Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hope

   This has probably been the longest I've gone without blogging in a long time. I only blog when I have things I feel the need to say, or to organize my thoughts, or inform you of something. I've really had nothing I wanted to report and thus explaining my blogging silence. God has been teaching me a lot lately, but nothing specific enough to blog about. There have been so many topics that I haven't been able to narrow it down well enough. I mentioned last time that I was learning about hope; so today that's what I want to get at. Honestly, these past two weeks have impacted me a lot. I've really felt God and felt Him speaking to me. Hearing from God is always an exciting thing.

   "Hope" has been repeated a lot, and through a lot of things and so many movies. (X-Men: Day's Of Future Past anyone?) So I shouldn't have been surprised when I went to bible study to have the topic be "Hope Vs. Despair." I had to give God applause for that one. So perfectly timed, as usual. One thing He has been using to speak to me, is Lord Of The Rings. Of course, the book we're doing in this group I have is called Walking With Frodo: it's A Lord Of The Rings devotional. (Again, well played Sir.) One of the questions was "What is despair?" and my friend, Megan, answered something very wise. "It's not focusing on the right thing." That hit me hard. We despair when our focus is on something that it shouldn't be. If our eyes were on God, we wouldn't worry because we would see Him and know He's got this. So when we are in despair we know that our focus is off. That gave me a lot to think about. I've felt despair before; and looking back on those times, I realized that my focus was always on fear. Not God. I felt afraid of something, and that caused me to despair. But hope is the opposite of that. I wasn't sure what God was telling about hope but I knew it was important.

   The next part of group was our camp fire. Now, camp fires have a way of making people get real with each other. I don't know why this is. It has the same effect that staying up late into the night does. People are just more honest and open over a camp fire. Our group leader, Jake, had us write down the things we were struggling with and needed to give to God. We would write them down, pray about them, and when we were ready, throw them in the fire and watch them burn. There is something powerful in the physical act of throwing something in a fire that just makes you feel free. I wrote down one single thing on my paper. I bet you can all guess what that was. If you guessed fear, than you are correct. Fear has dominated my whole life. Even after getting saved, overcoming fear was never an option. I've mentioned this before, but last year two people suggested to me that I fight fear and beat it. I was so taken aback. I never thought I could. I had accepted that fear was my master and that I would fight it the rest of my life. I never thought I could ever be free of it. But these two people actually believed in me. That's all I needed. I needed someone to believe in me when I couldn't believe in myself. As I wrote down my struggle on this paper, I prayed and did some reflection.

   Last year at camp I had a breakdown on the first night. My leader was able to talk to me and help me. I struggled a bit throughout the week and I had one final breakdown at the end of the week that my leader helped me through and she talked to me about planning a way to kick fear out of my life. I look back and see how much that week really impacted me. It changed my life. I would like to say that I haven't dealt with fear since, but that is not the case. In fact, my fear has probably gotten worse. In a weird way, it's gotten worse and better at the same time. Maybe I just know where its coming from. The enemy. I know its not just me I suppose. I prayed a lot and looked back on all I had been through and all God had brought me through, and I was finally able to let it go. I tossed my paper in the fire and watched it burn. Healing feels wonderful. Being released from a bondage that held me for 17 years was remarkable. I was able to acknowledge that yes, I would still have moments of fear and I'm sure they would get bad, but I didn't have to let it control me anymore. I realized I was free. After struggling for so long, I was finally free.

   I recently re-read a letter that my good friend wrote me and one quote has been in my head a lot. "I'm not drowning anymore. If God could bring me from where I was, to a place where I could be happy, then the least I could do is proclaim my love for Him." I'm not drowning anymore. That has been another theme. I realized so many connections with this. All the themes began tying together. There is a song called Over My Head (Cable Car) by the Fray and I had always said it was my song. Because "everyone knows I'm in over my head." But God has shown me that He will keep me afloat. A Building 429 song says "If you're in over your head, lift it up." I heard that and was in awe. I had thought I was in over my head. I also let that become my reality. I would dwell on that thought and really, its a depressing thought. I accepted my fate. I doomed myself to drown in the waves that were consuming me instead of trying to fight it. But those waves would consume me because I couldn't stay afloat on my own. I needed a rock. I found that Rock.

   That was when I realized just what hope was. Because looking back on all I went through and seeing how God brought me through that...what does that say about my future? If He could rescue me from the mess I had made of myself and re-create me into something beautiful, couldn't He take something beautiful and make it golden? You bet He can. That is was He was teaching me about hope.

   After throwing my fear into the flames, Jake shared a few bible verses and offered us the chance to do the same. Today I just feel like flooding you with amazing things my friends say so I want to share one last quote from the evening. Jake said "Now that you guys have given your struggle up to God, there is going to be a hole in you, and what better thing to fill it with than the Word of God?" That was a strange thought at first; fear leaving a hole in my life. But it would. And God wanted me to fill that hole with Him. God's will for us is to take out all the things that aren't from Him. He wanted the things that hurt us to be gotten rid of; and since then we would be broken, He would come to fill in the empty spaces. We would be filled with Him. Whole and healed.

   I had been really worried about camp for a while, because I knew how triggering it had been last year. But I'm not anymore. I leave on Sunday for a week and I couldn't be more excited. I feel like God has a lot for me to do up there, and for once, I'm not afraid. Usually I'm very timid in group settings, but on Friday at group I wasn't afraid. There wasn't an ounce of anxiety in me. I don't want these things anymore. I wanted Christ. I realized that once I was healed, I could help bring healing to others. For so long I had been straining trying to help others without first helping myself. Now I can help people to the best of my ability and do so with sincerity. For once, I've not been stressing about the things I usually do. I know that God's got it. He told me its okay, that He would take care of it.

   You are not hopeless. Look back on all you've gone through and know that God did all that, and He didn't bring you this far to ditch you before He finished His good work. And just because you failed in the past doesn't mean you are doomed to fail in the future. It's all good. If God brought you to it, He will also bring you through it. Just keep your focus on Him and He'll work out the details.

   *Spoiler Warning: I quote a big part of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ahead*

   "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast."-Hebrews 6:19

   "Please, we need you to hope again."-Charles Xavier

   "It's easy to feel hopeful on a beautiful day like today, but there will be dark days ahead of us too, and they'll be days where you feel all alone, and that's when hope is needed most, no matter how buried it gets, or how lost you feel, you must promise me, that you will hold on to hope. Keep it alive, we have to be greater than what we suffer. My wish for you, is to become hope, people need that, and even if we fail, what better way is there to live. As we look around here today, and all the people who helped make us who we are, I know it feels like we're saying goodbye, but we will carry a piece of each other, into everything we do next, to remind us of who we are, and if we're meant to be."-Gwen Stacy

Monday, June 2, 2014

And I Owe You So Much

   I don't know how to word any of this. This is going to be long and boring for most of you but I don't care. You see, on Wednesday my best friend is leaving the country for 7 months. Today I spent my last real day with her. I'll probably see her for a bit tomorrow, but today was our last day with just the two of us. We went out for coffee and then spent literally all day laying in my backyard talking and taking pictures. It really was a beautiful day. It poured this morning but by the time I met with Diana it had cleared up and the sun came out. Yesterday was her official goodbye party and I cried buckets full of tears. I was feeling so sad last night; but today I'm actually feeling hopeful. So maybe I won't cry as much writing this as I thought I would. Maybe it just hasn't sunk in yet. Or its because I know I'll see her for a bit tomorrow. I'm not sure.

   But now to get down to what I have to say.

   How do you thank someone for changing your life? Why are the most important words to say always the hardest? These were questions I thought of as I was hugging my best friend goodbye while we waited at the bus stop. I was crying, she was tearing up, and there was that lingering knowledge that we would spend a lot of time apart. I wanted to say so much but all the words got caught in my throat and I wondered why it was so hard to speak. Maybe it was because mere words can't describe how blessed I have been to be Diana's best friend.

   I met her in 2012. I honestly have no idea how we became friends. All I know is that one minute I didn't know her at all, and the next moment I couldn't live without her. I didn't know I needed a best friend until she came along. She taught me so much and changed me so much...I couldn't put it into words. Today I could only say one thing to her, and it was from Sherlock. "I was so alone...and I owe you so much." Because how do you repay someone for walking into your life and blessing it in the way that she did mine? I didn't only find my best friend in Diana, I found my other half. My partner in crime. My sister. God had everything to do with it. She came from another country and after 10 years here, God brought her to me. To my church. It still amazes me that she chose to be my best friend. I have a lot of amazing people in my church and so many of them could have been her best friend; yet she chose me. Not only that, but she puts up with me and she understands me. Who else would hold my hand and not judge me while I'm crying during X-Men: Days Of Future Past? No one else understood why I was freaking out when I saw The Winter Soldier. And when we first became friends, she let me talk to her for hours straight (not exaggerating) about Star Wars after I made her watch all 6 movies because I had to catch her up on all the entire EU. She also didn't think I was crazy after I told her why the Star Wars universe meant so much to me.

   Diana has always put up with my nonsense and my moods and she never once complained about it. She was the person who taught me to be myself. She taught me that I never need be ashamed of my feelings or the things God teaches me or says to me; no matter how crazy or far fetched they seem. She taught me to love without limits and worship whole heatedly. But there is one thing I could never thank her enough for. One day I went up to her and said I wanted to do big things; to be a world changer. After thinking about it, I realized I knew who I wanted to help, and I had found a way to do it. So I asked Diana if we could start a ministry together. We could help teenagers who struggled with self harm, depression, and eating disorders; and we could run a website and have an email address so kids could tell us their stories. (I'm a huge believer in the power of hearing and sharing stories.) We prayed about it and it was clear that this was what God wanted. In January of 2013 we launched our website. In a few months we were on Facebook and eventually we got onto Twitter as well and then before we knew it we were discussing outreach nights and going to college so we could run a recovery house in the future. This was all able to happen because Diana was willing to listen to my life story and she accepted me. I had found someone who had the same mindset that I did. I had always thought I was alone in how my mind worked. But she got me. I couldn't even begin to tell you those ways; we're so weird.

   Then once our ministry launched, we got even closer. Our spiritual lives were connected. We grew in the Lord together and learned what the bible meant when it said "As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another." I don't know how to put it all into words. They don't seem to do any justice. I know that people can clearly see that Diana and I are close, but they can't feel what I feel. I didn't know it was possible to love another person this much. She taught me what the real meaning of friendship is. In the Lord Of The Rings, Sam is alone after he thinks Frodo has been killed by Shelob. He decides to go and rescue him whether he be alive or dead; and he's able to find the strength in him to do so because of his love for Frodo. That was the only thing keeping him going. I know how he feels now. I can't imagine how hard these next few months are going to be for me, but I know that my love for my best friend is going to keep me going. She's the Sam to my Frodo.

   I hope that one day each and every one of you find a person that makes your life seem significantly brighter; someone who makes you smile when you feel like you're about to cry, and someone who loves you for who you are and doesn't demand any more or any less of you. Diana did those things for me. My brother told me once that he believes God has someone for everyone; that He will never allow someone to be alone. However, we tend to think of that person as a boyfriend/girlfriend. God might allow us to be "single" forever, but He won't let us be alone. I have found this to be true. I've never had a boyfriend, but I've also never been alone. The companionship that I have with my best friend is remarkable. She's really reflected Jesus to me. I wonder if this was how Jesus was with His disciples. Countless times did He talk about love; and it feels like this is exactly what He meant. He commands us to love one another just as He loved us. That means having unconditional love. Diana showed me unconditional love; because she didn't stop loving me when I was being difficult and she didn't stop treating me with respect even when I was less than respectful to her. She was mature when I acted like a child.

   When you text someone at 10 o'clock at night because you're running a fever and need to go to the hospital and she immediately catches a bus to come be with you and then stays awake with you in the ER all night, you know you've found a real friend. One time I felt so afraid and triggered and couldn't sleep because I was afraid of being alone and having nightmares, so Diana stayed awake until well past 2am Skyping with me and telling me weird stories to keep my mind distracted. Another time I felt triggered she said she would walk over if it wasn't raining. It was also 11 at night and she lives 3 miles away. She has been a selfless friend to me. But on a less serious note, I know I can be weird around her. We insult each other using Ben&Jerry's ice cream flavors, make references to shows she doesn't even watch, and speak in song lyrics. We call the people we meet through our ministry "our kids." And we quote John Hughes films more than is considered normal. We play chess like Xavier and Erik from X-Men. We re-enact the poster for The Fault In Our Stars. She lets me cry on her shoulder and rant about my boy problems and other friend drama. She helps me sort out my thoughts when I can't understand what my head is doing. She lets me fangirl like crazy over things she cares nothing about. She believed in me when I didn't even believe in myself.

   I could brag about my best friend for days and days and days. I'll probably mention her a lot in the next 7 months. Everything reminds me of her. Its just borderline creepy actually. I'm going to miss her more than words can ever say. Its going to annoy everyone so much. I'm going to talk about her all the time, yet smack someone if they dare mention her. I apologize because the first person to say "I miss Diana" is gonna be punched. Because I miss her. I don't know how I'm supposed to feel when the other half of my heart is across the world from me. I don't plan on being a functional human this week after she leaves. And this is when I'm going to rely on my other friends. I'm going to feel so alone. I know I won't be, but I'm going to feel so empty for a while. I know I won't be okay for a long time; I'll be okay eventually, but not right away. And I'm going to need people to understand that. Looking at this whole post, how do you function when that person is taken away from you? Its even worse when she's going off on a missions trip; so I can't possibly be mad at her for following God's call across the world.


   I'm going to miss her so freaking much. But, to quote Winnie the Pooh, "How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." I have been so blessed. And this isn't the end. I know Diana won't be the same when she gets back. And neither will I. I've been so worried that we won't be best friends when she returns, but I my God and I know He's got that taken care of. These are gonna be some of the hardest few months I've had to face. I've watched the enemy make some strategic moves these past few weeks and I'm watching him set up to attempt take me down. But I won't let him.

   So this is when I'll need you guys. I want to apologize in advance for however I may end up acting. But I'm going to need you. I need you guys, my followers and my friends, to not let me forget who I am. I'm going to be sad and that's okay. I need you to be patient with me. I'm gonna be crabby and over dramatic and whatever; I'll probably be a brat a lot too. I'm sorry. Please just be patient with me. But know when enough is enough. Let me be sad, but don't let me be depressed. I'm going to need lots of hugs and friends and people who understand, although I don't know how many people actually do. I'm not sure what to say but I guess I just need people to know that I won't be okay...but I will. I know that makes no sense but that's the only way I know how to say it. I'll leave you all with this song.



   If you read all that, mad props. Diana, I'm going to miss you so much. But I'll be okay. You will be too. You're going to do such amazing things and I can't wait to hear all about it. Its so hard sharing my best friend with everyone, but its also my privilege. Thank you for letting me be your friend. I couldn't have asked for anything more. If these 3 years were all we were to get, that would be more than enough.  I am so thankful for our time together. For our little infinity. I know its going to be hard for you out there, but never forget that God has got your back. He will protect you and strengthen you. I love you to Asgard and back; to infinity and beyond. 

   "If you live to be a 100, I want to live to be 100 minus one day so I never have to live without you."-Winnie The Pooh

   "I think we dream so we don't have to be apart for so long. If we're in each others dreams, we can be together all the time."-Winnie The Pooh

   "If there is ever a tomorrow where we're not together, there is something you must always remember; you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart, I'll always be with you."-Winnie The Pooh