Shut up, Martha

Today was day #1 of 3 at the Jesus Culture Worship Conference I’m attending this weekend. I wasn’t sure what to expect walking in. I’d done my homework on Jesus Culture and Bethel Church, so I knew they tended to be quite charismatic in their worship and teachings. I went in today knowing that God was going to use this weekend to stretch me spiritually and move me out of my comfort zone, but I’m always hesitant to “drink the Kool-aid” and get sucked into “the experience” of it all. I’m just there to seek God and spend time with other people who are seeking Him too. But that’s a side-note to where I’m really going with this post.

As with most conferences, there are prayers-provoking songs, and teachings from passionate speakers. My prayers going into these types of events is this: “God, what do you want to show me? What about me needs to change? How do you want me to grow? What do I need to do as a result of these teachings?” And today’s event was no different. After a long time of worship and hearing a extremely emboldened charismatic speaker, I began tossing and turning the thoughts in my head. Revival. Bring God back to my city. Bring His passion and His power back to my church. Take hold of His power. Etc, etc, etc.

I prayed, “God, there were a lot of cool things said tonight… but I need you to show me what it means to ME… what I’m supposed to do about it.”

I didn’t really expect an answer until maybe later this weekend, but He wasn’t going to wait that long. “Hannah girl, stop thinking.” Yeah, it was that simple.

I’m a doer. I always have been and probably always will be. In Biblical terms, I’m a “Martha.” And with God, I always feel this need to do more, give up more, be more, confess more, worship more, volunteer more, speak out more, etc. In essence, I’d been asking Him, “God, what else do I need to do?” His reply? Shut up and just experience Me. Spend time with Me. Love Me.

Not-so-ironically enough, that’s exactly what I’ve been working with my Biblical counselors these past couple weeks. I think too much and push too hard, trying to become all I can be for God. Often that leaves me drained and frustrated because I’m failing to meet my own unrealistic expectations. Instead of always pushing to please God by always doing the right thing or being the right kind of person, I need to learn to just sit at His feet and soak Him in. And to maybe lose control of my thoughts for a few minutes and follow where my heart/spirit leads.

I know that if there’s one thing that gets in the way with my relationship with God, it’s my head. I’m praying that this weekend I’m able to get outside my head a bit more on focus on just God. Not my thoughts, or what my actions should be, but just focus on who He is and praise Him.

If you need me, I’ll be in LA on Friday and Saturday, practicing soaking up God’s presence. And who knows, He might decide to teach me something else along the way… we’ll see. And if you’re lucky, I might post about it 😛

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A Whale Tale

Tuesday was a hard day for me. I woke up in time to get ready for class, like I usually do, and jumped in the shower. I got out and began getting ready, but I was so exhausted (emotionally) that I decided to skip class and go back to bed. I sat down and began praying, but I fell asleep half-way through. I woke up two hours later feeling like I’d been hit by a car. I was drained, had a headache, and just wanted to sleep, but I had so much to do. I knew what the problem was. I’d been trying to do everything on my own; I’d only been talking to God in passing and hadn’t taken my time to surrender my worries to Him. I knew I needed to have a good prayer session where I just sat and talked to Him for a while without any distractions. But I had a lot to do, so I picked up my computer and started working on homework.

But God has a funny way of letting us know what He wants us to do. I have a worship playlist I frequently listen to, and it was playing on my computer that afternoon. One of Kari Jobe’s songs started playing, and I began crying. I wasn’t thinking of anything other than the content of my essay, but my emotions were running wild. It was like my spirit said “Hannah, you may not be paying attention, but I need this, so it’s happening whether your head is engaged or not.”

I texted one of my friends to vent. I told there I was sitting there, typing my essay, and I had started crying and couldn’t stop. She told me to go to the beach and let it all out. I knew I needed to do something or I was going to implode, so I packed up my stuff and went to the beach.

As I sat there on the sand, I had a hard time getting started. I always have a hard time talking when I’m supposed to spill, even if it’s to God. But I started talking about my new job, graduation, finances, relationships, and everything else I’d been thinking or worrying about. I just started rambling. And soon enough, I got down to what some of the core issues were, just by talking it out. Tears streamed down my face for a half hour. I talked and talked and talked, praying for every item that came to mind.

At one point I sat there with my eyes closed, listening to the water. I told Him, “God, I see you working all around me. And I’m grateful. But sometimes it just feels like you’re so far away. I miss you.” At that moment I opened my eyes to the wide expanse of cold, blue water that was in front of me. Right where my eyes were looking, there was a gray whale breaching. She came up ever so gracefully. I immediately looked around, wide-eyed, wondering if anyone else was around to see her. But I was the only one. Instantly my spirit knew that God had sent her. It sounds silly, but I know it was His was of telling me “Hey, Hannah. Hey, you! I’m here. It’s ok. I’m here. And I love you.”

I lost it. Whatever inhibitions I had before were now gone. I sat there amazed, trying to wrap my mind around the fact that the God of the universe loved me. And He loved me enough to instruct a whale to swim up to the shore so I could see her and be reminded of God’s greatness. I love God’s grand, sweeping gestures, but I really love the little things He does. I’m about the details. I watched the whale come up, then dip below the water again, then come up. I kept telling God, “Wow, make her do it again. Please?! Can I see it again?” She breached four or five times… each and every time I asked. When I stopped asking, when I’d been convinced that I’d actually seen her and that I wasn’t making it up, she stayed under. I sat there stunned for a while, telling Him over and over, “She’s beautiful. You’re beautiful. Thank you.” It was so peaceful.

He reminded me that He loved me. I read it over and over in the Bible, and I’m shown His love by other believers constantly. But sometimes I just need a visual reminder, from Him, that He loves me. And when I needed it most, He sent it. God used a gray whale off the coast of Southern California to tell me He loves me. How cool is that?

Just thought I’d share 🙂

A Piece of My Heart

I want to warn you by saying that this post may have more info about me than you want to know. I second-guessed writing it, but I feel the need to brag about God and what He’s doing in my life no matter how I personally feel about it. He’s worth more than that. He’s bigger than that.

Gen-Why, the young adult small group through my church that I help lead, has been studying a book by the name of SHAPE. It helps us examine our exact shape, or footprint, of who God made each of us to be. It walks us through the spiritual gifts, interests, passions, and experiences that God gave each of us, and it leads us closer to using those things to glorify God (our ultimate purpose in life). For those of you who have read Purpose Driven Life, this book was written almost as a sequel to go a bit more in-depth on how each person is designed uniquely. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, enough about the book. This week’s chapter, as we wrap up our study, was designed to start pulling some of the individual chapters/pieces together into a portrait of how God designed us and perhaps what He has in mind for our futures. I started pulling some of these pieces about myself together (below). Notice the lovely SHAPE acronym.

Spiritual Gifts: (I am gifted in…)
Counseling, administration, discernment, leadership, wisdom

Heart: (I feel passionately towards serving…)
Young girls. See “Experiences” section below.

Abilities: (I am good at…)
Coordinating, encouraging, designing, planning

Personality:  (I…)
Am better with one on one interaction, like to lead, am self-controlled

Experiences: (I’ve been through…)
I’ve never written out a “testimony” for the world to see… maybe one day. If you’re interested in hearing the full version, or at least the version I’ve been able to wrap my pea-brain around, I’d love to share it over a cup of coffee. But much of it can be summed up in a sentence that I’ve recited every Tuesday night at Celebrate Recovery: “God is granting me victory over issues related to childhood sexual abuse.” It sounds so clinical, doesn’t it? But it’s the truth, and that truth is setting me free (John 8:32) from a lot of years of pain, anger, confusion, and apathy. Long story short, it’s this experience that God is really calling me to use for His Kingdom. And it’s this experience that really gives me a heart for sexual abuse victims. I understand them in a way that other people can’t. And because it happened while I was in middle school, I really have a passion for middle schoolers, especially girls. And I want to stop it from happening to anyone else.
As I started pulling each of these pieces together, I got a very distinct impression of what I was supposed to do. Maybe not “do with my life”, but definitely “do now”. For the first time I was able to get a clear picture of who I was, what God had gifted me with, what experiences He’d given me, and how I was supposed to use those to really make a difference. In my head I immediately got this mental image of me working in/for an organization that helped educate parents and kids on the issue of sexual abuse, mainly focussing on preventing it. Either that, or me working in/for an organization that helps victims and their parents deal with it after it’s already happened.

But what was my next step? On Thursday I had no clue, but God let me know on Friday morning during my devotional time: “Hannah, go talk to Cori.” For those of you who don’t know Cori, she’s the pastor’s wife and Children’s Ministry coordinator at my church. I’ve been working with her for years, since I teach the middle schoolers in Sunday school, and we have a good relationship. My task tomorrow is to share this piece of my heart with her and see if there’s any place for my “ministry” within the church. I feel strongly that we should talk to parents in our church on how to prepare their children to stick up for themselves and educate them just enough to keep them out of harm’s way. I could be wrong… maybe the church isn’t the right setting. Maybe there’s an organization I should join outside the church to campaign for that. But either way, I’m showing up tomorrow to do what God asked. We’ll see how this goes.

Drawing Near and Forgiveness

I woke up at 6am this morning, just as the sun was beginning to rise. I was thirsty, so I got up for a drink and crawled back under the warm covers. I laid there, watching the light getting brighter through the slats in my blinds.

Last night I participated in something my church does each year before Good Friday service called Power of the Cross. It’s a room that is set up with various activities and devotionals. There are different “stations” that you visit, each with its own theme, set of Bible verses, and actions that are designed to teach you something about Christ’s nature or sacrifice. With a total of 5 or 6 stations, I was in that room for 2 hours last night, praying, reading, singing, and crying. It was such a fulfilling and humbling experience.

There was one moment last night where I knelt down at one of the stations in front of a cross. I was reminded of how He was mocked and assaulted before His crucifixion. For the people in this world that I really love, I get very protective: physically and emotionally protective. I sat there on my knees and thought of Christ. Not only did He carry His own cross up to the hill before they nailed His hands and feet, but they mocked Him. While He was in the most excruciating physical pain, they made fun of Him. I don’t know why this realization made such an impact on me. Maybe it’s because I can’t even begin to comprehend the physical pain that Christ experienced that day and that night. But I do know what it feels like to be left behind by your friends and what it feels like to be cruelly mocked. It just made His pain so much more real to me, and I was all-the-more grateful.

I laid in my bed this morning thinking of the Power of the Cross experience I’d had last night. God is becoming so real to me lately. I feel so close to Him sometimes that His physical presence is palpable. And when I forget about the excitement of my friends, my work, school, media, and everything else that serves as a distraction, I  realize that all I want is to be near Him. Close to Him. Next to Him. As I thought about this, laying in my bed, an image came to mind from one of the Bible stories I hadn’t read in a long time. In Luke 7, there is a prostitute who interrupts Jesus’ dinner with his apostles and some pharisees:

“A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” (Luke 7:37-38)

I don’t know why this story came to mind, but when I remembered it, I suddenly understood the story on a much deeper level than I ever had before. I think it’s because of where I am spiritually, how much I’m able to see now because I’ve been praying more and spending more time in the Bible, but I can relate to that woman. I don’t know what it’s like to be a prostitute or to carry that kind of reputation with you when you enter a room full of “holy” people (Jesus, His followers, and the pharisees), but I do know what it’s like to be so overwhelmed with your sin that you don’t feel worthy to walk into church or a Bible study. And now I understand why she had to be near Jesus. She didn’t make an appointment; she found out where He was and ran to see Him. It was that simple. Who knows what kind of trouble she could have gotten into just by entering, but she did anyway because she had to see Jesus. She just had to be near Him.

As soon as she seems Him, she breaks down, and she cries so much and so hard that she’s able to wash his dusty feet with her tears. I’ve certainly never washed anyone’s feet with the tears I’ve cried, but I have definitely cried so many tears in God’s presence that I could wash a car or two. I know what it’s like to totally lose all control and composure when I’m around Him.

In Luke we don’t see Jesus talking to her before the end of the story. She enters, weeps over Jesus’ feet, and dries His feet with her hair before Jesus ever responds to her. I’ve felt like that a lot, where I’ve been crying out to Jesus but He seems silent. I have to remind myself that maybe it’s because He’s just taking it in. Maybe He’s just listening and enjoying my company and my surrendered spirit.

As she is washing His feet, there is some dialogue between Jesus and the people having dinner with Him:

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:39-47)

It’s here that Jesus finally speaks to the woman herself:

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven… Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:48-50)

I love that line: “whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” The more I’m honest with myself about how messed up I really am, the more I’m realizing what’s Christ’s actions on the cross did for me… how he really redeemed me. It’s a challenging experience to have God point out my flaws and to work with Him to address my issues, but at the same time, I’m learning how perfect He is. And I think it’s worth the tradeoff.

Love Letter to God

Hi Daddy,

I love you. I love you for who you are, not what you do. I love your smile. I love your laugh. I adore your sense of humor. I love how you can whisper something to me in a crowded room and make me smile, and no one else understands, because you only told me. I love how you catch the corner of my eye when I least expect it and surprise me. I love that you’re always around.

I love that you are honest with me. You are genuine. I love the compassion in your eyes. I love that you LOVE everyone, and you are kind to them and love them with more strength than I could ever understand. I love that you always know exactly what to say or do to calm me down. I love that when I start freaking out, you wait patiently for me to come talk to you. I love that you always know exactly what I need.

I love that you let me yell at you, and you don’t get mad or yell back at me. And I love that when I come back on my knees, crying and apologizing for yelling at you, you take me in your arms and whisper to me, “I love you, Hannah. And I forgive you.” I love that you adore me, despite my irrationality and self-centeredness. I love that when I ask for your forgiveness, you give it freely and don’t hold it against me. I love how patient you are with me. I love that you have seen me at my worst, but when you look at me, you see me as my best.

At this moment I want nothing more than to do you proud. I want to be able to step into your thrown room and walk up to you confidently, knowing that my Daddy owns the place. I want you to come running to me, sweep me up off my feet, and say “Hey kiddo, welcome home!”

I wish I were home, with you, in Heaven. I’d love to see your face and crawl up in your lap, so you can wrap your arms around me and tell me that the fight is finished, and then I can rest. Then I could look up into your eyes, and everything would be complete. I can’t be with you now, I know that. But until then, I know you’re here with me on earth. And that’s enough. I’ll fight for you.

Oh, and thank you for the flowers. They are lovely 🙂

 

Love, your baby girl,

 

 

Romans 8:39
“Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

John 1:12
“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Letters from a Codependent

Codependency:  unhealthy love and a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways that negatively impact one’s relationships and quality of life.

God has me on a crazy journey, and one of the more recent “pit stops” He has brought me to is learning that I am, by nature, an extremely codependent person. I’d heard the word before, but I thought it had something to do with being overly dependent on something (probably drugs). It’s true, codependency does have to do with a certain kind of dependence. The way I’ve come to describe it is that I’m addicted, or dependent, on people. Let me expand on that.

I feel the need to always be taking care of someone. I get an adrenaline rush and a lot of satisfaction knowing that I’ve helped someone. I feed off of other people’s adoration or praise towards me that results from my actions. I also invest a LOT into people, often feeling that their actions and emotions are my responsibility. My world is so focussed on THEM that I have a hard time understanding what I am thinking or feeling, but I’m constantly thinking about how I will be perceived by other people. So what do I do? I act like the perfect friend/daughter/etc. to earn people’s approval. I also find ways to fill people’s needs so that they won’t get rid of me or tire of me. I go above and beyond, always taking that next step, to really surprise people.

It’s an odd train of thought: I fill other people’s needs  so that I can be fulfilled. Isn’t that what Christianity teaches though? Kind of. The brochure from Celebrate Recovery, which deals with people’s addictive behaviors (codependency included) explains why codependents are selfish instead of selfless. It has to do with my underlying motivations:

Codependency is the fallacy of trying to control interior feelings by controlling people, things, and events on the outside. To the codependent, control or the lack of it is central to every aspect of life.

PS: the rest of the article is really worth reading

In its root, codependency is relying on my ability to manipulate/control other people’s emotions, feelings, and actions as a way to make myself feel better, instead of finding my worth and value in Christ. I’m called to do something much bigger in life than to run around please other people all the time. I should be looking to my Creator for guidance on a moment-by-moment basis, living my life for Him. There will be many times where He uses me and where He calls me to be selfless, but I’m learning when He is calling versus when my human nature is getting restless. If I wait, He will tell me where to go and what to do. I just need to rest in Him, be still, and know that He is God!

I’ll be open and honest: I’ve started attending Celebrate Recovery at one of our local churches. I’ve been before, but for the first time I’m going for me, not in support of someone else. God is refining me in the fire, and while the going can be rough, I know He’s purifying me. I’m going there to tackle this issue and many others, and I’m sure that the longer I work on myself, the more issues I will find. But I’m ok with that. I am far from perfect, but I really, really, really, really, really (you get the picture) want to be like Christ. And I’ll do whatever I have to do to get closer to that point.

Thanks for walking with me on my journey 🙂
Galatians 6:4-5:
But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

Galatians 1:10:
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.