He loves me....He loves me not...

The other day I started reading a sample of Mark Batterson’s book Circle Maker.  Several pages in I came across this quote:

‎"It is absolutely imperative at the outset that you come to terms with this simple yet life-changing truth: God is for you."

I stopped.  Read it again.

‎"It is absolutely imperative at the outset that you come to terms with this simple yet life-changing truth: God is for you." 

Then I closed my computer and stared into the dark.  Reading the rest of that book would not do me any good.  Why?  Because I did not believe God was for me.  I do not believe God is for me.  I do not know if I have ever believed that. 

I have tried to believe that he is for me.  I have pretended like I thought that he was for me.  Occasionally I even thought he was for me, but 99% of the time I have not believed that he is for me.  And is it even important whether or not he loves me?  Isn't it more important that he be glorified and I fade...

Do I believe God exists? Absolutely. There is not a doubt in my mind, but I do not believe he loves me. 

I am being brutally and painfully honest…with myself and with you.

Those verses about God loving.  I have hung them over my room.  I have read them multiple times a day.  I have said I choose to believe these even if I do not feel they are true.  I have confessed believing lies.  I have asked God to reveal truth to me.  I have begged.  I have pleaded.  I have shed many a tear.  And no I still do not seem to believe.  I have prayed.  I have asked for prayers.  I have recorded lists of things for which to be thankful.  I have praised.  I have sat still.  I have waited.  I have listed out sins... and several years later I still do not believe God loves me.

So that's where I am today.  Broken.  Hurt. Bleeding.  Bottom.  Leper. Unclean. Unusable.  Hanging onto a thread of Jesus' hem begging him to not turn me away.  Pleading with him to cleanse me of my sins.  

And trying to make it one more day.

Worst Fears: Part II

When I returned from Togo I was in no mood for life.  I felt overwhelmed and alienated.  Not to mention I was completely exhausted.  It had been over a week since I had slept more than four hours a night (with most nights being between zero and two hours).  There was this constant fear that something would happen and I would completely lose it.  I knew that my grip on reality was held together by a thin thread.  I was ill.  That was it.  I wasn’t happy.  I wasn’t sad.  I was just plain ill.  Unfortunately that soon gave way to anger, bitterness, defeat, discouragement, rage, and pain…  Never in my life had I had such intensity of emotion.

"Instead of bread I get groans for my supper, then leave the table and vomit my anguish.  The worst of my fears has come true, what I've dreaded most has happened.  My repose is shattered, my peace destroyed. No rest for me, ever—death has invaded life."
Job 3:20-26 MSG

The months leading up to Togo had been rough but not unbearable.  A medical diagnosis coupled with a couple other random events had me struggling with questions of value and worth.  Before this diagnosis I was doing better than ever before.  I felt like my feet were finally starting to find solid ground but for some reason the medical reaction knocked me right back off my feet.  Unfortunately there was not a simple take this and three days you will be better for either of my issues. 

My first few weeks back I needed Jesus and I needed people…desperately.  A note went out that said “We are looking for people who would be able to stay with her, especially overnight…at her family's home ...”  At first I tried to pretend like I never saw it…because fact was I wish I never saw it.  I wished I had never asked for people…because no one came…and that hurts more than no people coming when one has not asked.

Part way through the week when things took yet another turn for the worst in an act of desperation I wrote a status that said I didn’t know what I needed, but I did know I needed people.  That may have been one of the hardest things I ever wrote.  I was begging God for help.  I needed it and did not know how to get it.  Again no one came. 

I felt unloved and abandoned.  I already felt completely abandoned by God…this was just icing on the cake.  So I retreated far into my cave.  Very far.  Pretended I didn’t need people…that I liked being by myself.  Fact was I hated it.  Hate hate hated it.  Twenty-four hours a day for over a week I was alone.  Tears were my most frequent companion.  I would lay down at night and soak my pillow in tears only to wake up the next morning and soak my pillow in more tears.  One morning I came across Psalm 30 where I read “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.”  At which point I hurled my bible across the room and proceeded to cry even harder.  There had been no joy with morning’s light in days.  It was the start of the worst months of my life.

Also, to be clear I do not blame anyone for not coming.  And I know that my communication skills are awful, which definitely played a huge role in the problem.
Anyhow, thankfully I made it through the first few weeks.  Without a shadow of a doubt I know that I would not have made it through that week without the love of handful of people reaching out to me from all over world.  From north, south, east, and west there was at least one person who contacted me that first week and to me their actions said our role may not be to be there next to you, but we are there for you and we are praying for you.  They had me covered in prayer on all four sides.  And it kept me from completely running away from Jesus...  


Sorry, this is not part two.  This is a post from this week that I will need to probably come back and read on a daily hourly every second basis for awhile.  I am still planning on going back and finishing the series about the mefloquine mess, just not today.

“Starin' at the walls of our living room
Feelin' so very alone
There is something I'm very sure is true
It's where I live, but it ain't home.
Relationships can come and go
But there is one thing that I know
Though I wish I had a home
I never truly am alone.
I remember, Jesus, one day You said
On the shores of Galilee
'The Son of Man has no place to lay His head'
I feel like You were speaking to me.
Foxes have holes and birds have nests
Other men have families
A place they can call home and find their rest
But what is there for me?
Why be afraid, O ye of little faith?"
You ask me as You calm my storm
I see You dissipate my wind and waves
In You I know I'm safe and warm!
My home is You wherever it might be
And You've prepared a place for me
But until then it still is true
My home is You!”

While listening to Pandora this week I heard this song.  This section of lyrics from the song really put into words what I have been feeling, as well as presented truth to counter the lies I believe on a regular basis.  The first time I read “Foxes have holes and birds have nests/ Other men have families/ A place they can call home and find their rest/ But what is there for me?” I broke down in tears.  Much of my early childhood was spent outdoors where I observed animals in their homes.  I think that for years my spirit has been wrestling with this question, even if consciously I was not aware.  A few days later I was online trying to find the song to listen to again.  I typed in “foxes have holes and birds have nests” and then tears welled up in my eyes all over again.  The first result was Matthew 8:

“Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”-Matthew 8:20

Those lyrics that had touched my heart were based on scripture!  (I know I have read Matthew 8 before, but I must not have been paying careful attention to the words because I did not remember them.)  Reading those words I was filled with guilt and relief.  Guilt for thinking that I was alone, guilt for pettiness, and guilt for not being strong enough to keep from crying every day.  But I was also filled with relief… Jesus knew what I was feeling.  He knows the feeling.  Knowing that was just a tremendous relief. 

Ever since returning from Togo it has been difficult for me to put into words what I am or have been feeling or what is going on inside of me.  It has been frustrating to say the least.  Fortunately I have found relief in the words of others.  Lyrics, poems, and the writings of others has been the key to unlocking what is inside me this time around.  It may be a chapter or just a phrase, but somehow when I read something that resonates with me I am able to put words to the mess inside me.

Being here is a struggle for me.  Every millisecond.  I would rather live in a cardboard box in the streets.  In fact, I have to fight every day not doing just that.  And yes I know that living in the streets has its own set of problems.  And yes I have thought about it….more than you know. 

But today is not the day to leave. 
Today is the day with zero job prospects. 
Today is the day the savings dips lower. 
Today is the day with no visible exit plan. 
Today is the 55th day in a row I will cry myself to sleep. 
Today is the day where my faith is stretched one foot farther. 
Today is the day I have to choose to trust Jesus more than yesterday. 
Today is the day I have to believe he has a plan a plan for good and not for evil.
Today is the day to be still…

“Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is holy
Be still oh restless soul of mine
Bow before the prince of Peace
Let the noise and clamor cease
Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is faithful
Consider all that He has done
Stand in awe and be amazed…
Be still and know He is our Father
Come rest your head upon His breast
Listen to the rhythm of
His unfailing heart of love
Beating for His little ones
Calling each of us to come
Be still
Be still”
-Be Still And Know

Worst Fears: Part I

Before I left for Togo these were my top three fears:

            Top Fear # 1: Becoming mentally ill. 

            Top Fear # 2: Parasitic Worms

            Top Fear # 3: ___________ & having no physical community. 

I know it may not look like your “typical” fear list, but it’s true.  I am more fearful of worms/ parasites then I am of being murdered, getting shot, etc.  Not normal, I know.  And I never said it was a rational fear list.  (Also, just to be clear this fear list is my personal fear list and does not include what I fear for other people…oh and yes I admitted that a lack of physical community is a huge fear of mine.  I am not a technology girl.)

Soon after arriving in Togo my worst fear became a reality.  As a result of the anti-malarial medication I was taking I rapidly developed a variety of mental illness symptoms.  It took a noticeable turn for the worse one night as I lay beneath the mosquito net trying rather desperately to fall asleep. Just as I started to calm down I was suddenly aware of something moving about my room: demon pigs with fangs were flying around my room.  For several minutes I just lay in shock.  I knew that something was not right, but at the same time it seemed so real.

Another night I awoke suddenly convinced that I had been buried alive.  When I am faced with danger or fear I tend to get extremely quiet, which I know is not always good.  So I just laid there thinking “I am in a box surrounded by dirt.  There is no way out.  What should I do?  I wonder how much oxygen I have left?  Will I notice when it runs out or will I just go to sleep?...”  I have no idea how many minutes or hours or seconds this lasted, but eventually my hand brushed up against the “dirt.”  It was the mosquito net. 

During the day there would be many many…. many times where I would be on the roof of the building starring down at the dirt below (and I later found out I was not the first)… Eventually the squeals of children running through the streets would jolt me back to reality. 

About this time I realized I could not put it off any longer someone had to know.  It was already way out of control.  That night in not a lot of words I shared a few things with a staff member and soon an appointment at the local Togolese hospital was scheduled.

That night was tiring.  I was awake the entire night because I kept thinking my left hand had been cut off.  I would pull my left arm towards my face to feel if all my fingers were still there and once they were all accounted for put it back down.  A few seconds later I would be convinced that it had been chopped off again and the process would start all over again.  It lasted all night.  It reminded me of childhood OCD, but combined with paranoia and hallucinations.

At the hospital in Togo the staff member and I were escorted back to his office.  Once there they started talking a mile a minute in French while I sat there convinced the doctor wanted to rip out my appendix.  My thought process being that the Chinese doctors took my friend's so this Togolese doctor must want mine. Needless to say I walked out of there with my appendix and a prescription to “calm” me down.

Well as it turns out my prescription was a drug that is not supposed to be taken with Mefloquine.  Not knowing this I took one as directed only to find the paranoia and fear rise rapidly.  At this time a staff member was sleeping in my room to make sure everything was alright.  My mind was out of control. Seriously out of control. I was very scared. It was so unreal. There was this small part of my brain that was okay. This tiny tiny part knew it was not okay...it was an anchor of truth that Jesus had laid in my mind. But this small part was locked away I could not do anything. I felt beyond hopeless. All I did was just lay there like a statue.  That small part of my brain knew that I had not totally flown off my rocker...but the rest of mind was out of control.  I knew that the girl next to me was trying to help me. The truth part of my brain knew that, but it was locked and hidden away. The rest of my brain was going “she has a knife she’s going to kill you.”  And bless Julia who stayed in my room that whole night telling me over and over again that she was not going to kill me and that she did not have a knife. 

Needless to say: hello America.  And a week later I found myself on a plane heading back unsure of what the future held.  To be cont.

And I know that this post and the last one were pretty dark and down, but I promise it gets better.  As Elizabeth Elliott once said "…God's story never ends with 'ashes."'  So if you want to see how God came back into the picture stick around a few posts longer.

40 Days

Document: “…put [information] into some relatively permanent form so that it can be retrieved later.”

Surprise!  I’m back!  Big surprise I know, but seriously I would rather not be writing right now.  Instead I would like to run off … preferably to the mountains and never lay sight on technology again; however, I do not think that is what I am supposed to do.  In September I felt called to document the next season of my life.  At that point in time living in Togo was supposed to be the next season of my life.  So when I returned to the United States I stopped writing publicly. 

After being home for a few weeks I came across a scrap of paper where I had written down this: “document this next season of your life.”  I paused and read it again: “document this next season of your life.”  It did not say document my experiences in Togo, it said document the next season of my life.  By this time my stomach was in knots and my faces mirrored my discomfort.  This “next season” was not pretty.  It was dark and grimy.  But it did not say document the good or the pretty.  It said document the next season.

Another week or two passes and I begin to realize that it is one of those “jump off a super high diving board where you can not go back and you are not sure if you are going to land on water or land because you do not know what is below” moments.  So after much delay I am jumping off.  I am going to document this season.  I am going to try to tell the story in these next set of blog posts.  First, I will begin with a brief summary to set the stage. 

It was undoubtedly the worst experience of my life.  It was a dark dark time.  I felt abandoned by quite a number of people, but more importantly I felt abandoned by God.  Loneliness that had been slowly rising for quite some time skyrocketed to new heights.  At times days and days would go by before I would even see another person.  I shed more tears in those days then I thought possible.  Every day was a desperate fight.  Never in my life had I experienced such intensity of negative emotion.  And yet somehow in the midst of it all God found a way to draw me closer to him.  It is still messy.  It is still dark.  However, there are moments however small where I dare to hope that one day life will change.  And I am still lonely and I still pray all too often that he will physically rescue me from this place, but he hasn’t given up on me yet…at least I don’t think he has…

“Jesus, I've forgotten the words that You have spoken
Promises that burned within my heart have now grown dim…
Forgive me for my unbelief. Renew the fire again”
~Lord Have Mercy

Logging Off

For the time being this blog will be ending.  A little over a week ago I returned prematurely from my internship overseas.  In that time I have learned quite I bit. 

I’ve learned that this is one of if not the last places on earth I would like to be (which is probably why I was sent here).

I’ve learned that in my current state I am no help to anyone.

I've learned chemistry is serious.  That medicine can be powerful.

I’ve learned I am not resilient.  That I am tired.  That I am still lost.

I’ve learned that I am upset.

I’ve learned that loneliness from being alone isn’t nearly as lonely as loneliness from being with others.

I’ve learned that sometimes mourning may last for the night and still be there with morning’s light.

I’ve learned that I am no Elizabeth Elliot. 

“Do we suppose that we could find a better way than His? .... Instead of seeing His everlasting love, tenderly bending down to our humanness, longing over each one of us with a father's speechless longing; we sometimes think of Him as indifferent, inaccessible, or just plain unfair. The worst pains we experience are not those of the suffering itself but of our stubborn resistance to it, our resolute insistence on our independence. …Here is the opportunity offered. Be patient. Wait on the Lord for whatever He appoints, wait quietly, wait trustingly. He holds every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year in His hands. Thank Him in advance for what the future holds, for He is already there.” 
-Elisabeth Elliott

I’ve learned that whether I want to be or not I am stubborn, resistant, and independent.

I’ve learned that the coping mechanisms of childhood don’t always work in adulthood.

So for the time being I am logging off so that maybe I can learn to submit to the place I’ve been placed…to learn more effective coping mechanisms…to learn something helpful.   

And maybe one day I’ll write again…

Ready To-go?

15 September 2011

I have an odd personality in that doing something like asking a waiter for an extra spoon stresses me out to the max, but drop me off in an unfamiliar country and I am extremely laid back.  I think it’s because in foreign countries I am not in my comfort zone…I am in Gods.  In foreign situations I know things are outside my control…in comfortable situations I try to control everything.  In foreign place I know I do not fit it…in familiar situations I try to fit in.

This desire to have a home, a place to belong.  I’m a foreign potted plant…placed in one place for a time then moved on to the next.  In some climates I survive, but barely.  In others I thrive…too much…I become like an invasive species.  The only constant is that I am continually moving.

People seem to be under the impression that I love this life…and there is a part of me that loves travelling from place to place and seeing people’s hearts, but I think people forget it’s not some Hollywood movie.  It’s everyday life, just in a different setting.  There’s laughter and tears.  Rest and work.  Peace and conflict. Adventure and monotony.  Just like everyone else’s life. 

You know the saying is the grass is always greener on the other side?  In my case it is more like the life is always better outside the pot.  There are many many many days that I am tempted and fall into the sin of wanting a different life.  And I have to tell myself over and over again that I do not have a lesser gift, just a different one. 

Often I feel like a person on the outside looking in, the puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit because I’m from another puzzle.  And then I read:

“For here we have no permanent city, but we are looking for the one which is to come.”
Hebrews 13:14 AMP

The one that is to come… I haven’t missed it…It hasn’t come yet…but what do I do in the mean time?

“Through Him, therefore, let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name.”
Hebrews 13:15

Praise him.  Praise him because he is.  Thank him for the person who took my seat when I got a drink of water.  Confess jealousy of the people who do not have to lug all of their things every time they move.  Praise him I can make this trip alone.  Praise him I am free to focus on him and him alone.

Back to the Field

"God is in the résumé-building business. He is always using past experiences to prepare us for future opportunities." Mark Batterson

Recently I have gotten into the really bad habit of checking my e-mail as soon as I wake up.  This is probably due to the fact that soon after being accepted to the Togo program I realized that because of the time difference e-mails from Togo would arrive in the middle of the night.  Anyhow, a few Wednesdays ago I awoke to an e-mail that made my jaw drop.  One of the in country managers for the program I am going on had sent me an e-mail asking if I would feel comfortable working with a group of male teenage soccer goalkeepers in the city.  (Would I ever!)  I love working with inner-city males and I love coaching.

Of course I wanted to reply “YES” right away, but I knew I needed to give myself time to pray and think before replying.  That day as I sat there thinking about the opportunity it became very clear that God had been preparing me for an opportunity like this for a long time. 

Until the 1999 Women’s World Cup sparked girls’ interest in soccer I played on all male teams.  When I began playing on the all female team I became interested in goalkeeping.  I was blessed to have the same goalkeeping coach for six years.  Using subjects such as math, physics, and psychology he taught me the technical and tactical aspects of being a goalkeeper.  At 13 I began to help him coach the younger goalkeeper’s practice and at 16 I took the courses to get my “E” License.  I started recording every single goalkeeping practice I was a part of either as a player or a coach.  In college, after becoming tired of seeing the corruption that existed in many of the soccer programs I was a part of, I very deliberately stepped completely away from the sport. 

Each of these experiences prepared me for this opportunity.  My coach taught me the technical and tactical knowledge necessary to coach.  The “E” License gave me the ethos to get the position.  I have an entire semester of coaching plans from my detailed notes.  And most importantly the 3 years away allowed me to be led to solid ground and to begin the healing process.

“As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”
Luke 6:47-49

I have no idea what awaits me on that field.  There are times I find myself wondering how they feel about Americans, females, or tactical skills.  Then I remember that is not what matters.  What matters is that my eternal coach has called me back to the field...a solid playing ground.