Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Safe in God's Hands

On the way to church last night, my best friend and I were involved in a serious accident.

We were going through a big intersection a few blocks from his house, when from our left a man clear ran through his red light at full speed, and we T-Boned him going 50 mph. The airbags went off so I couldn't tell how many times, but my friend's car spun a few times, and the other car ended up on the opposite side of us about 100 feet away, opposite the direction we had been driving and on the concrete center divide.

My friend's door was difficult to open but when he got it open he walked out and helped me out of the passenger side. The other driver was stuck in his car and was extracted by firefighters. Almost immediately there were multiple police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances on the scene. We stood on the sidewalk and answered questions and were checked out by the EMTs. Though shaking, we were both generally fine, with some stinging on our chests from the airbag and seatbelt, and my wrist was bothering me, but we didn't get in an ambulance. The man from the other car seemed extremely disoriented and unclear as to what happened, but physically he was unharmed. We were staring at his mangled car, amazed at how we walked away from such a serious crash. His mom came and picked us up, and we were both really disappointed that we were missing church. We went to get some food and try to get a handle on the situation.

Later, my boyfriend picked me up to take me home but insisted that we go to the hospital first, since my hand and wrist were now swollen and difficult to move. As we were driving he kept saying he had this anxious feeling in his chest and wasn't sure what was wrong with him. He's been having a difficult struggle lately with being with God, and although he knows that what he really needs is to be back with Him, he keeps pushing him away. When I got to the hospital, they did some x-rays and said they couldn't see any fractures, but because of where it was swelling, it was most likely an occult fracture in my "snuffbox," which is the area between the hand and thumb. Fractures are difficult to see in this area, but after calcification they should be able to see it, so I get my cast off next week. As I was being examined, he was sitting in the waiting room watching tv, and when we went to find the remote to change the channel, it was sitting next to a bible. He picked it up and started reading it, which he hasn't done in a long time. By the time I was finished, the anxious feeling in his heart was gone. My best friend also went to the hospital and they told him that he has a radial nerve palsy in his left arm, which basically means he has some pain and numbness in his arm, but it should be ok soon.

Although car accidents are scary and shocking, I know above anything else that my friend and I were so blessed in having walked away from the car. We were stunned and shaking, scared and in pain, but staring at his car, all I could think about was that the Lord had taken such good care of us. It almost made me want to smile. I was standing there and I kept thinking, "thank you. Thank you!"

I believe that this incident happened for a reason. I think that God put us in that place to get something across to us. The whole thing was really miraculous; from our two cars being in the same spot at the same time after the man ignored his red light, to the fact that all three of us walked away from a severe car crash (where most likely, both cars are totaled). From what I understand, a car accident is like a wake up call or a reality check. Maybe a sign to slow down, either literally or figuratively. I wonder if God was trying to tell us something specific, or just wanted to show us that He really is here protecting us. Either way, He has definitely been on my mind, and I don't want to miss His message!



Lord, I know You are here with us, and that You were there with us last night, keeping us safe. Thank You thank You THANK YOU for leading us through a traumatic situation with the comfort of Your love and mercy and our physical wellbeing. Thank You for providing for us a way to really experience Your love firsthand. Please help us to heal quickly, so that we may continue in what You have called us to do in our new jobs in salons. Lord, above all, please guide us in understanding Your message! Amen.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Following His Path

As I mentioned before, I have been having a real struggle lately with who I am and figuring out what really makes me happy. I knew that one of the things I was having a hard time with was my job, because I find no fulfillment in it. No matter how hard I work and how well I do, the only feedback I get is what I'm not doing well enough in. It makes me feel as though I'll never be good enough, and I already struggle with that enough internally. I've also been feeling as though I'm wasted my education and talent and passion for doing hair.

Last week, when I was in the deepest part of my struggle, my boyfriend and I prayed together, and he prayed that the Lord help to lead me where I would be happier, and to help me find some peace in my life and in my job.

Two days later, one of my good friends from cosmetology school messaged me to ask if I would interview to fill her position at the salon that she works at, because she's moving away and has a full clientele that needs to be taken over by someone. Yesterday, I went in with a few models and interviewed with the owner. I got it. (Yay!!!)

I asked, and He answered. I'm now going back into the salon and back into the career I always intended for myself, and I feel really excited and relieved about it. I thank God for showing me the way, for guiding me towards what He knows is best for me, and what will be more fulfilling and fruitful for me. I'm so thankful to have opened my eyes so I could see how huge of an impact He has on my life. The Lord is full of blessings.

I can't wait to go back into the place I was supposed to be all this time, behind the chair!

"May you honor the way that God created you."

The Gift of Good Love

This Sunday was the third installment of the series entitled, Sex, Love, & God, entitled The Gift. Mike Erres described how the bible shows us that sex is in fact a great thing, and it's not something that is sinful, as long as it is done at the right time with the right person. As he described, God intended for us to be able to be sexual beings, as we were originally naked and unashamed. As he says, "we were sexual before we were sinful." Over time, sexuality evolved into something that was no longer used properly, and we have gotten so far away from the way real love should be expressed.

In Song of Solomon, the two lovers grow closer and more crazy about each other, but restrain themselves and vow not to "arouse or awaken love" until it is time. Finally, the two get married and get to demonstrate their love for each other the way it was intended, and it shows that it was well worth it. Sex is holy, and is a gift from God.

"How beautiful you are my darling.
Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats,
descending from Mt. Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn;
coming up from the washing, each has it's twin. Not one of them is alone.
Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon, your mouth is lovely.
Your temples behind your veil are like a pomegranate.
Your neck is like the tower of David, built with elegance.
On it hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors."
Songs 4:1-4:6

When the Lover and the Beloved get married, on the night of their wedding, love can finally be "aroused and awakened," but he doesn't rush her. He doesn't coerce her or push her. He woos her, beginning at her head and working down, he describes to her how she is perfect. Every detail affirms that he loves everything about her.

When we wait until we can commit our lives and our hearts to someone, we can finally experience the kind of love, both emotionally and physically, that the Lord intended for us. Romantic, sensual, life-giving love is the way that God gives us the ability for two to become one flesh.

As Mikes tells us, this amazing, romantic interaction shouldn't just be during the honeymoon. This kind of connection should continue throughout the course of the marriage. Even as a married couple, our jobs are to please each other to show each other that kind of love. We cannot demand it, as that wouldn't be honoring each other. We need to always approach the situation with respect and love, no matter how long we have been together.

It's incredible to know that God has a plan for us, even on a sexuality level. It's reassuring to think about the fact that there are such big benefits to following His wishes, because on the other side there are much more satisfying blessings. Though physically it's something that tempts now, if we wait we will be a million times more fulfilled.

Knowing and learning these things has strengthened my convictions about preserving my sexuality for the right time. Though I've known for a long time that sex should be reserved for a healthy, serious relationship, I know now that means that waiting until the night of my wedding will bring so much more satisfaction than anything else. Even now in my current relationship, we both agree that we need to reserve the physical side of love for the future. God has our best in mind and though its a struggle, we aren't arousing or awakening love until it so desires. Despite the difficulty, I so look forward to the benefit of pure, safe, holy physical love with my mate, if or when that day comes.

Lord, I pray that you will help us through the struggle of preserving ourselves until its time for us to express our love physically. I ask that You guide me in making the right decisions and living by Your word. Please help us to strengthen our relationship in all other facets so that one day we may reach that point of intimacy. I trust in Your intentions. God, please grant us the blessings you intend for us. Amen.

Rob Bell's "Flame"
Let our love be all three flames, burning together.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wherever you go, there you are.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Starting at Ground Zero

After the exhiliration of meeting God for the first time, things have seemed to change drastically. I can't pinpoint what it is that has me feeling so low, but all I know is I've felt pretty awful the past few days.

Where I am normally very social and love being around people, I've felt like hiding in my room. I'm usually in a good mood, or able to have a positive take on things, but the past few days its as though nothing seems positive anymore. When it comes down to it, I just feel really empty and hollow. It doesn't make any sense to me, because I feel so excited and relieved and fulfilled by acknowledging God and inviting Him into my life, but aside from that, I feel super low.

I talked to my best friend for a long time today, who said that maybe it's because I'm in an extremely vulnerable position, having just accepted Christ into my heart, and that this is a prime time for the other side to try to work against that. Maybe it's because I've always had my walls up to it all, and now that they are down they are both trying to get in.

It feels like I'm having an identity crisis. It's as though I no longer know who I am. That would make sense, according to scripture, but I expected it to feel much better than this.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17

Where I have always been "filled up" or satisfied by getting attention and admiration from those around me (friend-wise, and even longer ago it was on a more physical, attention from the opposite sex side), I think my recent spiritual findings have left me understanding that those things really don't fill me up or satiate me. All of a sudden, the things I would normally do to cheer myself up and make me feel better aren't having any effect on me, and I feel this great distance between myself and the world.

I'm not sure how to fix it or how long it's going to last, but I know all I can do is ask the Lord into my heart and accept Him as fully as I'm able.

Lord, please help me to fulfill what it is that You have in store for me. I ask that You show me love and guide me in feeling whole in Your love and grace. I know I'm not capable of completely understanding Your plan for me, but I can't wait to know You better. Please help me to demonstrate the love and appreciation I have for those in my life that are trying to help me through this struggle. Amen.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

He spoke, loud and clear! And I surrendered my heart to Him.

Though apprehensive about going to church for the first time, I woke up Sunday morning with no reservations. I decided I wanted to go that night. Though I still wasn't completely sold on the idea of Christianity, I wanted to go and see if it was right for me, if it spoke to me. If I felt something deep during the service. It was a "give me a sign!" moment.

I went with my best friend. Once we arrived, I felt a little anxious, but it was mostly excitement. I knew I had to open my heart, and not let my head get the best of me. As we walked in, I said to him, "I wonder if I'll see anyone I know." He asked who I meant. "I don't know, anyone." Considering I've lived here for a few years, I figured I would run into someone I've worked with or something.

The message that night was part of a 5 week series on the Song of Solomon, which is a poem about love and sex in the Bible. The series is being taught by Mike Erres, and is called Sex, Love, and God. After singing a bunch of worship songs (very new concept to me), we got down to the message. We translated the scripture and learned the values that God wants for us to have concerning sex. It isn't something to be swept under the rug (and in fact, many churches never teach this book), but something to be celebrated. But God wants us to enjoy and value it to our utmost abilities, when we are with and fully committed to the person who can love us as close to perfectly as possible, so that it can be as special and intimate as it's supposed to be.

He talked about how chances were that most of us had already crossed that line, probably lots of times. But he said we weren't damaged goods. If we were to decide today that we wanted to change, and learn to restrain ourselves even when it's most difficult, we could start over, and God would redeem us and help us to make our hearts pure again, so that one day, we may experience that intimacy and physical love with the right someone.

I looked back on my life, many times feeling as though the pastor was talking directly to me. Though many years ago, I went through a very promiscuous phase while I was living a few hours north where I went to college. I got to a point where the only thing that mattered to me was a little positive attention from the opposite sex; that's all it took. I was a broken person and I thought someone's shallow words were enough to fix me. It would work for the time being, but I would crack a little more every time. I thought, who cares? What does it matter now? I didn't say no to him yesterday, why would I say no to this one today? What was the difference? I'm not hurting anyone.

Well, I was hurting myself. I was inflicting very small, deep wounds on myself that would later take years to heal. But I didn't know it.

Fast forward to the summer before my sophomore year of college. I moved into a house with a bunch of friends, and next door to two boys who were best friends. One of them was the funny, outgoing (and extremely promiscuous) one, and one of them (in my naive, silly 18 year old head, mind you) was the absolute, hands-down man of my dreams. We would hang out, and do trivial things like run errands and watch TV, and it would feel like I'd just had the best day of my life. I thought he was incredible and I fell so hard, in total head over heels, complete infatuation with him.

As you can probably guess, things didn't work out (as mind-altering crushes often don't) and I was (no pun intended) totally crushed. Aside from not feeling the same way about me, he ended up dating my roommate - can you imagine? Not only was I totally heartbroken, but seeing as how he lived next door, I couldn't escape it either. It was horrible.

Soon after, we threw a party. The two boys came, of course, and for whatever reason his best friend was all over me like white on rice; hitting on me, putting his arm around me, you name it. The object of my undying affection even told me to "go for it." And for some reason in my silly, pathetic little head, I thought I might as well. It was the next best thing.

So I went home with him. It was all fun and games, 'til the drunk started to wear off. I looked around the room and realized that I was laying there naked, in the room of the boy I was obsessively crushing on, with the wrong boy. All of a sudden I felt disgusting. I got home and went to sleep, and when I woke up I felt more empty than I ever had before. When I left that morning for work, he was outside and didn't even say hi to me. I wanted to curl up and disappear.

I swore that day to become abstinent. I promised myself that until I was in a committed, healthy, serious relationship for a good length of time, I wasn't going to have sex. Everyone around me, including my closest friends and roommates, laughed and bet money on how long it would last. Well, five years later, I've been with only one person who I was in a serious relationship with for almost two years. And I do feel as though I've redeemed myself.

So back to present day, where I was sitting and listening to a sermon about sex, and about redeeming and restoring ourselves, and no matter what has happened in our pasts we can move on and start anew. We said a prayer, much of which was about letting our guard down and letting Jesus into our hearts, and I felt like it was just for me. It finished with more singing, and everyone started to file out. My friend wanted to talk to the lead pastor, so I told him I would meet him in the lobby.

I felt good about being there, and I had really enjoyed the sermon and felt like I could relate to it on a very personal level, but the experience wasn't groundbreaking. As everyone shuffled out, and I made my way towards the front desk, I caught a glimpse of the boy I had been so madly in love with 5 years ago, who I had lived next to three hours away from here. The boy I hadn't seen since.

I kept walking but my heart was racing. I ran back into the large room and found my best friend, who I pulled aside and gave him a quick rundown of the story. I was shaking. We walked out, and there they were. We talked to them for a second, but I was so overwhelmed I could hardly say anything. They asked me if I go there often, and I told them I'd never been. I asked them if they do, and they said they go once every few months. We said goodbye and left and I was shaking all the way to the car. My friend and I went to get food and I could hardly eat. I felt like crying.

It wasn't out of sadness, but really out of shock. Out of being overwhelmed. If ever there was a sign that I was in a place I was supposed to be (and more importantly, at CHURCH, for the first time in my life) there it was. After a sermon about redeeming ourselves after promiscuity, I literally ran into the reason I stopped having casual sex, sitting in the lobby.

God works in mysterious ways, I know. But there was nothing mysterious about this one. I heard His message loud and clear, and I know He wanted me there for a reason. That was really the breaking point for me; for believing in Him, knowing that He was speaking to me, and that I needed to be exactly where I was.

I know that my life is meant to be with God, and I'm surrendering myself to him to do his work and live by his example. I'm so excited to begin a new life.

Who am I?

I present this question in two ways.

To start, maybe you'd like to know. I'll give you a little background.

I was raised in a broken household (rather two households), and on one side was my mother, a completely non-practicing Catholic, and on the other was my father, a completely non-practicing Jew. My mom is non-religious, where my dad is anti-any-religion-that-is-Christ-based. I grew up knowing nothing about God.

By the time I reached an age where virtually everyone had some basis of faith in their lives, I had the opposite. Even as I say this I feel ashamed, but I laughed at it. I thought it was silly and couldn't understand how anyone could believe it. I was immediately turned off and my guard went up when a conversation turned down a religious path. I would feel uncomfortable immediately when people would mention God, Jesus, or prayer. I felt resentful that so many people could be so happy and fulfilled believing a big made-up story. The worst part is as much as I thought the whole thing was a joke, deep down I didn't know the first thing about the Bible or the teachings of Jesus. Still, I rolled my eyes. To me, the Bible was nothing but a book of short stories with good morals.

But I wasn't a bad person. I like to think I've always had a good heart, despite my upbringing (which I can tell you was troubled far beyond a lack of God). I've always believed in being accepting, sweet, caring, forgiving, generous, and passionate. I had been asked on a few occasions if I was Christian, because I "seemed" like I was. But I was anything but.

My belief was that "everything happens for a reason." I believed in fate and destiny. Not God's Plan, but in the sense that the universe was responsible for how things happened. Very recently, during an in depth conversation with someone who seemed to believe all the same basic ideas, except with the addition of a strong faith in Christ, I was asked, "why not give credit where credit's due?" We continued to talk. Over the past month, we have had many conversations on scripture and Jesus. Though previously hardened to the topic and unwilling to learn or consider, I began to feel a great need to learn as much as I could; like an empty bucket that I couldn't fill fast enough. It felt really strange to want so much to learn about God, but I know myself, and I know logically I can't feel good about any decision unless I'm fully educated.

He told me during one of our talks, that he felt that God was trying to get my attention by surrounding me with people who have a strong faith in Him lately. I knew it was partially true - though I had never grown up with it or had friends or boyfriends with it, most of the people I spend time around lately (my boyfriend, my best friend, my co-workers...) all have a strong faith and a strong background in living a Christian life. And that got my attention, since I've always looked for signs and signals.

It began as nothing more than an analytical study, but something started to grow inside of me. The more I would hear, the more this anxious, excited feeling would build inside me. It was foreign but I accepted it, and started to love it. I found comfort in it. The more I would learn, the more I wanted to know. I started talking to my best friend about his faith and about church services, a subject we had never really discussed before. He invited me to come with him to church, but I felt really apprehensive. I had literally never been! (Other than Catholic Mass on Easter Sunday a couple times when I was very young.) I had no idea what to expect.

So I started listening to sermons online. I started reading books. I started visiting websites.

I realized a lot of things about myself. I had always had this empty place inside, which I had excused in a lot of ways. Maybe a lack of love and security from my parents. Maybe because I wasn't ever good enough for them or for myself, and because I wouldn't ever be good enough. Maybe it was because I hadn't met someone who cared about me enough to fill that spot. Maybe I just didn't feel loved.

What I learned is that my empty place was a place for God. I learned that God loves perfectly, and that he loves me perfectly. Although I had shunned Him and built a wall around myself to guard against Him, He was waiting for me to let Him in. He wanted to hang out with me. The more I thought about it, the more I felt it. Deep down in the pit of my stomach.

The acknowledgment of the Lord was single-handedly the most comforting and exciting thing I've felt before. All of a sudden, things seemed to make more sense. I realized that I am loved and protected. No matter what mistakes I've made or where I fall short, I'm forgiven and I'm still loved completely.

Nothing in the world could compare to that.

So who am I? I've wondered that all my life. And I still wonder. But the one thing I've learned, and the most important, is that I am His child.

I started this to document my journey in meeting and getting to know God. It's a new and exciting world, and the most important relationship I will ever have.

I have a lot to learn about Him. But He already knows me completely.
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