Tag Archives: Church

Lights.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

–Jesus said that in Luke 4:18-19. He really did. It shocked the crap out of all the haters. Which is awesome because who doesn’t love to shock a hater?

This morning I snarfed croissants and enjoyed stimulating conversation with a friend of mine. This chica is super thoughtful and edgy and honest; she really inspired me and my brain is still churning hours later. Seriously, you can probably smell the smoke.

So here it goes:

Church.

Church and Christianity.

Church vs. Christianity.

Christians in the Church.

True faith. True love. Honest motives. Unselfish behavior.

Family. Friends. Sacrifices. Giving. Prayer.

How does it all fit together? What does it look like to really be in love with the Lord? How much of what comes out of people’s mouths is true? Why are so many “Christians” such jerks about Jesus? What’s with those people who are really “shining”–and how the hell do they do that?

Years ago I wrote a post about why church in general is awesome and why I love and need the people in it. I will not back down on the points I made.

Here’s what I am to understand:

Church is a coming together of believers, so we can spur each other on, and keep each other accountable.

And also roll up fatties of fellowship and fun.

Church is supposed to be a powerhouse, a place where we come and gather strength and encouragement and inspiration, so that we can go back out into the world proclaim good news and junk.

In theory. That’s what we’re supposed to do. And hopefully, in general, that’s what the church does do.

But I know there’s a growing number of people who are not convinced–and not impressed. They look at us “Christians” and the only things they know about us as a group are 1. That we don’t cuss or drink as much, at least not in public, 2. That we quote the Bible when it suits our purposes, and 3. We think Obama is pretty much the antichrist.

(I do not think Obama is the antichrist.)

I’ve heard people say “I love God, I love Jesus; I just hate the church. The people there are hypocrites. Church is pointless. I can watch church on TV. I can worship God on my own.”

I get it. I’ve said that myself once upon a time. And I was asked, at that time, “If you love Christ, and Christ loves the church, then how can you hate the church?”

The church was not designed to be a bunch of meanies that stand around judging everybody. The church wasn’t meant to be a place where a bunch of self-righteous rich people come to feel good about themselves once a week. It wasn’t meant to be a place where teenagers go on Wednesday night to eat pizza, listen to a rock band, and then talk about Jesus for 2 minutes in between gossip sessions.

People are not perfect. Christians are not perfect. But God’s love IS perfect.

The church is meant to be the hands and feet of Jesus here on earth. The church is meant to be good news to the poor.

We can’t do that if we’re focused solely on ourselves 95% of the time.

And I certainly need the accountability that being actively involved with a group of fellow believers brings. I need the encouragement. I need the wisdom and advice of those who are strong in the faith and more knowledgeable than me about the teachings of the Bible.

And the church needs me. It needs me to be part of “the team”. The “team” has goals: Love others. Bring the good news. Be lights in a dark place.

I can’t bring sight to the blind or freedom to the oppressed all by myself.

I can’t even make a dent.

It’s soooo not about not drinking or cussing or bible-thumping, or even Obama.

Guys–if you love Jesus, then the church is a team you want to be a part of. You gotta get in on this. It needs you and all your spunk and talents and hopes and dreams and even your heartaches and disappointments. If you think the team sucks, well by all means, please–come help make it better.

Humanity is one hot mess. We’re warm-blooded, quick-tempered, impulsive, emotional drama-queens who strive painfully for perfection but time and time again we fail epically. But Jesus loves us, and He loves His church.

And sometimes we do get it right.

It’s about reaching out, and helping people. Feeding the hungry. Clothing the naked. Taking care of the orphan and the widow. Loving the unlovable.

Even more than all that, it’s about being human and banding together to help accomplish the task of spreading hope. And I can think of no greater hope than Jesus.

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word on the street

Here was soccer practice last night: my team was running around like lunatics while they waited for their turn to shine under the bright team-portrait lights. I stood idly by watching the madness, and I guess I just look like the kind of girl to chit-chat with, and you know, share a life story–complete with political views and spiritual struggles–with.

People talk to me. Well, I talk to people. Well, actually I more or less run my mouth until I look like a total jackass, and then people feel comfortable talking to me since they figure they can’t possibly look any stupider than I just did.

It’s a gift.

Really.

I enjoy talking to people when I’m not totally wigging out (’cause I got the anxiety!) As I listened to some of these ladies talk, I realize that every person has so much baggage. We all struggle and strain and fight the work that God wants to do in our lives. Sometimes, if we’re particularly feisty by nature, we create our very own custom-made hell-on-earth.

It’s not just me.

The thought is both relieving and sad.

I’ve been there. I’ve been too tired to go to church. I’ve been so lonely I could just die. I’ve had the knock-down drag-out fights with my husband and I’ve screamed at my kids for a week straight.

I’ve also drank myself into a stupor every day by 3:00 in the afternoon for a good solid 3 years. I’ve cried in my closet partly because I was ashamed of being drunk and partly because I was too drunk to do anything else. I’ve given precious pieces of my heart and body to people who didn’t love or respect me. I’ve brought down mad dishonor on my parents. I emotionally neglected my daughter and I flat-out ignored God, saying things like “I’m just not into Jesus right now.”

But the whole time, Jesus? Was very much into Toni McClung. And He pursued me super-duper hardcore and He fought for me and when I was at my rockest bottom, He walked right in, paid the price for everything that I had done, and everything that I would do and everything that I haven’t even done yet. He redeemed me.

Say that with me: redeem.

I am worth something to Him. I don’t deserve it, I don’t fully understand it, but He calls me His own. He calls me Daughter.

I see these people, these moms and dads and these children out there on the soccer field and they talk to me and my heart hurts for them. It literally hurts, and I could cry over their pain. I know.

I know loneliness and fear and panic and anxiety and desperation and hunger and sadness and despair and depression and anger and rage and hurt and pain and loss. I know the frustration and the impatience and the feeling of being overwhelmed and powerless, and I have had the shakes for something that never fixed anything–only made it all worse, worse than I could ever imagine. Sometimes I still get the shakes, actually.

I always had trouble understanding that church term: my chains are gone. I used to think: “Chains? Really? My life is good. Really good.” (a Nacho Libre quote for the win!)

But I get it now. My alcoholism, my laziness, my pride, my sins: it was absolute slavery. Jesus wanted me to be free. And though those very human feelings still come up and temptations still rear their ugly heads, they don’t own me and they don’t define me, because He calls me Daughter.

It’s not about church or church activities or church people or the church building. It’s not about things I do or do not do or about acting right and avoiding wrong. It’s about loving Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength because He first loved me; He died for me and for all people.

And that’s…awesome. Awesome is what it is.


Fear: Can I Be Honest?

Today was our big art day downtown. It was cool.

If by “cool”, you mean being so worried about getting lost in downtown Oklahoma City that the second you drive north of the Hwy 37 exit, you get a killer migraine. Cool, as in your anxiety disorder kicks back in with a vengeance, and suddenly your car is closing in on you, and giant 18-wheelers are for sure trying to run you off the road and you feel like you’re going to vomit.

And when you actually get where you’re going, you really do worry that that’s exactly what will happen: you have to breathe in slowly through your nose in order to keep from literally barfing, because here you are: out of your element and waaaaay out of your comfort zone, with folks you don’t know, in a place that–you’ve been told by dozens of people–is unsafe.

Did I mention my previous dealings with anxiety? It gets to me sometimes.

I’m ashamed of this. I am ashamed of my fear, however rational it may be.

It’s not like I’ve never been in neighborhoods like this before. Having kids, though, has changed my perspective on, well…everything.

The place looked pretty happy and wonderful, to be honest. Sunny little house on a quaint little street on a bright and beautiful morning. Painting with the world’s most adorable children in a shady and spacious backyard. Peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches all around.

It’s no different from my everyday.

But what about the kids? Is it their everyday? Who paints with them? Who jump-ropes with them? Who sings and plays and makes lunch with a complete serving of vegetables, everyday, for them? Surely their parents, or a kind grandma, or babysitter?

Right?

And what about their moms and dads? Who invites them over for chit-chat and coffee, and who brings them casseroles when everyone in the family has the flu? Who comes over to their house and prays in their driveway after they’ve had a miscarriage? Who can they trust to watch their children in emergencies and who do they turn to in times of tragedy?

I don’t know.

I do know that the people who put on this week-long day-camp for the kids in this area did it for a reason. A block away from where we played, women walk the streets, selling their bodies. You can see them at any given time of day. There’s trash, and bars, and hypodermic needles, gangs and violence and abuse.

There are predators. There are people who would seek to “groom” some of the beautiful 10-year-old girls that were painting smiley owls with me today.

And it makes me sick to my stomach. It brings tears to my eyes. I can paint and play and eat lunch and leave it all behind. I will go back to my “lily-white world” 30 minutes away. But what about the people who live in the other houses on that same street? What about the children? What happens to them, when the sun goes down? Where is their retreat? How do they live in fear?

I have to wonder this: They are either 1. miserable, or 2. not afraid.

And if they are not afraid, I wonder if 1. they are distributors of fear, or 2. they have taken every precaution necessary against those that would hurt them, or 3. They are at peace with God and they believe that they are right where they need to be. Or two of those. Or all of them.

I prayed hard on the drive in. I wanted to be calm, cool, and collected. I wanted to be. But I was scared, I really was. I’m about as maniacal as a box of kittens. My street cred is so low that a hardened thug would probably bless my heart and give me a sticker. (I’m counting on that, in fact.)

I didn’t want to drive down a street where mean, haughty eyes stared me down. I didn’t want my hands to shake. I didn’t want to feel like I was an outsider, or worse–an intruder, an easy target. I tried to call to mind a verse that I love, and was surprised when I actually remembered it–and even more surprised when it actually comforted me:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

If God told me to paint with these kids, then He was in my car with me today, warding off evil semis and vanquishing my highway enemies. His hand was on my shoulder as I navigated those city streets and He opened the door to the house just as I was about to faint on the front steps.

And if He called these other people to minister to the men, women, and children of this neighborhood every other day of the year, then He is with them when they put on their tennis shoes and hit the streets. He passes out nail polish and encouraging Bible verses and He hugs the prostitutes. And He has the strength to do it all again the next day.

If you couldn’t already tell, today was the first real day I stepped outside of my comfort zone for Jesus. (I should mention that my comfort zone consists of…my house, and maybe the church as long as I’m surrounded by people who I’m used to, and maybe Target–but only the new one, in Norman.)

But I pray that it won’t be the last. I hope they’ll have me back despite my awkwardness and my utter lack of leadership during the painting session.

I also pray it won’t be the hardest place I go. My sister had this to say in response to my idea of one day doing an art camp in Africa or South America with my friends: “What about those people on ‘Locked Up Abroad’ ? You know, you just can’t go to a place that’s not safe.”

(Honestly, I was more concerned with the zombie apocalypse breaking out on the plane ride over the ocean.)

I get it, I do. But I can–I can go. I might be meant to do just that. And when are we truly safe? We could be killed anytime, any place. No one knows what tomorrow brings.

It won’t matter to God in Heaven that we were super smart and graduated from really good colleges. It won’t matter that we stayed away from gluten and drove cars with high safety ratings. It won’t matter what the balance was in our savings account, and God won’t care about our chevron-patterned throw pillows. God will say: “I made you strong–did you help people who were weak? I gave you the ability to speak and write–did you tell people about Me? I put a sadness in your heart for orphans–did you adopt? I made you creative–did you share that gift with others?”

I so often waste my gifts and blessings and strengths. But today, I was right where I needed to be. We sang songs. We played games. We ate lunch and painted pictures, and we hunted eggs. Mia and Merrick popped confetti all over themselves and me and the other kids. People were smiling, laughing. It was a good day.

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We'll be picking confetti out of our scalps for years to come.

We’ll be picking confetti out of our scalps for years to come.

Today I finally met the kids that I have been thinking about and praying for since March. Only now I will be praying for them by name, with their beautiful faces in mind.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this painting party possible by participating in art lessons this month. We earned enough to buy supplies for today and for Friday, with some canvasses and paints left over for the community center to keep on hand. Art for you=art for them. Great job!


Monday Morning Art and a WWZ mini-review.

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Why yes, those are the sticks that we ganked from a state park in New Mexico.  And they’re far from completely decorated. We have been painting all morning. Oh, what? It’s 1:00 in the afternoon? Fine.

Nevermind that there’s laundry to fold and overdue library books to return. My kids are in the painting mood and we leap on those kind of opportunities around here. There’s an art festival at our church on August 18th that I’m totally stoked about. The theme is very uplifting and it’s based on 1 Corinthians; anyone from the community can participate by entering works that might support a message of unity, purity, and maturity. What did my kids choose to paint? Sunflowers and the city of Los Angeles.

Merrick's exquisite contribution.

Merrick’s exquisite contribution.

Who am I to crush budding creativity?

With that in mind, I am offering some painting sessions at my house for little and big artists who might like a small amount of direction in someone else’s (already-paint-splattered) kitchen.

$25 covers supplies, painting time, and light instruction. I will limit the session size to one or two people at a time. Dates available are July 8th, 11th, 15th, 18th, 22nd, and 25th, at 1:00 in the afternoon until whenever. Not like dinnertime whenever, but I’m willing to allow up to 3 hours because artists simply cannot be rushed.

On a totally unrelated note, I finally saw World War Z. A word of warning: it is nothing like the book. I mean, there are zombies. And they’re a world-wide problem. And that’s about it.

I’m also not a fan of fast zombies.

No. Just, no.

Brad Pitt’s thick wavy locks never once looked grimy or greasy, which I found highly unrealistic since, geez, they were in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and showers aren’t exactly convenient in times like that. I have trouble washing my hair once a day and my only problem is 2 kids that might burn the house down in the 15 minutes it takes me to get clean.

But other than that, the movie was really, really good, and very suspenseful. And sweet, because people helped each other…they also got eaten, but honestly there wasn’t a whole lot of Walking Dead-type gore, which I was totally okay with. I did get pretty creeped out during a few scenes, but by the end of the movie, the twitching spastic zombies were almost comical.

And that’s my take on WWZ.

Sidenote: I’m banking heavily on Cheyenne’s majoring in biochemistry and going to work for the CDC, so that I’ll have an in. If anyone would like to contribute toward her college fund, know that you’ll be doing yourselves a favor in the long run–someone’s got to keep these plagues in check.


Fun with Salvation.

Day…11?…without Cheyenne. She’s not at a sleepover. She’s not at a band function and I’m not going to pick her up in a couple hours. She’s actually gone. And I miss her. I miss having my buddy. I miss our jokes. Not everyone gets my jokes–especially not Caleb or the under-9 crowd that lives in my house. Things are weird around here. July 27th is an unfathomably long way off.

On a happy note, Mia got saved. My Catholic peeps might boo-hiss at that word, but all it means is that what Jesus did for us finally sunk in; she’s at an age where it’s all starting to make sense, and for the first time, it hit her right smack in the guts. She wants to give her heart to God. I have no doubt that He speaks to people of all ages, and it’s a wonderful thing being able to slow down long enough to listen–and grasp what’s being heard–at 8 years old.

(*Please know that in the following paragraphs, I am mainly addressing the concept of salvation alone–I know there’s a difference between becoming  a Christian and being a Christian, but I feel the need to write mostly about this particular part for right now.*)

When I was 14 I met some friends that asked me if I was saved. I had no freaking clue what “saved” meant, so they explained:

Them: “Do you believe that everyone is a sinner including you?”

Me: “Uh, yeah.”

Them: “Do you believe that Jesus is the son of God and that He died for your sins?”

Me: “Duh.”

Them: “Will you pray a prayer with me right now and ask Jesus to come into your heart and change your life (right before we go smoke pot behind the gym)?”

Me: “I find that highly unneccessary. I’ve only been praying to Jesus and thanking him for all kinds of crap, for 14 years–that’s like, my whole life.”

Them: “Then have you followed the Lord in Believer’s baptism?”

Me: “WTF does that even mean? I’ve been baptized–twice. I know you think I’m a clueless Catholic, but I think I got this, thankyouverymuch.”

It almost seemed to me that everyone who claimed to be Christians were some of the meanest, snidest, greediest, sinningest people I’d ever met.

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We’re sinners and Jesus died for us because God loves us. Isn’t that what we’re all taught in church before we’re old enough to walk? Wasn’t that the general message of any church? I knew the facts; I read them in the bible, I heard them in Sunday school, and I could tell strangers if they asked me. I had it all down pat on an intellectual level. I’d get sentimental about Jesus on the occasional Sunday during mass, and once for several months after a church retreat to Assissi, Italy, where I became fascinated with the life and times of St. Francis.

I thought about the concept of salvation more and more as the years went on. I tried to listen harder during mass to see if I was missing anything. I participated in the Sacrament of Confirmation–which is basically the Catholic Church equivalent of saying “Alright you’ve been learning this stuff for years–are you in or out?” Of course I was in. I didn’t want to be out. My parents would kill me.

I continued to pray. I had conversations with all kinds of people. It seemed like my head just stayed filled with thoughts of Jesus and sin and forgiveness and love.

And then one night, it all went from my head to my heart. I was overcome with guilt and sorrow over my sins. And I wanted more than anything to truly belong to the kingdom of God, and to make Jesus the single more important thing in my life–or as Mia puts it, “the boss of my life”.

If you’re interested in the cut-and-dry Protestant version of salvation according to the Holy Bible, here it is:

  1. Every human is a sinner. Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and are not good enough to share God’s divine greatness.”
  2. God’s penalty for sin is death. Romans 6:23: “When people sin, they earn what sin pays—death. But God gives his people a free gift—eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  3. In His great love, God has made provision for the salvation of sinners. Romans 5:8: “But Christ died for us while we were still sinners, and by this God showed how much he loves us.”
  4. Each person must put his trust in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Romans 10:9-13 says “If you openly say, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from death, you will be saved. Yes, we believe in Jesus deep in our hearts, and so we are made right with God. And we openly say that we believe in him, and so we are saved. Yes, the Scriptures say, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disappointed.” It says this because there is no difference between those who are Jews and those who are not. The same Lord is the Lord of all people. And he richly blesses everyone who looks to him for help. Yes, “everyone who trusts in the Lord will be saved.”

It’s more complicated than that, but it isn’t. We’re all guilty. We all sin. No one is exempt from this. Our sin demands payment–we deserve death. I got stuck on this the most: “Eternity in hell? Surely I’m not that bad, am I?” Truth is that yes I am. There’s good in everyone, yes. But there’s also bad: we are greedy, quick-tempered, spiteful, judgemental. The list goes on. I fight these things on a daily basis and I always will because I’m human and I’m just not holy by nature.

That badness in our hearts separates us from God. But God, being our loving creator and father, gives us an undeserved gift: He sent His perfect son Jesus, who never sinned, to pay for our sins–He lay down his life willingly–to die in our place on the cross. We cannot earn this gift and we can never repay it. No catch–this salvation is free stuff.

And here’s the actual dirt: There’s nothing textbook about salvation.

“Getting saved” is not so much an ultimate moment in time that caps off a several-year period of learning. “Getting saved” is hopefully not the greatest spiritual experience you will ever have. “Getting saved” is only the beginning of a looonnnng, and probably bumpy, journey–with God as your guide.

Being “saved” is personal. Being “saved” doesn’t make you better than everybody. It doesn’t make you perfect and it doesn’t automatically make you even “good”. But following Jesus Christ, and knowing that your soul belongs to God forever, should fill you with a peace and a love that just cannot be known outside of Him.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. We don’t stop at salvation. We can begin to develop a deep relationship with God which involves so much more than reading a couple key verses out of Romans. This relationship is knowledge. It’s a feeling. It’s action. It’s unconditional love. It’s time spent. It’s physical and mental energy. It’s our purpose and our focus.

We live in human bodies that get tired and cranky and hungry and scared; we live on earth, a place that is often times hard and mean and unfair. The road is rough. There’s so much work to do and we can’t just sit at home and fluff our pillows and send our kids to college so that they, too, can afford to sit at home and fluff their pillows.

Our paths are all unique, and we can’t compare ourselves to others–but what we can compare ourselves to is the person God wants us to be, and God? Is unconcerned with wealth and success and wordly wisdom. Christians are called not only to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength; we are called to be lights in this dark, broken world–to be the hands and feet of Jesus, who was loving, and compassionate, and giving, and merciful; who came to serve and not to be served.

My hope for my children, and my friends, and my whole family, (and for anyone reading this!) is for each person to come to know and love Jesus; to reconcile themselves with God and to make Him the center of their lives; and to reach their full potential as one of His children. Mia’s simple prayer last night was one of the sweetest things I’ll ever hear. That prayer was the start of something crazy awesome and I just know she will do amazing things for God.


Overwhelmed.

I’m having a little trouble processing–not only what happened at the hospital today–but the sheer uplifting kindness we have received from people who we now consider to be straight-up family. I’m going to brag on my church peeps right now: Caleb can send a simple 2-worded text to a single person, and within 60 seconds, our immediate needs are met by about 25 people, right along with 100 other needs we didn’t even know we had.

No words of gratitude can express how we feel:

  • for the e-mails, texts, messages, phone calls, visits, and prayers.
  • for the cookies (oh the glorious cookies!) and the Shari’s Berries (oh the glorious Shari’s Berries!) and the Easter dinner and the lasagna and Texas Toast and pie and Cafe’ Du Monde Coffee.
  • for the books, music, jewelry, flowers…and picture text of a grown man (who shall remain anonymous) hamming it up in some poor little kid’s ex-pajamas.
  • Wow.
  • I needed that laugh like you wouldn’t believe.
  • for the offers of meals, of babysitting, of kid picking-up/dropping-off; for the offers to clean our house (you know not what you say), to take us out to breakfast/lunch/dinner/coffee/shopping/walking/ridiculous you people, just ridiculous.
  • And perhaps most touchingly of all, for the offer of a dear, dear friend to come out and plant something for me–flowers, a tree–whatever I’d like–in my yard. This beautiful wonderful woman can at times barely walk without assistance. I would be so lucky if I ever learned a smidge of anything at all from her.

I’ve left out about 3 million people who God has surely used to help heal our broken hearts, mainly because it’s 10:00 p.m. and I’m highly doped up.

But I thank you all, so so much.

I will spare the long dramatic version of today and instead tell you what I know. Our baby died at 13 weeks. We found out last Thursday. We scheduled a D&C so that my body wouldn’t go all chainsaw-massacre at home in front of my kids. It’s supposed to be a simple procedure and we expected to be in and out of there before 10 a.m., settling into our weekend early with a day or two of little-to-no light spotting.

Call me Bad Luck Brian.

Or we could legitimately go with "Tough Sh#! Toni". Clearly. Word to your mother.

Or we could clearly go with “Tough Sh#! Toni”. Clearly. Word to your mother.

We came. We saw. We got IV’d. And truthfully I spent the next 8 hours sleeping and/or feeling sloppy drunk (and loving it). Caleb? Not so much.

According to my poor traumatized husband, I bled, and bled and bled. And then I bled some more. And I had a fever. And this was apparently cause for great concern. And I didn’t even realize that something might be wrong until a wicked nurse came in and shot me square in the thigh with a needle the size of friggin’ Saskatchewan, which I did not like one single bit.

And I got admitted to the hospital for real, and I got a bigger room with a comfy bed, and a cable tv which was not too shabby for Toni.

And then I dreamed that a bunch of old men in clackety shoes were praying for me–loudly, and all at the same time. And then my husband left my side for a minute to go find food for the first time since yesterday afternoon. And I made one loopy phone call to my mom to tell her everything went fine.

And then suddenly, everything was fine.

And I got home at 5:30, took some drugs, and ate some cookies.

And that is my version of how it went.

But you guys: my husband is shell-shocked, bless his heart. His eyes tonight looked so tired that I wanted him to lay down and go to sleep, so I could just rescue him by handling everything else. I still don’t know all the details and that’s probably for the best. But the most important thing I know is this: we were so loved, and cared for, and watched over.

People ask me how I can be so calm; they are saying things like “I would lose it, I would fall apart; I hate that you are going through this, it must be awful”. And yeah–it’s awful. All I can say is that when you are walking with God, you don’t have to wait for the light at the end of the tunnel to appear. God is your light, all the way through the longest and darkest of tunnels. This has never been truer for me and I hope for my husband and children as well.

Please continue to pray for us as we rest up this weekend. Though I am feeling super-awesome physically in comparison to the last week, I now know better than to assume there’s nothing else that could possibly come up. Plus, it might just be time to consider that certain body parts are on the fritz; Well done, good and faithful uterus! You have served me well:

Yay.

Early November 011

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My Apologies

People.

I am so sorry.

I’m sorry for coming off as judgmental. I’m sorry if I sound pushy or snide or arrogant or condescending.

I’m sorry if I ever seem to be trying to shove religion down throats. (It only makes people gag.)

And most of all, I’m sorry if the things I say and how I actually live don’t line up; I’m sorry if my faith has not manifest itself through my actions, because that gives off a most terrible impression of a God who I want to honor with my life to the best of my abilities.

And I’m so dreadfully sorry if that terrible impression has turned any of you off to God, the salvation He offers, and the peace He wants you to have.

I am sorry.

I am sorry if you are my friend or family member and I have not shared with you why I have the faith that I have. I’m sorry for my selfishness, my fear, and my apathy and complacency.

I’m sorry if you don’t know my God. I’m so, so sorry. Because you are really missing out.

And I can’t explain it to you, not really, and still come off as rational or sane. I can’t promise that by knowing God that you’ll stop drinking, or have an awesome marriage, or well-behaved kids. Life’s not guaranteed to be easy or understandable; you won’t have all the answers. No matter how much you pray. No matter how much you go to church. No matter how much you learn about God. No matter how many good things you do in the name of God–life here on Earth is freaking hard; there will always be confusion, frustration, and pain. You might go hungry. You might suffer. You might be killed.

I can only tell you what I know: God is love. He is forgiveness, grace, mercy. Peace, and hope.

I know that I am weak, weak, weak. I know that I don’t have in me to battle my own demons. I know that I rebel for no other reason than I don’t like being told what to do. I love to go against the grain just to be different (and difficult). I love to irritate the crap out of Caleb just to get a rise out of him. I love the taste of alcohol, and I crave it, and if left to my own devices I’d be drunk all day every day.

I know that I was struggling. I was actually drowning and I was in total denial. I was fighting and I didn’t even know why. I was making bad choice after bad choice, knowing that I’d pay for it later–and I didn’t care. I wandered. I hit rock bottom. I broke. And I almost took my whole family down with me.

I’ve never had all my shit together. I’ve never been strong enough or smart enough to do life on my own, at least not with any significant amount of happiness or success.

I’m weak.

And I’m grateful. Because that weakness? Has shown me my need. It points me to God. It reminds me of what I am without the hope that He provides. It gives powerful testimony to God’s healing power and love.

God is faithful. He forgives, and He lifts and He restores.

That is my humbling experience.

My friend.

My heart hurts for you. Everyone has a different journey. Maybe you’re on the right track. Maybe you’ve made all the right decisions and maybe you don’t need any help. Maybe God has let you down. Maybe His people have let you down. Maybe people claiming to be His have turned you off. Maybe you’ve found something different. Maybe you just can’t make sense out of it.

I’m not talking about mindlessly following a certain set of rules, carefully avoiding anything that would burst a carefully constructed Christian bubble. I’m not talking about being good just so you can go to Heaven. I’m also not talking about heading straight to your local Baptist church, walking down that green-carpeted center aisle, and reciting a generic prayer.

But I promise you, I promise you: a relationship with God is worth pursuing.

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