I shall not react…

So, as an epileptic, I got very used to people’s shock and awe reactions to just about every story I told. Either that, or like many disabled individuals, the sympathy and pity became more addicting than coke or meth. Any of those reactions; shock, sympathy or pity, exuded a power that felt like control, but really wasn’t. Regardless, I learned that I would never not have that from someone.

Which is why, when Christ finally took over, I just resorted to making everything a joke. You’d be surprised how not in control you feel when experiencing someone’s laughter that you initiated. Let’s face it, y’all. Most of you have some seriously random laughs. When I think the joke was over three minutes ago, and you’re still laughing… I’m quite aware that humor is not something I control.

I’m learning though, that when explaining to someone that I truly only have half a brain, ending the story with, “It’s amazing though, I’m a medically certified airhead; so I can be an idiot and it’s not my fault” … That snaps ’em all out of their pity-of-the-obviously-helpless-cutie mindset. Oh Hallelujah.

I’m used to those reactions. Lets face it, when quipped one liners like, “half a brain”, “three brain surgeries”, “2200 milligrams of meds in an 85lb body” occur, uncontrolled reactions are inevitable. So, I lace the truth with a joke, and people loosen up. Mercifully.

24 years of intense over-reactions never ever, ever prepared me for the reactions of young women when I tell them I left my boyfriend all the way up in Alaska. Apparently, the 18 year old sitting next to me who left her guy in Louisiana doesn’t count. I’m not sure how I’m different, but I’ve been told by many that I’m either crazy, strong, or incredibly stupid.

Oh, okay. (My vote would be the crazy and stupid.. Most days) This reaction is so comical, it begs for control. Trying to explain to young women that my relationship with this man takes just as much work as emotion because we have a lot more to work through as two adults stuck in our ways, was a bad idea. Reaction? “Ohhhhh!!!! So romantic!!!”

Wait. It is? Huh? How? I mean, yeah. It gets pretty precious most days, but seriously. They get butterflies because their guy can kiss them without parental consent… I get butterflies when a part of my past collides with this man’s personality and neither one of us explodes. Or when he steps up to lead in a way that neither one of us enjoy, but we both know it’s what God is asking for. Romantic? Yep. I am among women. Dang it.

So after I stopped having my own pity party, life started making sense. I’m here, at 24, with my heart stuck somewhere along the Yukon. I’m being asked to pour my heart into women who are at a level of innocence that they’ll never see as precious until its a thing of the past. I ended up asking questions of my own heart so I can be an example to these women. It’s overwhelmingly precious.

In talking about my boyfriend with one girl here, (ohhh dorm life. You talk about guys. You become seen as a storyteller when you actually know one… Tis even better if he’s your boyfriend and exists!!) she kept calling my boyfriend and I “old romantics.” I tried very hard not to start giggling as I thought through conversations that were more heart wrenching than romantic. Following God as a long distant couple hurts. It’s amazing, but it hurts. Katie caught me off guard when she followed her comment with, “But what a way to need God every minute of every day. Is that what God wants? For relationships to make us holy?”

Wow. Yeah, sweetheart. That’s exactly what He wants. That’s exactly why I’m here.

Surrounded completely & surviving anyway

I am surrounded by counseling majors. Surrounded. Shouldn’t surprise me. I mean, if you don’t want to be a “Man of the Cloth” but love people and like psychology almost as much as you love the Bible… Your major shall be Counseling. Guaranteed. As a matter of fact, I think that Law may be found in 2nd Hesitations 19:2. Regardless of whether this is a Truth I’m willing to die for, I’m at a Bible College. Counseling majors will happen **Cue the theme to Jaws**

What I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of 19 year old men convinced they were called into counseling. All of them have found me. Actually, only two have, but still. (Granted, one of them is a Junior, so he may actually be 21. No idea. Okay, so maybe this will just be a post packed full with the, God, this ain’t funny!” exaggerated, half-humorous anecdotes that are native to my brain. ) There are days where a woman just wants to be left alone to her own devices, da… Darn it.

Where was I? Ah, right. The most used number these past two weeks has been “19.” Every once in a while, I’ve run into a student that doesn’t wear their age like a bullet proof vest, nor as a badge of honor. Most of them think my only hang up is spiritual culture shock. They find this fascinating while I find it intensely unnerving. (Dear friend that I’m referring to, if you’re reading this.. Read it to the end and just learn to laugh, it helps.)

My only hang up is spiritual culture shock…. Oh, okay. None of these people know me as, well, um, either the-
1. Miracle Child
2. Missionary kid
3. Apprehensive Missionary
4. The rebel gone wild, or
5. The Girl that gets caught in the middle of righteousness and bondage every three seconds.

My identity is actually just, Cassie “The Alaskan story teller.”
I’ve gotten more chances to casually pour into people here because of my, “One time, at band camp” Alaska style stories. I haven’t been led to tell my story of being the girl-child prodigal that ran hard, and ran fast. Nor have many found out that most days, my body feels like a physical ticking bomb, so therefore I have many that think I’m here on blind faith because it’s not smart to be here. (To which my cynical, sarcastic response to that is, “Okay, so the possibility of dying goes down 75% if in Alaska? Weird, never heard that from the PhD’s.” ) Y’all should be proud if how hard and often I bite my tongue.

Anyway… I was caught talking to one of these precious men of God yesterday, and he happened to be a counseling major. I just happened to let myself.. be myself. It hurt, a lot.. but it was good. Age didn’t matter; shared joy, wisdom and insight did. He slapped me around when and where I needed it… And I was intensely humbled by the fact that God had placed me in a position where I could just benefit from his friendship & not feel as if I had to have or be the answer to his questions.

So, this is what fellowship on an hourly basis looks like. I try to hide, and they don’t let me. I try to stay in the comfort of my past, and they have no idea what I’m talking about, so they can’t help put on the shackles. I’m surrounded by people that want to pursue God, freedom and the joy of Christ’s sufferings, and they have no reason to believe that I shouldn’t (or can’t?) come with them. And so, I do.

It’s not that I didn’t have that back home. I had an over abundance of it. However, I hate new crowds. In this crowd, I didn’t come with a pre-programmed identity, though. I’m just here to love people, and they’re crazy enough to think they can return the favor. Counseling majors and all.

Now, if only I can stop smiling like a crazy woman every time I hear one of these precious people use the term, “and a half”, I think I’ll be just fine. “I’m 20-and-a-half.” Yep… Age doesn’t matter, love does. Age doesn’t matter.. Love does. (Although the flesh side of me would love to have an increase to my age be something I look forward to.

When God reminds you that He knows your heart and needs better than you do, learn to take it with a Child-like grin and laugh anyway.

Sewn in

Probably one of the most heartbreaking consequences of listening to God and coming to Indiana is the fact that my heart is still very much intertwined with the Body of believers in Kenai, Alaska. I’ve never wept so hard over people I’ve only known for three years. I never thought I could say a Body of believers was more important to me than anything I pursued as a journey of self improvement. And then, quite randomly, God sends me elsewhere. I had a plane ticket, but the hundred-some people I left in Kenai did not. This wasn’t fair. This didn’t feel right. However, I know without a shadow of a doubt God wants me here.

He’s a God of insane plans- think about it. Sending His Son for a people that hate Him? Insane. Using imperfect beings to bring about His Perfect plan? Insane. Allowing His perfection to somehow be in-bodied in his creation’s imperfections and yet not once becoming imperfect Himself? Insane.. Powerful… Indescribable. I don’t understand Him. That’s a good thing.

Asking me to leave the Body of Believers that became; seemingly overnight; an integral part of who Cassie Harris is, in order to embark on a journey of unknowns… That’s one of those are you QUITE sure this is a good idea, Lord?! – moments.

At one point, I jokingly started telling people that the only thing strong enough to keep me in Kenai was a man… If I ever had the audacity to fall for one. That.. Was a total lie. I’ve got a man in Alaska that I’m quite comfortable and confident in. And I still left. However, I had a very good reason to leave Kenai a year and a half ago.. And I stayed. I needed the Body that I couldn’t find three hours away.

In talking through the pains of leaving with a mentor in Kenai, I said something that I never wanted to admit. “I think God’s sending me away because I have everything so comfortably here. I don’t have to yearn for Him. I want Him desperately, but I don’t have to search for Him.” Starting over in Warsaw is making me search for Him. Many times, I haven’t wanted to. My attitude, my joy and my genuine personality suffer because of it. And my core of Believers that know me well aren’t there to pick up the pieces.

This is good. This is right. This is exceedingly painful. This is sanctifying, and this is what I prayed for. Don’t ask me why… Comfort is so much easier.

The joy in all if this is, I’ve started over; and I’ve found a Body here in Warsaw. They challenge me (already) in ways that my Family in Kenai didn’t have to. And they’ve shown bravery in sewing me in right away. I didn’t really have a choice to go without fellowship for a while. They have no idea who I am, and I have very little clue who they are… But we have the same Lord, and the same goal of making His name famous. What’s just as precious; we have each other.

In the past week as I’ve been tossed into the workings of my new Home away from home, I’m overwhelmingly blessed with how God has answered prayer. I was terrified of coming to Warsaw and just being left alone to my own devices- which is a very bad idea. God knew what I needed from the get-go, and provided in a way I never expected. But He also knew where I needed to be challenged right away, and He provided that just as quickly. God is good!

What can I say, my heart is full… Everything else; my job, my education, my relationships, is just overflow. The Body is alive and active here, and that blesses my heart more than I ever thought possible.

Perspective hurts

So, I’ve survived my first week of college. Those of you that only know me through my 10 year long journey of blogging, (that makes me sound old- I’m not) you don’t realize how much of a miracle it is that I’ve survived three weeks in Indiana, let alone an entire week of college. I’m not a scholar in anything other than my own time with The Lord, and I hate (hate- H. A. T. E. ) the heat. See? It’s a miracle.

Did I mention that while at Grace College pursuing a double major in journalism and Biblical Studies, I’m at least two years older than most of the seniors? *sigh* I’m not old… I’m not old… It’s just extremely quirky that I’m homesick, but not for the people, nor the things that the rest of my peers currently are. They have an amazing right to do so, and I would never look down on them, judge them or make fun of them.

It’s incredibly interesting however, when I see star-crossed 18-year old couples and I realize, I will never be able to truly and genuinely share in the giddy innocence. I’ve already been there. I’m currently working through emotions of what it means to bring incredibly terrifying baggage to a relationship that I feel God has called me to. The giddiness of sitting together every meal without the scrutiny of my parents? Oh, how I long for that.

On top of that is the fact that it had been almost six years since I’ve sat in a college classroom. Take tests? Know what my SAT scores are? Actually know what the SAT IS?! Nope. Not happenin’. I’m not old… I was called here. I’m not old.

But even deeper than just the shift from full time ministry to student is the fact that Indiana is so incredibly quiet. Even when the emergency sirens go off, there is a lack of fear and a lack of evil in the air. Spiritual warfare is still evident, but it’s muted. I told one friend, “I don’t know how to handle the fact that I can’t see or feel what’s happening around me. It’s unnerving not knowing what to expect from the spiritual realm.” … Wait. Did I just say that? Am I actually scared of leaning on God in the midst of silence; when I can’t see where He’s working and I can’t feel spiritual friction? Really?!

Y’all might think I’m nuts (especially the precious Godsends that don’t share my views. Which believe me, I welcome that with open arms). But after several years of serving in Alaska where spiritual awareness isn’t optional, I sincerely struggle with not being around the “noise.” In praying through it yesterday, I quietly received a rebuke from God I’ll never forget.

You keep looking for spiritual awareness in the people I’ve asked you to surround yourself with right now. You’re so focused on the lack of that awareness you’ve stopped looking for Me. Did it ever occur to you that I brought you here so you’d have to learn how to seek Me when Spiritually you don’t feel Me? .

Ouch. Talk about humbling. I was then gently reminded of 1st Thessalonians 5:24. “He who called you is faithful and He will bring it to pass.” I love that verse. But I often forget the verse before it where Paul asks God to sanctify us entirely. Entirely. No stone unturned, no perspective left unchallenged by His Word. Totally sanctified.

Being here in Indiana hurts, but it’s amazing. Apparently, God had done enough in me when I was permanently in Alaska that He needed to get me away from the world I was so incredibly familiar with.

It’s not about my comfort level, my knowledge of the Spiritual Level, nor about wanting to be around a different group of people. It’s about making me entirely sanctified so that, through God’s power, I may accomplish what God has called me to do.

Okay, Lord. I’m here. Find me faithful ❤

Humility, writing, fear & surrender

I’ve never been more skeptical of God’s calling in my entire life. Work in the villages with kids that are a part of my heart in unexplainable ways? No problem. Reach out to victims living in bondage? Bittersweet in magnanimous ways, but still… Reaching the unreachable is worth it. My belief in an all powerful God, along with my youth, inexperience (maybe those two words are a wee bit repetitive?) and quirky take on life just made those “callings” make sense. They still do, actually. But for reasons I’m still attempting not to argue about, God’s either closing those chapters or broadening the subject matter. I’ve not a clue- but I’m thinkin’ that may be the point.

Writing, however? Yeah, I love to write, but for a living? For as much as I hate crowds, unknowns and change, my heart is for in-depth relationship. A keyboard, monitor and deadlines aren’t really what I had in mind. As a matter of fact, it’s not what I wanted at all. Then again, writing has always been “me”– I just didn’t think I’d ever tell people that God has called me to write. After 13 years of all encompassing ministry in Alaskan Villages and homeless communities, this just feels… Awkward. (Side note- any of you that have the right to speak into my life 30 years from now… Feel free to quote me. It’ll be the kick in the butt that I need.)

As I sit in my parents’ overstuffed chair in Kenai Alaska pondering what God has done and the possibilities of what He can do in the next three to five years, I’m at a loss for words. My “real” writing experience started early 2011 when God shocked me with the ability to write for a well-known author’s blog. It was a one time, “oh my word!” thing – or so I thought. In corresponding with the Theologian’s office, I was very much the giddy school girl getting ice-cream. I was actually (temporarily) on first-name, speaking terms with a Spiritual giant in my life. Are you kidding me? How much cooler could my life have gotten at that point?!

I was actually quite scared of the man, truth be told. He was and is, humble, used by God, and inspired to move the Body of Christ in shocking ways. But he’s famous in certain circles. His fame terrified me. I think, if I remember correctly, one of our correspondences actually quotes me as saying something to the effect of, “Never mind, I can’t ask that question of you. Thanks for this opportunity, it’s been great.”

His response? “I’m just a man.” Yeah. I know. But.., sweet one, you’re… YOU. Like seriously, pull yourself together, Dude. You… Don’t talk… To peons…like me. You’re just a man? Are you sure?? (That question literally went through my mind. I’m not sure what this poor soul would’ve done to pacify my curiosity if he knew. Send me a DNA sample, perhaps?)

Even back then, the still small whisper of my God was warning me that writing would be my life in one way or the other. Graciously, God broke the news in stages. My experience with this theologian was just step one. When reality set in, it took God 2 years to speak through my insanely freaked out mentality to get to the core of my issues SO He could use me in the writing world.

I honestly didn’t trust God to be bigger than my pride. When the word, “published” started becoming more of an option; I cried. Not out of joy.. But out of fear. I had seen what writing for a living can do to destroy a person’s humility… And slowly kill their relationship with God. I didn’t want that. I want(ed) to stay innocuously behind the scenes, thank you very much. I didn’t want to fight for humility. As a matter of fact, I didn’t want to fight for my faith at all. Yet, all of that would be required if God put me on the front lines and asked me to trust Him as I pursue a life of writing. This is a faith journey. God wants to take the most prideful, female midget known to man and teach her how to let God shine through her weaknesses.

Write for a living? That’s not my calling. Writing is my talent, and prayerfully will become more of a skill. Staying on my knees in service to my God… THAT is what I’m called to. I can handle that.

Sold to a Fantasy

I did something today that is highly looked down upon in the world of research. I read the headline and byline of an article sent across my path and automatically assumed I knew the subject matter at hand. I didn’t. I missed out on the heart of the article and had to re-read it several times before I could focus on the point being made. However, my over-analytical mind had already taken off.

The headline was, “Some girls have been married 60 times by the time they turn 18.” In reality, the article was on third world countries that marry their daughters off as early as they can -12-14 years of age- and by the time they’re 18, they’ve been cast aside, and then remarried several times. It’s an eye opening article. Really. But instead of slowing down to listen to my heart for the virtually sex-trafficked young girls in the world, I focused on what that headline means for American young women. In a culture where the majority can ignore the threat and consequences of trafficking, the reality is, we’re just as much in danger emotionally as they are physically, spiritually and emotionally. All without leaving our white picket fence.

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A study was done several years ago to depict what a man looks at for a one night stand as compared to what a woman simply looks for. Not surprisingly, men look at image with a short, noncommittal glance at the woman’s personality. Equally obvious, the woman, despite the fact that she’ll only be with this man maybe twelve hours, instantaneously weighs whether the man would be worth marrying. Even in the hearts of the hard-core tomboy – of which, at one time, I was one – marriage is at the core of the pursuits God has planted in women as a priority. It’s good. It’s beautiful. It’s right.

Where the threat comes in is when we as women take that God-given consideration and spend it on every man we ever converse with, fantasizing down every emotional rabbit trail we possibly can. In essence it’s the accepted adult version of matching our name with theirs and drawing hearts around their name in our textbooks. But, because life has provided sweet insight, that fantasy doesn’t just steal a few giggles. It steals our hearts.

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We truly can “get married 60 times” by the time we’re 25. In a world that dares to tell us that’s acceptable because we’re “just women” and “that’s what we do”; I disagree. When we live in the world of what-if we stop looking for the what-now. We miss out on what God is doing in and through us now, because our heads are stuck in a fantasy that may never happen. If it does, it breaks our hearts because it’s not exactly how we fantasized it would be.

Our hearts are at risk, then, of spending so much time on a fantasy anyway, that we don’t realize how quickly our minds can change. When the man that we fantasize about does anything to make us realize he’s human, we start searching for that new man we could essentially see ourselves marrying. Before we know it, we’ve spent at least a quarter of a century giving our hearts a little bit at a time to men that have very little, to no clue at all, that our hearts have been given to them.

Relationship is amazing. True love is a choice which turns into an action that doesn’t always look beautiful. When we as women spend our time mentally giving ourselves to the next “option”, we miss out on the full beauty of when the love God has ordained for us really does occur.

I’m not saying we as women need to deny and be ashamed of our makeup. However, I am suggesting that we as women need to realize the price on our hearts and the consequence of our joy when we start down a rabbit hole of relational fantasy that never ends. The saying, “be true to your heart” is a complete farce. Our hearts change depending on the smallest thing. Be true to your Creator. We were created for one mate. It’s not enough to say we’ve always chosen to wait physically, or that we will choose to wait in the future. We as women don’t come with compartmentalized emotions. If we wait physically, we need to pray for the strength to wait emotionally, spiritually and mentally as well.

Don’t sell your value short by selling it to your imagination. You’re worth more.

Spiritual bonding

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There is honestly very little humorous about this post. Unless, of course, you count the fact that it’s humorous that a single individual was drafted to write on the subject of spiritual bonding in marriage. Recently, a ministry I have the privilege to work with here in Alaska finished our rough draft for an abstinence curriculum. It became exceedingly clear that we needed to do what our secular counterparts have not – address how intimacy outside of marriage is not void of that eternal spiritual bond.
I humbly wrote this from the perspective of someone that sees this subject as what it is- something not addressed until choices are made and it’s too late to hide yourself from consequences. Marriage is not quite simply, “making babies and having fun”. Neither is sex outside of marriage. It’s so much more.
.. God said to write for His glory. Apparently, that meant His greatest work done through and in me were the subjects that I had no personal ground to work off of. Ah well, find the otherness of God, treasure it, and learn to laugh anyway.

*****

Spiritual bonding is that scandalously intimate aspect of relationship that is too deeply rooted in a couple’s union to even attempt to describe it. Every couple knows when their union has reached that benefit. Very few, however, can grasp how it happens. It’s something that, when done correctly, can only be seen as a true act of God. At risk of being accused of spiritualizing a cop-out, the reality is, it’s a God-thing.

Aside from the six day creation, marriage was one of the first eternal bonds God created. Marriage was, and still is, seen as a beautiful depiction of the relationship between Jehovah and His creation. As Christ stated in John, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” That love, in it’s purest form, is the love that relationship was meant to be founded on because of what it illustrated between The Creator and His Creation. When relationship is founded on anything less than that agape love, spiritual bonding is tossed about like a wave in the ocean.

Sometimes sex can be construed as a spiritual experience, but is that all God meant it to be? Sometimes, there’s a seemingly quirky revelation that the couple is experiencing their mate at the spirit level; but it is rarely handled with the respect and awe it deserves. In a way, without Christ, that spiritual bond is so rare that it gets ignored out of fear of what it is. Instead of diving deeper; because the uncertainty is worth the knowledge of Christ as well as the knowledge of their beloved; the couple resorts to sticking with the deeply caring, yet platonic love. Spiritual bonding never eternally works between a couple when that union is void of Christ. Whereas sex was once meant to bring Christ into the relationship, it is now an act to relieve a desire.

In marriage, the fact within a command that, “The two shall become one,” is precious. The beauty within the physical only exemplifies what the couple already knows. When their Beloved hurts, they hurt. When their Beloved rejoices, they rejoice. The impeccable oneness that is added within the relationship during sex isn’t seen as a shock, just simply a Godsend of a fact. There are secrets shared void of words during that depth of vulnerability. You know your beloved, your beloved knows you.

Some translations interpret the term, “you shall know your beloved” as “you shall see your Beloved.” There is a depth to this that can never be truly explained. As someone once stated, “Because I see (her) I know, that I know, that I’ll always know, and there is quite simply very little that I will never get to know. She’s mine. I’m hers. That can’t change.” This, friends, is beautiful; if it is seen through the eyes of marriage. There is a protection of each mate that goes untouched. There is a vulnerability there that is shared that is only magnified when sex is shared. It can’t leave. It does not depend on your attraction, your situation nor your temporary decisions. God created that bond to occur between two when they form a precious union.

The heartbreak comes when individuals give themselves away with any chance they get. What could be seen as a lack of judgment, an act of loneliness, or even -sadly – an act of revenge will still hold consequences never considered the moment before two unite. The phrase, “When two become one” is not reserved only for those who have a marriage contract. Sex, as it is the will of God, brings union. That union brings a vulnerability that encourages a spirit-deep bond with your mate. If that mate is only temporary, you find yourself at a loss for words as you discover that although your body may have walked away from that temporary mate, your heart and mind have not. Spiritual bonding is beautiful, but when ignited wrongly, it comes with a high price.

Choose to wait, if simply for the fact that giving the spirit-deep bond to more than one person will make it harder to give yourself wholeheartedly and completely to someone when marriage becomes the answer. Choose to wait, it is the greatest gift you can give.