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

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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

Lost&Found

After a day of babysitting, I drove an hour to meet a friend for coffee. As soon as I parked, I reached over to the passenger seat to pick up my wallet, and it was not there. I looked on the floor, nope. I looked under my feet. Nope. I looked in the back seats, I looked in the trunk. I looked in the passenger seat again, and again. Surely if I moved my jacket enough times, my wallet would appear underneath, right? Guys, there’s no panic like “Losing your wallet” panic. I immediately retraced my steps from the day.  The house I babysat at, the McDonald’s I took the boys to after their basketball game, home. Worst case scenario, I left it at McDonald’s and someone grabbed it. Or Someone might have turned it in right? Right? I whipped my phone out, googled that McDonald’s that I went to and called them to ask if they had found a black wallet. No one had found my wallet. I realized after I had called them that my wallet must have at least made it to my car or my home with because I deposited my check from babysitting into the bank.  With a calmer spirit, I called my mom, and lo and behold my wallet was at home.

“Cool story bro,” said the reader.

Thanks.

But wait, let’s take into account one thing: I HATE CALLING PEOPLE.  Especially strangers. I went to the aquarium a few days ago with a friend. Before, we were unsure if they were open, so I told my friend I’d call the place and ask. But I never did because I hate calling people.  Guys. My job search was a million times more difficult for me because I did not call people to follow up on my applications. Never in my life have I called a business to ask them a question. Until today.  I found the number, pressed dial, and didn’t hang up.  (usually, I stare at the number to dial, never press the call button, or when i do, I hang up before they answer. I got some serious phone anxiety) I called Mcdonalds because I lost my wallet. I was willing to go to great lengths to find this wallet. Why? cause it had everything in it: debit card, credit card, my license, $14 in cash, and my chapstick. It was worth a lot to me.

 

You know what has even more value than a wallet? You. We’re all sheep gone astray, prodigal sons, the blind, the lame, the weak, we’re sinners. We are lost. And the Gospel is a beautiful, life-changing, heart-transforming story of how the God of the Universe went to great lengths to find, save and redeem us. Why? He is a loving, loving Father. We were made in His image and in the beginning, man’s relationship with God was perfect. A few chapters later in Genesis: the Fall. Man sinned. God is holy. Sinners can’t be in the presence of God. We were separated from God. The cost to find us? His only Son. God in the flesh. Left Heaven, became man, lived a perfect life, died a horrendous death, rose from the dead and beat sin out once and for all. Talk about going a great length to find what was lost! Whether you’ve heard this story a million times, or for the first time now: I pray the reality of the Gospel sinks in. You are loved so much.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it,he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Luke 15:4-6

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!

Real Talk: Junk food

I haven’t met anyone who anyone who enjoys their post Taco Bell experience. Yes, I’m referring to those long nights on the toilet after a trip to good ole taco bell. It destroys me every time, but I go anyways because Taco bell is so delicious. And it’s cheap, also they are everywhere. Each time I walk into Taco bell, my mind is like “Marlie. This never ends well. why are you doing this?” But, those loaded potato grillers are so good, and their chalupas man. They hit that spot. And then afterwards, I kick myself and am filled with regret and gas. I promise myself I’ll never do it again and then a week or so passes, the memory of the bathroom agony fades and all I can remember is the sweet taste of potatoes, cheese, sour cream all wrapped up in a warm tortilla. I’ve talked with people about this before and many have shared similar experiences. And it’s not just Taco bell, it’s that greasy burger or the foods at the State Fair. It’s junk food. Junk is in the name for a reason. I crave Junk food.  Just like my flesh craves sin:

.The Sin Cycle (in parenthesis, the taco bell cycle) 
1.There’s the temptation to sin, (oh look a taco bell commercial!) 
2.a little argument goes on in our head, (taco bell never ends well…but it’s so delicious…hmmm)
3.we give in to sin, (TACO BELL NOM NOM NOM)
4. instant gratification follows, (mmm so good) 
5. Consequence: (crap…literally)
6.shame and guilt. (gah, why did i do that?)
7.Finally, the promise that we’ll never do it again. 
8. Repeat steps 1-7.  

Craving: I heard that one of the keys to losing weight and keeping it off is eliminating the craving for junk food by replacing the junk with good stuff. Water instead of soda, an apple instead of fries. My body feels different after eating a healthy meal (fruits, veggies, protein.) I have energy that I can spend on a light jog or playing basketball. Instead of camping in a bathroom all night. I watched a YouTuber talk about how to fight temptation. It’s not about will power, It’s about dining at the table with Jesus instead of eating dirt. Leaving the dirt, and replacing it with God. Returning to sin was compared to a dog returning to his own vomit. Gross. That’s what steps 1-7 is. We settle for our own vomit when God has a buffet for us. Spending time in  His Word, His presence. Listening to A  worship song.  Going on a A walk in nature. Prayer. All very good things to do instead of spending hours upon hours soaking up ‘the world’ (via tv, radio, music, movies.) 

Will power: When I was actively dieting at college (super hard when you’re eating at the caf everyday) my mom texted me something at lunch I’ll never forget. “Marlie, take it one meal at time. Today at lunch, choose to eat better things. Then at dinner, do the same. One meal at a time.” It was easy to get overwhelmed with having to eat healthy ALL THE TIME. That’s why I gave up so many times. I’d mess up once and I’d quit. I find myself in the same struggle with sin. I had to be perfect. I had a check-list in my head of my ‘good deeds’ and ‘Bad deeds.’  At night, i’d tally up the good checks and the bad checks and determined whether or not this whole “spiritual walk” thing was worth it based on if I had screwed up too much that day. Don’t give up. It is difficult.  It’s quite literally a daily struggle us humans have with sin. Pride, lust, idolizing, laziness, the temptation is all around us. Just like those taco bell posters for their new breakfast menu. Tempting us to choose them today. to worship them today.  Turn away from them. The satisfaction they provide is only momentary, but the satisfaction Christ provides is eternal. turn away from sin, but do not stop there. You must turn to Christ. Gaze at the Cross, feel his scars, look in his eyes and you’ll find love, grace, satisfaction. And day by day, choice by choice, you choose to live spiritually healthy instead of indulging in the junk of the world. 

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.