real talk: I’m done trying.

College was safe. School was safe, predictable. Do this, earn this. Don’t do this, receive this. Works-based system. Study hard, prepare enough, write well, speak clearly, THEN you’ll pass. But it wasn’t all me. I spent 15-18 hours a week in the classroom, listening..taking notes…absorbing the information. Sometimes class felt like eternity, sometimes it went by too quick (those fast days were particularly common right before a test.) So there was this balance between what you learn in class, and what you learn/do/find out on your own.

Look, God’s been trying to sit me down and teach me stuff this whole summer. But, I’ve gone in full student mode. Running around, checking things off my list, doing a “jesus thing” here and attending a church service there. I don’t have a job, I don’t have that “student” identity, my community is different, farther away. I’m running around. Anxious, feeling “less than” because of this down time. I can talk about God all day, I can tell others about Him. But, do I even know Him? I know things about Him. But have I experienced him?

I have learned  TON about myself post-college.

I struggle to sit still, and rest because I’ve lived in works-based relationship with God. Deep down, I wonder How can He love if I’m not doing something for Him? This season is hard because its a transition. I don’t know what to do. I’ve been running on the treadmill of “do more=be more”, for years now,  trying to get somewhere with my relationship with God, but all I am is exhausted. All the while God has opened the door to the gym and invites me outside to walk with Him, to rest in Him, to find out that I am loved just as I am not because of what I do. He invites me into a relationship with Him, to take it all in one day, one step at a time. He never wanted me to stand in front of mirror in a sweaty gym and base my worth on my own performance. No mirrors, weights or treadmills. He wants a relationship with me.  I’m ready for that. I want that. I’m tired of being so focused on myself, so focused on what I want, what I desire. If I had everything I wanted in the past, I’d be so miserable. So, I’m learning to rest in two things:

I am enough not because what i’ve done,but because I am a  Child of God.

I am learning to trust God. I can trust him because He is the God of the Universe and can see way beyond my 22 years of existence.

I am surrendering to Your Love.

I am surrendering to your Plan.

I’m done trying on my own.

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An Open letter to Everyone.

If you’re alive and reading these words, I’d like to say I am sorry. I am sorry for your loss. Whether it was yesterday, a few months ago, or years ago. I am so sorry. I am sorry that your mind is consumed with that one  conversation, phone call, the email, or facebook status and it haunts you to this day because it gave you the news you never wanted to hear.
“He didn’t make it.”
“I think we should just be friends.”
“We are letting you go.”

I’m sorry for the nights you couldn’t sleep, the meals you couldn’t eat, the days that felt like years.

I’m sorry the world shrugged it’s shoulders. I’m sorry friends distanced themselves from you. I’m sorry this season hasn’t ended yet, and it just seems to be one thing after another.

I’m sorry there were words left unsaid, and words that can never be taken badk. I am sorry for the loss of graduations, holidays, vacations. For the unmet expectations. For the loss of hope. The loss of self. I am sorry facebook is dumb and now reminds you of “the better days, the good ole days.” As if you needed that reminder.

I know these are just words on a page and they don’t take the pain away. They don’t answer any questions, or solve any problems. But I think the words are important. It is important to acknowledge loss. It’s important to say “I am hurting,” and to have people circle around you and say “I love you, I care. i am so sorry.” It is important to say “I see you hurting. I want to help you.”

It is easy, and natural to feel alone when we suffer a loss. I remember when my friend took his life in 2007, I felt so isolated from the rest of the world because of my grief. They don’t understand, they don’t get my pain. I always thought to myself. Well, after spending 4 days as a leader for a Bereavement camp for Children who have lost an immediate family member, I learned that everyone has experienced loss. Those kids all had suffered a loss.  Every adult volunteer, every leader, every counselor, they all have suffered a loss. It wasn’t strange to ask someone “What was your loss?”  And exchange stories over dinner or while walking around the camp. 13 year old me found great comfort at that camp (as a 22 year old) knowing she isn’t alone.  She was never alone.

Sometimes in our grief, we are not ourselves. A trip to the grocery store might as well be a 5k, a minor setback at work sends us spiraling, a few words from a friend sting deeper than they should have. Dont beat yourself up. Be patient with yourself, be kind to yourself. Loss is not easy. Take a deep breath and do the best you can.

Let’s flip the situation.

A customer gets really upset over a mistake you made when you ring up her groceries. You find your coworker crying in the bathroom, but they are “fine.” You  joke with a friend, and they get really upset. Instead of taking offense, and taking things personally. Perhaps, imagine what they might be going through.It’s like that quote “be kind; because everyone you meet is fighting a battle.” Don’t kick a person when the are down.

Everyone you meet has lost something.

Be kind, be patient.

And once again,

I am so so sorry for your loss. I pray that you find a circle of people who will walk through this with you. And that strangers will be kind to you and that you will be kind to you.

Stop Pretending You’re Fine.

Monday night I sat in a circle with twenty or so other women. We went around the circle like we did every week; we shared our struggles, our victories, our worries, our grief. When a person was done talking, we all say in unison: “Thank you for sharing.” And we mean it too. It’s not easy sharing your sin struggles, your flaws, your biggest fears to anyone, especially strangers. But how freeing it is to put everything out in the open, expecting reprimand or judgment, only to receive a stranger’s hug or a tissue from the person half-way across the circle to wipe the tears that you couldn’t hold back anymore. But why? Why spill your guts? Why risk it all? Why bother? Life seems to carry on alright with everyone wearing masks, why be the one to be honest?

Because there is nothing greater than knowing you are not alone.

This Monday in the circle was life-changing. The girl sitting next to me started to talk and she shared her struggle. My heart jumped to my throat. her struggle was my struggle. Everything she said out loud were things I had only said in my head. She was literally inside my head throwing it all out there. I just wanted to cry and hug her. When she finished talking, she exhaled deeply, like a 100lb. weight had been removed. If she hadn’t been honest, I would have spent another week feeling alone, and she would have too. And that would have been another week, where the Enemy could continue to convince us of lies. God doesn’t love you. How could he? You’re alone. No one else struggles.  don’t tell anyone or you’re going to lose them. 

It’s all lies. There is freedom when you confess your sins.  there is healing when you confess your sins (James 5:16).

We are all works in progress, with kinks, rough edges, and broken pieces. We are not perfect. God knew that from the beginning. He isn’t shocked, confused or disappointed in You. He knew exactly what He was doing. Jesus came to die for sinners. That’s all of us. Every person, no matter how good-looking or famous they are, they are as messed up as the rest of us.

So, Christians, stop pretending. If you’re having a really rough time, tell someone. If you’ve been struggling with an addiction, confess that to a person that you love and trust. Let them love you, the real you. take that mask off, be honest next time a good friend asks how you’re doing. Allow them to love you where you’re at. Cause guess what? That’s where healing begins. And guess what? God knows everything you’ve ever done and will do, He still loves you. That perfect love casts out all fear. We boast not in ourselves cause we fail daily, but we boast in God because He loves sinners like us.

Christians, if a friend comes to you and confesses something to you.

1) Listen. listen. listen.

Don’t cut them off. Don’t interject advice right away. Just let them get it all out.

2) Thank them for sharing.

It’s scary. Let them know you appreciate the courage and the trust they must have in you to tell you what they did.

3) Tell them you love them.

Their worst fear is that you now love them less, or don’t want to be around them anymore. They have that fear with God too. You have an amazing opportunity to be God with clothes on. Tell them you love them because you do. Tell them God loves them too. Just remind them that they are so loved.

4)Pray with them.

James 5:16 says that when we confess our sins and pray for one another there is healing. Especially if you don’t know what to say or how to respond. Just offer to pray for them right there, and let the Holy Spirit guide your words.

5) pray for them.

Their healing journey has begun. And that’s a big deal! Praise God! Continually pray for your friend and for God’s healing and restoration in their lives.

Praying for you guys.

take that mask off.

-Marlie

Real Talk: People aren’t Projects

When I think back to my time at Howard Payne, I remember the people most of all. Sure, I heard a lot of sermons, a lot of lectures, did a lot of reading/researching/studying. But when I look back, I remember the people: friends, roommates, best friends, professors. I’ve never felt so loved in my life. The friends I had loved me in my happiest and in my darkest moments.  They were “God with clothes on.” Not meaning they were perfect, but they loved me in my mess, despite my mess, and encouraged me consistently. Were there rough times? Yes. Tough conversations? Yes. Did I get along with everyone all the time? No. But that’s community for you. There’s nothing worse than faking it, pretending everything is cool when things aren’t.

As I reflect back, I think about how cheated I would feel if my friends only befriended me so I would become more like them. Like, what if I was this rebel child gone astray, and they treated me like their project and they had this agenda of “fixing me” when they befriended me. That would totally cheapen every nice thing they did for me. Of course, none of that is true.But its so convicting because I’m guilty of treating people like projects. Oh, you drink a lot? Let me fix you by “loving you.” Oh, you gossip? let me love you enough so you’ll stop. Gross right?
Not to mention, you can finish a project when you’re done with it. Right? People aren’t a science experiments you can display at a fair, or a C+ book report that you’re trying to turn into an A- report. Let’s ditch the agenda based relationships. And Let us never deem a person “ready” or “unready” to be loved.

Jesus had every morale high ground to stand on, but He didn’t get on a high horse. And who are we to get on ours? When we interact with the world, with non-christians and Christians, who are we to stand on pedestals? Who are we to ride Manny the Horse of Morality around and pick people to treat as projects? People are not projects. We can’t fix people. we can’t save people. We can’t even save ourselves, if we could, we wouldn’t have needed a Savior.

I’ve been in John lately, and I noticed something about Jesus and the miracles He performed. He never said “Okay, I’ll heal you, but first you have to clean up your act. I hear your thoughts, I know how jealous you get. So, try and be less angry and jealous. Then I’ll heal ya. Deal?” Nope. He sees the leper, the woman at the well, the thousands of hungry listeners, and loves them where they are at. He meets them where they are. Interestingly enough, afterwards, each person is so moved that they run and tell people about what Jesus did!  Jesus loved people in their present condition, but He didn’t leave them there. God loves you so much right now. He doesn’t hate “past” you. He doesn’t just tolerate you. He isn’t going to love the “future version” of you anymore than He loves you right now. He loves you. Period. The end.

And there’s nothing we’ve done to deserve His love. In John, there’s a story of a man who was paralyzed and waiting by a pool to get healed. He waited 38 years! Then, Jesus came and saw Him and healed him.  We love because He first loved us. We’ve all fallen short. Every last one of us. Man, if none of what I’ve said has made any sense, please read Ephesians 2:1-10. That’s basically what I’m trying to say. And these things too

1) People aren’t projects. They are works in progress just like you and me.

2) to love like Christ loves, is to love people where they are at. Not a “future version” of them. God loves us in our mess. So, we should love others in theirs.

3) relationships are powerful. the most important relationship we can have is one with God. Our vertical relationship with God effects our horizontal relationship people. (know God, Know love.)

okay that’s all.

thanks for reading. now go read ephesians 2:1-10, and John! because both are so good!