Tag Archives: trust

Breathing and God

Driving to this island, I had a recurring vision: I’d meet a man. No, this isn’t what you’re thinking… I kept seeing myself talking to a tanned, bearded man who played a guitar and sat with me wherever I went. Flashes of me leaning my head on his shoulder, seeing his laugh, and hearing him speak to me returned, over and over again, and at first I thought it strange. But…

The entire time I’ve been here, I keep remembering that vision, and I’ve pondered on it often… The symbolism has become apparent to me each passing day; I am to meet Jesus here. Walk with Him. Talk with Him. God was showing me this before I even stepped foot in the sand. In the literal sense I do not envision Christ descending just to walk beside me, but in my heart, I have felt strongly that He is near, and today especially, I have been trying to open up and draw close.

Today, I had a full throttle panic attack. I was eating lunch at a restaurant, obviously alone. I was reading my book, watching the pelicans dance in the wind, and really trying to enjoy my time of this most special solitude. Then, out of nowhere came the flood of adrenaline that hits me and knocks me down. My chest began to literally burn, a fire radiating from my sternum up into my throat, where it lodged itself like a hot ball of clay, forcing shallow bursts from my lungs, making it feel impossible to get a deep breathe. I flagged the waitress down, got my check paid, and fled. Walking towards my car, I kept thinking about my family and how I am not there for them. I thought about all the work I have yet to do, and began to worry if I’ll use this time here wisely… Then it hit me. None of this is what was wrong. These concerns – these immediate reactionary thoughts – these are not “it”.

Naming it has been immeasurably difficult; often I do not consciously know what causes me to go into a sudden panic attack. I’ve thought perhaps it’s the long-suffering feelings of my past that come to find me each day. I’ve linked it to feelings of nagging self-doubt and criticism. The very nature of anxiety – not panic – but anxiety, has caused me to name it entirely caused by the shallow, ineffective breathes I take from morning until night time that signal a panic attack is right around the corner; the very way I breathe, I know from the moment I wake, can tell me whether that particular day will find me dealing with this, and the fear that I can crash at any moment obviously increases the likelihood of an occurrence.

I finally arrived at my car, unlocked it, and sat down in the driver’s seat. I turned the ignition, buckled my seatbelt, and reversed out of my parking spot. “Get back as fast as you can…” I knew that I had to, I told myself just keep driving – get there. I could feel the intensity rising, I could feel my face flush. I could feel my muscles tensing and the burning in my chest getting worse with each labored breathe.

Once at my hotel room, I immediately fell onto the bed.

I gave in. I succumbed to the full extent of the panic attack because the one thing I’ve learned as I suffer this is that fighting it, telling myself, “Damn it, not again” only makes it worse. I’ve learned by now that when it gets this bad, I need to lie down and let it happen.

John talked me through some steps to help me accept my reality and over the phone he coached me through it until it began to subside. My body immediately felt absolutely exhausted and I told him I had to go. Within three minutes I was basically unconscious.

I awoke about an hour later, mid-afternoon, and felt like a walk might do me some good. The panic attack had passed, but I still have yet to take a normal soothing breathe. I think I’ve had maybe one or two today total – one of which was when I prayed this morning so I am grateful for that.

On the walk I did something entirely different. This might sound strange, but hear me out. I shut my eyes. I walked with my eyes closed.

All day today, I have been reading about the kind of life God wants for all of us. Here is where I digress – I will get back to the walk later and this will make sense.

What is most marvelous to me about God is His constant pursuit of my soul. Reading scripture, reading my pastor’s account of Biblical teaching and encouragement to lead a Christ-centered life, even when I praise God through worship and song – it has left me, on this trip, entirely awe-struck.

So, then, I ask – why the anxiety? Why the panic attacks? If God wants good for my life, then why do I carry this burden? To someone who has never experienced this, it might appear trivial to bring this to God as a burden, but I assure you, it is nothing less than a heavy one. It got me thinking, then, that perhaps He is using these panic attacks – He is using my breathlessness and fear of breaking – to get my attention. Part of the pursuit.

I have lived my life apart from God. I know this because my history is wrought with a thousand tales of what it looks like to seek this world and deny His will. I have been divorced and adulterous, a liar and a hypocrite, I have sinned in more ways than I would ever be able to number – and God knows this about me. He knows the shame and guilt I carry, and that I use this as a means to separate myself from Him, because …

Because it is too much work to change. It is too hard to want to live another way. What will I have to sacrifice to be pleasing to God?

The answer to that, is all of it. All of me.

I’ve laughed at Christians before. Those that really take up a cross for God and be His hands and feet. I used to pity it, to be honest, because that life just never looked like much fun. Except I was always envious that they seemed happier than me, somehow. I thought, given who I have been, and what my life has looked like, that I could never be the kind of person to live a life of total surrender.

Again, it goes back to – what would I lose? My reputation? Ha! Hardly, as if I have anything worth redeeming in me? My friends? What kind of friends do I keep that would laugh me off because I change my life to live it for God – is their opinion of me worth what I am losing by denying God? My selfishness, my flawed flesh with its lustful desires and sneaky little defiance masked as confidence. My pride, and having to come before Him and finally admit that I have been so wrong… More than any of this, the most difficult thing for me to give away, to follow Him, is my obedience.

I must, if I am to be a follower of Christ, be obedient to His word. To His laws. To His desires. To His agenda. To Him, I must submit and be changed by the spirit, not by my will.

For me, that has been absolutely the one thing I can’t let go: Control.

But look, Christina, just look! What has this illusion of control gotten me? One look at me, in this very moment, in this hotel room, 300 miles away from my children and my husband – what has it gotten me?

Why is it so hard to lay myself on the altar and let Him sit in the throne? It is HIS anyway!

Back to the beach today.

I walked, with my eyes closed. I would look ahead of me – on the stretch of beach I roamed there were not many patrons – so I’d make sure the coast was clear (ha, get it!) and then take as much of a deep breathe as I could get, and close my eyes.

I found Him. He was there. Beside me.

It sounds quite fanciful and maybe even a little cooky, but I know it for sure.

In those moments, I trusted God to lead me. It was a small act of faith, a tiny proclamation that I believed Him that He is near… but I did it. It was scary, especially when a small swell touched my feet unexpectedly, but I didn’t let go. I kept walking. Blind. But entirely safe.

This has been jumbled, and rambling, I know that – I didn’t organize my thoughts before I sat to write tonight as I normally like to do. But I wanted this to be an honest look into where I am right now. So that, perhaps, I can look back on this one day and see that I made a choice today.

I made a choice to trust God. To give Him my anxiety, and panic attacks. To give Him my insecurities, and failures, and sins. To give Him my obedience, and put my faith in Him, and to know that He is in control. He is walking beside me, and even when my eyes are open and I can see the next right step, I will maybe let go anyway, and trust that He will put my feet exactly where He needs them to go.

I’ve just… I’ve lived too long fighting Him when I KNOW He is pursuing me. I know it, as true as I know the sky is blue and the waves crash against the sand. I know that God has always pursued me, but it was I who ran, it was I who hid myself away, because I didn’t want to give up what I perceived was better for me.

The thing is, now I want to be like them. The kind of Christ-followers who look silly to mainstream people. I want to read the Bible instead of Buzzfeed. I want to worship the one who gave His life for me, and not be a slave to my own selfish desires. I want to know that with each labored breathe I take, right now, in this very moment, that I am not dying. I am not going crazy… I am just here, right now, trusting that Jesus is near me. With His guitar, and He already knows what I am going through. He won’t leave me through this. He hasn’t left me. He was just waiting around for me to realize He’s been here all along.

The Truth in my Broken Spirit

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I am failing.

Every. Single. Day.

My heart is not pure. My mind is worse. My flesh is torn with old scars and I have no problem slashing them open again and again with a knife of longing for something I lost. I have a quick-tempered tongue, and a wayward tendency to always want something else.

I am not in the Word – not as much as I could be. My history distracts me from believing that I can involve myself in more than what immediately satisfies me. A learned behavior pattern from my youth, but it wasn’t always this hard…

When I was a small child, I remember vividly having a fire for the Lord. I did. It was important to me. It mattered. I shared it with my friends. I sat at my father’s feet and listened to him and my mother recite scripture and then explain its application to our young lives. I believed in God not as a supernatural being but as a tangible friend in my heart.

I lost this. Some time ago. With age comes a million wide roads, and I had no problem walking those instead of the narrow path that drew me close to God.

Sometimes, I think about this – I remember a skinny brown-eyed-girl with long legs and a brave, pleasing heart – I remember her and I weep. I remember that God sewn in my spirit an evangelical gift and I shared my faith with people confidently. A child, with little exposure to a world beyond Vancouver Washington… I wanted to share what I knew to be true, with no fear. I had purpose. I had knowledge of who I was, and who I wanted to be… I just needed stability, and people to believe in me, and keep showing me the way.

What happened to me? Where did that child go?

In the time since my childhood I’ve seen my parent’s divorce when I was in 5th grade because my mom wanted to be someone else, with someone else. I looked around me and from what was a family with two parents and their five children in one home, I could not recognize the two new lives they both led, and watched the utter abandonment of my parents to their children as they themselves tried to reconcile this new experience.

With this came me seeking approval and love outside of my two homes and halfway through my adolescence I found comfort in the arms of way too many boys. Sexual promiscuity became my identity, under an easily penetrable guise of self-confidence – my parents weren’t watching so they missed it entirely; I was lost, completely, and wanted love so badly that I reached for it wherever I could grasp, at the incredibly devastating expense of my self-worth – though I hid that part deep inside.

From that, I obviously struggled in school… It was my last priority, but deeper than this, nobody noticed how I was struggling. They just … did not care. I think about this now and I have begun in this moment to tear up. I was still a child – their child – God’s child… But I felt nothing but alone. I remember a counselor pulling me aside in 11th grade. He asked me what my plan was to recover my GPA so that I could graduate. I just started crying because he was literally the first person to notice. I went home that day and tried to talk to my mom but instead of help me, she got angry – I guess because I was a disappointment taking the same path she and my father did. That was the first time I was kicked out of my house…

After the first semester of my senior year, it was clear I could not recover and instead of fight for me, and try and figure it out, my mom walked into my high school and withdrew me. Against the advise of the principal, and counselors literally shaking their heads at her. I walked around school that day, my last day, with hidden tears and a smile as I said goodbye to my friends. My gosh I still cry even now, in this moment, because I remember it so well. The humiliation. The devastation. The feeling that I had failed and it was all my fault. I feel anger now because I think of Layla – she is struggling right now in 2nd grade. She is in several programs, counseling, and we hired a tutor. Because that’s what you do – you, the parents, don’t stand back and watch your child fail – I would never allow that, and I am still not sure why my parents did. This part of my history I don’t talk about, and few people actually know this, because I have spent all this time feeling so ashamed of this, but the older I get, and as I mother my own children, I realize it was NOT my fault – not entirely. I could have went the other way and buckled down in school, I know that, but all around me at home it just didn’t matter – nobody showed me it was worth it. At least not until it was too late and I was made to feel like a failure…

Shortly after my last day of high school, I got my first job working at Papa Murphy’s Pizza. I moved out on my own, and life moved on… Entirely different from how I had long imagined it would. Three years after this I said goodbye to my mother at the age of 39 because alcohol is a cruel beast and she could no longer fight it off… One month after that day, I boarded a plane and left everything I knew behind. Devastated. Lost, entirely. The man I moved to I barely knew, we met barely a month before my mom died, and my heart still loved another with everything I had, but I left anyway – I had no other choice.

Through all of this time, I can remember periods of time I would feel God pulling on my heart. I would know it was Him – with certainty – but I ignored it. I had failed. In countless ways. The little girl I had been was lost underneath the weight of my guilt and disappointment and sadness. I was more angry than faithful… How could He let all of this happen, hadn’t I once served Him, even in my childlike innocence and lack of knowledge of the world He put me into?

I am almost 33 now. Twice divorced, two of my children have different last names from each other and from me. Three daughters that call me Mama, and it is my charge from God to lead them, to guide them to Truth. To dedicate myself to them, entirely, but I fear this more than I fear much else: that I am failing them.

I fear… That is my first mistake. That I am nothing more than who I have been; all these years of history still tarnish my spirit, and I cannot rise above feeling less-than who I was meant to be. How can I lead them, how can I teach them truth, when I don’t hear it for myself?

So many “wiser people” have tried to counsel me that it is as simple as being in God’s word. That, if I do this … If I pray more, if I seek fellowship more than seeking solitude, if I stop living in the past or the future but live right now, if I… If I… If I… Then I would finally “get it”, and God would flood my heart with meaning and purpose again, and I would be redeemed. I’ve even been told my crippling anxiety is not so much a mental disorder but its satan, and I can fight it if only I were just a better Christ-follower.

I’ve heard it all. I’ve told myself maybe they are right, and so I try it. For a while. I read scripture more, and really meditate on it and apply it to my life practically. I pray, sometimes with many of my breathes directed straight to God, and then I listen, patiently. I fellowship with those wiser people, and I listen as they tell me how THEY “hear God”, and I try not to feel their superiority over me, because I just don’t seem to hear God talking to me at all, and so I must be doing it wrong.

When I became a mother, that covenant God made with me was to raise them with truth and purpose greater than my own – it was set ablaze in my soul. I look at them and sometimes, to be honest, the way that I love them – how deep that goes – it rushes to the surface and I feel this overwhelming and intense flood of tangible, fierce loyalty and devotion to them that I could literally scream as loud as I can – because it has to come out of me (I guess that’s a hard one to adequately explain…) My face flushes, my heart beats fast, and I tremble with love.

The purpose of being their mother is the greatest I have known, and I fear too often that I will let my past failures convince me that I am not going to be good at this. I hear my father tumble out of my mouth when I am impatient for no good reason, or when they spill the milk and I just can’t take such an offense. I hear my mother spill off my tongue when I snap at them to hurry up because I am late for this or that, and of course I make it their fault. I hear that little voice, so cunning, sneak into my thoughts and it whispers so cleverly disguised as the inevitable that I am going to fail anyway, so why even try to do better next time? It uses my history – it uses my shame, and regret, and pain – and it knows just how to grip me, stop me dead in my tracks…

It keeps me from picking up the Bible, because I’ve tried that, and I didn’t stick to it, because Christina never sticks to ANYTHING. It keeps me from all the good I could be doing, instead distracting me with meaningless tasks that don’t root my heart, or theirs, in truth and purpose.

I guess all of this – these thoughts pouring from me now – this trip down memory lane, it might seem like an excuse, but it is so much more honest than that. I come to terms with what cripples me here, and name it, and face it, and I think THAT is brave.

But it is what I do now. It is where I go from here…

I picked up the Bible this morning and read some of the Psalms. Delaney was restless and done with her cereal so I got her out of the high chair and together we trekked up the stairs. On the crook of our staircase the banister jets out oddly and I accidentally hit her head into it, leaving a little knot and her tears painfully soaking her face. I immediately prayed to God to take her pain away, and to forgive me for hurting my precious baby girl. It was immediately apparent to me that I was praying because I didn’t panic and cower underneath self-loathing, which is my typical pattern whenever I do anything wrong. I think it was that I sought God, intentionally, that my mind was able to go THERE instead of where it normally would go…

Perhaps there is hope for me yet?

I desire a child-like faith. The kind of relationship with God that I can write about, the kind that defines my life, starting in these frail moments when I am still floundering, and growing into something that permeates every avenue of my life, and my children’s lives. I want this so badly, and I am so tired of convincing myself, and letting the enemy convince me, that I cannot do it. That my history proves I will fail, because I always failed.

My spirit knows there is God, I was born knowing this, and for some reason, He made me especially aware of it and able to share it as a small child. I see this in my children, and I dream for them the kind of upbringing where that is fostered and grown and nurtured, and they see it from me – they model it from me.

I’ve got to stop ripping open my heart and seeing only the parts of me that have failed.

I want to be vulnerable to something more. I want to be the kind of person who doesn’t hide from who she was, and has the strength to admit where I went wrong, but then lay that down – that is the part that I don’t do well. I can’t seem to let go of how easily I fall apart in the name of who I’ve been and what I’ve been through.

My eyes want to be stuck on the cross, and see the world as I did when I was a child.

I want to give my daughters the kind of example worth having – one of perseverance where they have seen me fall but I got back up, and I tried again, in spite of the difficulty of fearing I will fail. I want them to see that this IS worth coming back to, again and again, and that I will support them as they navigate this world, and I will be there – no matter what.

I look at my history and see that everything I’ve gone through has equipped me to be a pretty darn good mother… Because I’ve experienced almost every avenue of where NOT to go, and what NOT to do. And I know with certainty I won’t just stand back and let their life happen in front of me without helping to guide them to truth.

The truth is, as I see it, is that God is still here, inside of me. I cling to that. I unbury that truth with these tears on my cheeks because I am so grateful. I am so grateful that I can be who I have been, and to Him I am still that child on her knees, sharing Jesus with her Kindergarten class – I can be that girl again, because she never left me. She just got lost to this world, but not to Him.

I will hold onto that, and try this yet again… I will fail, but I will not give up, and I think that is one of the gifts He gave me. One I saw in myself as a child. Something I see in my own children. I cannot wait to see where God takes us now.

Marriage Sucks (…)

There is nothing quite like marriage to put a mirror to your face to show you exactly how bad you suck.

We choose a mate and then pledge our lives to that person, through the good and the bad, in sickness and in health, until death do you part. I am sure so many marriages fail (my own included) because we cannot really know what that means, what that looks like, until we say, “I do”. The weight of the commitment, if one is taking it seriously, is heavy – and with all big endeavors and noble goals, there are beautiful attributes here and there are things marriage brings that make life, occasionally, very difficult. For the sake and purpose of this article, I will be discussing the hard times, and what one must do in order to make this marriage thing work.

We enter into this arrangement with hope and faith. We, if we chose wisely, decide that we’ve found someone worthy of the work. We find laughter, companionship, and trust. We find someone with whom life is easier, and we are convinced this is the person that we are supposed to be with… forever. That is what marriage entails, after all, it’s in the vows. But what about when the ease of the honeymoon fades and things get real? When you become the you you were but didn’t want them to see? When you forget to brush your teeth and the dishes are rotting in the sink and the kids argue but you’re too tired to even raise an eyebrow…

Worse, when they see that the worst traits about you are not only visible, but at times they’re all they can see. When you show your lazy side, your messy side, your impatience and petty annoyances and bad mood.

Marriage stops you and says, “Gee, what do we have here?” Because he hasn’t been touching her shoulder as he walked past, like he used to do, and she starts ragging on him because his MMA binge-fest has taken up the television for seven too many hours – but she said she liked MMA when they started dating. It throws a wrench in the gears of all we said we could handle, and the things that were once just traits we thought we could live with become the things that begin to drive a wedge between us.

It happens to the best couples – these moments, and I think a lot of our arguments, and struggles, and problems are similar if we examine what is at the root of our strife (not counting physical or emotional abuse, of course)…

It is, when we enter into marriage, we are making another person our other half. There when we wake up. There when we go to sleep. There for the stinky bathrooms after someone takes a bean-induced shit and didn’t turn on the fan. There for the morning breathe… There for the bitterness at the same fight you had last week rearing its ugly head again. There for the money problems because one person used the credit card and one wants to start saving. There for the struggle with sex when he wants more of it but she says she is just not in the mood.

There are a thousand things between two people that make marriage hard. But I think the absolute hardest part about this agreement, this arrangement, is having to face YOURSELF in the eyes, heart, and thoughts of your partner.

I can’t escape me when I see myself through his eyes. Through his hurts when my tone was needlessly vicious. Through his impatience when he has tried for so long to give me space but I keep pushing his buttons… So on and so forth. He, through his constant interaction with me in this house, and within the framework of our life, forces me to see my part in any issues between us.

Many marriages fail because we are unwilling or for some reason unable to stop and see what WE do to contribute to the difficulty.

After all, it is not an easy feat to see my part, through his interactions with me, and his reactions to me, and then want to do anything about it other than blame him. It is easier to do that – easier to say he’s the problem – because otherwise who am I left with?

The symptoms happen – these are the fights we have. The money. Sex. Quality time. Expectations unmet. Priorities shoved aside because someone changes their mind. These are symptoms of two people trying to share a life together. Not one marriage is immune, but it does have a purpose: I could so easily, and I have many times, simply chose to get angry at John for the special ways he mirrors my own negative behavior back to me. I chose to lash out, blame him, and make things worse.

Because the alternative is admit I am doing something wrong.

He forces me, by being here day in and day out, to stop and assess that I am 50% of this marriage. Therefore, most of the time I am responsible for something happening between us.

It is my pride that tries to convince me otherwise, and we all know how well that unites a couple. There are few things more detrimental to a marriage than pride, or refusing to acknowledge and work on things because you won’t admit you’ve done anything wrong.

The thing is, what I am left with, once I see myself through his eyes, is the choice. A hard one. One I fail at answering to correctly too often to admit. . .

Do I change, because I don’t like what I see? Or…

The “or” I’ve answered, twice. Two failed marriages – two opportunities to change wherein I failed to do anything real about my part. Granted there was a lot of grey matter to those experiences, but the ultimate reality is that I made the wrong choice, one way or another, at that time.

I don’t want to keep answering this wrong and ultimately see demise of the one relationship I’ve pledged to keep strong. To keep center to my life, under God, before any other priority, hope, or petty excuse. I don’t want to realize that I could have changed, could have bettered myself, and could have worked harder when all I’ve got left is resentment and pain.

I want to preserve what is good. What is decent. What brings me immense satisfaction, intimacy, and happiness. I want to see, when I look at my husband, the best version of myself, and the best version of him.

Not that we won’t struggle. That we won’t have pain, and times of stress, and money trouble, and silly annoyances that we bicker about. These things are a given. I feel the same tension mount with my own children, and I birthed them so it would seem no relationship is immune to such things.

Right now, I see some of the worst in myself when I look at him. I see that I am quick to anger and slow to forgiveness. I see that I refuse to acknowledge where I lack but instead just point out where he does. I see that I easily allow my past to dictate who I am today, and how quickly I quip, “this is just who I am, get used to it!”

Was I this version of me when he met me? When we fell in love? At times, I am sure, yes, but I tried harder. I gave more. I silenced the voices that screamed at me that I will fail at this, too, and instead I put my best foot forward, and he fell in love with the part of me that is mostly good. He pledged his life to me, in sickness and in health, until death do we part, knowing that I had ugliness, and pettiness, and baggage – but he didn’t see it then like he sees it now.

He sees that part of me now more often than he sees the good he fell in love with, and that right there, is when I have a choice to make.

I could seek for my own selfish gain. Whether that be pride bolstering my ego when I won’t admit I have done wrong, or when I withhold intimacy because I am tired – or just say I am tired. When I spend frivolously and don’t mind the budget. When I pick him apart, whether in my thoughts or aloud, and bring pain to his heart because I refuse to look at him and see anything good.

Because when I am being nasty, when I am cold, when I am bitter and easily frustrated, what else would I see when I look at him? A reflection of myself – and that is a hard truth, and one I can easily ignore and blame on him instead.

I don’t want that, not for us. Not for anyone.

The thing is, there is so much good worth preserving, but it gets lost in the mess of everyday life. And that is when I see the worst of me the most – when I really have no excuse!

I think marriage puts a mirror to the worst of our selves and forces us to stop and think, “What could I do better?” But it is how we answer that that either makes or breaks a relationship.

How many times have we answered it wrong? Because we took the vows, for better or for worse, but we didn’t really mean it, because to make such a commitment we must face where we lack. How much we suck. And we must choose, with that knowledge, to either change and bring happiness to the marriage, or fight it with pride as our ammunition, and watch our sparks eventually catch flame with an inferno of resentment that we cannot put out.

It must come from truly wanting happiness for John, sometimes at the expense of my own. It must come from knowing he is a person, with the same feelings, the same thought patterns, the same insecurities, and therefore I must not look at him as less-than me just because he pisses me off. After all, wasn’t I at that alter, too, making those same commitments – putting my best foot forward in faith? If I can dissolve into this worser version of myself, and so can he, don’t we owe it to each other to forgive these things and work harder to keep things peaceful, and content between us?

I ask forgiveness from him, and I try harder, because I know how easily a marriage can dissolve, and how hard it is to repair it once things go too far. But it is SO hard sometimes. To silence my pride, and to realize I see the worst in myself and I must either change that – do my part – or risk so much good at the expense of a man I love’s very deep trust and faith in us.

Marriage is hard.

Relationships force us to stop and realize we have work to do. That there are things that will always bother us about the person we chose – and things that bother us about ourselves that only amplify a thousand times in the face of someone we love’s disappointed glance.

We start marriage with so much hope, and then we break it down, little by little. But it doesn’t have to be lost. Commitment is the very reason to fight harder – to honor what we pledged when we were trying our best, swearing before God and our families that we will always try, always give, always nurture, and always work hard to ensure our love endures.

I want to wake up tomorrow and try harder. Because I care about his happiness more than my own pride. Because I swore to him I would not give up, and I don’t intend to, even when it’s hard and I am forced to examine how much I suck. I know he is pushing for the same thing, and I am grateful he can look at me and see the person he married, even when it is hard, even when he doesn’t like me very much…

Because it’s worth it. Push forward. Give in. Ease up. And when you see the worst of yourself in someone else’s eyes, use that as fire to do better. Give more. Try harder. Marriage requires this, and though it can be so hard, the reward of that kind of intimacy and history shared with your partner will be one of life’s greatest treasures.

Recaptured Faith

So often I choose this world over the providence that governs it. My wayward heart longs for comfort, understanding, and acceptance in this life, while I am breathing, and I forget the larger concept at work within me. That is, a purpose greater than the sum of my parts, working together for the glory of a perfect plan not orchestrated by anything I can do. I falter, almost too easily, and find myself struggling through the same fight time and again: The battle between the flesh and the spirit.

For all intents and purposes, my life is perhaps the best it has ever been. Right now, I sit in a beautiful home, surrounded by comfortable furnishings. The furnace blows warm air when my skin is chilled. The refrigerator keeps fresh eggs cold, and the food in the pantry is plentiful. My checking account is balanced and my budget secure. In beds about sleep two precious darlings, they are healthy, happy girls who know they are loved and safe here. In a town across Texas rests a man whom shares this home with us – he is working hard to ensure our life is maintained in the fashion we are most comfortable. We love each other imperfectly but with a certain harmony, honesty, and respect, and I miss him enough when he is away to make each home coming just that much more sweet.

From the outside, yes, things are nothing less than perfect. To portray anything different would do a great disservice to all we have worked for, and how long and winding this road has been to finally be here now. For appearances sake, I would argue no different.

However, stop me for a moment, look into my eyes. What would you see? Lately, I confess, one might peer within me – should they care enough to stop – and see a deep unrest looming just below the surface. Try as I may to mask it, and boy do I try, it would be apparent to the attentive notice that my soul has wandered too far from its divine purpose. Part of me has lost sight, perhaps the biggest part, of what and who I am in Christ.

Why? It would be no shock to remind the world that my life has been riddled with hardship. Some undue, some the direct result of my choices and my weakness. Therefore, the struggling that circles back is valid, understandable? What about forgiveness, one might ask? Would not the heart of forgiveness wash away this recurring unrest for good?

The base truth of the matter is that I stopped communing with my Father. And not because I am merely content with how things are going now, but because, as a strange dichotomy of trust and acceptance, I am paralyzed of how, and when, this beautiful portrait of my life will ultimately come crashing down. That has been my story thus far, after all, so would it not stand to reason that the same fate would occur again?

If I could harness that childlike wonder, that fervor for the Lord again… If I dove back into the Word and truly trusted God’s plan, then nothing would stand in my way, and peace would be a gift God gives the seeking heart. I know this, and yet, I fail. All. The. Time.

Fear cripples me. I am internally bedbound and weary under the cloak of my anxiety when nothing but my imagination creates the problems that cause me to tremble. I serve an amazing God who would love for me to shed this fear, but yet, my mind is a master at crafting this deception; I see that things are going so well and convince myself the beauty is the lie. I remind myself, almost daily, that I’ve thought things were going well before – in another time – but look what happened then. I did not deserve it and yet I lost everything I loved, including my mother. My children did not deserve it and yet my mistakes cost them their nuclear family and me the marriage vows. Again and again. As if the tapes no nothing but repeat, I replay why I am not worthy of a great life.

I am not ready to give myself to God because I am fearful He will take it away. I am not ready to commit to an amazing man because I am fearful of all the ways he has the power to hurt me if I give him a whole heart. I am not ready to forgive my mother because the hurt of her betrayal is what I have built my identity on for years. That I was the victim. . . I am not ready to forgive myself, for all of the things I have done “wrong”, because then that would mean I would finally have to admit that God still loves me, that I am still worthy, and it would mean the fear – this irrational, crippling fear that has been my best friend for eight years – would finally have to divorce my weary spirit.

What have I got if not this tendency to replay why I should be afraid? What would keep me company if not for what makes the most sense in my wounded broken heart?

I know that many people pray for me. They also worry. Because it may appear more evident than I admit in words that I am not trusting God. It appears to those in my circle that talk about God, and His presence in our lives, that my light has dimmed, and my passion for prayer and fellowship has taken a backseat to every lie I tell myself instead.

Where I went wrong, more than all of this, is that I lost the will to pray with the Lord, because I desire to stay comfortable, and to pray – and admit my shortcomings (as if He does not already know them) – to do that would mean I have to accept the version of me that He sees when He looks into my heart. It would mean I have to stop being so critical of my mistakes, but be thankful for them because they have worked as part of His big plan. It would mean I forgive others, and myself, because the beauty in our weakness is the ability to acknowledge the gift of the cross.

It is the hardest fight of my life to stay right in my relationship with Jesus. It is so hard because I desire so much fulfillment outside of myself, and apart from Him. I am selfish and want things now. I am needy and desire validation and assurance from others. I am angry and I want the whole entire world to work on my agenda, on my schedule… God knows this, and loves me anyway, and yet I tell myself HE could not possibly. That is not trust. That is not the kind of faith I want to model for my children, because that kind of relationship is selective, self-serving. It says, “Nah, I got this – unless I REALLY need you, then you better be there.” If a friend treated me that way, I am not sure I’d want to continue being friends. Yet, God does – He is that kind of friend to me, and all He ever wants in return is my obedience and attention.

This life takes discipline. But it is also the most liberating, amazing, freeing gift. My heart needn’t be hardened any longer, for when I really stop and examine what He has done in me even in just nearly 30 short years, I should be ecstatic, not fearful, of all the work He has yet to do. I could look at my life and exalt God, instead of dwell in all I perceive was wrong, and maybe my perspective on this life will shift. Along with my attitude. Along with my ability to trust Him.

After all. After ALL. Look where I am now. If God was not to be trusted, would I have survived this crazy ride? If I was not worthy, would He have led me to this amazing man, the most supportive, encouraging, and strong person who loves my children and me without condition? Would I have my health? Financial security? The ability to find peace if only I seek it?

Tyrone Wells wrote a song called, “More”. There are lyrics there that are the most impacting in a song I have heard, “This world may crumble into the ocean, it could all end tonight. I undermine you then try to find you, my only source of light. I’m breathing, I am breathing, I am alive, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to waste another day or night. I know there’s something more than what we’re living for, I see it in the stars I feel it on the shore. I know there’s something more.” Such poetic, honest lyrics. Such truth in that. It may seem almost too simple, but really, when examining the big picture, can anyone truly conclude there is not more at work here?

I sing that and tears never fail to come to my eyes. I just got to hear it live in Austin, on a night I needed to remember it particularly, because my heart was wavering, and my spirit was low. I don’t want to die in the spirit to please my worldly fears. I don’t want to shield myself from God, as if I could, and continue doing this on my own. It will take work, and dedication, time, and effort, but with all good things comes this good fight.

For too long I have been willingly dormant in my faith. It was easier. Took no work at all to forget my worth. Took no mind to replay the old tapes that say I am not worthy of love and forgiveness, and certainly not for grace.

I am ready to do the work that will eventually be like breathing. To honor God with the life I have lived that was hard, painful, and difficult to understand. To honor my spirit, made whole and clean by the living water that rushes through my veins. Harder to try, forcing myself to believe it until it is known to me like the air I breathe, that I am loved, and I am new. Worthy. Perfectly imperfect while I live exactly the life that was written for me before I ever knew the struggles of this world. I do not want to choose this world anymore, at least not when my soul depends on it. Right now, what matters most is the choice to honor where I am, and where I am going… Because that journey is beautiful, and I think it is time I start to notice it before it too becomes withered like yellowed paper in the pages of history.

Pino Back Painting