A Girl Like Me http://agirlikeme.com Tue, 20 Sep 2016 18:05:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 I See Youhttp://agirlikeme.com/i-see-you/ http://agirlikeme.com/i-see-you/#comments Tue, 20 Sep 2016 14:00:27 +0000 http://agirlikeme.com/?p=2643 advanture-backpack-forest-girl-Favim.com-2181720

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” -Tim Keller

***

The argument wasn’t even that big. I was upset that Jeff was on the phone with a friend while I was in the car with him. We had taken a day trip to Atlanta just the two of us, and I seen the four hour drive as a gift of time to be together and reconnect.

As we began to hash through our thoughts as to why we were arguing and what made me so upset, I found myself suddenly bursting into tears. “I just want you to see me.” I cried. Words began vomiting their way out of my mouth through broken sobs as I began to explain that my deepest fear was never being really seen for who I am and always living a life based on the assumptions of what everyone else thought of me to be.

***

The wilderness, it breaks us. It’s supposed to. It’s supposed to be the place where God strips away all the crap that’s holding us back to make way for a new path…a better way living.

We are meant to lose ourselves in the scarcity of it all, the surrendering and embracing of this new us we are becoming. Yet somewhere in the middle, well, we end up a little bit…lost.

It’s confusing trying to grieve our old lives while discovering this new one. To say goodbye to a life that, no matter how bad it was, was the life we knew. Can I still laugh at the same jokes? Wear the same clothes? What about my friends? Can I keep those?

The wild never lets you leave without changing you. It’s why you were meant to be there in the first place.

***

We’ve been friends a while, you know. Some of you I’ve hugged and cried with. Some of you I’ve known only in the cyber world and some of you are faceless people who live in the late night prayers I pray for your hearts. Our differences may be great, but we all hold one thing in common. We want to be seen.

We want to know that in the middle of this wild place there is someone out there who is looking out for us. A fellow traveller who is willing to hold our hand as we figure out this crazy thing called life and faith and identity. It can be so lonely at times that we wonder if anyone out there can really see and understand what’s going on inside us.

I haven’t lived your life. Nor you mine. But tonight, tonight I want you and I both to go to sleep knowing that although our paths are very different, we can still walk them together. And that even in the loneliest of moments someone sees us. So I’m here to let you know… I see you…

You the girl who quietly cries herself to sleep each night.

The girl who can only find comfort in the cut of a razor blade on her skin.

The girl whose body has wasted away from months of not eating or purging.

The girl who feels soiled and filthy because, in a moment of weakness, you gave yourself away to a man who you shouldn’t have.

I see you. 

You the girl who smiles on the outside but is screaming on the inside.

The girl who has all the friends in the world yet still feels alone.

The girl who looks in the mirror and cannot recognize the person looking back.

The girl who doubts herself and especially God.

I see you. 

You, the girl who’s suffered unspeakable acts at the hands of another.

To the broken, wounded, lost, angry, hopeless, addicted, faithless, weary, and worn girl…

I see you…..and so does He.

There are a lot of us out there, walking this holy calling into the wild. And though my light might not be a bright one, I’ll hold it high, and you do the same. And together, well hopefully we can help light a path that leads us all onto the life that awaits us on the other side.

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Meet Me Herehttp://agirlikeme.com/meet-me-here/ http://agirlikeme.com/meet-me-here/#comments Wed, 14 Sep 2016 14:30:45 +0000 http://agirlikeme.com/?p=2640 girl-358771_1280-e1426852027611

I sat down in front of an open journal. Blank pages welcoming me. Pen in hand. Hours of time and plenty of space to relax and breathe before work. I was so excited because I’ve been craving this uninterrupted time with God – I’ve been needing it.

But when I finally sat down to write…to talk to God and just be with Him…I didn’t know what to say. I held the pen over that first line, wanting so badly to lightly touch the page and let the ink flow as freely as my thoughts. But nothing was coming. I felt blank. Empty. Unsure where to start or how to approach the Father I’ve been “too busy” for lately.

But when I took a deep breath and let my heart speak, the words that came out at the top of the page were, “Father, I need You.”
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I think I took myself by surprise. I haven’t said those words in a while. I haven’t needed God. (At least I haven’t thought so.)

In the wilderness, where we often feel so alone anyway, I think we tend to go into survival mode and take on the responsibility of fending for ourselves. God seems distant and we feel like we’re wandering all alone. We convince ourselves that independence is the only way we’ll make it out alive.

So we fight our own battles.

We plan our own steps.

We blaze our own trails.

We dry our own tears.

We pick ourselves up when we stumble.

And we do this life thing all on our own.

But after a while, we get tired. So tired. It feels like we’ve tried everything to get through the wilderness…but we’ve only been going in circles, and now we just can’t go any further. We’re exhausted. We’re hungry. We’re thirsty. And we need God more than we were willing to admit.
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I think I’ve been trying to carry my world on my back, refusing to let God carry it for me because something in me doesn’t fully believe that He can handle it. It doesn’t feel safe to “need” Him anymore. I’m not sure why. But somewhere along the line, I stopped trusting Him.

And I kind of forgot how to.

Saying that feels really sad. Where did I lose that beautifully deep belief I once had that God could do anything? And how do I get it back to that place of intimacy where needing Him isn’t scary and trusting Him comes naturally?
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When we find ourselves here, it seems we always get the same advice.

Read your Bible.
Make “quiet time” a priority.
Pray harder.

Sometimes I just want to say, “Don’t you think I’ve tried that already??”

In these lost, dry seasons, we look for God in all of the normal places. We exhaust all of our options and get frustrated when we still just can’t get into the Bible and our prayer lives look less like a conversation and more like a moment of obligatory silence. These things don’t excite us the way they used to. We reach a point where we’re tired of “trying more” and “working harder” and “doing enough” and we just feel like giving up.

But why is that the only “effective” way to draw closer to God? God is not limited to meeting us only in the words of Scripture. He’s not restricted to speaking to us and teaching us and growing us in our blocked out quiet times. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying those are bad practices or that that advice isn’t coming from the right place. Reading the Bible and praying are important. But there are times when we’re just not feeling it…and that’s ok.

That doesn’t mean we throw our hands up and stop making an effort altogether. And that doesn’t mean that we abandon solid traditions and never look back. No…we’ll make our way back there eventually. When we’re able to fully love and embrace it for the gift that it is again.

But for now…that just means that maybe it’s time we allow God to meet us here, exactly where we are and how we are, in our weariness and imperfection, because we still believe that He is good.
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What would it look like if we just took a step back? If we stopped trying the next Bible reading plan or devotional or sermon series or book about how to pray better, only to find we’re no more connected or engaged than when we started?

What if we started to look outside the norm and find Jesus in the places we don’t often pay attention to?

For me it’s stepping outside at the tail end of summer and feeling a slight chill in the air, the first sign that fall (my favorite season) must be right around the corner. There in the sound of rustling leaves I hear my Father reminding me that seasons do eventually change, and the one I’m in now won’t last forever.

Maybe it’s a hug from a friend that God uses to tell you He’s still there.

Maybe you feel more refreshed and close to Him when you catch a beautiful view of the sunset outside your bedroom window, or when you get to sleep in on a Saturday morning and find rest after a long week.

Sweet friends, you are not any less loved by the Father if your Bible is collecting dust or if your prayer life is only five minutes in the car because that’s all you feel you have to give today. Don’t believe that you’re not trying hard enough. Give yourself the grace to take a break. Open your eyes to the treasures and movements of God that may have always been right in front of you.

Let God show you that He exists in the wilderness, too. And believe that He will meet you there.

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If I’m Honesthttp://agirlikeme.com/if-im-honest/ http://agirlikeme.com/if-im-honest/#comments Wed, 07 Sep 2016 14:00:45 +0000 http://agirlikeme.com/?p=2633 d5dc80ea4dbd80c14c7d570265add02dd0162dde

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” -Brene Brown

As any good traveller knows, the best trips are the ones you’re most prepared for. We make lists, plan outfits, check the weather- making sure that once we leave we’ll have everything we need to make the trip a success. Every once and a while though there is that one thing, that one critical item we forget to pack, and suddenly our whole excursion feels ruined. I mean, how can I go eight days without my flat iron?? The thought of it just feels tragic.

As a traveller of The Wilderness for some time now, I’ve picked up a few things that I’ve found to be essentials along the journey. Things, that although it may not get me out of this place any quicker, are a source of life and growth and even joy in the middle of such a desolate season in life. So let me unpack my bag for you a bit, ok?

***

I wish I could say I was an honest person. Now don’t me wrong, I can dish out a healthy serving of brutal honesty and stubborn opinion like it’s no joke. Telling other people how I feel and think of them comes as easy to me flight to a bird. Some might say I love sharing my opinion on things a little too much (Sorry, Chels). The irony, as in most things, is that when it comes to sharing how I feel about myself and my life, I am all kinds of quiet.

I told my counselor one time how I hate to express need. The thought of telling someone I need help or their company or love feels icky to me. It feels weak. I want  to be the girl who has her junk together. The girl that doesn’t go to others for help, others come to her for help. Let them see the good feelings, not the bad ones. In his gentle yet convicting way he has with me, he told me, “Heather, there isn’t such a thing as good feelings and bad feelings. They are all just feelings. Feelings that are meant to be felt and meant to be shared.”

Somewhere along the way we’ve been told that in seasons of wilderness living that we have to embrace it with joy. If you’re not happy when life sucks, something is wrong with you. If you can’t smile while the world is beating you up you have no faith in God and you should go read your whole Bible right now and get your perspective straight. Christians aren’t sad, mad, or doubtful. We are brave and joyful and always have hope. Well excuse my language ladies, but I’m calling bullshit on this.

When Lazarus was dead, did Jesus -who knew He was seconds from raising him from the dead FYI- walk around saying “Cheer up people, This isn’t so bad.” No, he wept. He grieved a friend who died because he knew grief is important. Did Paul tell us that when a friend is weeping we should pat their back and say, “C’mon buckaroo, stop crying. Things are gonna be better.” No, Paul told us to weep with the weeper.

The most important thing I’ve picked up while living in the wild is that honesty, in whatever form it looks like, is always life giving. It is the oasis in the desert, the rain storm in the drought.

I get it, we want people to feel we are brave. We want to feel like nothing life throws at us will knock us down, but the mere act of keeping up that facade that everyone knows is impossible to meet, that is what will kill us.

***

Over my years in the wild I’ve begun to practice this art of honesty. Telling my safe people the battles waging war in my heart. Realizing that crying is brave and sharing why I’m crying is even braver.

As I’ve developed this habit of honesty I’ve begun to see something happen around me. I’ve made friends in the desert. Other travelers who, like me, are lost and scared and unsure. More and more we find each other and before we know it, we are all traveling together. Some of us are leading the way, others are being carried on our backs, but we’re together and it’s the togetherness that is sustaining us as we go.

If I’m honest, I’m still scared of this honesty thing. I’m still scared to admit that I feel like I might be stuck here forever in this forsaken desert. But because I’m honest, I now know I’m not facing those fears alone.

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And Then I Saw the Flowershttp://agirlikeme.com/and-then-i-saw-the-flowers/ http://agirlikeme.com/and-then-i-saw-the-flowers/#comments Wed, 31 Aug 2016 12:00:47 +0000 http://agirlikeme.com/?p=2628 US-ENVIRONMENT-WILDFLOWERS

It starts with a few storms – some good, heavy rainfall. Something rare for Death Valley, California. Just enough to soak the parched earth in one of the hottest, driest places in the world. Just enough to encourage growth in a seemingly barren desert.

Once every ten years or so, unforeseen beauty blankets the dusty ground. Thousands of flowers emerge in a phenomenon called a Super Bloom. And for a brief time…life exists in a place named for death.
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It only took a week for my whole perspective to change. Just one week for my wilderness, my desert, to start looking like a field of wildflowers. Nothing about my circumstances changed…just my view…

It started with one flower. I was scrolling through stock photos of the desert to use for my last post when I came across an image – just one – that seemed completely out of place in my search. In the middle of picture after picture of dry, cracked earth was a desert scene with one single flower sprouting up from the rocky ground. Had I been scrolling quicker or not looking as closely, I would have missed it. But the pop of color caught my eye and made me pause…click…and study for a minute this beauty in a such an unexpected place.

In light of all I had just written about the miles and miles of nothingness in the desert I remember, it was kind of mind-boggling to me. How could anything so dainty and delicate grow in a place that seems so desolate and unwelcoming? And where there’s one flower, there must be more…but how?
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This image stuck with me over the next week, forcing me to look at my own wilderness a little differently. If flowers can exist in the middle of the desert, what kind of life and growth am I missing right in front of me?

And then I saw the flowers.

It started with just one – a small, peaceful sigh as I walked into my favorite little coffeeshop one day and was reminded how thankful I am that I get to work there, that for the first time in a long time I truly love my job.

Then another – making last minute dinner plans with sweet friends, bonding over tacos and memories from a wild and crazy year, and remembering that even when life feels a little lonely, I am truly loved and cared for by some really special people.

And slowly I started to see even more bright petals popping up all around me. Some new, and some that have been there for so long, but I haven’t noticed.

I’ve been so focused on the destination just beyond the desert that I’ve overlooked the subtle reminders of beauty, of hope, of growth and life, right here in the wilderness.

Don’t get me wrong – it still feels a lot like New Mexico, or maybe Death Valley, and my last post still holds true for me in a lot of ways. The desert is still hot and dry, long and uncomfortable. But now…now it has flowers springing up everywhere. Suddenly even the desert is lovely to me. Because even in the most unlikely places, life and beauty can thrive.
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One of the most captivating things to me about the Super Bloom is the growth process.

First there is a season of heavy storms. Fall brings rain that penetrates deep into the heart of the desert and initiates a growth that, at the time, can’t be seen.

That growth continues underground throughout the next season, developing roots, strengthening and maturing every day, but still going unnoticed through most of the winter.

Just before spring, the desert begins showing signs of a long-awaited Super Bloom. But while we can guess and anticipate and imagine what must be in store, we still can’t quite predict all that we’re about to experience.

Then it happens. First one. Then another. Starting in the valleys, the lowest points, and working their way up the mountains all around.

And a few months later, Death Valley is alive.
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If we’re not paying attention, all we’ll see is that dry, cracked, dusty earth. But if we look closely, we’ll start to see them…one at a time…flowers all around us, reminding us that maybe the wilderness isn’t so bad after all. What if it isn’t meant to be a hard place? What if it’s meant to be a gift? A place to just rest and be, to stop looking desperately at the horizon for a sign that we’re almost out of the desert, and instead notice and enjoy the flowers?

In my wilderness, God has given me an exciting new city that makes me feel alive, a beautiful family that has become my own, a house that has become home in every way, a new job that has filled me with so much joy, the most encouraging and kind-hearted new friends…and more flowers to discover every day.

It gives me hope that maybe this is my growing season. Maybe my Super Bloom is just beginning. Im starting to see flowers in this valley…but I think I’m working my way up towards a mountain.

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Just Keep Walkinghttp://agirlikeme.com/just-keep-walking/ http://agirlikeme.com/just-keep-walking/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 14:00:33 +0000 http://agirlikeme.com/?p=2623 cumminsfalls

One thing I love about Tennessee are the waterfalls. Tucked away in deep valleys and amongst thick forests are some of the most breathtaking waterfalls I’ve ever seen.They spill out over the mountains that hold them, a sign of their power and wonder. It doesn’t matter how many times I see one, they always take my breath away.

Most of these waterfalls can be found by taking the carefully marked and laid out trail, following the signs, and staying safely on the path. But my favorite, well, it’s a bit more dangerous than that.

You start by hiking down a trail to a riverbank. That trail, though muddy and a bit steep at times, is pretty safe and easy to maneuver through. Once you get to the rivers edge, however, the trail stops. Instincts take over, and much like the steady rush of the rivers waters, everyone begins to move upstream. climbing over rocks, wading back and forth across the stream, we have no idea how far we’ve gone and how far we have yet to go.

As you walk you can see people beginning to quit. They set up their picnic, throw down their blankets and resolve that they have gone far enough- the waterfall not being worth the work. But the brave, the determined rest of us, we keep moving on.

There’s a point on this hike that I always anticipate most. I’m walking along, and then I hear it. Faint at first, but still there. It’s the swish and woosh of the falls, and although I can’t see it, I know I’m close. Somehow, my heart always begins to race, excited over the thought that I’m almost there. That the end, the reward, is just around the corner.

You have to walk another half mile or so before the falls comes into view. Another half mile of more river wading, more slippery rock traversing, more guessing which way is the best way to move forward. It’s agonizing at times, knowing your so close, but having no idea just how close you actually are. You turn a corner, and like magic, there it is. So big a beautiful, loud and strong. Suddenly, you forget all the work it took for you to get there because you are in awe of the beauty and magnitude of the what you are seeing. In an instant, the journey becomes totally worth it.

***

Seasons of wilderness are hard. So often God puts us there with no map and no timeline on what to do. We begin to feel like we are just wandering around, hoping to stumble upon something that is going to tell us where to go and praying that just a few steps away is the freedom and answers we are hoping to find.

A pastor at church this Sunday said something that has been sitting on my heart very heavily the last few days. He said:

We must persist so that we can experience joy.

I know what you’re feeling today. You want to quit. You want to tell God He’s mean and nasty and if He really loved you He’d show you were to go or He’d get you out of this wild place he has you in. Your legs are tired and taking one more step seems like an impossibility. I get it.

But you have to keep walking.

Sisters, persisting when the answers are unclear or the path is uncertain is not a sign of weakness or stupidity- it’s quite courageous. It’s a brave thing to trust and move even when our doubt is strong and our faith is weak. It says we want more. It says we don’t want to settle for good- we want the best. It says we’re a fighter who’s not going down easily.

Sometimes the wild feels endless and those nice flat spots along the way appear to be a great place to stop and stay. But they aren’t. There is so much more that awaits you if you just keep walking.

Maybe you only have the energy to take one little step today. That’s ok. Just keep walking. Keep walking, keep moving, keep pressing and persisting and before long, you’ll see that waterfall and know that the journey, no matter how long or hard was worth every single step.

 

 

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On Doubthttp://agirlikeme.com/on-doubt/ http://agirlikeme.com/on-doubt/#comments Thu, 18 Aug 2016 15:04:23 +0000 http://agirlikeme.com/?p=2620 sky

Good morning, sweet ladies!

So here’s the thing. Sometimes following devotionals are hard. You forget about the book or the download gets lost on your computer no matter how amazing the content is. But today, I want to refer you to one of the most honest and beautiful devotionals I’ve ever read written by my friend, Gabby Llewellyn.

Gabby and I met on the first tour I ever went on with Tenth Ave, Chris Tomlin, and the band her husband is in, Rend Collective. I was fresh out of college and newly married and she had already done this for a while at that point. She worked on the road gracefully and seeing her every day was reassuring. I’ve read her blog, ‘The Thin Places’ for about a year and I can remember how multiple posts have struck me in specific and helpful ways. God has used her words to remind my heart of the TRUTH and I want you to know about her 7 day devotional too. If you sign up on her website here you can download the Ebook and it will send you the daily devo to your email! Do it. Just trust me. 😉

If you decide to walk the journey of this devo on doubt, let me know by emailing us through our website! I would love to pray for you and hear how it is going!

You ladies are gold. Thanks for letting me be a part of your Wedensday morning!

 

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Destination: Promised Landhttp://agirlikeme.com/destination-promised-land/ http://agirlikeme.com/destination-promised-land/#comments Wed, 10 Aug 2016 12:00:18 +0000 http://agirlikeme.com/?p=2607 new-mexico-desert

I hate New Mexico.

Sorry if you live there. But if ever there was an appropriate time for me to pull out the good ol “I just can’t even,” this might be it.

A few years ago I was traveling from Texas to Washington. New Mexico was part of that journey, and it felt like the absolute longest part EVER. If you’ve never driven through New Mexico, let me paint a picture for you…

…Nothing…and more nothing. Hours and hours of nothing. Just dry, dead, desolate nothing. You can see for miles and miles! And what do you see? Miles and miles of nothing. Civilization does not seem to exist and the desert does not seem to believe there could ever be a need for bathroom breaks, gas stops, or the most important road trip necessity, FOOD.

It was cool to see that part of the country for the first half hour (maybe). But then it just got old. No scenic view to watch out the window as we drove. Nothing changed for hours. It was hot and uncomfortable. And I just remember thinking we were never going to get there.

What made it worse was my impatience to reach our destination. I had never been to Washington, but I had heard it compared to the Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey, beautiful and perfect in every way. I couldn’t wait to get there, to see it, to experience it.

If I could just get out of the damn desert.

Lately, life has felt a lot like that long, uneventful, uncomfortable journey through New Mexico. When people ask “what’s new?” my response is always “nothing.” I see life stretch out before me in a panorama of endless possibilities…but I can’t see squat. I know there must be something more out there, but from my seat on the ride, all I see is more of the same old, same old.

At first, something about the great unknown felt exciting…exhilarating…free. But now…now I’m waaay over it. The ride has been too long and I’m uncomfortable. I’ve been the annoying child in the back seat asking my Father for the hundredth time, “Are we there yet??” I’m ready for the view to change. I want to see my Promised Land.

But here’s the kicker…I have no idea what that is. Like Washington, I’ve heard it’s great. I believe the Lord has called me to something bigger and better and more beautiful than I have ever dreamed. He has promised a much greater passion and purpose for my life, and I know He’s leading me there. But the details are a complete mystery. So sometimes it feels like I’m just wandering aimlessly through the desert, my destination so far off.

But on that trip to the Pacific Northwest, the scenery eventually changed. The view out my window gradually transitioned to something greener and brighter. This “Promised Land” I’d been waiting for didn’t seem so far off anymore, and the desert in my rearview mirror, it turns out, wasn’t so endless after all.

In the wilderness, the journey seems long. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s only a short part of the trip. And if you only knew what waits further down the road, it wouldn’t seem so bad. Sometimes the desert is a necessary part of the journey. We may not like it. But we can be sure that God has promised more. The desert isn’t the destination; it’s just part of the route to get there.

Everyone’s wilderness looks a little different. For me, it looks a lot like New Mexico. But for someone else, it may look like the Amazon jungle, teeming with dangerous predators and easy to get lost in. For others, Mount Everest, complete with treacherous cliffs and long, hard, uphill battles. Or maybe it’s the Dead Sea, the lowest point, where life itself seems impossible. My wilderness may not be your wilderness. But we’re all searching for the same thing, our own Promised Land, a place where hope lives, and passion and purpose are in full bloom.

Once we get there, we may find that we start the cycle all over again, wandering through a whole new wilderness, discovering God’s promises and plans are never ending…there’s even more to see…more to experience. And I think somehow we will appreciate those promises all the more because of our time spent in the wilderness.

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Lead Me To The Deserthttp://agirlikeme.com/lead-me-to-the-desert/ http://agirlikeme.com/lead-me-to-the-desert/#comments Wed, 03 Aug 2016 17:19:52 +0000 http://agirlikeme.com/?p=2603

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“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.”  -Hosea 2:14

I never thought the desert was pretty. Growing up in Arizona, I’m not sure I knew the color green existed in nature until I was somewhere in middle school. Even now, as an adult, every time I fly into Phoenix for a visit I look out the window and all I see is a landscape that looks like someone took a brown crayon and just scribbled everywhere. It’s hot, rocky, full of cacti (which I have fallen into several times in my life) and did I mention brown?

To me, the desert was a place where things went to die, not come alive…..or so I thought.

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Three years ago my world was shattered. Coming to the realization that I had been sexually abused by an old boyfriend sent my life into a whirlwind. Everything I felt I had known of myself from those past thirteen years felt like a lie. I felt like I was a lie. The world I was living in, so rich with color and joy and life… all of the sudden…. felt bland and desolate.

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“Traveler, there is no path, the path must be forged as you walk.” – Antonio Machado

I had had “desert seasons” before. Moments in life where God felt far and life felt like trudging through hot sandy terrain. But this one was different. Those other wilderness ventures felt like I was just there on a visit. Like God was asking me to just take a quick pit stop, get a little sunburnt and then it was back to the cool comforts of every day life. But this time, this time felt like He wanted me to stay a while, and the thought of that scared the hell out of me.

I didn’t know how to exist in this new place God had put me. How does one live life in a place where they don’t feel alive? How can you move ahead when the road in front of you feels so unfamiliar? I was lost and looking for an oasis, a place to breathe, and all I saw was sand.

For two years I wallowed. I was mad at God for making me be in this place. For sticking me the desert and leaving me to die. Sure, there were moments where I was given a drink of water and the hope of that “better and familiar place” but it quickly passed. As days turned to weeks and then months, I slowly moved from annoyed to pissed. I had no idea who I was, who my friends were, where my life was going and if I was ever going to feel true joy again. My home was now in the desert and my spirit was dying.

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Did you know that cacti are actually the smartest plants around? Because of the climate in which they live, they are the most adaptive to surviving any type of weather. In seasons of rain, they swell and store up moisture holding in as much as they can so, in seasons of great drought, they can draw from that stored well and survive. The spikes, though painful and not always pretty are actually how they pull moisture from the air to get nutrients and fend off those that wish to attack and destroy it. The great plant of the desert is the greatest survivor. And I wanted to be just like it.

So often God asks us to come to the wilderness with Him. To the place where there is no path and the chances of survival seem slim. He brings us here not to punish us or to crush our spirits- He does it to make us come alive. Because in the desert, we have nothing but Him. He is the manna we feast on and the dew we drink. In the desert is where he shows us how strong we really are, and better yet, how strong He really is. It’s the place of no distraction except the quiet, gentle whispers of Him saying, “I love you. You can do this. I’m right here.” The desert is where I fell in love with Jesus and learned to feel alive right where I was at.

Joseph, in Genesis, was given a vision of his life at age seventeen. It took thirteen years of betrayal, slavery, jail, hatred and belittling before that vision came to pass. When that day finally arrived, Joseph didn’t raise his fist in anger at God. He didn’t say, “Screw you, why did you leave me in this place for so long?” No, instead, Joseph said that all these things had to come to pass so that he could fulfill the plan God had for him. He learned, much like myself, that the desert can be the place God uses to lead you to your dreams.

I know the wilderness can feel scary. It can seem like God has chosen to forget you and leave you for dead. But as someone who has lived here a little while longer than you, believe me when I say that is the furthest from the truth. If you let it, if you surrender yourselves to this place and the process, this desert wilderness can be the greatest gift you’ve ever been given. It can become the time you truly come alive.

Don’t be afraid my sister if you feel a bit lost. If you find yourself wandering in this strange new land uncertain of where to go and what to do next. Just take a deep breath and listen as he begins to woo you back to His heart and sets you free. And if you ever get lonely, just remember, I’m right there with you.

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Lou, Smell the Flowershttp://agirlikeme.com/lou-smell-the-flowers/ http://agirlikeme.com/lou-smell-the-flowers/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 12:00:31 +0000 http://agirlikeme.com/?p=2596 flowers

When I opened the door, the refrigerated air and the intense smell of flowers filled up my lungs. I immediately became obsessed with this tiny warehouse. As I stepped out of the bright sunlight and into this cement room full of buckets, I saw Lou. We had just talked on the phone for an hour while he taught me about growing dahlia tubers and how to harvest flowers to make them last. When I went to shake his hand, I could feel the years of making arrangements and working in the soil in his grip. There was passion in his eyes but his wrinkled skin gave it away-the sun had beaten him up. Growing flowers is no joke. He said he would buy any product I could grow as long as it was quality and to call him again with any questions. I was curious about this little warehouse so full of life. I asked an annoying amount of questions and only some were about the wedding I was helping prepare flowers for. On my way out, I took one more deep breath of the rose-lily-peony-lavender-eucalyptus goodness and asked him if he ever got tired of that smell and I’ll never forget his response.

 

“I wish I could still smell these flowers.”

 

Over the years, he had just gotten used to the smell. His senses were completely dulled. Man, to be surrounded by such beauty every single day and not be able to fully enjoy it anymore? Not gonna lie, it broke my heart in a little way.

And it made me think.

How many times do I complain about dumb crap instead of enjoying the blessing that is so plain to see?

How many times do I wish time away just to get to the next thing?

How many times do I drive the country roads to work and not realize the changing of the seasons in the color of the wildflowers?

How many times do I hear “I love you” from my husband and take it for granted?

How many times do I forget to be completely amazed at the ability to talk to God in prayer?

How many times do I panic about the future when I know the reality of heaven?

So many times.

 

I wish I could still smell these flowers.

 

So this changes things. Desiring the perspective of being aware of what’s around me has been changing my life. From decluttering my house to decluttering my schedule (these things are still in the beginning stages), I’ve been ever so slightly able to see more clearly.

These few uncomfortable things may change your life like they’re changing mine:

Eye contact. More than what’s usual or expected. With my husband and with the woman who is at the bus stop I drive by every morning. I want to say “I see you and I care” with my eyes.

Silence. I force myself to turn off the podcasts and not call people to leave ridiculous 4-minute voicemails (sorry, Heather). Sometimes it’s almost painful to turn talk radio off and listen to the hum of the road or the drone of the air conditioner at home. When is the last time you truly sat still and stopped your brain from running 100 miles an hour?

Get out! I have been sitting with my baby chickens (this is a whole other post… I’m obsessed with them) every night in the backyard in the quiet as a practice of slowing down. They wander around pecking the dirt and flying at each other and staring at me with their scruffy adolescent feathers and beady eyes like alien babies. And before I know it, I have sweat dripping off my face and bug bites on my legs. But man, something about the fresh air is like plugging my batteries in for a good charge.

 

I wish I could still smell these flowers, said old man Lou.

 

I want to smell the flowers every day.

 

Fight to smell the flowers.

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Don’t Go Therehttp://agirlikeme.com/dont-go-there/ http://agirlikeme.com/dont-go-there/#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2016 12:00:20 +0000 http://agirlikeme.com/?p=2591 talk-to-the-hand-1

“I want you to make a collage.”

After a couple months of counseling, I had my first assignment. I was given a big piece of paper and told to draw a circle. Inside the circle I would put pictures that represent things I know to be true of myself. On the outside, things I think other people believe to be true of me.

I thought the assignment was pretty easy. I went home and mindlessly cut words and images from magazines and organized them on the paper. I didn’t think too deeply about what each piece meant as I glued it down. I just described myself the best I could in a visual representation of the me I put on display and allow people to see, and the me I keep carefully hidden.

A week later I brought it back. I unrolled it. We talked about it. She asked questions. I answered. And the past month has mostly looked like that.

This week, however, she asked a question I wasn’t ready to answer.

“Is there anything on here that you want to talk about?”

And that’s where I shut down. I could handle direct questions. “Tell me about the quote inside the circle…What does the smiling girl outside the circle represent?…Why did you put the wedding picture inside the circle instead of outside?” I was ok with that. I’m a pretty open book when people show that they are curious about my life – asking deep, intentional questions because they’re genuinely interested in my struggles, my victories, my day-to-day and the condition of my heart. But I won’t volunteer insight into my life if I’m not absolutely certain it’s wanted or welcomed, if I don’t feel 100% safe.

Of course, there’s no reason I shouldn’t feel safe with my counselor. I trust her and actually love going to my appointments, talking to her for an hour and knowing that she’s listening. But I think that’s where the road block lies for me. “If I tell her about _____, will she be interested and truly care? Or will she just be listening to me because that’s her job?” To willingly invite her to the deepest parts of my heart, without being prompted, feels terrifyingly vulnerable…and I’m not sure I’m ready to go there yet with her.

Or, for that matter, to even go there at all.

You may have noticed by now that pursuing and fighting for vulnerability has become a theme for us at AGLM. It’s something we each have learned to value and truly crave. Personally, it has a lot to do with my choice to seek counseling in the first place. I want to dive in and dig deep. I want to visit every dark, dusty, neglected corner of my heart. I want to face my demons, attack my struggles head on, connect all of the dots and understand the things that have shaped me into who I am.

Or at least in theory, I do. Once I actually start to go there, to that really tender place where my deepest wounds and most personal secrets are kept, it becomes a different story.

And that’s exactly where that question went.

So I pumped the breaks. Hard. Harder than I expected, actually. I tried to find a nonchalant way to change the subject. I smiled too much and laughed nervously, because that’s what I do when talking about something that makes me feel incredibly vulnerable and uncomfortable. I’ve always been that way. It’s my automatic defense against breaking. When something strikes a chord and tears feel imminent (and in that moment, they did), I instantly fight them with a happy face. It’s like I somehow think that if I can outwardly appear to be fine, I can trick my emotions into thinking it’s true.

I will not cry. I will not fall apart.

Because if I do, if I let one tear fall, the whole dam will break. And to crumble in a mess of emotions because something about my life is hard or hurts…that, to me, is the most raw, vulnerable state I can be in, and I am not ready to go there. Not alone, and certainly not in front of someone else.

It seems verbal vulnerability is much easier for me than letting my guard all the way down and getting my feelings involved…to say “I feel hurt/sad/angry/disappointed/etc” is one thing, but to provide evidence of that is too much for me. That’s where my boundary lies. That’s where the resistance kicks in.
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So as I sat there on that couch, knowing she was waiting for a response, I decided the only thing I could do was be honest. Not about the pictures glued on that paper. But about the conflict I was feeling. About the part of me that really wants to go there, to that place, to see what more there is to learn from a simple collage…but also the other part of me – the stronger part – that was suddenly struck by a fear that paralyzed me and said, “This is too much…you think you’re ready, but you’re not…vulnerability is just not safe today.”

And she said, “Ok.” She didn’t push. My walls and defenses fell. And I felt safe again.

But it scares me to know that I have to go back there. That moment revealed that there’s a level of hurt I didn’t fully know existed. I didn’t realize I’ve been ignoring it…avoiding it. But now that I do, it’s just another dark, dusty corner of my heart that I know I need to visit. Maybe not all at once. But a little bit at a time I will start to let myself feel whatever lives there.

Maybe I will cry tears that need to be cried. Maybe I will find forgiveness that has been begging to be found. Maybe I will heal in a way I didn’t know I needed to heal. And maybe – just maybe – I will find a way to feel ready to invite someone to go there with me.

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