Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
There are things you should know about my dad. He has a pretty intense relationship with power tools and tool shows (Its deep and its real). He is probably one of the hardest working people I have ever met. He's not terribly funny but his efforts are hilarious. So are his attempts at fashion. He also carries around a lot of pain.
Overall, I'd say my dad has been a pretty good dad. Much better than what he had for an example. My dad is somewhere in the middle of 8 kids, 2 of which are no longer with us. His father was an abusive alcoholic. I won't go into the terrors of it all, but let's just say he was more monster than man. He died when my dad was a teenager.
What a terribly confusing and heart breaking thing to go through. I mean, there is probably part of you that is relieved to finally be rid of the horror. But even a terrible dad is better than no dad to a teenage boy careening into manhood. I can't imagine. I just can't even imagine.
All this trauma had a profound affect on them all. It still does. He won't talk about it much. I know all of this mostly due to conversations with my mom and a handful of comments my dad has made. There was a lot of anger written on those words. There was a lot of anger trapped inside the man that raised me. He tried so hard. I know he did. It was just hard to be something he had no idea how to be. He never beat me. Or, God forbid, did anything else to me. But his anger could be terrifying and would come out of nowhere sometimes. Now I won't lie and say I was an angel. I'm sure there are many times I would have wanted to strangle me too, not that he ever even remotely tried.
I was daddy's little girl when I was little. He was my hero and I, his princess. But sadly, all that anger can build a pretty tall wall between 2 people. Before I knew it we were strangers and I hated him for it. Wow...I hated him so much for it. I found myself exactly in his same position. A teenager and fatherless. I did all the cliche things girls with daddy issues do. He went on with working, I'm sure clueless as to what to do with this ball of raging hormones and attitude. We both just kept on this silent dance of only saying what we must, careful not to touch that hot button that would crumble our facade. This carried on for years.
Now I knew that he loved me. At least, I heard him when he told me so. He and my mom split up for a bit my junior year. Anger was killing that too. He moved in with 2 of his brothers a few towns away. He would come over and mow our lawn and bring us groceries often. He was in so much pain. You could see it in his face, his shoulders. He had failed at the one thing that was holding him together, his family. He would just look at me and cry.
"You are so beautiful. I love you so much."
It will kill me till the day that I die that at the time I didn't believe him. I was too angry. In my eyes, he had been gone for a long time and he needed to just stay that way. I was just so angry. I carried this anger long into my adulthood. I was much better at hiding it though. I was even beginning to fool myself. I buried it deep. My parents had gotten back together in my senior year of high school. I guess I figured I better make the best of it since I was stuck with him. We fought from time to time, but I pretty much kept my distance and learned the dance.
Somewhere in my mid-twenties I moved to South Carolina. It was my first big adventure away from home. I became part of a ministry called the Cause USA. It was amazing. God did so much in my heart, my life, that year. I was coming to terms with the fact that this Father, the one in heaven, was nothing like my real one. He was so loving and forgiving. Not this hard, angry dictator. And as I accepted this loving Father gladly into my life, I began to harden my heart ti my earthly one even more. I crucified him in comparisons.
I had been having a particularly crazy day with the Lord. Its like we were sitting down for coffee and He was spilling all his secrets....but He had been drinking a few shots of espresso so they were coming in more of a downpour than a spill. About midday, I was sitting on a grassy hill on the edge of the parking lot of our ministry base, talking with a friend. I was telling her all this crazy revelation the Lord had been giving me. When I finished, We headed down the hill towards the parking lot. As soon as my foot hit the pavement, I was stopped dead in my tracks with this vision of my dad's face. Now forgive me, Lord, for paraphrasing...its been a few years, but this is essentially what the Lord said:
"You know, he could have been the kind of father he had. He was many things but he wasn't that. He didn't beat you. He never drank. He always asked you to go places with him when you were little, even if it was just down the street. He bought you "just because" presents. He killed himself trying to provide for you. Remember your junior year? He mowed your lawn even though he'd moved out . He bought you groceries. Paid your rent. He cried over you. He tried so hard to be more. Do you not see that was me loving you? You need to forgive him. He did his best. He's hurting too."
Right then and there I dropped to my knees and sobbed. Sobbed and repented. I immediately went back to my dorm and wrote him a letter, telling him I forgave him and I was sorry. And I meant every word of it. I asked my mom about it later and she said when he opened it, he said, "Well what in the world did I ever do to deserve that?"
I've been thinking a lot about fathers lately. I'm not sure why. Just have. I've been thinking about how so many people I know have a similar story as mine. Or worse. My dad's. I've been thinking about how sad it is that so many people grow up without fathers or, at least, a father figure. I've been thinking a lot about how sad it is for little girls to grow up without and example of what a good man should be. To never have that security. I've been thinking a lot about how sad it is for young men to grow up without ever knowing how to be a good man. To have that leadership. Thankfully, some have figured it out on their own or maybe had an encouraging momma who fought hard for her children to be fully aware their potential. But some haven't. Some are trapped in this place of limbo, not sure who they're supposed to be but knowing whatever it is, they're not it. So sad. So angry. Then they become parents and in some way, the cycle continues. And continues. And continues.
I'm so grateful Jesus found me on that hill and opened eyes. He broke the the cycle. I can only pray, if this is your story, He will open your eyes too. And your heart. That he will breathe forgiveness in your nostrils and it will blow through your soul. Everything it lands on, made whole again. I can only pray that with what love the Father has loved you, you can turn that love into a bridge between warring nations. I can only pray you won't stay trapped in the hate that has forged generations of angry, broken people creating angry broken people. See the man, not the monster. The broken, hurting man. You don't have to carry this anymore. You are not fatherless.
I pray and that an army of fathers would rise up. Men of God, armed with love and mercy, would rise up in this nation. That you would use them to release the captives of a fatherless generation. Break the cycles. Throughout the Bible, we see you raise up father after father to lead your lost and broken people to a higher ground. You laid that burden on your son, Jesus, Father of the fatherless. You are the father of all. Jesus, let the men rise up, let them be your hands and feet. Let them be a physical representation of what your heart already speaks of, unconditional love. Let them be true leaders. Men who love your word and are humble in heart. Place the lonely in families. Heal hearts. Melt them like wax. Reclaim this generation and the generations to come as fully yours. Break of all the false identities placed on men and this curses spoken over them. Let the women of church call them forth into their rightful places. Let the women of the church release the men from their low expectations. Heal the hearts of women who have been hurt by men, especially their fathers. Help them to forgive. Help us all to love better...to love well. Restore unity. Restore families. Send the fathers Jesus. We need them. We need you.
In Jesus' Name,
Thursday, August 9, 2012
I was in the middle of my freshman year of college at the time, studying to be a teacher because it seemed like the safe and responsible thing to do. Trying to get around on crutches was miserable. I tried it for a bit but I just couldn't hack it. My classes were too spread out and driving was a pain. So I ended up missing a lot. And my foot wasn't healing well.
Eventually it healed enough that I could get off crutches but it still hurt a little. The stitches were the kind that just dissolved over time or something like that. It still hurt too much to walk around for too long. I eventually just got so behind in school, I stopped going. I was officially "kicked out" a little while later because I had missed my finals and was flunking. My foot just wouldn't stop hurting.I lost my insurance because of school, so I didn't go see anyone.
About a few months after it all happened, the wound came back open again. My foot hurt so bad. There was this weird black stuff coming out. I was terrified. I kept pushing the stuff back in ( I know...sorry this is so gross but please stay with me, I do have a point!) and bandaging it all back up. I had to do this over and over. My foot hurt so bad. So did my heart. I was so angry with God. He was wrecking all my plans.
One day my mom informed me that I had a week left still on the insurance. Feeling like a moron for not knowing this sooner, I immediately made an appointment. I forced my friend Marysa to come with me because I was terrified. I went to the appointment. The doctor said scary things like "bone infection" and surgery. Seeing how it was now Thursday and I had one day left on my insurance, this was so exciting to me (note the sarcasm). Then she took me in for an x-ray. I prayed so hard on the exam table waiting for her to take the scan.
"Lord please let it be something stupid that they can fix with a band-aid."
So after the x-ray they couldn't really find anything so she referred me to an orthopedist for the following day. I went to the appointment, Marysa in tow, praying the whole way:
"Lord please let it be something stupid that they can fix with a band-aid."
The orthopedist looks at my foot, throws around more scary medical terminology and then says, "Let just take a closer look, shall we? We may have to do surgery."
So he looks at my foot for a minute, pulls something out of the wound and then says, "Or maybe we'll just put a band-aid on it and you'll be fine by tomorrow."
Marysa and I looked at each other slightly stunned. Upon deeper inspection, the "weird black stuff" was actually a piece of my soccer sandal that had gotten left in my foot. Because of the foamy material it was made out of, it didn't show up on x-rays. I stupidly had mistaken it for tissue or some weird foot insides. Oops. My poor foot. There it was trying to heal itself and I just kept inflicting more wounding. Marysa and I just started laughing hysterically. The doctor looked at us like we were nuts.
Later on, I was telling my other friend, Therese the days events.
"Well, I got my wish. It was definitely something stupid that can be fixed with a band-aid. But I can't help wondering: why did the Lord let me go through all that crap, all that pain, just for it all to be fixed with a band-aid?"
She thought for a moment then said, "Well, I guess if it didn't hurt so much, you wouldn't have remembered it."
Sometimes in life the Lord is trying so hard to heal us and we fight so hard against it. We hold on to the very thing he's trying to remove because we're scared what will happen to us without it. We push it all back in, slap a band-aid on it and try to pretend we aren't hurting. In the end though, there is so much wisdom to it.
I'm so glad I didn't finish school (shocking, I know.) It wasn't the right path for me. This one moment, painful as it was, changed the course of my life. I went on to have so many other adventures. I'm still having them. These adventures have led to so much healing in my heart and peace in my soul. Healing that may never had happened had I carried on in my safe little world. He knew so much better than I did what was needed to find freedom. It took a little wound and some crutches to wake me up. It took a little pain to remember He is bigger than my plans.
The scar left on my foot is tiny. I cannot imagine how much worse it could have been had I had surgery. Act now, while the scarring is minimal. Let Him heal you. Let Him remove the pain. Let Him remove the unneeded element. It doesn't take surgery. It just takes your yes. His love is the band-aid. His blood the healer.
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever."
Psalm 136:1 NKJV
It happens to everyone-- somewhere, some time, you are going to be disappointed with how things go in your life. It doesn't matter how long you have been walking with the Lord, or how great your prayer life is, something is going to happen that is going to shake your hope, tempt you to be mad at the world and make you reevaluate everything you've ever hoped for. I've definitely experienced this, personally, a few times; one of the most intense times being when my father died last year. Now, keep in mind that he was older (he died when he was 85, I'm 27-- long story), and he had been sick for awhile, so it didn't necessarily come as a shock, but it still managed to catch me like a sucker-punch to the stomach. I found myself secretly feeling bitter that I lived in a house of girls who had terrible relationships with their fathers who were all well and good, while this man who I loved and who told me he loved me every day was wasting away at a hospital, and then a nursing home, and then hospice. I was also angry at how long it took, and angry at myself for essentially wishing that he would hurry up with the inevitable. I was jealous of my sister, and yet happy for her at the same time-- happy that she had gotten married and Dad had been well enough to walk her down the aisle, sad that he didn't have the strength to dance with me at the wedding and jealous that I would never experience what that was like. But I knew one thing, one thing I clung to- God is good. That experience brought me to a point where all I had was to say that God is good- that He *must* be good, regardless of this situation.
This year, I met a man, fell in love and made plans with him to be married. I learned what it meant to let go of the list I had made in my head and allow the Lord to uncover the list He had placed in my heart. This was a guy who was born and raised out in the country. He liked red meat, football and trucks, certainly not the urbane artist, the "cool guy" I had always envisioned myself with. But, He loved the Lord and desired to serve Him, he had a passion for eschatology and had a willingness to lay down his life for this First Love. He was also intelligent and well-read, and we shared a passion for nerdy like Lord of the Rings, super heroes, video games and Star Wars. The Lord taught me what it meant to be grateful for His gifts, even when they don't come packaged the way you thought they might. But we struggled. And ultimately, we decided that there were things in our hearts that aren't healthy and that need to be dealt with before we could ever marry, and so we decided to end things. It would be so easy for me to be offended at God for allowing me to be in that situation, or heaven forbid, watching another woman in the future possibly reap what I had sown into him. And if I'm honest with myself, there definitely were seeds of bitterness being strewn about this dirt I call my heart, just waiting for an opportunity to take root.
It was about this time that I listened to a teaching by a woman named Misty Edwards, from IHOP- the International House of Prayer- called, Becoming A Friend of the Bridegroom (you can listen to it here). She spoke about offense, quoting what Jesus said to John the Baptist's disciples, "And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me" (Luke 7:22-24 NKJV). The Amplified translation describes offense as being hurt, resentful, annoyed, repelled and being made to stumble. Essentially, any and all offense points back to the Lord. My resentment at my father's passing away? Guess Who it was that gave me as a daughter to an older man! Guess Who called me to join the congregation that man served in and move down the street from him? Bingo. Being free of offense at what the Lord does or doesn't do in our lives opens us up to leading happy lives, with "joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, apart from outward conditions," as the Amplified defines 'blessed'. It also says that those who have this blessing are to be envied! There is a fullness and a lightness that comes from this positioning of the heart when we remember that He works ALL THINGS to our benefit. All things. All. Things. The world is going to see this freedom in us, be touched by our joy and envy our constancy despite all outward conditions.
I'm on the worship team in the church family I belong to, and we played a song one Sunday morning that the Holy Spirit used to link these verses together for me. We all have a collective hope, knowing that one day Jesus is going to come back and make all things right. On that day He will judge with perfect justice and perfect mercy; all tongues will confess and all knees will bow-- but the good news is, that starts now for us. We get the opportunity to bow our knees and confess Him with our mouths now, we can make Him King of Kings over our life *now.* It also says in the Word that it will be His mercies that will be forever remembered, not His judgements, and guess what! That can start for us now, too! There will be moments to come where we will be tempted to get frustrated at what the Lord does or does not do, and He has given us a choice in that moment: we can either decide to be offended and made to stumble, or we can choose to remember His mercies and be blessed. Those are our only options.
It was a mercy that the Lord gave me a father who hugged me and held me, who told me he loved me every day and got weepy-eyed remembering my sister and I as babies who were precious to him. It was a mercy that my marriage and engagement plans have been suspended-- the Lord wants so much more for that relationship and has begun to show me how much I am truly worth in His eyes, and how much I deserve. I really believe that if I didn't have that freedom because of my decision to remember His mercies and forget my offense, I wouldn't be able to allow the Lord to now redeem that relationship and begin to allow this man to pursue me in a Godly manner that honors both the Lord and me. I'm not exactly sure what will happen for us in the future, but I do know that I won't be remembering heartache, only His mercy that the Lord didn't let us settle for less than His best for the both of us.
About the Author:
Alexandra Marie makes food for a living but wants to love well for a life time.
Saturday, August 4, 2012
If you have been reading my blog for any length of time now, you are well aware that I am almost 30 (in December, baby!) and single (all the single ladies...all the single ladies.) And here is the truth, I actually am very OK with this. I'm delightfully fulfilled by the Lord, his love and my wonderful life. I have great friends, work for an amazing ministry and am happy to love on anyone and everyone I meet with the love of Jesus. But after a few conversations I had with some amazing ladies this week, it got me to thinking about my relationships with men.
So here's the thing: I'm a fox hunter. True story.
I have spent so much time in my adult life drooling over cute boys, even after I became a Christian. I think they teach it to you in sixth grade.
"OK well, you have hormones now, so you should pretty much have a crush on every male in sight. Tall boy with the shaggy hair and skater shoes? Perfect. Attractive male substitute teacher? Well done. Brooding young man on the t.v. show you watch every Friday night? Here's a poster and a subscription to Teen Weekly so you can track his every waking move."
I got an A in this course.
I have talked in past posts about my adolescent fantasies over the princes in the Disney movies. It never really changed. When I officially gave my life to Jesus, ( 13 years ago August 8th. Whoot whoot!) my love for boys took on a "purer"form. I wanted my prince. The conversation over cute boys became "Oh, girl, I'm gonna marry him someday!" (apparently, I get a little hood when I talk about boys). I developed a massive crush on a classmate my senior year. ( sorry if you're reading this, but the stories gotta be told, man.) He was tall and handsome and led a small prayer group at school. He was my first ever serious crush. He loved the Lord a lot and was really nice to me so naturally that meant we were destined to be together, right? Oh my poor, teenage heart. I let the crazy crush go on way too long and was devastated when he didn't fall in love with me and ask me to marry him....at 18. He is now married to an amazing, beautiful and talented woman who is also a dear friend of mine and I could not be happier for them. I laugh at the whole thing because its so clear to me now that what I felt was not love. It was a crush wrapped around some misplaced adoration that was meant for the Lord. To put it simply, I loved the Jesus in him.
You think I would have learned. Nope. It went on like this for years. It seemed like every guy I tried to become friends with ended up on my "maybe" list. What's a "maybe" list you ask? Its that invisible list that girls carry around with them of their potential future husbands ( come on...don't lie. I know I'm not the only one who had one.) The list also had little invisible boxes next to each name.
"Oh you like kids? Check. And puppies? Check. And Star Wars? Double Check."
Its also had boxes for deduction points.
"Oh you're really into golf? Minus eleventy billion points." (sorry golf fans...I just don't get it.)
The lists got longer but sadly the relationships never got any deeper. I guess its hard to build a lasting friendship under all that scrutiny. But still I soldiered on.
Cute guy in the church pew near me:
"Is that him?"
Lovely bearded man with the plaid shirt and tattoos in the coffee shop:
"Oh please God, let that be him!"
It got to be so bad, it was like I was an English rider on a fox hunt. I could literally see men fleeing from me in terror as I'm chasing after them yelling, "Marry me! I'm desperate!"
It makes me sad sometimes to think of the amazing friendships I could have built had I just realized sooner what I was doing. The Lord has really worked on my heart a lot on this subject the last year of my life and I am happy to say I have some very lovely men in my life that I am blessed to call friends. But still I found myself every once in awhile falling back into the "fox hunt". So I had to just lay the whole idea of marriage down completely because I felt I couldn't trust myself anymore. Well that, and I guess it was also self preservation. All of that build up and let down really does a number on your heart after awhile.
I have been thinking a lot about the culture we develop in the church for young men and women. We quietly teach them that marriage is the ultimate goal to life's completion and the best way to keep from stumbling into sexual sin. And though I do agree that it is a Holy, God given gift and that I do personally believe is intended for most in the church, its not the answer to your fulfillment. And though I do agree, like what Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 7, that it is better to marry that to burn with passion, its doesn't mean that you will never again struggle with sexual sin. I have seen many young marriages destroyed because they either realized they married too soon/too young or because of sexual sin. If you are a broken, insecure human with the maturity level of a peanut, deep into pornography...there is no person alive that can fix that for you. They can try. But unless they possess some sort of super power, my guess is they will fail. The only marriage that has the capability of producing salvation is the one between you and Jesus.
But what I find most interesting is that when I say these things are taught quietly, I mean just that. Quietly. In whispers. I can't actually recall anyone every actually preaching a sermon called "Marriage: find a spouse or burn." It was more subtle than that. It was in conversations young women had with each other, dreaming up their perfect mate. "Well, I hope I marry a pastor. He will have dark hair, brown eyes and will play worship music on the guitar." I felt like every conversation we had turned to this. I can't speak for young men, but I imagine their conversation going like this: "Yeah, she's hot. And she loves Jesus. Wife it up." But the thing is, it was years before I ever heard anyone even remotely try to correct this focus of attention. Instead we offered up ourselves on the alter of the rom-com and cried on our girlfriends shoulders while they said things like," Don't worry, he'll come when you're not looking."
Oh really? Ok... well then I'll just stop thinking about boys all to___
Oh hey, who's that new guy in Bible study?
Crap...did it again.
After years and years and years of this I had enough. No more fantasies. No more Pinterest wedding planning. No more rom-coms with hot actors with scripted mush ( still stumble in this area occasionally. I just really like a good J-Lo flick). It was too painful. Too torturous. I let it go completely. It was too much pressure on myself and the men around me. Fort Knox security on this old heart of mind from now on. So I just focused on work, ministry, building familial relationships and weirdly, found fulfillment in happiness that Jesus was enough. I had new dreams, bigger, broader and just was content to see what Jesus was going to do with me. Then it happened again. I was chatting with a co-worker about this dude I thought was really cute and every time I talked to him, I got stupid. I was explaining to her how I just really needed to quit talking about him and gushing on his cuteness because I didn't want to stir up things in my heart. I explained that marriage was really low on my list of priorities right now and I had so much else going on my life. And I promise, I meant it.
That's when she said it. Here comes the perfects storm:
"Well, you know then, you are in the perfect place to meet someone. It always happens when you aren't looking."
AGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! Don't say that to me now!
I had just gotten to a really good place and here she goes with this mess again. I explained to her very kindly that I just couldn't hear that right now because then, of course, what am I gonna do? Start looking again. I launched into my whole saga of man drama and blah blah blah blah blah. About midway through, she stopped me and sort of made me realize something. Somewhere in the middle between Teen Weekly and Fort Knox, I had shut my heart down to the idea of marriage and falling in love completely and became terrified of even discussing it. I was so hell-bent on protecting myself that I let go of a dream. A dream God gave me. There was nothing wrong with wanting to fall in love and getting married.There is something very wrong with wanting to be married because you think you're supposed to or that it will fix whatever mess you got going on in your life. There was something very wrong with forming crushes on every cute guy from here to Cuba (though, I'm sure given the right resources, I could have covered more ground than that.) and pretending that its love. There is something wrong with chasing after someone just because they're "hot". There is something very wrong with letting bitterness develop towards my brothers in Christ just because they failed my check list. There is something very wrong with thinking that every time one of these imaginary relationships I was creating didn't have the happy ending I desired, there must be something desperately wrong with me.
My point is this: guard your heart.
Not with an electric fence, barbed wire, a mote full of piranhas and and flame thrower.
With the precious love of Christ and the knowledge that it is a gift. Marriage is not something to be taken so lightly and hotness doesn't last forever. Know who you are, what you want and the vision over your life. If you want to get married, awesome. But keep running towards your dreams. The Lord will make the dude fast enough to keep up but wise enough not to hold you back. You will run together. In the mean time keep your eyes forward. Spend too much time looking around to see if he's coming, you're likely to trip.
If you don't want to get married because you rather devote all your time to the Lord, awesome. That is just as valid and as holy a desire. Its not about the desire itself. Its about its motivation.
And remember ladies: you don't have to swoon over every dude that says "Hey girl." But may the strength of Christ be with you if its Chris Hemsworth. That dude is fine.