Captivated

There have already been a lot of posts written about the book Captivating, so you can add this to the list. But I’ll try to go above and beyond the content of the book to explain what it’s taught/teaching me. The thing is, I’m only a chapter into the book and it’s already changing how I view my relationship with Christ. Talk about epic!

The book talks about the heart of a woman: how she wants to be pursued and admired for her strengths and passions. She is strong and independent, but her soul was designed to want someone (a man) to fight for her, someone who has strengths that complement hers. The book briefly goes into how a man is designed, and how men and women are designed to be perfect companions. Sounds a little gushy, doesn’t it? But it’s not nearly as sappy as it sounds.

I want to be married eventually, and I want kids. I want the whole stinkin’ American dream with the white picket fence and Mini Cooper in the driveway. But at the moment, I don’t want any of that. I’m happy. The book touches on a very important part that’s often left out of modern-day Christianity: Christ is the groom of the church. I feel that women have the potential to have a unique relationship with Christ. As women, we have the capacity to love the Savior of the world in an emotionally intimate and loving way… the same way that we longed to be loved by an earthly man.

As I put down the book after reading the first chapter last night, my mind began to spin. I began thinking about how much my relationship with God has grown over the past few months. I can’t explain the details of how or why it’s grow, but it has. As I grow in my daily (more like moment-by-moment) walk with Him, I’m getting to know Him better and better. I’m delighting in His features… His personality quirks… His sense of humor. And in return, I can feel Him smiling in my direction. Sometimes it’s when I’m being a total dork or say something stupid, and sometimes it’s when I’ve done something that really makes Him proud. There have been so many quiet moments between Him and I where He catches my eye or ear in a room full of people. I’m surrounded, yet He’s the only one I can focus on. I’m captivated. It reminds me of one of those movies where the girl walks into a room, she makes eye contact with the guy, and everything else fades away. Nothing else matters. That’s kind of what it feels like. I’ve never been in a sincere, mature, adult dating relationship (I look forward to it!), but I think I’m learning what that’s going to feel like.

I’ve often thought “If I can’t have a sincere, loving relationship with the God of the universe, who is perfect, loving, patience, and doesn’t leave the toilet seat up, how can I have a true relationship with an imperfect man?!?” Well, maybe God is teaching me a few things………….

I’ll keep you updated.

</ food for thought >

Once Upon a Time

First of all, I’d like to say how honored I’ve been reading comments that you guys make about these blogs posts. It’s nice to know that what I’ve been learning can be of some benefit to others and that others can relate. So thanks for reading and for the encouragement.

Six months ago I had made it up in my mind that I didn’t really have a testimony. I had a lot of stories where God did something cool for me, but since I accepted Christ into my life when I was 3 years old, I didn’t have a radical “come to Christ” moment and there was no “before and after” story. I grew up in church and knew all the Bible stories. Ho hum. I felt that my only testimony was my day-to-day walk. I had no story that would win people to Christ.

There was a lot wrong with that conclusion. First of all, God had already done some amazing things in the short story of my life. He had delivered me from a painful/abusive situation, and by the time I was 18 I was able to give up that pain to God and forgive. I think in the back of my mind I always knew that would be a part of my testimony, but I didn’t consider it grand enough to be my entire story. And rightly so. God is a much bigger thinker than that. But still, I was wrong to write it off. The second thing that was wrong with that assumption was that I hadn’t been completely honest to myself (or others) about who I was. The person I pretended to be around other people (especially Christians) wasn’t who I was. That person was perfect, so she couldn’t have a “story.”

But God began to teach me something in September: everyone has a story. Including me.

My story, in just a few words, is this: God let me get hurt when I was young. I spent the next few years running away from people, hiding, and protecting myself, trying not to get hurt again. It worked; I was able to protect myself. As an adult I began to crack when the bitterness from not forgiving began to take over, and I let God take my heart and my burden while I learned to forgive. I did forgive. Then God began to break my heart into a million pieces while He rebuilt it. I had to be honest about my faults and flaws. He has been rearranging and reshaping me the past few months. The second part of my story is not just freedom from my past: it’s redemption from my present. In Him I’m finding freedom from everything I’m afraid of.

Doesn’t that sound like a typical testimony? Pain, bitterness, shame, regret, freedom and redemption? It is, because that’s how God works. The cool part is that I’m only 21, so God still has time to do a  LOT of work on me.

Chances are, too, that you have a testimony if you’re a Christian. It’s probably not “over”, but it’s at least in progress. You might be in the middle of trauma/crisis right now, or maybe you’re just coming out of something and are still in a daze about what just happened. Or maybe something happened years ago and you just haven’t realized it.

Whatever the case, your story, no matter how small or unimportant it feels, is meaningful. The cool thing about humans is our ability to relate to one another; your story could help or encourage someone right now who’s in the middle of hard times. Don’t be afraid of your story. Don’t hide behind the illusion of perfection. I hate to tell you, but we’re all screwed up. We shouldn’t be embarrassed about it. Especially when there is so much freedom that can be found in the honesty and transparency that Christ brings.

I don’t feel the timing is right to share the details of my story and struggled on the world wide web. Maybe soon. In the meantime, I much prefer one-on-one communication. If you’re interested in hearing more, I’ll be glad to share via FB or email. You know how to reach me.

A Rose By Any Other Name…

A few weeks ago I was listening to music on my phone in the car, like I normally do. Switchfoot’s song “24” began to play. I sang along, because I know the song well. One of the lines, “Wrestled the angel, for more than a name” grabbed my attention. I knew it was referring to Jacob wrestling the angel/God in Genesis 32, which I’ve heard rehearsed since I was a kid. It’d been a long time since I’d read the story, so when I got home that night, I picked up my Bible to refresh my memory.

After reading the story I thought about it for a while, trying to figure out why that line had stuck with me. Jacob had wrestled the angel in the middle of the night and wouldn’t let him go until the angel blessed him. The angel touched Jacob at his knee, taking it out of socket and leaving him with a permanent limp, but Jacob still pushed on, demanding that the angel bless him. He did eventually bless Jacob and gave him a new name: Israel. It was the name change that caught my attention, but again I wasn’t quite sure why.

The next week I was listening to Audrey Assad’s song “Wherever you Go,” and a couple of the lines again caught my attention: “Wrestling angels till dawn breaks through. There’s a blessing and a wound and you’re running from it.” Again it was a reference to the story of Jacob. I was beginning to sense that God was trying to tell me something, so I kept my ears open, straining to see what He was trying to say.

Last Tuesday I was Celebrate Recovery, and after we got done with sharing in our small groups we were “dismissed” and allowed to talk freely with the other women in the group. Our group leader was sharing about how that week God had placed it on her heart to look up the meaning of her name. God had been encouraging her that week to grab hold of the meaning of her name and stand by it, confident in her own identity. I was amazed at how what she  was sharing with the group correlated with what I’d been stewing on the past couple weeks: the meaning of names.

The problem was, however, that I already knew the meaning of my name, so I didn’t think that my solution was quite as simple as looking it up. Hannah means “full of grace,” and it’s something I’ve known for years. It’s also something I’ve aspired to.

At this point I started telling people about the odd change of events around the idea of name meanings. I started researching other people in the Bible who had their names changed by God, thinking that maybe there was something in there I was supposed to discover through research. That wasn’t it.

Saturday night I got on Facebook and read a blog post by a friend and fellow blogger who had recently discovered the meaning of her first and middle name. I knew for a fact now that God was really trying to communicate something to me, but I was wracking my brain trying to figure out what it was.

I was quite overdue to talk to my mom on the phone, so I called her this past Sunday. I talked to her for a bit about routine things, and then our conversation wound down, so we said our goodbyes. But hours later I still had a nagging feeling that I needed to talk to her about this mystery I was trying to uncover, so I called her back. I explained the series of events and waited for her response.

“Hm. So what does your name mean?” she asked.
“Full of grace,” I replied.
“What does ‘grace’ mean?” she responded. I was puzzled and started grasping for the dictionary definition. As a kid raised in church my whole life, I kind of knew what it meant. I knew what “graceful” meant. But I couldn’t describe it, so I typed “grace” into Google and looked at the results:

GRACE
Noun: Simple elegance or refinement of movement.
Verb: Do honor or credit to (someone or something) by one’s presence.

The noun definition made sense. It was just about what I’d expected to find. The verb, however, was what got my attention. “Do honor or credit to someone/thing by one’s presence. I read it to my mom, and it began to sink in.

I burst into tears. My mom responded to my apparent silence: “Hannah, I think it’s ironic that you’re trying so hard to please God and honor Him with your life and with your time right now, and that’s exactly what your name means. To honor or credit to someone, God, by your presence.” I was crying too hard, and trying too hard to hide the fact that I was crying, to respond. I stood there in the kitchen speechless with tears streaming down my face, as my mom continued to encourage me. I felt like a little girl who’d been trying so hard to get Daddy’s attention, and then he’d finally turned around to smile at me. It was as if He was telling me “Hannah, it’s ok. You’re going a good job. You’re living your purpose right now. You’re exactly where I want you to be.

And He’d been trying for weeks to tell me that. I’d been so discouraged… I was tired and ready to give up. But God Himself was encouraging me. I’d never experienced that before. Numerous times He’s sent people to encourage me when I needed it, but never had He sent me a series of signals designed to tell me something Himself. I was amazed.

I was reminded of much God really cares about us and loves us. He doesn’t just take care of our needs. He encourages us when we’re feeling down with positive words, if we’re open to listening. They weren’t words of correction, which I’ve gotten so used to. He was spurring me on, being my cheerleader. Even now the thought brings tears to my eyes.

I’m learning to relate to Him in a more personal way than I ever have before. And He’s been speaking to me on levels I hadn’t expected. It’s such a cool experience. But it’s slow sometimes, and I have to learn patience and wait for the process. I don’t always get answers when I want them. In fact, I usually don’t. But I get them when I need them. And only God knows what I really need. Long story short, I’m loved. And Daddy is taking care of me.

2 Corinthians 6:18
And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.

Psalm 9:10
Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Who Am I?

I’ve been doing a lot of seeking lately: seeking out Christ, learning about myself, and trying to figure out what God’s will or purpose for my life is.  And for those of you who know anything about the process involved behind those things, you understand why I’ve been having a rough time lately.

The more I dig into who I am and who God created me to be, the more I’m learning exactly who I’m NOT. I’ve learned lately, and it’s come as no surprise, exactly how many issues I struggle with. That list keeps getting longer. And many of these issues carry side effects that I’ve long categorized as being parts of my personality. For example, I am a very loyal friend. I’m learning that intense loyalty, beyond what is normal or healthy, is a result of codependency. As I struggle with codependency and battle to find healthy boundaries, I will learn that not all people deserve my loyalty, and I will learn when and how to distance myself from unhealthy people.  I had clung to many of these traits, assuming they were strengths in my personality.

The person who I thought I was relied so many things other than Christ, that as I learn how to depend on Him for my needs instead of other people, so much of who I thought I was is disappearing. And that leaves me sitting here thinking, so who am I really? If so much of what I thought I was is a byproduct of sin and doing things my own way, what’s left?

So then I’m at this simple question again of “Who am I?” While I’m not sure yet, God knows, because He made me, and He has a few things to say about it in the Bible. I found a cool article from which I’ve pulled a few of the below bullets. I suggest reading the whole thing.

  • I am God’s child (John 1:12)
  • I have been set free from condemnation (Rom 8:1-2)
  • I have been given a sound mind (2 Timothy 1) and wisdom (Ephesians 1:8)
  • I am a light in the darkness (Matthew 5:14)
  • I am sheltered under his wing–protected (Psalms 91:4)
  • I have a hope that is sure and steadfast (Heb 6:19)
  • I can come boldly to the throne of grace (Heb 4:1)
  • I can do all things through Christ (Philip 4:13)
  • I cannot  be separated from God’s love (Rom 8:35-3)

While this list does little for helping me figure out the spiritual gifts, passions, and heart that are unique to me, it gives me a launching point from which to go from. These things remind me that I am WORTH me going through the struggle of learning about myself. God has a plan for me, and whether the world considers it significant or impactful,  I recognize that it’s still MY plan, mine. And no one else gets the privilege of walking in the steps God’s outlined for me.