Current Events

What is God Telling You Right Now?

I have an assignment to write about what God is telling me, what God is saying to me right now. Honestly, more often than not, I have no idea. Probably because I listen to myself more than I listen to God. I have a constant narrative of selfish chaos running on loop in my brain.

For those who don’t speak Christianese, there’s this prayer saying that you hear a lot among Christ followers. “Break my heart for what breaks Yours.” Basically, we want to know what breaks God’s heart. We want to know how things going on in the world feel to God. I have prayed that prayer often.

See, sometimes people say “God hates ________.” This drives me crazy. I adamantly believe that God cannot, will not, does not hate. At all. God is love. Love can’t hate. Hate is a very strong word, and doesn’t belong in the same sentence with the word “God” unless there is a negative between the two. But sure, there is a lot in our world that HURTS God. How can there not be? God loves us so, and yet we do many awful things, the worst of which are done in the name of God.

I think a lot of “Christians” listen to themselves when it comes down to the truth about homosexuality. They’ve read the bible, and whatever trivial rules they overlook, they always highlight what it says about the issue. But when it really comes down to it, they don’t see LGBT people as human beings. They think it is a sin, and instead of seeing a human being, they see a sin. Nevermind the fact that if we were going to be going around calling people out by their sin, they wouldn’t be human beings either. 

I try to understand it, but I believe I can’t. I believe that God has placed an ache in my heart for the matter. I believe the way people treat LGBT in the name of God breaks God’s heart. We are ALL God’s children. Yes, of course, that means our LGBT brothers and sisters, but it also means the bigoted haters too.

I don’t know what God wants me to do with this knowledge. Feels quite useless, and quite frankly painful. I can’t handle the state of our world right now. In the U.S. we are quickly reverting back to the pre-civil rights movement days. And in the world as a whole, we are seeing treatment of gays that is reminiscent of the ways Jews were treated in the beginning of the holocaust. Why would any of us want to go back to that?

I’ll tell you why, because people make assumptions too much about what God is telling them. People listen to what they are told, or what comes up in their brains, and they honor it. No matter how it makes others feel, they honor it.

I want you to know that there are a large number of God’s children hurting on this planet, and there are a great many of God’s “followers” perpetuating that pain. And as much as either side sees the other as not being human beings, the fact is that they are. The fact is that both sides are just following their hearts.

I do not believe that it is okay, for any reason, to make someone feel, or to treat someone as though they are less than you. You do not know when the day will come when the shoe is on the other foot, when that will be you being thought of as less-than. As long as we’re quoting the bible, remember that it says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” (Matthew 25:40)

So, as long as your making any human being feel less than, you best heed their concerns of maltreatment. For however you treat them, is how you are treating your God.

And quit telling yourself that you are treating them with love. You are not. They do not feel loved by you. I can guarantee you, that is the last thing they feel.

So, what is God telling me right now? What God is telling me right now, is that God is hurting. That these things hurt God. And I believe that the magnitude of God’s pain far exceeds mine, but this pain is breaking me.

Now, what is He telling me to do about that? I have no idea. Because the situation feels, quite frankly, hopeless. I don’t feel like there’s anything I can do about it. Surely, there is something God could do about it, but short of intervening upon free-will, I haven’t a clue. So, I’ll just keep going on in my daily life, waiting for some great revelation about how to fix the world’s problems.

You take that whatever way you will. I’m pretty sure that this post will piss off either side in one way or another, so I actually hope no one reads it.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Do You Care?

Sexual Assault.  Do you have to go through it to care about it?

This question always arises for me every April.  I have a lot of friends who know someone with autism, and thus, support Autism Awareness month, which also happens to be April.  This year, I see that friends who know someone who’ve benefited from an organ transplant supporting organ donation.  April is also Organ Donation Awareness month.  What simultaneously inspires and disheartens me is the fact that these people know someone who have been through these things, so they support these causes.  Every one of these people, and the other 400 people on my Facebook page, know at least one person who has been sexually assaulted: me.  And yet, the only people I see supporting this cause are the people who have themselves lived through such violence.

Sexual_assault_awareness

I think this is a huge problem in our culture.  “As long as I haven’t been raped, then who cares?”  Right?  Why do I continuously find that the only people driven to stop sexual violence are those who have personally lived through it?  Is it really that hard to imagine how awful it is if you haven’t experienced it?  Do you really not care that much about the women and men in your life who have been victimized by sexual predators?

I think a lot of it has to do with the silence surrounding the issue, because it sure as hell isn’t the lack of prevalence.   1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18.   (Finkelhor, David, et al. “Sexual Abuse in a National Survey of Adult Men and Women: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Risk Factors.”)  Are you really going to tell me that you don’t know at least 4 women or 6 men?

No, a lot of it has to do with our silence around the issue.  Anything sexual is taboo.  You know, as long as it isn’t sexual imagery in time square, music videos, magazines, television, movies, or books.  From Fifty Shades of Grey to Abercrombie ads, sexuality is everywhere.  However, when it comes to sexual violence, we best not talk about it.  Virgin ears, and all.

abercrombie

Or maybe it is the violence part of it.  Although, I recently saw Olympus has Fallen, and it suggests Americans have an endless thirst for blood.  What’s a movie without a good knife through the head, eh?

Nah, it is just the careful combination of sexual and violence that sends people fleeing in a frenzy.

Let me be frank, you know someone, nay, you know A LOT of someones who have been sexually assaulted in their lives.  Not convinced?  Start asking around.  Your eyes might just open.  It is likely that your between your daughter, sister, best friend, mother, aunt, or cousin, at least one has been sexually assaulted.

What then is our problem with talking about it?

I venture to guess that this culture of victim-baming has a lot to do with it.  As most recently displayed in the Steubenville rape case, which has brought out the Ugly and the Brave around the issue of victim-blaming.  Keep her full of shame = Keep her silent = Let’s just pretend this stuff never happens = No one cares about Sexual Assault Awareness month, except for survivors of sexual assault.

Maybe I am being blunt, but I am personally insulted by the lack of interest around the issue.  And I expect a few more people to be displaying their teal ribbons after today.

Let me tell you, from personal experience, about the residual effects of trauma.  After it happened, I could barely sleep.  I stayed awake, alarmed by any small sound in the night.  I never felt safe.  I have yet to be able to trust men.  I have flashbacks, that feel as though I am reliving the trauma over again.  Therefore, I relive it over and over again.  My startle reflex is incredibly sensitive.  When I went to see Olympus has Fallen, I was jerking repeatedly, startled by the loud sounds.  Even a shadow on my computer screen makes me jump.  Whenever I am put into a vulnerable situation, I get disoriented and overwhelmed.  My pupils dilate, and I become sensitive to sounds.  Walking to my car in a parking lot at night, for example.  I avoid situations which might trigger these effects, such as: being around men, being by myself outside, being intimate with someone, or alone at night.  It has been years, and I am still working to undo the harm done.

I’m not saying I am not living a fulfilling life.  What I am saying is that it has taken years of hard work to get to where I can.  And what I want to impress upon you is that my case is lucky.  I’ve had a lot of resources that most people never have.  Such violence haunts a lot of people till the day they die.  It breaks their souls.  And mending a soul isn’t easy.  And even when mended, there will always be scars.

That is all I’m trying to say.  Sexual violence is an issue worth caring about.

controls our lives

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

Surviving Elementary School

“Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth.”           ~Susan Taylor

I don’t typically watch the news.  I have a computer and a T.V. without cable, or even basic access.  I stick to Netflix, and I get my teeny bit of “news” from Philip Defranco, on YouTube.  That’s about as much as I can take.  In 2009, I had a therapist tell me to stop watching the news.  I took her advice.  I had, at the time, become overwhelmed, baffled, and distraught over the Shaniya Davis story.

I couldn’t understand how, someone could do that to their daughter.  I couldn’t understand how someone could do those things to a 5 year old.  I was starting to drown in a sea of headlines and news reports of just how evil this world is.

And it is true.  This world can be a very evil place.

I have spent a good chunk of the past few years overwhelmed by an issue that the rest of the world seems underwhelmed about: sexual violence.  Such violence is beyond an epidemic in our world, and repeatedly, our response is victim blaming, and sweeping it under the rug.  It makes me cringe to know that 1 our of 4 girls, and 1 out of 6 boys will be the victims of sexual abuse by the age of 18.  How do people walk around in their own little bubbles, oblivious of something so heinous?

I don’t know, they just do.

In some of the work I have done, I have teamed with people who had similar experience and ambition, wanting to do something on the matter.  What have I found?  That there are victims out there working toward solving a problem, without even having dealt with the issue in their own lives.  It is like someone with a still gaping and bloody bullet wound trying to fight for gun control.

First, you need to address your own trauma.

The hard part is, no one else is stepping forward to solve the issue.  All of those people who’ve never had to suffer through the trauma have no interest in dealing with something so dark and ugly.

This is just what I have found.

**********

I look around me, and I see people becoming passionately driven about the issue of guns and asking themselves, “what could of we have done to prevent the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012?”

I would never venture to claim that this question is not important, pertinent, or should not be asked.  I do, however, think that it is too soon to be torn apart by these issues.  Our hearts are still breaking from what happened, and the details that continue to unfold.  Our stomachs are still twisted by what the children of Sandy Hook must’ve witnessed that day.  Chills are still shooting down our spines to imagine what evil it takes to commit such an act.

How have we allowed this to lead to a divide?  What the survivors need right now, is a community to come together in support around them.  They certainly have a long, tough road ahead of them.

Repeatedly, through the past several years we have witnessed tragedy and allowed it to, even for a short time, bring us together in mourning and solidarity.  For the first time in my life, I have witnessed the opposite happen.  That is what breaks my heart now.

I think ALL of us will agree that something has to be done to attempt to prevent these massacres from happening again, no matter what side you’re on.  What that “something” looks like will start to materialize as we work on the matter.  I trust that.

At this point, I don’t care what that “something” is just yet.  I am still far too stricken with grief to start thinking strategy.  Am I alone in this?

U

I look at the faces of the victims, and my throat starts to tense.  I hear their stories, and my eyes are filled with tears.  I cannot look at December 14th with a hard heart.  I find peace in my belief that these children are safe and happy now.  I find strength in the stories of heroism in the adults that fought for these kids with their very lives.

I remember too, those who survived, and I give them this message: you can overcome your trauma and live a fulfilling life.  This may be a struggle, but it does not have to defeat you.  This dark moment in your lives can become a place of strength, and a place of motivation.  You are in the thoughts and prayers of so many, and we will still have your hands when the heavy realization hits you of just how blessed you are to have faced and survived a trial that many will never even have to face.

To the rest of us, I say: stand down.  This is not a fight.  We are worn and we are weary.  We have faced far too much as a country this year.  Yes, we must address this issue, but please, for God’s sake, can we take a moment to grieve first?

**********

To all of us, I plead:  Do not let this destroy us.  We will march forward and we will advocate for the changes necessary to prevent such tragedy in the future, but first allow yourselves to grieve.  Before you stand up to fight, address your own trauma.  Make sure that when your time comes, when your voice rises, that you are in a place where you are strong enough to argue your side.  So many times, I have seen angels fall short here, and lose the drive to carry on.  We can heal.  We can overcome.  But first, we must grieve.

A heart must finish breaking before you can begin to mend it.

It is true that this world can be an evil place, but what is also true is that each of us has the ability to contribute to the good.  If you are going to pour fervently into this world, be sure that what you are pouring is positive.

mended heart

Resources:

Post Traumatic Growth

NY Times PTSD Article

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.

Back to Black: One’s Rock Bottom Can Be Another’s U-Turn

I recently watched seasons 1-5 of “Weeds” on Netflix streaming.  SPOILER ALERT: When U-Turn dies and Nancy gets a U-Turn sign tattooed on her ass, I was inspired.  I actually considered doing the same.  It just seemed like a funny message, and a clever/convenient double entendre.  Similarly, I’ve always been moved and energized by the (now classic) “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake.  You knowHere I go again on my own! Going down the only road I’ve ever known! Like a drifter, I was born to walk alone… You get the point, there’s a lot to be said for travel euphemisms?  I don’t know. I figured I should start my first post in a while with something nonchalant and silly.  But the truth is, I’m writing tonight because of a realization I had today.  I figured, at this point, if I have an audience, I don’t know who they are, and I’m a lot less concerned about that. I don’t have an agenda, besides telling my story.  For a moment there, I got so caught up in delivering a hopeful message, and doing it a certain way, that I lost myself, and stopped writing.

This morning, singer Amy Winehouse was found dead.  The rumor is that an overdose is what finally did her in, at the ripe ol’ age of 27.  It startled me for a second when I realized she was 27, and then saw her birth year.  I’m 27.  I too, was born in 1983.  We all know the rock star references that are made here… Jimi, Janis, Jim, Kurt, etc.  I’m no rock star, but I’ve been calling myself one for about a year now.  I grew a little worried after proclaiming such a title and then realizing my age.  My blog before this one was called “Musings of a Self-Proclaimed Rock Star.”  It was amusing, but also cathartic, and often raw.  I’ve decided to make it public again and you can find it.  Even since closing the blog, I’ve been tweeting under the name @RockStarMusisings.  Yes, I’m coming out.  I’ve come to realize you either hide nothing, or you hide it all.  Hiding shit is far too much work, and I’m far too lazy to work that hard to keep other people comfortable.

Amy’s death jolted me into this moment in a way nothing else has.  I read the parts of Russell Brand’s blog post on her, that were shared on msnbc.com, and I realized that Winehouse and I have a lot in common.  As for addictions, mine have come and gone, and the only one that has ever REALLY threatened my life, is food.  Mainly because cocaine is expensive; alcohol can be miserable; and sex become tedious.  Man!  Whew!  I had forgotten how refreshing honesty can be.

All that aside, I felt like Brand was really making an appeal to non-addicts to realize that addiction is a serious illness that kills people, and otherwise saying little about Winehouse besides the fact that she was distant, and a genius that we only saw at a glimpse.  Now, I know you’re wondering where I am in that description, but I’ll elaborate.  I don’t think I am a genius, but even now, it breaks my heart to realize that I, much like Winehouse, have  held the world at such a distance that if I died, the world wouldn’t realize what it had lost.  I agree with Brand.  I think Amy Winehouse was incredible, and the media reveled in her slow demise, and mostly missed the light that she brought to the world.  And this is our world.  It is shitty.  But what hurts me about what we have lost with the death of Amy Winehouse, is that we have no idea.  That sultry voice, that deeply rich, dark soul.  She had such a wealth within her, and we will never get to know it.  We can joke all we want.  When I first heard of her death, I blah blah blahed about who was next, Lindsay or Charlie.  But Amy wasn’t just another troubled soul, and musical genius aside, she was a human being.

I’ve heard through social networking that Amy’s mom commented about making mental preparations for this day, knowing it would (or thinking it might) come.  This takes me back to the days after my suicide attempt, when my mother was staying with me.  During a heated argument one day, she admitted that it is hard to move forward, and stay involved, because on some level she knew I would do it again, and I might just be successful next time.  She voiced to me that her distance was an attempt to keep herself safe, and to cope with that remaining chance that I won’t survive.  As inexcusable as that may be to many of you out there, who have no idea, I understand it.  Amy probably understood that.  As much as she probably wanted to be sober, and not let herself and her loved ones down over and over again, she probably understood their distance.  She probably knew that they had to keep themselves safe.

Tonight I was reflecting on addiction and I realized that it is a thin line between giving up on, sticking by, and enabling an addict.  You have to love them unconditionally, but you have to set boundaries.  You have to draw a line, but you have to let them know that you always want what’s best.  I know that a lot of times, to an addict it looks like loved ones are walking away, when in reality, they’re doing all that they can to save the addict’s life, and maintain their own sanity/safety.

I was truly blessed to have dodged hard addictions, but as I type this, I’m sitting in a chair in the corner of my room, next to a stain on my wall.  The stain is from my last suicide attempt, and the vomit left behind.  My walls are a pale purple, but around the stain, you can see an aura of pale blue, where friends came and tried to wipe away the evidence before I got out of the hospital.

I get that Amy Winehouse was one of those whose death was “bound to happen,” out of all of us… I get that.  But I also agree with Russell Brand: She didn’t have to be.  I know there is a misunderstanding about artists.  Most people think that your best work is done while you’re in the pits of despair, but one can only survive down there so long.  I get that you can’t enable, but I wonder who was fighting for her.  From where I’m sitting, there were jokes about her condition, just as there continue to be, but little else.  Of course, I don’t know about her personal life, but usually the people who are consistently surrounding an addict, are also addicts.  Generally speaking, addicts, when battling head-to-head with their condition, have one priority, the drug.  All others are simply extras in the movie reel of their lives, just background music.  Life isn’t lived as a series of moments, goals, accomplishments… life is composed of getting high, and the plans that you devise between highs to achieve the next high.  Funny how something so simple can completely consume you.

So, I’m not a musical genius.  So, I’m not in the public eye.  So, I’m not wealthy or producing records that are going platinum, or performing in front of thousands.  So, I’m not hooked on heroin.  So, I’m not caught by the paparazzi, wandering the streets at night, disheveled and distraught.  Do I need to be?  Frankly, I feel that this world knows more of me than it did of her, despite her fame and notoriety.  She was a ghost to us, and now the presence that we felt subtly, though oft ignored, is gone.  Will we realize the void, no matter how quiet, that remains in her absence?  Perhaps, not.  But this little earthquake that has left me thinking, and sometimes speaking out loud, to myself and those around me, “I can’t believe Amy Winehouse is dead,” perhaps there is something to be said for that.  I believe it is possible for our souls to ache for something that we don’t even realize that we’ve lost.  When someone accomplishes so far below their potential, we all lose something very great, especially in the way of art, which can inspire us so deeply and undoubtedly change the world.

I am 27.  For so long, but especially so over the past few months, I have held the world at a distance.  I am uncertain of why.  I suppose it is mostly out of fear.  There is always the fear of what people will think, and fear of failure.  As a survivor of sexual violence, there is also a fear of being revicitimized.  We fear trying, but not reaching our potential.  And to the contrary, there is a fear of reaching your potential and being disappointed.  I’ve feared losing people, only to push them away in the end anyway.  There is a fear of living, and all that “living” entails.  The rush of love, and the pain of loss; two things that, as hard as we try to force them apart, are always packaged together.  And there is a lot of pain, and certainly plenty of loss to be experienced out there.  People leave because they want to, or leave because time rips them away from us.  There are stubbed toes, broken bones, burns, cuts, and bruises.  There’s rejection, and dismay.  There’s fear.  Oh!  The crippling fear.  It all comes full circle.

I realize now that there are people out there, who are so gifted, constantly stuffing down their potential, for whatever reason.  I imagine Amy had something inside of her that haunted her.  It could’ve been huge, or just a twinge of pain that she couldn’t stand to feel.  She wanted to shut it up, numb it out, or kill it.  And eventually she succeeded, but for that, what did she lose?  And on a universal level, what have we lost?  Another little bit of hope that could’ve inspired the next step in improving this damned world?  Perhaps it was her voice on a tattered CD out there, that was playing on repeat for the kid who would grow up to do something great for this world, simply because her voice kept her/him going.  What voice will that kid hear now?  Or maybe Winehouse’s voice was the last of its kind, an endangered soulful echo that has now become extinct; and because of our blatant  lack of appreciation, the voices of generations to come will resemble that of Ke$ha or Rebecca Black. Dear God, the horror.

I understand that there are parts of my spirit that ache, but I’m willing to withstand it for the sake of something good.  If I have anything to offer, no matter how great or small, I do not feel it is my right to destroy any remnants of hope this world may have.  For all the fear, for all the pain, I have to believe that there is purpose.

Do I believe that there’s a reason that I (or any other troubled talents out there) am alive and she isn’t?  Well, besides the fact that heroin is like playing russian roulette with a nearly fully loaded gun, no.  Eating yourself to death takes more time.  I attribute my failure to stick with addictions to a short attention span, an empty wallet, the fact that I’m easily bored, and a fear of commitment.  In the grand scheme of things though, she and I have both toyed with our mortality, and any way you look at it, the game can only end one way.  When the game is over, one fact becomes blazingly obvious, there was a human being who is now gone.  On top of that, she was a human being who held a wealth of talent, the depth of which we can never know.  I think that’s what frightens me the most.  If I have more to offer, as I believe I do, it is scary to think that being entangled in fear and doubt could stifle that gift.  I too, could die without having shared of myself, or utilized my opportunity to contribute goodness to this desperate world.

We all have the potential to offer beauty to this world; in the end the big question is whether we will fight it or let it flourish.  I’d like to think that this realization is a bit of something good coming from tragedy, but I suppose only time will tell.  It is nice to believe that every screeching halt in one life’s potential, can cause a u-turn in another.  If someone was headed towards an early end, another sudden silencing of greatness, maybe Amy can be a reminder that there are other options, and so much more to see along life’s detours.

My deepest prayer for you, Ms. Winehouse, is that somewhere out there, you’ve been blessed with a peace that you never managed to discover on earth.  And if you’re down, I’m hoping that even on your cloud, you’ll still step up to the mic from time to time.

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“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you… It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

~Marianne Williamson

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