Wednesday, July 6, 2016

You May Now Miss Your Bride

From where I stood behind the young beauty in white, I had a direct view of his face. It did help that his Norwegian frame put him a good head taller than his beautiful Filipina bride, who is quite lacking in stature. And I could see all the emotion on his face, all the emotion that had built up as the millions of pieces that form a wedding had come together. We were all finally here. The groomsmen, sporting bowties and suspenders, were lined up in an evolutionary sort of progression of Adventist pioneer style beards, like well-dressed versions of William Miller heading to the farmer’s market to pick up his ethically sourced quinoa. The other two bridesmaids and I wore coordinating navy dresses that consisted of a skirt and two very, very long strips of fabric that you wrapped around your upper torso in all sorts of fancy (*cough* complicated) ways. You could go for a halter top, strapless, sleeveless, the burrito, or the “what’s that wad of walking blue stuff?” look. (They’re called Infinity dresses. I think because there is an infinite number of ways you can make yourself look like a life-size piece of Japanese origami. Thankfully we managed not to look too shabby.)

People had traveled from as far as the Philippines and as close as the other side of town just to be here for this special day. They endured recycled oxygen as they flew across oceans. They sat in ulcer-inducing rental cars as they drove over miles of Alberta prairie and BC mountains. Now everyone was finally here. The details were all taken care of. Each corsage was pinned. Bowties straightened. Buttons were…butted. The only thing left was the bride. She walked up. He met her at the altar, her parents placed her hand in his, and now they faced each other.

After the prayer, she began to sing. I couldn’t see her face, but I could see his clearly. He looked up to heaven and water came from his eyes; he was overflowing. His shoulders began to shake with a combination of sobs and laughter, as though moving to the rhythm of music so divine none of us could hear it. He cried and cried and she sang and sang. First in Norwegian and then English.

As he read his vows, his hands began to shake, like new spring leaves dancing in the wind. He was trembling so badly, in fact, the pastor had to steady his arms and the bride held his hands.

It’s funny how we react to strong emotions. We shake for a multitude of reasons: when we’re scared, angry, nervous, hungry, excited, laughing, or joyful. And at the bottom of it all, we shake because we’re movable, touchable, vulnerable. We can feel things and that’s why there’s motion in our emotions. It’s a signal that we really feel something through our entire being.

Sometimes I feel like seeing men cry can be awkward or uncomfortable. I’ve never seen my dad cry. But this display of emotion didn’t take away from this groom’s masculinity at all. It only showed his deep love for his bride and the depth of the joy he felt. Because when your love is that deep, you can’t help but shamelessly show it, adoring the other with abandon.

This groom and bride I stood behind had a mostly long distance dating relationship, something a lot of people can’t handle. I remember her telling me how much she missed him. Two years is a long time to be separated. My mind falls apart when I try and even fathom six thousand.

Maybe that’s why the earth is going to shake when Christ comes. He’s coming for His bride and, like the pastor said at the wedding, all He wants is her. That’s it. At the end of the day, she’s it for Him. I hope that someday I can see Jesus’ shoulders shake with sobs of joy and laughter because He finally has His bride. The distance, the gap, the separation, the waiting—it’s all done. She has Him and He has her. When we sing because we’re finally there with Him forever, His eyes will overflow with joy because He is a God who is moveable, touchable; He can feel things. When He’s finally reunited with His bride, all He will do is shamelessly show His affection and we will only be able to adore Him with abandon.

I’m so quick to forget that this is the God I serve. It’s easy for me to feel like His heart is an unmovable stone. But thank goodness I have experiences like this, little windows in life, to remind me of who is missing us right now. We’re His bride and we are greatly missed. But soon the missing will be over and there will only be the shameless shaking of joy, laughter, and togetherness.  

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Thank God I didn't get what I wanted

The other night I was walking out of the grocery store when I looked up and saw a trail of cloud left by an airplane. I stopped in the parking lot to admire its minimalism and clarity. It was straight as an arrow and cut right through, like a rip in a giant blue sheet of sky, vignetted by a sunset. 

I used to want my life to be like that. Clear-cut. Plain. Full of a direction with no room left for misinterpretation.

But our desires can change, morph, lessen. Thank God my life has not been like that.

I tipped my face down toward the ground, back to the earth my feet are so firmly attached to, and walked on. I crossed through the parking lot and began to maneuver my way through the street. For the last year almost, the city has been doing construction. It’s been a pain, to be honest. They’ve been working their way down my street and have finally planted all their mechanical monsters right in front of my house. Sometimes I get up in the morning and it sounds like a dinosaur is vomiting outside. Other times it’s a dull thud, thud, thud in the background with intermittent beeps from the backhoes and bulldozers and whatnot. You’d think they were each attached to a colossal heart monitor. Also, this chaos in the front of my house means I always have to drive out the back alley way to get anywhere and everywhere instead of the main street like a normal person. Not to mention that Bob the Builder and his crew isn’t the most beautiful sight to behold in the morning when I sit at the table and eat breakfast. First world problems.

But it didn’t bother me that much that evening as I walked home. Something about that time of day where the sun is just setting and the day is just ending makes you thoughtful. The construction made the path winding, with occasional mud puddles to dodge. Piles of gravel and giant metal bins dotted the street as well. I passed a little boy who was having a ball running up and down the gravel hill and sliding into a metal container. Don’t get hurt, I told him. There were ditches along the road too, sidewalks broken up. 

This is more like it.

I used to want my life to be like that airplane trail in the sky, uncluttered, straight, and simple. But what we want isn’t always what we need. We ask for a paved street. We get a construction zone. Step right this way! And we furrow our brows and check the map to see what went wrong. 

I remember the first time someone planted a seed in my mind, a seed that would grow and make me realize that God’s people aren’t always called to be trail blazers in the sky, but rather to be successful construction zone trekkers, to walk through the unclear to follow each calling God has, step by step by mud puddle by gravel pile by trip over that rock by step… 

I was at a youth conference and I happened to run into a friend I hadn’t seen for while. He asked what I was doing with my life (a question I dreaded like the bubonic plague). I was honest with this friend though. At the time I didn’t know what I was doing and I was frustrated and felt stuck. He made a suggestion I felt I’d heard a thousand times. Do something in missions. I proceeded to inform him of all the missioning and ministering I had done. I informed him that I had been there and done that and was still there and still doing that and still didn’t know what to do. Then he looked at me and said something that has really helped change way I see God’s plan for my life and how God works. 

“Allie, none of those things are time fillers.” 

I came to a mental stop sign. 


I was all ears. He then proceeded to inform me that he didn’t believe in one life calling. Whatever I am doing right now, that is my life calling. There was more to the conversation and I’ve had others since then with him and his wife, who have both come to mean so much to me, like an older brother and sister. 

However, it’s taken me a while to unpack those words and tuck them away into the soil of my mind, to grow and let their roots become part of me. To be real, I’m still figuring out how to live that kind of life. But as I look back now, things are coming into focus. 

After I graduated from high school, I spent my time doing missionary things, ministry things, churchy things, but only as a means of fulfilling my dreams, not God’s. And ministry is never fulfilling if we’re trying to fulfill our dreams instead of God’s. I saw those adventures as a bridge, a stepping stone to get to the kind of life I wanted. But, as I said before, what we want isn’t always what we need. So when I didn’t get what I wanted, it left me feeling frustrated, stuck, and purposeless. 

That following summer I was laying on a hospital bed, waiting for my mom to get done with work, when I decided to read a bit in the book Education. I pulled up the chapter The Lifework on my phone, and as I read, quotations shot from the pages like bullets and buried themselves into my heart. It was like God was taking my near-sighted eyes and fitting them with glasses, so I could see as He sees.

“The heaven-appointed purposed of giving the gospel to the world in this generation is the noblest that can appeal to any human being. It opens a field of effort to everyone whose heart Christ has touched” (pg. 262). 

Boom! She really let me have it there. Lying on a bed in a building where physical illness is cured, I read words that were curing a spiritual illness. I began to see where I was at, my current position in life, with new eyes. Sharing the gospel with this generation is the most noble thing I could ever aspire to. That meant that whatever I was doing right then and there, if I was sharing the gospel, then it not only mattered, but was full of purpose and meaning of the highest kind. This was the good stuff. I didn’t need to go and find a calling. I had one right there.

That summer and into the fall when I went back to work, God stirred these sort of musings and they slowly seeped into my mind and heart. I found that year to be so fulfilling. I saw my work differently, those I took care of differently. What I did mattered. God showed me how He could use me to bring another soul a bit closer to Him. And even if I didn’t know how long I would be there or where I was going next, that was a calling fully worthy of my energy right then and there. It was worth being present in those moments for those girls. Maybe I’m only understanding some of this now in retrospect. But I see it all the same. 

Now I’m somewhere else. In another house on a street riddled with construction, thankful my life has not turned out as I wanted it to. I’m still figuring out how to best live in a construction zone. I’m still unpacking what it means to be fully present and following God’s calling right now and knowing how to move forward even if I don’t see the whole picture. There are still lots of question marks. But I’m slowly learning to look less at the airplane trails and instead embrace the journey that is both painful and beautiful, moving but not clear cut, rugged but always paved with God’s faithfulness. And I’m so grateful for the journey He’s brought me through. I asked for one thing, but what He has given is better.

Sometimes we ask for direction and God gives us experience. 
Sometimes we ask for our dreams and He gives us His vision.
Sometimes we ask for order to surround us and He brings order within us. 
Sometimes we ask to please others and He reminds us to please Him.
Sometimes we ask for airplane trails and He gives us a construction zone.

We long for control, order, plans and dreams fulfilled, but we get process, the unexpected, and delays. But all this forms the organic story that has made me who I am. This collection of experiences, all these this-is-not-what-I-ordered-waiter-please-take-it-back moments, all these things God has used to make me who I am and who He wants me to be. He uses all these things to use me in His plan and to make me a square in the quilt of His meta narrative that I am blessed to be a part of. 

And I thank God for a life like that. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

If Families Were Foods

If families were foods, mine would be a sloppy joe sandwich. A little bit weird, crazy, and messy, but still fun. With seven kids, we’re comparable in size to the Waltons, but definitely lacking their quaintness. Think Full House meets Curious George and you’ll find not my family, but maybe something vaguely similar. As kids we definitely kept my mom on her toes, and I’m sure if she had made a batch of cookies for every time we did or said something awkward, embarrassing, hilarious, or just plain weird, Betty Crocker would have run out of town with her pants down at her ankles (that is, if Betty wears pants). 

Like that time we were at church and, during the invocation, the unthinkable happened—someone let one loose, and it must have smelled pretty rank because my brother, honest toe-head that he is, whispered (loudly) to my mom, “Mommy, what’s that smell?”

Shhh! Be quiet,” She whispered back, desperately hoping no one had heard his inquiry about the deadly fog filling the air. 

“But it smells really bad!” He hoarsed back. Leave it to the toddler to say it like it is. No doubt the angels were covering their noses as well.

Or there was that time our family attended a wedding and my sister decided to play NewYork Fashion Week commentator. During the reception, she asked my mom if she “liked the fat lady’s hair-do.” My mom thought if she ignored my sister no one would notice this mortifying faux pas that was worthy of societal excommunication, so she didn’t say anything.

As Murphy’s Law would have it though, my sister figured my mom had legitimately not heard her, so she spoke up with blood-curdling clarity from what seem to be the lungs of Scottish bagpipe player, “Mom, I said, ‘Do you like the fat lady’s hair-do?’” My mom’s face was probably as red as a freshly painted firetruck in a tomato patch. She also probably thought of calling the mortician. Yes, hello, Mr. Gravedigger? I know we said we’d meet up in seventy years, but I think I’m ready—like, now.

Yup, sloppy joes.

In the line up of the seven, I am number five. And, as one of last beans in the burrito, I definitely got my share of teasing from my older siblings, though admittedly I brought most of it upon myself. 

When we were young, my little sister and I shared a massive bedroom just down the hall from my parents. It might not have actually boasted that much square footage, but in my seven-year-old mind, it was huge. It also had a closet, and inside the closet was a crawlspace my mom used as a storage unit. I enjoyed rifling through the boxes and looking at the old baby clothes and toys. But what I didn’t like was turning on the lights. You see, the crawlspace was long and skinny, with an orphan lightbulb at each end and a sea of ombre darkness in between. It was so black, I’m sure all the villains of Disney would have had tea parties there if they’d known it existed. 

One of my older sisters must have known this fear of the crawlspace was my achilles heels (one of many). So she pulled me aside one day, looked into my brown eyes that seemed to take up most of my face, and told me in guttural, troll-like tones that my crawlspace was the gateway to hell. Cue the horror film soundtrack. I don’t think I actually fully believed her, but I do remember that I went downstairs and informed my parents, who were visiting with friends from church, of this theological inaccuracy. But all I gained from my whistle blowing was laughter from the adults. Oh well.

Sloppy joes are also messy, and when you have nine people living under one roof, things are bound to get a little crazy. But my parents could always count on me to come up with innovative ways to stay organized. I remember one time my sister and I were having fun in our room and we’d pulled out nearly all the toys we owned, strewing them across the floor like they were the leaves of autumn. As fate would have it, my dad came through our door during this Toys R Us fest and saw our mess of childish wonder; he was less than thrilled. After surveying the wreckage, he said something about how he couldn’t even walk in our room and then left.

So—ingenious problem solver that I am—I decided I would fix the issue by parting the waters and pushing my toys to each side of the room, thus creating a path so that you could actually walk through my room. 

After implementing my strategy with the enthusiasm that comes from knowing you have a brilliant idea, I pulled my father by the hand back into my room, like a tug boat towing a steamer to the open ocean. “Look, Dad. Now you can walk,” I explained, as thought it were the greatest thing to happen since sliced bread. You’d think I was Moses and had just parted the Red Sea. The only problem was that Dad didn’t mirror my enthusiasm for this new method of organization. Thus my promising career as the future host of Hoarders took off with about the same success as the time I tried to use a grocery bag as a parachute. Fail. 

I could probably go on for a while with different stories about how my sister gave my mom a cup of oil to drink as a joke when she was pregnant or how I used to put my jeans on with my legs folded in half and walk around like they had been amputated (no offense to any double amputees) or the time I put my brother in a cardboard barrel and rolled him down a hill or the time my sister got chased around the house by our demon-possessed rooster. But this is a blog post, not a book. I just wanted to give you a tiny peek into some of our memories. We’re definitely not a cucumber finger sandwich family, a filet mignon family, or even gluten-free Nutella and pumpkin spice cheesecake family. Our crazy definitely shows and we haven’t managed to tuck it back in. 

But as I’ve grown older, I see that every family has its own messiness, even God’s family. Just peruse a few pages of Scripture and you see the sloppiness spilling off the pages. Between Abraham and Lot, David and Basheba, Peter and Judas, things get a little hairy, and the authors of the Bible don’t gloss over this stuff in any way. A soap opera this is not. It’s the real deal. 

But what I love is that through all this messy sin stuff, God’s faithfulness shines through big time, veneering each story of selfishness and disobedience, rebellion and pride—things much worse than the silly childish antics I’ve described. Sometimes I get bogged down when I look at myself or others and see selfish motives, impure thoughts, and unkind words popping up all over the place, like pimples on a teenager’s face as my brother-in-law would say. We’re so far from where we’re supposed to be. But when I look at what God was able to do through the brittle, stony hearts that fill each page of the Bible, I’m encouraged. Because if He can do that in them, He can do it in me. He can do it in us. He can do it in this church. As you enjoy the Sabbath, I encourage you to rest in this glorious hope of redemption through God’s faithfulness.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. —1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24 NKJV 



Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Day I Found a Dead Body

On a recent Sabbath I was sitting outside, enjoying the sunshine, when I saw a dead body lying on the ground. I didn’t spaz out and call the police, the morgue, or even the crypt keeper. I decided to just walk away.

         You’re probably a little bit confused, so I’ll explain.


“You need to be more confident,” she told me, as though it were something I might not have heard before. A couple of friends and I were practicing a song for church that next Sabbath, and one of these women was trying to coach me (she has much more musical training than I do). I needed it, because somewhere in the blending of words and notes I was supposed to sing a solo, to project my naked voice out into the air with boldness and gusto. But instead of releasing my inner canary, the words were tiptoeing out like a mouse creeping out of its hole. I sounded confident in the same way that Kermit the Frog sounds like Mel Gibson in Brave Heart. OK, those are exaggerations, but you get the idea.

From an outsider’s perspective, this little comment from my friend doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal. Lots of people get nervous when they sing up front. For me though it was different. It was different because her comment wasn’t an isolated observation of my attitude; it was evidence of something deeper. A lack of confidence seems to be a theme in my life, and, like reruns of Leave it to Beaver, it comes up over and over and over again. I’ve heard it from teachers, friends, and others. Flavoring nearly all I do, I feel like it crops up everywhere—work, school, relationships.

Over time, I’ve realized that it’s an issue that has roots that run deep in my childhood. If you were to rewind my life about ten years, I think you’d find a different person. I don’t talk a lot about how I used to be to the general public, mainly because I don’t feel like most people can relate with where I’ve been. But I’ve wondered recently if it’s time to talk about it more openly. So here it goes…

To cut to the chase, my parents filed for divorce when I was fourteen. During the beginning of the end of their marriage, I quickly spiraled into a—well, the best way I can describe it is a spiritual OCD. I’m not sure what comes to your mind when you read that term, but I’ll try my best to paint a clear picture of what it was like for me. It’s hard though to explain these struggles because when I describe them, they don’t sound like struggles at first. It’s almost like me saying I had an ice-cream truck break down in front of my house…well, shucks, that’s a real bummer. For example, I prayed—a lot, nearly whenever and wherever I felt compelled to, whether I was in the bathroom, the kitchen, wherever.

Whoa, Allie. Sounds like you and Hitler must have been besties. Sure hope you got converted.

Again, I know it doesn’t sound like a bad problem to have, or really a problem at all. But these weren’t the kind of prayers where you feel that peace that passes all understanding at the end, like you just finished confiding to a trusted friend. These were prayers that made me feel like I was in a pit and had to jump and claw my way out, but I could never quite stay out of the pit. These prayers never left me with peace because they never seemed to finish. I could be on my knees in the bathroom for forty-five minutes if I felt like the Holy Spirit was impressing me to pray right then and there. And this could happen multiple times a day. It wasn’t uncommon for me to kneel beside my bed for half an hour to an hour every night to pray before I slept. There was always one more sin I had to confess and repent of or else lose my salvation; one more thing I had to thank God for or else I was sinning and being ungrateful; one more person I had to pray for or else I would upset my heavenly Father. And if I didn’t say something right or didn’t get everything I was supposed to the first time, I had to confess that sin and make amends. If I hadn’t thanked God for His forgiveness, I had to quickly repent or suffer the torment of knowing Jesus would return in clouds of glory someday and leave me behind.

And in addition to these prayers, I prayed before every single homework assignment, and, again, they were long prayers. So long in fact that I had a hard time completing my school work, and I fell miles behind academically, mainly in math. It got to the point where my mom said she might need to bring me home from the boarding academy I was attending. When these difficulties first began, my mom had wanted me to see a counselor, but because we were moving across the country at that time, it wasn’t feasible.

So, though I had many long conversations with God, there was no love at all involved—either from my side towards Him or from Him toward me. If you had asked me, I would have told you that I believed God loved me. But I was blind to the fact that I wasn’t living like I knew He loved me and to the fact that the God I was praying to wasn’t really one of love anyway.

When you don’t know that God loves you, you live in a constant state of questioning and uncertainty. Everything was a moral issue for me. If I didn’t think I’d wash my hands long enough before a meal, I had to do it again. If I wasn’t sure I had swept every speck of dust off the floor while cleaning the kitchen, I needed to go back and get the speck I missed. I also apologized to people obsessively.

The spiritual nature of my struggle was what made it so difficult to overcome. I couldn’t tell that I was looking at myself and God through an insidiously warped lens. I felt like if I didn’t listen to those forceful and compulsive inner promptings that I thought were from the Holy Spirit, I would lose my salvation the instant I “rebelled.” It was more of, as I heard one pastor say, a yo-yo experience. One second I’m saved, another I’m not. Up and down, up and down. But more down than up. When I should have been experiencing blessed assurance, I was being held in the vice-like grip of legalism and a misconception of God’s character. It was like being in a prison that looks beautiful at first glance but becomes ugly with prolonged exposure. And even a beautiful prison is still a prison. That’s what’s so tricky about legalism. It looks good, right, and pious. What could be wrong? Well, everything. Sin is so much more than a behavior. It strikes at the very way our heart sees our heavenly Father, the way we see Him seeing us.

Over the years though, I learned to ignore those promptings, at least to a certain extent, and I didn’t feel as much anxiety or guilt hanging over me like a constant banner. I caught up in my homework and did just fine academically. I seemed to leave most of these obsessions behind. However, I’ve found them resurfacing in my life as a young twenty-something adult trying to find her way. They’ve just shown up in other guises: namely, a lack of confidence (as I mentioned above), insecurity, indecision, fear of failure. Like uninvited guests at a party, they’ve crashed nearly every area of my life, poisoned my thought processes, and left me immobilized. They’ve burdened me with a backpack full of second-guesses, laced my mind with what ifs and you should haves, always promising I’ll be stronger and wiser for carrying the extra weight. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone to this school. Maybe I shouldn’t have made that decision. What if I should take this course? What if I shouldn’t get to know this person? What if this isn’t really my calling? What if I’m never really successful? What if I just don’t have what it takes? The constant analysis paralysis has left me lost in the grey area, stuck in the intermission, stalled in the intersection.

 I recently went through an experience though where my anxiety and fear went in for the slam dunk. I felt hopeless, confused, frustrated, and desperate. However, something so painful has turned out to be hope-filled and redemptive. Because I was so anxious and desperate, I was willing to take a timeout and seriously re-evaluate myself, the way I think, and why I do what I do. And that evaluation has taken me further down the path of understanding who I am, who God truly is, and how He actually sees me.

Though it’s probably obvious to you, it’s taken a long time for me to figure it out—and I know there’s still more to figure out—but the core of these struggles that seem to crop up in my life like dandelions in the springtime stem from the same thing: a fear of not being good enough. I might not spend an hour praying every night or obsess over whether I swept the floor properly anymore, but that same fear that caused me to obsess has kept me from trying new things because I’m scared I won’t succeed, I won’t be enough. It’s kept me from making a decision for fear I’ll make the wrong one and not be enough. Though it’s not the only obstacle that’s hindered my progress, it’s kept me back in a lot of ways, because if you’re not good enough, you’re not accepted, you don’t belong, you’re not loved. And everyone wants to be accepted, to belong, to be loved. Without the knowledge that we are loved, life is meaningless. So we’ll do anything to prove we’re enough, even if it means fighting a futile battle to earn the favor of a monstrous misconception of God.

I saw God as someone who accepted you only after you made the cut, after you reached a certain standard. So I did everything I could to be good enough till I was worn out and fed up, torn down and caving in. What I didn’t realize ten years ago, but am beginning to realize now, is that I already am enough. No, I’m not good, but I am enough. Jesus looks at me, in my brown eyes that see through such a narrow, loveless lens; He sees the conflicting emotions of frustration at never being enough and wanting to give up juxtaposed with the never-dying desire to be accepted; He sees my very real selfishness that runs through me as truly as the blood in my veins. He looks at me and says, “She’s enough.”

Enough that He’d want to buy me back when I’m thoroughly drenched in filthy selfishness. Enough that He’d willingly demote Himself again and again and again till He didn’t see how He could keep His own existence and save mine as well—so He was willing to forfeit His own. Enough that even though He saw all my dirty laundry hung out on the line He’d put Himself on the line for me. Enough that He put all His cards on the table—Himself on the table. He saw enough in me to do all that. And all before I ever even tried to be good.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 
-Romans 5:8 NKJV

This is the kind of love that frees me from fear. I can be brave and bold even if I don’t have all the answers because I know that even if I fail, I am still accepted. I still belong. I am still loved.

I don’t have to deaden my soul by wasting my energy trying to be good enough. I am already enough for Jesus. As I am, He accepts me. Believing God has this love for me is transformative and freeing. And in fact, He’s done more: through His covenant-keeping life, He’s gained a victory over selfishness that I could never gain on my own. Now, in Him, I have the victory. In Him, I am complete. In Him, I am good enough.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” -1 Corinthians 15:57 NKJV

So, back to the dead body. I was actually sitting in the grass at the local cemetery. I know it’s weird, but it’s one of the few places around here that is quiet, surrounded by nature, and lowly populated. So I go there sometimes to journal and pray. That Sabbath day was one such time. As the late afternoon sun drenched me in golden light, I was thinking about my history and all the things I’ve just described for you, and a verse came to mind.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” -2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV

These recent months of searching have culminated for me in a knowledge that I’ve been living my life in fear. Instead of believing that I am a loved child of God and that God is worth loving and sees me as enough, I’ve been held back, chained down, and imprisoned by my false conceptions and fears. But this verse tells me that I don’t have to be that girl anymore. In Christ, I am new. The old me is passed away. I can start living in Love, in Him.

So, sitting in the graveyard, with the sun baptizing my face with life-giving rays, I prayed and told God I wanted to be new, to have new life. I told Him I didn’t want to live in fear anymore. The old me died and Jesus gave me a new life. After my prayer, I packed up my Bible, blanket, and journal and stood up to walk to my car. I walked away and left that girl—that corpse of who I used to be—in the graveyard, where she belongs.