Change

Lessons I Learned in 2012

I see a lot of blogs doing years in review.  I would do that for you, but I feel that, although I have learned a lot and accomplished a lot in 2012, I haven’t done anything exceptionally noteworthy.  I was looking back over my year, and what I realized is a year summed up in learning.  I have grown a lot this year, through experience and through trial and error.

In the spirit of a new year, I will share my top ten lessons from 2012.  I pray that the next year is full of new lessons, exciting growth, solid accomplishments, and exceptional love, for all of us.

Top Ten Lessons I Learned in 2012:

10.  Life is worth living.  I know this sounds like a pretty basic concept, but it is one I did not believe for a really long time.  I felt like every day was just a repeat of the one before, and every situation was going to end grimly.  Let me emphasize, every situation will end badly, if that is the intention you place upon it in the beginning.  Your world, your life, is what you make of it.  Keep deciding that you are cursed, and you will be.  Place positive intentions on your day-to-day life, and on your goals, and they will manifest before your very eyes.  This year, I took one of my business cards and on it, I wrote down what I want for myself in the next year.  I carry it around with me daily, and I believe these things will unfold in my life.  You can do the same with a dream board.  Take a poster and create what you want out of your next year.  Watch it happen.  I did this during my hospital stays, and I always conveyed stability, health, balance and love.  These things are now ever present in my life.  It is like magic.  Whatever you put your energy into, you will have.

9.  Doing what you’ve dreamed of is worth the experience.  I always dreamed of living in California.  I was just sure I’d feel at home there.  This year, after treatment, I had an opportunity to move out to California.  I took the opportunity and have been here since.  I love the weather, and having access to beautiful beaches and sunsets.  Living here does have its pros and cons, but I am so glad I took the opportunity to come here.  I’m acutally living out one of my wildest dreams.  How amazing is that?  I’ve also learned that this particular city isn’t somewhere I plan on settling down.  I wouldn’t have known that, if I had not tried.  I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be here.

8.  Distance makes the heart grow fonder, but traveling is hard.   As a result of living out my dream, I’ve been transplanted a very long distance from a lot of people that I really love.  Being here has made me realize how much I truly appreciate these people, but it has also made me realize that I’d like to be closer to them.  Traveling is difficult, I’m sure most of us would agree.  And expensive.  I love my loved ones that much more, but the added cost and stress of being away… is it worth it?  I’ll keep you posted.  I have, in the meantime, made great friends out here on the left coast.  So, I have multiplied my love.  That’s always a good thing.

7.  Recovery is a lot of work, but I’ve never done anything this important and this necessary before.  My sponsor always reminds me that recovery has to come first, before everything else.  I know this is true.  I cannot have success in work, school, family, or life, if I do not work on the one thing that keeps me stable and keeps me sane.  Without recovery, all those other things are irrelevant because they aren’t even possible.

6.  Failure may not be an option, but neither is perfection.  I’ve always heard the cliché that failure isn’t an option.  I think it is this phrase alone that birthed perfectionism.  “I’ve got to do it,” turned into, “I’ve got to do it perfectly.”  I walk on a thin line between two extremes.  Balance is crucial for me.  I know I can have an “all or nothing” attitude, and I have to remind myself constantly that an accomplishment is an accomplishment, if I didn’t do it perfectly, at least I did it.  We are always our own worst critic.  Ease up on yourself a little.  Strive to do well, but don’t corner yourself into unforgivable expectations.  I see a lot of people in recovery around me either throwing their hands up, or striving to attain the unattainable.  Expecting perfection is like driving into a brick wall.  It doesn’t matter wether you do it quickly or slowly, eventually, you’ll hit that wall.  Eventually, you’ll be devestated by the fact that you messed up.  We all mess up, it is inevitable.  Learn to brush it off and keep moving.

5.  Doors will open, when you’re ready to see what’s on the other side.  God knows, timing is everything.  If you hold out and have faith, things will turn around and trials will end.  You may think that things are impossible, but I am here to tell you that the impossible is possible.  Lil’ Kim used to be a hero of mine, and now my music taste is almost completely faith-based.  I used to dread waking up in the morning, and now I’m grateful for each new day.  This year, I’ve reconnected with several people that I was certain I’d never hear from again.  Things change.  Doors open.  Anything is possible.  These things hardly ever happen right away, but they will happen when you are ready for them.

4.  Belief makes miracles happen.  Did you know that the true power of prayer is in the belief that those prayers will be answered?  As I said, the impossible is possible.  They key to seeing the impossible unfold before you, is believing that it will.  If you ask God for something, but doubt that He will give it to you, don’t expect it.  If you hope for something, but believe it could never be, it never will be.  The power lies in what you believe.  You are manifesting the outcome with your very thoughts and intentions.  Just believe.

3.  Every cloud has a silver lining.  It wasn’t until this year that I realized, what that little old lady with a walker taught me.  I stumbled, but I did not fall.  BAM!  Silver lining.  I got in a car accident, but I am safe.  BAM!  Silver lining.  I’m struggling with finances, but I believe everything will work out for my good.  BAM!  You get the point.  Yes, hard stuff happens.  Yes, we have our struggles and our trials.  Yes, sometimes we fail, or people fail us.  But we learn from all of these things.  We grow.  Every time you lose someone, there opens an opportunity for someone new to come into your life.  Every time you struggle, you have the opportunity to learn, grow, and know how to change outcomes for the better next time.  Don’t see your losses or failures as a devastation.  They are opportunities for new and better things to unfold in your life and your circumstances.  Don’t look at what you lost, look at what you gained.

2.  The hard moments will pass.  A recent campaign that set out to encourage gay youth struggling with bullying and prejudice has gained new ground.  The concept behind the campaign?  It.  Gets.  Better.  This idea, though it once seemed preposterous to me, is true.  It does get better.  The hard moments will pass, things will turn around.  Sometimes it is a waiting game, but you have to hold strong, because I guarantee you things will start to look up.  Look, if anyone knows this, it is me.  So, trust me.  I waited 28 years for my life to change, and it happened.  I finally see this world in a new light.  I finally love myself and those around me.  I finally want to get as much out of this life as I possibly can.  I finally believe.  Was it worth the wait?  Absolutely.  The hard moments will pass, and as you get used to watching them come and go, they will get more brief and less intense.  The hard moments will be blinks in your vast reel of days, weeks, months, and years of the incredible that your life will become.

1.  God is good.  I have experienced and accomplished a lot over the past year, all of which, I am completely grateful for.  At the end of the day, when my work is done, I thank God that I have had an opportunity to do this work.  I have been treated for the traumas I have endured.  I have met tons of new people.  I have an incredible sponsor and incredible supports.  I have experienced new and exciting things that I never could have imagined.  I am living in a city that I used to think was only a distant dream.  I am living a life that I wasn’t sure even existed.  I have everything I could ever want and more.  All of this, is because of God.  I have done a lot of work, but only because God has provided me the opportunity to.  I was in treatment for 5 months, because insurance covered it.  If that isn’t a miracle, I don’t know what is.  I worked with some of the best therapists in the country, because God gave me that opportunity. I am grateful for all the support I have received, but none has been more important than that of my God.  I could sit here and try to claim this has all been because of my hard work, but that would be a lie.  Without God’s timing, ingenuity, and grace, all of my hard work would have been worthless.  At the end of my year, as I reflect, I am certain that this is the most important lesson I have learned.  When I had no faith, belief, or hope, desperation stepped in and gave me God.  God restored my faith, belief, hope.  God instilled in me a gratitude for my desperation.  God gave me a life worth living, and the desire to live it.  Without God, I’m not even sure I would still be here.  At the end of the day, I know that everything I learned this year, I learned because of lesson number 1: God is good.

HappyNewYearNeonFlash

The Power to Change the World is Already in Your Hands

I’ve had an incredible year, and for the first time in a looonnnnggggg time (if ever), I hate to see the year go.  But I do know that a new year brings new beginnings, and I’m so excited to see what God has in store for me, because I know it will be good.

Yesterday, for the maybe 5th time, I watched the documentary, “I Am,” an incredible film that has changed my life.  It got me thinking about how my part in this world can change everything.  It made me realize that I don’t need power, or money, or my own non-profit organization to change the world.  We are all interconnected, and my very mood has an affect on something else going on in this world.  All I want to do is pour positivity and love into this world.  Knowing that my heart’s signals set off a butterfly effect on this planet, makes me want to keep a smile always on my face.

When I was miserable, I thought I was the only one suffering.  When I consider that my life changes, might’ve changed some vibration in this world for the better, it makes me appreciate my new happiness that much more.  Someone else’s life might’ve changed for the better with mine.  Beautiful.

“There are risks and costs to action.  But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”  ~John F. Kennedy

In that respect, I made a decision for my New Year’s resolution.  I don’t often make resolutions, and when I do, they do not look like weight loss or habit-changing.  I want to contribute goodness to this world.  I want to do my part to set a positive chain of events in motion, every. single. day.  I made the decision to go out of my way to practice a random act of kindness every day for the year 2013.

My prayer, is that God presents me daily with an opportunity to help someone, and that in doing so, I start to make a shift for the greater good.

I will be writing about this experiment/resolution here, but I will not specifically name who I helped or how.  I’m not doing this to receive kudos.  I’m doing this to show those around me that even the little things can change the world.  And to suggest that maybe others try this as well.  I will be writing about it to discuss how this venture helps transform my life and perspectives in the process.

i am the documentary

A Little Old Lady With A Walker Once Taught Me…

One afternoon, I was sitting with my mother on a bench at the front of one of those cafeteria restaurants.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one of those, but the elderly seem to frequent them.  The food is awesome and affordable, and the only downside is having to wait in a (sometimes very long) line for your food.

Anyway, as we were sitting there, a little old lady with a walker started walking into the restaurant.  Right behind her, a woman was pushing an elderly relative in a wheelchair.  She must’ve been unable to see how far away the lady with the walker was, because she accidentally hit the little old lady in the back of her ankles.  As the lady stumbled, I watched with horror, unable to figure out what I could do, and afraid that she was about to fall to the ground.  Though the lady stumbled, she did not fall.  She was startled, but caught her breath, and walked on.

As she was stumbling, something stood out to me.  Not knowing whether or not she was bound to impact against that floor, every step she took, she said “Thank you, Jesus!  Thank you, Jesus!”  That struck me as bizarre.  I remember leaning over to my mom and whispering, “If she almost fell, why would she be thanking Jesus?”  My mom’s answer was simple, but powerful, “I guess because she didn’t fall.”

At the time, I thought, wow that’s really stupid.  I mean she almost just fell, I would be pissed at that lady who almost knocked me over!!!

My, how time changes us.  When I look back now at that powerful, teachable moment I’m amazed by that woman’s response.  I almost envy it now.  I think wow, what a positive perspective to look at something like that and see the good in it.

I think we could all learn a lesson from that little old lady with a walker.

All I used to look at was the negative.  Something small wouldn’t turn out my way, and my whole LIFE was OVER!  Such drama.  All I could see around me were the things that were going wrong.  All I could have seen, had I been in that old lady’s shoes, was the fact that some reckless lady who doesn’t know how to push a wheelchair almost plowed me over.  I’m a defenseless old lady, I would think.  How could she?! 

angry old lady

How often we look at something and lament over what didn’t go well.

How little we look at a stumble, and rejoice in the fact that we didn’t fall.

It is my prayer for myself and for all of us, that we become a little more like that old lady.

Tonight, on my way home from the gym, I stopped at a red light.  Suddenly, there was chaos right in front of me.  Two cars almost hit each other, and then neither one could decide who should drive away first.  In a fury of frustration and anger, the driver in one of the cars threw up his hands, beat his steering wheel, and spit furiously what I can only assume were violent expletives.  There were two cars who almost hit each other, and the drivers were enraged by the series of events.  Two cars that almost hit each other, almost.

Safe, with both cars still in tact, they drove away cursing the universe for the negative thing that just happened, never seeing the pain from which they had just been spared.

How can we let one small unpleasant event dictate our days, or even our lives?

How can we overlook all of the little successes and blessings, thinking nothing of them?

That little stuff we’re overlooking… that’s the powerful stuff.

I look back on that small event at a cafeteria restaurant in North Carolina with gratitude.  At the time, it seemed like nothing, but it stayed lodged in my memory through a lot.  I am grateful that I can look back at that moment now and understand what that lady was thinking when she thanked Jesus repeatedly as she stumbled.

Wow!  Thank God I didn’t fall!  I may have stumbled, but I didn’t fall!

always-be-grateful

Is Time on My Side?

“Lose not yourself in a far off time, seize the moment that is thine.”  ~Friedrich Schiller

I heard a song recently that brought up a lot of new emotions for me.  Some of you may remember it “Graduation (Friends Forever)” by Vitamin C.  Don’t judge.  I don’t know why I download this crap, but I do.  It started playing, and at first I wanted to turn it to the next song, but I didn’t.  As I listened, it wasn’t far into the song that I burst into tears.  I don’t know, blame it on hormones.  It is a pretty awful song, but as I listened to it, it suddenly hit me how old the song was, and how old I am.  I started thinking about how life was when I was in high school, and how it felt like every single day was going to last forever.  Days go by so quickly now, that years are over before a blink or a breath have the opportunity to complete themselves.

“The clock talked loud. I threw it away, it scared me what it talked.”  ~Tillie Olsen

 

I have been struggling a lot lately with this, as I do twelve step work.  I suddenly feel like all the time I spent “living it up” was time wasted.  All the years that actually last for a minute, are gone, and I barely remember them.  Now time flies so quickly that I see people around me getting married, having kids, having second and third kids, doctorates being earned, marriages ending in divorce, and/or lives ending, period; and I’m left with my head spinning, still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life.

There’s this sinking feeling in my gut, like everyone who was ahead of me by a small head start has now nearly completed their lives, and my proverbial clock is ticking.  Not even my reproduction clock!  I can’t even support myself at this point.  It is my death clock.  My death clock is now ticking, people.  This is serious.

“Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them.”  ~Dion Boucicault

I get that my life hasn’t been a waste.  It took a lot of ups and downs to land me in the spot where I am now standing, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have the growth, perspective, and relationship with God that I now have.  My relationships with everyone around me have improved.  How could they not?  We’re maturing.

I know myself well enough to know that this is what it took to get me here, and nothing short of it would have sufficed.  I am stubborn and hard-headed and feverishly determined.  It is just that this is the first time I have started to put those qualities to use toward something productive.

“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” ~Abraham Lincoln

Look, I matured an unnatural amount with in an incredibly short period of time.  In the time between last August and now, I have learned so much, and evolved so much.  I love who I am, and the opportunities I have had are such an incredible blessing that nothing I could ever do would be enough to thank God and my loved ones for the support it took to have them.  I also realize what a privilege it is to have had the kind of treatment it takes to overcome the things I have struggled with.  I never forgot that while I was in treatment.  I was pained to see what a small portion of the population has access to that kind of healing, and I had to keep pushing forward because I knew if I wanted to be a part of any positive change in this world, I had to start with a positive change in me.  It took a lot to accept such a huge gift.

So now, in the interest of candor, I will tell you what I face.

As soon as Vitmain C’s song ended, Eminem came on.  “Lose Yourself.”  I know this was a God wink.  😉

 

It is like God was saying: you used to have your whole life ahead of you, but time has passed, and before you even know it, your whole life will be behind you.  Time to jump in with both feet.  This is not the time to hold back or freeze up.

I gave you this life, LIVE IT!  This is your chance, USE IT!

“Let him who would enjoy a good future waste none of his present.” ~Roger Babson

God, Guide Me Home

I don’t know where to begin with the struggles I have recently faced and the miracles that have blossomed out of them.  I know God has blessed me with a gift for writing, but I ironically believe that words can never suffice.

I kind of feel the need to fill you in about my journeys over the past 6 months.  November 20th of 2011, I entered residential treatment for bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, an eating disorder, and substance abuse.  Over the past few years, I have struggled with intense depression.  I experienced depression most of my life, but it had intensified over the past 3 years, and I was being hospitalized pretty regularly.  That was the main reason, I decided to look into residential treatment.  That is how things seemed from my perspective anyway.  Looking back on it now, I see so clearly how God had His hand in everything.  He chose where I was going to go, and the moment I would arrive and leave.  He carefully chose my treatment team, and my fellow survivors that I would meet along the way.

The work that I did from November 20-May 1 was the most intense work of my life.  It was incredibly difficult to face the most trying moments of my past head on, and conquer them.  We worked from 7 am to 10 pm daily, on dissecting and addressing our traumas.  In that process, we were strengthened and equipped to move forward.

I worked with some incredible therapists while at Timberline Knolls.  My primary therapist was a Christian therapist.  At first I was uncertain as to whether or not I could share the ugliest parts of my past with her, but we built the trust and she constantly reminded me that I needed to push forward.  She helped me to stay focused on the tasks at hand, my purpose of a life spent serving the God who had saved me.  He pulled me through before, she promised, He won’t desert me now.  Sometimes she was the only person who I could listen to, the only person who knew just what to say.

My family therapist sacrificed so much time to care for me directly, and was moved when she witnessed me evolve.  I worked with specialists, art therapists, expressive therapists, and DBT therapists.  We took every single angle in addressing every single issue.  I was blessed with a team that I felt truly cared for me and believed that I was capable of overcoming.

Aside from my team, I met so many other residents who proved to me that survival was possible.  They proved to me that some of the most beautiful people in this world, are the people who have been through the most.  And you would never even know it.  We would spend our brief bouts of free time, laughing, coloring, knitting, or in fellowship.  You would never look at these women and know the horrors that they had lived through.  Getting to know them on a personal level made me realize why I am so passionate about working against the issue of sexual violence.  It helped me face the need in this world to build women up, to help them know that they are valuable, lovable, worthy, beautiful, and strong.

I cannot say enough about the impact that these women had on me.  Through high school, college, and even in church, I feel like my strongest friendships were built with the women who were there to witness me break and rebuild.

May 1st, I left to go to “transitional living” in the Los Angeles area.  After a week, I left.

The weeks since have been incredible, difficult, reinvigorating, transformative, and inspiring.  It hasn’t all been fun.  I have had moments of incredible stress.  Two weekends ago, I started to fold.  I wasn’t finding a job.  I wasn’t finding a home.  I was starting to believe I wasn’t capable of accomplishing everything I had dreamed of doing.  I quickly felt as though the presence of God was draining out from around me.  I started to lose faith.  I started to lose hope.

Last Sunday morning, I went to a church that I had been looking into since I arrive in San Diego.  I was certain that I simply needed to find a spiritual community.  Initially, I found myself trapped in one of those, “Seriously?! Really?!” moments.  You know, like the Saturday Night Live skit.  Almost as soon as church started, I was worried.  The sermon was on TRUTH, and I started to consider what my pastors would say on the issue.  I imagined them saying that the enemy will lie to you, tell you that you are weak, or try to convince you that you are the person you used to be.  I imagined them reminding me not to listen to the lies, that the voice that told me I was capable and worthy and loved was the voice of truth.  That voice was the voice of God.  This sermon didn’t go anything like that.  If you can consider for a moment every single controversial political issue that has ever arisen in which churches felt moved to comment, that was in the sermon.  Abortion.  Homosexuality.  Other religions.  Evolution.  The pastor even fit the justification for rape into his angry rant, explaining that men have and natural reaction to scantily clad women… “they’re just wired that way.”  That was the point when I started frantically looking toward the doors.  Just so you know, if you ever start to question whether or not doors will be barricaded if you try to make a run for it… you should probably make a run for it.  I calmly headed to the doors, as if I was heading to the bathroom, but I just kept walking.

Let me tell you something that I genuinely believe.  I believe there are people who are directly being used by the enemy (satan, evil, etc) through the church.  The media has highlighted several of these recently in North Carolina.  I believe that this can be the devil’s strongest tool against God.  They are puppets for evil who hide behind the guise of Godliness.  On a daily basis, they are driving more and more people away from the love of God.  They are IN THE CHURCH, but working for the devil.  It is a perfect set up.  I am probably going to pay for this, but I am calling them out right now.  They do not work for God.

I have been in churches whose motives are genuine and true.  I have experienced churches where miracles are started, and hearts and minds are opened.  It is true that they are rare, but they are out there, I promise.  I didn’t not know, until recently that they even existed.  I did not know that church could be a spiritual experience.  I thought church was a punishment, a bore, and a waste of time.

When last Sunday morning unfolded, I was pretty pissed.  I didn’t resign myself to the disappearance of God, like I might’ve in the past.  I let the experience infuriate and motivate me.  That was NOT going to be my first experience of church in San Diego.  I was NOT going to let go that easily.  I set out for the rest of the day, focused on my recovery, and on turning things around.  I had a healthy, balanced lunch, and came home to find another option.  I recalled that I had looked at a church with a Sunday evening service, and I decided to try that one out instead.

I have missed my church back home dearly.  I was almost certain I wouldn’t find a comparable church anywhere else.  That being said, I was wrong.  My church in NC is awesome.  They are loving, welcoming, and intentional representatives of Christ.  Their hearts are moved from truth.  Their lives were saved by the purpose they found in God.  One of my church’s focuses has been children with special needs.  The Pastor’s sister is a special education teacher, and one of the most devoted families in the congregation is a beautiful family whose son has autism.  The issue is close to their hearts.

Being that my passion has long been the issue of sexual violence, I have dreamed of finding a church who was committed to working on the issue.

See, it was my work in Women’s and Gender studies that led me to God.  I was driven into the area of study by personal experience and a motivation to change the world.  The passion to do this work has been powerful and unyielding.  It is the very reason I titled this blog “Incurable Hope.”  Because the issue of sexual violence feels hopeless, but the glimmer of a hope that things can be changed is the only thing that has kept me going all along, even when I wanted to give up.  I could have easily given up on myself, but I couldn’t give up on the masses of people across the world whose lives are devastated by such violence.  There were times when I felt like one of the only people who cared about it.  I grew overwhelmed, daunted, and weary.  I was in a perpetual tug-of-war between letting go, letting go of this purpose, of this life, and of this fight; and holding on.  Just before midnight on March 27, 2011, I gave it all over to God.  I had come to the point where I wanted to quit, and I knew that faith would be the only thing that would pull me through.  It was quite a stretch.  I believed in God, but I was cynical, jaded, and bitter.  I was irritated by all this “He” talk, and I thought “God” was the hateful dude who was hatin’ on the gay folk.  I surrendered anyway, and hoped for the best.

What I have found on the other side of that commitment has been incredible.  It has not been easy, but behind all of it, I have found purpose.  I have seen grueling struggles give birth to huge life changes.  These are changes I have been craving for years, growth that I have yearned to experience.  I had been stagnant, and God had been waiting.

I had considered residential treatment, but God made it happen, with nearly 100% coverage from my insurance company, something that is incredible, and sadly, very rare.  I made plans in the months before treatment and in the weeks since, but God constantly reminds me that he has more in mind for me.  I have met people who have blessed my life.  I have heard stories that have fueled my drive and reinforced my compassion.  I have pushed through and overcome trials that can often cripple or kill people.  In short, the blessings have been numerous.

Last Sunday night, I found a home church here.  It is a different kind of church, a church focused on changing the world in a positive way… “not by making a point, but by making a difference.”  By being living examples of Christ’s love in a world that doesn’t know it.  Keep in mind that this world is not unfamiliar with that love due to a lack of churches.  Oh no, I come from a town where there are almost more churches than people.  They have had a KKK rally and a cross burning in the past couple of weeks.  Lack of churches is not the problem.  The truth is that church is completely useless if it is not conceived from the genuine nature of Christ’s love and compassion.  And how many churches do you know that are like that?

The church that I found has a ministry that is committed to working against sex trafficking, both here in the U.S. and abroad.  The moment I saw that, I knew God had led me to my church.  He led me home.  Thursday night’s service focused on impacting the world around us, being kind, lending a hand to someone in need.  Simple gestures that are huge in a cold and distant world.  It helped me realize why I had been guided here.  I have been driven to do this work, and what I found in doing it, was that I couldn’t do it alone, in fact, as Alcoholics Anonymous puts it, “No human power could…”  It is true.  Doing it alone would’ve killed me.  The world is largely unconcerned with the issue of sexual violence.  It is just too much.  I honestly believe that things can change with a sturdy spiritual foundation, with God behind the work being done.

I have been very active in AA, doing step work with a sponsor, and attending meetings regularly.  The entire concept mirrors how I came to believe.  We couldn’t do it alone.  We needed God to help us overcome.  And it is true also with other change.  I have watched women devote themselves to the work of fighting sexual violence, and drowning in the hopelessness of the issue.

What makes me laugh is that, as I reflect on my old view of this struggle, I see that I wanted to change the world.  The task seems far less daunting when I consider that it was already saved.

I don’t presume to know where things will go from here.  God’s plans for me are irrelevant until they come to fruition.  I move forward in pure faith.  I know he will not let me down.  I know he has my best interest at heart.  I know he has my back.  With that knowledge, what more do I need?  With God, all things are possible. 🙂

 

North Carolina: A Moment of Defeat in the Eternal Struggle for Righteousness

Yesterday was a sad day for many of my loved ones in North Carolina.  They went to the polls and stood for what they believed, and many glimpsed at defeat.  It is heartbreaking for me to see the words of so many who I hold dear, as I peruse through a flurry of Facebook statuses.  And still, for others, who would have remained unaffected by the outcome, no matter what it was, it feels like success.

I guess I am sort of in shock.  I have so much going on in my own life right now.  I haven’t been in NC for 6 months now.  I’ve been in Chicago, and am now hoping to settle down in San Diego.  Because of my distance at this moment, I feel helpless to do anything on the matter.  I was unable to vote, because I looked into getting an absentee ballot a week too late.  I feel immense guilt for that now.  Where was I when my brothers and sisters needed me?  I am unable to comfort, because I am on the other side of the country.  I was so certain that Amendment 1 would not pass.  Yesterday’s outcome was a blow to my naivety.

I look at the results of yesterday’s election with a careful eye.  Honestly, I have many friends on both sides of the vote.  I consider myself a follower of Christ.  My goal is to live my life as God’s love leads, and I humbly acknowledge that I am capable of very little without Christ as my foundation.  Jesus Christ is the only thing that was capable of turning my life around completely.  For that I am grateful, and my heart is for my God who saved my life.

Looking at the election yesterday, from a distance, I felt two distinct things from both sides.  From the side that was defeated, I sensed undying hope and the painful twinge of heartache.  From the side that won, I felt spite.  At the end of the day, I understand why people vote according to religious beliefs, but I do not understand why legislation is proposed from religious beliefs.  Suggesting we pass legislation based on the beliefs of some, is to assume that we should all believe the same.  I refuse to become a person who points a finger in someone’s direction and insist I know more than they.  I am no better and no worse than anyone else.  Was Christ the thing that changed my life?  Absolutely.  Is He the thing that will change yours?  Well, as long as He is represented as a hateful, judgmental God, I fear that any change Christians bring to the lives of others will be negative.  The point of evangelism, whether some realize it or not, is to bring people closer to Christ, NOT push them away.

How can I look at my loved ones, and tell them that I love this God that supposedly disdains them for loving differently?  This God that so many are misrepresenting?  Right now, I will stand up for what I believe.  When I looked around and saw people representing an hateful God, I refused to know that God.  What my final change of heart came down to was finally meeting people who put all judgments aside, and wanted to show me Christ’s love.  They welcomed me with open arms and assured me that in God’s embrace, I would be safe and loved UNCONDITIONALLY.  They assured me that even when people let me down, God would have my back.  That has been my experience of God.  That is the God that I have fallen in love with and put all of my faith in.

I feel a sense of anguish permeating across state lines, and into my own heart.  This decision affects me, because it affects so many that love.  It affects us in so many ways.  When they get angry at the false representation of God, I get defensive.  I want them to know that I worship a loving God.  When their hearts are breaking from the invalidation of a state of over 9 million people, who assume to know more about love than they, my heart also breaks.  I’ve called North Carolina my home for 28 years, and I can no longer defend it.

From my more religiously fervent friends, I sense a war-like pride for the outcome.  I know that the matter was important to their beliefs, but I don’t understand how it affects them either way.  If their side had lost, their lives would move forward, unaffected.

For the rest of my friends, this matter is deeply personal.  It is a blow to everything they were ever taught about this country.  I remember the adamant lesson in school, that this was the land of the free.  Today, I want to ask, “free for who?”  Free for the Christians, but only the Christians?  Free for the straight people, but only the straight people?  How is freedom free, if it only applies to certain groups?  True freedom allows all to be free to enjoy the same rights to loving and living.  True freedom makes room for believing differently, and allowing those differences, not making decisions for all based on the beliefs of some.  Freedom does not impede on the rights of others.  Freedom leaves everyone in victory.  No one should lose from freedom.  All should gain.  If ever freedom is acted on, to the detriment of others, it is not truly freedom.  It is masquerade of freedom.  It is a facade.

The same can be said of those who hide behind the cross, hurling judgments from behind the name of Christ.  Christ did not judge.  Christ sat with the outcasts, the people thought most low, and shared meals with them.  He got to know them, and loved them.  When their hearts ached, His heart ached.  It was in His love that they found true freedom.  It was through that love that they drew closer to Him.  Anything that drives people from Christ’s love is simply a masquerade, a misrepresentation of all that Christ was and still is.

This isn’t an issue of sex, who is sleeping with who.  This is an issue of love.  You’re not tearing apart humping animals with this decision, NC.  You’re trying to force a division between people whose hearts are fragile and full of love.  You’re trying to pull apart people who have been lovingly devoted to each other for years.  You’re trying to destroy bonds that have lasted longer than most heterosexual marriages ever make it.  You’re deciding that someone else’s personal matters do not live up to your expectations.  Well, maybe your’s don’t live up to mine, but I don’t try to intervene.  I will not propose legislation that says you cannot live your life that way anymore.  I simply look at you, smile, pray for you, and offer you my love.  I offer you the unconditional love that I now know through Christ.  I will not shake my finger at you for judging, but my heart hurts for you.  How lonely of a place it must be to think you know Christ without knowing His unconditional love.  It must be really empty there.  If your God has no room for gay people, what on earth makes you think that same God has room for you?

I am not perfect, but as I am starting to live my life out in recovery and in Christ, I am better able to clearly see my imperfections.  I see the parts of my life where I fell short.  In faith, I believe that admitting my shortcomings and mistakes is all I that I can do.  The rest is in God’s hands.  Whether you call it “repenting your sins” or “becoming willing to make amends” I am doing that work constantly.  I can look back over my life and know that if God has room in his heart for me, then he has room in his heart for all of us.

From both sides, there is a lesson.  If you think that being gay is wrong, you have to keep in mind that we are ALL God’s children even despite our flaws.  And keep loving.  If you think that being hateful and judgmental is wrong, keep in mind the words of Christ as he was dying, “Forgive them father, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34),  and keep loving.

For my friends out there, who are aching from yesterday’s decision, press on.  In Genesis, when Moses was trying to win a battle against the Amalekites, Aaron and Hur held up his arms, so he could keep going.  If all I can do from California, is to offer encouragement, then I hope my words will lift your arms a little higher.  When you take to the streets to protest, please know that even in my absence, I am there with you.

In Mark 12:3o-31, Jesus sums up all he had set out to teach with this message:  Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  The second message was: love your neighbor as yourself.  He said that there was “NO OTHER COMMANDMENT greater than these.”  Just as important as loving your God, is loving your fellow human beings.  Ask yourself if you would put the same restrictions on yourself.  Remind yourself that there are NO commandments greater than loving God and His people.

I am sending my love to North Carolina today, because I cannot think of a day when they have needed to more.  For those suffering and those judging, I offer my prayers and my love.  For those who are loving, keep on loving.  Maybe eventually, the haters will learn a thing or two from you.

You Intended to Harm Me

April is sexual assault awareness month.  I have a group of friends, who are all survivors, who live all across North America.  We keep in touch and share our struggles with and fight against the issue of sexual violence.  This month, we’ve decided to share each other’s blogs as we post about S.A.A.M. and what it means for us.  One of those friends/survivors is Sheena.  Here is her Facebook page.  Here is her blog.  She sent me interview questions, which I answered, and decided to share on my own blog.

Before I get to the questions, I want to share the shirt that I made last night, as a part of a survivors group.  It is for the clothesline project.  You can find out more about The Clothesline Project here.  It was started as a grassroots effort to give survivors the forum to speak about their experiences as an aid in the prevention of and awareness around violence against women.  Survivors are encouraged to make t-shirts conveying their “testimony to the problem of violence against women.”  As I watched women all around me, I tried to think of what I wanted to say in regards to the issue.  I wanted to express my pain and anger, but I also wanted to share my hope that we have the power to turn things around.  I drew an image of a bird coming out of a heart, but the words continued to evade me.  Then a bible verse popped into my head.  It is Genesis 50:20 and it says: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  I think it adequately expresses the fact that we have the power to turn around what has been done to us and stop the cycle, a theme that was common as I answered the interview questions from Sheena.  Here is a picture of my shirt:

Ok, and now for the interview!!! Enjoy:

1.   Who are you?

Noelle: Freelance Writer, Future Banjo Prodigy, Recovering Addict, Self-Proclaimed Rock Star, Christian Feminist Slam Poet, Survivor

2.   Does Sexual Assault Awareness month and Childhood Sexual Abuse Prevention Month hold any significant meaning to you? If so, why?

Yes, because I’ve experienced both and I think they are both completely unacceptable and unacceptably quiet experiences in the lives of far too many people.

3.   What is your story?

TBA  😀

4.   According to some statistics, very few people report abuse & assault crimes. Why do you think that is?

Because our legal and medical systems, as well as our entire society as a larger whole pressures those who experience such violence to stay silent.  Often times this pressure is carried out in the form of shaming and further abuse of victims.

5.   Do you think abusers, rapist, molesters, pedophiles and the likes can be reformed, healed or changed?

I think anything is possible.  Ask me if it is likely, and I will say no.

6.   What do you want others to understand about those who have been victimized?

That such violence is completely unacceptable.  That victims receive little to no support after such acts are committed.  That our culture allows and even endorses sexually violent behavior, and that it is EVERYONE’s responsibility to start examining the way we live and making a genuine and vigorous effort to change.  And that such violence is devastating in the lives of victims, but with support and dedication, such violence can be overcome.

7.   What’s been the most difficult thing to deal with as it relates to what you’ve experienced?

The most difficult part of my experience to deal with is how I was treated after I was victimized.  Again and again, I was either completely ignored or simply not believed.  I was belittled, accused, ignored, and silenced, not only by the legal system, but by my loved ones.

8.  How have you dealt with your own personal rage at the traumatic things that have happened to you?

Honestly… I haven’t.  I’m still working on simply allowing myself to feel the rage, because I spent my entire life trying not to feel any of it.  Whenever I do feel rage, I want to sit with it, embrace it, and express it.  I feel like I deserve that.

9.   What was an unexpected thing that aided in your growth and healing?

God.  It was very hard for me to get past the idea of God as a man, or that God had allowed these things to happen.  I was angry and full of blame.  What I realized was that I was misunderstanding God.  I had always listened to what others believed God was, and I didn’t like what they had to say, but I lived with that God for a long time.  Now, I realize that God is more personal than that.  God isn’t some giant angry white dude in the sky with a long beard.  I see God in a way that comforts me.  I also had to make the distinction that God and people are two different things.  People have free will.  People f*ck up, in major ways.  God doesn’t hurt us, God is there to comfort us when people have.

10.   What encouraging words do you have to offer for anyone who has ever been abused or assault?

Keep going.  Don’t give up.  We have the power to change things.  What happened was unacceptable and inexcusable.  Allow yourself to feel, and remember that everything you feel is valid.  Trust yourself.  This doesn’t have to break you.

11.   What have you learned considering your experiences?

Too much to write here.  So much.

12.   What do you think is the most important thing the world needs to hear?

We hold the power to turn things around.

13.   What brings you ultimate joy?

My future.  My nephew.  God.  My dog.  😀

14.   What’s your favorite quote?

“Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”  -Dorothy Bernard

15.   Who inspires you? Why?

My sister, because she taught me to question authority, and that you can make your own family without recreating the mistakes of your parents.

16.   Is there anything else you’d like to share? This is your space to say whatever you want to say unedited, unscripted and without any filters.

To Be Continued… 🙂