Welcome to…

So, here’s the thing.  When you pray for God to move, to strike up revival, to use you, He might actually DO it.  I know the church has been praying for revival for a long time, but nobody actually expected (or, in my opinion, wanted) it.  Change is just too uncomfortable.  We like our lives.  American Christians enjoy complacency – surrounding ourselves with menial everyday things.  “God, meet us where we are but please don’t make us suffer.”

Kind of connected to this, and kind of on a buzz-high of a rant, here’s something crazy that’s going on in my life right now.

All black, fuzzy, out of focus.  The world of my dream hard to touch and easily forgettable.  Mind barely comprehending, confused and cloudy, separated from body and motion.  

And into my dream popped something so solid and real I knew it must truly be happening.

I was holding my phone.  It had to be mine, not a subconscious fabrication of desire.  The cheap walmart phone with nail polish on the “x” button and “i” beginning to peel.

There was a text message on the screen.  I couldn’t see who it was from, but I could clearly read it.  Acts 2:18.  “That’s cool,” I thought.  “Someone sent me a Bible verse.”

When I awoke from this experience several weeks ago, everything from that other world fell away.  Everything except the text message.  It was so real I could almost still feel the phone in my hand.

“Hey that’s pretty neat.  Jesus sent me a text message.”

The thought was half joking, but I was still curious to see exactly what verse I was sent.  I jumped out of bed (a RARE occurrence I assure you!), flipped on my desk lamp, and pulled out my Bible.  Opening to that passage I found that I’d highlighted that whole section of scripture.

What’s happened is that Peter stood up and addressed a crowd at pentecost, quoting the prophet Joel who had been speaking about the end times (read Joel 2:28-32 for the original).

My verse specifically was this (Acts 2:18):

“Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.”

Wow, that’s pretty interesting.  But it really didn’t catch my attention.  “Yeah, prophecy’s not really my thing.  Sooooo….MOVING ON!”

I’ve been steadily reading through Paul’s letters, a few chapters every morning.  The day before I’d left off with 1 Corinthians 13 so, after my excursion into the book of Acts, I flipped to chapter 14 for my pre-class devotion of the day.

Check it out (1 Corinthians 14:1):

“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.”  

Hey now.

Especially the gift of prophecy?!  Both men and women?!

Okay, God, you’ve got my attention.

Of all spiritual gifts that I’ve ever read about or heard taught on, prophecy wasn’t ever one I was drawn to.  Healing, maybe.  But not so much this one.  In fact, my most common reaction to the “prophets of our time” is EXTREME SKEPTICISM.

Yet, as someone who doesn’t believe whatsoever in coincidence, I could not ignore this.  Unfortunately, chemistry lecture would not wait for the revelations of heaven, and I had to dash off to class.

But I couldn’t shake those verses, or the chills I had after reading them.  What in the world did it all mean?  And why was it directed at me?

Here I am.  Barely surviving school.  Sure I’m getting good grades.  But all I do is study.  Once again struggling with chronic illness and depression, struggling to find a solid group of friends, feeling generally emotionally raw.

And now I’m supposed to be a prophet or prophetess or whatever???

They thought I was weird before….

So here’s what I know.  After talking to my mom and studying scripture more thoroughly I have a more solidly biblical understanding of what a prophet is.  Not only can they foretell the future as a result of divine revelation, prophets are solidly grounded in truth.  They see what is wrong in the world and speak out against it with the authority of God.  Prophets have discernment from the Spirit in life’s situations.

Words of Wisdom.

That’s what my mom called it when I told her that I knew.  I knew about the situation my dad had gotten himself into a full year before it came out.  It was the ultimate thing that separated my parents three and a half years ago, and I knew about it.

How did I know?  Every time it would come to my mind I would shake it away.  No 14 or 15 year old child wants to believe such terrible things about her father.  But they were there.  And it all turned out to be true.

Time and again it has happened, these Words of Wisdom.  Something would come to my mind, sometimes something nice, often times something horrible.  Thoughts about people and situations.  STOP BEING SUCH A JUDGY PERSON, I would tell myself.  Then I would turn out to be right.  Frighteningly, terribly, inescapably right.

I haven’t had such a “Word” in a while.  But the fact that it’s happened before won’t leave my mind.  Especially in light of these most recent events.

Just over the past few days it keeps coming up.  Last night I went to a community group bible study for the first time (props to the crazy friend who dragged me out).  The leader is a seminary professor at my school and told us something crazy.  He and a ton of other professors on this campus have been praying fervently for revival to break out among and as a result of these students.  *cue chills*  Then this morning I heard a teaching that highlighted the spiritual gifts of Romans 12:6-8.  Guess which one caught my attention?  (Hint: more chills)

What does all of this mean?  How am I going to apply this in life to change the world for the cause of Christ?  Honestly, I don’t have the foggiest idea.  But it WON’T GO AWAY.  So here it all is.  We’ll see what God does.

Yet I will say this – it is clear that these are the end times.  And it is quite obvious that God has been moving in powerful ways.  So please permit me to say:

Welcome to revival.

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Surrender

Oh the ever illusive blog post.

Yes.  I think this is how I shall start this compilation of thoughts.  And here’s why: I’ve attempted to write this multiple times (*cough* six or eight *cough*).  Yet, somehow, it never felt right.  I wanted to give the best possible picture of my first few weeks at college, my parent’s divorce, what God’s been doing through it all.  I had this idea in my head of the beautifully worded and polished piece detailing my escapades and bringing glory to God.

Hah.

The thing about trying to bring glory to God is that being fake humble NEVER works.  And every time I started writing, the words just felt…hollow.

So here it is.  The experiences that I’ve had and am sharing with you.  Raw, painful, funny, amazing, inspiring and difficult experiences.  It will probably take multiple posts before you hear them all.  If you choose to read through all those posts I give you props for endurance.  And if you glean anything from this modge podge of thoughts, we CANNOT say it was by my doing.

We begin:

And there is no better place to begin than at the beginning.  As I watched my mom and two of my sisters drive away it was surreal.  I walked back to my room, chatted with my roommate, and unpacked a few more things.  (I will say that my mom would have unpacked and organized everything if I’d asked/let her.)  I wish I could say that I instantly broke down in tears and sobbed out the agony of being alone.  But all I felt was…

…numb.

The first week of school was a wake up call.  Hanging out on campus and getting used to things for a few days before class starts is almost a worse idea then being thrown straight into it!  Eight fifty on Monday morning (yes, the morning), and my first class was ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY LECTURE.  Don’t get me wrong, I love AnP.  But being thrown into it the very first day as my very first class?

Needless to say I was quite trepidatious.

My dorm, though technically “residence housing” is actually four miles off the main campus.  This means that I have to get up extra early every morning to be sure that I catch the bus on time to get to my class.  Unsure of how the bus system would work during the school week, I was a bit overzealous in my timing.

Arrived at my biology class forty-five minutes early, and proceeded to sit in the hall and worry some more.

You know that feeling when you are totally freaked out by something, but also really want to turn it over to God?  The inner war of butterflies on steroids.

I cannot say that my prayer that morning was particularly deep or insightful (or even fully coherent).  But it was genuine and heartfelt.  Something to the effect of “God please get me through this.”

Walked into my classroom that will seat several hundred students, and chose a seat near the front.  The professor standing by the lectern talking with students was a shorter, portly, balding white man.  He looked nerdy and kind of quiet, but sweet (hey, I like nerds).  Internal thought, Okay.  I can do this.  Ten minutes before class starts the man turns to all of us gathered already, says “Have a nice class!” and walks out.

Momentary panic.

At that moment my professor (the one actually teaching the class) strides in.  A huge black man with a powerful build and deep, resonating voice. (I found out afterwards that he is a native of Nigeria who mostly works in medical missions!!)  He started class with a powerful devotion from Ephesians 5:15-16.

Live purposefully, resting in God’s will for your life.  

Wow.

Then the incredible prayer followed by delving into the wonders of God’s creation – the human body.  I swear I came out of that class glowing.

The swell of that experience carried me through until Wednesday.  Then things went…interestingly.  In anatomy lecture (which I have Mon, Wed, Fri) we covered around seventy regional and directional terms that we would have to memorize and have a quiz on THAT NIGHT.  Having woken up that morning feeling unwell and exhausted, I wasn’t doing too great.  But determined to stick it out, I studied like crazy for the quiz until my next class.  Music in, slides and flashcards going, I thought everything was going pretty well.

Until I found out that I’d studied right through my bible class.  As in, missed it completely.  No excuse, no nothing.

Talk about rattled.

Remember those buses I get to ride every morning?  Early Thursday as I attempted to catch a bus to my chemistry class, three buses came by, filled up, and moved on.  Without me.  Getting to chemistry ten minutes late wasn’t a huge deal.  But after entirely missing a class the day before I was…distraught…to say the least.

The remainder of the week went well.  No problems.  Got to all my classes okay.  Only looked like a total freshman a few times.  Success in many books.

But I couldn’t enjoy it with the weight of the missed and then late classes hanging over me.

If you don’t know me, I am a planner.  I have a schedule, I know exactly how many minutes it takes me to get ready and do a devotion (40), and how quickly I can eat a meal (I’ve done it in 6 minutes).  I plan ahead, plan for things to go wrong.  But I don’t show up unprepared, and I don’t disappoint if at all possible.

So here I am, in the FIRST week of school – already that student. 

It was when I tried to write about all of these experiences in that polished and well phrased blog (version number one) that I totally broke.  Just snapped.

That was when I laid in my bed and sobbed gut-wrenching sobs that cut to the very core of my being.

Stripped of my support system.

Unsure of my ability to perform.

Afraid of failure.

Crying out to God in wordless pain.  He brought me here, so clearly.  I’d just recently heard that of the twenty thousand students that applied to this school, only TWENTY PERCENT were accepted.

But why would He bring me here, only to have me struggle?  If His plan was for me to succeed, why was I doing so poorly?

The thing about pouring yourself out to God, utterly broken, is that you are completely open to Him.  Desperate for any wisdom or comfort.  And in that place, it was as if a light bulb finally went off in my brain.

Just because God brought me here doesn’t mean that I’m here to succeed.  All I know is that I am here to glorify Him no matter what.

It was there, with that realization, that my prayer changed.  Not, “God help me do well so I can praise you.”

God, here I am.  Unable to bring anything to the table but the shattered mess of my life.  If you want me to succeed and go on to be a Certified Nurse Midwife on the mission field I will sing your praises and tell everyone who pulled it off.  But if you require of me to flunk out of all my classes, return home in humiliation, and flip burgers at cheap fast food restaurants until I’m forty, then your will be done.

Seems simple.  And you’d think that release would be easy for me by now.  In a way, it has become easier than it used to be.  But giving up EVERYTHING – dreams, expectations, plans – everything.  Even the plan that I’ve made from what God’s given me.  What He gave me was a dream to serve, and the gift of education.  Who’s to say that the steps in between will be my idea of what should happen?

That was when everything changed.  I am still studying hard (up to 50 hours a week on top of 17 credit hours is my goal).  And I want to do my best.  But succeed or fail in the eyes of the world, as long as I’m inside of God’s will nothing can go wrong.  

This is the beauty and assurance that I have.  This is what gives me strength every day.  This is how I can surrender my life and know with confidence that everything truly will work out.  Not luck.  Not chance.  Not by works.

Faith.

Sure I’m taking biology, chemistry, psychology and nursing courses.  My declared field of study is nursing.

But my main ‘course’, the degree I am truly earning is “How Much Do You Really Trust God, and Are You Going to Surrender Everything to Prove It.”  Week by week.  Day by day.  Class by class.  Minute by minute.

I am being stretched and strengthened for I don’t know what.  It hurts and it’s hard and I don’t know if I can survive.  Fortunately,

WHERE I AM WEAK, GOD IS STRONG THROUGH ME.

Mission Impossible

Although my title may conjure images of Tom Cruise wielding weapons and women through a film franchise, it is not what I want to talk about (yet!  I’m just now watching these movies for the first time…a post may very well be coming…)

No, I am returning (once again) to the topic of education.  More specifically, higher education.  This is the story of how God has directed my path over the last few months.  It has proven that not even the bureaucracy of our Nations educational system is too much for my God to handle.

Back in March, God laid it on my heart to NOT rush out of the States right away, but to stay and study here a while instead.  At the time I simply assumed that I’d attend community college for a while, get general course work out of the way, then transfer somewhere ‘bigger’.  I knew I couldn’t afford anything else!

Knowing that community college was imminent, I didn’t feel any pressing need to take a formal test.  (Refer back to previous posts for more thoughts, if you dare!)  So, no ‘prerequisite’ tests!  Well, that was my plan before my sister (Sierra) came up to me one day and said “By the way, you’re signing up to take the ACT with me and my friend.”  Okay then!

Fast forward about a month.  Just a random Friday, bumming around the house, working on homework, hanging out.  Pretty relaxed stuff, until I remembered that I was taking the ACT the next day!  Cue the panic.

After studying for about four hours I just gave up and handed the results over to God.  “I’m not going to need the scores anyway, because I’ll be going to community college” I told myself.  And up in heaven, God was laughing at me and my foolish assumptions.

Another month and a half go by.  I’d been *officially* accepted into community college (do they even reject people?).  And God pulled one of His I-won’t-let-you-get-away-from-this-topic things.

A university that I hadn’t even remembered hearing about before starting showing up EVERYWHERE!  I have friends going there, I met strangers going there, I saw commercials and heard ads on the radio.  Random people would bring it up when it didn’t fit into the conversation!  From complete anonymity to extremely in-your-face.  So I started looking into it…

I called the university to see what it would take to transfer in after a few years of community college.  They said, “Hey, well, why not go ahead and put in an application right now?  Do it over the phone.  We’ll waive the application fee!”

After giving them all my information, I remembered that a friend of mine going had just received a full-tuition academic scholarship.  When I asked about it, they said that I had to receive the scholarship the fall semester right after I graduated from high school, so I needed to send in the paperwork for it right away.

This happened THREE WEEKS AGO.  My friend had been awarded one of the last of these scholarships months ago.  But (thanks to much harassing from that particular friend) I finally overnighted the forms needed (thank you, Dad, for giving me the $20).

I got a letter in the mail telling me that I was accepted into the university – apparently no small feat – but I wouldn’t even consider going without this full-tuition scholarship.  How could I?  So I put it before God – a ‘fleece before the Lord’, if you will.  God if you want me to go to this school, let me know.  Please allow this scholarship to be the deciding factor in all of this.

But how could I possibly get this scholarship?  All the priority deadlines had passed months ago, I was way past late.  Talk about the eleventh hour!  Somewhere around 11:58…

Monday the 8th I was supposed to go to my community college and register for classes.  It had only been about a week since I sent in the scholarship forms, so I hadn’t heard anything about it yet.  Inner turmoil ensued!  Do I go ahead and register for classes then try to cancel them if I get the scholarship?  Do I wait to see if I get the scholarship before registering?  Will I know in time?  Is there even a chance I’ll get the scholarship? 

When I tried to call the community college to talk to them about it and explain my situation, nobody answered the phone.  I checked my email to see if they sent me the confirmation code for my appointment to register for classes, but it wasn’t there.  Nobody ever sent it.  I tried to call them again (14 times, to be exact), trying different departments.  No answer.

Okay, fine.  I’ll just drive over and talk to someone in person.  Sierra and I were going to swing in the library on the way to return some stuff and pick up a few more things.  It was 3 o’clock, and I had to be at the college by 5 if I wanted to talk to someone.  Well, ‘swinging in’ is apparently a flexible term.  I returned some movies and picked out three books, but when I got in the car, it was 4:50.  It takes ten minutes to get from the library to the community college.  Needless to say, I was livid.

Sierra just turned to me and said “I know you don’t want to hear this right now, but God has a plan in all of this.  Trust that He’s in control.”

I didn’t want to hear it all right!  I had already been struggling with going to community college (read my previous post, Weak and Foolish).  After months of warring with my pride, I’d finally accepted what I saw as the next step in God’s will for my life.  He’s telling me to stay here.  Isn’t community college what I’m supposed to do?

And the next day (Tuesday the 9th), we left.

Having to go away for a week, the week, that I was supposed to find out if I got the scholarship or not was torture.  Building a house out in the country, no internet, practically no phone.  I couldn’t register for classes.  I didn’t know if I was going to be able to attend this university.  I just. Didn’t. Know.

So then, after I *thought* I had surrendered every bit of my pride, I had to give up more.  I had already handed over the ability to make the choice, now I had to lose control of even knowing what the ultimate decision would be!

With my type-A personality, I know that I have a fleshly need to control situations – to deal with everything myself.  The result of my flesh struggle is that most of my refining trials involve surrender and trust.  Complete surrender of my pride and desires and trusting that God (in His ultimate wisdom and sovereignty) will do the very best thing for me.  And as simple as that sounds, it is so hard.  The moment I think I’ve laid everything down, God shows more junk hiding just under the surface.

With extreme prayer and supplication I came to a place of accepting the situation God placed me in.  Of thanking Him for being in control when I had no power whatsoever.  Remembering that He loves me and will do what is ultimately best.

Of peace.

And on Tuesday, July 16th (just two weeks after I sent in the shot-in-the-dark-application) I received an email telling me that I qualified for the full-tuition academic scholarship.

Full-tuition for four years. 

The GPA I ended up with because I was able to take a year off while I was so sick (homeschooling is the best).  The ACT score I got even though I didn’t study and didn’t care.  One of the scholarships being available only a month and a half before school starts.  And the GOD OF THE UNIVERSE ON MY SIDE!

I still have to come up with several thousand dollars a semester for room and board and books.  But what is that in the face of Jehovah Jireh?  The Lord always provides.  And now He’s done it again!

When I turned in my application for this university, and for the scholarship I thought it was impossible.  How could it ever happen?  And bigger than that, how could I ever lay down my pride, desires, expectations, and control of the situation?  Definitely impossible.  Mission impossible.

But with God, nothing is impossible.

Weak and Foolish

The mom just looked at me while I tried to tell her what I ‘plan to do’ with my life.  Honestly, that has to be the scariest question you can ask a teenager!  And as I explained the calling I feel God has put on my life, the woman’s eyebrows just moved farther and farther up.

See, I was trying to summarize this whole calling in a relatively short amount of time, and that’s hard to do, because it’s a long story.  The version she got was that when I was very sick (most definitely the darkest time in my illness), God placed a clear calling on my heart.  He told me that I was going to the Newlife International School of Midwifery in the Philippines.  This in itself is a long story, but it’s not the point of this post, so I won’t tell it in detail.  Suffice it to say, I know that it was God that moved in my spirit, and I do not doubt one bit that that is what I heard.

Okay, so Philippines it is.  After spending about a year and a half researching and preparing for this particular (tiny) school on the southernmost island of the Philippines, God switches it up a little.  Ever had one of those things that just drops into your lap, and won’t go away?  Somehow it starts to come up EVERYWHERE, and you start to pay attention?  Yeah.  That.

All of a sudden it became clear that going for a Certified Nurse Midwife degree in the States (versus the Certified Professional Midwife degree in the Philippines) is the direction my life is going.  And when I say clear, I mean crystal.  People were coming out of the woodwork, giving me this message right and left!!  Okay God.  You have my attention.  CNM it is.  Begin research process.

Things begin to fall into place, and I’m on my way.  Completely confident and satisfied in the direction my life is going.

Enter nosey mom.  This woman is not my mother (thank you Jesus), but here she stands before me, interrogating me about my plans.  We’re in a quiet hallway surrounded by many friends laughing and joking, but I feel like this is a test of my worth.

She finds out that my current plan is to go to my local community college for a few years, get my associates in nursing, and transfer out to a bigger medical school for my bachelors in nursing and then masters in midwifery.  I swear this woman’s eyebrows are going to jump off her face.

She looks at me and says, dead serious, “Why in the world would you want to go to community college?”  I can see it now.  I am that kid.  The one homeschooler NOT starting off at a prestigious medical school from the beginning.  As if I’m defective.

Well, community college is cheaper, and will give me a few years at home to prep for living on my own.  That, and I’m not ready to jump into society.  That, and the GOD OF THE UNIVERSE kind of put it in my path…  Other than that, no reason.

Again, her eyebrows.  But now the lips get in on the action too – puckering into an unattractive, wrinkly mass of lipstick.  “You know that if your PSAT scores are good you can get a scholarship.”

I didn’t take the PSAT.  I was too sick at the time to get out of bed.

“Well, your SAT scores then.  National Merit Scholars can go to any school they want.  That’s how my daughter can afford her school of choice.”

How nice for your daughter.  Woman, I didn’t take the SAT.  I know you’re supposed to take it somewhere between 2 and 7 times before you graduate, I just never did.

And I see it written across her face.  Defective.  I am the screw-up of this prestigious group of homeschoolers.  I am the only one here who hasn’t taken the PSAT and the SAT.  I’m probably the only one who’s not a National Merit Scholar!  I haven’t duel enrolled my whole high school, I haven’t applied to any colleges, and I’m not getting a scholarship to the best college in the country.

“Well I’m sure you’ll do great.”  Interpretation – have a nice life you screw-up.

This encounter took place several months ago and has weighed heavily on me since then.  It threw me into a deep depression that lasted for several weeks.  I didn’t have the motivation to eat food.  The things this woman had said were so hurtful and damaging that they pushed me into a level of hopelessness I haven’t been for almost a year.

When I told my mom about it she was ready to punch someone out (thank you Jesus that this is the mom I do have!).  She enabled me to dig through my emotions until I found the root of the whole issue.  What is the real problem here?

I haven’t done enough, I’m not in the right starting place.  How can I graduate in a few months?  I am so behind!  Everyone is better than me.  I’m not good enough.

This is the lie that was seeded into my heart by that ‘concerned’ mom.  In her efforts to somehow better me, she had dragged me down.

My beautiful, wise mother reminded me of something so important, I’m amazed I had forgotten it.  I am not on this path in my life because of laziness or lack of trying.  I’m not here because I’m not good enough.  I’m here because God has put me here. 

It may not look like the ‘best’ way to do things.  But how can my life be judged through the lens of what others are doing?  Should I accept the World’s good over God’s best for me?

I may not be doing what people think I should.  This is where God’s put me.  So this is where I’m going to stay.

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the
weak things of the world to shame the strong.” – 1 Corinthians 1:27

Voices in the Wind

I see flashes of red and gold blow by the window. I am safe here, protected from the wind and the chill.  I should be content to stay here in the house.  Should be.  But something is calling me, pulling me.  It’s tugging at the little hollow place where my ribs come together.  The center of my being.

I yank on my boots.  Warm and black and rubbery.  Designed to keep out wet and dirt.  I wrap the yellow scarf around my neck.  Bright and happy.  Why am I not content to stay in this refuge from the outside world?  Something is out there, drawing me on.

In my haste I slam my fingers in the closet door.  Pain!  Flash of white hot light!  I consider stopping to get some ice to calm the throbbing in my hand.  No time, no time!  Nothing can divert me from reaching out and answering that call.

One step and I’ve left the safety and protection of the house.  A chill runs down my spine as a cool breeze toys with my hair.  I can feel it here too, even stronger than before.  The desperation in the hollow of my stomach is large and round and hard, pushing out all other thoughts and feelings.

Down the gravel path, crunching, grey, determined.  I see the trees before me, purple and orange and red.  They are waving to me, beckoning to me, inviting me to join them.  I run, almost fall, keep running.  I must get to the woods!  The pulsing in my chest is so strong, I know I’m close.  If only I can reach it before it overcomes me!

Suddenly the path is no longer gravel.  The moist earth beneath me, spongy and welcoming.  Shadows fall across me, and I am here.  The insistence in myself that was so consuming is now gone, leaving in its place a quiet.  I listen.  Whispers of the leaves as they fall from above, joining their brothers and sisters on the ground.  Creaking and groaning of trees as they speak to each other.  If only I knew what they were saying.

Burst!  A fresh gust of wind blows through the majestic trunks, swirling and wrapping around them like a river.  It takes hold of my hair and throws it in all directions.  It blows in my ears and eyes and nose, sniffing me, touching me, testing me.

I can understand!  “What a strange being to be out here in the wide cold world” says the gust blowing through my clothes.

Why are you here?” demands the powerful wind wrapping around my neck.

My throat feels hoarse.  Dare I speak?  Will human words uttered out loud defile this moment and break the spell?  But if I don’t answer will they abandon me, thinking me to be only another dumb creature, lumbering by and taking no notice?

So I whisper as softly as I can, afraid of the sound of my own voice, “I was called here.”

Oh!” they all cry and go rushing away.  I feel deflated, as if they have left and taken a piece of me along with them.

But then I feel the slightest tug on my shirt.  A little breeze, that I hadn’t notice before among all the turmoil, had remained.  It must have been a young wind, for it was very small, hardly more than a breath of air.  It climbs up my body until it reaches my ear.  I can barely hear it, but it trills in its gentle whispery breath “I know what you’re looking for.  I can take you there if you wish.”  I only nod my head, terrified that I will startle this one too, and it will leave me as well.  Yet, as small as it is, it must be the bravest of all the Winds for it stays with me.

Gently, ever so gently, it wraps itself around my hand and leads me deeper into the woods.  Farther and farther, how far I do not know.  I am too captivated by the magic of the situation to notice much else.  Finally we stop.  We’ve reached a clearing ringed by trees.  The sunlight breaks through the leaves here, dancing on the ground carpeted in a soft and welcoming bed of leaves.

All is still for a moment and I’m afraid that the little breeze has left me, but I had no reason to fear.  Quiet, ever so quiet, I hear the word “Listen.”

At first all I hear is the tumultuous sound of my own breathing.  Slowly it returns to normal.  The bump, bump, bumping of my heartbeat in my ears.  The throb, throb, throbbing in my hand returns.  I am impatient, waiting to hear…what?

Then something inside me clicks.  I hear them.  The voices of the leaves.  They are quiet, oh so quiet, I would never be able to hear one by itself.  Together, they sing their song.  They sing of dying, slowly dying, but not to no end.  They are dying so that there can be new life.  They sing of the One that came before them, the One they model themselves after.  He, too, died to bring the world New Life.

The trees add their voices to the song, singing of winters past, and the winter to come.  Singing, knowing it will be hard, but they will make it through, and will be even stronger on the other side.

The sunlight laughs, shining on everything, bringing light to all.  No matter how great the cold, or deep the frost, or painful the change, it will always be there.  Singing, laughing, bringing joy to all who look upon it.

The wind returns, adding its harmony to the others.  Determined.  Persistent.  The wind bears the task of changing the seasons, bringing warm and cool air, each in their turn.  It sings of always moving, never resting.  Touching all and seeing all, it tells of places unseen and stories untold.  No one knows from where it comes, or the place to which it goes.

I listen.  I can hear them!  The song that they all sing, the tales that they tell, the lessons that they all have for those who are willing to listen.

Slowly the sun begins to sink, drawing night into the world.  Shadows deepen, and all prepare for sleep.  I can still hear their song, but I am now aware of my body as well.  There is no telling how long I’ve been standing here, in rapture to the words I was hearing for the first time.  I am shaking, chilled to the core.  My muscles ache, complaining of the strain I’ve so uncaringly put on them.  I know I must go in, but I never want to leave this place.  I want to stay and listen.  I want to hear the strains of snow adding its beautiful voice to the others.  I want to listen as the flowers emerge and life returns to the world.  But I know that even if I go in now, I will be able to return and listen to the songs of nature once again.

For once you have learned their language, you will always hear Voices in the Wind.

This is a story I wrote a long time ago, but just recently re-read.  I hadn’t remembered why I’d liked it so much, but I think I reminded myself.  For that is the power of writing.  To capture the world you see in your head, to share it with others, to preserve it so you can re-enter the land of your dreams.  I don’t want to be a professional writer.  But I love it.

Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows

Spring is in the air!! Flowers, rain, the birds, the bees, all that jazz. On days like this it makes you feel new, fresh, clean! A song that came to my mind thinking about it is this (If you don’t know it, watch it!  If you know it, WATCH IT!):

Sunshine Lollipops and Rainbows

CATCHY! Come away from watching that and it’s going to be stuck in your head. If it’s not, we’re doubting the existence of your brain.

Yet, on days like this, there is something that continues to come to mind. Coming out of winter should mean a renewed vigor for life and love. So why do so many of us struggle with irrepressible depression?

I know. I said it. The ‘D’ word. In a world where ADHD, mono, AIDS and cancer are openly discussed, there is one disease that is the shame of our society. The one sickness that nobody wants to talk about. Depression.

The hardest part about depression is that it’s not an ailment of the body – it’s a sickness of the mind. Most people who struggle with depression are perfectly fine physically. But their mind, their psyche, their spirit, the very essence of their being is ill. And nobody wants to talk about it.

So I will.

Believe me, this is not a judgy “how dare you be depressed” kind of discussion. I understand these people I’m talking about, because I have struggled with severe depression for several years.

I don’t know that I’ve ever really talked to anyone about it. I understand the shame that comes along with it. What will people think of me? How can they understand what it’s like? Won’t everyone see me as a horrible person for feeling this way?

Depression is a prison more than any cell ever could be. Your body can be broken. But as long as your mind remains intact you are free! So when the very thought of living makes you want to cry, there is nothing left.

I would lay in bed and not even have the strength to pretend to care. Things needed done! There was life to be lived, people to meet, school to finish, pets to feed, family to be with. Yet my only thought was….nothing. There was nothing left in the horrifically empty existence of me.

I had no one to turn to, to tell how I felt. No boyfriend. No really close friends. I’ve gotten out of touch with my best friends since moving, and haven’t made any solid ones here. I have friends – the kind you go to the movies with, or laugh over stupid jokes. But not the kind you can sit down and pour your heart and soul out to.

Lost. Broken. Alone. Hovering in the pathetic no-mans-land of existing physically, but being (in essence) dead.

Is there hope once you have become entangled in this so-called life? Is there a way to pull out of the lethargy and stupor? Is there passion to be found?

In truth, depression is the biggest lie of all. A way of thinking, of feeling, that promotes self degradation and hatred. Saying that we aren’t worth anything, that nobody loves us.

Having these thoughts and feelings isn’t the problem! It’s what we do with them. Do we allow these ideas to consume us? Do we promote them, encourage them, allow them to fester and feed off our discontent? Dwelling on these thoughts creates a monster of oxymoronic proportions.

This is a world where the victim believes they are worth nothing, yet spends all their time focused on self. Not a wholesome focus, but attention nonetheless.

There are ‘cures’ for depression in this age of modern convenience and medicine. But is the answer to our problem really a pill that makes many people suicidal?? How is that the fix for depression?

What if – and just bear with me here a second – what if we stopped paying tribute to our thoughts of depression and suicide? What if we recognized our tendencies towards self, and began to focus on others? Serving people in more need than ourselves, volunteering in every way possible. Giving ourselves over, but not to death. Over to the pursuit of helping others find hope and life.

What if we broke out of the lie that says we’re alone? That says we’re unloved? What if we just talked to someone – confessed our deepest shame. What if we ignored the impulse to isolate ourselves, to give up, to pull away. Isn’t this prison really of our own making? So let’s be the ones to tear it down!  Find someone, anyone, and talk to them!  Commit to talking to them even, no, especially when you are depressed.  If you don’t have a friend or family member who is there for you now, then go out and find one!  Be the one to end the vicious cycle of loathing, and re-enter a world of living.

I went to my mom recently and told her about the depression that was weighing me down. Stress over the ACT, college applications, work, school, relationships, life in general! The first thing she offered to do was pray with me.  And after that prayer I was filled with a renewed hope, a renewed vigor and passion for life.

I am a Christian and have found my salvation in Christ since I was four years old, but this does not make me impervious to the tendencies of my Flesh!! The only question is – will I be mastered by my Flesh? Or will I take control over it?

The scripture I always turn to, and that brings me the most hope, is Psalm 13.

How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord,

for He has been good to me.

We are alive.  And we are here for a purpose.  Will we be beaten down?  Or will we rise up in the strength God has offered us so freely?

Me

Who am I?

The soul-searching question that many ask themselves and few are able to answer.  Scientifically we know that our past actions and surroundings play a part in who we are at present, and our actions now change our future.  We are genetically set up from birth to look a certain way, to have a distinct personality, to become a specific person.

But how can we sum up in just a few words the complexity of human nature?  Is there one word that is capable of capturing past, present, future, mistakes and failures, hopes and dreams?

I WAS so young and unsoiled.  I loved nothing more than to enter the magical lands of my books or to create worlds of my own.  I believed in fairies and truly thought Peter Pan would come for me one day.  The world was good.  Life was beautiful.

But through years of sickness and hardship I became hardened and afraid.  An insatiable depression swallowed me alive, burying my hopes and dreams in its inky despair.  I would lay in bed and not even have the energy to cry.  I didn’t dream anymore – my daytime imaginations had dried up and turned sour, and the only dreams I’d have at night were nightmares.

Only by the power of Christ did I come out from under that weight of Darkness.  His Grace poured over me, cool and sweet, soothing the crack and sores of y spirit.  He lifted me out of sickness and despair and set me in a safe place.  Trials of life still reach me, and sometimes drag me down.  But I face them stronger and wiser than before.  On days I fall back into the trap of hopelessness, I know there is a way out, a place of Salvation.  I AM alive!

So it is there, in Him (my Savior) that my hope for the future rests.  One day I would like to have a husband to call on and children of my own.  I would love to publish my writings (nonsensical scribbles though they may be).  I want to go into ministry and pour into the lives of others.  But all of that comes after and through One Person – MY HOPE – Jesus.

We move, we change, we love, we hurt, we stumble our way through life trying the best we know how.  Each one of us is so different, strange and complex.  But we share one thing, the one word that encompasses our lives, troubles, mistakes, hopes and dreams – who we were, are, hope to be.

We are HUMAN.

Above is a writing assignment I completed a few weeks ago, and I was fairly pleased with the way it turned out.  We were supposed to analyze ourselves – who we were, are, and hope to be.  I tell the story, vague as it is, of my life.  I became a Christ follower when I was very young, but only just a few years ago did I learn to love and rely on that Christ as my best friend.  This is my story.  This is me.

And this is the story of all of us.  We are human.  Human nature is not a bad thing, no.  We are created by a Great and Powerful God in His image, just the way He’d have us.  It is our SIN nature that drags us down and causes us to be less than He intended.  Yet we find REDEMPTION from all in the pure and beautiful Savior – Jesus Christ.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

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