Tag Archives: love

FightforHeartSQ

Fight For Your Heart (A Poem About Pain, Tragedy, Healing)

Fight for Your Heart

When the world
crushes you with dream-killing deceit,
ripping back the curtains of reality
to show you the trickster lurking in
shadows
promising happiness and home
yet offering emptiness in the end…

Fight for your heart.

When the world
laughs at you in a soul-draining circle,
as you stand in the middle
feeling alone, awkward,
different
because you are strange
and they never let you forget it…

Fight for your heart.

When the world
breaks your love in glass-shattering pain,
and the chest throbs with
the splinters of rejection and happily
never-afters
in this messy world
so unlike the fairy tales of youth…

Fight for you heart.

When the world
steals your cherished ones in bone-chilling finality
before you even say goodbye,
and you feel the aching chasm
and weep with the anguish of light
extinguished
by the overwhelming darkness
of tragedy unspeakable…

Despite it all,
Fight for your heart.

11-12-14

***

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

The heart is the most important part of ourselves. The heart is where we truly live, move, breathe, feel. If we have shut off our hearts, then we are living deadly. It’s so hard to keep one’s heart open. It’s so hard, after experiencing some of the disillusionment and pain life can bring, to keep the heart alive.

So often, when we grow up, we shut the heart off. In youth, the heart is something we can easily feel and live out of because we haven’t truly felt the pain of dreams shattered or hearts broken. As we grow up, though, bitterness and cynicism can set in because life is not what we thought it would be. Maybe for some people, it is. But for many, life throws us unexpected tragedies and twists that leave us reeling. So we start closing our hearts and living hardened, safe existences.

We used to have faith in the world. We used to believe in the ultimate goodness of mankind. We trusted very easily, we were so loyal and loved so quickly–a lot of the times to people who weren’t loyal or loving back. Now, not so much. We come to face with the reality of this world, and it can be, quite frankly, very heartbreaking.

The world is something that is constantly trying to tear one down, to destroy the heart. People aren’t to be trusted immediately, because darkness lurks inside many hearts. Sure, we all have a little goodness in us given to us by God’s grace. But we also all have brokenness in our hearts that, if not dealt with, can eat us alive and destroy those around us.

The brokenness is easy to cave into, after a few life experiences have beaten us down. The darkness can consume those of us who’ve seen the darkest sides of humanity, if we’re not careful.

So we have to fight for our hearts. We have to fight for the Beauty. We have to fight with every ounce of strength for the Beauty of the heart. Faith. Hope. Forgiveness. Joy. LOVE. It’s these things that keep the heart alive, beating and throbbing, with life abundant.

So fight for your heart, friends. It may be the biggest battle you ever face, especially if you’ve been through extreme loss or tragedy, but it’s worth it.

DialogueLove

A Dialogue On Love, Grief, Justice (A Conversation Between Me and God in Thailand)

I’ve never written anything quite like this, so I’m nervous to share this on my blog today…but here I go. Today marks the two-year anniversary of my Kindred Spirit’s death inside an abusive marriage and Christian community that had turned into a cult. I’ve been grieving My Kindred Spirit’s death–and my own pain when it comes to men–for two years. I also recently traveled to Thailand with a media team to help document sexual exploitation. There, I was confronted with the darkest kinds of injustice. Yet during my time in Thailand, God spoke very deeply to me about love, grief, justice. My grief, social justice, and my own struggle with love and healing, all connected in Thailand in really beautiful, profound ways.

Last week, I woke up at 2am and had this inspiration to write a creative interpretation of the dialogue that happened between God and me while I was in Thailand. This is a creative representation of my times of prayer/conversation with God during the trip. But it truly does represent the healing and conclusions I came to while on the trip…

***

A Dialogue on Love, Grief, Justice

God: Well, hello there!

Me: You’re actually here. I can feel You again, I can feel Your Spirit so deeply. I was beginning to think that You’d gotten tired of me and moved on.

God: I’m here. I’m always here, even when you don’t feel me. I want you to know that this trip to Thailand is a gift because I love you. This trip is a gift.

Me: I know, I’m so completely excited about this trip. Oh Lord, I’m so glad I got to come. But why–why do you love me? All I did this year was be mad at You. All I did was question and wrestle. I felt so dark. I felt like I was going to lose my faith. I yelled and cried and grieved. God, this year was hard. I’m just realizing how hard a year it’s been now that I’m completely removed from it. I feel so stuck. I feel so tired. I feel so meaningless. And I miss my Kindred Spirit, and I’m so angry at what happened. I will always, always love her, Lord. Why does love keep on going and going even after death? Why is there so much pain in my heart? All love is just pain, in the end. That’s all I’ve known of love. It’s been almost ten years since the pain of loving those who reject it started. No wonder my heart seems so dead.

God: You’ve been through a hard journey. All these years, I’ve seen everything, Teryn. I collected your tears in a bottle. I was walking right there. I never left you. My love doesn’t leave, even in the darkest of places. Nothing you felt or said or did scared me away. I see you. I see your heart. And I want you to know that your heart is something I love so deeply.
You are an artist/
and your heart is your masterpiece/
and I’ll keep it safe…
Darkness will be rewritten into a work of fiction.
[Sleeping at Last, “I’ll Keep You Safe”]
That’s from one of your favorite songs, isn’t it? Cling to the truth in this song. I’ve kept your heart safe all these years, and I’ll continue to hold it. Your darkness is being rewritten, Teryn. And this trip is part of the Story.

Me: My heart is cold and hard, Lord. It’s been so cold, ever since Becca died (even before that). I’ve stopped loving. I’ve stopped letting people in. I have so many walls up I don’t even know what to do with myself anymore. I don’t even know how to open up my heart. But I want to love, Lord. I want to feel again. I feel so desperately, well—just so desperate.

God: Teryn, this trip is about your heart. You will learn to love, to feel, to open up your heart again. But it’s going to be hard. And you’re going to need to be in constant communication with My Spirit. So listen, listen, listen. And pray, pray, pray.

Me: I used to love praying, God. It was something that spilled over into everything I did. I miss it. I miss You! I miss the relationship we used to have. So I’m praying, praying, praying. I’m listening, listening, listening…

And my heart is already stirring, Lord. I’m feeling something deep and beautiful in the ashes of all the pain… God, my heart is beginning to revive again. All these people—all their stories! My heart is full of the pain I see here in Thailand. I see all the dysfunction, all the sexism, all the horrible stories of exploitation. But despite all odds. these people I’m meeting are all growing, thriving, healing. They are looking forward. They have a future and a hope. It’s so beautiful. Everyone I’ve met is so beautiful! I can’t even fathom it. People are amazing.

God: People are amazing. This is the joy of the Spirit you feel—this deep joy and love I have for people. I see every single person. I see the heartache, the pain, and I see the healing journey they’re on. People are beautiful. I find such a great joy in walking them through the brokenness, the pain, the healing.

Me: But there’s also the other side of people, too, Lord. I see the abuse, the violence, and injustice. It makes me sick to my stomach. Why can people be horrible to other people? Why do some choose to oppress others? Why can men be so hateful?

Lord, I’m starting to feel triggered by everything. I feel all the pain of men surfacing in my heart. I keep thinking of Becca. Why did her husband feel the need to abuse her? Why was I so attracted to abuse? Why do I have such a hard time with unhealthy patterns in my own life? Everything is getting triggered right now. So many memories. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. Please give me strength, strength to see the light in the darkness…

God: See these girls at Home of New Beginnings? You understand the struggle they face. The struggle to find worth, to find value, to accept love once the whole concept of love & men has been crushed. Once a woman is treated a certain way, it’s so hard to ever find value ever again. Once she’s on a path toward abuse, it’s so hard to turn it around.

Me: Oh Lord, I know those feelings. How deeply I understand the fight to rid myself of self-destructive, abusive tendencies. These women I’m meeting are so beautiful. I hope they find their worth. I hope they can find healing. I hope they know how loved they are!

But Lord, I’m feeling I’m sick again. All my stupid health problems! I’m so tired in every way. I need to rest. I feel like such a failure. Why did I even come on this trip? I’m weak and stupid and incompetent. I just fail, fail, fail again and again… And I’m broken. I’m just so, so broken. I wish I was anyone but me. I wish I was someone so completely different than who I am. I wish I was—

God: Stop there for a minute. Didn’t you just see how much I love people? Didn’t I just give you a glimpse of My heart?

Me: Yes, and it’s so amazingly beautiful.

God: You’re a person, too.

Me: But I don’t count.

God: Why don’t you count?

Me: Because I’ve never counted. I’ve always been the one rejected, the one people laughed at and excluded. Not until I met Becca and our group of friends in high school. She showed me love. But Lord, that was the last time I felt loved for being completely me. And then, almost ten years ago, the deep heartbreak happened. And then pain after pain after pain. I’ve never had a healthy love story. I’m so broken. I’ve made so many mistakes over the last ten years. Think about all the mistakes I’ve made… I’m so messed up. Sometimes, I just hate myself.

God: Stop it. These words are hurting you, and these words are hurting Me. Don’t you see the pain you’re causing—the damage you do to yourself when you say things like that? You are loved. I love you. I’ve been trying to tell you that over and over throughout these ten years. Why will you not listen?

Me: Because I’m not worthy of love. I don’t deserve love. I don’t deserve to be treated well. I’m messed up.

God: You are worthy of love. You are my child. You’ve got to accept love in your life. Life is about giving and receiving love. Love is all that matters in the end. No knowledge, no acts of faith, no eloquence… NOTHING matters without love.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
[1 Corinthians 13:1-3]

Me: I know all this, God. It’s just—love is so painful, God. I used to love. I used to love so freely and deeply. I just loved people. But there was so much pain that came with it. All the hurt and betrayal. All the rejection, both in relationships and friendship. And then, like the nail in the coffin, my Kindred Spirit I loved so deeply died. She was driven to death in an abusive Christian community that had turned into a cult. I trusted her husband so much. How does one ever recover from such betrayal? I just loved and loved and loved…and all that came of it is pain.

So I’ve just stopped loving. It’s safer to not love. It’s safer to not let people in.

God: You always had a huge heart, Teryn. It’s something I truly love about you. It’s full of a genuine, sincere, self-sacrificial love for others. You poured everything in you into being there for others. You’re a giver. You gave, gave, gave. But you used to find your worth in giving. You wanted so badly to please people, to make them love you back. That can be dangerous. Also, you’ve never been good at receiving love. And that’s such a huge part of love, too. Giving and receiving. You’ve never been very good at discerning who you should pour your heart into—who will love you back and invest equally in relationship. Because so many will take. So many use sincere love to their advantage. That’s where abusers come from. They use love, trust, loyalty—all those good and beautiful things—to their advantage.

Everyone is broken. But it’s what you do with the brokenness that matters. You see, every single human makes a choice in life. They choose the path of light—to heal and use their pain to spur them on to love, service, justice, meaning. Or they choose the path of darkness—the path of violence, cynicism, hatred, manipulation, abuse. The darkness is there because people choose to live in the darkness. They are consumed by their own pain. They hate the light because they can’t face themselves honestly. So they desire power, money, sex, worship…whatever it is—to fix the aching holes in their hearts.

Me: As I’ve walked the red-light districts, I can see that, God. There is so much emptiness, so much deadness, in people’s eyes. You can see their emptiness. You can see their pain—both the prostitutes, the johns, everyone. Their eyes are so empty. It reminds me of the quote by Oswald Chambers:

“There is only one Being Who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.”

God: Everyone is born with an aching abyss in his or her heart. What one chooses to do to fill that aching abyss is what determines the quality of that life: Whether they will mistreat and misuse others, or whether they will find meaning and fulfillment and love others.

And you have to learn to discern between those who are on the journey towards love and healing, and those who are on the journey towards hatred and self-destruction. So far, you’ve stumbled upon the ones who have the aching abyss and hurt others in their attempt to quench the pain. You have to be attracted to those who are using the ache they feel to love others, fight for justice. You have to find the ones that are aching for Beauty in this world.

 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.
[Philippians 1:9-10]

You’ve learned those lessons the hard way, over the past few years. You’ve learned that you must let Me fill that aching abyss in your heart. Your love must spring from the Source of Love—Me. You must let your worth come solely from Me. Only then can you have the wisdom and discernment to pour out your great, big heart to others. You must accept love in your own life, because then you will truly realize your own value. Just like these ladyboys and women in Thailand—they’re on the same journey. You must heal, grow, thrive by accepting that I love you, by letting others truly love you, by seeing what True Love looks like when practiced in community.

Me: I have so far to go. All I see in me is my brokenness. That’s all I see, Lord, when I look at myself.

God: You’re still such a perfectionist, after all these years! You still struggle with grace. You still struggle with self-acceptance and self-forgiveness. You’ve forgiven so many people recently—people who truly wounded you. Why don’t you extend the same forgiveness to yourself? Forgive yourself. Extend grace to yourself.

I don’t see the mistakes you’ve made. I see your heart. I see the love—the sincere, genuine love you have deep down inside. I see the way you fight for people. I see your loyalty. I see your creativity. I see all the feeling and passion you have inside you. These things make me overjoyed. You being you is absolutely amazing to watch. I love seeing humans living out who I created them to be. I love seeing all the lovely, amazing ways humans flourish when they embrace themselves. After all, I created each one of you to reflect something unique and beautiful.

For You created my inmost being;
    You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    Your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
How precious to me are Your thoughts,God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
[Psalm 139:13-14, 17]

Accept My love. Embrace it. You are you for a reason. You have walked through specific pains and struggles for a reason, and I will redeem all your suffering. I will make good out of your life.

We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.
[Romans 8:28]

Me: I’m trying, Lord. I’m trying. Some of this is just because I feel so much sadness, Lord. Not many people my age have seen the kind of pain I’ve seen. Not everyone has struggled with abusive mentalities. Not everyone has had a Kindred Spirit who was allegedly murdered in a cult. Sometimes, I feel so different than normal society. So alone. I feel like I’m wrestling with things no one else my age is wrestling with.

God: That makes you understand broken, hurting people on a level not many do. Look at all these people you’ve met in Thailand—the ladyboys at Dton Naam and the women at Beginnings. They’ve been through so much pain! When you’ve gone through so much suffering, it does make you feel like you could never be part of the “normal” world again. That’s why community and love are so important. That’s why these organizations that come and walk alongside broken people are so vital. Because wounded people will never fully heal unless they have a community of love walking the healing journey with them. The same goes for you.

Me: But I don’t want to need people, Lord. I don’t want to let them in. Becca was in community (the cult). It destroyed her. I don’t want to be in community if it costs me my freedom. I’d rather be alone forever, Lord. I’d rather be single. I’d rather just be alone.

God: Part of accepting My love is accepting love from others. Part of loving Me is loving others. The way you handle relationships is the link to how you handle Me. You can’t love Me without loving people. You can’t accept My love without accepting other’s love. It’s all so connected. I’ve made it this way for a reason. Relationship is part of the trinity. Relationship, fellowship, community—that’s the very essence of Love. Let Me in. And let people in.

Me: Becca hadn’t truly accepted love in her life. She hadn’t ever realized the deep worth and beauty she had. She was a giver, too. She put her identity in giving everything away to others. We were so similar. And she was destroyed through abuse. And somehow, I’m struggling towards healing. I just—I just can’t understand why, Lord. Why is she gone and I’m still here? Why do some victims get rescued during their time on earth, and some don’t? I’ve walked the red-light districts. I see the pain. I’ve heard the stories—both of triumph and loss. For every person saved from sexual exploitation, there are so many others still in slavery. For every person saved, there are those NOT saved.

Why, God?
Why do some die, and some live?
Why am I alive, and my Kindred Spirit isn’t?
Why are the former prostitutes I met here in Thailand—why are they safe now, and others aren’t?
Why is justice so seemingly random?

God: That isn’t a question I can answer fully and completely on this earth. I’m sorry that there are more questions than answers. Whys are often never answered on this side of eternity. Human justice is so fleeting because humans so often live in the darkness. They choose a life of oppression, money, power. They choose to inflict pain on others.

I see all the pain. I walk through the darkness. You feel my heart. You feel the pain in m My heart over sexual exploitation, over Becca, over pain and injustice—that’s My heart, too. I see all. I know all. And I’m working, always working to expose injustice wherever I find it. I’m working to raise more and more people to join the cause of fighting for the weak, the hurting, the oppressed. If only they would truly listen to Me, to My Spirit. Humans are part of this Story—they are, in fact, the only solution. Humans blame Me for evil when they could be actively fighting against it. But do many fight? Unfortunately, no. Many of them are too afraid to truly think, to truly feel, to truly engage with this world. Humans must choose Beauty over pain, light over darkness. You all have a part to play in this.

That’s true Christianity. That’s true love—that despite all odds, you will go and fight for what’s right, for the least of these, for the broken and outcasts. Jesus walked this earth for that reason. He loved. He emptied Himself sacrificially of all glory, He came to love among you. He fought for truth, love, healing. He fought to bring about the Story of redemption. He suffered. Oh, We know the meaning of suffering. We know all the pain the world can inflict. But We suffered out of love. Part of truly loving will always bring an amount of pain—but it’s worth it. Love is the most powerful force on this planet. Love is what changes the world.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,

    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, He made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
 And being found in appearance as a man,
    He humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!
[Philippians 2: 3-8]

Me: I’ve seen Jesus here—reflected in all of the people I’ve met in Thailand. I see Jesus as He walks among the least of these, among the social outcasts, among the broken, fighting for the oppressed. It is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen LOVE in its purest form.

It’s all about love, isn’t it? The whole thing—all of life is about love. It’s about giving and receiving love. It’s about finding the joy, hope, love—despite suffering and questions and pain. It’s about making the choice to fight the darkness of others who succumb to their own pain and brokenness. It’s about loving who I am—who You created me to be—and loving You, loving myself, loving others. It’s about using all of who I am, fully alive, to fight for healing for others. My healing is connected to loving, healing others.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry

    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,

    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousnesswill go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;

    you will cry for help, and He will say: Here am I.”
[Isaiah 58:6-9]

God, You made me to LOVE and to be LOVED. You made me to be fully alive, to fight injustice wherever I see it, to find the Beauty despite all odds. And when I deny that, I live a half-hearted, stone-cold, joyless existence.

To love is worth it. To be loved is worth it.

God: You’re catching onto the only answer about life you’ll get this side of heaven. Life is about love.

God is love.
[1 John 4:8]

Me: I think my heart is opening. It’s brimming. I see everyone, and I want to love them. I want to fight for them. Oh Lord, people are indeed beautiful. And it’s painful to feel all of this, and it’s painful to walk the path of healing…

But Becca would want it, Lord. I’ve sensed her joy, as I’ve walked among the hurting and used my writing to fight against injustice. I’ve felt her joy as I’ve been with a band of adventurers (we would’ve called them that) and helped heal others. That was her heart, Lord. It was always her deepest wish to go on adventures, live a meaningful life, fight for others. It was always her desire to love. I’ve felt so close to her here, Lord. It’s strange, but I feel as if she’ll always be part of me. I love her so much. She taught me so much. To love her and have her friendship was worth it, because of the seeds she placed in my heart.

Yes, love is painful. Love always ends in loss. But the pain I feel is worth the price of love. Becca would want me to live in love, as she demonstrated so beautifully in her life. She’d want me to give and accept love—to be wise and discerning, but to LOVE.

Teach me how to love, Lord.

God: I told you this trip was a gift.

You’re blooming, and I can see it. You’re becoming more you than you’ve ever been. A you that loves with all the wisdom and discernment that pain brings. A you that will fight for justice and stand up for others. A you that sees the beauty in the smallest of things. A you that will someday find a man who will see the world as you do, and who will embrace all the beauty you have to give. A you that will live a life of adventure, passion, creativity, justice. A life of Beauty.

I’m re-writing the Story of your heart, Teryn. It’s been painful—and it will be painful, because the healing process is painful. You still have a journey to walk. But it’s going to be such a beautiful Story of redemption. It’s going to be so much better than anything you would’ve written on your own.

All because I love you.

Me: I love You, too, Lord. I love You, I really do, and all my life will be spent in pursuit of You, Your love, Your will for my life. All of my life is caught up in Your love. Oh Lord, thank You for Your love. Thank You for everything—all the suffering and pain, all the beauty and joy. Thank You for walking with me these last ten years through all my brokenness, my questions, my darkness…and leading me towards a future with hope.
I will forget the past. I will find freedom.
I will look forward.

I choose to love.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.
[1 Corinthians 13:4-8]

You taught me the courage of stars before you left.
How light carries on endlessly, even after death.
With shortness of breath, you explained the infinite.
How rare and beautiful it is to even exist.
~”Saturn” by Sleeping at Last

This post is dedicated to my Kindred Spirit.

LoveListen

To Love is To Listen Well (My First Attempt to Write About Thailand And so Much More)

To love is to listen well. It’s a phrase I’ve been thinking on for several months. It’s a seed that has slowly grown in the soil of my mind into a flowering garden in my spirit.

To love is to listen well.

I’ve seen a lot of pain this year—personally, yes—but also in the church.

Mark Driscoll. Bill Gothard. Leadership Journal and the sex predator article. Scandal after scandal rocked Christendom this year as controversy after controversy awakened the fact that spiritual abuse and sexual abuse happen more frequently than we’d like to think.

Tensions ran high in Ferguson, MO, as African Americans pleaded with a country to hear their cries of injustice and intolerance. Minority voices broke out again and again to plead with the church to hear their stories, to help them achieve justice.

Women cried out that #YesAllWomen are affected by rape culture, sexism, and misogyny—even in hallowed places like the church. They told story after story of sexual harassment and abuse, filling the Internet with words of startling clarity as to how far our society still needs to come in the fight for equality.

This is only a snapshot of everything that went on this year. I work in publishing (in online marketing) and I’m in the thick of watching trending stories in the church and the world.

There is so much pain. For much of this year, I read story after story. I had no words, no meaningful voice to contribute to the conversation. I was overwhelmed by sorrow, anger, and despair that our world, our church, our families could ever change. What do I do, God? I asked. What do I do?

Again and again, the phrase kept rising in my mind.

To love is to listen well.

***

Then I traveled to Thailand and encountered profound darkness. An unhealthy cultural cycle that thrives on abuse, sexual exploitation, and broken families. My heart cried out within me. What do I do, God? I asked again and again. What do I do?

And the answer came again: To love is to listen well.

So I listened.

Literally. All I did in Thailand was listen. I didn’t talk much, because it was all so overwhelmingly, amazingly hard and beautiful. I listened to the Spirit of God speaking to my soul as I prayed and prayed and prayed for strength to get through the trip. I listened to the founders of ministries, and I listened to former prostitutes tell their stories. I listened to my team members talking about media and nonprofits, and I listened to children laughing in broken English. I listened in coffee shops cold with AC and in the sweltering humidity of Southeast Asia. I listened in a five star restaurant, and I listened in a poverty-stricken village. I listened in run-down jeeps, vans, airplanes, motorbikes, hotels, and red-light districts.

I heard stories of violence, rape, coercion, and abuse that made my stomach turn. Yet I also heard stories of redemption and hope that caused me to ache with the beauty of this complex world.

I listened, and my heart changed.

So I’m convinced that if we all just listened, our world would change for the better. If we sat down with others we don’t understand or are afraid of, looked them in the eye, and listened, hearts would change. If we walked alongside the broken, the battered, the wounded and really listened to their pain, healing would come.

Because to listen is to see with the heart.

To really listen helps us empathize with what others are feeling, thinking, and seeing. To really listen helps us leave our own self-absorbed concerns and step inside someone else’s story.

To love is to listen well.

***

I invite you to really listen as I share about my trip to Thailand. I invite you to listen as I pour out what I saw, felt, and heard. I invite you to listen to my own heart as I continue down my own journey of brokenness, grief, healing. Because everything I saw in Thailand is intricately linked to my own healing journey. And it’s linked to yours as well.

So please—I ask you to sit down, read this blog, and listen over the coming months.

Because one thing I learned irrevocably on this trip: I love to listen because I am a Storyteller, and my deepest desire for this blog is share stories with you of beauty and light, hope and healing.

Yes, to love is to listen well. But then it’s to share what you’ve learned with the world so other hearts will change and heal, too.

8ThingsHealing

8 Things I’m Learning about Healing from Past Pain and Tragedy

I’m baaaack!! (Okay, at least for today.) So, this summer has been…really beautiful and really intense and just…wow. I’ve been healing a lot in some deep ways. I can’t wait to write more about it. But for now, I’ve written 8 things I’ve been learning about healing this summer…

1. It’s okay to stop doing something that’s hindering healing, even if people expect you to do it. People-pleasing is overrated.

This summer, I took a break from blogging because I was only feeling obligated to do it. There was no real passion or joy left. I felt guilty about that, but when I stopped pretending and just, well—stopped I felt so much relief. As soon as I gave myself some space, I was able to really focus in on some important things—like writing a book! (I’m 300 pages into Book Two and nearing the end! Eeek!!) And yes, over the summer my joy has come back. I even started missing blogging a little. Thus, this post.

2. Challenge yourself, push yourself, grow yourself! That’s part of healing, too.

In June, I participated in a challenge to write 30 poems in 30 days. When I first thought about doing it, I thought there was NO WAY I could write 30 poems in 30 days. There was no way I could get myself to be so creative when the spring had been dead and dry. Well, I did!! I began thinking in poetry constantly, and it forced me vamp up the creativity. Which then translated into writing my books, which spilled into real life, which helped me get out of my weird slump I’d been in all year… Just goes to show that sometimes, you’ve got to stretch yourself.

3. Slowing down and resting is really, really important.

This summer, I got sick for over a month, which ruined nearly all my summer plans. While it makes me sad that I didn’t get to go on some of my planned adventures, the illness forced me to slow down. I couldn’t even concentrate, my head hurt so badly some days. So I did nothing. I read (when my head didn’t hurt). I wrote (when my head didn’t hurt). I watched movies. And I rested. Processed. Healed both emotionally, physically, spiritually. God really spoke to me during my month plus of illness, and partly it’s because I had ample time to listen.

4. Sometimes, you’ve just got to feel all and feels.

At the beginning of the year, I was trying really hard not to feel anything. My heart was numb. Well, the dam broke this summer, and I was feeling things so intensely for a while that I thought I might be going crazy. Every day was up or down. I’d be so angry one day and then so full of joy the next. (This is reflected in the poetry I wrote in June). But through all that, I was able to process some very buried emotions that needed to come out. I detoxed from past wounds that had poisoned me for years. My heart cleared and cleansed, and I settled down, and I found peace. But it only came by being completely emotionally honest…which is always scary, because it feels so out of control.

5. You never realize you’re healing until you look back and see how far you’ve come.

Needless to say, when I started the summer, I was in a really bad place.  I didn’t think I could ever heal. But gradually, a change has come. I can feel it in the beat of the rain and the whispers of the wind. Something changed this summer. I softened. My hardened heart softened. Healing takes time. And it’s easy to look at myself and see all my faults and how imperfect I still am. But then I think back to a year ago or three years ago (heck, ten years ago when all this pain started!), and I realize that I have grown. It’s been up and down and backwards and forwards and sideways…but yes, the growth is there.

6. Forgiveness is vital to the survival of any pain or tragedy.

This summer, I chose forgiveness and love over bitterness and cynicism and hatred. I forgave the church, I forgave Christians, I forgave former friends who betrayed me, I forgave the people who broke my heart—I FORGAVE. It’s been a hard, hard battle in my heart. But now that I’ve made the choice, I feel so much lighter. Forgiveness helps you release the past, it drops away from you like a stifling cloak so you can move and breath and dance once more. And let me tell you, forgiveness is a process, and it will probably never stop. But now that I know it’s truly important, I’m willing to choose it again and again, over and over, for the rest of my life.

7. Love never fails.

I’ve realized that love is worth it—even if others never love you back in the same way, even if you’re hurt in the process, even if the world thinks you’re strange to love. Love, love, love. Can I just say that again and again? It’s not violence that frees us. It’s not war or vengeance or hatred. It’s not being more clever or cruel or calculating than the people around you. It’s love. I want to be a loving person. I want to give, even if the world takes and never says thank you.

8. There is always beauty, even in the darkness.

This world is really dark. It seems like so much unrest and war and hatred is spilling over all over the place. But there’s so much beauty, too. It comes in the smallest ways—when the sunset strikes clouds blossoming with red, when you share laughter with friends over a silly inside joke, when you take a small step towards reaching out in love to another…It’s all beautiful. Let’s fight for that beauty in the way we live our lives.

So this is what I’ve been learning about healing. What are you learning?

variousthoughtsonlove

A Celebration of Heroic Love

It’s the week of Valentine’s Day. Barf.
(Okay, not really. But I’ve never been a fan of how people obsess over this overly-commercialized holiday.)

For the past few years around V-Day, I’ve been posting pieces about singleness and how amazing it is. Stick-it-to-all-those-sillies-who-make-such-a-big-deal-out-of-this-stupid-day type posts. Because I’m fine with being single. Okay? Okay??? Geez. (In fact, I’ve never been one to mope over being single–although I’ve definitely had my down days–but I’ve always tried to fully embrace the present and be content wherever life may have me.)

But I’m not going to write a celebratory post on singleness this time. Although if you want to read my posts on singleness, please do so here and here and here. Because they are really good posts. I’m quite proud of them, actually. ;)

Instead, I wanted to celebrate love. And not in the way you may think…

***

“A genuine falling in love . . . is a capitulation to the beautiful. Falling in love here does not refer to superficial infatuations or egocentric lust but rather to a selfless commitment made to a fascinating beloved. While this is seen in ideal and holy marriages, it is especially clear in the case of saints who are head over heels in love with the supreme Beloved, whose name is God. Saints see and are smitten. The heroic response is the only response. They know from experience that anything less than everything is simply not enough.” [Fr. Dubay]

Our culture worships the idea of love and romance and all the things it entails. And yet, I think it often focuses on the wrong things. We are obsessed with the idea of obsession and infatuation. To many, getting lost in another is love. You lose yourself in this black hole of another, and you forget all your other friends, and you don’t care about anyone else, and you are consumed…

Then, of course, there’s the sexual aspect of relationships. I don’t think I need to say a ton about how our culture obsesses over sex. The only thing anyone seems to care about anymore is if the other person is “hot” and will be good in bed.

And yet, healthy, good love is not losing oneself in another. Neither is it just sleeping around with the hottest person(s) you can find. Healthy love is when two people can come alongside each other while still maintaining their separate identities, respecting one another and striving to push each other onward in each of their callings.

Love is not about obsession. It’s about selfless clear-headedness in evaluating if certain actions will harm another or disrespect another.

Love is not about lust. It’s about controlling oneself so that one’s desires don’t make another into an object simply to use for one’s sexual gratification.

Love is SO MUCH MORE.

It’s seeing another person as a human being wrought in the image of God. It’s striving in words and deeds to help another person be all they can be–and not drag them down to be something they are not.

Love is standing in the gap for another when they need it the most. Love is holding someone as they cry and not being afraid of negative emotions. Love is celebrating in one’s triumphs even when they are not (or are better) than your own.

Love is messy. Love is hard. Love is heroic.

Love can be found in so many different kinds of relationships.

It’s found in parents who provide for their children, and in siblings who call each other every week to catch up on life, and in friendships where one can be real and vulnerable, and in strangers who pass each other on the street with a kind word…

Love can be found in every human interaction. In how you treat the store cashier and how you give to the needy and how you don’t shout at that annoying child and how you rescue a stray animal off the side of the road.

It’s everywhere, people. Everywhere. Not just in romantic relationship. Love should just be part of our existence in every interaction because every human we encounter deserves to be treated with love.

That’s what it’s like to get swept up in the Beloved. That’s what I think the quote I quoted above is about. If you get caught up in God, and you embrace Him as the ultimate Beloved, then it changes everything. When you embrace that love, you can live in love. It pours out of you. Every small little thing shouts of a Great and Infinite Love that is beyond anything we could’ve ever imagined.

It’s far deeper than a simple romantic attachment between two people.

You smell it in the wind and see it in a rainbow and hear it in a bird’s song.
You feel it in a brother’s protection and see it in a child’s smile and taste it in a mother’s cooking.

I love my God, and I love my world because I love my God.
I see the beauty of love everywhere.
I see that it’s a powerful force that can heal and transform each and every one of us.

So I guess all I’m trying to say is…

Don’t limit your celebration of love.
Don’t get so caught up in whether you have someone or not.
Don’t get so caught up in chocolates and cards and dinner dates.

Don’t miss out on Love.

The heroic love that puts people first no matter if you’re in a romantic relationship with them or not. The self-sacrificing love that is just there for people even when you’re not getting anything out of it in return.

That’s Love.

That’s what I’m celebrating this week.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
[1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV]

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
[John 13:34 NIV]

horsesedited

Out of Love, He Stooped Low

 

For the past month, I’ve been starting to learn how to train and ride horses using a “natural” method. This is not the method where you break the horse and make it submit to your will as the human. Where you break its spirit and will in order to be the master that is fearfully but unquestioningly obeyed.

That is the old method.

This newer method is where you study horses and learn how to interact with horses on the horse’s level. You learn how to come alongside them, teach them trust, teach them you’re safe, and that you’re a leader. And THEN you can ride them. Then you can ask them to follow you out of trust, respect, and love.

It’s actually a much safer method of training horses. If they love and respect you as their leader, if they know you can be trusted, then they will look to YOU when danger strikes. They won’t just bolt. Horses look to their “Horse Leader” in times of crisis. If the leader bolts, they bolt.

If you’re the leader, then they will trust you enough to think twice before bolting. They will stay with you.

It’s all about mutual trust and respect.

Which may seem silly to some. I mean, you have to kind of learn the horses’ ways and, in a sense, be a horse. You do silly games with them to help build trust, and you learn to just be with them, and learn what all their signs say about what they’re feeling and their moods, and just…you kind of try to understand them on their level.

It’s silly. It makes you feel silly sometimes.

But it’s about love and trust and respect.

To come alongside an animal and show them – on their terms and in a way they’ll understand – that you are safe, worthy of trust, and worthy to be followed and obeyed and trusted.

You do it out of love for the horse. You do it out of love and the earnest desire to have a relationship built from understanding.

***

And it got me to thinking.

Horse training has been this profound realization to me of how the God of Christianity interacts with us. I mean, this is what the doctrine of the Incarnation is all about.

The God of the universe. Let me repeat that…The God of the universe came down to humanity’s level.

Can we just let that sink in for a second?

God came down and became a human.

That’s pretty much like us stooping down to “become” a horse. That’s pretty much like us saying, “Okay, in order to understand you, I’m going to use my super powers and become a horse. Just to show you how much I want to love you horses. Just to show you how worthy I am of your trust and respect as a leader.”

It’s THAT silly and preposterous and ludicrous.

It makes you cringe just a little, if you’re honest. (I mean, even if you had the power, would you ever, ever do it?)

It makes you want to laugh a little.

But God didn’t laugh.

He loved us.

And so He did it.

He stooped low in love, and He came down to our level, and He lived on earth for 33 years. And He learned how we walk, how we talk, how we use these strange things called bodies. He tripped and stumbled and cut His knees on this earth growing up. He wiped His brows in sweat and learned how the society at the time worked, and He paid His taxes and lived like us.

He just…He walked among us. Quietly, humbly, unobtrusively…for 30 years.

30 years!

He wasn’t throwing around His God-card, He wasn’t expecting people to follow His every whim, He wasn’t forcing people to respect or love or treat Him any different than they treated others. He wasn’t breaking people’s wills into submitting to His authority and leadership. He wasn’t manipulating kings and princes into bowing at His feet.

He became one of us.

He stooped low and served us.

A lowly son of man born of lowly people in a lowly stable.

***

And in doing so, He understood us.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[a] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. [Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV]

Jesus came so that He could come alongside us, show us the right way to live, and earn the respect and love of those He would ask to follow Him. He didn’t just force Himself on us. He came alongside us to show us that He is so worthy of love, of respect, of leadership. He came to understand us on deeper levels than we understand ourselves.

He gets our pains and tears and weaknesses more then we get them.

He gives us grace in our brokenness because He knows what it’s like.

He really does know how rough being a human is in this broken, sinful, dark world.

And that’s why He died. He died so that we could take our place alongside Him once more. He came to redeem the lowly state of humanity into something it was always supposed to be: The pinnacle of creation. Beautiful. Deep. Glorifying to God.

Humanity is beautiful. Humans are beautiful. We’re lifted from the dust despite our sin and disobedience, and we’re redeemed.

We are sons of the most high God. Fellow heirs with Christ. (Just read Hebrews, why don’t you? This is one of the most beautiful books in the New Testament about the theology of Jesus and how He’s redeemed humanity.)

He asks us to follow Him, and I truly believe He’s earned the right. He is a leader worthy of my all. He is a leader worthy of my trust.

For out of love, He stooped low.

hands

On Love & Control in Relationships

One thing I have been thinking about a lot this past summer is love, relationships, and control.

I did a series in July on past relationships with guys, and how painful it’s been for me. How manipulated, controlled, and violated I felt many times as I desperately tried to gain a boy’s love. I didn’t know what love was, and so I let guys walk all over me. I’d change everything for a guy if I thought that’d make him stay. I was attracted to abuse, and I mistook it for love. I have never, ever once felt that a guy loved me. He only wanted to control me.

This month, Boze Herrington took over my blog and wrote about being in an oppressive cult environment where everything was becoming increasingly controlled. Where the concept of the love of God became twisted to control a whole group of people. Where God’s love was withdrawn when people did not follow the leader’s every command.

I think it’s really hit me this summer.

Love is not about control.

It’s not about making someone look, act, think, or feel exactly like you do.

It’s not about making someone cater to your every whim or fancy.

It’s not about manipulation or force –even when it’s masked as something “spiritual.”

Love is about seeing the person as a person, about encouraging them to be all they can be, and about helping them face their brokenness with courage.

Love is about walking alongside another and giving them all the resources they need to blossom into who God has made them to be.

An artist.

A scholar.

A writer.

An engineer.

A doctor.

A mother.

A husband.

It can mean so many different things to so many different people.

Yet unlove comes when we force people to conform to our version of what we think they should be. It’s when we say, “Everyone must be a missionary and preach on corners. That is the holiest way to follow God.” Or, “Everyone better be really outgoing. God hates quiet people.” Or, “I don’t like that you drink sometimes, you’re sinning.” Or, “If you really loved me, you’d sleep with me.” Or any other thing someone can say to control your behavior.

This is so unlike God it makes me angry just thinking about it.

God loves each and every person–each and every broken, flawed individual in this world. He calls to each one lovingly, tenderly: “Come back to me. I love you, no matter how messed up you might feel. No matter how broken. No matter how confused. I can handle your darkness, your questions, your pain. Come to me.”

And yet, here’s the tricky part. Because God loves, He does call us out of brokenness. He calls us to wholeness, to holiness. He does tell us thing we should and shouldn’t do. And this can be a hard, hard battle. But God loves us too much to let us stay in the mire of our darkness. He calls us higher, He calls us to freedom. And He walks alongside us no matter how many times we stumble.

It’s a choice. The choice to embrace love, the choice to heal, the choice to find freedom in God…

The beautiful thing about God is that He never, ever forced us to love Him. He gave us a choice. That’s the beauty of true Christianity. A God who gave humans the chance to choose to love. To have free will. To respond to His love.

And yes, God’s love can draw us toward Him. God’s Spirit can speak and direct us. But God never forces us. He brings circumstances into our lives that direct us. Yet we can choose to follow Him or not.

How hard is this for God? The all-powerful God of the universe lets us have free will. He lets us choose to love Him. He lets us choose to reject Him. He beckons to us all, He died to save us, but He will never make us love Him.

Love is not love if it’s forced.

I’ve been in love. I’ve loved deeply. And my love has been rejected. I know what it’s like to reel from the pain of rejection. But let’s be honest–if the person I loved had been forced to love me back, wouldn’t it have been empty? If I could’ve made him love me, wouldn’t it have been cheap love? False love?

Real love is a choice.

And God wants us to choose. To choose Him.

It’s a dance. He asks, and we must respond. His Spirit leads, but we must follow. It’s give-and-take. And it’s the most beautiful dance we could could ever embark on.

But it’s not about control.

leaflove

When Humanity Hates, God is Love

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
[1 John 4:8]

I’ve been reading this chapter over and over the past week or so. I don’t want to be controlled by hate–even when people have done evil things to people I love, or even when I don’t agree with someone.

Hate is from Satan. He controls the world through hate. He delights in making us hate each other and view each other as the enemy, when in fact HE is the Enemy that is constantly at work turning us against each other. As a follower of Jesus, no human being should be hated–no matter what they’ve done to you or how much you disagree with them.

Jesus proclaimed a different way. That we are to love everyone, even those we adamantly disagree with. Even those who’ve done us wrong. We must pray for our enemies. We must reach out to those who are different than us. We must speak out for those who have no voice.

He said the world would know us by our love.

***

I really don’t know what this all means. I’ve had people I know do some horrible things. I have scars on my heart that are still healing. The world is full of hatred. Even the mass shooting that happened at the Washington Navy Yard yesterday is just another reminder that hatred often reigns supreme.

The guest blogger on my blog this month? The friend he talks about in his story, Rebecca, was one of my best friends. And she was destroyed through this oppressive spiritual group (as you’ll see in Part III of his story). I grieve her death every. single. day. I’m constantly fighting sadness and anger (and yes, hatred) over the hatred and control and manipulation that led to her death.

Humanity’s natural tendency is to hate. To hate and to seethe and to be on the warpath against everything and everyone who has failed, wounded, or betrayed them.

And I’m not saying that anger isn’t appropriate. Sometimes, we have to be angry. Sometimes, we do have to have justice in a situation and fight against oppression.

Yet when anger turns to hatred and hardness of heart, then something is wrong. When we turn another person (or groups of people) into a demon. When we see the world through cynical, bitter eyes that cannot see good. When we viciously wish the worst on others in an attempt to make ourselves feel better…

People commit atrocities everyday in an endless cycle of trying to “get back” at others for hurting them. At trying to seek revenge. To make someone, anyone, pay.

Hate corrupts. It turns loving people into vicious monsters. It can turn a gracious heart into a bitter, angry, cynical heart. A heart that cannot believe in good. A heart that shuts humanity out. A heart that could kill or truly hurt others (even innocent others) in an attempt to find rest.

I just don’t want to live in hate. I want to respond in love no matter what has happened.

This is hard.

The God of Love is hard to follow.

[Note: Love does not mean you give someone a free pass to continue abuse, manipulation, or evil. There are people doing atrocious things in this world, and I will always pray for justice. But I will also pray for their souls, I will pray that they will be redeemed. That they, too, can know Christ’s love. In doing so, I release my own soul from damaging burdens of bitterness, anger, and being controlled by hatred. Yet I also will fully trust that God does indeed bring justice. He doesn’t give a free pass to those who don’t repent or continue in evil.]

singleness

Singleness and the Church – Guest Post on Convergent Books

I’m a guest blogger over at Convergent Books today! Today, I’m talking about the honorable state of singleness and the great history of singleness in the church. One of my favorite topics in the world. (No joke. It really is.)

Read it! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Here’s an excerpt to pique interest…

singleness

Singleness and the Church

At church one time I was talking with some older ladies. Our conversation went something like this:

“So, are you married?”

“No.”

“Oh.” You could  hear the disappointment in their voices. As if there was nothing more to talk about now that they knew I wasn’t a mother or wife like them.

This has happened many times in a variety of settings. Married Christian woman act disappointed and dismissive once they find out I’m single. No matter what I talk about—be it my love of hiking, my work to protect girls from human trafficking, my endeavors in writing—it’s all met with an odd silence. With a disapproving show of disinterest.

Because I’m single, I am nothing. Or maybe, in their world, I’m broken and in need of fixing.

Read the rest here.

convergent

water

Forgotten Grace (A Poem)

Tonight, I’d like to share a poem I wrote in college.

A lot of my college years were spent messing up. I was not a perfect little Christian by any means (although I seriously tried to pretend I was). I struggled with depression, despair, abusive tendencies, bad relationships, and so many other things.

There were times I hated myself. I wanted so badly to be like everyone else–all these people who seemed to have it all together, who were perfect, who’d never experienced brokenness. And I was always so afraid that God would leave me. I didn’t truly think He loved me.

Yet it was during college that I learned what grace meant. That even when we screw up, even when we fall flat on our face, God loves. He reaches out His hand, picks us up, and helps us learn from our mistakes. But He doesn’t condemn us. He grows and deepens us through the trials and mess-ups that frequent our lives. Many times, He is so kind, He is so gentle when dealing with us.

It’s easy to focus on our mistakes. It’s easy to think, If only I’d done this, or, If only I’d said that. But in all reality, we’re all on a journey towards growth. We’re all on a journey towards healing. We so often forget that God sees us in the midst of our mess, and He loves us. He loves us toward wholeness and healing. Christ died for us so that He could lead us to the throne room of grace, so that our sins would be covered in His blood.

And that’s why I wrote this poem. Because I didn’t want to forget grace. I still have a hard time with the concept of grace, even though I’ve come so far.

(Note: WordPress is being silly and stripping out any html coding I have for spaces, so I apologize for the weird asterisks to separate stanzas).

 

Forgotten Grace

Caught up in a tumult of fierce self-degradation,

amidst the howling torment of a venomous Satan–

For one brief moment I looked away from the cross,

finding righteousness, peace, and joy to be at loss.
*

So I bowed my head low sobbing tears of condemnation,

and hated myself beyond all normal comprehension.

In an effort to perfect myself for He whom I adore,

each effort was in vain and caused more failings to abhor.

*

Until I noticed One kneeling by me as I cried

With nail-ridden hands and piercings in His side

And oh, what a look of love etched upon on His face!

“Ah, you see, my child,” said He. “You have forgotten grace.”

*

With such a gentle word ringing softly through my ears,

He took my hand, stood me up, and soothed away my fears:

And washing my feet thoroughly with a pail of living water,

The High Priest walked beside me into the presence of the Father.

09-23-08

Related Posts:

How Brennan Manning Changed My Life – Part I: Pretending to be Good

How Brennan Manning Changed My Life – Part II: Grace Is Enough