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Body Image, Faith, Identity, Relationships, Sex

Dirty Little Secrets- Don’t Touch

May 25, 2016

**DISCLAIMER: The content talked about in this post is of a mature and sexual nature. If you are uncomfortable with this type of material,  a young reader, or my grandma, please consider not reading. Thanks.**

Her name was Mindy. She lived up the street from me and we were in the same fourth grade class together. Her mom was a single parent so Mindy was home alone a lot. Often when I’d go over to play with her we’d be left alone in the house, no one to supervise what kind of trouble we might have been getting into.

Sometimes secrets come to you in obvious ways. Other times, they sneak in the back door. 

It was a typical afternoon at Mindy’s house. We had been playing with some Barbies when she told me she had something to show me.

In her room she had a daybed but not the pull out trundle bed that typically lived underneath. We’d often crawl in there and imagine we were hiding away on some kind of mysterious adventure. You know, kid stuff. However, this day, it became a place where secrets were born.

She began to tell me me she wanted to show me something that feels really good. What followed is a bit foggy still in my memory simply because, at the time, I didn’t have a name for what she showed me. Now I know it to be masturbation. I was nine.

For the next decade I would occasionally engage in masturbation,  knowing somewhere in my heart that it was wrong, feeling confused as to why it felt good, and still not understanding exactly what I was doing. It was a tornado of fear, shame, embarrassment and pleasure.

These kind of things weren’t talked about in the circles I operated in. My youth group would have never thrown around the word masturbation, and if they did, it was behind closed doors in hushed conversations. As I grew, I learned the word and what it meant, but only that it was a foul and horrific act that only the grossest of men ever struggled with. Women don’t lust and we most certainly NEVER ever touched ourselves.

I’m really not sure when all the pieces finally started to fit together and I had my big “ah-ha” moment that what I had been doing all those years was masturbation. Maybe I had known all along but was finally able to actually admit it. I don’t know. I just remember feeling like crap and thinking I had become one of those disgusting people my youth group leaders talked about.

I wish I could tell you the moment that the “ah-ha” came, my desire to masturbate left. But it didn’t. It took time. Lots of false starts and set backs. It was in the tiny everyday choices to desire something better for myself, and changing my thoughts to actually believe I was worth that something better, that finally made me stop altogether. But it was a long road.

The shame, well that one took a bit longer to go away. Honestly, I’m not sure it’s really left me yet. There are still moments I still feel like that scared little girl, hiding under that bed, wondering what just happened to my innocence. I get afraid that people (aka my friends and family) will find out and hate me and think I’m gross. I still struggle to believe that God has even forgiven me for it.

Maybe you’re in the thick of sexual sin right now. Maybe, like me, you’re caught between shame and freedom; longing for one but stuck in the other. Hear me when I say this: YOU ARE NOT TOO BROKEN OR IMPURE OR VILE TO GAIN FREEDOM. These places?  This is where grace is born. These battles? Well, they are the catalysts for growth and joy, and yes, even life.

I’ve been struggling to find a way to end this post well. How to wrap this messy topic up in a bow that will make it all nice and pretty and wonderful. But I got nothing. Because life isn’t like a tv show and things don’t just magically work out in forty five minutes.

So, instead, I am choosing pray a prayer for you. May it meet us both where we need it.

I pray that you will know that you ARE loved and are WORTHY of love.

I pray you know that even in your sin you are treasured and valued.

I pray that you would see that in these dark places, light is shining through, you just have to look for it.

I pray you would seek out the light.

I pray that you would see that there is an army of women, me included, who have walked the path before you and are ready to link arms and go to war for the freedom of your heart.

I pray you’d be brave.

I pray you’d find the courage to tell your secrets and let yourself be known.

I pray that those you tell would receive you with grace and love.

I pray you’d choose more for yourself than immediate and fleeting pleasure.

I pray that you would feel God’s grace, love and mercy, even in the middle of your sin.

I pray for you to give yourself grace. That you’d believe that it’s more about the journey rather than the destination. That you’d know freedom doesn’t come overnight, but that it will come.

And lastly, I pray that you and I would know that these secrets, well they may speak into our past, but they don’t dictate our future.

Lived loved sweet friend. Embracing hope with you. -H

Faith, Identity

Dirty Little Secrets: My Spot on the Couch

May 11, 2016

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“Once upon a time, you had it all beautifully sorted out. Then you didn’t.”
– Sarah Bessey, Out of Sorts

I never thought I’d be the one sitting on that big couch.

I never thought I’d be rattling off my doubts and insecurities to a stranger with a notepad and a degree…I mean, that’s what I have friends for, right?

My problems aren’t big enough to “need help”…not that kind, anyway.

I believed every stigma attached to the idea of counseling. I had myself pretty well convinced it’s great for other people – people with serious issues, people who have faced the worst traumas or are in the midst of things like addictions, self-harm, or family turmoil – but “it’s just not for me.” I don’t fall under any of the appropriate categories that deem counseling necessary.

But then life got overwhelming. Confusing. Messy. And I found myself wondering, what if life itself is a good enough reason to give it a shot?

 

Writing out my story on the blog launched me into a season of extreme self-awareness. By publicly airing out some of my dirtiest laundry, I felt like my imperfections had been amplified. Not only was I fully exposed to readers, family and friends, but I couldn’t hide from my own mess anymore.

On top of that, from the day I moved to Nashville ten months ago, nothing – and I mean absolutely nothing – has looked the way I thought it would. I arrived with plans. Goals. Dreams. Passion. Ambition. Confidence. I expected my life to take off. Nashville was where all the pieces would really start falling into place for me.

I should have known it wouldn’t be that simple.

Instead of living the dream, I’m working a mundane retail job that I can’t stand. It was supposed to be temporary until I could get settled here. Then I would pursue my passions. But I quickly realized I actually have no idea what I want to do with my life. So I’ve just stayed put. Waiting for a door to open (ANY door at this point). I feel stuck. Without purpose. A dreamer without a dream.

 

It took me a while, but it finally hit me – who says my day-to-day struggles aren’t “big enough” for counseling? We’re all fighting some kind of battle. And just because my battle doesn’t look like yours doesn’t mean it’s any easier for me. At the end of the day, we all just want to be heard and seen and have someone say that the things we’re feeling are valid.

And I’m certainly no exception.

So I did it. The secret’s out. I started going to counseling. And I have never felt more vulnerable, alive, uncomfortable or free.

I’ve been going for almost two months now. It only took three sessions for the casual “get-to-know-you” stuff to end and for the real digging to begin. I left that day feeling angry and exposed. But after one short hour, I had connected so many dots between my past and who I am now, and I walked away understanding myself and my life better than I could have imagined.

All it took was one. hour. to shed light on so much of where I’ve been and where I am. It was exhausting and painful, but dang…I left wanting more.

I’ve learned how beneficial counseling is, in the big issues AND the small, and my struggles ARE worth talking about and seeking help navigating through.

Counseling isn’t something to be ashamed of. And believe me, I’m still learning that. I wrote, deleted and rewrote this post a dozen times because, while I know counseling is good and normal, I still wrestle with what other people are going to think. I feel the need to over-explain myself, to convince all who read that I’m not that messed up.

But you know what? The truth is I’m in counseling because I’m broken. It’s that simple. My life is a mess, nothing makes sense, my heart feels like it’s been run over by a freight train a few times, my whole world is like a snow globe that someone has turned upside down and just keeps shaking relentlessly…and sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe.

But once a week when I plop down in my spot on that big couch, I find a moment to take a big, deep breath again. I look my notepad-ready stranger in the eye and I admit my need for guidance and grace. And as long as I keep finding exactly that, I’ll keep going. Because this is where I’m finally learning what it means to be set free.

Community, Faith

Courage, Dear Heart

April 27, 2016

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“Whatever we learn to do, we learn by actually doing it. By doing just acts, we come to be just. By doing self-controlled acts, we come to be self-controlled, and by doing brave acts, we come to be brave.” — Aristotle

I never would have thought of myself as someone who is brave. More accurately, someone who possesses great courage. Sure I’ve done cliff diving or ridden that questionable roller coaster- but that was always accompanied with a heavy dose of fear and the prevailing thought of “What the he– am I doing?” So yeah, big fat wuss over here.

Did you know that the word courage is actually a heart word? Quick school lesson: (just stick with me here people) but the word courage comes from the Latin word which means heart. In its whole, courage actually means: to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.

And isn’t that what we’re trying to do here? Tell our stories: the hopes, fears and everything in between? To gather our courage and become women who aren’t afraid to be real? Women who know that life is better together out in the open and not in the hidden spaces? So I guess you could say we all  have a lot more courage than we think we do.

When I left the blog last year I had no intention of coming back. My time was done and I had made peace with handing your precious hearts over to a new group of women who I knew would treasure you as much as I did. Something I learned last year was that love and care  sometimes can look a lot like letting go.

Over the past several weeks, Allison and I have been having a lot of hard conversations. Better yet, a lot of courageous conversations. We talked about heart and vision and unity and passion and calling. I asked hard questions and Allison gave hard answers. And together, we made a really hard, yet really courageous decision. Allison is leaving AGLM and I am stepping back in.

After serving as leader of this blog it became clear to Allison just how much she loves ministering to young women like yourselves. However, she also realized that the kind of girl and way she wants to reach that girl doesn’t quite fit the vision of AGLM. So, she is taking the bold move to step away from AGLM to better focus on the place in ministry where her heart’s passion truly lies. She’s writing a book, blogging on her own site and counseling/mentoring  women in her community. She’s bravely stepping into serving in the place her heart feels led, and you know what? We couldn’t be more thrilled.

Taking the reins of this blog back over wasn’t exciting for me, let’s be honest. I worked dang hard last year to let it go. To surrender it. What was going to happen if I came back? Would the passion still be there? Would I even have the energy to do it again? Would you guys still want to hear from me or had this thirty-something year old become irrelevant?

I can’t say I have the answers to these questions, but I can say that I’m anxious to find them out and the only way I can do that is by fearlessly jumping back in. So I jumped.

If courage is the telling of who we are with our whole hearts, I wonder what stories you and I have yet to share? Fears that live only in the silent tears we use to cry ourselves to sleep. Hopes and dreams that are only spoken in the hidden pages of journals and desperate prayers.

I wonder what would happen, if together, we all grabbed onto that courage and hand in hand faced the untouched parts of our stories with unguarded grace and guts. I don’t know the answer to that question either, but I’m ready to find out.

** If you’d like to continue to follow Allison on her journey, you can find her on her Instagram or her Blog.**

Faith, God, Relationships, Spiritual Life

God is Ironic

April 13, 2016

head vs heartIf I ever doubted before that God hears me, I certainly don’t now.

Remember when I wrote about how deeply I desire companionship and long to be in love, and how much I’ve prayed for that? Well…God heard me. And He answered. But not quite the way I expected.

A couple months ago, a guy I dated in the past (but haven’t talked to in two years) waltzed back into my life. I thought we were just two old friends catching up. Recently, however, it became clear that he was pursuing me. And I didn’t know it. I thought we were just talking. He thought we were “talking.” (It’s hard to believe those two things could be so easily confused…*face-palm*)

This guy was a great friend. I have a lot of respect for him, and at one point I really thought I could see myself with him. But when it came down to it, I knew he wasn’t the right guy. So I had to put an end to the relationship that had been developing right under my completely oblivious nose…and walk away.

I felt like I had just gone through a break up, in a weird sort of way. It wasn’t fun. And it kind of felt like some cruel joke…I mean, come on, the only guy to show interest in me in two years was a guy I’m no longer interested in. Thanks, God…

But, though I ultimately didn’t feel this guy was right for me, he was close. And for the first time in a while it seemed Prince Charming might not be too far off. So I prayed boldly, and I literally told God to “bring it on.”

The very next day, a guy I met at work asked me out.

Yep. I can’t make this stuff up.

I spent a couple weeks getting to know him, and I found him to be exactly what I always thought I wanted. I’m not sure I’ve ever really known what my “type” was, but I think it was him.

So God gave me what I asked for. The guy I told Him was right for me.

But even more than that, He gave me the pursuit that I wanted. I wanted a guy to see me across the room and say, “I have to have her.” I wanted the “good morning, beautiful” texts and the lift-me-off-the-ground goodbye hugs. I wanted someone to hold my hand, plan fun dates, and to catch them staring when they thought I wasn’t looking. And I got all of those things.

But he wasn’t pointing me to Jesus. I could tell we were at much different places in our faith. I felt like he was such a great guy who I enjoyed being with and getting to know, but without that crucial spiritual component, I knew I couldn’t keep seeing him.

Everything in me was screaming, “No! This feels good! This is what you want, right? Stay here in the romance, where you feel wanted and special.”

And yet, somewhere deep in my heart I knew a flirty romance, butterflies and strong chemistry wouldn’t be enough. I knew I needed someone who would lead, encourage and challenge me in my faith, and I couldn’t see that in him.

So I had to fight the strength of physical attraction for the sake of spiritual connection and have a really hard conversation with him, ending things before either of us got more invested. Unfortunately, what could have been a peaceful decision to do what’s best for both of us actually became a painful show of his true colors, leaving me to walk away hurt, confused and angry.

So let’s recap: In the course of a week, I “broke up” with one guy who I didn’t know was pursuing me, went on a few dates with another guy, broke things off with him, and experienced my first real heartbreak.

I’ve felt all the feels I think I could possibly feel over the past few weeks. A month ago I was mad at God for not giving me what I wanted. Now I’m mad at God for giving me exactly what I asked for and allowing me to be burned by it. It seems a little ridiculous.

Through it all, though, He’s shown me that many of the things I want in a guy aren’t wrong. But I can’t be romanced by romance alone. There’s something to be said for a man who loves Jesus, who prays for the woman he will one day marry, and who leaves every other woman he encounters along the way in better condition than what he found her in. That’s the kind of man I need, and that’s the kind of man who’s worth waiting for.

Ya know, after all of this, I have to laugh. God, in His irony, answered my prayers just to show me that I have no idea what I’m actually praying for. He gave me exactly what I wanted to show me it isn’t what I need.

Oh, and in the midst of all of this? Heather and Nina have been basically campaigning for another guy who they believe could be my perfect match. I’m just hoping cupid’s aim has gotten a little better this time. 😉

It’s funny…we always want to make God out to be so serious and “all-business.” But I bet He laughed when Christ was on earth and one of the disciples farted. I bet Jesus tripped over a rock in his path a time or two and God got a good chuckle out of it. And I bet He’s up there laughing at me now trying to navigate the love life I didn’t know I had. So I guess I can laugh at this romantic comedy I’ve found myself in, too.

Faith, God, Spiritual Life

God is the visionary

April 6, 2016

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You know when you plan something in your life to go a certain way, but then God takes it and says, “Nope, I’m taking you somewhere different”…

That’s happened to me many times. And it’s happening to me now.

I know that God is for me. Even if life doesn’t seem good at the moment, He is using it for my good.

I know that God has a very specific and amazing plan for my life.

And I know that His plans are always better than my plans.

I have had so many times in my life that I’ve learned these things about God, like:

  • In high school I wanted and planned to go to a magnet school so badly that my best friends were going to, but I didn’t get in.
  • I tried out for the volleyball team in high school (I had already been playing volleyball at my previous school), but didn’t make the team.
  • I enrolled at my dream school in NYC the end of my senior year of high school but ended up not receiving the scholarship money I thought I would receive, so I had to go to a university in my home town.
  • One summer in college, I planned to go on a mission trip to Venezuela, but ended up breaking my leg so I couldn’t go.
  • In college I had at least 5 break-ups, and I obviously didn’t begin those relationships planning to break-up.
  • After I graduated from college, I applied to a job that I was 90% sure I was going to be offered, but they decided to hire someone else.
  • I wanted to move out of my home town and tried to find a way, but it was always clear that God wanted me to stay here.
  • I broke up with a guy right after college because I knew it wasn’t who God had for me after we both talked about getting engaged.

Those are just some of the major times I have learned that I may try to plan what’s best for my life, but ultimately, God is in control, and knows the best plan for my life.

He is the greatest visionary.

His plans for you are greater than yours could ever be, no matter how hard or how long you plan.

And out of all  8 of those major plans I had for my life, I don’t wish any of those to have gone the way I had originally planned. I am so glad I let go (or was forced to let go) and allowed God to establish my steps for me.

Since I graduated from seminary in December, I have been on a journey of figuring out what’s next for me. I am planning my steps, but again, God is the visionary for my life. He establishes my ways.

I’m learning to go after what I’m excited about doing and trying not to overthink it. If God wants me to continue in whatever that is, He will make a way. And if He doesn’t, He will make that obvious too. God doesn’t reveal His plan for you in the sky or spell it out for you in your cereal. It’s not always direct at first. That’s why He calls us to live by faith, not by sight.

Sometimes when God reveals his vision for us, it means letting go of something you love. Following God’s plan is an act of sacrifice and walking by faith is usually not easy.

The more that we trust Him and just step out and DO what’s in front of us, following desires and the steps He gives us, the more evident His plans become. Sometimes it’s hard to explain. And sometimes others won’t understand what you’re doing, but I promise that following God is worth it. Trusting and surrendering to God’s plan for you is the most fulfilling way to live. And even if you don’t understand  what He’s doing, that is the beauty of TRUSTING Him and not your own plans. You’ll look back on your life and see the beauty that God was weaving together for you all along.

Faith, God, Spiritual Life

God is a Farmer

March 30, 2016

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Corndogs and French fries. I was the skinny kid who refused to eat vegetables. I should probably be dead due to the number of frozen hot dogs I’ve consumed. I was so picky about fresh foods that I remember spilling my orange juice on myself one morning in elementary school so I wouldn’t have to drink it. Stubborn? Yes. Extreme? Absolutely.

My mom usually keeps books once she reads them and there are about a dozen parenting books in her closet on different methods to get a kid to EAT SOMETHING. Yeah, it was bad. Yeah, I still apologize to her for her having to wonder if her firstborn was going to contract scurvy. Yeah, that’s the disease pirates get after months without fresh fruits and veggies in their diet.

Watermelon was her only hope. At a pool party in fifth grade, one of the moms brought out a tray with half a watermelon cut up into slices. I ate the whole thing by myself while the other kids were swimming. Call me a sneaky fox! Something about that bright and juicy fruit had me mesmerized. Then she convinced me that carrots were good for my eyesight so I’d come home from school every day for years and eat ONE carrot. Pathetic.

All the while, our small elementary school had a tradition to uphold. Every Friday, the fifth graders would help in the butterfly garden with Mrs. Bucky, a half-blind, hunched-over old-lady gardener. We would plant new plants, weed around the pathways, and learn the names of all the butterflies. I stuck to her side like glue and thought she was a flowery botanical genius. This was my Gardening 101 and it has stuck with me for years.

Our family would also head out west every summer and we usually ended up in Rocky Mountain National Park. Horseback riding became my favorite way to spend time and the mountains taught me how small I was. Fresh air got in my soul. These summers created my need for time outdoors and I studied environmental science from there on out.

So after years of trying one new food at a time and letting my stubborn walls against new vegetables down, I went to college. Somehow, the local food movement in Nashville was intriguing and the salad bar became my best friend. Organic agriculture turned out to be the way I could help the earth, help people, and study science to put it all together. I lived on a farm in Indiana two years ago, interned on a non-profit farm for my senior year of college, and worked on an organic farm last year.

Now, I see God in my garden. I know Him on a farm. We all tune in to the heartbeat of God in a different way and it shapes us one moment at a time. I know that God is a farmer.

I see the face of a sunflower follow the sun across the sky throughout the day. We were meant to fix our eyes on heaven.
I see honeybees travel from flower to flower in the spring- the pollen feeds the bees and the bees help the flowers become fruit. We need each other.
I see my ten foot tall cherry tomato plant produce more fruit than I can eat on my own. The harvest is best when it’s shared.
I see the dead leaves on the ground in the fall becoming the nutrients that the garden needs in the spring. Redemption wins when death becomes life.
I see huge carrot come out of the dirt when I pull on the green tops. Growth is happening even when I can’t see it.
I see myself sitting in the row between the peppers and the beans on a summer evening after an emotionally exhausting day and how God whispers in the breeze to breathe it all in. We need a place of solitude for God to tell us it’s going to be okay.

He is the grower of seeds. He is the provider of rain. He gives the birds their song and the bees their wings. He is the ultimate farmer. In Genesis, creation happened in a garden. Earth is God’s farm and we are all His farmhands.

Plant a seed and see what happens!

Community, Faith, God, Relationships

God is All-Satisfying

March 23, 2016
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“I have found a desire within myself that no experience in this world can satisfy; the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” C.S. Lewis
 
One thing that I consistently struggle with is unmet expectations.
 
I have always considered myself to be flexible and adaptable, and although that may be true as far as overseas missions go, I have found myself falling into the trap of unmet expectations for the last couple of years. It is never fun to admit to and one of those “ugly” habits that I wish I didn’t struggle with.
 
Our expectations are never truly realized until they aren’t met. When things go our way we usually just respond with excitement and joy instead of saying “Oh my goodness! All my unspoken expectations were just met!” Our expectations seem to be realized when our plans don’t go right and when either people or experiences disappoint us. Then we will be quick to realize those specific things we didn’t even know we wanted.
 
I struggle with not being where I thought I’d be at this stage in my life. I think we can all attest to that in some way.
I struggle with not having a job that is involved with what I’m most passionate about.
I wonder if I will ever live overseas like I have always dreamed of.
I fear what my “normal” will be like with a husband traveling out of town so much.
No church will ever be perfect, but I have had to face unmet expectations with the church that we go to.
I struggle with feeling like I’m not meeting other’s expectations.
I could drown myself in worrying about what others want or need or desire from me on a daily basis.
 
The list can go on and on and on…. SO. MANY. EXPECTATIONS.
 
Is anyone else just tired of them? When do they end? Do they ever end? What is the solution to stop being so disappointed or stop being the one to disappoint?
 
The only thing I know to do is fix my eyes on Christ. It’s not just the church-y answer. It can be confusing, frustrating, messy and imperfect…but it’s the ONLY way to free myself from expectations.
 
When I look to Christ, I see that He is truly all-satisfying. I can try so hard to make all of my dreams come true, and I can try every day to make things go the way I planned…but even if that were to happen, I still wouldn’t be fully satisfied.
THAT is the lie of unmet expectations: That if somehow we get everything we want, we will be happy. Christ teaches differently. He tells us that HE is the only one who can fully satisfy our soul’s longings, and until we are face to face with Him, we will always have that sense of unmet dreams, unmet plans, and unmet desires. It’s God’s way of reminding us that we were made to be fully satisfied in Him, and not in this world.
 
This is a real tension and struggle for us believers. God is teaching me that it’s how I respond to all my unmet expectations that counts. I need to constantly remind myself that this life is temporary, and that getting everything my heart desires isn’t the most important thing. When I think about it hard enough, I truly don’t want my life to be all about me. I want it to be for something greater than what my earthly desires create in my mind. I need to release control and TRUST in my Father who loves me so dearly. Loving God and loving others, in the midst of whatever unfulfilled circumstance we’re in is what God calls us to do. I want to have my eyes so fixed on Christ that everything in this life will fall in comparison to the satisfaction I have in my Father.
 
I’m trying to free myself from the burden of unmet expectations by laying my life, my plans, my dreams at the foot of the cross. I’m not the one in control and I want to be okay with that. God doesn’t promise to give us what we want, but He does promise that we can find all of the fulfillment and acceptance and satisfaction we need, in Him alone. And one day, when we are with Him for eternity, we will NEVER feel disappointment again.
Can I get an amen for that?! The struggle is real, ladies. Thank you Jesus for that promise because He knows we all need that today.
Faith, Fear, God, Relationships, Spiritual Life

God Is Understanding

March 16, 2016

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If you were to ask me what is the one thing that I desire most in life, I would probably tell you about my dream job that would allow me to travel all over the world, drink tea and lattes all day long, and have deep conversations with people…and get paid for it.

Or I’d share with you the vacation I have planned to take my family on if one day I find that tree people say money grows on.

Or I would rattle off all of the things that make up the perfect life I’ve imagined on Pinterest.

And while each of those things certainly rank high on my list (however unlikely they may be 😉 ), there is still one desire that trumps them all…one I tend to keep hidden so deep in my heart because somehow I think if I tell anyone what I wish for, it won’t come true.

But really, if I’m completely honest, what my heart longs for more than anything is companionship.

Gosh, I just want to be married. I’m almost 23, I’m young and “I have my whole life ahead of me.” But when it seems like everyone around me is falling in love and getting married, it feels like this constant reminder that I’m alone.

Some days it’s like, if I see one more relationship status update on Facebook…
…if I hear one more sappy date story…
…if I see one more engagement ring on my Instagram feed…
…if I get one more “you plus one” wedding invitation (and if THAT one isn’t a double whammy…”not only am I getting married and you’re not, I’m inviting you to bring a date that you don’t have.”)…
Lord, help me…it might just drive me to Christian Mingle. I mean, obviously nothing else is working…

Friends, can I be candid? Sometimes singleness just sucks. I know there is so much good that comes out of this time, so much freedom in being able to focus on me, go anywhere, do anything. This season should be embraced. But that doesn’t change the fact that sometimes (most times) I just want someone to do life with. I want my own fairytale. I want to be in love.

I have prayed soooo much about this. Seriously, if you could see my journals…

But every week, Friday and Saturday night roll around and the closest I come to a hot date is lounging in my sweatpants with Heather, catching up on the Bachelor (sorry Heather, but sometimes I want to spend my weekends with someone a little more “tall, dark and handsome.” 😉 )

For one more week my prayers go unanswered. And you know what?

I’m mad at God.

There. I said it. I’m mad at Him because I feel like He’s holding out on me. I’m annoyed because He knows what I want, what I have been hoping and dreaming for, and He’s fully capable of giving it to me! But for some reason He’s holding back. I feel like He’s not listening. I feel like I’m being punished. All of which I know isn’t true, but it doesn’t make me feel any less lonely, like I’m missing out and He doesn’t care.

But He does. That’s just it. He understands what I’m feeling because He’s the one who gave me that desire to be married and walk through life in partnership with someone else. He knit this longing for love into my being when He made me.

He gets it. He understands my anger and my frustration. He understands my confusion and my impatience. And because He understands, He gives me so much grace for when I don’t understand Him.

So to you, single girl…don’t feel guilty if you can’t find joy in this season, if you’re tired, if you’re jealous…I get it. I’m right there with you, and I understand. But more importantly, so does He.

Faith, Family, Forgiveness, Redemption, Your Story

Redemption even when hopeless

February 19, 2016

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Written by one of our readers:

My story begins 6 or 7 years ago. Not because that was when I was born, but because major stuff has been happening in my life since then. You see, my parents separated when I was 2 (I’m 26 now), and my mom raised me and my younger brother as a single parent. Growing up we spent a considerable amount of time with our dad, but we lived our day-to-day lives without him.
About six or seven years ago, my dad and I had a huge fight- a fight big enough that it has kept us apart all these years.
I was hurt, angry and upset not just for this one incident but for a lifetime of hurt and pain that had been bottled up or excused away my whole life. I told myself I would never let anyone else treat me that way ever again. So I began to isolate myself and slowly gained about 150 pounds.
Long story short, I had a very personal encounter with the Lord. He made Himself so real that I just couldn’t ignore it, and it was also then that I heard His voice for the first time. So I made a commitment to follow Jesus. I went from not caring about myself or how I treated my body depressed and hurting, to having the motivation to become a healthy person both physically and spiritually.
Fast forward to last year. I found out that my dad was diagnosed with cancer. Not from him but from my brother who heard it from various family members. I was so hurt that he wouldn’t just call to talk to me I decided then and there that I didn’t care anymore. I was not going to waste my time and energy on someone who obviously didn’t want me there. The problem with my way of thinking is that God wasn’t done with him yet.
My uncle called and left me a message last week. “If you have anything to say to your dad, you need to come now”.  I felt the Holy Spirit say to me that this was it- I needed to go. So Friday last week one of my best friends offered to make the 4.5 hour trip with me to see him.  We get to the hospital to see him, and I cannot explain the level of peace that I felt in that room. I’m not sure what I expected to find, but it sure wasn’t peace. My dad and I sat next to each other and talked for the first time in years. He held my hand the entire time, and just could not stop looking at me.

Before I left I looked at my dad and asked “Hey, can I pray for you before I leave?” “Sure.” he said- and I did. I did what I thought I could never do. I prayed for peace, mercy and love to overtake him. I prayed healing over his cancer-ridden body. I held his hand and made eye contact with him for the first time in years. I also remember putting my hand on his face and saying “I just want Jesus to become more and more real to you.” His response was “He becomes more and more real every day.”
I never thought I could do it- and I promise you if it were up to me I wouldn’t have.  This is the beauty of our God- He chooses and transforms even the most unlikely of people. But these are exactly the kind of people that Jesus looked at and said, “Come. Follow Me.”
I got into the car and I felt like a giant weight had been lifted off of me. The memory of the last awful confrontation I had with my dad years ago has haunted me every day since it happened. I got saved, joined a church, went through Freedom ministry, conferences, personal ministry sessions, and even went through processing my feelings and thoughts with people I love and trust who love me unconditionally.  I could not break free of this memory. It kept me from feeling like people really love me; like I am good enough…it even affected me being able to fully realize the Father’s love for me.

It was not until the Holy Spirit in His perfect timing told me clearly to go that it changed. Now the last memory that we have of each other is good and peace filled.  But here’s the crazy part. I had to get up and go. My father was never going to make the first move. But what if it was never all about me? Sitting in that hospital room, I found that there were some things that I had to apologize for. My selfish and self centered attitude for one. You see, I had made this entire situation about what he did to me- my anger and my pain and hurt took over and I allowed those thoughts to distance me from him. That day, it just wasn’t about me.
Here’s an even cooler epilogue to the story- remember the peace I talked about? The peace I felt in the room that I couldn’t understand? My crazy awesome Jesus loving friend who went with me said in the car- “I bet your dad had an experience- that’s why you can’t explain it.” I thought to myself, well maybe he has…I’m not sure.
I arrived at my mom’s house the next day and was telling her how the visit went, and how I was able to lay hands on my father and pray for him. She said “well, you know he’s had a lot of people go in and out of his room praying for him…you brother said when he was there yesterday one of his old co-workers stopped by, had your dad kneel and led him through salvation.”
YOU GUYS. I’m not sure there are enough words to convey what I am feeling here. In my mind, this could never happen. This is a man I was convinced was too far gone… and he’s wasn’t. Jesus still came and was with both of us the whole time.
I want to encourage anyone who feels like there is a relationship that is past mending- I promise you it isn’t. If we let God write our story, it will turn out more beautiful than we could ever have imagined.

 

*Ashley’s Dad passed away this past week, just a few days after Ashley wrote this post for us. We are so thankful that she let us into her story. We love you, Ashley. -AGLM

 

photoMy name is Ashley Garza. I am 26 years old and have been following AGLM for the last 3 years.

 

Body Image, Community, Faith, Family, Identity, Suffering, Your Story

Back Story

February 17, 2016
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Nina’s Story
This right here is like hundreds of coffee dates at one time. Telling our stories to each other reminds me of common threads- joyful days, hard days, belly laughs and ugly cries, pasts and futures that get us all jumbled in the head. Welcome to my belly laughs and ugly cries.
So I was born in south Florida to a southern Kentucky girl and a Colombian papa bear. My parents met on a blind date and were married a few months later. A few years later, I came along and when I came out of the womb, my dad called me “coconut” because of my already thick and dark hair- probably not the most romantic thing my mom could’ve heard in that moment, but anyway…
Next came my brother who probably arrived on earth kicking a soccer ball. We argued a lot growing up, but we were constantly together- playing outside, at each other’s games, watching the same movies, and I may or may not have slept in his room when we were little because I didn’t want to be alone at night. Tough, stubborn, strong older sister? HAHA!
We grew up with family close by and with a solid group of friends that felt like family. Consistently covered in sand from the beach, sidewalk chalk from afternoons outside, or water from the pool, my tendency was to play outside before anything else.
Jesus became real to me in seventh grade during worship at a conference that my youth group was attending. I felt His presence in a way that was unknown to me before and I realized God is closer than the breath in my lungs. Because of growing up in church, I knew the Bible stories but in the quiet days following this trip, I remember sitting behind our house looking into the backyard and asking Jesus to live in me. Since then, I’ve had stepping stones of my faith walk where I learn new parts of His character, but I treasure the memory of that day.
I guess I could further explain my “normal” childhood, sweet and stable family, church friends, the culture shock of public high school after private Christian middle school, and the joy of always having the ocean nearby. But I’d rather tell you about a secret.
In elementary school, I got X-Rays.
Sure enough, my spine showed up on the lit screen as a rotated and backwards “S” just like my mom and grandmas. At first, I was scared for my body because I knew something was wrong. But then I was scared because of shame, that it’d be impossible for me to be perfect because the very thing that held my body together was crooked. My bones weren’t broken, they were distorted.
The doctor sat with us for hours and tried to explain why I’d have to wear a brace while I slept for the next five years. And if it didn’t work to manage the curvature, they’d consider immobilizing parts of my spine with a metal rod to protect my organs from potential damage.
Confusion was paralyzing and I cried from deep fear and sudden panic.
And then I didn’t tell anyone.
Nobody knew my secret. For some reason, I shut up. I avoided sleepovers so that nobody would see the plastic brace I kept under my bed. I know it sounds dumb, but it was a monster to me. I kept my pain a secret for years and ran to hide my brace whenever someone came in the house. When I was in the trenches of the years of endless trips to the doctor, more X-RAYS, and uncertainty of progress, I was frustrated with my spine.
Looking back, I see how simple the situation was. My spine is crooked and God was so kind to put the best doctors in my life to help me heal. The whole story is grace-filled and I love sharing it now, but at the time I didn’t want anyone to realize my flaws.
In college, a friend taught me how to crochet a scarf. Although I’m still clumsy with the hook and yarn, I’ve seen yards and yards of thin string become messy but beautiful pieces of clothing. My first scarf was a disaster but you could still see the woven pattern despite my inability. In the middle of the project it’s impossible to see the fullness of the finished work.
To the girl with a medical history, I see you. Maybe you feel alone in that doctors office and like nobody else will understand what you’re going through- your disease, your deformity, your mental illness. Whether or not it is obvious to the world what’s going on inside you, believe that it is for good somehow. And that it’s okay if you can’t see it now. I know that it is dark and hard and waiting for news sucks, but oh the freedom I’ve found in sharing the struggle. Such freedom. Such grace.