Thursday, April 24, 2014

To Fly, To Be Free

For a long time, I was sad because of things that happened to me. I was discouraged because of things in my past, things that I never told anyone, things that no one would guess happened to me.

"Jessica is the quiet, innocent one," people will say. But that only makes me even more sad. If they only knew.

I found a poem a couple weeks ago that I became obsessed with.

to fly
right through the walls
to fly
right out the window
to any place but here
- Charles Bukowski 

I liked this poem so much that I made a painting inspired by it. The painting was of birds. I imagined myself as one of them, flying away, running away, forgetting everything. 

Everything that happened to me was terrible. I would not wish it on my worst enemy. When I think about it all, I feel so overwhelmed. How can so many bad things happen to one little girl? I get angry and sad and so tired. I want to fly away, run away.

I know that running away wouldn't help anything. The memories are still there. The effects of my past are still there. The scars are still there. But just the idea of flying sounds so wonderful. To fly. To be free.

I don't feel free at all. My past haunts me. My mistakes haunt me. Things that were never even my fault haunt me. It's like I'm standing here, trying to live my life, but a big gray cloud has surrounded me and is slowly turning into steel bars. I'm caged in. 

I was at an open mic night tonight. One of my friends sang the old song His Eye is On the Sparrow. There is one part of the song that she sang so beautifully that I nearly cried. It inspired everything that I am writing about; God revealed so much to me through just two little lines of the song. "I sing because I'm happy. I sing because I'm free." 

Here's the thing. I am free. Everything that happened before, it hurt and it was terrible and it left the ugliest scars. But I'm out of that situation. I'm out of the abuse and the fighting and oppression and the lies. I am free. 

I feel haunted because I think about it. I entertain thoughts. I lie in my bed and wonder how life could have been different. I cry over wasted years. That big gray cloud that is hindering my vision and that huge cage that is holding me back - they are not real. They feel real; they feel so heavy. But they're not real. There is nothing holding me back. I am out of that situation. I am free.

I'm still sad and mad and frustrated about the things that happened to me. And my scars are still just as ugly. But they have no control of me anymore. I am not caged in by them. My past is not a part of my life anymore. I have grown up and moved on.

That painting, the one that was originally inspired by Charles Bukowski's sad, hopeful poem, has now taken on a whole new meaning. I still imagine myself as one of those birds. But instead of flying away, I am singing and flying and dancing and living because I am free. I am soaring through the air. I am flying toward the sun. I am happy. 

So let me sing and let me fly and let me dance and let me live. I am free. 

(Photo: original artwork inspired by Charles Bukowski's poem)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Becoming Brave

I have a great plan for my life. It's exciting and adventurous and wild. I want to backpack Europe and then live in the rainforest and then hike the Himalayas and then roadtrip through Mexico in an old jeep. My plan is perfect.

But what if my plan isn't God's plan?

Everyone quotes Jeremiah 29:11. I don't doubt that God has a plan for my life, but what if God's plan is for me to be a stay-at-home mother in Pennsylvania? That wouldn't be a bad life and plenty of women daydream about doing just that, but for me, I can't imagine ever settling down in one place. I'd rather be homeless on the streets of France in the middle of my backpacking adventure.

The last couple months have been really tough as I struggled with this. How am I supposed to know that God's will is truly better than mine?

I had to write a paper this semester on the book of Romans. I chose the passage of Romans 8:1-13 because it was some really nice Scripture and it seemed like I could get it done fairly easily. But as I read it, I was hit with conviction.

The whole passage is about the difference between a person who lives according to the flesh and one who lives according to the Spirit.

If a person lives according to the flesh, he is controlled by his own desires. While this sounds terrible, like a desire to cheat or a desire to murder, in my case, it was simply my own future desires that were controlling me. I wasn't trusting God and was instead focusing on what I wanted in life. I was pursuing what would make me happy, what would make me comfortable.

Now, I don't want to run away to Europe just to make memories. I would want to befriend people and share the love of God. I'd want to help out in anyway possible. Isn't that a worthy cause? Isn't that acceptable? Isn't that a fair reason to choose my plan over God's?

Verse 8 says simply, "Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God."

Even though I have good intentions, I can never please God if I am purposely choosing my way over His. And this was the biggest slap in the face.

I want to please God. I want my life to mean something. When I get to heaven, I want God to be proud of me and for my bravery of letting God take control of my life.

Because that's what it is. It's bravery. To let go of control takes a lot of guts. For the last couple of months, I've been too scared that my life wouldn't be great if God was in control of it. This is where faith comes in. This is the difference between living by the flesh and living by the Spirit.

If I lived by the flesh, I could do whatever I wanted whenever I want to. But to live by the Spirit means to be willing to do whatever the Spirit wants whenever the Spirit wants.

While I studied the passage, the last verse (Romans 8:13) says to put to death the deeds of the flesh, of your sinful nature, of your own desires. When Paul wrote this, he wrote it in the present tense. This means that we must constantly, daily put to death our own fleshly desires and give control back to God.

And that means maybe I won't get to ride a motorcycle across Ireland or work in an orphanage in Thailand. But I know that God gave me an adventurous spirit, and I don't think He would let that go to waste. So I'm trusting in Him that He'll send me somewhere, anywhere. I just have to have the faith that wherever He leads me will be better than my own plans.

Because let's face it - doing it myself hasn't worked out so well lately.

It's time to have faith and live by the Spirit. It's time to see where God takes me. It's time to live out the amazing plan that God has for me. It's time to be brave.

Photo credit to Natalie Hagen photography

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dear Future Husband: I Pray You'll Have a Bad Day

Dear Future Husband,

I don't know who you are. I may not have even met you yet. But I just wanted to let you know that I've been thinking about you. I pray for you. I used to pray the same thing every day. "God, please bless him and keep him safe and give him a good day. Amen."

And I do hope that God blesses you and keeps you safe and gives you good days. But recently I've been praying for something different, something more.

I pray you'll have a bad day. 

I pray you'll be stressed, but learn how to work under pressure. I pray that you'll lose the friends who are discouraging you. I pray that you'll have to wait in line to stretch your patience. I pray that you feel weak, so that you'll never be proud. I pray that you make mistakes but then you figure out how to laugh them off, even when you feel terribly foolish.

I pray that the storms are hard so that you appreciate the sun. I pray that the hurts you go through are just growing pains as you become the wonderful man you're meant to be. I pray that you realize that life is worth it, even on the worst days. I pray that you have to face your biggest fears, and I pray that you win.

And someday, when we meet, you can tell me all of your stories about when you failed, when you fell, when you stood back up, when you tried again, when you scored the goal, when you passed the test.

You have a great life ahead of you, and I can't wait to be part of it. 


Monday, April 7, 2014

Restlessly Eager.

Good things take time.

But I am so restless.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a patient person. I can be polite while I wait in line at Starbucks, and I even am kind enough to let other cars cut in front of me on the highway. But when it comes to big things, the important things, I am completely impatient. 

One of the definitions for the word 'impatient' is restlessly eager. That's me. 

When good things start to happen, I jump at the opportunities without thinking things through, without taking time to process, without taking time to pray. I want to rush through the formalities and the small talk. 

I want to say, "Move over and let me try!" before I have the proper training. I want to say, "Won't you just kiss me already?" before the first date. I want to say, "I'm ready!" when I am no where close to the starting line.

Because I feel ready to take on the world. And I don't understand why I have to wait for degrees, for appointments, for interviews. Why can't I just have it now? 

I am restlessly eager.

I give the best advice. I tell all of my friends, "Don't worry. If it's meant to be, it'll happen." It's pretty easy to give advice, isn't it? It's 10 times harder to live by it.

Who cares if it's meant to be? If I give a little push, if I give a little shove, if I hint enough, if I beg enough, maybe it'll happen. Maybe I can make it happen. If I try my best and if I pray hard enough, maybe the cute boy upstairs will suddenly fall in love with me or job opportunities will swing wide open. But as much as I beg and plead, this isn't the way it works.

It's funny, and actually kind of sad, because it's taken me 20 years to figure out that rushing these good things actually just turn them sour. 

You see, I've done this before. I see something great and I run for it. I don't take the time to see if it's just a phase, to see if it's truly what's best for me, to see if it's what God wants for me. I just jump at it. If it's a good thing, shouldn't I have it? Shouldn't I pursue it?

And yes, there will be times that I do need to pursue love or pursue adventures. But sometimes - no, all the time - rushing it does more harm than good. That's something I've learned from countless broken hearts and too many crushed dreams. 

You can't rush a baby to be born and then be mad when she comes out with underdeveloped lungs or a heart that can't beat on it's own. 

Usually, the most beautiful things take time and effort and patience and kindness and gentleness and compassion. You can't rush it.

It hurts. Because I want it now. I want a good life now. I want love now. I want adventure now. I want everything now. I want to fast forward through all the pain and the nurturing and the effort it takes to make something beautiful and just get the results.

But after so, so long of rushing and ruining what could have been beautiful, I've decided to wait. To let things play out.

Because if it's meant to be, it'll happen.