words that are written.

My attempt to reach death before His timing is a part of my story.  You can call me crazy (but it will hurt my feelings) and you can say I am a fool.  I wonder at times why I had to go so far into the depths, but that is not as important as the real message of this story.

The truth is He saved me.  He sent two angels (to whom words will never do justice) to carry me to Him.  And He held me.  In fact, He was holding me all along.  God chose to extend grace to me by sparing my life. 

Six years ago today I tried to take my own life.  I lost my way because my feelings failed me.  Our faith is more than feelings.  We must stand upon a foundation of His promises whether we “feel” them or not.  It is my prayer that part of my story will remind others that God does care, even when we are sold the lies and led to believe otherwise by the evil one.

Waking up from that coma may have been the hardest moment of my life.  My brain’s first thoughts were four letter expletives and then I began the long and hard journey back to living.  Back to not only the belief, but to the foundation of truth that He loves me.  He is my rock, my power, strength, and fortress.  He has redeemed me.

I was born in December, but every year at half past March, I celebrate the chance He gave me to live again.  My faith is more than a feeling.  I will remain in His promises and each year I will crawl further and further from the wreckage of a lie that so horribly deceived me.  Whether I feel His presence or not, I shall remember through His promises that He is there.

Half Past March- Part II

 I remember the details of that day in vivid color and in foggy memories.  There are parts of the day that I so accurately remember and other parts that are completely blurred.  A few days prior I had been given a dosage of medication through an injection from one doctor while simultaneously starting a new prescription from another.  I had informed both doctors of said medications and each doctor proceeded without any revision to their treatment plans.  Unfortunately, both doctors did not cross reference all contraindicated drugs with the ones they had prescribed.  Turns out I was in fact taking two drugs that are not supposed to be taken concurrently.  As the days crept on, slowly I began to feel less and less like myself.

The day began like any other day.  I woke up and began working on a big paper I had due for one of my classes.  I finished the paper, printed it, and left it stapled on my desk.  It was a warm day and I headed to campus to finish work for my deadline as the graphic design editor of the school newspaper.  When my portions were ready for print, I decided to grab lunch with some friends from the paper. 

As we sat eating lunch, I remember being unable to track and participate in the conversations around me.  My mind was racing and my head continually swiveled around as I watched what seemed like a million students pass by.  Everything was in slow motion yet happening so quickly.  After barely touching any of my food, I excused myself, said goodbye to my friends, and hopped in my car to head to another portion of my college campus. 

I arrived onto a blinding part of campus as the sun’s rays reflected harsh bursts of light off of the huge white-cemented buildings.  I bounded the stairs and don’t remember what happened next.  I suppose I was looking for someone.  Maybe I was walking in circles.  I still wonder what I looked liked.  Was I walking fast, with a purpose?  Or were my steps slow, like I was lost?  The next thing I remember was that I was being stopped by someone, I don’t remember if it was a boy or girl, and they asked if I was okay.  I responded to them blankly, as if I had no idea why they would think I wasn’t okay.  It was then that I touched my face and felt that it was wet.  Was it raining?  Was I sweating?  I reached my hands to my eyes and realized they were tears.  My eyes weren’t watering from the bright sun but I was crying.

I quickly ran back to my car, buckled up, and began to drive.  By now I was sobbing.  The sobs were coming quickly and I couldn’t get them to stop.  My mind was racing and I kept yelling for God.  I believed that He didn’t hear me.  My body was overwhelmed with pain.  Physically, I could no longer take each stab of agony.  Mentally and emotionally, I was tired.  Exhausted to say the least.  For so long, I had kept a happy face, while inside I was screaming.  The physical pain was robbing me from any joy in my path. 

And then there was my heart, completely raw.  I was unable to comprehend why one tidal wave of physical torment was always immediately followed by another.  Spiritually, my heart felt like it had sunk.  I questioned if He cared, if He saw me, and if He knew there was nothing more I could take.  Amidst the sobs and the deafening silence of when I called for Him, I could not hear any of my God’s promises.

I swerved onto the freeway and headed west.  I had no idea where I was driving but I felt that since the world around me was spinning I needed to get away from it as quick as I could.  I grabbed for my phone and dialed my mom for what would be the first of several phone calls with her that day.  When she answered, I immediately began apologizing.  I needed her to know that it was nothing she or my dad had or hadn’t done.  It wasn’t coming to this because of them.  Then as the people pleaser in me could have predicted, I begged for her to not be mad.  I repeated over and over that I wasn’t strong enough to keep fighting and I remember telling her that I was tired.  Too tired to even go on.

I got off the freeway and headed back to my apartment.  I ran into my roommate and best friend back at our place.  I was crying and she knew something was certainly not right.  I tried to reassure that I was okay and that I just needed to be alone.  I grabbed all the prescription bottles in my medicine cabinet, threw them in a bag, changed into some cooler and comfier clothes, and dashed back to my Jeep.

This time I headed east.  Again, unsure of where I was going but trying to escape the feeling of suffocation that was pressing down on me.  I got off at an exit and pulled into a parking lot with a liquor store.  I didn’t have any cash on hand and was afraid if I got a bottle of something they would trace where I had last used my debit card.  The half empty water bottle in my backseat would have to do.

I drove north.  Making as many twists and turns up those mountain roads as I could.  My phone rang the entire time.  People were worried, word had gotten out that I was in a bad place, and everyone was desperately trying to find me.  I cried up those steep mountain roads and in heavy sobs asked God to take away the pain.

I’m not sure where I finally pulled off to the side and stopped my car.  I even wonder if I could navigate back to that place today.  I loaded my favorite worship song into my CD player and set it to repeat.  Text messages of people asking where I was flooded my phone.  I called my mom again.  But, I mostly sat there.  I was in over my head.  So weak and so tired.  The image that played over in over in my head was me, as a little girl, looking up to God, the Father.  With my arms raised I was begging Him to pick me up, to hold me.  And the only response I received was a displeased shake of His head.  He looked at me with disappointment and refused to pick me up.  I thought that He was ignoring me.  And with that lie, which I held as truth, I blindly believed in no other option.

(To be continued...)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Half Past March- Part I

 I was born in December and each year at half past March, I acknowledge another year’s passing.  Evidence on my driver’s license concludes that I’m in my mid to late twenties and this week I will celebrate six years of life.  It was a moment that formed over the course of a decade and each year, in the middle of March, I put one hand in front of the other, and crawl farther and farther away from the wreckage.

Faith requires more than a feeling.  The object of our faith entails complete trust and absolute confidence.  We are certain of our spiritual faith regardless of whether or not we hold in our hands actual evidence or proof.  It’s exhilarating, life changing, and all consuming.  The faith that we possess, as a Christian, is a discipline.  Each day, we decide to trust and exercise our faith in a God that we cannot see.  Faith in Christ births the love, devotion, and obedience that we exemplify in our relationship with our Creator.  Fortunately, God allows us moments where we can feel His presence and situations occur that strike us with the adoration He has for us and our belief grows even more because we are aware of His faithfulness. 

While faith is more than a feeling, there are times when we yearn for just that.  Where we might be able to feel His touch or constantly reside in comfort and peace because we “feel” that He is there.  I would even go as far to say, that His promises are easier to claim as truths when we “feel” Him.  But, feelings don’t always lead to truth and sometimes we build upon a feeling that was a lie to begin with.

I had my tonsils out when I was six and my appendix out when I was eleven.  Broke my back when I was thirteen and received a diagnosis of anorexia and severe depression that same year.  In the fall of my junior year in high school, I was hospitalized for a total of 9 kidney stones wreaking havoc on both of my kidneys.  That year alone I had three surgeries to clear the blockages I kept experiencing in my kidneys and that was the beginning of what would turn into 10 more surgical procedures and a debilitating ache that since hasn’t left. 

My sophomore year in college they discovered another health condition that led me to eleven more operations and not a pain free day in over a decade.  My body seems to have failed me.  The relentless pain stabs at my flesh, day after day, and year after year.  My abdomen looks like a treasure hunt map gone wrong because the incisions point to more than one “x” marks the spot.

While I briefly summarized the bullet points of a harried medical past, the facts don’t immediately point out the severe emotional effects of my constant uphill battle.  More than once I have fallen to my knees, gravel pressing into my bare skin, as the daunting task of the continued climb has paralyzed me.

The promise of the scriptures reads, “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.” Psalm 33:20.

On one day in particular, I sat hoping.  I cried and prayed and screamed and begged.  The pains outnumbered me.  I lost my grip in His hope, and began to believe, in a feeling, that He wanted nothing to do with me.

To Be Continued…