Real Talk: Comparison sucks.

The more years I’m alive the more I am learning that I am not alone. I am not terminally unique in my thoughts, desires, or needs. Meaning, if a crazy thought passes my mind, I’m sure it has crossed others as well. There’s comfort in that. I want to talk about comparison. Everything in me is dying to make this “Catchy” and “interesting” so you’ll want to read it and then be impressed and then i don’t know what, but that’s a lot of pressure. So i’m just going to type and if you keep reading great, if you skim it awesome, if you stop after this sentence then go for it. So, here we go: comparison.

I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t compare myself to someone. Growing up, I compared myself to my brother. He’s funnier than I am, he’s stronger, he’s good at music.  In 5th-12th grade, I compared myself to the “popular girls.” They are prettier than me, they are smarter, the boys like them more than me. In college, I compared myself to my Christian friends: they read more of the Bible than I do, they love God more than me, they serve more than me. BUT this also goes both ways. When I was a kid, I felt better than my brother cause I did better in school and didn’t get in any trouble. In 5th-12th grade, I felt better than the popular girls because I was more “mature” than they were and was a nicer person. In college, I had a fair share of people to compare my actions with (not drinking, smoking or failing classes)  and give myself a nice pat on the back for being “holier” than them.

For all of my life, I have compared myself to others. I try to figure out where I fit in a group of people. Then by the time I “know” them, I’ve got us all ranked up base on my own opinions of people. This sends me in dangerous seasons of feeling way less than some people (popular girls, super spiritual people, leaders/authority figures) and desperately wanting their approval versus other seasons of my life where I feel way better than others which leads to pride and a crummy attitude. Several problems with this mentality: If I base my self worth on others, the people around me are always coming/going. How do I know where I stand? I might feel super confident and awesome around one group and then terribly shy and undeserving of attention in a different group. Then you have this distorted view of yourself like you get when you walk through a fun house with all those mirrors that make you look super fat or skinny.

I read this book on Self-Worth and one part really stuck out to me.

Wrong Belief: My Self worth is based on how I see myself in comparison to others and how others view me.
Right Belief: My self-worth is not based on how I see myself or how others see me, but on how God sees me, for I was created by Him in His image. Not only did Jesus pay the highest price for me by dying on the cross for my sins, but He also lives in me to fulfill His plan and purpose for me.”

Do you live your life comparing yourself to others? Does someone getting a job, a raise, engaged, a new house, or a baby, bother you? If it irks you a bit, you might be comparing yourself to them. I really struggle with this and singleness. It’s so easy to go down that road in my head when someone close to me gets a boyfriend.  “No ones asking you out Marlie. No guy has given you his number. No guy has seemed interested in you. and (this friend) has experienced all that. Therefore, you must not be as pretty, funny, awesome as (this friend.)”

The people in your life should not be used as measuring sticks to make you feel better or worse about yourself. That’s giving someone else the power to define your worth. A friend of mine said once “If someone offered $5 for the Mona Lisa, that doesn’t mean the Mona Lisa is worth $5. It means that person is an idiot.” You’re worth a lot more than the Mona Lisa, friend. And don’t let anyone try and tell you that you that you’re worth a few bucks.  Christ already decided how much you are worth. Nothing and no one can change that.

I wrote something a few months ago in my diary a few months ago and I want to share it with you to close up this here blog.

God made the Earth and everything in it, from beautiful daisies to cascading mountains, from a herd of wild mustangs to colony of ants. The earth is His and everything in it. Look at His creation and you’ll find design, purpose and beauty. I am part of His creation, therefore design, purpose and beauty all exist in me. He did not make any mistakes when He made me. I am intricately designed by my Father’s hand. He knows my past, present and future. I am still breathing therefore I have purpose here. Purpose in the mundane, purpose in the pain, purpose in the joy. None of it is wasted. But, beauty? Years of lies tell me I am the exception. There’s not beauty in Marlie, the enemy sneers. Sunsets are pretty, oceans are pretty and so are forests. But Marlie? She got the short end of the stick. For so long I believed that lie, and to an extend I still do. But today, i am taking small steps to believe that God didn’t screw up when He made me. I was not an afterthought, unwanted or just merely tolerated. Jesus died for me, and if I was still the one sheep who didn’t get her crap together, Jesus still would have come. Lord I believe, Help my unbelief.

 

 

 

Lord we believe, help our unbelief.

 

-Marlie

Real Talk: Confessions

Confession: I have serious digestion problems.

Confession: I have depression and anxiety.

I don’t remember when I started struggling with either of them, but both became very serious in November when I started attending a group at my church. It was a recovery group for women who had experienced sexual abuse.

Confession: I was sexually abused in my childhood and it’s something I never dealt with until now.

Reasons I avoided it and lies I believed: It wasn’t rape, so why did it matter? It was probably my fault anyways. No one would believe me if I told them.

Going to the group every monday night was admitting to myself that what happened to me was abuse and that I had to get healing from it. As the dam of denial began to broke, all the emotions that I was holding flooded through my soul: fear, despair, disgust, rage, apathy, to name a few. This not only affected my emotions but my body as well. I had panic attacks on the daily, and had serious digestive issues. Like I said, I’ve had mild anxiety and mild digestive issues since I was in high school. But this was life altering, and definitely interfering with my daily life.

Guess which issue I went to the doctor for first? That’s right, my stomach issues.  I knew no one would judge my faith, or tell me to pray more if I told them I was taking stomach medicine. I briefly mentioned the anxiety during the check up and my doctor said she’d love to meet with me to talk about the anxiety. I kind of shrugged it off and went about my life excited to have some IBS medicine for my stomach that could normalize everything below my belly button.

The medicine worked beautifully, I had no idea why I had waited for so long to get some help. I kept thinking my symptoms weren’t THAT bad, or that maybe it’ll just fix itself on its own but thankfully I got over myself and asked for help. My doctor wanted a follow up meeting with to make sure the IBS medicine was working and so I went in there thinking “i’ll tell em the medicine is great and then walk out and go about my life.” But since it was January, they decided I was due for a check up. They took my blood, they did a lady test, and then asked me about my anxiety. My doctor is a Christian so I told her about the stress I was experiencing due to processing all the memories. And she empathized and said let’s get you on something that’ll help you through this time. (Side note: I had thought a lot about taking medication before this, and had talked with a lot of women, my community group, my mom, my friends from college, my counselor, and really wrestled with this) And I decided that If I was going to take care of my stomach, I needed to take care of my brain too.  10 mg of Lexapro, every morning until January 2018. 

The first two weeks were scary. I felt like I was carrying this dark little secret around and no one could know or they’d say I wasn’t a Christian. The imagined judgement I felt from people was worse then the initial side effects. As the side effects subsided, so did the imagined judgement. No one actually told me that I needed to “have more faith” or that I was the cause of anxiety and depression. I told myself those things.  I told myself that I didn’t trust God, that I needed to have more faith and pray more and read more of the Bible and memorize scripture. However, as I attempted these things my anxiety robbed me of any joy in Christ. I over thought every word I prayed and every word I wrote down in my journal.  My depression told me it didn’t matter and that God never really cared anyways so neither should I. Depression and Anxiety were the reins, and the Enemy was steering me all the way to destruction.

As I processed the memories from my childhood in the group, I replaced the lies I believed with truth, God began to open my eyes so that I could  begin to understand and grasp that I am lovable, I can trust others and God, I am worthy of God’s affection, I began to experience healing and freedom.

As the medicine began to really start working, I realized a lot of nervous tics I had that I didn’t know were anxiety related started to fade. I stopped obsessing over my breathing (I’d lay in bed at night and convince myself that I wasn’t really breathing), I stopped rubbing my fingers together and shaking my legs when I sat. The panic attacks stopped. The feeling of overwhelming dread faded. I could focus on one or two things at a time. I could focus and really pray, I could really journal, I could really meditate on truth in God’s word without wondering if I was doing something that was upsetting God.

Right now I’m sitting here wondering did God use anti-depressants to help me get closer to Him? It sounds so weird. I feel like the church makes it black & white, you trust God or you don’t. You have faith, or you don’t. I still have this little voice in my head that says “Wow you’re on medication, you really don’t trust God.” It takes a few seconds during the day to take a pill. But, the rest of the day I got to trust God and know He’s sovereign. If I can trust God and take medicine to make my stomach feel better, then I can trust God and take anti-depressants to help my brain feel better. And you know what, after a month or so on the antidepressants, I no longer needed to take the IBS medicine for my stomach because my digestive issues are gone!

I’m 3 months in and have been so lucky to a) found a medcine/dosage that worked on the first try. b) to be surrounded by such supportive and loving people. c) to have had an amazing job to work at during all this crazy stress (my boss brings her dogs to school every day and I get to love on them during my break. how amazing is that?)

I had a much different blog in mind when I opened this document, but I think what came out is good. I hope it helps you feel less alone, maybe it helps you understand mental health issues more. Maybe it’ll start good conversations about getting help. I’m open to any questions or comments. Please know that this is simply my story and experience so far. It might not look like yours, and it probably wont. Medicine affects everyone differently, so don’t let someone elses negative or positive experience effect your decision. Let that be between you, your doctor, your family and close friends.

Until next time, thanks for reading my friend.

-Marlie

The Prodigal Cat

A few weeks ago, my sweet indoor kitty Stinkle ran away. I don’t know how, I don’t know when it happened, all I knew was that Stinkle was gone. I think she had gotten outside Monday night in the middle of a storm. It was really unlike her to bolt out the door and run down the street. The few times she’d been outside, she would immediately turn around and meow to get back in. The storm must have really spooked her.

With cats, it takes awhile to realize the cat is missing  because  cats love to hide indoors so I spent Tuesday looking inside the house for her. I looked in all of her favorite hiding spaces, I shook the dry cat food around the house (her favorite sound), I ran the automatic can opener (her other favorite sound). Nothing.   A strange mix of despair and panic crept over me as I was running out ideas and places to look in the house. Mom came home that night and acted as a second pair of eyes and confirmed that Stinkle was definitely not inside. It was Wednesday. Stinkle was outside and that’s all I knew.

I spent that morning and  afternoon walking up and down the streets calling her name, looking in bushes, talking to neighbors and  texting a lot of people to pray.  As I walked the streets over and over again, that same wave of panic and despair fell over me. I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry, but I also wanted to ring every doorbell on the street and ask if they had seen Stinkle. As I looked for Stinkle, I knew there were three possibilities.
1) Stinkle was dead.
2) Stinkle was outside hiding somewhere.
3) Stinkle was inside someone’s home.

If she was dead, I prayed that I wouldn’t be the one to find her. If she was outside, I prayed that she would hear my voice and come. I didn’t even want to consider option 3. To think that someone would see my cat, let her into their home and keep her forever made me sick. She was mine. I adopted her, I named her, I raised her since she was a kitten, I loved her.

Thursday through Saturday I was out of town and couldn’t look for my cat. Luckily, I was kept pretty busy. Still no word of anyone finding her. We had put out fliers, and posted on every social media site possible. Sunday came and I was overwhelmed. A whole week without kitty snuggles, her purring in my ear or sitting on my feet as I read. Was this my new reality? If it was, I didn’t like it. I spent a lot of time that day begging God to bring Stinkle home. The shock/denial of her being gone was fading, and the anger had definitely set in. Luckily, I had church so I could pray forgiveness for the things I said to God in my car. (mostly kidding…but not really). That night I met with my community group and I talked about my cat, saying everything I said here. I choked back tears and we all prayed that Stinkle would come home.

After group, I started talking to someone and after our conversation I checked my phone. It was a text from my mom.

“She’s home!!!” And there was a picture of my cat eating food in the kitchen.

A few members of my community group were standing close by and I managed to squeak out one of their names and I said “SHE’S HOMEEEE. STINKLE CAME HOME.” and then instant bawling. Just lots of sobs of joy, and just an overwhelming feeling of relief.  My community surrounded me as I cried.  My cat was found a few houses down in someone’s backyard. They got in contact with my mom and the rescue mission ensued all while I was at church. After the longest drive home ever, I burst through the door and held my cat in my arms. She had dried up mud on her tummy and so I got a washcloth and scrubbed the mud off.

I really wrestle  with apathy. Specifically, apathy towards God. I am apathetic because I falsely believe that  God is apathetic towards me. I think I love the Prodigal son story because the Father is anything BUT apathetic as He sprints towards his son who has come home. In a  weird kind of way, I got to live the Prodigal son story through the eyes of the father this week. And as I experienced what it was like to lose my cat and  not know if she was dead, alive or lost forever, I experienced a small bit of what God must go through all the time. Here’s some things I learned.

God aches for you:  Whenever I thought about Stinkle (which was a lot that week she was missing) my heart literally hurt. I wanted her home so badly . How much more does God ache for those who are lost? God aches for you. When you find rest, comfort, your identity in anything other than Christ, it’s like you’re Stinkle living in someone else’s home. I thought about my life and how I’ve made gods out of myself, people, being liked, control and comfort. God is aching for me to return home to my First Love, and He is aching fro you to do the same.

God pursuits you: I spent several hours a day looking for Stinkle. I walked until I was too tired and needed to rest. When it wasn’t a physical battle, it was mental one.  I let despair win sometimes and I would stop looking.  God is pursuing you. He does not need rest and He will not give up. God became man and dwelt among us (John 1:14). He left all of Heaven’s glory, praise and perfection, for this measly place where there’s headaches, sunburns, blisters, rejection, fatigue, hunger and heartbreak. Nothing stopped Jesus from making away for you to be reconciled to God. Not even death on a cross. Not even death itself. What an amazing God.

God celebrates when you are found: If anything changed my view of God, it was all the emotion I felt when i got that text from my mom. I remember thinking “Gosh, if I feel this much joy and relief about a cat, how much more joy does God feel when sinners become saved?” There’s a party in Heaven every time someone accepts Christ, and for the longest time I thought that was weird and corny. But now,  man, I believe it and can’t wait to join in on that party. But until then, I want to give my life to make sure everyone knows that they are invited to this party  and that the creator of the Universe loves them way more than I love my cat (which is a lot guys)

 

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:20-24

Real Talk: Housewarming Party

A couple days ago, a few unexpected visitors stopped by my blog. And by a few I mean: 50,000. I can’t really explain the feeling except by comparing it to a party. You invited a few friends over to eat and watch or movie or something. You don’t clean up too much because it’s a few of your friends and they understand your mess. There is a knock at the door and you open it, to your shock those friends had brought 49,995 people from around the US and the world with them. Physics and you know spatial issues aside, everyone comes in. You don’t have time to run around and clean (and if you do, it’s little things. put a dish in the dishwasher, throw clothes in the closet) and once everyone settles, you start showing them around the house. A house can be a very personal intimate expression of oneself (that was a stretch) and likewise my blog has been a personal part of me since September. Writing is my gift and I use and it and it’s precious to me. To have 50,000 people put eyes on something I wrote, that was on a very personal topic was terrifying to say the least. (BUT ALSO AMAZING AND EXCITING AND BEYOND MY WILDEST DREAMS) But also very scary.  I had moments where I was like: Oh crap. Is what I said Biblical? I know my grammar is not right. I sound whiny and  bitter. What if they hate it? They’re going to hate it. They’re going to trash the place.

But wow, quite the opposite happened. They pointed out things I haven’t even realized, they told their stories, they encouraged me and they said they had learned something from it. I keep saying “they”, by they  I mean you guys, of course. Ya’ll are real people with stories with hurt and joy and pain and laughter. And so am I. This life is hard and it is even harder when you try to do it alone. The greatest moments in relationships with people is when one opens up about something and the other person responds: “You too? I thought I was the only one!” A sign of true flattery, I feel, is when you ride in the car with me and I don’t apologize for the mess. It means, I love you and trust you enough to look past the mess and love me anyway. It’s also a sign of my laziness. But that’s the aside the point. If I had known beforehand that 50,000 people were going to read the next blog post,I would still be working on  the first paragraph. Checking each word, each phrase. It’s like when you expect company, you bring out brooms, dusters, mops, deep cleaning hoses.  All to impress people, really. To show everyone how together and how clean we are. “Oh man, this person has no cobwebs in their house. They really have it together! I am so impressed.” Is anyone really thinking that? I get it’s also a sign of respect, cleaning up is like saying “I care about you enough to clean up.” But do you care about them or their opinion of you more? So these 50,000 people rush in my blog and they are okay with the mess and actually relate to it. “Yeah I’ve been there.” Or, “Man I am there. Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been wanting to say something like this for song long.” It was so comforting to know that I was not alone, as I’m sure it was comforting for you guys as well.

So in spirit of getting real, being authentic, I’ll be having posts titled: “Real Talk: (subject title).”
And my regular devotionals will just have a title.

So, welcome to my blog. Let me be the first to say: I’m a mess, my writing is not perfect, I don’t have all the answers. I struggle. I have doubts. I’ve been angry at God. You guys are already in here. So, grab a drink,  get comfortable, but most importantly let’s get real.

See you soon.

5 things Christians should stop saying

Late Tuesday evening, an explosion is heard in your neighborhood. You run outside to see what happened. Other neighbors are exiting their houses in various states of shock and confusion. You join the crowd walking/running towards the noise. Just around the corner, you see the house, or rather what’s left of it. Your heart breaks. It is your close friend’s house and so far your friend is nowhere to be found. You decide to search the remains to find your friend. Indeed, you find him, underneath a fallen bed post. He’s covered in ash and dirt. You lift the post and see his shattered leg and have to swallow the urge to scream. He is conscious. You start shouting to your neighbors. “Help! Come help! He’s alive! But he’s hurting!” They come over. A woman looks at him as he writhes silently in pain. She reaches in her purse, you think she is pulling out her phone to dial 911. But instead she starts pulling out band-aids. She passes them out among the neighbors and they all work together to put bandaids on him. Your face fills with disgust and confusion. “What are you guys doing? His bones are shattered. Those are not going to help him.”

They start to speak:

“Are you okay?” One asks your friend.
Your friend has no strength to speak. After no response, the neighbor shrugs and walks away.

“The ambulance is coming soon. Just be strong.” A man says and walks away.
“let me know if you need anything.”  His wife adds.

“I’ll pray for you and let my small group know this happened.” A young student said.

 

——————-

It’s not everyday that a house down the street spontaneously explodes. However, reality as we know it sometimes does.  You know how it is, life is going so well and then a phone call, or an email from a relative or friend begins with “I have bad news…” And boom, your life explodes. Your ears are ringing from the shock and and it takes awhile for the ashes to settle, until you really can become aware of what you’re dealing with. Friends and family hear the news and flood to the rescue. And people, especially Christians, say things, meaning well, but they in the reality of the situation don’t really help. I’ll refer to them now as “verbal band-aids.”

1) “Are you okay?”

-I don’t like this question because it makes me choose “yes” or “no”. If I say yes, will you write me off and go about your life? If I say no, will you freak out and try and fix the situation. Instead, Ask me how I am  feeling. And  not just the first time we talk about what happened, but frequently. “how are you feeling?”  Opens up the door for me to talk about whatever I want.

2)Let me know if you need anything

I just need you to be my friend. Listen to me. Shoot me  a text. Call me. Reach out to me  because you are strong right now and I am weak and hurting.

3) I’m here if you need to talk: anytime, any day. Really!.”

It’s so easy to feel alone especially when rough things are going on.  Countless people have told me this and how many have I called? Only a few.  Instead, try engaging me in conversation. Inviting me to go get coffee or see a movie. I’ll welcome the break and really enjoy being around someone.

4)  “God has a plan.”

Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28. etc. etc. I know God has a plan, but His plan is hurting me right now. Telling me it will all work in the end, doesn’t help me here in the now. 1 year down the road, this might make sense, but right now I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to work a job, write my undergraduate thesis admist all that is already going on . It doesn’t hurt to be reminded, but we know: turn to Jesus, cast your cares on Him, Run to Jesus. We’ve heard those things and we’re doing them the best way we know how.

Instead: Be real with us. Acknowledge the suckiness of the situation, weep with those who weep. Be present with me in this pain, because that’s where I’m at right now.

5) I’m praying for you.

Last semester I was sitting outside the apartments and writing in my journal, a friend came up to me and just casually asked how I was doing. I broke down crying and she started to hug me. It was one of those hugs where you get that person’s shoulder wet with your tears. The craziest thing happened, she just started praying, out loud. She didn’t know what was going on or why i was crying. She just prayed for me. That meant so much. So much more than comments on Facebook or texts from someone saying they are praying for me. Not that I doubt them or the power of prayer, but the Enemy lies so much and can convince us that we’re abandoned. But Satan’s lies lose weight when you’re hugging a friend and you can hear her praying and see her tears.

 

When tragedy strikes nearby, it might be tempting to grab the band-aids and cover up the wounds of your friends. Covered up or not, it still hurts. Let’s leave the fixing up to God, put the band-aids away and listen to our friends. Go get coffee, go to a park, wherever and whatever, be present and available. An open ear, open heart, a hug or a prayer might be exactly what they need.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT)

(Added note: for updates on new blog posts please go to: http://www.facebook.com/beyondthesurfaceblog)

You guys rock.

-Marlie

People at the Park (1)

Some college friends and I go to a park each Saturday and hang out with any kids who are there. We come and start games of tag, hide and seek or kickball if there’s enough kids. And even if there’s not we make it work. The kids have a ton of fun, we have a ton of fun. We don’t know the kids, or who is going to be at the park each Saturday. But that’s what makes it exciting. (Technically speaking, it’s a ministry I started through the BSM at my school. I was tired of going to the park and seeing kids play on the playground while their  older sibling or parent sat on the bench and texted. Or even just sat in the car and waited for them.)

Anyways, this morning, we pulled up to the park and at the exact same time a white van pulled up next to us. Out comes four preteen boys. God’s funny because, look, I love kids but  preteen boys are definitely my least favorite age group. I sat in my car and had a little inner dialogue with God:

“Them, Marlie.”  God whispered. I instantly shook my head.

“Um. Nope. we play with kids. Those aren’t kids. They’ll just play by themselves and be alright. We’ll find other kids to play with.”

“Marlie. No one else is at the park.”

I looked. No one else was there. I swear I could hear God chuckling. My two friends and I got out of the car and we met up with two other college students. They had left over cupcakes and we were all standing around at the playground. Picture it; five 20-something year olds and four pre-teens all kind of standing around not recognizing each other. My friend walked up to them and offered them cupcakes. Light conversation started about the cost and we assured them it was free. The boys weren’t really standing in the same place but once the words “cupcakes” and “free”  were heard each of them came by and grabbed one. I noticed one was holding a football. Then I spoke up “Hey, guys, I bet we can beat yall in game of football.” 

“Yeah right!” one yelled.

They huddled together and planned our impending demise via two-touch football game.
“They have 3 girls! we’re totally gonna win! yeah! game on let’s do this” they all said. We found an empty space and set up some boundaries. One of the college kids, *Shannon had stayed back to talk to the adult who had driven them here. Once she came back we started playing and about 1/4th of the way through that game Shannon came up to me and whispered:

“These kids are orphans. That guy told me. He works at the ranch that they live at. It’s for kids who don’t have families and are struggling.”

It broke my heart. I’ve been sitting here trying to find another way to say it, but just there is no other way. I got to hang out with some kids who are much much much braver than I am and so very strong. I can’t begin to know what their stories are, but it was such an honor to be apart of their lives even if it was only for an hour on a Saturday morning. They made us laugh with their silly banter.  they gave a few of us nicknames, they got red icing all over their faces from the cupcakes. They out ran us and out jumped us.  They flocked to the male college students,like they were all a band of brothers and asked them questions about college.

They had to leave to go get lunch and when they did the park was empty, on a Saturday afternoon when the weather was perfect. It was obvious, but I said it anyways.

“That’s why we were here. For those guys”  We stood silence for a little bit and decided to head back to campus.

 We walked to the car and I looked at the van before it drove away and saw four hands waving goodbye.

——

This will probably be a series.  I’ll continue writing about my experiences in this ministry and share them and all that God is doing  here.

Drowning in the Mud

I watched  my first scary movie in theaters. Woman in Black. This isn’t about that though…well kind of. It’s about one of the scenes in the movie. I really didn’t catch the plot of the movie, because I was so terrified of some freaky lady popping out at me at any moment, but for some reason harry potter was in this marsh/swamp. It was disgusting. It looked like chunky tar. Well, in the midst of the chunky tar swamp there’s a cross. Harry potter stumbles through the marsh, falling almost all the way in as he made his way to the cross.  Once he got to the cross, He submerged himself and began to look for something…i think hidden treasure? or proof that aliens exist? I don’t know. But he reappeared. completely covered in the gross chunky tar. And I almost gagged. He looked disgusting.

 God is disgusted with sin. Like harry potter in the swamp, we are stumbling around, covered in black tar. The only thing harry potter had to hold on to was the Cross. He would have drowned had the cross not been there….the marsh would have consumed him!  How true is that of us! We have no hope without the Cross! No hope without Jesus. God doesn’t want us to try and clean ourselves, or try and live perfectly before we come to Him. Harry was so covered in marshmud, any attempt of him trying to clean himself would have been futile…and he would have drowned.

 So what are you waiting for? Stop trying to live this life on your own…you will sink. Stop trying to clean yourself before you come before the throne…Jesus died on the cross so that when God sees you He sees perfection…not your sins. Cling to the cross. You will not be consumed.

 

 

 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,

   for his compassions never fail.

 They are new every morning;

   great is your faithfulness.

 

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)

Pulled Hair

Remember how much it hurts to get your hair pulled (whether by accident or on purpose?) If not, go ahead give a piece of your hair a good tug. After that, try gripping the hair closest to your scalp and pulling from the end of that piece your holding. Does it hurt as much? Or at all? It doesn’t.

When I let the world make an opinion of me, when I let people around me decide who I am, it only leads to pain and insecurity. They tug you this way and that leading you to believe the labels they have placed on you. “Ugly.” “Fat.” “Too emotional.” “Nerd.” Those words and accusations sting. And they can tear us apart if we give them that power.

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, I was in 5th grade. There was a new student in class and I offered to help be the person she could ask questions to if she was lost or anything. We became friends and trust was built the only way trust can be built between two 11 year old girls: “Tell me who you like. I promise I won’t tell anyone.” She asked me and I told her.

“Sam.”

A pinky promise later and I was feeling pretty good. The next day or so the new girl comes up to me and is holding a letter in her hand. she hands it to me and says “this is from Sam*”

Sam? THE SAM! He had written me a letter. A confession of undying love, no doubt. My heart pounded as I opened it right away. My eyes frantically skimmed the words. It was a hate letter. Well, a hate poem. He insulted me using rhymes. I’m 23 now and I can still remember a few phrases. “Your voice sounds like an alien” and “Your hair looks like hay.” He cleverly ended the note with “Hating you, Sam.” I didn’t cry or even feel like crying. I reported the letter to the principal and he had to sit out of recess for a day (Yay, justice system.) I can’t help but think that God was whispering to me as I read that letter. “That’s not true. That’s not true. I think you are beautiful, and funny and smart. Because I made You. I made You and I love you.” That letter didn’t destroy me or my self-esteem because my esteem is in Christ.

When I  believe that the only opinion that matters of me in the universe is God; when I grip the roots of love, the roots of truth, when people say mean stuff and do mean things. It might hurt, yeah, and that is okay. But it does not hurt near as bad as if we accept what others think about us to be true. Grip the roots today and see what a difference it makes.

The Ride of my Life

Two things:
1) I remember my dreams for days and even weeks after they happen in very good detail.

2) More than 90% of my dreams involve an amusement park of some sorts.

As great as this might sound it’s not. In real life, I love amusement parks. I love love love rollercoasters. But these dreams I have are never good dreams. Something always goes wrong. I’m stuck in line that never ends. Or once the line ends, I realize I don’t have enough tickets to ride. Sometimes I can’t even find the ride I’m looking for in my dream. And even when I do find it,  once I ride it I spend the whole time wishing I was riding something else.

These dreams started oddly enough when I started writing Facebook notes. i liked writing them because if I had a short little spiel to write about I could and I could tag the friends who I wanted to see it. As soon as I opened up that medium, God started speaking to me. Ideas of quasi-devotionals would hit me at the most random times, and I would stop everything and write. I’d be writing and my heart would pound, I’d get goosebumps or I’d be typing faster than my brain could think. God was saying “This, I want you to do this.” I’d kind of shake it off, but the amount of positive response I received over the years was beyond my imagination. My closest friends and  mentors would tell me:
“Marlie, writing is your gift. You should write a book. God has amazing things planned for you.” . Then, I remember, I had this moment and thought “Huh. Maybe, writing is my thing. Some people can sing. Some can dance. But I can write.”  And shortly after that clicked in my head, I started having amusement park dreams. Why? Well, I think I finally figured it out.  I’ll start with reality and tie it back to my dream just to keep things clear.

1) not qualified

Even with the knowledge that writing is my gift and the immense joy it has brought me to to glorify God with it, I struggle lot in the whole writing process. I’ve written a whole blog and deleted it out of fear. I have like six or seven half written blogs on my computer because I was convinced it’s dumb or no one wants to read it. Or that it is not biblically accurate. I want to write a book but I am afraid. I am afraid that I am not qualified enough. I am too young. I have too much to learn. I have to go seminary if I want to be a christian author or speaker. I am almost positive that I’ll reach this moment when I get to publish a book or go on a speaking tour and fail because I don’t know enough. It’s a silly fear right because God is providing everything I need but I am still afraid. Similar to the roller coaster dreams I have where I reach the front of the line to get on the ride but I don’t have enough tickets to ride it. I’m not qualified.

2) waiting…still waiting. 

I do not say all of this to build me up but to just state the frustration of the matter. I have had so many people from so many different walks of life say: “Marlie, God has great plans for you.” Or “Marlie, you are going to do great things. I can’t wait to see all that God have planned for you.” I can’t count how many times I have heard this. (I know they mean well because I say it to people as well. I’m genuinely excited to hear what they do with their life, too. But, that puts us young people in a perpetual state of waiting. No wonder we aren’t satisfied. We are waiting for our lives to start because in a way people are telling us that our lives have not started yet. Encourage people using the present tense. “You are doing great things.” “I can see God doing so much through you”)  So when a lot of people express how they excited are for me, I get excited too. Wondering what it is going to be like, imagining the future. I am so anxious and eager for this “great plan” to start. It is like my roller coaster dream. I wait in line for the whole dream, seeing other people ride it, hearing about the ride and how great it is, but never getting to ride it myself because I am still waiting for my turn. I am waiting…still waiting. Waiting for that dream of being a christian blogger/author/speaker to become a reality.

3) Comparison

Lately, I’ve been watching a ton of youtube. There’s a whole culture of people who post videos of themselves and their life experiences and get a huge response. As the world of Vlogs grow, I feel as though the blogging world is fading away. Sometimes I get bitter and say that  the blogging world isn’t as fun, or creative or awesome as the vlogging world. Frankly, I wish I had the ability to talk in front of camera and just word-vomit my devotions into a video. (people do that, and it works.)  I, however, was blessed to be an introvert so I do thrive in this environment of sitting and expressing myself through the written word. BUT, still I struggle with comparison. Wishing I could be a cool vlogger, a singer, a dancer, or good at any thing that people can see right a way. Being a good writer is tough because it isn’t out there for everyone to see all the time. Like with dancers, hey you dance, and then they do and they are good. I heard a quote once: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” How true is that. I am so robbed of daily joy because I am comparing myself, my talents, my life and gifts to those of another person. Last night, I had a dream that I was getting on a ride that looked really fun and I actually got on it! But instead of enjoying the ride I was on,  I was so focused on the extravagant and awesome looking ride that was in front of me,  the ride I was on ended and I realized I had missed the whole thing because I was focused on the cooler/better ride.

Let us not be a people who miss out on the joy of life because we are busy comparing our lives to someone else.

————

The ride is yours.

Enjoy it.

Awake or asleep, it is yours to live.

Lie: Love should always feel good.

The greatest act of love in human history was the Son of God being crucified on a cross. Crown of thorns on his head, nails in his hand, 40 lashes on his back, suffocation on a cross.

And we have the nerve to look someone in the face and say “I just don’t love them anymore. That feeling is gone.”

The  greatest act of love in human history did not revolve around feelings. Thorns, nails, whips, hanging on a cross till He suffocated? Sorry if I’m jesus-juking* everyone here, but the Cross didn’t feel good…at all. If we as Christians are to love like Jesus did, then with the pain of the Cross, we can conclude that perhaps Love is not about feelings. then what is it about? well let’s look at the Cross and the man who died on it:

Love is a choice: Jesus willingly came to Earth and willingly died. Every whip, every beating, every breath he struggled for, was him choosing to save you over himself.

Love is action: Jesus didn’t just waltz around the Earth talking the talk telling everyone He loved them. He proved it with his life and death.

Love is sacrifice: Jesus put the needs of others (reconciliation with God) over his own needs.

Love is submitting: Jesus submitted Himself to His father’s will, “Not your will but Mine” He said as he sweat so hard, that he sweat drops of blood.

Want more? please go to 1 Cornthians 13. replace the word love with God.

read it again and replace the word love with your own name. Did ya cringe, feel like you were lying at some parts? Congratulations welcome to the club. We’re self-serving, self-righteous, self-seeking human beings. But God loves us right where we are. I pray  that knowledge travels from our head to our heart., that we may grow in the understanding of the height and depth of our Father’s love for us.

Can love involve feelings? Of course. There’s nothing wrong with that. Do not use the words love and feelings interchangeably.  I heard a pastor say once “As I spent more and more time married to my wife, I realized love was not about my feelings, love was a choice. I had to wake up each morning and choose to love my wife that day no matter what. Because no matter what, God loved her. And who was I to say anything different?”

For God so loved the world…

And who are we to say anything different?

Love today.

(((***In case you are unaware of this term, this is an example of what the kids call being “Jesus-juked”: Boy 1: “these books are so heavy.” boy 2: “I bet Jesus wasn’t complaining when He carried the cross! Boom. Jesus-juked!”*)))