Living Beyond Assumptions

All he did was asked questions over an article. 

His eyes got as big as saucers as I explained the medical journey behind the 1,800 word synopsis being offered to a publication company. One explanation led to another… And another… And another. The questions were painfully typical and mundane. I felt as if I was answering the curious questioner in my sleep. My writing had led me towards this type of impromptu interview before. 

But then, he said it:

“Wow. I guess you’re really not that frightening at all. Listening to your story, hearing you explain it, everything that made you super uncomfortable (to be around) makes so much more sense. I never would have guessed… Like, geez, you’re great.”

He smiled the smile of a man who wanted to be applauded for a gracious compliment. I smiled a smile that threatened to whisper, “Because I love Jesus, I won’t break your nose when I punch you.” I’m 26-years-old and people’s fears over my disabilities still make me crumble to the ground in tears. Being afraid of my disabilities is understandable.

But if you suffer silently through those fears, all you’re saying is that you’re afraid of me

I can’t say I’m much better than this poor man who has become a victim of my sarcasm. I giggle at the differences within the disabled community because, even though I may feel uncomfortable at times, I feel accepted. But don’t you dare ask me to be open in other areas.

My biggest fear and struggle is learning how to talk to an addict like an equal. They’re my equal? Wait… You mean they can hold a conversation?

This isn’t a discussion about right or wrong, normal or abnormal. Our society has become such a culture of hiding behind assumptions we have become our fears. 

My young friend saw my differences the moment he met me a year ago. He was too afraid to ask.

I have reasons to be afraid anytime I’m around a person who abuses drugs. I’ve been at the mercy of certain addicts’ evils before. But believe it or not, when you can get them talking, they simply want to be seen and reminded of their value. I often forget that because I can be too afraid to write an exception to my self-righteous rule.

I learned a long time ago that God never told me my comfort was His first concern. His command is to love those around me no matter the cost. 

If I live in fear of the unknowns, I’ll never experience the joy of living fully by loving those I don’t understand.

No Longer Beautiful?

As an epileptic teen, I had a body that made the models jealous. When you have a seizure 20 times a day for 5 years, fat doesn’t have time to accumulate on your frame. My parents tried everything. There was a season where my daily diet included potato chips and a large strawberry milkshake. (To this day, my mother harkens back to how bad of an idea that was because she had to get a milkshake, too.)

No luck, though. I was 18 years old, 85-90 pounds and I had muscle in places that made people talk. I loved it, to be honest. I thought it was funny. In secret, it became my identity — My claim to fame outside of the doctors and blood draws.

 Now though, in my mid-twenties and relatively healthy, I read off those stats and I get that beautiful glance that says, “It’s not polite to tell you you’re lying, but there’s no way you… Yeah, no.” Whereas once upon a time I felt as if I could lift anything, now I’m thankful when my arms are free of anything.

I cried when I put on a size 2 jeans my freshman year of college at 19 years old. Cried. As in, oh my word, my world is over. I’m a frikkin’ size 2. I was always told my size made me beautiful. Maybe the well-intentioned souls that uttered those words meant it made me more beautiful. Who knows. That sentiment ends depending on the number of your jeans and the letter in your shirt, apparently?

When I put on a size 6 at 22, I’m fairly certain I had the fleeting (not acted upon) thought, “Jesus, 5 seizures will make me lose a size; whatdya say?” Needless to say, I never got my wish (halle-frikkin’-lujah). A size 6, to be fair, would be heavenly these days. Just sayin’. 

I hate to admit it, but after 18 years of not having to work at turning heads, there are days it’s all-consuming to realize I’m not someone who stands out in a crowd. Americans have completely re-written the definition to “beautiful.” 

I’m not saying it’s wrong to work towards being healthy. By all means, dang it, do it. But someday soon, can we stop only reserving the word beautiful for the women and men that look like they belong in a fashion show?

 As Christians, it’s very easy to see what the world has done to beauty and stand around critiquing the critique of the critique. Why do what we can to change things when we can just put our 2-cents in and walk away without any responsibility in changing what’s wrong with our world?

I challenge you, I challenge myself, to live with the Biblical definition of beauty written on our minds.

Love for others and love for God. That’s it. That’s all beauty really is.

Every Season’s Worth

I depend on laughter most days. Even when I’m knowingly distraught, I’m usually the one quick with a one-liner to make sure no one else feels as if they’re being held captive by the need to cry. (Sidenote: If you do that too, just know it is the most frustrating thing for those who love you.) Humor is fantastic. It’s incredibly powerful, necessary and–believe me–a lifesaver during the weirdest of transitions.

I like humor. It’s easy to define: You laugh= It was funny. No high IQ required to understand that one.

I may be more comfortable with humor, but I honestly struggle with how the majority of white America handles sorrow.

One of the hardest things to get used to while living around a different culture when I was a kid was the fact that most were of the opinion pacifying someone’s hurt too early was the worst thing you could do. What that translated into? Someone crying like their heart was being torn in two and everyone encircling them but rarely coddling the one who was hurt. Why? Because tears needed to happen. 

Holding them would make the tears stop and honestly, only God should be the one to determine that.

When King David lost the son conceived with Bathsheba, he secluded himself for days in order to mourn and to pray. He understood the need for tears. He understood the need to let emotions run their course. He understood God was still present when the tears flowed and, in some ways, sorrow so deep made His presence easier to comprehend.

We seem to shortern the things that can make us heal the most: tears and circumstancial loneliness are two of the hardest ones. Your heart hurts? Find someone who can make you laugh. You’re lonely? Quick! Get in a crowd so you can appear to fit in but still struggle with convincing yourself you belong.

What if we’re stealing some of the deepest transformations within ourselves simply because we’re uncomfortable (and ready to be fun to be around again)?

What would happen if we acted as if we believed God wasn’t lying to us when He says there’s a season for everything? What would happen if we believed God was/is sovereign enough to know what our hearts need to go through in order to become more like Him? 

What would happen if we embraced what we needed rather than only praising God’s goodness for the the things we wanted?

Powerful Questions

We are no longer in a generation where being confronted by “Churchy people” on Sundays is attractive, convicting or a game-changer for someone outside the Body of Christ. 

Once upon a time, you still came to church if you had tattoos, but you covered them up.

If you were simply 3 days clean off a drug, you kept your mouth shut, your eyes down and you collected the atta-boys of people who were perceived as holier and cleaner than you.

Technically, it was equally the shame of the action (the desire to cover things up) and the desire to change (if you ignore your past long enough, it’ll disappear and you can have a fresh start, right?).
Recently, I struck up a conversation with a single father in town. We talked all things parenting (Praise ya, Jesus, for the gift of insightful yet ignorant empathy…) and all things trial. He laughed about no longer going out with the guys at night and I chided him that sleeping in was probably no longer in his vocabulary, either. He made it clear he could be a better dad. I reminded him his daughter was beautiful.

Then the enchantment ended as soon as I brought up God.

“You? Really? But…”

His eyes spoke the volumes his lips refused to mutter. You’re too nice to me to be a Christian.

The conversation quickly died down from there, but I was reminded of a Truth that broke my heart.

The days of opening the Church doors and ringing the steeple bell to strike curiousity in a person’s heart no longer exists. We’re no longer seen as a loving place to try out. We are us and they are them. End of discussion. Though that’s not necessarily accurate across the board… it’s a reality that’s getting harder to deny. 

We’re playing our own game of ignore it and it will disappear. 

So, I simply challenge those of you that claim Christ as your savior and Lord to own up to your redemption in every way. Whether your sin struggles are in the “acceptable” sins (gluttony, lying, gossiping) or the life-style temptations, be willing to let God use your experiences to reach out to someone who thinks they can’t come through those church doors without cleaning up first. Because that is quite simply a lie from the pit of hell.

They need to know it’s possible to be seen right where they’re at. Though that’s been a concept ever since Billy Graham was first given a podium, it’s becoming more urgent… and more an issue for the Church to address than it ever was for an independant evangelist. Outside of the comfortably-Christian communities, we are losing our impact on those who believe differently because we’re not willing to get down in the mud of life next to them and ask one simple thing:

I’ve been where you’re at. Wanna talk about it?

I Dread Nothing

I took one look at my right hand this morning and choked back a sob. Its presence is small, almost unnoticeable, but it exists. It’s only one, but it’s a scratch mark. They’re back. 

Memories of my right hand riddled with scars from night seizures filled my mind. It’s been at least six years since my hand was marked with scratch scars. I never knew the arrival of one scab could fill my heart with such dread. 

I’m 98% positive the scab is from a bug bite I had just scratched absent mindedly through the night. But it’s the possibilities, the fears, the what-ifs of the remaining 2% that held my heart captive. 

I’ve learned not to beg God for a revelation of the future. The few times I could actually say I “saw something coming” were never for personal gain. But just the memories of a terrifying past filled with medical mysteries make my tongue ache with a desire to scream at the Heavens: 

“What?! What next?! Am I… When will I… Can I…? What’s my future, Jehovah?!”

Quietly, the reality of a bug bite flooded my mind. The fear of unconscious seizures gently slipped into the category of “imagination” & I felt my Heavenly Father-Daddy wrap His arms around my quaking shoulders. 

Child… Trust Me. Your future is filled with dread because you rely on fear to feel in control. Trust Me. Learn what it means to smile at the future simply because your past and your future share one thing: Me. 

They’ll Always Need Me?

“You can’t leave… I love you.”

“If I had known you weren’t staying forever, I would have come out to hear you more.”

“You can’t leave… I need you.”

“I’m so sorry for messing up so much. If that’s why you’re leaving, ask God to forgive me and stay. I love you.”

All four of those lines were uttered over and over again by various men and women last night as I prepared them for the fact that I wasn’t coming to work with them anymore. Most of them had become valuable friends and siblings in the Lord. Most of them would say anything in order to get a smile and to sit next to me so we could talk. Some of them made me feel as if I was indispensible to them coming to the Lord. 

That’s why I left.

Here’s the thing about ministry: It’s incredibly easy to do godly things and yet not even realize you’ve been blinded to the fact that God has truly taken a backseat. I wrote in my journal several weeks ago, “Jesus, praying for these men and women isn’t enough. I can’t step away from them. They need me too much.”

There are several other serious frustrations that led to my choice to leave a ministry that continues to hold a part of my heart. However, the fact that I had started to believe that prayer wasn’t enough, that God couldn’t make changes within the hearts of the men especially without my knowledge… That’s terrifying. The fact that accountability and my own spiritual health and Biblical accuracy had become an option rather than a necessity was just as sobering.

What many of these men and women will never know is that obedience to the Lord in stepping away from them hurt more than I ever expected. But if I had stayed, I wasn’t loving them– I was using them. The addiction to being needed is an incredibly hidden, yet overwhelmingly strong bondage.

If I couldn’t break that bondage myself, how could I ever expect these people I have learned to love to break that bondage themselves?

Why Prayer Hurts

I told the story often…

I was fresh off the plane from Alaska and sitting in a conference room filled with Midwest women. I was struggling with how Spiritually different Indiana felt compared to Alaska and wasn’t sure what to label “right” and “messed up.” The women I was surrounded by were all Christians.. and they were all verbalizing their struggles with their respective significant other.

No one suggested praying against the Spiritual Warfare that was so very obvious to my  otherwise spiritized mindset. No one suggested praying for their husbands and putting an end to the story telling. To say I was confused that the women didn’t see the roadblock and the silent weaving of the Devil’s snare in their lives would have been an understatement.

I never thought I’d find myself in the same position only two years later.

This morning, I woke up extremely hurt, somewhat angry and rather confused by everything and nothing all at the same time. (insert joke about females here). Without much thought, I started a mental list of what certain people needed to do to make my life better… and where they were falling short. I don’t need to tell you what was on the list, but it was confusing, ridiculous and completely unfounded. Anything that had any substance to it was so petty it could have been comical.

They need you to pray. It’s not about you. Pray for them. Now.

I heard the Voice prompt me quite firmly as I sat alone in the house this morning. I’m ashamed to say, that Voice shocked me. Complaining, worrying and stewing about people in my life was hurtful, but it took the spot light off of anything I was responsible for. 

I struggled to get my mind on the right track. I struggled to see why praying for the people I was fretting over was a good solution. I struggled to see that I wasn’t really being mistreated, unloved and manipulated.

… I struggled to see that it was Warfare.

Welcome to the part of the world where distractions from God are found more heavily in television, sex and drugs. Satan can slip in without any notice simply because your surroundings don’t give him any authority in the spiritual upheaval you call “normal.”

Being “Ready” and “Standing Firm” look different here. Oh, may I never be so distracted God can no longer get my attention and ask me to fight for what matters.