A Girl Like Me http://agirlikeme.com Wed, 01 Jul 2015 14:44:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 On Seeking More Than A Curehttp://agirlikeme.com/on-seeking-more-than-a-cure/ http://agirlikeme.com/on-seeking-more-than-a-cure/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 14:28:52 +0000 http://agirlikeme.com/?p=2063 SW_Jordan+McQueen

I grew up knowing we would go two places religiously.
Church and Church Camp.
They were my places, they were filled with my people.

Church was where I was baptized and Church Camp where I recommitted my life… every. single. summer.  The two places are so intertwined in my memory I cannot think of one without remembering the other.

No matter where we moved, Fairview was home and Wesley Woods our home in the woods.  I was my most brave self in these places; my most vulnerable and innocent, most trusting and free spirited.

Church and Church Camp were also two places I was most deeply hurt.

Church Camp was the thing that made me the topic of a mean girl’s xanga post in sixth grade.
Church Camp was the place I was told someone had “run out of grace” for another.
Church was where I was told to, “get the hell out of my pew.”
Church was where I shared that her placenta had maybe torn and it was whispered in my ear, “perhaps it’s for the best.”

And of course it wasn’t The Church or The Church Camp who hurt me- but in the same way the smell of chlorine makes me think of Thanksgiving, or a single line in a song makes me twenty-one again… the hurts and the memories and the people and the places are all tangled up together in this mess of emotion.

I don’t think it’s a surprise or coincidence or even that poetic to be deeply hurt in places where I once felt most at home.  I don’t think it’s a mistake or incredibly unjust.*

I think this world is fallen and we are broken.
I think this in not our Eden.
I think the places our hearts are most vulnerable are the places at most risk of being deeply hardened.
And more than that- I believe we are a culture more concerned with finding a cure for our hurts than healing from them.

Today, and every day, you have permission
to not be tough.
to cry if you need.
to question and doubt and be confused.
to have an extra cup of coffee and sit with Jesus.
to seek more than just a cure.

There is grace enough for your hurts at the cross.
And there is grace enough here for you!

Healing will look different for each of us, and it will take a different amount of time, but the same Christ.  I love you girls, and so wish I could sit with you through the hurt and heartaches.  I wish relationships were easier and childhood memories were always innocent.  But I pray healing will come so fully and so deeply that you will be even more yourself at the end of this journey than you are today.  I pray for peace and courage that surpasses all understanding to surround you today.  I pray your own Church and Church Camp places will be restored.

“I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships so will our healing, and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside.” ― Wm. Paul Young

*note:: if you are being abused or neglected, physically, sexually, emotionally, or otherwise- please seek immediate help and shelter from someone you can trust.  this post was written from the perspective of hurt feelings, mean girls, and people who just say the wrong things sometimes.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE

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Trudging Through The Mudhttp://agirlikeme.com/trudging-through-the-mud/ http://agirlikeme.com/trudging-through-the-mud/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 09:00:28 +0000 http://agirlikeme.com/?p=2042 4812006515_c318b86d66_b

I learned recently that in between winter and spring exists a season referred to as the “mud season.” It’s the time when the ground is slowly starting to thaw just enough for the snow to melt, but not enough for new life to spring forth. The moisture from the melted snow collects on the ground creating a layer of mud everywhere. It’s messy, ugly, and hard to drive on. As long as the cold remains, the mud season stays. It’s only when the sun begins to warm the earth and the ground fully thaws that the mud will recede and spring makes its way. Kind of depressing, I know.

For the last six months I’ve felt like I’ve been stuck in my own personal mud season. This period of in between. Not the deadness of winter, but not the new life of spring either. I’ve felt aimless and hopeless. Lonely and lost. To tell you the truth, it is probably one of the darkest seasons I’ve ever walked through. And to get even more real, I’m not handling it well.

Six months ago I had plans. Plans for what this year was going to look like. Big dreams filled with big projects and great hope that God was going to use me this year for something amazing. That all the crumminess I had dealt with the year before would now be put to use to build up Jesus and His people and bring me that joyous harvest for all the previous year’s hard toiling. Wrong.

I found myself two months into this new year being asked to do something I didn’t expect. I was asked to let go. To let go of everything that made me feel like me. Ministries, passions, dreams, desires- all of it was to be handed over to God. Of course being the stubborn human I am, I fought back. I pushed and clawed. I sought new and different paths to get to where I wanted to go. Each time I did, God would slam the door close, reminding me once again that He was in control and what he wanted was for me to surrender to the mud. To embrace the season of the in between.

I wish I could tell you my immediate response was obedience and joy. I wish I could tell you that I was hopeful and expectant. But that’s a big ol fat lie. Instead, I threw a pity party. I cried for days on end. I stopped reading my Bible. I stopped talking to my friends. I got angry and bitter. If God was going to make me live in the mud season, He was going to have to drag me through it. And that’s exactly what He did.

One morning I was having breakfast with Kelly (you remember our lovely Kelly, right?) and she said something really impactful to me. She told me, “Maybe God is giving you this season to show you that even if your hands aren’t to something, you still are valuable to Him.” I knew she was right. I had built up so much of who I was based on everyone and everything around me that I thought as long as I had those things, as long as I was _____ kind of person, then God would love me and see me as valuable. But maybe, just maybe, He had to take it all away to show my how precious I was to him simply because I was me.

The idea felt simple enough, but is still a hard lesson to learn. Because as I moved forward, I didn’t know who “me” was. Some mornings I’d be picking out the clothes I was going to wear and I’d just start crying. I was so unsure of myself that even getting dressed was a struggle. Things I once loved didn’t seem to be as thrilling. Passions I once had began to fade. The me I had known no longer existed and I had no idea who this new Heather was. As time went on, it felt as though the proverbial mud was getting more dense and instead of walking through it, I was simply stuck.

Two weeks ago it all came crashing down. I had reached a point of exhaustion in this season of mud where I just didn’t want to go forward. Again, I found myself crying for days. Angry at God for keeping me here. Angry at my friends for not calling me to hang out or reaching out to me to see how I was. Angry at Jeff for getting to do something he loved. I had resolved that although I knew God was good, His goodness had run out when it got to me. He didn’t love me, because if He did, He’d get me out of the mud.

As Jesus would so lovingly have it, I happened to get a call from the one person who knew what I was feeling- my brother. He’s been in a mud season for almost three years now, and if anyone knew what it was like, it was him. After pouring out my woes to him through sobs, he laughed. Not because he saw my pain as funny, but because he knew something I didn’t. He told me that some days, it’s ok if all I can muster up to God are the words grace and strength. It’s ok if there are days when my legs are so tired of walking through the mud that all I can do is be drug through it by God. I just have to be willing to hold on.

Like I said, my brother is still in his mud season. But something he’s learned that I am working on, is moving from knowing to believing. I know God is good. I know He has a plan for me and that it includes me moving out of this season. I know it. But I don’t believe it.  Because when I believe that God still loves me, still has good for me, and won’t leave me stuck here forever…I begin to have hope again. I can begin to trudge through the mud, letting my legs get stronger as a result, able to run and embrace whatever lay beyond the in between.

I’m slowly coming to see that it’s in these moments when are at our greatest discomfort, feeling the least like ourselves, that we can fully see God for who He is and who he dreams for us to be. Sometimes it just takes us walking through the mud.

If you find yourself like me, trudging through your own season of in between, sister, you are not a lone. I see you, I ache alongside you, and I too am silently whispering moment by moment to God to just give me grace and strength for today. Together, let’s keep holding on to Christ, working to believe that spring is coming. Until then let’s embrace the mud, and with each step, find hope that whatever is next is just around the corner.

 

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Bear the Armorhttp://agirlikeme.com/bear-the-armor/ http://agirlikeme.com/bear-the-armor/#comments Wed, 17 Jun 2015 14:19:16 +0000 http://agirlikeme.com/?p=2037 armordetail

YO GIRLS!

Happy Summer to you! Every Wednesday morning, it is a rush for me to think about you ladies who are reading the newest post with anticipation—for us to get to know each other better, for a refuge from the craziness of the day, for hopefully getting one more glimpse of the mighty, beautiful God we serve.

Lately, we’ve been focusing on who we are as individuals- the characteristics and qualities that God has given us. On learning how to use what we’ve been given for the kingdom of God, how to embrace our quirks, how to answer the question “Who Am I?” honestly. And I don’t know about you, but if I spend too much time in my own head, I go crazy with the future and tend to forget the now.

 I am obsessed with knowing the next thing. Graduation. Marriage. Job.

But what about when we have no idea? What about when a season of life is coming to a close and we’re stuck with a big fat question mark? When we know Jesus is an extraordinary Savior and we have nothing to worry about but we still want to know.

Dear friend, if you’re there, I’m standing right there with you.

I’ve recently stepped out of a busy season doing my own thing into one of assisting the people I’m surrounded by. I am a helper. I am a supporter.

 

Maybe in the tension of wanting to know what God is “going to do with our lives” we should just look outward. In Matthew 22, Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment of all is, and He says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Love God, love people.

 

So I’m starting a social experiment on myself and you are more than welcome to join me.

I want to be an armor-bearer.

No, I’m not enlisting in the military.

1 Samuel 14 is a prime example.

Read it if you have a minute.

Imagine this:

Once upon a time, highly regarded military men would have the weight of the army on their shoulders. It was their responsibility to make decisions, take care of the troop, and protect the camp. They casted vision for their team. By being in the military in the first place, you are expected to respect, honor, and follow the leaders of the army. So every major had one man. One armor-bearer. Someone they trusted with their lives to walk and fight alongside them. While the major may have two spears in his hands, he was defenseless. The armor bearer would be the one holding a shield- being their rear guard, their front guard, all the while fighting with their soldier.

 

So this concept is figurative in many ways for us ladies, but listen,

Imagine living in the woods far from home.

Since you are an armor bearer, their schedule becomes yours.

You strap on heavy protective gear and carry the weight with joy.

When your camp is attacked, you go with your friend into the fight.

Being attentive to all sides, you encourage them to persevere.

It’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but it’s the tightest relationship you have now.

 

So when I get stuck in my own head about my future, my dream, my goals, the “what is God going to do with my life?”, I remember my duty and serious honor of being an armor bearer for the people God has given me to live alongside.

In 1 Samuel 14, God tells Jonathan to approach the enemy camp because He will deliver them into His hands. Jonathan tells his armor-bearer the plan and without hesitation, he gets up to follow Jonathan and says, “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.” There is great trust there.

Being an armor-bearer means taking risks for people. I pray that I would be useful to God in other people’s lives because of this thought.

 

I want to be my husband’s armor bearer to lift Him up.

I want to be my friend’s armor-bearer, to be her loyal confidant and to lovingly walk alongside her in her engagement.

I want to be my mom’s armor-bearer, to remind her of the grace God has given her for today and that what might seem like loss and distance may turn into greater growth in our family.

I want to be my future boss’ armor-bearer to encourage them in integrity.

I want to be my 87 year-old neighbor’s armor-bearer, to be her companion when she has few and to make sure she knows she is still a blessing to others.

This is not a burden, it is a great joy.

 

So when I ask, “What can I do for them?” God gives me room to learn more about His heart of service, which is eternally valuable.

You know the over-your-shoulder, breathing-down-your-neck, how-can-I-focus-at-all person who can’t leave you alone long enough to finish something you’ve already started? Sometimes I get a sense that I am that way with what God is doing.

So let’s spend our time being thankful for Him and not just what He gives us.

Let’s spend our time standing for the people in our lives, the easy-to-love and not-so-easy-to-love, bearing their armor.

And when we give of ourselves, may we see more clearly

 

Great is Thy faithfulness

Great is Thy faithfulness

Morning by morning new mercies I see

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Let’s be God’s Promise Believershttp://agirlikeme.com/lets-be-gods-promise-believers/ http://agirlikeme.com/lets-be-gods-promise-believers/#comments Wed, 10 Jun 2015 08:00:07 +0000 http://agirlikeme.com/?p=2030 cliff_jump
We are often asked when we are little what we want to be when we grow up. We are told to dream, to have the confidence to be whoever we want to be. We are told that we can do anything. We spend our days dressing up as Doctors, Ballerinas, Firemen, Artists, Rockstars, Detectives…we are engulfed in the innocence of believing these make-believe moments and have no doubt that we will be what we want to be when we grow up.

We are taught in elementary school about the historical figures who did great things, took great risks, and made huge impacts (whether good or bad) on our world, country, and states.  We learn about the great things presidents did, wars that were won, etc. However, we begin to lose the stories of the failures, the numerous rejections people face until that one acceptance that pushes them forward. As we grow older we hear less about the businesses that started in garages (Amazon, Google, Mattel just to name a few) and more about how we need to plan smartly, take the safe steps to make sure we are covered and secure. All through college I was told/taught how to present myself in an interview, what steps to take after graduation to get the perfect job, and how to work my way into success, even if it means giving up myself in the process.  While striving to work hard and always do your best is a necessary lesson that can lead you to success…risk is often left out. When risk was talked about it was fit into a controlled box that was still very thought out and had a fail proof back-up-plan. The definition of “risk” means that there is possibility of loss and failure. The words “vision” and “dreamer” are often used but then, when implemented, they often are looked on as immature, naive, and childish.

Girls, as a lot of you are heading into a new season of leaving for college or maybe about to head into the real world…wipe the slate clean and get ready to take risks. If God has given you dreams, created you to be a visionary…chase that. Work until you are too exhausted to think straight, take a nap, and get up and work some more…but do not give up on those dreams and do not let someone tell you that you are too much of a visionary. The world needs you. God created you with that gift. Don’t let the world squelch the four-year-old you who believed that you could do great things. Do everything with excellence and don’t expect a single thing to be handed to you (and be grateful for the blessing when something does). Work hard and when someone laughs at you or looks you in the eye and says “what have you got to offer, you’re just ________(young, a kid, a nobody). Keep your head up and move on.  You get the choice to walk humbly, but not lacking in confidence.Always keep the humility…know that without God your work is limited, but with Him it gives Him not you the glory.  You get to be a living, breathing example of the great things God can do through you, you the dreamer, you the visionary, you the one willing to try and fail and try and fail and try and fail until you make it…learning from each failure as you move forward.

Walt Disney’s first animation company went bankrupt and he was fired from a job after being told he did not have enough “imagination”. He was rejected around 302 times before he finally got the financing to start Disney.

And hopefully we all remember the story of the great man who invented the light bulb. Edison is famous for saying

“I have not failed. I have just found 9,999 ways that do not work.”

What if he had given up after trying 100 times? 5,000 times? 9,000 times?   The only time you should stop is if God directs you to do so.

Now all this “don’t give up, keep dreaming, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t” is great, but as Christians there is a deeper reason for this. It takes away the you. It takes the self glory and the “I did it” and instead points to the glory of the big God we serve. It puts you in the position to be a tool and a testament to His faithfulness.  When God calls you to do the impossible, to be a crazy visionary and you work hard, make sacrifices, and sit in from of person after person being told that there is too much risk, you must be too young, you don’t have what it takes….you keep trusting God not men. You keep walking faithfully because if He calls you to be obedient, you be obedient. If you’ve checked yourself, you have peace and you know that you have a calling, you keep going even if it seems like the end isn’t happening how you thought it would. When God promises, He keeps those promises, what may look like failure to the world could just be the next step freeing you from something that in the end, better prepares you for the job. Your faithfulness and perseverance is seen and gets to give God the glory when it all begins to fall into place.

Girls, lets be the modern day Noahs, acting in obedience even when the world says it’s crazy, let’s be the Abrahams and Sarahs, trusting that God’s promise would be fulfilled even if it means waiting patiently for years, let’s be the Josephs, persevering through the the desert times and trust the process even when we can’t see the whole picture…even when you seem crazy. And let’s not be those alone. Let’s be the women who stand next to the other Noahs, the other Sarahs…lets support and push each other forward in those visionary dreams and God spoken promises. Let’s walk together in unwavering faith…together.

I know you probably weren’t coming here for a pep talk on chasing dreams, working hard and facing failures. I’m sure I am repeating myself from past posts, but it seems to be a season, a relevant subject and something that so often is getting shut down. We are slowly become too safe, full of back-up plans, and heads full of other people’s opinions and voices telling us what we are and aren’t capable of. It’s time we start fresh, clear those voices and get back down to the one voice that matters…the one that created you, the one that has called you to be a tool for His glory, the one who has planned great things for you. As so many of you are in the season of new transitions remind yourself that there is one voice that matters. Advice, mentors, older and wiser people are needed and hold value…but always go to prayer first…seek His direction, check where you feel most at peace, question whether a goal is a self-set, self-driven dream or if it is a God given calling.

Go be dream chasers, visionaries, and God’s promise believers.

 

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Why I Don’t Love Devotionalshttp://agirlikeme.com/why-i-dont-love-devotionals/ http://agirlikeme.com/why-i-dont-love-devotionals/#comments Wed, 03 Jun 2015 13:03:12 +0000 http://agirlikeme.com/?p=2018 FullSizeRender-2

Growing up, my family went to every weekly church event. For me this meant Sunday school, children’s church, choir practice, church supper, GA/RA’s (it’s okay if you don’t know what this is) and Bible Drill. I loved church, but once I hit about 10 years old, I went through a church burnout.

One afternoon while I played Tetris on our ginormous computer, as my parents told me to get ready for church, I gave them what I thought was a valid reason as for why I didn’t need to go to church. They still do not let me forget what I told them 15 years ago.

I simply said, in a bit of a sassy tone, “But I already know everything in the Bible.”

What was my little 10 year old mind thinking?!?! Yes, this is humorous because I actually believed what I said, but also, ironic because as I am finishing seminary this year, I feel like I have more to learn about the Bible than I ever have before.

When I was 10 years old, I wasn’t reading the Bible on my own, others were reading it for me. Once I got a little older and started reading the Bible on my own, I struggled to read it consistently and then actually apply what I was learning when I did read it.

Then I discovered devotionals. Wow. Those were nice. You could read one verse, a short paragraph about the verse, a scripted prayer and feel good about completing your “quiet time” for the day. Plus, the devotionals didn’t include the “boring” verses and passages…

Okay, so I am being a bit sarcastic. The devotionals did help me get a tiny tip of my toes wet to read the Bible and think through application, but I was on a surface-level type of relationship with God. It’s kind of like if God were to have an Instagram and I followed him and even interacted with him on his pictures but actually never met him. Cheesy, I know, but true.

I don’t want to completely hate on devotionals. I recommend them at times. And sometimes I read them in addition with my own time of reading God’s word daily. The danger of them is when we neglect reading God’s word for ourselves because we are reading someone else’s words about God’s word.

I don’t want a devotional to mediate MY relationship with God, ABBA, MY Father.

Are Sarah Young’s “Jesus Calling” words divinely inspired? No.

Are She Read Truth’s words divinely inspired? No.

Even my favorite devotional by Elyse Fitzpatrick? No.

I am glad that women are speaking out about the importance of reading and applying God’s word, but we have to be careful to not read just ABOUT the Bible by imperfect humans instead of reading the perfect, always true, words of the living God. (2 Timothy 3:16)

God has chosen to reveal himself to us through HIS word. He has given you letters and books that are inspired by God and are not flawed or erred. If you received a letter from your best friend or boyfriend, family, etc. would you just read one sentence in the middle of it and put it down for the day?? NO! You would want to read the entire letter to get the whole message or context. It’s even more so true with the living and active word of God (Hebrews 4:12).

As Jesus-followers, we have God’s Spirit dwelling inside of us who illuminates the scripture for us to hear intimately and personally from the God of the Universe! The entire Bible reveals to us who God is and how he wants to work in us. This includes the boring parts and the more interesting parts. If we really believe the Bible is completely God’s word then why would we want to ignore or neglect certain parts that we don’t like?! That would make us trying to be equal with God.

God’s word has changed me. It brings me life every day. It pierces my soul. It revitalizes me when I am weary. And it gives me joy and energy because it reminds me of my purpose for each day, and for the rest of my life.

Have you given God’s word a chance to change you?

If you haven’t read the Bible on your own before, are struggling with reading the Bible consistently, or just need help with where to start reading (which is true for everyone!), let me give you some suggestions that have helped me form a daily habit of reading the Bible:

  1. Start reading a book in the Bible that you want to read. Some good books to start with are John, or any of the gospels, Ephesians or any of the “smaller” books (technically they are letters) in the New Testament, also the Psalms or Proverbs. Or you can combine and read a book in the Old Testament and New Testament.
  2. Start with reading just a little at a time. If you go through Psalm, read 1 Psalm a day. If you go through John, read one passage or part of the chapter a day and just continue every day reading through the book.
  3. Don’t start by trying to read the Bible all the way through, beginning in Genesis. That’s tough for me to do too. And don’t be discouraged if you have tried that and had to stop. God has given us freedom in where to start reading! It helps to read in order from where you start, but I would suggest starting in the New Testament.
  4. Whatever you read for the day, read it a couple of times or more. Ask yourself questions like, “What is the author saying in these verses?”, “What is this revealing to me about God?”, “What is God teaching me or telling me through these verses?”
  5. Journal what you are learning as you read. Journal prayers to God from the verses, whether you use the verses to pray back to God like Psalm since it is a prayer, or just ask God to help you remember the words you are reading for the day.
  6. I hope A Girl Like Me never becomes a resource for you that would replace your daily time with God. Some other godly women advocate this same hope. I would recommend Jen Wilkin who has published a very useful book on studying God’s word on your own. Also If Equip is a very helpful resource if you want guidance on where to start reading on your own.

I would encourage you to read Psalm 19 before you move on from this post. Look it up in Google if you don’t have a Bible near you. Today I am praying that those words would be true in the heart of A Girl Like Me readers, meaning YOU!

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Where are you reading in God’s word currently?

 

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Hope For My Enemies Brings Freedom For Mehttp://agirlikeme.com/hope-for-my-enemies-brings-freedom-for-me/ http://agirlikeme.com/hope-for-my-enemies-brings-freedom-for-me/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 10:00:55 +0000 http://agirlikeme.com/?p=2006  

freedom,wind,artwork,sexy,sun-b1bf374c629da692c9181f678bd79e52_h

Today I was a witness to a crime. I had left church and headed to the gas station to fill up my tank. While standing there I began to hear screaming. I looked up to see a man choke-holding a woman in a car, silencing her as she is screaming for him to let her go. Men rush to her aid while I promptly called 911 to tell them what was happening. The husband sped off in his car, and I stood alongside his terrified wife as we waited for the police.

“He’s never done that before.” she tells me. “He was mad. I just wanted to give him space.”

The police finally arrived and I was told my 911 call was my statement and was free to go. I left the woman, thanking God she was alright.

As I was pulling away, I found my thoughts wandering to the husband. He was a monster. How could any man ever treat a woman like that? Better yet, how could she somewhat defend his actions? She should leave him. He’s an abuser and abusers deserve no mercy.

This reminds me of this past week, reading about how the oldest Duggar son on that TLC show 20 Kids and Counting was exposed to having molested his sisters and some other girls when he was younger. The internet and social media have blown up, calling him, yes, a monster. People have told his wife she was letting her kids be put in harms way and she should leave him. He’ll always be a sicko, they’d say. And the hateful speech goes on.

At some point in our lives, we’ll all encounter the consequences of the fall.

Our broken world gives way to broken people who sadly make broken choices. Whether it’s to beat their wife or abuse their sisters, people make wrong decisions. But the thing I’m coming to wonder is, do bad choices, no matter how severe, make one eternally evil?

Almost thirteen years ago I fell victim to the poor choice of a broken person. My boyfriend molested me. As I spent the better part of last year finally starting to deal with the ramifications of that moment, I found myself caring about my abuser. I wasn’t worried that he was out there hurting more people or angry that he was some sociopath with little to no remorse, instead, I found myself hoping he was ok. I wanted to know that somewhere in his journey, he found healing. Healing from whatever broken place lived in his life that made him make that horrible choice so many years ago. I wanted to know he had somehow run into Jesus and found redemption.

Just as much as I wanted myself to be better, I also wanted my abuser to be better.

So often Jesus spoke of loving our enemies. Even when nailed to the cross, Christ took a moment to ask for forgiveness from the Father for the very men who had put him up there. When the guilty criminal who hung next to him sought redemption moments before he died, Jesus forgave him. He didn’t tell the man he had made too many wrong choices or that he was too messed up to receive such a pardon- no, Jesus gave grace and he gave it freely.

I think so often when we are wronged we’re quick to label the one who wronged us as forever a villain. We blanket them with descriptions, damning them to a future that we believe is fitting for them. We make ourselves judge and jury, when the truth is, that job is given solely to Christ and Christ alone. What we can’t see is that in choosing to believe the worst in them, choosing to cast judgement and wrath upon their soul, we are fastening our hearts to the chains of resentment, anger and bitterness. Our enemies may become an earthly prisoner, but we become a spiritual one.

Seven years ago my good friend Tony was shot to death while out as a police officer doing a routine traffic stop. The man was cold and calculated. Even during his trial, he showed no remorse and even clapped when the jury pronounced he’d receive the death penalty. My heart wanted to hate him. To be honest, there are some moments that I still do. But I also pray for him. I pray that in the quiet darkness of his lonely prison cell, Jesus’ light will shine upon him. That maybe, just maybe, the man I believe to be the lowest form of human in the world could be offered grace and found forgiven.

If I can’t believe that God can forgive and redeem the worst of people, then there’s no hope for my own redemption.

Girls…some of you have known great pain. Pain that reaches to depths of darkness I cannot even comprehend. And for a lot of you, that pain was given to you at the hand of another. A broken human, who in a dark moment, made a wrong choice. A horrible choice. Yes, their actions were most certainly wrong. Yes, you have every right to feel the feelings you do. Your hurt is real and understood and appropriate and I stand with you in it. Let that be clear. But please, let this be clear as well.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the broken places I’ve been, it’s that hoping for God to redeem my enemies allows for freedom for me. When I can believe that God is big enough to change the heart of my enemy, then I’m also able to fully believe he is capable of healing me. If I know that God will reach to such hellacious depths to rescue someone I felt was so horrible, then I know there is no place I could ever run to where God would not seek me out to redeem me.

I’m not sure if the husband I witnessed today will hurt his wife again. I’m not sure that my abuser won’t molest another or that my friend’s killer will ever repent of his actions. I can’t say that whoever wounded you, whether big or small, will ever regret what they did or even apologize. I’m not sure we’re ever meant to know. But I do know this, tonight I will say a prayer that God will meet them in their dark places, hoping that they will accept grace,  while I thank Him that he so lovingly meets me in mine. I hope you’ll do the same.

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The Waitinghttp://agirlikeme.com/the-waiting/ http://agirlikeme.com/the-waiting/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 10:15:24 +0000 http://agirlikeme.com/?p=1995 kels (147 of 165)It’s time for a good ol’ girl-talk confession: I have never done relationships right. To the point where they’ve mostly all just been “flirtationships” that never became real relationships. I was always the go-getter, the chaser, the pursuer, the queen of DTR, being the first to ask the question of “where is this going” after just a couple weeks.

I probably came off pretty desperate. And maybe I was.

After watching guy after guy pull away after only just starting to get to know me, you can imagine how unwanted I felt. I thought something was wrong with me. And over the course of the next couple years I found out there was.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t pretty enough or smart enough or funny enough…too tall, too loud, too dramatic. I wasn’t “too much” or “not enough”.

The problem was my impatience.

My thought process went something like this:

I see boy.
I like boy.
Boy has texted me for 3 days.
Boy must like me.
“Boy, do you like me?”
“I just want to be friends.”
*Crushed*

Oy. If I could just go back and talk to me then…

So you get the picture. You could have handed me a “Relationships for Dummies” book and I STILL would have messed it up. Because I wanted what (in my exaggerated view) everyone around me had. And I wasn’t about to wait for a guy to make up his mind and pursue me. I wanted to skip the whole process and get to the part where we were hand in hand, making plans.

It took a couple years for me to really understand all of this, to cut the guy-chasing nonsense, and to put all my energy into chasing the One whose feelings and intentions I never had to question. Once that relationship became enough for me and I’d stopped scanning every crowd for my future husband…a really great guy unexpectedly stepped into my life.

As I got to know him and things gradually progressed between us, I did everything differently. He was the first guy I ever allowed to pursue me. I resisted being the initiator and waited for him to make each move. And though it ultimately didn’t last, for the first time I got a glimpse first hand of what a Godly relationship is supposed to look like – what my role is, what a guy’s role is. And for a while, I was thankful just to have learned that, in that way, in that season.

But unfortunately that wore off a little too quickly.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still thankful. But now I’m back to the waiting. Oh, the dreaded waiting…

I always wanted to be married in my early twenties. At 19 I thought I had plenty of time, but the second I hit 20, I felt like the clock started ticking. Now I’m 22, everyone around me is dating, engaged, married…and here I am. Single. And I feel like I’m WAY behind.

I feel like God has given me a love for a man I’ve never met and this strong desire for marriage…but my life is one big “not yet.”

So often lately I’ve found myself wondering if God’s holding out on me. Have you ever felt that? I mean, He already knows where my future husband is. He has the power to bring us together and free me from the torture (or so it sometimes seems) of waiting! So why doesn’t He? Where’s my Prince Charming? My knight in shining armor? When do I finally get my fairytale?

At times I’ve even found myself back in a place where I believe there’s something wrong with me. Maybe I’m not growing enough, not praying enough, not close enough to God…maybe I’m too insecure, too unsatisfied with the Lord alone, too desperate for a worldly fulfillment. Maybe I have to fix and change all of these things in order to prove to God that I’m ready. Maybe that quick, teasing glimpse I had of a relationship was Him rewarding me for good behavior or something…and then I must have done something to mess it up.

Or maybe none of this is in my control.

Maybe, just maybe, the lesson is in the waiting.

Sure, there are without a doubt areas of my life God is still working on to prepare me for a future relationship, to mold me into the friend/girlfriend/fiancé/wife I will someday need to be.

But to get there, I have to wait. I have to rest in knowing that there’s a reason for the journey, a purpose behind the whole process. If we got everything we wanted when we wanted it, what would we ever hope for or trust God for?

I know this has all been mainly geared towards my fellow single ladies (“now put your hands up!”) given that that’s the season of life I’m currently walking and speaking from. But no matter what season you’re in, there is always impatience and always something you’re waiting for. So, my sweet friends, wherever you sit as you read this today – whether you’re waiting on a cup of coffee, a miracle, or your Prince Charming – remember this:

Hopes are high.
Dreams are overwhelming.
Desires are strong.
And patience is hard.

But the Lord is working in those lulls.
And there is joy to be found in the waiting.

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Discipline of Faithhttp://agirlikeme.com/discipline-of-faith/ http://agirlikeme.com/discipline-of-faith/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 08:00:59 +0000 http://agirlikeme.com/?p=1987 AGLM (99 of 1)

 

I got on this morning excited to see what was written on the blog and didn’t see a post and the thought that…”oh no, I hope I didn’t get my weeks mixed up” hit hard. Sure enough it was my week to write and I messed up.  The funny thing about it is that I want so badly to show you my best. It weighed on me all day. I felt terrible.  I hated being the one who slacked, who was’t as committed. The one who didn’t think to double check her dates.

Since I goofed and was not prepared I’m going to be really really honest with you guys…is that ok? Ok good.

Today has been hard. Right now is hard. I went into my evening ready to sit down and write to you some sort of well thought through wisdom and my internet decided to stop working again. My husband and I somehow got into a big fight. I then cried in public at dinner because the exhaustion just couldn’t be held in anymore. Then I had that sickening moment…you know the one…where your face is red and puffy, your nose is stuffy from crying, you can’t seem to shake your emotions or clear your thoughts and you have to go sit…in front of people….in a loud crowded restaurant because that is all that is open with free WiFi. That embarrassing feeling that everyone must know you just bawled your eyes out (even though no one probably is staring at you enough to know). I sat staring at the blank screen fighting the tears that keep threatening to flow solely from exhaustion and defeat. What can I share with you?  That marriage is not always a walk in the park? That I lost my temper just an hour earlier? That I don’t always double check my schedule? That I’ve found myself ungrateful today for all the things I DO have and instead was beat down by the things I didn’t?   That while God has promised us something huge I find myself weary and my Faith growing thin?     Well that is what I am sharing. It’s all true. I am so reminded of my need for a savior in these humbling moments. These moments when I think I have something to offer that will be oh so special and it’s clear that all I have to offer you right now is real. Real tough, ugly, tear stained me.  In hopes that you, dear girl, would know that we have all been there…(I assume I am not alone)…we’ve all had those mascara running, want to hide in a hole moments in life.  As I re-read Steph’s post from last week and then read through the list of prayer requests you girls posted on Facebook I wanted to cry more. (Gosh what is wrong with me, someone bring me a tissue, lots of ugly crying going on here).  I read as you all shared in vulnerability your anxieties, fears, illnesses, hopes, new transitions, and longing for clarity in the unknown.

 

We are all walking a story of faith. It may look different for each person. Maybe the faith is yet to come, maybe it is there, but you are waiting for the promise to be fulfilled. I often find myself impatient, weak, grasping hold of the promise, but fighting that doubt that maybe He isn’t going to follow through, because the days keep passing me by.     As my husband and I read our Daily Streams devotion last night, we were reminded of a great detail to faith that we so often forget and miss when in the middle of the waiting. And I felt led to share it with you all:

“All things are possible to him that believeth” Mark 9:23″

“The ‘all things’ do not always come simply for the asking, for the reason that God is ever seeking to teach us the way of faith, and in our training in the faith life there must be room for the trial of faith, the discipline of faith, the patience of faith, the courage of faith, and often many stages are passed before we really realize what is the end of faith, namely, the victory of faith. Real moral fibre is developed through discipline of faith. You have made your request of God, but the answer does not come. What are you to do?  Keep on believing God’s Word; never be moved away from it by what you see or feel, and thus you stand steady, enlarged power and experience is being developed. The fact of looking at the apparent contradiction as to God’s Word and being moved from your position of faith make you stronger on every other line. Often God delays purposely, and the delay is just as much an answer to your prayer as is the fulfillment when it comes. In the lives of all the Bible characters, God worked thus. Abraham, Moses, and Elijah were not great in the beginning, but were made great through the discipline of their faith, and only thus were they fitted for the positions to which God had called them.

For example, in the case of Joseph home the Lord was training for the throne of Egypt, we read in the Psalms;

‘The word of the Lord tried him.’ It was not the prison life with its hard beds or poor food that tried him, but it was the word  God had spoken into his heart in the early years concerning elevation and honor which were greater than his brethren were to receive; it was this which was ever before him, when every step in his career made it seem more and more impossible of fulfillment, until he was there imprisoned, and all in innocency, while others who were perhaps justly incarcerated, were released, and he was left to languish alone.

These were the hours that tried his soul, but hours of spiritual growth and development that, ‘when his word came’ (the word release), found him fitted for the delicate task of dealing with his wayward brethren, with a love and patience only surpassed by God Himself.

No amount of persecution tries like such experiences as these. When God has spoken of His purpose to do, and yet the days go on and He does not do, that is truly hard; but it is a discipline of faith that will bring us into a knowledge of God which would otherwise be impossible.”   ~Streams in the Desert May 12

 

Oh how we so often want to hide those things that make us less than perfect, tuck those “flaws”  away to be felt alone in the dark car, behind closed doors, away from faces. We want to put our best foot forward, we want everyone on social media to see the happy, faithful, strong women that we are…or we go the opposite and run to our phones and complain about how terrible our life is and how God just isn’t meeting you where you need to be met. Lets all get to the point where we can look at each other and see each other’s hearts. acknowledge that we all have our moments of defeat, discouragement, fear, and just the need for a good cry….but then let’s wrap our arms up under their shoulders, stand up straight and challenge each other to keep putting one foot in front of another…to not sit in the weight of one bad day, to not sit in the complaining that the days are going by and God made a promise…so where is our immediate gratification? Lets challenge each other to walk through the discipline of faith. Together.  Today was not a great day. But I’m going to choose to get up and face tomorrow as an opportunity to grow in that discipline, so that I may be used to my fullest when the victory of Faith comes. Would you join me?

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on going through the hard placeshttp://agirlikeme.com/on-going-through-the-hard-places/ http://agirlikeme.com/on-going-through-the-hard-places/#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 14:00:50 +0000 http://agirlikeme.com/?p=1977 As a feeler, and justice seeker, and writer
I desperately long for things to have meaning.
I have a deep desire to do work that matters, to write honestly, and talk about the hard things…
requiring me, to actually go through the hard things.

But not just go through the motions of the hard things, actually. go. through. them.
Intentionally and with purpose… with expectation-
like someone who has been promised something more.

If I’m being honest with you, I haven’t been going through through my hard things lately.

I am at that place
The exhausted place
The long list place
The poured out place

The kind of poured out people can see on your face-
but they don’t ask about
because the look both demands to be acknowledged but begs to be left alone.

That place where one more thing
becomes just another thing
and that one more thing doesn’t mean anything.

The hard place.

I haven’t opened my journal in over three months- for fear of what I might put in writing.

I haven’t paused at the end of my prayers just to listen- for fear of what I might hear. And I haven’t read the story of Job because maybe, just maybe, I want to stay here for a minute and not feel guilty on top of my frustration and sadness.

I say all of that, because maybe this week we can meet in the hard places.

It’s easy to write about the faithfulness and fulfillment of promises in the dawn-
to encourage and challenge one another when we’ve made it through-
to point to a Bible Verse or Ann Voskamp quote that helped give perspective.

Dear ones, I’m not through the hard places-
and most days I’m not going through them gracefully.
But this is what I know-most times most times
there is beauty just beyond the hard places-
andGod is not just beyond the hard.

The miracle of God is that he dwells in both-
the easy and the hard.

His presence is not waiting for me to get over myself in this season.
His gentleness is not moved by my frustration.
His goodness is not dependent on my journal writing.

Today, my prayer and my challenge for those of us journeying through the hard places is to truly truly go through them- wrestle through them if need be.
Not as people who have lost hope, or as “just make it though” women.

But set apart.
confident in His promises.
brave in our actions.
bold in our prayers.
seekers- not only of meaning- but of Him.

 

“Thank you, God, for the things you heal, the things you redeem, the things you refuse to leave just as they have been for what seems like forever.”
― Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines

 

P.S
Some of the things helping me through my current hard places are
Boldly I approach (The Art of Celebration) by Rend Collective
Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans
fresh flowers, morning cups of coffee, and handwritten letters from my sponsor baby

 

What helps you go through the hard places?

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Who I Want To Be Or Who I’m Gonna Behttp://agirlikeme.com/who-i-want-to-be-or-who-im-gonna-be/ http://agirlikeme.com/who-i-want-to-be-or-who-im-gonna-be/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 10:00:59 +0000 http://agirlikeme.com/?p=1968  

Scelte

When I was five, we were asked to share what we wanted to be when we grew up at our kindergarten graduation. Me, with frizzy big hair and my semi-toothless grin proudly stated that I was going to be an artist. The confidence in which I conveyed this dream would have left anyone feeling certain I was about to be the next Picasso.

In fourth grade, I was once again asked to write an essay about who I wanted to be when I grew up. This time, I said an archeologist. I wrote of my vision to travel around the world discovering and naming new dinosaurs and foreign tribes, putting myself into the history books of tomorrow. It was quite the inspirational essay if I do say so myself.

In high school we were encouraged to select electives that would prepare us for hat we wanted to study in college. Seeing as I now wanted to be a nurse, I took anatomy and physical science. I was going to work with babies, maybe even do medical missions. I was a woman with a dream.

Here I am at age 33 and I am neither an artist, archeologist or a nurse. I never became the teacher, missionary, massage therapist, or counselor that I had also thought I’d be either. Life has a funny way of not taking us the places we had envisioned ourselves going.

Sometimes I look back at my life and wonder what would have happened if I had lived overseas for a year as a missionary or gone to get my masters degree after college instead of working. Would I have been happy? Would I have ever met Jeff or even been married at all?  The rabbit hole of what ifs is endless and one I’d rather not dive deeply into.

For two months this question of who am I has been swirling around in our little AGLM world. We’ve pointed out the significant and insignificant, allowing ourselves to see something deeper to the labels we give ourselves. Something other. Something that some might even say is holy.

But what’s the meaning of it all? What does it matter if I’m average or a storyteller or a bad dancer or dreamer or memory maker? Sure, it’s a part of me, but so are a lot of other things. So why the big flippin deal?

I was recently in Phoenix visiting my family and was out having coffee with my brother one day. We’re pretty close he and I, and often can turn the most stupid conversations into something deep and spiritual. I really like that about us because it allows me to know that God is in and a part of everything….even the small and the silly.

It was during one of these conversations that my brother said something incredibly profound to me. He said, “I’ve come to the place of realizing that there’s a big difference between who I want to be and who I’m gonna be. In order for me to become who I want to be, I have to be willing to take big and radical, sometimes even crazy steps with God.” 

If I had really wanted to, I could have been all those things I dreamed of becoming as a little girl. I could have taken art classes or studied science or gone to nursing school or taken a short term mission trip. But I didn’t. I went another way. Not necessarily the wrong way, just another way.

From the moment our lives are given over to God, they no longer become our lives. We are now a part of a bigger story- given a bigger purpose. The little quirks and personality traits that make us up are not just there to make us happy and fulfilled, they are meant to draw us further from ourselves and closer to the cross. In doing that, we meet a crossroads of who we want to become and who are going to become.

I think for a while I lived with delusion that if I just obeyed God and read my Bible and went to church, God was going to give me all I wanted and a life full of happiness. That every answer and season of growth would just be handed over to me on a golden platter from heaven with a note from God saying: “Here’s your future Heather, hope you like it. Love, The Big G.” Boy was I stupid.

In thinking about the things I am these last two months, it’s really helped me to see who I am not, but who I’d like to be. Sure, I’m a dreamer….but am I a dreamer willing to risk it all to follow the dream? Yep, I’m a navigator, but am I willing to let go of the reins and let someone else direct my course? If these things are meant to give me more of Jesus, what am I doing to help me achieve that? Or am I so caught up in me, that I miss Him completely?

I’m not sure where you’re at in life. Maybe, like me, you find yourself staring at that crossroad between want and gonna. Between the easy path of just going with what’s safe and secure or the radical one with great potential but a ton of risk. Maybe God is asking you to quit that job or ministry. Maybe you are meant to dump that boyfriend or stop hanging out with those toxic friends. It could be you’re feeling led to move away from home, go to a different college, confess that sin, get counseling, and simply just let go of the death grip of control you’re placing on your life and future. And my question to you, my sweet friend, would be…”Which way are you going to choose?”

I want to look back another thirty-three years from now with a smile on my face. I want to know that instead of choosing my comfort, I chose Jesus. I chose to do the work, even the painful ones, if it meant allowing my heart to be molded into Christ’s likeness. I want to say I did the nonsensical, the radical, the unsure and the unsafe. I want to feel with confidence that I did everything I could to move towards Christ in becoming not just who I want to be, but who HE wants me to be. Because any other life outside of that doesn’t seem like a life I’d want to have.

So, my beautiful AGLMers, what’s it going to be? Are you going to stay the girl you’re gonna be, or are you ready to become the girl you want to be. The choice is up to you.

 

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