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Three Steps To Homeless

There will be days when you see no way out. There will be days when you are ready to give up. In those moments, look at what you CAN control. Often times you will find that you are closer to break through than you realize. Take a step back. Look at the big picture. Find where there is truth, and keep pressing on!

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My sophomore year of college I participated in an activity for my school’s annual “Tunnel of Oppression”. This event consists of several different organizations and student groups who set up exhibits over the course of two or three days. Each of the exhibits is meant to highlight the experiences of different people groups who experience oppression in our society. This covers everything from women and children in Human Trafficking to the LGBTQ communities to the disabled to the homeless, etc.

Today, as I spent most of the day making phone calls, filling out applications, and running from office to office in order to gain some assistance with my present circumstances, I was reminded of this experience.

Let me back up. This past year has been filled with non-stop challenges. I was forced to quit one of the best-paid jobs in my city as a technical support rep because they would no longer accommodate my school schedule. With only one year remaining, I wasn’t going to sacrifice my degree to be stuck in a career I didn’t want. Since then I have worked two different jobs, neither with guaranteed hours or income sufficient to live on. On top of job challenges, the financial aid department at my university has been a nightmare. In a nutshell, school availability has made it extremely difficult to find work that allows me to attend classes, and still acquire twenty hours a week. My most recent job has been giving me five to ten hours a week at best.

Needless to say, unless this job is paying extremely well, it is not enough to pay rent and utilities, afford gas and insurance for my car, have a working phone, and food in the house. I have applied to nearly a hundred jobs in the past month, with very little to show for it. Today, my errands consisted of visiting the office of public assistance for food stamps, and the local job services agency. I was told my our state unemployment agency that I did not qualify due to my lack of availability, because of school. Today I was informed that I did not qualify for food stamps since it is a federal law that I work at least twenty hours a week.

I sat in front of the desk of a women with dark hair and glasses as the tears forced their way through my eyes.

“What am I supposed to do? I’ve been applying for every part-time job possible with no luck?”

Her lips pursed. She nodded a short, curt nod. “I understand, I can give you paperwork for your current job and maybe they can give you twenty hours so you can qualify,”

“I will see if they can sign it, but I have already talked to them about my hours. They said they can’t do anything about it.”

“Well, there’s still the food bank. You know about that right?” She replied softly.

“Yes.” I nodded, as I rose my hand to wipe my cheek. “That’s what I’ve been doing for the past month.”

“Well, that’s good.” She turned back to her computer and closed my case, advising me to re-apply if anything within my circumstances changed.

I got to my car and the tears flooded. I was quickly reminded of the activity during “Tunnel of Oppression” that dealt with low-income and homeless oppression. They had set up a game where we each drew cards that revealed different circumstances and events that could occur in a person’s life that would affect them financially. More often than not, within three cards, each person participating in the game ended up in a metaphorical homeless shelter.

I understand that there are checks and balances in place within our government and it’s assistance to keep people from abusing the system, but there are always exceptions. Not every circumstance is covered within these laws. I was feeling hopeless.

As I arrived on campus, I was texting my best friend all of my frustrations, and she empathized. I will say my best friend has been my hero in so many ways. She is a very intelligent, motivated young woman who has faced her fair share of challenges and always seems to come out stronger and more empathic in the end. She has been a rock in my life in so many ways, and an inspiration in the fact that she never stops giving of herself.

She offered me a place to stay if things got much worse. “At least you can finish school and not worry about bills so much…” she wrote. She proceeded to help me put things in perspective, asking me practical questions like: “What’s your school schedule?” and “How much money do have to put towards next month’s rent?” For which I was thankful. It allowed me to get out of my head a bit and look past my emotions. She proceeded to tell me that one of her coworkers heard about my situation and wanted to help me cover rent. I sat at the computer desk of my internship and cried. A woman I had met only once was offering more than most Christians would. It was humbling, to say the least.

I came home to find that I had finally received the W2 form I had been waiting on from a previous job. I could finally file my taxes which would likely cover me for another month or so. The weight lifted a little. I checked my email to see that I had two potential offers for jobs. They weren’t much, but they were potential. It meant hope. The haze was beginning to clear a little from my emotional cloud.

I told my friend I was going to hold off on her coworker’s offer until I knew that I had no other options, but so appreciate the compassion she showed. The truth is, this season has been teaching me empathy for those less fortunate or in similar positions that I have been in this past year. I am grateful for those who have given love so undeserving as I have struggled with my independence and pride, among numerous other challenges. Perhaps what I am learning most is that this life is not my own and as a Christian, I am required to live every day in surrender and trust. Knowing that God does love me and will take care of me. But sometimes, often times, he uses people to reveal that love. My role is to pay it forward and be love to others who need it too.

There will be days when you see no way out. There will be days when you are ready to give up. In those moments, look at what you CAN control. Often times you will find that you are closer to break through than you realize. Take a step back. Look at the big picture. Find where there is truth, and keep pressing on!

“The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again, and you will be rebuilt.” -Jeremiah 31:3-4a

“Young I have been, I have also become old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his children begging for bread.” -Psalm 37:25

Mapping Myself

I do not feel as I am the only one whose stories and memories not only intersect within themselves but within the lives of others as well. Maybe that’s the point. For us to tell our stories in such a way that allow our audiences to empathize with us, with the plights of one another. 

Thinking back over memories, I can more or less separate my life into seasons. There was my childhood, school days: primary, middle, and high school; my Perea days, college, post-college young adult years… Even within those seasons, I can separate those into even more seasons. Where would life be without the rebel years, those gloriously messy seasons of depression and heartache, the deconstruction days–which like many things in life, seem to be a continual process. If I were to draw out this seasons like a map, it would look like a continual Venn diagram of memories unfolding into a dream catcher-like effect inside my brain. Those neural pathways all intersecting.

Oddly enough, I do not feel as I am the only one whose stories and memories not only intersect within themselves but within the lives of others as well. Maybe that’s the point. For us to tell our stories in such a way that allow our audiences to empathize with us, with the plights of one another.

(To Be Continued…)

The Only Thing That Matters: A Response to the loss of Chester Bennington

In the end, the only thing that matters is that we take each moment as it comes, that we learn to laugh and love and breathe and find beauty in every bit of it…Take in every sunset and sunrise as celebration that you have made it another day.

When I woke up today, I had every intention of silently grieving the news that has poured in over the past 24 hours regarding the death of Linkin Park front man Chester Bennington. While I understand that such news will affect everyone differently, I have decided that I, for one, am done staying silent.

I fear that our internet age has allowed us to take a back seat and watch as the world burns without batting an eye or letting it affect us. I will be the first to admit that there are assets to the internet in allowing us to communicate and be connected more than we ever have. Yet, in the onslaught of information and a thousand voices clamoring at once, I fear sometimes what really matters gets lost in the noise.

As I was skimming my Facebook newsfeed today, I stumbled across a meme reacting to Chester’s death. Because the death was reported as a suicide, the responses appear different, in many cases, as they would be if there was a car accident or heart attack or some other cause of death, including a drug overdose. Our culture believes these sorts of deaths as tragedies. The apparent view of suicide, on the other hand, seems to think that it is appalling, unthinkable.

There is a problem with this. The fact that someone would even deem it appropriate to create a meme mocking a man who’s life ended a mere 24 hours ago, is unthinkable and yet it happens. It happens far too often. The individual who created this meme was senseless in terms of considering the added pain that it may have caused to Chester’s loved ones in addition to the weight of what his suicide has left in its wake. Memes are disengaged ways of coping with life and while I am all about using humor and irony to laugh at our problems within our culture, I do not feel that mental health, death, and suicide are not issues that are laughable.

Think about it, if someone died in a tragic accident, terrorist attack, natural disaster… would we find a meme about it funny? Why is suicide any different? It shouldn’t be. Yes, I understand that Chester took his own life, by his own choice, yet the darkness that he battled must have been beyond comprehension. I by no means wish to romanticize suicide but I do want to shed light on the ways our culture responds to it and hopefully cause even a ripple in terms of changing the conversation and ways that we respond.

As someone who has lost loved ones due to suicide and as someone who has herself personally struggled with depression, suicidal thoughts, and tendencies with failed attempts in her history, I will say that we have got to stop brushing it aside, condemning the victims, or mocking the pain. With the internet world being what it is, while we seem to be the most connected, we are simultaneously grossly disengaged. Because we share a post or like a page, we have done our job. We stuff the news somewhere deep inside our conscience and go about our days as if nothing happened.

Now, I am not saying that we should not post the things that matter to us. What I am saying is that it must not stop there. We must allow ourselves to engage, Let yourself wrestle with this kind of news. Cry. Empathize. Although I never knew Chester personally, I know I was not alone in being touched by his music. Music that still holds echoes of the weight that he was carrying and the struggle to believe that life was worth it all. Unless you have been there, you have no right to an opinion.

Perhaps you have been there? Perhaps these disengaged memes are a way of hiding behind a mask of mockery because you are too afraid to admit the fear you carry. The fear that if people knew that you’ve thought about it too, the shame that our culture, our churches, our media have portrayed that suicide is condemning or heroic. It’s easy to point the finger.

Friends, suicide in neither condemning nor heroic. The decision to take one’s own life leaves irreparable damage in its stead. Death holds a finality that you could never begin to comprehend until you are staring it in the face. For someone who holds that much pain in their heart, for someone who’s body and mind have warred against one another for so long, it seems the only escape. I get it, I’ve been there too. But I also know that life holds so much beauty that it is worth it to keep going.

Jamie Tworkowski, founder of the organization To Write Love on Her Arms, has written a beautiful article to respond to what is beyond a doubt felt as a great loss to the world. TWLOHA has been a source of hope for so many, including myself. I am forever thankful for those like Jamie, whose hearts beat with compassion, love, and a dream to make the world a brighter, more hopeful place.  Let’s do our part to change the conversation. Let us not be afraid to open our hearts and respond in love to those who struggle beyond comprehension, to lose who feel they have lost all hope. To the loved ones and anyone affected by Chester’s death. my heart goes out to you. My prayers and love are with you.

 

If you or someone you love struggle with depression or suicide, please reach out. Get help. Jaimie has shared these resources, so I am posting them here as well:

Crisis Text Line is a great place to start. Simply send a text to 741-741. A trained crisis counselor will respond, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Like Crisis Text Line, these folks are available 24/7.

For additional resources, including licensed mental health counselors, please visit TWLOHA’s website.

 

In the end, the only thing that matters is that we take each moment as it comes, that we learn to laugh and love and breathe and find beauty in every bit of it. What matters is that we learn to love. Love the people that surround us, those who are battling wars inside of them that we couldn’t begin to understand, love the life you’ve been given… beauty is in all things if we simply pause for just a moment and look. Take in every sunset, every sunrise, as a celebration that you have made it another day. Collect the memories that make you smile, the ones that make you laugh and remind you that you are loved. You matter and you are worth it. You are worth another day and many more to come.

Grief, in Seven Parts

I have done my best to try to place myself in this woman’s shoes–a woman who was full of faith and strength beyond what I could fathom, yet a woman who was as human as you or I. I hope you find some value in these words.

About a year and a half ago I lost my uncle to a severe form of skin cancer. When I got the news, everything inside of me prayed it wasn’t true. He was dying. Over the months his condition worsened and in what seemed like an instant, he was gone. I attended the funeral with my family on the Saturday before Easter. I was struck by the finality that is death. By the fact that once the casket would be lowered into the ground and swallowed up by the earth, that was it. There would be no more Alan.
The following day I attended a church service. I attended a play about the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ later that evening. In the midst of my processing, I realized that Jesus was the only one written about who conquered the finality of death and reversed it to bring life. That thought got me thinking about Mary, the mother of Christ, grieving the death of her son. What must that have been like for her? A few days later, I went to a poetry reading at The University of Montana. That poet was Mary Szybist, a poet raised as a Catholic. Her collection, Incarnadine draws heavily on her upbringing and her personal sense of disconnect from the perfect and holy Madonna. That got me pondering about the humanness of Christ, and of his mother, and I decided that I wanted to write a poem about it.
Such an idea seemed lofty, beyond what I felt like I was capable as a writer. I finally decided to put pen to paper and have spent the last couple weeks trying to formulate the words of a Mother watching her son be brutally murdered and walking through the seven stages of grief. While I have experienced death and grief, I have never witnessed something as gruesome as Christ’s death. I am also not a mother, so such grief is beyond my full comprehension. In any case, I have done my best to try to place myself in this woman’s shoes–a woman who was full of faith and strength beyond what I could fathom, yet a woman who was as human as you or I. I hope you find some value in these words. I would honestly appreciate any and all feedback you have to offer to help refine this work. Thank you for reading and for engaging with these words.

Blessings,

Megan

I. Shock
There is no time for sadness.
Awakening to terror— this white flag
is the only thing rooted.
Echoes of wailing with no registration.
David’s songs forsaken
like the man for whom they were born.

Torn veils and separation,
painted in reds and silvers,
replaying over in my mind.
Your fallen tabernacle released,
a shaking beneath our feet.
Our own temples fell.

Could he have known?
what plans engraved stone tables?
ancient magic revealed only
as one might study the makeup of stars.
Could you not walk with me
as you had in darkened gardens?
Was I the one asleep?
I cannot reverse what we have done.

I no longer recognize my own voice,
there is another woman
screaming me awake.
I am beside myself, shivering in sweat.

II. Denial
Perhaps if I close my eyes
again, I will wake to hammers
pounding away my fears.
yet the only pounding I hear,
accompanied by your sharp gasps.
I will seek you among friends.
Weeks have passed before you returned,
this is no different.
Sweep away the emptiness
like sawdust collected benches.
Tangible refusal to acknowledge
you are not coming home.

III. Resentment
Was I merely made of vessel?
The potter’s clay to smash when used?
My God, My God,
why have you forsaken
me? Left vapid and repeat.
I made a home for you, I
untouched, empty womb.
I poured out affection as he
I would become my own.
Father could you know,
a mother’s ache when love is spent?
A purposeless fountain, wasting water,
refreshing no one.

I watched them gather among each other
as they gathered mana from the earth.
entrusting my/our most precious want.
You, the life source. The bread and body.
Though their kisses were given
like silver—pieces of betrayal.
Your kiss deceived me first.
You embodied both: enemy
and heir of my affection.
You had overshadowed me.
How could I separate grief?

IV. Bargaining
You had promised nations
created out of nothingness
as void as the sand and stars.
Our fathers carried hope as burdens—
wanderers searching for rest.

And the namesake of my son,
saw you disguised in cloud and flame,
all glory lit upon the face
of mountains, carved rock,
illuminating these insecure prophets.
You offered solace from nothing—
wilderness in all direction.

Mother Rehab, blessed stranger,
gave us home when thought was doomed.
Stories that have led us blindly
as roles reversed.
Our salvation squandered.

Replace my headstone for this tomb.
Have mercy on my grief, left cold.
Is your compassion as silent
and invisible as the being that holds?
This land that gives, birthed
from your head. They used to say:
even snow understands
the orchard as it buries it.
What costs might kings require?
The coal turned ashen,
touch my purple lips once more,
save he right what we have wronged.

V. Guilt
I knew
as light chased darkness from my room
You spoke. Assured me of my worthiness.
Grace, you were too kind. To lie.
I never was deserving of hopes,
built on heirlooms. Tradition
that spoke of loyal creation, clasped
in arms of greater cause.
Who am I to hold him,
still unworthy of his loss?

These faces move in subtlety
a mirage of what is human.
You did this for them. Answer me,
did you not think of me?

Yet, they
are someone
else’s children.
Every woman is someone
else’s mother/sister/daughter
Friend.
Each man the same.
Father/brother/son.
I, too, have kissed them
like silver pieces begging for trade.
Denied what connected all.
Your blood is on my hands
Yet you wear mine, like darkest of wines—
an eternal stain—there upon your own.
Marked like invitations of two hands
held open, for universe to pour through.

VI. Despair
The rain came in torrents.
No virga of warning. Though
clouds seemed darkened for days.
I watched as petals fell from roses
and were carried off in wind.
Their death—water and spirit,
sources meant to revive.
Was yours different?

I watched as both
poured from your side. A sure sign,
this was forever. How will history
go forth from this? What lens now
filters and reflects what’s done?

I held out my palms for bread,
but the ravens came before it reached.
Plucked what was left of these ribs.
These lungs no longer breathe.
There is a hollow inside my chest,
heart empty, though I still feel it’s beat.
Echoing stones in the pit of all I am.

Gethsemane screams forsaken.
Backs turned, ignoring your distress.
What lament invades the slumber
of selfish ill begotten fools?
Swords and kisses marked this.
You laid down your arms in acceptance.
Spoke not a word. No anger,
protest, denial. What opposes these?

VII. Acceptance
I saw traces of Eden in your smile.
Your eyes were a coming home.
To be blind could not excuse what was.
Your touch, though calloused, calmed,
healed all that was unseen.

I am learning that you cannot set flame
to histories. Destroy proof, yet ripple,
carbon footprints, continue onward.
Though I feel as stripped and bare
as his body before me, torn.
I cannot say that you have left me,
your presence sepias my life.
Now I am awaiting this transitional when.

I am learning to believe in goodness
when I see no evidence of promise;
To love means to breathe into another
To become forceless,
To cease to exist…
You stopped breathing.

I am no longer tormented as I sit,
tired eyes by doorways,
waiting for news of your betrayal.
When I sleep, I sleep in peace.
I have dropped my burdens like pretenses,
washed the dust, and blood, and tears.
My sorrow gives out from sheer exhaustion.

It is not your voice that cries out:
inri, inri, inri among the crowds.
You are going home. It is
your voice that pierces,
behold your son. Words settle
like aftermath.

Do not cling to me.

My Life: The Setup for Deconstruction

Mix this all up and you have a beautifully broken and skeptical young woman who doubts people and their intentions, doubts society as a whole. You have a girl who doubts the church and religion, who doubts God and often times even doubts her friends as well as herself.

I have had a few people asking me questions about my story and why I believe what I believe. I’ve been asked by several how I can justify being a Christian and stand up for many of today’s social justice issues (which in my opinion, those two should never be separated). I’ve been accused of being “progressive,” a “heretic,” and a “Jezebel” among other names. In any case, I wrote out the process and the factors that have accumulated to my odd sort of amalgam of beliefs. Bear with me while I attempt to guide you on this journey. 

 

Step one: Make sure you are born into a Mormon fundamentalist sect that practices polygamy, hidden away in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. You are the third oldest, of eleven children, the oldest daughter.

Step two: You lose your baby sister. She is born three months premature with a tumor in her lungs. She lives exactly 48hrs. You are five years old. Set aside for processing.

Step three: Trace back your bloodline to the founder of the town you grow up in, and nearly all of the 900 people living there as well. The founder is your great grandfather and the prophet of the United Apostolic Brethren.

Step four: Begin attending a public school in third grade because another of your sisters has been diagnosed with ADD. The private Mormon school you attended in your small little town doesn’t have the appropriate training or resources to give her a proper education and Mom refuses to split the kids up.

Step five: Become friends with a Christian girl who says that she can’t be friends with Mormons causing you to question your entire world and existence— everything you’ve ever known up to this point.

Six: You are molested by your oldest brother. You can’t talk about it with anyone. Thankfully, this only happens once… at least to you.

Seven: Begin struggling with self-worth, prone to suicidal tendencies and self-injury.

Eight: Receive a diagnosis for Manic Depressive Disorder. Begin taking Antidepressants. Realize that drugs make you feel like a zombie and you decide feeling depressed is better than feeling fake. Stop taking meds.

Nine: Try to cope with various instances of your mother not being present and your father’s anger outbursts, which often result in physical violence and verbal abuse.

Ten: Your brother ends up in jail, tries to straighten his life out but gives up. He begins to study the Wiccan religion.

Your parents force you to go on a trip with the Mormon youth group from the little town  you grew up in, to the key historical locations where the Mormon faith was birthed. You begin seeing parallels between Mormonism and the Wiccan religion. Because of the hypocrisy and double-standards you witness in your community growing up and on the trip, you become agnostic and give up on the religion you grew up knowing.

As a junior in high school, you have a friend hospitalized due to an overdose/suicide attempt. Another friend had shot herself only months prior and ended her life.

At the same time, your friend is hospitalized, your brother has a drug overdose at a party and nearly dies. He ends up back in jail for a short period for violating his probation. You have no one to talk to or process these events with, at least no one safe. You begin seriously contemplating suicide because you can’t handle the pain.

 

Add a bottle of pills and a prayer that leaves you passed out in your own tears. Let it sit overnight. Come morning you wake up with a choice.

 

You take your life out of the pit it has been in and put it into a church, one that your brother convinced you to begin attending with him once he is released from jail. His cellmate has led him to Jesus—a Native American man who explains his faith in terms of spirituality that overrides his previous Wiccan beliefs. Once in a Christian church, you feel like you have found a place where you feel free, you feel loved. You belong. The church is Pentecostal non-denominational. They teach you about the Holy Spirit and the gifts. They pray for you to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. You want to believe but nothing happens so you pretend because you’re getting tired and you know if something doesn’t happen the prayers will never stop.

You continue to go to church but this causes tension in your family. They believe that you have left the one true church and unless you turn back around and come back to their Mormon church, you will condemn yourself to hell. Doubts and questions frequently surface from the doctrine and old ways of life that you were raised with, this makes you simultaneously doubt the how trustworthy the Christian faith is in all aspects as well.

You move in with your older brother as soon as you turn eighteen, in order to keep some sense of peace and sanity, for freedom to attend church and worship the way you want to–the way that your new church has taught you.

Three months after moving in with your brother, your mother is diagnosed with cervical cancer. As the oldest daughter, you move home to help her with the other children and keeping up the household as she undergoes treatment. She receives laser surgery and visits a naturopath who encourages her to change her diet. She does so. She remains cancer free.

Two months after moving back home, you are kicked out because your brother shared about the community’s teachings and practice of polygamy with a church in a nearby town. Your mother panics. She tells you that if you are going to choose to be a Christian and go along with your brother, then you have to get the hell out. You leave with a trash bag full of belongings and a vague idea of where you will spend the night.

The pastor of the church your brother spoke at invites you to stay at his home for the week until his family has to leave in order to facilitate a church camp. The family models Jesus with their support and provision. You call your mother the next morning to tell her that you are safe. She yells at you over the phone. You hang up on her because your throat has closed off so tightly that you can’t speak. The pastor’s wife embraces you and holds you until you stop crying. When you realize you’ve forgotten your toothbrush, they readily offer one.

When you leave their home, you spend the entire summer moving from place to place, staying with friends and you even spend a handful of nights sleeping in your car. Towards the end of the summer, a friend gives you a book explaining the Mormon doctrine of blood atonement and apostasy. Apostasy is the sin of turning your back on the church and speaking against it, a crime deemed as punishable by death. Blood atonement is the name of a sin paid for in your own blood. You are angry and confused. You feel as if your whole life has been a lie. Like the earth itself has been yanked out from beneath your feet. You wonder who else knows it. You wonder if your parents know. It would explain them kicking you out. If they did know, how they could stay with their church? You spend weeks feeling sad and angry, but thankful that God has gotten you out. You haven’t spoken to anyone in your family since leaving.

The youth pastor at your church tells you about a discipleship school about seventy miles away that would provide a home and help you to gain a solid foundation for your beliefs. You’ve been a Christian not quite two years at this point.

You move into the discipleship school about a month later. The couple that runs the small school takes discipleship to heart. They meet with you weekly one on one and encourage you in your walk with Jesus. The couple models Jesus well. They are real and do not hide their struggles and doubts. It helps that the students live in their home with them so you see everything. You are thankful for their example.

Three months after moving, your brother goes back to jail. This time he tells you that he feels like God wants him to confess that He had molested you and your sister. You are afraid because you know that this means he will go to prison. You also know that this means that there is no hiding the shame you have felt for nearly ten years. You try to talk him out of it, but he is sure.

You get a phone call from your mother the day of his sentencing. She is broken and you can no longer hold yourself together either. Through heavy sobs, you beg her and your father not to be angry. You forgave him after it happened. You don’t know why, except that you know your brother and you know that it wasn’t him that night. It’s been ten years and you’re okay. Your brother will hopefully be getting help. This causes a crisis of faith, where you consider throwing away everything and going back to your old life but you have nothing there. You already know where that path leads. Still you are hurt and angry with God and begin to question his goodness.

Your mentor at the bible school walks you through your pain as you wrestle with God and suicidal thoughts again. One night as she prays with you in your room, she encourages you to ask God where He was when everything happened. You see a picture in your mind of Jesus fighting off demons as your brother makes his choice to hurt you, and you’ve made a choice to keep silent. You realize that Jesus has always been fighting for you.

Your brother spends the next eight years in prison. There are some days when you almost forget he exists. You have forgiven him, and your heart has received a lot of healing, but he is far away and not present in your life… you learn to live without him there but feel guilty when you forget about him because in prior years you were close.

In the process of this healing, you have numerous relationships with men, many who take advantage of you and use you. You begin going to college to study to be a teacher. All your baggage goes with you, you are nearly assaulted your first few weeks there. You don’t tell anyone except your roommate at the time you tries to encourage you to report it. You fought him off so nothing happened. You convince yourself that there is no need.

Your professors encourage you to pursue writing because they believe that you are skilled but also have a story to tell. You change your major to Creative Writing, and a second degree/emphasis in Literature in case you need something to fall back on.

The church you have been attending since moving to the discipleship school begins to manipulate your time, energy and emotions. You witness the ways they take advantage of people on a regular basis and no longer believe the sermons spoken on Sunday mornings. After everything you’ve walked through with Jesus personally, you know he is not the enemy… you begin to hate the church.

You end up leaving your church after having an emotional breakdown. Shortly after, the church closes it’s doors. At your new church and through your campus ministry involvement, you become close friends with a couple of people that also take advantage of you and use you, eventually cutting you out of their lives when you need them. One was a narcissist who was also your best friend for three years. You got incredibly close without realizing the damage that was being done. The campus ministry leader also models similar behavior as your old pastor and manipulates you, puts you down and doesn’t not respect your time or when you say no to helping with events. You step down from your role as a staff member, burnt out, frustrated, and hurt. All of this only drives a further wedge between you and the church.

You begin to struggle with chronic pain due to reproductive health issues. You spend months trying different medications and different doctors in hopes of definitive answers. After a year, you decide to stop taking medication because it only seems to make the pain worse. Your body doesn’t function as it normally should, but it’s better than feeling like your life is restricted due to the pain.

In the middle of this, your sister leaves her husband and begins talking about divorce. He is emotionally, and sexually abusive. Sexually because he does not respect her body and pushes her to have children in spite of the nine miscarriages in five years of marriage. He refuses to see a doctor or look into adoption for help. During the first five years of their marriage, her husband has controlled her diet and distanced her from family. Your sister ends up going back to him after four months. You still struggle to show Christ to your brother in law.

In the process of the chronic pain and frustrations with the doctors, your best friend severs all ties with you. You try to salvage some part of the friendship but after a while, he refuses to acknowledge your existence. You attend the same church. He refuses to speak to you or look at you when you are talking in a circle of friends. You begin to avoid church and any interactions with him for a while.

A few months later, another of your closest friends severs ties with you, behaving in similar fashion. Shortly after, she begins attending a new church. Thankfully, one friend has been as loyal as the sunrise in the midst of all this and stays with you for over three years in spite of the messes and pain and wanting to give up. This friend has shown Jesus in his genuine heart and giving grace and love to everyone he knows. He too has had doubts and at times has not known how to be a supportive friend as you’ve struggled with pain and depression and grieving the losses in your life, but he never stops showing up and you are thankful. This friend, and those like him that you have been lucky enough to have in your life, are what keep you going.

 

Mix this all up and you have a beautifully broken and skeptical young woman who doubts people and their intentions, doubts society as a whole. You have a girl who doubts the church and religion, who doubts God and often times even doubts her friends as well as herself.

 

Nevertheless, in the midst of the hardest seasons, this life has been glazed with a sweet understanding of the love of Jesus due to some moments of irreversible light that she has experienced along the way. Her faith is not the same “giddy, throw up your hands and dance” faith that it used to be when she first accepted Jesus, but there are still those moments. Rather, it is now a seasoned faith, more like a deep, rich red wine. Sweet and perhaps still a little bitter, but they say all the best wines get sweeter with time. So she can hope. She can always hope.

 

I have watched doors open for provision when I haven’t known how I was going to pay my rent, I have seen my relationship with my family not only restored over the years, but we’ve grown even closer. It is still hard and it still takes a lot of work. I am still viewed as a liberal “Jesus Freak” who may or may not go to hell by my family, and a liberal borderline heretic by many in the church, but they have watched me cling to Jesus in the moments when I had almost nothing else, and I have risen from the dust time and time again. I am determined to still keep rising.

I continue to try to see God’s heart for people around me because I have caught a glimpse of His heart for me. I try to believe that He can use a broken and flawed church in spite of the ways I have been hurt by it and most days want to throw the towel in—because I too am broken and want to believe that God will use me. My life is nothing if my experiences do not help make someone else’s burdens a little easier to carry. I am more prone to deconstruction because if my faith cannot withstand the weight of these experiences, then it is not a faith worth having. I am prone to questions because when all hell breaks loose, those questions are sure to surface. If there is anything in my foundation that is not secure, I will feel it, and I will see it, and I will run in shaky circles until I have something I can stand on.

But one thing I know for certain: I want to live like the Jesus I have seen in my own personal walk and hope that others will see it too and do likewise. It doesn’t happen overnight, but I have to believe it will make a difference. I have nothing if I have not hope

 

*Note: These are the MAIN bullet points of my life. I realize that all of this could be a book in and of itself. Believe me, I am working on that. There are stories of short-term missions and being a youth leader and singing on worship teams, and campus ministry and children’s church and women’s ministry, and even being rejected by churches and church circles scattered throughout as well. The things that have been most defining have been when I have felt the most broken and/or when God’s voice and presence has come through. Those two facets have at times been exclusive from one another, and at other times overlapped. I have learned that you have to take the good in with the bad sometimes and keep believing and working for a better world. You have to take it all in stride, knowing that the hardest moments have made you stronger, yet simultaneously more empathetic because you know what it feels like to be inherently broken and in need of hope, and so I try to share that hope in any way that I can. If you have any questions about all of this, just ask. I am happy to answer them in any way I can.

If you have any questions about any of this, just ask. I am an open book and would be happy to answer them in any way I can.

On the Women’s March on Washington

Let me be clear. I am a Christian. I love and serve my Savior. I love my church. I am pro-life. I did not agree with everything that was said or every sign carried during the march. So why did I choose to take part in the Women’s March on Washington?

Originally posted on the community/site blog for ChristianPig. You can view the original post here.

 

“…We are stronger together…”

“…Women’s rights are human rights…”

“…I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change; I am changing the things I can…”

“…Fight against fear…”

“…Men of quality do not fear equality…”

“…Eyes open. Speak up…”

“…All resistance is built on hope…”

“…Kindness is making history…”

“…No one is free when others are oppressed…”

“…Jesus was a refugee in Egypt…”

“…Reject the normalization of sexual assault…”

“…Silence is acceptance, speak loudly…”

These are just a few of the signs read as I marched with my best friend in my state capital. I will be honest, I was anxious about going. Anxious because I knew that would be my line in the sand, my statement that would establish where I stand. I was afraid because I knew that would mean disappointment and/or rejection from many of my loved one within the church and without.

Let me be clear. I am a Christian. I love and serve my Savior. I love my church. I am pro-life. I did not agree with everything that was said or every sign carried during the march.

So why did I choose to take part in the Women’s March on Washington?

Because I am a Christian and I am pro-life. I believe that every life matters and that love wins, every time. Because I am a Christian and pro-life, I believe that standing up for and advocating for the rights of women’s access to affordable health care is important. We cannot advocate for the unborn if we do not advocate for options for women who feel they have no options. I am not so naive to believe that this is a black and white issue. We can’t keep spewing anti-abortion rhetoric if we are not willing to respect the lives we have already been given on this planet. That means we need to step up in aiding adoption, foster care, single parents and pregnant teens. That means proper education on safe and healthy sex habits. That means we need to be responsible with our choices in reproduction on all fronts.

Most of all, because I am a Christian and pro-life, I believe that God loves and forgives those women, and his blood has covered those women just as much as those unborn. I am not advocating for abortion. I am advocating for life. I am saying that we as Christians have no business judging these women (and men) if we are not willing to help alleviate the burdens.

I understand that this march asked pro-life groups not to attend. They did not keep me as an individual from attending. The reason is that it was a peaceful march. There was not a word spoken about abortion during my attendance. I did not need to talk about it either because this march was bigger than that.

To me, this march was about reaching out to my neighbors, my fellow sisters—and brothers—and telling them that their concerns matter. Their fears matter and their voices matter. My solidarity was my choice and my way of telling them I empathize with their pain and their brokenness. This was not a cry-baby tantrum by millennials who did not get their way.

This march represented generations. It represented women, but it represented more than that. Men, women, and people of all race, ethnicity, sexuality, backgrounds and religion stood together in love and in solidarity. I have learned that people will never care about what you preach until you meet their needs on a very practical level. Today, it meant putting my boots on the ground and walking side by side with women (and men) who aren’t all that different from me. Again, I am not saying that all pro-life individuals do not apply these actions to their advocacy, but I am disheartened by the fact that more often than not, even when it was preaching to the choir, the majority of Christians have responded with judgment, guilt, and shame. This isn’t what I know to be true of my Jesus, and this has got to change.

Because I am a Christian and pro-life, I believe my neighbor is valued by God and worthy of my respect. Regardless of whether they believe differently from me and regardless of where they originated. Because I am Christian and pro-life, I must choose to die to myself daily, crucifying my fears and my selfishness to love the one in front of me. I will be the first to admit that is easier said than done.

Because I am a Christian and pro-life, I will recognize the needs of the persecuted, the disabled, the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized—and wherever, however, I can lend a hand, I will. My heart and my prayers are yours. Because I am a Christian and pro-life, I will recognize the fact that my savior was almost murdered as a child because of persecution and His family fled as refugees to Egypt, as directed by God. We need to respond as Christ would to global refugee crisis today.

Because I am a Christian and pro-life, my heart breaks for my native brothers and sisters who have fought for centuries for justice. I grieve for the countless lives lost in the exploitation of the land and a country that has always been rightfully theirs to begin with. I stand with our Standing Rock warriors who took a stand for their rights, their land and their sacred water. I cry on behalf of their constant battle for equality in school systems, in government, and on their own reservations! With my roots planted in Montana, our state has numerous tribes represented and those wounds run deep. They are still bleeding for hope that someday things will be restored and made right. Much of today’s march was honoring our indigenous people and their place in our world. I was proud to stand with them. I will honestly tell you that standing there before the capitol building and hearing their songs, in their native tongue, was a spiritual experience. Heaven was invited to touch the earth and the whole atmosphere shifted with their voices. Hearing their stories and their dreams made me weep.

Because I am a Christian and pro-life, I mourn the countless black lives lost in our nation’s history—in everything from slave trade to slave brutality to the civil war to the civil rights and through to today. I am frustrated that they are still fighting for equality and freedom in a nation whose mantra has always been a promise and a hope of those very things. I am angered by the fact that racism still needs to be a conversation on any front and the fact that there are still too many people that cannot acknowledge people as people and the value they carry as individuals, with their cultures to learn from and grow with.

Because I am a Christian and pro-life, I want to understand and appreciate my LGBTQ brothers and sisters for who there are as individuals and their contribution to our world and our society—regardless of whether or not I agree with their sexuality—they don’t agree with mine! I want to draw out the gold that every person carries inside them and love them the way that Jesus would love them—by listening to their concerns and validating their humanness, rather than through alienating and othering.

Because I am a Christian and pro-life I will speak out and actively take part in eradicating the sexual exploitation of men, women, and children. There are no words for the emotions I felt in hearing about many of the women and children who were abducted and sold into human trafficking during the Standing Rock protests. My blood boils at the fact that there are hundreds of thousands sold into sex slavery every year, in the United States alone, and an estimated 25% of those are children. We the people… we are not for sale! I am outraged that I live in a world where “consent” and “sexual assault” need to be defined, and the fact that victims receive blame for the problem rather than justice. I am irate that rape culture is a reality, and I will be damned if the president of my country will be the man leading the example in that rhetoric, excusing it as “locker room talk”—this is not okay. It will never be okay. That goes for any other racist, sexist, fascist platform he will use for his own personal or political gain.

This is our America. Do you see the problem here? Yes, these problems existed before Trump, but the issues were made infinitely clearer and these rights further questioned during his campaign. This election has polarized our nation like nothing I have ever seen before, and if I can be so bold to say, I feel it is beginning to separate the sheep from the goats. It has certainly brought a lot to light.  I will admit that the signs listed at the beginning are just a hand-picked few of the 10,000+ people in attendance. No, I did not agree with everything that was shared at the march, but I am honored to be a part of this history.

To my fellow democrats, and my fellow republicans: hate will solve nothing.  Right wing extremism is just as dangerous as leftist extremism. Politics have tried to convince us that these issues are black and white. It’s just not that simple, although I wish it was.Yes, he is my president, but I did not vote for him. I will pray for him. I can still choose how to dictate myself as an individual in this country—respectfully and peacefully, yet boldly. There is nothing in my bible that tells me it is okay not to love my neighbor—no matter what—or that I am justified in turning a blind eye to the issues and injustices that are prevalent in my generation.  I read the opposite.

To me being a Christian and pro-life means I am an advocate for Christ first and foremost, and second I am an advocate for life. I am an advocate for life because my God is the giver of life, and I am called to partner in the work He is doing. Being an advocate for life means being an advocate for every life, without exception. Given that, this list could be a lot longer. In any case, as a Christian and a pro-life advocate, I encourage you to think about what that really means for you and what stand you are going to take. Pray about it. I have made mine and I will give myself the grace to grow and change my view if evidence becomes clear that it is needed. I will do the same for you, dear readers. I hope you will extend that same grace back.

 

So this is the New Year…

A little blurb on resolutions, things not changing, and everything being okay!

“For the present is the point at which time touches eternity.” –C.S. Lewis

The concepts of time and eternity is something that Lewis has written about in many of his books. With tonight being New year’s Eve, I often reflect upon the past year, or so, like most people seem to. The way my brain works, my thoughts tend to move towards time as a sequence–as seasons, and circles. There is a constant about time in the sense that you can always count on time to change things.

I will admit that often times I feel like the years spiral in circles. It appears that I find myself in similar places year after year, and yet, I’m not. Once I take a moment and consider the good, all the ways that I’ve grown, I realize that I’m not simply just running in circles. Those circles get larger and more wide-sweeping each year.

This year, I must admit that I have felt stuck in the sentiments embodied in the words of the Death Cab for Cutie song: “So this is the New Year… and I don’t feel any different.” Perhaps a large part of that could be that I am stuck at home with a nasty cold, while the majority of my friends are married or dating and out celebrating the end of what in many ways has simply been a bad year. Or maybe it’s the fact that even staying awake until after midnight and celebrating in whatever way I deem fit (with writing, music and wine) won’t be so different than so many other nights, being a student and all.

But I am choosing to focus on the present. On the good that is now. On the hopes that are ahead for the future. I am choosing to focus on the fact that in a few months I will FINALLY be graduating from college with a double major in Literature and Creative Writing. I am choosing to focus on the hopes of future travel plans and more writing. I am choosing to focus on the hopes that 2017 will be a better year than 2016.

In the words of another favorite writer of mine, Sierra DeMulder:

“To give voice exclusively to our successes (and not our failures) is a form of violence against one self, as it sets an unreachable standard and further misrepresents what it means to be human: flawed, wildly contradicting, still trying, still worthy. Instead of admitting we contain multitudes, we self-curate and isolate, hiding our pockmarks because they blemish the perfect picture of our life that we have painted.


The truth is: we are not always good and that is okay. At times, I was not my best this year but that does not mean I do not deserve another one. It does not mean I will not try to be better in the next.”

So this is the reason that this isn’t just a post about resolutions, but about the fact that New Year’s day, and all of life, is so much bigger than that. It’s not about making a list of hopeful aspirations (although that most certainly isn’t a negative thing!) and then beating ourselves up because we don’t accomplish them.

In many ways, I am on the “cusp of adulthood” and in the course of my life, if I have learned anything it is that life offers no guarantees that the plans we make will turn out, So often when they do turn out, they happen in ways we never expected.

That all to say, that just as Lewis says, we have hearts set on pilgrimage, on eternity. The only way we reach eternity in this life, is by taking life in stride. With the good and the bad, the successes and the failures. Being real, being raw, and being vulnerable and not painting over the flaws, but finding the beauty in them.

So here, as the clock strikes Midnight. I raise a glass and toast potential, a toast to the new adventures and opportunities that the New Year brings. But most of all, a toast to right now. This moment, for it all ends too soon, and this is the point we touch eternity.

Here’s to 2017. Let this be our year, every year.

Cheers!

6 popular bands you didn’t know were named after Literature

Here are six bands/artists who reference well-known writers and literature in their names.

As I mentioned on my About page, a lot of what I will be writing will be some sort of thoughts and contemplation about music, books, or films. That being said, this post is simply for a bit of fun. In this attempt to merge my love for writing and books, and my love for music, here is a list of a few musicians or bands that have named themselves after great works of Literature. Some of these you may know, but maybe not. With that, here are six bands who give a significant shout out to their favorite books or writers:


 

 

Moby: This artist is a man of many talents. Although most know him as a musician and DJ– he also utilizes his creativity through writing, photography and advocating for animal rights. Moby would likely be most referenced in appearance by his casual dress, bald head, beard and black, thick-framed hipster glasses. As far as his music goes, the musician made his debut in 1992 with his self-titled album and has since released numerous well-known pop. ambient, electronic dance songs. The most familiar of which are arguably from his album Play. The album features hit singles such as “Porcelain” and “Natural Blues”.  Moby also recently partnered with Steve Cutts in making a video for “Are You Lost In The World Like Me” which exhibits a profound message and artistic genius.

You may have already been aware that the artist’s name “Moby” is not the name he was given from birth. He was born “Richard Melville Hall” named for his famous ancestor, Herman Melville. He was given the nickname “Moby” as a reference to the classic novel “Moby Dick” which was written by his great-great-great-grand uncle, for whom he was named.



 

Sixpence None The Richer: This alternative Christian rock band is probably best known for their hit single “Kiss Me”–a tribute to french filmmaker Francois Truffault’s romantic movie “Jules and Jim” and later went on to be appropriately featured in several film avenues as well. The song was popularized from the film She’s All That but was also featured on Dawson’s Creek, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, as well as the ending of the live BBC broadcast of Prince Edward’s Royal Wedding. Many pop music listeners also recognize the stylistic vocals of the band’s female lead singer Leigh Nash in the remakes of “There She Goes” performed originally by The La’s, along with “Don’t Dream It’s Over” originally performed by Crowded House. Both of Sixpence None the Richer’s versions made their radio debut in in late 90’s and early 2000’s.

According to interview on The Late Show with David Letterman, the band got it’s name from a story in C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity. When the TV show host asked if it was a literary reference to Dickens, Nash shared the story from the book. In the story, a little boy asks his father for a sixpence to buy a him a gift. Because he gave his father the gift that he bought with his father’s money, the father was no richer because of it. Nash explained to the host and the audience:

C.S. Lewis was comparing that to his belief that God has given him and us the gifts that we possess and that to serve him the way that we should, we should do it humbly – with a humble heart – realizing how we got the gifts in the first place.”



 

Modest Mouse– This American rock band, originating from Seattle, Washington is perhaps best known for their hit single “Float On” debuting in 2009 on the album Good News for People Who Love Bad News. single that pop music listeners might be familiar with is “Dashboard” from the album We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. The catchy and somewhat vague band name actually comes from a passage in a short story written by Virginia Woolf. The story entitled “Mark on the Wall” was written by the modernist and her husband in 1917. The passage that the band snagged it’s name reads:

“I wish I could hit upon a pleasant track of thought, a track indirectly reflecting credit upon myself, for those are the pleasantest thoughts, and very frequent even in the minds of modest mouse-coloured people, who believe genuinely that they dislike to hear their own praises.”

The novelist became well-known for her stream of consciousness writing and novels. The most famous perhaps are Mrs. Dalloway, To The Lighthouse and A Room of One’s Own. Chances are, if you have studied a British Lit course in college, you have read one or more of these books. I for one, can certainly appreciate the bands acknowledgement to her work.


 

My Chemical Romance– This New Jersey rock band was a favorite of mine back in my high school emo days. The band debuted in 2001, right as I was experiencing the peak of my own teen angst, which made their music very relatable. If you were anything like me, you fell in love with the sensitive, damaged,eye-linered, bad-boy look of Gerard Way as he sang to the world, letting us all know, “I’m Not Okay”. The song for me served as a gateway, only to later explore every beautiful melody of the album Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, and then branch out into other albums. In 2006 the band released their concept album, The Black Parade, with yet another hit song of a similar name: “Welcome To The Black Parade“. Their music is still a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. You better believe that if one of their songs comes on the radio, I will know every word by heart.

The band, in fact, got it’s name from a novel by Irvine Welsh. The youngest Way brother and the band’s bass guitarist was working at a Barnes and Noble and was apparently struck by the title: Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance. They decided to simultaneously shorten the name and make it more personal by dropping the “Three Tales of” and adding “My” instead. If you know anything at all about the band’s music, it’s quite clever and fitting if I do say so!



 

As I lay Dying– Unless you’re into the Metalcore scene, you may not be familiar with this band. However, anyone familiar with William Faulkner’s 1930’s novel, will know right away where the band name originated. The novel As I Lay Dying, is a complex modernist tale of a family’s quest to bury their mother, told in the perspective of fifteen different narrators, in stream of conscious form.

Regardless of your familiarity with the band, you may have seen the headlines in Summer of 2013 when band member and vocalist, Tim Lambesis, was arrested for hiring a hitman to murder his wife. This news came as unthinkable to many fans, especially in light of the fact that the band has stated on numerous occasions that, while they are not signed to a Christian label, each of the band members are practicing Christians. The charges and trial process, sentencing Lambesis to six years in prison, unfortunately brought their music as a band to an end when remaining band members decided to move on with a new band, Wovenwar.  


 

The Devil Wears Prada– As yet another Christian, Metalcore band, this band seems have their faith a bit more reflected in their lyrics and themes. This band, like As I Lay Dying, did not sign to a Christian label, but all band members report they are practicing Christians. The band of course has much less of a dark history as the one previously mentioned. Of course there are other similarities. This band’s name derived from a novel written by Lauren Weisberger, by the same name. The chic-lit novel, The Devil Wears Prada, is about a young aspiring writer who works as an assistant to the editor of a fashion magazine. Her boss proves to be a cold, beast of a woman, drawing connections to the book’s title. Although the novel spent six months on the New York Times best selling list, most are probably more familiar with the film released in 2006. The parallels between the characters of the novel, its title, as well as the band’s name, serve with numerous implications of greed, temptation and other evils.

 

 

Well, that’s it folks! Do you have any other bands that you know of that are named after books, or writers, or some other artistic reference? I’d love to hear about them! Comment below or email me!

Contemplating The Meaning of Advent: Waiting on Hope

The dream and promise of God given to the Holy Virgin must have been hard for her, and all of Israel, to trust that God meant what He said. How much more so, to patiently wait upon the Lord to see the fruit of that promise?

With Christmas upon us, naturally I have been thinking a lot about the Christ child, the promised Messiah and Savior of the world.

Contrary to popular belief, or American Commercialism, this is the entire reason for the season. As I have been meditating on how a tiny babe could change this world forever, I was struck with the fact that the Israelite nation had been waiting hundreds, if not thousands of years for their promised Savior to finally arrive on the scene.

The nation of Israel had waited four hundred years between the Old Testament prophets and when John the Baptist graced the world with his presence, right before Jesus made his debut! Not to mention the hundreds of years prior where there had been prophecy after prophecy that there would be a coming Messiah.

The very reality of Mary has always been dear to my heart. A young girl estimated to be about fourteen, finding favor with God and being chosen to carry the promise. Crazy to think about her faith and courage, her ability to trust God in the midst of such a calling! Knowing full well it would mean a lifetime of being rejected and misunderstood, that her child would forever be called a bastard and she a whore, she still accepted that call.

Even thinking about a natural pregnancy and how parents wait in hopeful expectation for their child- the fruit of their love for each other… Christ was the very embodiment of God’s love for us, divinity in flesh. This story is so much bigger than any of us could ever fully begin to comprehend!

4lfod5lalw0-ib-wira-dyatmika

 I think the traditional carol, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” sums it up well, as it walks through various aspects of what the Bible speaks of from 40 years in the wilderness, revealing His glory on Mount Sinai. He spelled out the law for His people to point the way to the Savior to remind us of our need for the Christ. Then, again with David, the promise of his decedent that would never leave the throne. Prophecy after prophecy told of a man who would come to save us, a child born to die, as redeemer and recompense for our failings.

As the words ring out in their hauntingly beautiful melody:

O Come O Come Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee O Israel

So what does this say about our God? It speaks volumes about his faithfulness and His perfect timing. This profound truth of advent reveals that God has had a plan all along, from the very beginning.

Mary didn’t just wait for her baby, Israel was awaiting their Messiah and the world awaited their Savior. God always fulfills His promises in His timing, in spite of the fact that we are constantly trying to make these promises happen in our own ways, how and when we think they should happen.

As I ponder the message of Christmas once again this year, I not only ponder what the birth of Christ meant then, but more importantly what does mean to us now? These promises that God set in motion from the foundations of the earth are still in effect today. Jesus is still the Savior and Lord over two thousand years after He walked the earth in human form.

This year as I reflect on the promises of God, I am deeply encouraged by the hope that the Advent of Christ brings. Not only that the promised salvation for the world came in the form of a humble and vulnerable baby, but that it meant salvation for me. I am continuing to believe that it will mean Salvation for my family and other loved ones as well.

Thinking of the hundreds of other promises God has given me, no matter how great or small, the fact that God showed up, and fulfilled every prophecy about the coming Messiah, gives me reason enough to trust in his faithfulness in my life as well.

Lately I have been reminded of these promises. I think I am realizing more than ever how scary it is to dream, it’s scary to place our futures in someone else’s hands. On top of all that–patience is hard! Waiting can hurt. But it is all part of a process.  Growth takes time, and yes it can be painful. We learn so much during that time.

I think part of the reason Christ entered this world as an infant and allowed Mary to carry Him in her womb was to give us a picture of that waiting period, not to mention the painful birthing process, labor pains and all. The dream and promise of God given to the Holy Virgin must have been hard for her, and all of Israel, to trust that God meant what He said. How much more so, to patiently wait upon the Lord to see the fruit of that promise?

But as Mary soon learned through the process of carrying this child, God will move when He is ready, when He knows that moment is perfect! He arrived when the world was finally at peace, after hundreds of years of war and exile, although Israel was still under oppression, there was not a single war on the earth at that time! Often times what God is doing in the spirit, will be made manifest in the natural. So in the moment of the birth of Jesus, born as a helpless babe, everything that Christ was, and is, and would become in His ministry on the Earth was revealed.

God was faithful to fulfill his promise. Not only the promise made to Mary as individual, but the promises made to His people. And God will keep His promises to us, even if it takes four hundred years. I know the Lord will do what He said He will do.

As it says in 2 Peter 3:8-9

“Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

Yes waiting is hard, it is often times painful, but it is then we know that our dreams and the promise that God has given us matter. It wouldn’t hurt if we didn’t care, and often times the pain shows us that we are alive, that we are real and that we can feel. If a promise is important to us we will not give up that easily, we will cling to that hope until the end.

God has never once failed us, nor has He ever once given up on us, in spite of the thousands of times we might have deserved it. He is faithful. So even now, as we celebrate this birth of the Messiah, we continue to wait, in hopeful expectation, for the birth of each promise that has ever been conceived in our hearts. For we know in the right time, we will see the birth of these promises fulfilled.

“We eagerly await a Savior… the Lord Jesus Christ.”

On what it means to be feminine

The truth is, labels limit people. Labels also only work in terms of people, if the person we are labeling agrees with them.

This morning I met with a dear friend for a lovely Sunday brunch. Although I think we both would have rather been enjoying mimosas and pancakes, at this time of year in Montana, it was nice to have a hearty Irish meal at a well-known pub downtown and enjoy the warming effects that a good cup of Irish coffee afforded us.

I always enjoy every conversation I have every had with this friend. She challenges me in the best sort of ways, and more often than not, I walk away feeling refreshed and encouraged that I am not alone in where I stand. I hope she knows how much I appreciate her presence in my life.

At any rate, our conversations lately often turn to current events, and what it means to be a strong female voice in the world, and in the church. I know of many women that feel there is a struggle in feeling like they have a place in society. Especially in the church. This has been a struggle that dates back for generations, and while I know we are moving forward, it seems as though that progress has been slow. I know there are many minorities and marginalized voices that feel this way as well. I will not deny the fact that as a white female, I still have a lot more freedom, and opportunities than many other woman of other demographics. I am believing and fighting for the day that we are all equal in Christ, as he so intended it to be.

As I walked back to my car after saying our goodbyes, I got to thinking about what it means to be feminine. Perhaps the problem is how we have not only defined the word, but also in how we have applied it. To be feminine means to be of a female quality, of the female gender… so naturally that means that to be feminine means to be soft-spoken, and gentle, and sensitive, and pretty…. right?

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This appears to be what our culture has taught us. I fear that we have done a lot of damage as far as the identities of individuals go. In the ways we associate these characteristics with the feminine, we have in essence said that any woman that does not fit the mold, is not really a woman, at least not the way “God intended her to be.” The other side of this effect is that we have given the impression that men who are gentle, soft-spoken, sensitive, nurturing… are not masculine, simply because they don’t fit in with the burly, loud, aggressive stereotypes.

Although we may not vocalize such ideas, they are certainly there in the underlying makeup of our society. There is a well-known quote that I’ve seen circling around the internet that says, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing its stupid.” To apply these stereotypes to the people around us creates a whole slew of people who begin to believe they are broken if they don’t match the definition our culture has provided.

The truth is, labels limit people. Labels also only work in terms of people, if the person we are labeling agrees with them. To quote the great novelist, Toni Morrison: “Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.” The only person who can truly know who we are, is ourselves. The only one who knows us better than we do ourselves, is God. So if God says you are a woman, or a man, or whatever… and you are not what the world says you should be. Oh well.

I know that sounds rather trite, but it is the truth. You owe no apologies to anyone for being who you know God has made you to be. Let that sink in, let it settle. You are you. For a reason. You matter. You have tremendous purpose. Even when it isn’t recognized by the rest of the world yet.