Jonah Called. He’d Like His Whale Back.

“I love you. Come back home. I called you to ministry and you said, ‘no’…” As my dear friend shared these words meant for me from God, tears streamed down my face. “I didn’t say no… exactly,” I argued in my head. “But your actions didn’t say ‘yes,'” my heart tugged.

A little over a year ago, I felt very strongly that I was being called into vocational ministry. I was scared, anxious, and excited. God had been very clearly taking me down a path of preparation for full time ministry. I didn’t know exactly what that ministry would look like, but I knew writing, public speaking, leading worship, and ministering to broken and abused women could all play some part in it. This very blog was my first step of faith toward whatever it was God wanted to use me for.

But then my son started struggling in school. The preverbal crap hit the fan and suddenly we were in an all out war for his life. Depression and suicidal thoughts, lying, swearing, anger, and disrespect were causing more and more problems for my boy. Until, finally, we made the decision to homeschool. I stepped down from my ministry leadership roles and ultimately pulled back from everything ministry related. With the best of intentions, I chose to focus on helping my son deal with whatever was plaguing him. We eventually quit going to Celebrate Recovery altogether which had been my ministry field for nearly 3 years. Even church attendance became more and more sporadic as I tried to clean up the mess of our family.

Because of my son’s struggles and behaviors, I continued to isolate us and tried to handle it alone. This mess was too messy for church. People couldn’t possibly understand what we’re dealing with. Especially not church people. So when we’d go to church, it was like a secret mission: Slip in. Slip out. No one sees. No one knows. Incognito church attendance. Or better yet, watch the live stream online. Can’t get your messiness on people that way! I’m a single mom. I’m supposed to fix this on my own.

Isn’t it crazy the lies we’ll buy into to justify our unhealthiness? The devil is using the same tricks today as he did in the garden. Lies, manipulation, and isolation. He plays on our insecurities and then convinces us we can do this without God. He convinced Eve that just a little bite wouldn’t hurt and she didn’t need God anyway! And here I am convincing myself I can parent a troubled preteen without Him and the best way to do that is to desert my community?! Yep. That totally happened.

Every time I step out and try to pursue God’s calling in my life, something catastrophic happens that knocks me back 10 feet! (You’d think I’d figure out where those blows come from.)

The last year has been my Jonah in the belly of the whale season. God called me and I chose a distraction to focus my attention on and say, “See? I can’t do what You called me to. It’s too messy out over out there! I think I’ll just hang out in here for awhile.”

Many years ago, a very godly woman whom I admire a great deal told me, “You know God has called you to ministry. If you don’t step up and do what He has called you to, He will find someone else to pick up YOUR mantel.” Those words echoed in my head tonight like a movie reel stuck on repeat.

But I’m a mess! Look at me! I’m a mess! I’m supposed to get my crap together first. Make a million dollars so I can fund this ministry way off in the distant future doing I don’t know what yet… I’m not qualified. How can I lead Your people when I’m standing in the middle of my own pile of garbage?!!? I screamed at Him in my head as I sat in my seat. And then that gentle voice of Abba Father said, “I qualify the called. I don’t call the qualified.”

I leaned over to my friend sitting next to me and said, “I think it’s time for me to do another Step Study.”

“Are you volunteering to lead it?” she asked. Seriously? I KNOW she’s in cahoots with Him on this. I could’ve sworn that whole conversation was just in my head!

“Yes. I guess I am,” I said.

Fine. I submit to you, God. I’ll follow You wherever you want me to go and do what you want me to. Even if that means starting from this whale’s belly. I won’t try to figure out all the pieces on my own. I’ll trust you. I won’t put You off anymore while I chase the dollar. I trust You to take care of me just like You do for the sparrow. I’ll lean in to You and Your people, my village. I won’t try to control every step. 

And then I bawled and whimpered through the serenity prayer….

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time. Enjoying one moment at a time. Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace. Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will. So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

And right then, it was like God dropped the mic. #BOOM

Why Wait?

 Most people can’t remember their childhood prior to age 4 or 5. Usually those memories are happy, innocent and tender. Not for me. My earliest childhood memories were of being sexually molested by a man I knew as my grandpa. Some of the incidents I remember quite vividly happened in the same room where my mother was 8 feet away, chatting with her mom. In my young mind, I thought this was normal and acceptable. This was how grandpas loved their granddaughters. I thought surely my mom knew and allowed it, if not condoned these activities.

When it all came to light what he had been doing, I was around 5 years old. My parents decided to do what “good Christians” do: forgive and forget. In my family that meant we never spoke of it and we pretended like nothing ever happened. We still had family gatherings and holidays with my molester. He lived a long life next door to a daycare with no consequences for his actions. So that told me that what he did was acceptable; I wasn’t worth protecting or loving; and I was a sexual object to be used and discarded. I dealt with it by burying and repressing the memories. It wasn’t until many years later when I was married that all the horrible memories came flooding back.

 When I was a young teenage girl, I was very involved in church and youth group. At that time, it was trendy to wear a promise ring as a symbol of saving one’s virginity for marriage. It was a nice thought, but for many girls, that’s where it ended. A sweet notion. I wanted so badly to be an unblemished gift to my future husband. To wrap my sexuality up in a little package to be offered as my most prized possession on my wedding night. Isn’t that still objectifying?! My value was still wrapped up in what I could offer in the bedroom.

Alas, it seemed the only girls I knew that were virgins on their wedding days were getting married straight out of high school. I never had a boyfriend or anyone remotely interested in me during those awkward years, so I was a lost cause. I was the dud. Undesirable and worthless. Or at least that’s what I thought.

Two weeks after high school graduation, I moved out of my parents’ home. When I was 18, I found new friends outside of the strict church bubble I’d grown up in. Those girls took pity on my naiveté and made me their “project.” How cute and archaic of me to still be a virgin. No one did that anymore! They laughed and informed me that no guy in this day and age was going to wait for sex until marriage. That’s just silly and unrealistic! It would be unfair of me to expect a man to contain his sexual desires. So, I learned how to flirt, manipulate, and use my sexual prowess (apparently I had some of that) to my advantage.

Guys finally gave attention to me. They scrambled to be around me, chased me even. I was wanted, desired, and attractive. And I was completely objectified. Somewhere in my deep subconscious, I was acting on the thing I’d been taught as a toddler: I’m only good for one thing. As a result, I did things I’m not proud of. I made serious mistakes and chose the worst possible partners: abusers, cheaters, womanizers, etc. That’s the kind of man that is attracted to the type of girl I’d become.

Flash forward through all the ugliness and a couple of unhealthy, abusive marriages that produced 2 children. I left my last husband (that’s a whole other story) and realized maybe I’d been putting the cart before the horse. I worked on myself and started to actually lean on God for love, comfort, and healing. Initially, the thought of so much as going to dinner with a guy made me physically ill. No way would I ever remarry!! I thought I would be like the Apostle Paul: single and celibate for the rest of my life.

God showed me over time that He loves me for who He created me to be: His child. Not for anything I could do or “put out.” He loves me not because I’ve earned it or performed my way to a lovable level. He loves me simply because He IS love. Slowly and patiently He has worked a miracle in my heart and soul! He has given me a new identity.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says “You are a new creation in Christ. All old things have passed away. Behold the new!” That verse has taken on very real personal meaning for me. The old me and mistakes I made are so far removed from who I am today. I write and share my story with emotionless detachment. Not because my tear ducts are underactive. Hey, it’s a legit medical condition! It’s because I don’t relate to the old me at all! It’s more like I saw this story on Lifetime once, not that I lived it.

Don’t worry, I’m not in denial. In fact, it was working through the Celebrate Recovery 12 Step Program that caused me to search myself and make the connection between my early childhood abuse and my previous poor choices in men.

Isaiah 61:3 is my life story in a nutshell: “To all who mourn in Israel He will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for His own glory.” I am not anything like who I was. I am not a victim. I am a survivor. I am not damaged goods. I am a daughter of the Most High King. I am not weak. I am strong in Christ. I am not unworthy. I am a jewel to be cherished.

In my past life, I used the analogy in regards to sex and marriage, “I can’t buy a car without test driving it first!” As if the primary purpose for marriage was sex. I had such a warped, sick sense of love, relationships, and sex because of the abuse I endured. I truly thought sex comprised 90% of the relationship. The other 10% could be fixed or muddled through as long as things were good in the bedroom. However, with that mentality if the sex became disappointing or lackluster, the relationship could be in trouble. In reality, I think most healthy relationships consist of the exact opposite: sex is 10% and not the main focal point. At least that’s what I hear.

In my early 30’s with two children (which, by the way, are living proof of my non-virginity) I decided to save myself (physically and emotionally) for my future mate. He will be someone who will love me for so many more reasons beyond physical gratification. A man who will love my children as his own. A man who will respect me and not try to bully me into caving to his whim. A man who puts his relationship with God first and will encourage me to do the same. A good man who truly realizes that anything worth having is worth waiting for. And I’m worth it.

Sex and The City

Have you ever been drawn to someone so much that you start making up excuses to see or talk to them? It could be a friend or romantic interest. I have a couple of those type of people in my life right now. Individuals that I absolutely love spending time with, whether it’s for a cup of coffee or just a phone call.

Every other week there’s a group of vibrant, intelligent and remarkable women that I have lunch with. Some weeks that lunch is my sanity. Most of the time, we simply gab about whatever is going on in life. And almost always, the conversation gets very deep and philosophical. We analyze human interactions through who we understand God to be. We overanalyze, we laugh, we eat and sometimes we stay for a few glasses of wine. I love the energy each of these ladies bring to the table (haha, literally). Now that I’m really thinking about it, we’re kinda like the ladies from Sex in the City. Except we’re not in NYC, our wardrobes are a little less fabulous and we’re not sleeping around. But otherwise, just like it!

My point is, I crave the time I get to spend with these women. I often feel like one hour every other week isn’t enough! In each of them I see a little of myself, but also something I’d like to have or be more like. I learn from them every time we meet. After lunch, I float away feeling mentally intrigued, spiritually challenged, and emotionally full! I catch myself looking for reasons to talk to them in between our scheduled lunches. I might even sneak in an extra lunch with one of them outside of our group luncheons.

I realize during this thought process that God created us to be relational beings… with each other and with Him. God craves that same kind of relationship with each of us. He sees a little of Himself in each of us. And He wants us to see Him in ourselves and to learn how to let more of Him shine through us. A five minute chat as our heads hit the pillow is not enough! He wants to have more time, more frequency. Not because He’s demanding, but because He likes hanging out with us. Did you know God loves spending time with you?!

I challenge you to do more of whatever connects you to your Creator. Whether that’s prayer and meditation, reading Scripture, or admiring creation. Take time to walk and talk with Him today. And remember, He’s pining for you, looking for excuses to be a part of your day!