It is okay to love God.

WE ARE ASLEEP people. We are not even showing up to the battle because we are sleeping right through it. We will complain about a waitress who didn’t serve well, an employee who doesn’t show up or doesn’t work hard, yet we aren’t serving, we aren’t showing up or working hard either! We break down the people who are busy building a better life, a better world, better children, better environment – because we’re not up to par. We need to up our game. It is okay to LOVE GOD.

okay that may be taking it to far – but it got your attention didn’t it. I wish I could apologize to every person I thought was annoying, trying to save me. Because, I get it now.

Do you remember the first time you fell in love? Everything felt new, exciting and as if you had this renewed sense of purpose. Any topic could be related to this new love in some way or another. You would think about this person non-stop all day long, and you would find creative ways to say their name just because you loved the way it sounded.

You were kinder, gentler, slow to anger because you were truly happy from the inside out and as cliché as it sounded, you felt complete. This is how I feel about God right now, but instead of sharing with the whole world excitedly, I was quiet at first, and walking on egg shells even.

When I first started talking about God, I caught myself whispering. I prepared myself for people to think that I had either lost my mind, or was about to. I’ve become overly conscious of offending someone, and preparing for the death of dearly loved friendships. Why do you ask? Because God is controversial, because sin is universal, and nothing divides people more than church and state.

The offenses run rampant and the offended are looking for someone to blame for their transgressions, anger, heartbreak and their loss. And, God is usually the one taking the fall. In our society today one breath out of context can be held against you, and the world wants inclusion while excluding one thing, God.

No one is unfamiliar with the amount of (removal) of God in our society today. Teachers teach evolution and can’t speak on religion or beliefs. Court rooms don’t all use the bible anymore. Classrooms rarely say the national anthem before the day starts, praying in public is more offensive than breastfeeding used to be. And, breastfeeding is beautiful!

We condemn, we separate and the world acts on how they “feel” and assume that is enough. Someone saying “Have a blessed day, God Bless you, or Merry Christmas” at work or in public, is risking their livelihood, but to the brave ones, they know their livelihood is in Jesus’ hands.

Who is the one person who has never let you down, never left your side, never not loved or accepted you? For me that only qualifies as one person. God. He is always where I left him, when I walked away. He is always forgiving and loving, and while his lessons may be hard, and his timeline askew from mine, everything in my life has connected as it should.

WE ARE ASLEEP people. We are not even showing up to the battle because we are sleeping right through it. We will complain about a waitress who didn’t serve well, an employee who doesn’t show up or doesn’t work hard, yet we aren’t serving, we aren’t showing up or working hard either! We break down the people who are busy building a better life, a better world, better children, better environment – because we’re not up to par. We need to up our game. It is okay to LOVE GOD.

I allowed Satan to make me think my sins, failures and brokenness prevented me from being whole again. And, let me tell you, the second God forgave all my sins, and I accepted that forgiveness, I became whole again. God uses broken people, because they are loud, unafraid warriors who are used to going against the crowd, used to walking alone and making their own path and there is nothing stronger than a broken person being made whole again, by God. A unafraid, exuberant baby Christian.

I’ve been cracked wide open to show that inside the center of every living being is raw and unedited goodness. All those days I spent in shame over what I had done in my past, but had already asked God for forgiveness years ago, was because I allowed the negativity and judgment of people to take over. When I realized God already knew, god had already forgiven me, it clicked that what you think of me, doesn’t matter.

It has no effect on my walk with Jesus, or the validity in the goodness of my heart. Your need to condemn me, that is something you must address personally. There is a reason you feel the need to point out the failures and judge others, and it is not because you are a Christian and God tells you to, because we know that is false. True and good Christians do not get even and they do not keep score. They simply love.

When you honor God during times of trouble, you shame satan back to hell. That’s what we need to do every day. Did the Tenboom Family stop hiding Jews in their watch repair shop from the Nazi’s, to keep themselves safe? No. Did Jesus drop the cross, run and hide away so that people would stop being offended by his message? Nope. Did Martin Luther King Jr turn off his microphone during his speech, so he wasn’t too loud for the people in the back? Not one bit.

So why in God’s name would I? It’s time to up my game.

You deserve to heal.

What most fail to see is that our God is a loving God. He creates beauty from our ashes and works all things for the good of those who love him. You see, God was with her that awful day 23 years ago. He held her hand the day she suffered and thought she was alone. Although he disapproved of what she was doing, he never stopped loving her. Just as a loving father does. And, on the night a few weeks later when she closed her eyes pleading for him to take her life for the life she took, and for his forgiveness, he had answered her prayer.

The truthful story of a young girls’ abortion and how God’s grace restored her faith.

Abortion is not a topic people like to talk about aside from an easily forwarded meme or a hashtag. Many tweet their support or opposition much like the trending #youknowme , #shoutyourabortion #abortionishealthcare and #abortionismurder , #lovethemboth and #unplanned. Your friends are most likely divided as well and some like myself may have been torn on how they felt and throughout the years changed their minds. I’m sharing her story because we need to talk about the things no one talks about. We need to include the unknown, the uninformed and what really happens behind closed doors, inside broken homes and what can lead to, occurs during and follows an abortion.

She’s sitting there in a paper gown staring down at her feet praying harder than she’s ever prayed before, asking God to please not let her be pregnant. Pleading her case with him that she can’t be pregnant. She is too young, she is unprepared, her home-life is broken, she’s financially unstable, alone and scared. She only had sex one time, this can’t be happening. There is no possible way she can raise a child on her own when she is a child herself. As the door opens and her eyes meet the doctors eyes, she knows the result before he opens his mouth; she’s pregnant.

The nurse comes in, she is gentle, supportive and kind. The nurse consoles her, hands her a tissue and tells her she is going to be okay. Though unplanned this is not unmanageable, she has options: Abortion, Adoption, Abortion, Being a mother, or Abortion. She’s not very far along, approximately 4-6 weeks, there is no heartbeat yet, just a clump of cells – abortion is an option. And, she can have one tomorrow. She isn’t given tools for coping with the news of her pregnancy, she isn’t given time to discuss options, research options, and she isn’t offered support in becoming a mother.

This girl; she is more common than you realize. She is your sister, your mother, your wife or girlfriend. She is the lady beside you at church that cries every Sunday. She is your grandmother, your teacher, your coach, your therapist, your doctor; or maybe she is you. And, she is just as loved by God as you are. We don’t know her backstory, we don’t know what led her to a choice we may not choose or understand, and very few understand the torment that consumes her life after she realizes what she’s done.

The girl I knew was only sixteen when she found out she was pregnant. She had only had sex the one time. She was a good teenager for the most part, went to church every Sunday, stayed away from drugs and trouble. She had an unhealthy home-life which was littered with abandonment and loss, so she found “love” in relationships. She thought he would love her if she gave herself to him, but she’d find out eventually she was wrong.

When she found out she was pregnant, she was terrified. It was as if she was gifted an impossibility. She was handed something that she could never really have, and none of what she wanted even mattered, because her hand was forced. Her boyfriend wanted her to have the abortion, her father would have done worse, so her desires never entered her mind or heart. Her fear cancelled out any clarity or possibility of love, her shame cancelled out the desire for help, care or concern, and their control erased her options of breaking the unhealthy cycle of the life she was born into.

The day after she found out she was pregnant, with the help of a kind nurse and request of her boyfriend, she had an abortion. Just like that, quickly and easily accessible. A child, without parental consent or knowledge, any proper counseling, had an abortion. She was simply carrying a child who was viewed by others as a problem that their solution could solve. Her boyfriend wanted rid of any responsibility and eventually would leave her as well, once the “problem” was solved.

It would be six years later that she would find herself in a similar paper gown, this time with her husband and the hope of being pregnant. The doctor came in confirming the good news, and performed an ultrasound. This was the first time she had viewed a baby on an ultrasound. She saw a fluttering and asked what that was, and he told her it was the baby’s heart beating. She asked how far along she was and he said about 6 or 7 weeks. And, she cried. Not tears of the love to come, the joy of being pregnant but tears of regret, failure and disappointment. She suffered a loss in that moment realizing the supportive nurse from before wasn’t as honest and helpful as she had thought. And, she felt undeserving of this child too.

She revisited that day six years ago; which consisted of mere moments scattered like chaos. She remembered the emptiness. She looked back down at her feet just as she did at sixteen and remembered leaving that clinic feeling like a worthless woman. She remembered the steps from the exam room to the front door of the doctors office being heavy and long, that the hallway stretched like looking through a funny mirror and one step closer felt like 300 steps back.

She remembers that the exam room table chilled her body. That the air held a smutty dampness that was thick enough to choke you yet invisible; deceiving you into trying. That it held an ominous feeling of emptiness and an overabundance of death. She remembers the tears running like she wanted to. Running and hiding behind anything and anyone to save her. But, she had no one.  And, no one would understand or feel sorry for her.

The cramping and immense pain that started as mild discomfort gradually became the type of pain only a monster deserved to endure. It was a hell she deserved. The silence that accompanied the pain was broken by the sound of a machine being switched on. A low hum of suctioning, sounding strangely familiar to the sound she had just heard today of her baby’s heartbeat; except that this machine had silenced it.

She’s unable to recall arriving or leaving the doctor’s office that day. No idea of how she got home, how she cared for herself following the procedure or any other detail of that day. All she remembers is that outside
of that room she was an empty shell of existence and was never the same again. There wasn’t just the painful awareness and absence of what had been growing in her belly the past few weeks, but also the realization that every ounce of her soul was extracted and held captive in the same container that held her baby.

She had often wondered if the women who came before and followed after were as uniformed, frightened and tearful as she was on that day. Were they alone and there because they felt like they had no other choice? Did they feel as though God didn’t love them and that he would never forgive them? Do the tears ever revisit them, weighted with the same shame and despair as hers? Did their lives get lost without healing, did they slip into addiction, self harm, sexual or physical abuse, or did they possibly attempt suicide like she had.

She recalls being disgusted with herself the days and weeks following her abortion, even her own reflection was too much to bear. Even though the nurse told her it wasn’t a baby, she felt like it was and she felt as though she suffered a loss. A loss that others would say she had no right to suffer or grieve, thus going without any healing. And, today six years later she realized she was right, that the clump of cells was a baby, it had at the very least a heart forming and depending on how far along she really was, possibly beating.

After the abortion, she was tormented every minute by the memory of what she did, how she wasn’t strong enough to keep her baby. She knew she had let her baby, herself and God down. She wasn’t worthy of the breath she breathed, she was worthless, tainted and unlovable. She was desperate to escape her hell and trade it in for whatever hell God had planned for her. Surely she deserved it. She wrote her goodbyes, swallowed handfuls of pills and with an odd sense of calm and peace, she closed her eyes praying that they never open again.

But just as she had prayed weeks ago that she not be pregnant, God too left this prayer unanswered, or so she thought. He did not take her that night twenty-three years ago, instead he opened her eyes once again to a life she was meant to live. A life that carried consequences, pain, and anger – but ultimately filled with love, compassion, growth and understanding. She was given another chance to break the unhealthy cycle she was in, to toss away the crutch of false security and stability she leaned on, and to stand firm on her own foundation of faith, restoration and love.

What most fail to see is that our God is a loving God. He creates beauty from our ashes (Isaiah 61:3, NIV) and works all things for the good of those who love and follow him (Romans 8:28, NIV). On that awful day 23 years ago, God was with her. He held her hand the day she suffered and thought she was alone. Although he disapproved of what she was doing, he never stopped loving her, because she had never stopped believing in or loving him. Just as a loving father does. And, on the night a few weeks later when she closed her eyes praying for him to forgive her and take her life, he actually had. It wouldn’t be until six years later that she would realize that.

Failure can serve a beautiful purpose if we let it and that is why you often hear that God uses broken people to share his grace and glory. Today, I am that broken person. This girl from so many years ago, was me. And, this is my story, my truth and my testimony.

When the doctor laid my daughter on my chest six years later, and her cries were comforted by my heartbeat, I knew. It was then that I realized God have given me a new life, he had forgiven me and he showed me an endless amount of the loving grace he is. My cries were comforted by her heartbeat as well, and I named her Gracie. She saved my life in ways only God knows as that was his plan all along. She gave me purpose until I could find my own, she taught me unconditional love as I was learning to love myself and she reminded me that each child is a gift from God, perfectly planned in his image.

It took twenty-three years to heal from this and I still grieve both the act and the loss. If my sharing this either deters you or helps you understand you deserve to grieve, to heal and to be loved, then I will boast of the things that show my weakness, (1 Cor. 11:30 NIV). If you think you’re too far gone, or God’s too far away, simply say his name and know he is already there, (Isaiah 30:18, NIV).

You deserve better.

The worst part is that there are people who think this is what they deserve! That this is the best they can have. That no one will love them outside of this relationship. That they have nothing to offer the world, no dream to chase, no voice to be heard, or gift to be shared. They look in the mirror and see failure, ridicule, embarrassment and despair, when instead they should see strength, honor, integrity, beauty, hope and success. And love, damn it! You should look at yourself in that mirror and see LOVE, for yourself.

Some of us are raised with such convoluted ideals of what is expected and acceptable in relationships. Even when we know better, we don’t choose to do better. We relent, we condone, we allow others to interject their opinions and what they feel our relationship should produce or protect. Truth is – it is not their relationship. I’ve heard wait until you’re with someone for 15 years – that is a real relationship, real dedication, and real love. The hell you say?! Real love, real dedication – has no essence of time. Period. Love is an ongoing action, not a timeline.

Being a self-proclaimed love addict that had the belief that one day, if I put up with enough these disastrous, abusive and detrimental relationships would surely blossom into a loving and healthy lifetime commitment, was a fallacy. I’ve literally laid down and allowed men to walk all over me my entire life, starting with my own Father. That feeling of worthlessness was like sewage that continued to spill into relationship after relationship. You want to know why that is? Because we believe what we are fed, things like the adage “you might as well stick it out – because the next person has just as much issues as the one you are with.” LIES! People listen here, that is completely inaccurate. Did you ever think that maybe all these closed doors, all these U-turns, was GOD saying “Hey, I love you, this is not right for you and you need to go a different direction?” Not, stick around and continue to be beat down, unloved or beaten at all.

Everyone has their flaws like leaving their clothes beside the laundry basket, forgetting to take the garbage out, not always helping with the kids, but serious issues, deal breaker issues — there are men/women without them. You can do better!

They say if you want a different outcome, you must do things differently. In each relationship, I tried that. Any previous failures from ended relationships, I would try to preempt and rectify in future ones. If the guy before was unfaithful, I made myself more sexual, more available, more pleasing. If the guy before was unhappy or felt unimportant, I learned to cook, to provide, to take care of. If the guy before was deceitful and untrustworthy, I tried to open more, communicate more, to allow and invite an openness in the relationship. If the guy was emotionally, mentally or physically abusive, I would modify my looks and my behaviors. I would give up my life, my fun, my wants and needs and dedicate myself completely to helping and fixing them. DO YOU SEE THE PROBLEM HERE?? The problems and changes to be made were not mine to make. It was simply the wrong relationship. I didn’t trust myself enough, I didn’t listen to my brain or follow my own intuition which was screaming incessantly that this was not okay, I can’t fix this, I deserve better!

It is important for you to realize this: It is not your job to take on the success or failure of a relationship in its entirety. If the marriage/relationship is failing and you are the only one fighting…STOP. Cheaters, cheat. Liars, lie. Abusers dominate and destroy. And Addicts, simply transfer their addictions. You do not need to stay in any of these situations. It is your choice – not God’s choice, or the Bibles choice, because if it was, it wouldn’t hurt you. God would never ask you to sin, or put yourself in harms way. It is not what is best for your children, or what is best for you. You will undoubtedly lose yourself as you continue to lose this battle.

Here is the thing, yes, we tend to fall into relationship ruts, and picking a different type of the same bad guy repeatedly. But you have the ability of modifying and updating your hardwired picker – your picker doesn’t have to remain broken. You are wiser than you give yourself credit for. And, my favorite part is this: Not every person will abuse you, not every person will cheat on you – repeatedly. Not every person will be systematically deceitful, selfish and manipulative.

In my lifetime, I have loved entirely and completely three men – an abusive alcoholic, a kind and gentle lost man, and an honest to goodness good man. The honest and good men – do exist. I didn’t have to settle. I didn’t have to allow someone to hurt me to feel loved temporarily. Or chase him for attention, affection, or temporary stability. He chose to stay, he chose to be kind, to be considerate, to listen, to communicate and to love me for me – even when I feel like I don’t deserve it. And, he makes that choice every day, because he chooses to.

You’ve heard the saying do not compare your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel, and it is true. Trust me, I lived in a highlight reel life, I boasted and hung tightly to every UP, because I was so tormented by every LOW. I thought I needed to be thankful for the good times, because they made the hard times worth it, which is true to a point – a breaking point. When the hard times are many and the good times are few, you must be strong enough and value yourself enough to look at why that is, and when necessary, draw the line. Enough is enough.

There are several unhealthy relationships that are littered with guarded secrets, ultimatums, unstable foundations, infidelity, deceit and immoral actions. The worst part is that there are people who think this is what they deserve! That this is the best they can have. That no one will love them outside of this relationship. That they have nothing to offer the world, no dream to chase, no voice to be heard, or gift to be shared. They look in the mirror and see failure, ridicule, embarrassment and despair, when instead they should see strength, honor, integrity, beauty, hope and success. And love, damn it! You should look at yourself in that mirror and see LOVE, for yourself.

In my mirror, I can choose to see all those negative things as well, I can see my flaws and imperfections, my failed endeavors, relationships, parental screw-ups, employment mistakes, and lord knows what else. But, you want to know what I see when I look in the mirror? I see my daughter. I see her impressive beauty, her intelligence and witty personality, and her STRONG sense of self-esteem. I see my sons, their goofy ways, kind hearts, and loving souls. The reflection of my green eyes that I love, that have cried tears of happiness more than sadness, and that many have investigated, viewing the goodness of my heart. I see a woman who has been real, honest and fought when necessary and is learning to let most battles go. I see a woman who is beautiful because of my actions, my children, my mind, and my heart – not because of my physical features. And most importantly I see a woman who is gritty, quick-witted, stubborn, hilarious, bold and authentic. There is no one like me and GOD did that on purpose.

That is what I choose to see, and what I will continue to raise my daughter to choose to see. It is what you should choose to see. Choose yourself and take back the ownership of your life. It will be the best investment you will ever make.

The truth sets you free

It’s time to be real. To be honest. To lay it bare.

Fear. Shame. We all have it and shy away from anyone who may hurt us by exposing us. The people in our life can be split in half right down the middle by two types; those who love us anyway and those who love to hold us back.

When I sit and ponder my life and my purpose, I know it well within the deepest core of my soul – that I’m supposed to write. But, I also tell myself that I am disqualified, undeserving and a fraud. Someone will surely expose the events in my life that hold the most disappointment – and I will be publicly reminded of my worthlessness and be humiliated.

Each time I began to write the excitement floods in, maybe this will be the piece that hits someone, maybe this will be the one that goes viral. It ignites my soul and once the piece is done – it feels phenomenal. But fear still visits.

When we succumb to fear we give in and find other ways to sabotage ourselves by disguising our fear in a respectful manner. Posing it as something outside our control.

Korie Robertson’s advice to her children, shared by Sadie Robertson.

People read my words and tell me that it makes them feel good too. Shame reminds me that there are parts of my life I’m not prepared to share, and if I continue down this path, I must be prepared for battle. I let fear consume me like a kudzu vine, and kill the dream.

It is a harsh reality when you must own up to the fact that you are not courageous enough to be fearless. That in the face of challenge, adversity and judgment, I was a coward. Can we be real for a minute? Do you understand the amount of courage it would take to write my story? …for me to say to the world I’ve messed up and I am strong enough to stand proud regardless. About everything.

Do you understand that if I write my story, if I share my truth, the world will need to know my faults, my hardships, and my demons before they could understand my triumphs? Do you realize that in order to be accurate in my personal accounts, I would have to bare my weaknesses and give my enemies permission to use them against me?

To write my story, I’d have to go back to where I first got stuck. I’d have to tell you the why’s and how’s before the gratefulness of the now’s!

How many times I’ve been married and broke my vows. How many times I’ve been divorced. How I met a criminal who almost killed me. How I met a man who was kind and good, and I hurt him. How I cheated. How I lied. How I got fired. How I stole. How I almost loved a lost man so much that trying to save him, almost caused the loss of myself, and put my children in indirect danger.

How I have a daughter I did not raise, and that I fear I’ve failed. How I have a father that couldn’t and wouldn’t choose to love me, and a mother who’s addictions replaced her desire to want me. How to this very day there is a man who daily attempts to break me. I’d have to share about the time I was on assistance. The times we had no money & no food.

You’d learn that I have a brother who’s an addict, in and out of prison for the past 20 years. And, I’d have to tell you about the time I attempted suicide, and woke up angry at God that it didn’t work. And, how each and every one of these instances were the broken ground on which a more firm, stable and loving foundation was formed – and where I found Jesus met me each time.

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The answer Mack was given when he asks Papa why she brought him back to the Shack where Missy died.

Do you know how much power is in all this truth? And how much courage it took to even write these truths down? And, guess how much fear I feel having now released it? None.

Sharing my stories, will be painfully honest, and to be honest it will have to be dark at times, and I have to be willing to share these stories with people I love, people who’s respect I would want to keep, and whose judgment I am now ready for. Because their judgement has no bearing on me any longer.

I choose to share my truth with complete strangers who may attempt to tear me apart but won’t succeed. Because there is one person, the same person who built me for struggle, who built me to share my story, who gifted me the desire and ability to write out my inner most personal feelings in a way that enraptures people’s souls.

Today, for the first time in my life, I can say wholeheartedly that with God within me, and above me, that anything below can never break me. Because the truth is there is one person who knows my story, one person who loves me anyways and the only person who can justly judge me, and it’s not the person who sells the story, it was the person who co-wrote it beside me. God.

God didn’t answer my prayers to change my circumstances, because he needed me to be in those trenches, to be in the lions den to allow me to escape unscathed. And, the first step is facing the fear of those lions, facing the fear that they may bite, they may intimidate and they could easily devour me – but God protects me. My faith has to be stronger than my fear.

This is my story of a past that built me. A beautiful story mixed with that of a tattered reputation and an inspiring redemption. No one can tell my story for me, but me.

And, I AM READY.