Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Church Rant

   I'm really mad at the church right now.

   I figured I'd just get to the point quickly instead of making a fancy introduction. So here is another one of my lovely rants.

(This is my new "Warning: Rant Ahead" picture. Plus I've been told that I look like Jeremiah. Awkward.)

   Now, why, Princess Faith, are you mad at the church?

   That is the question. I've always had a love/hate relationship with "the church." (AKA, Christians/believers/church attendees and people of the like.) Why? I don't know exactly. Maybe because the church, or at least my church, has always been hecka cliquey. I get the feeling its not just my church, but that its a wide spread problem among Christians. 

   It can't be a coincidence that most people feel more accepted at a bar or a concert than at church. The most common place to feel judged is at church. Its the truth that most people feel uncomfortable at church. 

   At my church, a lot of people say that they feel instantly welcomed when they walk in. Everyone is super friendly and smiling. My best friend came back to our church because she instantly felt like she belonged. But I noticed something.

   How it may be that way for some people, if they don't fit a certain mold, they're rejected. They pick and chose who they'll accept into their group and who won't. So if you're one of those lucky people, you get a great church experience. But if you're not, than sorry you have no friends here. I was lucky enough to be someone who had friends, although I'll admit, I didn't always feel like I did. Heck, I was a part of a clique and still felt rejected. 

   It wasn't just my church, because my brother shared similar thoughts when he came home from college for the summer. He goes to a Christian college and he noticed that the Christians there looked down others, particularly those on the baseball team, who were immediately thought to be the druggies of the school. Now, my brother was on the baseball team; he's a great kid. But because of his membership to a particular group of people, he got judged. 

   I have countless friends who have said they didn't feel like they belonged at church. Not to mention all the drama, gossip, slandering, judging, and rejection that goes on in that "holy" building. But the best part is, we do all of this and worship God! We give great talks, participate in bible studies, list our hands during worship, volunteer at AWANA clubs; we do it all. Yet my freaking gosh are we horrible. We're nasty to each other. What ever happened to "they'll know we are Christians by our love?" 

   We read the bible, and when it says "Love one another" we just skip over that. Or we turn it into "love your friends." But want to know what the bible really says?

   "Let love be without hypocrisy; Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor."-Romans 12:9-10

   "Little children, let is not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth."-1 John 3:18

   "The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love."-1 John 4:4

   "But I tell you, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you."-Matthew 5:44

   There are 19 other instances in the New Testament that say "love one another." Clearly this is a big deal. But one verse really stuck out to me. 1 John 5:3 says "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments..." 

   The Holy Spirit really spoke to me this week. It brought me to one conclusion about this verse. 

   If we don't obey God, we cannot claim to love Him.

   We can't say we love God and then hate someone. We can't say we love God and then gossip. Because now we're being liars. There. I said it. You don't love God if you reject His children. Its impossible. 

   But do you know the worst part of it all? The part about all of this that makes my stomach turn from sickness, that makes me want to throw up in utter disgust is that...I am the church.

   I reject people. I treat people like crap. I gossip. I ignore that one kid at youth group along with everyone else. 

   And its disgusting and I hate myself for it. 

   Guys, church, listen up, we're awful. I've been reading through the book of Acts, about the early church and let me tell you, they had it going on. It says that they worshipped together, they prayed over one another constantly, they shared everything, they loved; and you know what? Their numbers were growing by the thousands daily. My youth group is always at a steady pace of, wait for it....25-30 students. My church on Sunday morning has about 200 I'd say. But the church in Acts had thousands! Not to bash small churches, I love them, but if there is no fruit to your labors then really...what's the point?

   I cannot stress this topic enough. I did the talk at my youth group about this topic and its nice to know that everything I said went completely over everyone's heads. It's also nice to know that I'm a total hypocrite. I know I haven't loved God. I feel sick singing worship songs because I know I can't possibly mean what I sing. I've always had a policy that if I don't mean it, I won't say it or even sing it. But we always sing about how we love God and would do anything for Him...but by anything we mean only things inside our comfort zone. We say we'll love everyone, but we really mean everyone...except the gays and the weird boys and that emo kid. Really, we suck. I'm pissed off right now over the state of our sickness. And I know I'm also to blame. I write all these great blog posts and I yell at my siblings and gossip and snap at people. I'm a pro at telling people how to live and ignoring that same advice I give so freely. 

   So what can be done?

   We can change. See, everyone wants to change the world, but no one wants to put in the work necessary to accomplish the task. Being a Christian is hard as frick. Loving your enemies? Also hard. Following Christ? Ha. So flipping hard. (That's another rant entirely.) But its worth it. Lucky for us, God is so faithful to forgive us. We need God for this. Because we are in way too deep, we can't get out ourselves. I asked God this week to soften my heart...I should have been prepared for what He would do. Because man did He break me. And I love it. I cried myself to sleep several nights and cried in the day and was constantly troubled over things. But I needed it. God is faithful, He will guide us and answer prayers, we need to just ask.

   This cycle needs to end now. We can't keep hating people. Somethings gotta change. I can't change everyone but I know I can start with myself. I don't want to be this anymore. 

   So what about you?

   Are you really ready to love your enemies? Step out of your comfort zone? Admit you've been wrong? 

   Let's start a revolution. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

To Whom It May Concern

   We've only met once.
   It was long ago.
   I was a different person back then.
   And if we were to meet again, really meet again, I don't think you'd recognize me.

   I've seen you around more times than I care to admit. Always at the worst times. The last time being right after Christmas. Right after my dad left. I could have said something. Stopped to say hello. But I didn't care. I knew God had set it up, but I ignored Him because I had too many problems going on, I didn't need yours. I realize now how selfish I had been. I don't know when I stopped loving others, but slowly my intense passion for others turned to apathy. Everything I had that made me different was fading.

   But like each time before that I started to fall into selfishness, you showed up.

   I guess hearing your name is God's subtle reminder that there are more important things in life than my own drama. Because each time you come up, I remember. I remember that I there is a world of hurting people out there. I have a whole world to save, I just get so caught up in myself that I often forget.

   I was so different.

   People think I'm shy now? Ha. No. I was shy back then. I was terrified of everything and everyone. Tall, intimidating, older people especially. 

   I don't know how different you were. 

   I've come to realize that in this life, there are 3 different people that are identified by one body. As for you, there's the you that you pretend to be, there's the you people around me say you are, and then there's the you that I see you as. 

   I think the last one is correct. Although its scary when I seem to be the only person to see some things. 

   You're in a bad place right now. You've always kind of been in a bad place, but during this time especially. So that's why I'm writing this letter. Because I hope that someday these words would drift to the right ears and bring hope.

   Because I was in a bad place once too. 

   Not the same bad place as you. But I used to be in metaphorical chains. I'm not anymore. 

   If this were a movie, I would be able to walk over there and say everything I hadn't all these years. I would speak confidently and your heart would soften and you would accept my words. But this isn't a movie. This is reality; and the reality is, I'm so shy, and I have no idea what I could say, and I don't know how to even go about such a task. Plus you would probably cuss me out or laugh at me. 

   But here is the heart of it all; you're not who you pretend to be or who others say you are. I know because if I had a super power, it would be seeing things from a different perspective. It's something God has graced me with. I used to think it was a curse; that I was doomed to see things wrong, but I found that I'm not seeing things wrong, I'm seeing them from a different stand point. When I look at people, I don't see the mess they've made, I see all that they could be. Maybe that's how we can love people; we see past their faults and into their future.

   I saw a picture of a bunch of people gathered together to pray for a friend. It made me wonder...how many people would get together to pray on your behalf? Sure if they heard about your story, about where you're at, about your hard life, they might say a quick prayer. But in all honesty, who would go out of their way to pray for you on a regular basis?

   Well, me.

   It's been over 5 years. I don't see you anymore but every night before I go to bed, God says to me "pray." And I do. For you.

   I saw fruit once. That was enough. One time. One sentence. That was all the proof I needed that you could be redeemed. Not that I ever doubted you.

   Call me crazy. Call me a freak. A weirdo. Obsessive. Odd. I don't care.

   I'm a fanatic. For Christ. And I couldn't care less about what other people have to say about me.

   Here's what I want you to know: you are always braver than you think. You're not a lost cause. You have made mistakes, but you don't have to keep making mistakes. Sometimes you just need one person the believe in you, so know that I do. I always have. And I always will.

   Some people look at you and they shake their heads because you're a sinner. You've screwed up. You got into some deep crap. They say its a shame where you are now. They judge you but they won't offer a hand to help you up.

   But I think of you and think of someone who will do anything to be noticed, because you're so scared of being forgotten. You don't care if your reputation is good or bad, as long as everyone knows it. I'm sure you've cried. Many of nights probably. But no one will ever see those tears. I see the hurt you've felt, I know a lot of it is because of your parents who split. I know how that feels. I know you feel deeply. You love even deeper than you hate, but you would never let anyone know that. I've seen you as you've tried to satisfy yourself with anything and everything the world had to offer. And I've watched as it never got you anywhere.

   I don't know if you feel guilt or shame, I don't know if you're grieving your situation or if you think you're cool because of it, but I know that it gets better.

   I know that you have a future. God has a plan for your life. I know because I used to think my world was over, but you showed me that it wasn't.

   I don't know why God decided to put you on my heart, nor do I know why He chose me for the task; because surely there are better equipped people out there. But He doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called. I'm just going to walk out on a limb with this one.

   I know you can be great. I don't know how many people have ever told you that. But I promise, you have a great future ahead of you. Life is more than this moment or these struggles. Our past doesn't have to dictate our future. And most of all, you can be so much more than this. You are loved. You are being prayed for. You can be a world changer.

   I hope that one day I'll be able to see you again. I don't know what's going to happen, but I know something has to. I have asked God to break your heart, to let you feel a holy sorrow, one that leads to redemption. Your story isn't over yet. Because you are amazing, you just need to be reminded.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Adjusting To Life With Lupus

   It's been about a month and a half since I was diagnosed with lupus. Since then my life has been a whirl of doctors appointments and blood tests and things of the like. Having to adjust to my new life has been quite the adventure. The thing about lupus is that it can range from hardly feeling symptoms to life threatening; and anywhere in between. When it comes to lupus patients, we're all different; so I've had to find out where my body is at on different levels. I've been going to a bunch of different doctors to find out which parts of me are being affected by lupus; but also on a day to day basis how much I can take.

   It's hard enough for me to understand my new limitations, and its even harder when the people around me give me crap for my new limitations that they can't understand. I used to be a very active person, of course now that I have a chronic illness that has changed a bit. I don't always have the energy to do things I used to enjoy. I have a hard time giving myself a break sometimes. So I want to educate people on my illness and the effects it can have on a person. Maybe you know someone with a chronic illness, if so, I hope you will read this to better understand what they're going through.

   Lupus is an autoimmune disease. It's where your immune system is crazy and attacks itself because it registers its own tissue and cells as an enemy. Lupus can attack any part of your body. The list of symptoms is very long. The symptoms include, but are not limited to, the following:

Swollen joints
Blue hands
Sores in mouth or on skin
The Butterfly Rash
Chest pain
Confusion and/or seizures
Blood clots
Heart attack
Hair loss

(For more, check out Lupus.org.)

   I was having a lot of the symptoms listed. Most people with lupus go through a lot before finally being diagnosed with lupus, lucky for me though, I was diagnosed fairly quickly. My Freshman year I was diagnosed with chronic ITP, although its not believed that was a manifestation of my lupus early on.

   When my joints first started acting up, I was in an incredible amount of pain. I could barely walk most days, if at all. But yet others days I felt well enough to play ultimate frisbee with my youth group; which for me means a lot of running and jumping. Some days I felt great and other days I felt awful. I was feeling a ton of fatigue as well. I have never taken naps, but soon I was taking them several times a week. Not only was I exhausted and couldn't walk, but my fingers started swelling and my wrist was hurting. I thought it had been from typing on my computer, but I found out later it was my lupus. I've always loved American Sign Language, but I was unable to fingerspell, or do any signing efficiently, because my fingers were so swollen. On cold days my hands would turn blue too; and I don't mean tinted blue, they were like dyed blue. And everyone at my church told me it was the dye from my new jeans which I had conveniently just bought the day before. When I started having bad fevers was when it became enough, and I was taken to the ER and admitted to the hospital. Soon after that I was given a definite diagnosis.

   So that's been my life. Some days are harder than others. There are times I don't want to get out of bed and other days I want to run my heart out. This week I biked over 20 miles in two days, but who knows how I'll be feeling tomorrow? My biggest struggle is not having the energy I did before and not being able to breath as well as I used to. Sometimes stress can cause me to have heart palpitations; and on the fourth of July I was having really weird breathing problems from the anxiety the fireworks caused me, which had never happened before this year.

   Another thing that has been different in my life is that being out in the sun makes me sick. Some lupus patients get the butterfly rash and some get sick and others get a different symptom; well I went for a walk shortly after being diagnosed and I found out then that I get really sick if I'm out in the sun for extended periods of time. Plus the heat makes it hard for me to breath.

   I don't have a lot of energy, and a lot of simple tasks for average people are exhausted for people like me. Nowadays I count a mile walk to the store with my brother as a workout, or mowing the lawn, or 20 squats and some crunches. If you know me, you would know that I love fitness. I used to do 2 hour Jillian Michaels workouts. Heck, I did P-90x because I was bored. Now I do some squats and I want to throw up. But I have to remind myself its not because I'm out of shape, its because I'm sick. (To learn more about fatigue in chronic illness, check out The Spoon Theory.) On top of all this, I get really nauseous really easily. I can't eat a lot because if I eat what used to be my average meal, I get sick.

   But you know the worst part about all of that? When I try my best to cope with it all and no one appreciates my effort. Hey, I got out of bed today! That may not seem like a lot to you, but to us spoonies, its huge! So please, try and understand us. Because we won't call you out on it, but it can hurt us. Don't judge me because it takes me twice as long to do stairs as you, I'm not a klutz for dropping things constantly, that's my body being affected by lupus; and I'm not an idiot for forgetting things, its called lupus fog. I don't say a lot of this because I don't want lupus to be my crutch. I've heard "you can get away with anything! Just blame it on your lupus!" so many times. I don't want to be that girl. You know? I don't want to blame my illness for everything and I don't want to complain about it either. So please don't take this post as me complaining. Its simply me stating my situation. I know, I've got it so much better than most lupus warriors, so I am so grateful for that. But sometimes it can be frustrating dealing with people. I wanted to write this so maybe someone will understand better.

   Thank you for being so kind as to read all of that. In closing, I want to share some of my favorite lupus related pictures. Enjoy!


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Solid Rock 2014

   I'm back from camp!!! Well...I got back a week ago and then had a very busy week and didn't get around to sitting down to write until now. Of course, since my crazy long absence, the list of things I need to say has become monstrous. So I'll try my hardest not to make this too long. Plus I have a lot of pictures that will add this the length of this post. 

   Anyhow, camp was amazing. I had been feeling nervous on and off for weeks before camp. See, so much has changed in my life since last year and so much happened last time at camp and I knew it wouldn't be the same and I didn't know what God had in store for me. I knew it would either be really good or really bad. That unknowing made me anxious. But two or so weeks before camp, God started working in me and preparing me. He was saying He had a mission for me. I learned about hope and healing and I started to grasp these concepts very well. (I even blogged about them. You can see my last post on hope.) God told me that this year, camp wasn't for me. I had been spending way too much time wallowing in hurt and sorrow when other people needed me. Hope is contagious; I figured that out. I shouldn't cry about my situation, I should be an example and show people that its possible to have hope is dire situations, even if I was having a hard time believing it myself.

   The theme of the week was Phlight 320, because our theme verse was Philippians 3:20 "For our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ." It was so cool how God works; I don't really remember the order of everything, so I'll just write them as I recall them. See, in the mornings the girls usually have a different speaker than the boys, so we split up. But this year something happened to the girls speaker so on a last minute decision, we ended up doing morning meetings with the guys and their speaker. God is so funny because I got the most out of the morning speaker, and I shouldn't even have heard him at all. 


   The morning meetings had a pretty common theme; being yourself. And by that I mean, being who you were made to be; fully rooted in Christ. (which tied into the theme from last year quite nicely.) We're all in search of an identity and more often than not, we search for it in places where its not. Our identity isn't in things of this world, it's in Christ. Once we are secure in that, we can go forth and be all that we were meant to be.

   On Wednesday I was feeling thoroughly confused. I was learning a lot from the talks, I knew God had a mission for me, and I knew He would pull through on His promises; yet nothing was making sense. I had small ideas and concepts, but no big picture. I wanted God to speak and yet He was being quiet...or I was being s sucky listener again. I decided to journal a prayer to God to sort out some thoughts, and after I did that I decided to look back on my prayers from last year at camp. I only had one written down. And it started off like this "Alright God, here's the thing: I'm very, very confused." I laughed because the first thing I wrote in my newest entry was "God, I feel like I'm constantly confused." I was discouraged because I felt like I had gotten nowhere since last year. I was still worrying about stupid crap that God is certainly big enough to handle, I still had all this head knowledge and next to no heart knowledge, and I was still not the person I had always wanted to be. Basically, I felt like a disciple. You know, the people to which Jesus said "Oh ye of little faith." I felt like if God were to stand in front of me He would face palm and say "I literally named you Faith so you wouldn't forget to trust me!"

   I don't know when everything finally clicked for me. But I had my Shift, as Ned Vizzini calls it. That "aha!" moment. Although I don't think it was a single big moment, but a collection of small ones. Like how Claire came up to thank me for everything I had done for her not even two hours after my arrival, or Jake who asked if I was okay and prayed with me on the night I specifically asked God to send someone to pray for me because I needed someone to remind me I wasn't invisible; also having deep discussions with Amanda and Claire at different points throughout the week, and Bessie who made me an X-Men pillow, Gabe who gave me a hug when I had a bad headache, Mark who didn't let me sit alone and made me feel like I was one of them, and for Olivia for all the hugs and kisses on the cheek when I was feeling horrible on Wednesday.

   All those things made me realize something: I wasn't alone. I had never been alone. You see, I had always had a hard time feeling like I belonged at camp. Sure I loved the people there and I loved being there, but I never thought that love was mutual. I thought I was too awkward or weird, that no one wanted to hang out with me or be my friend. I felt like the reject. I blamed the camp kids a lot by saying they were too cliquey and they were this and they were that; they shut me out and made me feel isolated. But I realized that the only person that kept me from making lasting friendships was myself. I isolated myself and I never tried to reach out to others. I expected friendships to just land on my plate. I had that "if they wanted to talk to me, they would" mindset. And have I ever told you how much I hate that mindset? Its stupid and I hate it. One morning the talk was on friendship, and that one really hit me hard. I realized that I had been taking so much and giving so little. I had been being a horrible friend to a lot of people. And most of all, I wasn't being myself. I wasn't being all I could be and I was barely being who I really was. The camp kids had always accepted me; I had just never accepted them. I don't know why I was so set on being alone, maybe it was because I was "accepting the love I thought I deserved." Either way, after I realized this, I looked around and saw how loved I was. I was a part of this camp, of this body of believers. 

   After that happened, I was more set on helping someone than ever. I was still praying for that one person to help. The person God had put on my heart weeks before camp even started. But as the week progressed and I got more and more anxious for God to reveal the person, I noticed the ways I had helped others already. Again I realized it wasn't one solid moment or conversation, or even one person, but a bunch of little things. Life is made up of little things, and those things add up to something bigger than ourselves. I then challenged myself to step outside my comfort zone. The song 'Oceans' hit me hard one night. "Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the water wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior." I was ready to change. I was done being shy and feeling sorry for myself. I wanted to help others. I had always had a vision of who I would be one day, and I constantly thought about the things I would do and the personality I would have, and I always thought about it and never acted on it. I wanted to act. 

I came to a point that week where I realized who I was. Who I really was, not who I pretended to be or who I had been; I finally understood who I was in Christ. And once I fully grasped that, I was able to let go of others opinions of me, and once I stopped caring what other people thought of me, I was able to reach out to them. I was also able to swallow my pride and apologize to someone I had wronged. I could be honest with people now because I wasn't concerned with whether or not they liked me. I was free to be myself. I got to look back on the past year and accept it. All the hurt, the joy, the memories, the hard nights, and the triumphs. It all happened, but it didn't have to enslave me or dictate my future. One song that had been pounding on my heart for some time was So I Thought by Flyleaf. It says "a year goes by...and I can't talk about it." That was me. So much happened this year that I couldn't talk about. The hurt was so fresh and real and I couldn't let it go. But the end of the song says "I'm praying we will see something there in between then and there that exceeds all we can dream, so we can talk about it."

   One last lesson I learned is that although I originally thought there was 0 spiritual growth the past year, I actually grew a whole freaking lot. That was proven each time someone said something triggering at camp and I didn't let it get to me. Guys. That has never happened before. I always thought that my sanity rested on whether or not someone would say something triggering. Because once it was said, I lost it every time. No matter what. Heck, I had three panic attacks at camp last year due to things that people said. It was really bad last year. And now...I'm free. Fear doesn't own me. I'm ready to talk about it. 

   Congratulations if you made it to the end of this post. You're a lovely human. I hope you learned something from my ramblings. I hope it inspires you. Also, would you keep me in your prayers? I'm having a biopsy done on Wednesday and I found out that I won't be sedated for it. So I'll be awake while they shove needles into my throat. Pray for peace for me and my mom, wisdom for the doctors, and healing for my body. I'll blog once I get the results, which should come in a day or two after the biopsy. 

   Now in summary, don't wait to be who you want to be. Love who you are and do what you love. I came home from camp and dyed my hair pink because I've always wanted to. I wore a super cute dress downtown and took a ton of pictures. I was able to do this because I was free. Other people's opinions don't have any power over me anymore. They shouldn't have power over you either. You were made to be whole. So don't wallow around in brokenness. God wants only the very best for His children. 

"Arise! And be all that you dreamed!"