back to the beginning. . .

I think it’s inevitable that we are reminded of our past. There are memories that will forever be the paintings hung in the galleries of our minds. The events of our past are, in a lot of ways, what shape us into who we are and who we become. For some, the paintbrush of a memory was joy, and for others the paintbrush was pain. For some, the canvas is family, and for others the canvas is abandonment. And for many people there is a beautiful mix of it all. Walking through the galleries of our mind in remembrance can stir an array of emotions for all of us, but sometimes the perspective in which we look back is what makes the difference. It’s only fitting that the Lord has been inviting me to look back to the beginning of our relationship over the last few days. To me it’s almost symbolic of the resurrection we celebrate today, Easter Sunday. I have pondered over what the start of my journey with Jesus looked like by looking back at who I was before I knew Him, who I became when I encountered the Love I couldn’t deny, and who I’ve grown to be over the past few years. I’ve shared some that my life before knowing the Lord was a wild one. I was proud to be a partier, and there wasn’t a weekend (and often many weeknights) that I spent at home. I was identifiably unchurched, and I wanted nothing to do with Christians. As I began to be drawn to the Lord in His pursuits of me, I can remember the thoughts as He began to speak to me more and more clearly. I can remember praying back “but I don’t want to be a Christian, Christians are so boring.” Eventually experiencing His love grew bigger than my own concerns and I fell in love with Him, and didn’t care what people thought of it. When I got saved, I went all in and filled my schedule with as many ways to learn about the Lord as possible. I was going to four different church services in a week and joined both a women’s bible study and a community group. But outside of all of the things I added to my schedule, my life away from there didn’t look “churchy” since most everyone else in my life was not Christian. I’m so thankful that the friends I made weren’t representative of my previous interpretation of Christianity. Many of my new friends would actually come with groups to the bar I worked at, and didn’t treat people like they had to “do” or “be” any specific way in order to be loved. They lived the gospel, and it grew in my heart.

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Looking back at the first year of walking with the Lord is honestly quite hysterical. I can remember so clearly the nights driving home at four in the morning after closing the bar and sitting to have a drink with my coworkers. Sometimes those drives were spent crying in prayer, others singing praise and dancing to the radio. I remember how ridiculous it probably looked that I would get tipsy and talk about Jesus. Or when I drank too much and danced around worshiping. I was absolutely real with the Lord, and since it took a while for me to feel bad about how foul my vocabulary was, I never hesitated in dropping F bombs in my prayers or telling the Lord that what I was going through felt like sh*t when I was hurting. I remember how free I felt in prayer before going to bed after drinks with friends, then waking up only to put on music to worship and write all morning. It wasn’t until I was taught to feel ashamed that I began feeling guilty in the mornings. It wasn’t until a new friend began sharing that every time she drank even a glass of wine she woke up feeling shameful that I began to wake up and hide from the Lord instead of running to Him excited about the new day ahead. I began to change and chalked all of it up to the refining of faith and character that of course should increase and mature over time. I slowly identified with the shame and self-condemnation, not of my past like one would think, but of where I was at the time. I began to place “should’s” on top of my head and measure myself and my growth. Over time, the “unchurched” woman I was began feeling bad about it – I became ashamed that my relationship with the Lord didn’t look like the PKs (pastor’s kids) I met here in ministry school. I became ashamed that my knowledge of scripture wasn’t as profound as the powerful women beside me who could cite it in a moment as the Lord gave them references to share. I became ashamed of a part of me that the Lord delighted in so much, and in my looking back He has invited me into the resurrection of what my relationship with Him was always supposed to look like. While I do believe I was definitely meant to walk away from many of the decisions I would make in regards to how much I drank and how vulgarly I spoke, I think unchurched and tipsy Abigail knew a part of the Fathers heart that I somehow forgot in the Sundays spent in bright lights these last few years. Unchurched Abigail woke up every morning listening to worship music, sometimes praising, sometimes falling back asleep, sometimes opening up Jesus Calling, and sometimes opening up the Bible. I never felt bad if I fell back asleep, or if I didn’t read that morning at all. I didn’t put pressure on myself to be anything. I just was who I was and knew that God loves me. I talked about Him constantly because His love changed my life, not because there was a pressure “to evangelize.” I didn’t compare myself with “churchy” people because I didn’t even like them yet. But the truth is, they liked me. They opened their arms to me and accepted me. Just like Jesus accepted me and didn’t care if I got it right. He just cared that I showed up. I’m not saying it’s time for me to go back to behaving like a new Christian, but it is time to go back to believing like one. Most of all I hope my sharing this maybe takes you back, too. Back to a time you didn’t have to be anything but loved. Because the truth it, that’s what matters the most.

it’s hard to admit. . .

If I can be absolutely honest, I still find it quite difficult sometimes to see myself the way that God sees me. Regardless of how sharply the people I allow access to my heart correct me, it’s a constant battle not to agree with those old mindsets. A friend today told me that each time I go back to agreeing with the familiar spirit that I’m unworthy, I’m essentially saying the work of the cross wasn’t enough.  It sucks and I get it, but honestly it’s just not that easy. It’s tough when I want to smack myself, shake my own shoulders and tell the woman I see now that she is not that person she is so ashamed of. I can see it, I can watch my ponytail sway back and forth as I agree, I am not that person. But where does the shift come? At what point does it finally sink in? I am certain that my desire and drive for this breakthrough guarantees that it in fact must happen eventually. But what is the deciding factor? What part of the wall is this switch hidden? Because, girl, I am beyond ready for this light to come on, and for those lies to go running once and for all.

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I know that I am closer and closer day by day, and I know that who I am now truly is forgiven, spotless, and blameless. I know I am redeemed and that I am seen through the eyes of absolute love and absolute purity. I know that the people closest to me even see me this way. The people I’ve met and have been in this season with of leadership and pursuing the Lord are often shocked when I share parts of my story with them, and it’s always such a comfort hearing people say that they would’ve never guessed that I ever had that wild of a testimony. And yet I have somehow still justified playing the victim. I don’t mean to sound so harsh, and I’m truly not beating myself up here. But I have to ask, at what point does a person fully walk away from believing that they are a victim of their past? I have experienced a lot, much of which I know I will eventually be sharing somewhat publicly, especially here in my writing, but I refuse to write from a place of being a victim. Maybe sharing it sheds the light I’ve been wanting flipped on. Or maybe it just genuinely takes more time in the presence of the Lord, and I’ve just been impatient. Though, what I do know is that one of these days, there will be no more place in my mind to entertain the lies that I am unworthy, or that I don’t have anything valuable to bring. One of these days self-pity won’t be allowed as a dialog in my own brain. And today, and in this moment, it’s not. I get to press on each day, believing for this breakthrough. I can also choose right now, in this moment, that I am not a victim. I don’t get to hide behind what has happened to me, or the mistakes I’ve made. Every time these thoughts come, I get to take them to the cross. If they burn up in the presence of His sacrifice, then they get no more of my oxygen, my life, or my mental real estate. I don’t think this will be a perfect journey. But in this moment, I get to choose. In this moment I get to shake this woman I see now and tell her, she is so worthy of everything she could ever dream of. She is so deserving of pure love regardless of her story or mistakes. There is nothing she could ever do to deem her as otherwise. I get to share with the woman I see today that she possesses the purity she so longs to give someday. She already has everything within her that she wants to be, because the spirit of God has already chosen her body as His home and dwelling place. It’s a beautiful gift to choose to share these words with her instead of agreeing with the words that often speak otherwise. And it’s a beautiful gift to share this with you, too.

what does love look like?

I began to write on this topic just over a week ago as I sat in my room back home, visiting for the weekend to attend a family funeral. (Lighthearted opening line, right?) It stirred on my heart as I reflected on my flight home about what God was showing me love looked like in my own actions and choices. A little info about me, I tend to prioritize anything else but myself in the name of “love.” I often do the right thing and honor the loyalty I gave, always wanting to “tough it out” through just about anything. But for the first time in my life love looked like breaking my word, disregarding my responsibilities, shoving aside a busy schedule, and showing up where no one even asked me to. It started two and a half weeks ago, on March 1st, when I walked into Sunday night’s church service with the news of a tragic and heartbreaking death in my family. I had very few details and a heart that was fully exposed. I walked into the evening service fully me for the first time, maybe ever. This isn’t to say I fake it constantly. But for the first time ever, I walked in so defeated, and so unable to strive for acceptance, that all I could do is weep. I wept for my heart; I wept for my loneliness; I wept for my loved ones; I wept for the fear of the unknown; and I wept fully abandoned of what anyone thought. I felt my pain, and I accepted every piece of grief that needed to be processed. And I dove. I dove headfirst into my pain, I accepted myself as a complete wreck, and I trusted that God would meet me there. The following day I was aloof, uninterested, and unable to pretend like I was happy at all. I chose to leave my full school day and rest. A huge breakthrough, an opportunity to prioritize my physical needs rather than the driving force of achievement I often put above my own health. I chose to love myself, and give my heart what it needed: space, comfort, and a long car ride full of tears. Tuesday came an opportunity to openly share my grief in a group setting and tell others that I was struggling to find any highs in my week at all, knowing that surely there were some, but I just couldn’t see past my heartache to find them. And then again I prioritized myself, and left a prior obligation to be present in my community group until I could call and love on my family and receive their love in return, which was the first time I got to share with my family just how hard I was taking this loss. I went back into the evening worship crying out to God relentlessly, and I was met with the most gorgeous question. The Lord asked so gently, “What do you want to do Abigail?” and I told Him “I want to be with my family.” He answered “What is stopping you? Do you trust that I am faithful? Do you think of yourself as a poor man or as a daughter of the King?” and I knew, in that moment, I was making a decision I never before this day would’ve made. I was going to fly home. And there was nothing that could hold me back from it. This moment was a breaking point. This moment was an opportunity to partner with what Love is.

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Love is relentless. Love is fearless. Love shows up when no one expects it to. Love sacrifices when others say not to. Love surprises others by not fitting into what it’s “supposed to” look like. Love never gives up. Love never runs. Love comes in, and it goes out, and it doesn’t care how stupid it looks. Love isn’t limited to finances, or schedules, or even time. In a world so full of chaos (especially now this week in the craze of navigating the COVID-19 pandemic) I found it essential for me to redefine what love looks like to me. I often chalk love up to a feeling, an idea, or a daydream based on emotion and passion. Love in my mind is the most beautiful, deep, and vast ocean that is endless and almost… impossible… to even understand. I made love out to be this grand expression, and an unattainable standard. But love is actually quite simple. Love can be very complex, and deep, and something that seems almost impossible to understand. But love is not limited to that single definition. Love can be a hug to someone you know is hurting, a hand being held on a hard day, or showing up when no one expect you to. Love can be extravagant, willing to cross the country at the drop of a hat, or miniscule, a text saying “I miss you” with no expectations of the others reciprocation. A couple months back I read Love Does by Bob Goff, and it has absolutely infected the way I think in the most beautiful way. It really can be that simple. Love just does. It shows up. It gives. It’s whimsy. It’s wild. Love is endlessly able to manifest in ways outside of our own understanding. As I lean into what love looks like over the next couple weeks of some extra free time, I get to use the standard of Jesus as the masterpiece I will take in day after day to paint my imagery of how I want love to be displayed from me. I will look at a man so willing to leave the heavens to walk among us. The Son of God willing to put on flesh and be near, to come close, and to show up. I get to redefine what showing up looks like in my life, in my family, and most of all in my heart. Am I showing up to tough it out, am I doing what I’m “supposed to do” out of mere obligation, or am I driven by love? Willing to disrupt the norm, go against the expectations, and show up where maybe I wasn’t expected to be. I hope we all can take the time to reflect on what love looks like to us, and that we will share it with those around us.

something new…

I write from a new place, a new page, a new story. As of August 2019, I packed my bags, loaded up my black F-150, and headed seventeen-thousand-plus miles west. An Oklahoma girl headed to (an even smaller town) far north of California. I came here in pursuit of a life that would blow my once party girls mind – Ministry School. A school where twelve-hundred students sit in an auditorium to dive deeper into what it could possibly mean to encounter God and bring heaven to earth.

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It’s been a radical experience since coming out here and my faith has been stretched to the point of no return – it’s either break or grow girl. So, I grew. I’ve prayed beyond what I’ve ever imagined possible and began to have hope for things that are absolutely impossible (except for with God.) I never thought I would have faith big enough to even imagine the things I’ve actually fervently prayed and believed for. There is something so incredible about being surrounded by people who have an endless expansion of their faith. Watching people praise and worship and believe Jesus for His word, and to pray for it to be on earth as it is in heaven is something that nothing else compares to. The culture I’m experiencing is wild, and I never imagined that this is what coming to ministry school would look like. (Considerably, this is not your every-day ministry school… whatever that means.) And if I can be quite frank, I never thought that being a Christian would be such an adventure. While my writing style may often be peppered with the stark comparison from darkness to light, I am so very excited to begin sharing what it looks like living in the shining light of this adventure. So, as I sit at my buzzing little coffee shop job sipping the most delightful tea latte, I now invite you into the beginning of what looks to be a very whimsical new chapter… well, new story rather. Since each day is a brand-new day, and God only knows what each page will hold. Welcome into the stories that I can’t wait to share.

feeling distant…

I haven’t shared in what feels like forever, over two months now, and even now I’m still not sure that I wanted to more so than I simply feel like it’s time.

I have been struggling big time with fighting doubts, feeling discouraged, being let down, and just truly being unsure and uncertain. I am now less than a month away from moving across the country in pursuit of something that doesn’t make sense to anyone except for me and the group of 1,200+ ministry students I will be joining in California. The conflict I have felt beginning to weigh on me has pushed me to withdraw not only in my writing but in my personal life in general. I have allowed fear and insecurity to interfere with my relationships and daily life as I fantasize and daydream about what is to come while simultaneously worrying about my loved ones and life I am leaving behind. I have wanted to move away since as long as I can remember, and yet I never imagined how much anxiety it would actually cause to follow through. I never imagined a life in full pursuit of Jesus, never pictured I would be displaced over 1,700 miles to grow in my faith and relationship with the God I once doubted even existed. It all seems fantastical, unreal, and like if I get too close it could all slip away. But the radical beauty of it all, is that it isn’t going anywhere. This wild dream I am pursuing is right in front of me and God is paving the way to follow after Him and this adventure He has waiting for me. To sit back and fully let myself allow it to sink in and believe it is happening is one of the biggest steps in my faith all along: to believe and fully receive that God is with me all the way through this, never leaving me, never forsaking me, and always providing for my every need. It all sounds so clear cut for a believer, something that should come naturally, but my trust and my letting God in has been an ascent to the highest and we still aren’t at the top. I know He is there waiting, but this trust, this leap of faith in pursuit of the unknown, is me finally saying “I know God is with me in the climb, not just at the top.” I think it’s normal to feel distant at times. From family, from God, even from our true selves. And I think allowing myself to live in doubt and fear isolated me into that distant feeling, while God so patiently beckons each of us to come out, come closer, and to share in the journey with Him by recognizing He really is there in the middle of it. Maybe it’s not always about sharing our hearts with those around us on our blogs or in our lives, maybe the lesson is sometimes to simply share with Him.

maybe I’ve been lying…

I used to be a faker. I pretended to be happy and joyful, the life of the party with nothing wrong while simultaneously I was severely depressed and hated who I was and scared of who I was becoming. Since then I have walked tall and proud of how good I am about being vulnerable. I will share my testimony; I will openly share my past. There is so much ugly there! I MUST be pretty vulnerable in order to share those things. That isn’t easy, and I have gotten so good at it. So of course, I am allowed to say that I am a vulnerable person.
Except for when you ask me about my family. Or if you could really, really see my thoughts about myself as you sit across from me over coffee. Or if you asked how I felt about my job, my future, and my plans. Sure, I might share that it is scary, uncertain, or like I feel overwhelmed just thinking about these things. But the conversation would end there. Let’s talk about you! How are you doing? How are you feeling? There’s no need to talk about things I can’t control anyway, right? Sure, I can talk about the things I’ve dealt with. I can share the places where I sat in the desert with God asking for His help and His healing. I can share the deepest darkness of the grip that depression had on my life. But ask me how I am dealing with depression now, and I close up instantly. I hate having to admit that I still want to hide and run away at the way I feel sometimes. I hate having to talk about how I feel like by now I should see myself in a better light because isn’t that what Christ is supposed to show us? Sure at least I don’t outright hate myself like I used to, but periods of self-loathing shouldn’t even be a part of my life anymore and yet…

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But seriously I’m so good at being vulnerable. I won’t take it personal if you explain why you don’t pursue any form of faith while your walk might look like mine did. I won’t hold back from sharing what God has done in my life to rescue me from myself. I won’t wince if you tell me that you can totally relate on the feeling lost part, but the whole God thing just isn’t for you. We can talk and open up and everything will be just fine. But after I share with you, I might not rush to talk at all the next time I see you. I might sit back and hope you don’t even notice I walked in. I might say “Hi” and find anything I can to look busy or distracted just so I don’t have to wonder if you think I’m weird or dumb or just outright annoying for sharing my life with you before. I am so good at opening up and talking about who I used to be. But please… don’t ask about who I am right now.
Maybe there isn’t some quick route to vulnerability after hiding behind the mask of “I’m fine” for so long. Maybe vulnerability is a consistent choice and something that has to be opened up time after time. Maybe I was lying… maybe I was never vulnerable. Just willing to share a small part of something ugly that I finally thought I could handle sharing, but everything else… let’s just not go there.

Being vulnerable really means to be who we are without caring whether or not it’s accepted. It’s a full surrender of others expectations in order to embrace who we are and share that fearlessly. And sharing fearlessly is terrifying just to even think about. If I let go and allow myself to just be me, fully me, and that isn’t accepted, then that makes rejection that much worse. When I hold back, at least it’s not a full-on rejection, it’s just like… part of me… you don’t even really know me anyways. But all that means is I am constantly blocking myself from letting people in. Constantly keeping others at arm’s length – just assuming they’re going to leave me feeling dumb for my vulnerability.
I think the people who are the easiest to love are those who have learned how to love themselves regardless of if others do or not. It’s like the realness they share takes the pressure off others. They love themselves, so there’s no pressure for me to have to. There’s not expectations put on someone else’s feelings or thoughts. Can I be honest? If I knew that people had the expectations of me that I have of them, I’d probably feel like a failure. Talk to me about this, include me in this, but don’t ask about this or that because I’m just not ready or we just aren’t that close. It’s a mess and it’s crazy. I know I am on the road to healing how I feel about myself, and I know I need to allow God to work in the places in my life that deeply need to be transformed by the way He sees me, but maybe I can stop pretending in the meantime. Maybe I can give up the lie that I am good at being vulnerable when really I can’t even fully embrace myself yet, much less share it fearlessly. Maybe if I stop pretending I’m vulnerable, sharing who I am will be easier with those I’m closest to. And maybe one day I won’t be scared to share it at all.

learning how to face fear. . .

So, there’s no easy way to work my way into this topic that’s been pressing on me all day. It’s one of those things that you know deep in your heart you HAVE to get out, regardless of how you feel about it because it’s just bugging you like crazy having the thoughts cooped up and circling around in your head. I have been wrestling – full on wrestling – with fear lately. I knew when I became a Christian that fear was something I would have to confront at some point. At first, I was SO scared of even saying that I was a Christian for how I had ridiculed the idea I had of what a Christian was so harshly in the past. I made fun of “Jesus freaks” and “Bible thumping weirdos” and found every reason possible to tear apart the people that claimed a religion I was so scarred by. Just carrying the name Christian ensued fear for me. But as a Christian, we are supposed to recognize that God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear – so instantly I was in a conundrum. The spiritual journey I was walking into holds a promise of fearlessness, while creating a new level to fear I had ever experienced. Fast forward three years and the fear looks entirely different but exists at the same level, and honestly, if not worse. I’m not supposed to be admitting this, I’m not supposed to still be crippled by fear, I’m not supposed to be paralyzed by my own thoughts and worries, because I’m supposed to trust God with every piece of my life, and I’m supposed to be so close to Him that my fear disappears in His presence.

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A few weeks ago, my pastor and his wife came into my restaurant and I was set on introducing myself the next time they did and asking her some advice for women’s ministry and how she got started. I walked by a thousand times, they stayed far longer than normal, and I couldn’t mutter a single word. I went to the bathroom and cried, recognizing that there was an element of fear so thick in my life that I couldn’t handle a normal and everyday opportunity to talk to someone I admire. I have come across possibly twenty different topics I could’ve wrote about over the past month or so since I’ve last posted, and every single one I’ve talked myself out of writing for fear that eventually everyone reading would begin to think I only have negative things to share. I allowed fear to block me from sharing. I feared what people thought about me so much that I passed up chances of being obedient and sharing what God put on my heart to share with others and missed opportunities to allow my journey to speak to others. I hope to grow from my place of fear, and I know that living in fear isn’t God’s best for my life, but I also know that not sharing where I am now could leave someone just like me feeling alone and ashamed in their journey too. There is so much pressure to have it figured out, to trust God fully, and to live a life free of fear, but regardless of this pressure, it doesn’t make it any easier to implicate into my life. If anything, it just adds to the stress and anxiety that I already experience in the midst of that fear. I don’t have some magic answer or some perfect solution to overcoming fear. I mean, obviously I need major help here. But I think that’s the point. I have to recognize the giant that I have allowed my fear to become and face it. . . and the most important part about facing it is knowing that I can’t do that alone, I truly DO need major help. And the only help that can get me through the face of my fear is God, and part of learning to run to Him is realizing that what I’m running to is far bigger than what I’m running from. I don’t think fear will ever cease to exist in this side of life, but I do think that over time we might finally be able to recognize it for what it is. The more we focus on the fear, pain, and worry in our life, the bigger we make them, all the while Christ has it all covered if we could only keep our eyes on Him. I hope for more opportunities to share my journey, and that I won’t be scared to do so when those opportunities arise.

confronting the hard topics. . .

The topic of purity is something that is a pretty tough pill for me to swallow if I can be completely honest. It is something that has become so important to me, yet something I previously treated without any concern. As a youth small group leader at my church, having purity as the focal point for the entire month of February has been nothing short of uncomfortable, heavy, and difficult. I am comforted to know that I’m not the only one who feels this way, but I’m still left feeling uneasy none-the-less.

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When I became a Christian, sexual purity was almost an immediate transformation. My boyfriend at the time was on a two week trip to Mexico, and those two weeks I spent chasing after God left me more fulfilled than any amount of human intimacy I had ever encountered, and deliverance and healing led me to feeling like breaking that intimacy with God in order to please myself or another for a fleeting moment was no longer worth it. I walked away from that sin not by being “good enough” or because I felt like I had to in order to have a relationship with God, but because I experienced something so much more meaningful, and feeling that encouraged me and helped me to know that my value was worth so much more than someone who actually didn’t value me much at all. It started as an “I just don’t want to ruin this thing I have going right now,” and turned into an “I don’t want to give any part of myself away anymore without knowing that the person I allow intimacy with loves me the way God loves me.” – Now I know that all people fall short and no one can ever love just like God, but the example that Christ set of loving the church is a standard that is upheld and honored in marriages and relationships that I look to and admire. That being said, my journey into purity was very personal, real, and meaningful to me. It was one of the first ways that God helped me to find some worth within myself. But to say that this is easy for me would be the biggest lie. Feeling “qualified” to even utter the word purity is a huge way that satan has tried to attack me, and believing that I can be considered as pure is still a very hard thing that requires a lot of depending on God that He will one day help me believe it to be true. A really beautiful moment that God has used in my life was when I shared with a friend my shame and disappointment in myself for the choices I had made before ever having a relationship with Jesus. I was in tears, fighting through my thoughts that I was so unworthy of love and devotion, so doubtful that there could ever be someone who would stick around because each and every person I let in always disappeared. I muttered the word “tainted” as a way I viewed myself, and how I feel others may look at me, and through tears this friend shook me; telling me that thinking that of myself hurt them so deeply and broke their heart, because they couldn’t believe how I didn’t see the value they see in me. I will never forget asking them “why are you crying?” after I had been the one in distress, and their response was a heartfelt “I can’t stand that you could even think of yourself that way and it breaks my heart.” – And I think that Jesus thinks this way times a hundred. I think that Jesus looks at us with tears in his eyes as we fight against what He says of us as we declare “No, I’m not good enough. It can’t be me, I’m not worthy.” I can see His heart breaking as He exclaims “You are so far from tainted. I died for you to never have to feel that way about yourself. Can’t you believe me?”

I think that Jesus cares so deeply for us to realize this, and I think that we become so obsessed with being good enough, trying to fix everything, or getting better that we miss out on Him standing right there, telling us “I died for that. I can love that away if you would just set it down and trust me. Stop worrying about that.” I think we focus so much on the things that have “disqualified” us from being used, that we forget that He has qualified us through His grace, and only wants us to love and trust that He is for us to the end. It’s so hard to talk about purity when purity is something that pushed me, and many others, out of the church to begin with. It’s hard to talk about purity after promiscuity, sexual abuse, and shame are all a part of my past. It’s hard to believe that the word “purity” can still apply to me after the things that I have done and been through. But what isn’t hard is knowing that God loves me regardless of if I believe He does or not, and no matter how long it takes, He will patiently heal those places that are hurting, shame filled, and broken until I know and believe that I am not tainted. That I am washed, made new, and forgiven. That nothing of my past can define me, because He is who declares my worth, and to Him I was worth the cross. It may be hard to talk about things like purity, especially when they can be tied to so much pain and regret, but for me, I won’t be scared to talk about it even when it’s hard. I won’t be scared to share.

“Do you like you?”

The actual question here is: do I like me?

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This seems like such a weird question to be in deep contemplation about, but this is actually a massive issue in my life. For such a long time I have been perfectly comfortable in this space of never really liking myself. It was close to its worst years ago when I was truly not a good person. I was hurting people I called friends, lying, promiscuous, and altogether just so broken. I then began dating someone who made me feel a little better, but when things shifted, and they no longer saw me on the pedestal they’d put me on, and began to doubt everything about me, I very truly began to hate myself. I so vividly remember a letter I wrote to him after a massive fight, where I’d allowed the shame and blame of two very hurting and messed up people to be all my fault. I let that pain wreck me to my core, and to the point that I hated who I believed I was because of the way we fought, and how it all happened. I wrote a letter telling him how much I hated who I was, how deeply I wished he would forgive me, but that even I didn’t understand how he could. I excused his hurtful words and behavior because how little I thought of myself. I believed deep down to my soul that I deserved to be treated like garbage, which in turn, I was. Every time I messed up, gave in to something I wish I hadn’t, or behaved a way I was embarrassed of, it would only deepen and deepen my hatred towards myself. Writing this out and remembering just how severe it really was is heavy enough to make my chest sink. Do you understand the gravity of those words? What it actually means for someone to hate themselves? What’s more, how do you even come back from feeling that way? If I think about the people I love, man… even women I don’t even know! If I ever heard someone talk to them the way I have allowed myself to talk to me, I would royally lose it! And if I heard them talk to themselves the way I have allowed myself to talk to me, I would be in tears and striving so desperately to show them how much they matter in this world. Let that sink in for a minute. If you knew someone you love was talking to themselves the way you talk to you, how much would it break your heart?

I don’t know what it looks like to others, and I know that there are far worse examples as well as people who maybe don’t struggle with this so much, but y’all… that’s not my story. Over the past few years walking with God, it has been a FIGHT. I have constantly been fighting Him – telling the One who created me that He has it all wrong, that I know who I really am and there’s no way I’m good enough for anything, especially His promises, love, or grace. The beauty of all of this, is that no matter how little I may believe it, He promises otherwise, and I am sooooo wrong on this one. He has been trying so hard over the last few years to get me to understand just how heartbreaking it is to Him that I continue to view myself and my beauty by others and cultures standards instead of His. So many of my struggles and insecurities stem from thinking so lowly of myself and allowing it to be a continuous cycle. Even the way I interact with others, I so often allow my view of me to paint how I believe others view me. A few months back at a close friend’s wedding, another friend and her husband struck up conversation about my dreams and goals, what I was still working towards and where I was hoping to go from there. When her husband, who is a successful provider in their family, turned to me and told me that he admired me and thought highly of me, I laughed. I actually LAUGHED out loud. His puzzled look confused me, and he began to elaborate on how he had never seen someone so fully trust God and push forward not knowing what was ahead of them, and y’all… he meant it. And me? I almost couldn’t make myself believe it. Someone who had a life I admired, was admiring me. Not in a way that was putting me above others, but in an honorable and caring way. My best friend is such a good encourager in this area. She’ll ask about something, and when I respond in a positive agreement she says “I already knew it, you’re so…(insert encouraging thought.)” Every loved one and family member had no doubt in me that I would get accepted into a ministry school I have been dreaming about since just months after being radically transformed by the love of Christ. Even my father, the night I called to tell him I got in, said “I had no doubt about you getting accepted, I think I was just coming to grips about you actually going. I thought I was doing good, but now I don’t know.” How is it that so many people see something in me, and yet I still can’t see it? I don’t think that there’s actually an answer, and there is definitely no immediate fix or magic word that can change this. But one thing I do know is that God didn’t bring me this far, and allow me to finally see all this, to let me just continue on through life feeling like I’m unworthy and not good enough. I whole-heartedly believe that God is SO ready for me to rip that nametag off. So this is where I start. Though I mean start pretty loosely, since it has been one treacherous journey just to arrive here as it is. The road ahead might not be easy, but then again, I never know what God might do. What I do know is, I won’t be scared to share it.

waiting in the “awkward.”

So many moments in my life can be described as this one thing: AWKWARD. Not knowing the right thing to say in a moment I should definitely know what to say: awkward. Not knowing if someone views our friendship the same way that I do: awkward. Not knowing how to handle discomfort in the middle of a trial: awkward. Not knowing how to step out and initiate friendships: awkward. Not knowing if the bangs are cute: awkward.

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Okay so yeah some of those things are trivial, but truly there are just so many parts of my daily life that leave me with this uncertainty and discomfort and not knowing which step to take next. The most prevalent area seems to be relationships. I think I have experienced so much pain in the loss of friendships and relationships that at this point I just don’t know what to do anymore. Do I press in and continue to try towards a friendship when schedules get busy and I feel like the only one reaching out? Do I apologize every time I am the one who forgets to respond and blows off a friend for months? Do I set aside time to meet others or do I set aside time for myself? Relationships and learning how to handle them for me has become so awkward, and this area is probably the number one place I need God’s help because well… being in the middle of the awkward is so uncomfortable!

From my point of view, there is so much pressure on relationships. I think that this is probably true for most other’s point of view but I will do my best to speak for myself rather than draw assumptions of others. Everywhere I look there is relationship advice being given or asked. Every single day I see a post or come across a blog that highlights the good in someone’s relationship or how someone has grown from a bad one. I personally walked away from intimate relationships for a few years once I began a different kind of relationship – My relationship with God. Part of this relationship with God flipped the way that I look at how I relate with others completely upside down, and now I am learning how to build the foundation differently and let’s face it, it’s pretty awkward! After a year of being single and refusing to date (I openly devoted a year to refusing to date with my friends as a healing from the very traumatic relationship I came out of as I began my walk with Christ), my friends were immediately ready for me to jump back on the train. Christian friends and non-Christian friends alike were so curious when I would be ready, wanting to set me up with so-and-so or “Why don’t you give _ a chance?” and well… that was pretty awkward too. But I waited, and the waiting was okay. I think sitting in that awkwardness and being forced to actually think about the questions, my answers, and what those answers meant to me were the most important lesson I could have learned from what “awkward” really is. It’s really just an uncomfortable moment where I’m forced to sort through or figure out something I haven’t yet given much thought to, or sit in a space of wondering how someone else might perceive me based off of who I am or what I have to say. The awkwardness forced me to analyze myself and my thoughts, and I truly began to ask myself things like “What is important in relationships?”, “Why am I waiting?”, “What is worth waiting for?”, and “What do I want out of relationships?” All of these questions might not be very fun to consider, but looking at them and recognizing when the answer wasn’t an honorable one gave way to an area I needed to spend more time seeking God in. If I looked at the question “Why am I waiting?” as simply an excuse not to be hurt again, then the only reasoning I express is of fear, and running in the face of fear leads me nowhere. But if I look at that fear and pain and dig into it by asking “What did that hurt mean to me and how can I heal from it fully?” so that when the time comes again I won’t hold back out of fear of being hurt then I open the door for growth. Digging deeper might be a little uncomfortable, maybe a little awkward, but resting in that comfortable place of the easy answer “I don’t want to get hurt again,” means missing out on the growth that waiting for the answers in that awkwardness will bring. It’s not always easy to dig deeper, and sometimes it is so awkward to share, but don’t be scared to.