Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Shame and Spiritual Abuse, an Anonymous Guest on the Blog Today


Today's guest post is from an anonymous blogger with a powerful story. Please like, encourage, and care for her in tender ways. She has been so courageous in sharing her story today. 


Shame and Spiritual Abuse

I was spiritually abused.

It’s still hard to say that aloud.

I was born into a system; caught in church-sanctioned abuse from my infancy. Yet, when I admit that aloud, I can still feel “less than.”  I fear being thought weak or damaged or just different.

That shame – the shame of being a victim – was, and is still, terrifying.

Then there was another shame: shame for how I responded to the abuse. Shame, that I believed what that church taught.  That, as a teenager, I taught that doctrine to others. Shame, that I tried so hard to succeed in that system. And when I let down my guard, shame that I failed in that system.

Shame and spiritual abuse— The two are deeply intertwined. Spiritual abuse seeks control through shaming the victims. The silence, secrecy, and self-hatred born in a spiritually abusive system perpetuate the shame.

Breaking the silence

For years I lived in that silence, never speaking of the demeaning words of my pastor, or of the physical abuse that was claimed to be God’s love, or of the way my salvation was questioned by the church.

I remember the first time I broke the silence. I told a friend the tiniest bit – that a pastor I knew was abusing his wife. It was a warm summer night, but I shivered with fear.

Then I sunk back into silence for years. Speaking was too risky.

Only after I was removed from the abusive system did I break the silence a second time.
I was desperate, deep in depression, questioning my sanity. I sat for hours one afternoon with another woman, trying to make my mouth form words, make sound. The silence sat so heavy I did not know if I could break it. Intense shame welled up. I wanted to hide, to die, to disappear. I did not think anyone would believe me. Yet if I was to live, I had to break the silence.

That afternoon – curled in a ball, hiding my face – I made a new beginning. I broke the silence.

Ending the secrecy

Even after I began to love God—the true God— not the God portrayed to me by abusive church leaders, I still feared that telling about such abuse, would turn others from God. So I continued to hide my story.  

But God has nothing to be ashamed of. He doesn’t need to hide shameful secrets. A few people told me that, but it was a pastor who finally gave me freedom to end the secrecy. In the midst of a prayer, he apologized to me—as a representative of the church—for the sins done against me by the church. In so doing he showed me that God was not ashamed, and that I did not need to hide anything.

Leaving self-hatred

The system in which I was raised saw me as a pile of dung, and taught me to see myself in the same way. More profoundly, it taught me that God saw me as a pile of dung. I learned to hate myself.

In my early twenties I was told that self-hatred was wrong. My response: to hate myself for hating myself. I didn’t know any other way. Self-hatred was supposed to cure all sins. What happened when it was the sin? Shame over my self-hatred consumed me. And then I learned that God didn’t want me to live in shame. My response: shame that I felt shame. It was a vicious cycle.

Although I had left the religious system that had been so abusive and was trying to heal, I was so accustomed to abuse and self-hatred that I tried to beat myself into healing.

And then, these words: “Do no violence to your soul.” Those words, spoken with great compassion, reached into my heart and began to bring healing.

Each month, lying on my massage therapist’s table, I’ve learned to embody those words. I’ve learned that I need gentleness. When I experience pain or fear or even hurry, my body tenses. Only under the gentlest touch do I begin to relax, begin to heal.

And so it is with my soul.

Slowly, gently, I have learned to stop hating myself for hating myself. Even more gently, I have stopped hating myself altogether. Some days the old self-hatred flares up and I remember again: “Do no violence to your soul.”

Nine years ago, I left an abusive home. Eight years ago, I left silence. Seven years ago, I left an abusive church. Two years ago, I left secrecy. Every day, I leave self-hatred.

And shame – shame I overcome moment by moment, day by day, year after year.



Monday, July 20, 2015

Overcoming Spiritual Shame in "Two Kitchens," by guest blogger, Janna Northrup

I am in awe of the bravery of this week's guest blogger. Janna Northrup's piece on overcoming spiritual shame in her family is harrowing and lovely. I know you'll be as moved as I was when I first read it. I am so honored to share it with you.   

Janna Northrup is a stay at home mom to four children, and writes whenever she can. (She usually has more ideas than she knows what to do with.) She contributes to a fitness/well-being blog regularly, but also has blogs about travel and books. She is honored to be a member of Redbud Writers Guild. You can find her on Twitter: @jjnorthr.

Two Kitchens


I’ve tried to write this true. I’ve tried to write my justification, what has been going on in my head and heart so long I can’t remember when it wasn’t. I’ve tried to make it come out so everyone could understand that I am really a good girl, that God still loves me even if everyone I grew up with promised me He wouldn’t because I couldn’t love them the way they wanted me to.

Teenage girls are allowed to hate their mother. There, I said it. 

Sixteen-year-old girls, like I was once, are allowed to question the one who gave us birth, even if it breaks her heart. I didn’t know this, though, because it wasn’t how the economy of love ran within our walls; walls my family built to manage and maintain my mother’s happiness.

This is the story of two kitchens.

The first kitchen in my brother’s home: “Sit there,” my sister-in-law, Mary said, and pointed to the linoleum floor. The kitchen was tiny, just a square. The vinyl tiles butted up against the tan carpet where the dining room table sat.

On the sticky floor, I sat cross-legged in my pajamas. I teetered side to side to wipe off the crumbs from my legs and leaned back against the door to the cupboard under the sink.  I wondered, “What now?” The dead weight inside dropped down further into my soul and felt like it would choke me.

Mary pointed again said, “Look what you’ve done to your mother.” She moved aside and she pushed up the glasses that slid down her nose.

Across from me, on the carpet next to the table, was my mother curled over on herself crying while she picked at pieces of the carpet with her fingers.

Everywhere but there in that small kitchen, it was, “You are such a nice girl.” 

But then and there with Mom and Mary it was, “Look what you’ve done.”

I withered, sticking to the linoleum and feeling its grit.

I was cornered and saw myself right then in the broken mom, the quiet sobs, as Mary saw me—bad, bad and mean. I looked at my mother, the product of me.

Mary, her hair pulled back neatly in a teacherish bun, spoke quietly and firmly, “Ephesians 6:2 says, ‘Honor your father and mother…that it may go well with you.' ”

Honor meant love. I dreamed of loving my mom. In my dream, I put my arms around her, walked with her, sat with her and talked, she nodded and listened, she smiled her eyes at me with pride.

But, in real life, Mom cried in her bed, on the couch, at the dinner table and in the car. It was so much I had to hole up my heart from her and I knew I was keeping it away. 

I felt the shame of not being able to love her enough and it dried me up, sucked out emotion and replaced it with distance.

And, Mary said, “Can’t you see, your mom only wants you to love her?”

This was the economy of love between us. Me love her. I didn’t know that a sixteen-year-old didn’t have the experience or the wisdom to help her mom navigate her problems. I didn’t know that love was supposed to flow from mother to daughter, instead of the other way around. So, I felt the failure they said I was.

But, I too, was a girl, crying inside for the love of a mother. This woman who sat before me, tears coming straight from her broken heart, couldn’t give me love, she said, until I gave her mine.

With my back against the cupboard door, I felt my guilt up against me, defining me. I was trying to be me, to find me, know me. I watched her from the floor in the kitchen that night and breathed another, “Help me honor her” prayer.

If I try to explain that I got the good grades, did the right things, was the kind of girl some other mother might love, it feels hollow and petty and whiny and mean.

It took me most of my life to be free. It took another time in another kitchen to speak not the words she wanted to hear, but the real and true ones she needed to hear.

This time, it was my kitchen, my home. I met my mother there, let in from the cold outside and girded up the words in me that should have been said long ago. I breathed in and breathed out. I promised myself that when she cried I would tell her the truth.

Standing by the counter—up this time—not down on the floor with the dirt, I looked her in the eye and in spite of the fear and panic of being proclaimed dishonorable, not worthy of God’s favor, I said the words I had been formulating for forty years. I told her the truth.


“Mom, I can’t fix you.” I explained the boundaries of my love, that in order to preserve my heart I needed to stop trying to appease hers.

I saw in the ashen color of her face, her wilted cheeks, her doleful eyes how much it hurt to hear.

This is the story of two kitchens. One in which I felt bound again to a twisted turn of love, the other where I tenuously unlocked my heart from a need I was never meant to fill.

I write in the same kitchen just now, at the counter where I admitted my lack, and I slowly find the strength and the words to heal the years of longing for love that was both demanded and needed.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Overcoming Shame by Telling the Truth, guest blogger; Dorothy Littell Greco

I am so honored to have Dorothy Littell Greco guest blogging today. She is a sister Redbud, an author, a regular contributor to many well-known publications, a talented photographer, and a friend. As I've been writing my book, Dorothy has cared for me behind the scenes through encouraging emails and prayers. I know many of you will relate the the vulnerability of her piece today. 

Dorothy writes about relationships and following Jesus in a sometimes confusing world and serves as a companion for others on their own faith journeys. Dorothy is currently writing a book on marriage to be published by David C. Cook in 2016. When she's not writing or making photos of beautiful things, she's likely to be kayaking with her husband or baking gluten free deserts.  You can connect with Dorothy on Twitter @dorothygreco, on FB www.facebook.com/DorothyGrecoPhotography or Words & Images by Dorothy Greco, or on her website, http://www.dorothygreco.com/



In my mid-twenties, an extraordinarily handsome and wealthy man pursued me. He picked me up in his Jaguar, took me to expensive restaurants, and always called the next day to express how much he had enjoyed himself. While I appreciated his attention and affirmation, I felt ambivalent because I knew that I was working overtime to be the perfect date. On our fourth evening out, I made a conscious decision to share some of my struggles with fear and to disagree—ever so gently—with his political perspective. He never called again. Was this a coincidence or a reinforcement of what I already knew to be true—telling the truth is risky?

Consistently telling the truth has been a lifelong struggle for me in part because it often triggers my shame. And like most of us, I don’t like shame. As far back as I can remember, the smallest, most minuscule mistake would send me spiraling down a vortex of self-accusation and self-hatred culminating in a shame attack. I once put my pet goldfish back into his (or her) tank after my mom had changed the water—never bothering to check the water’s temperature—and cooked him. When my mom asked me if I had done this, I lied. I felt both guilty and ashamed for years.

Shame is a heavy burden and most of us go to extreme measure to avoid it. It was during the tumultuous middle school years when I learned that lying provided some traction against the vortex’s greedy pull. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide, “I think I’ll start lying today.” I simply noticed that pretending to be fine—even if I wasn’t—prevented others from judging or scolding me for having “unacceptable” feelings. This behavior continued into adulthood. Early on in our marriage, if I felt angry about something and my husband asked how I was doing, I would simply attribute my distant behavior to fatigue which was far less controversial than anger. Yes, I did feel guilty for lying, but guilt was far less incapacitating than shame.

This choice—to dodge shame by lying—goes all the way back to the garden. Adam and Eve lived in perfect harmony with each other, with God, and assumedly, with all of creation. Their nakedness symbolized relational transparency and a complete lack of shame. We really don’t know how long the two of them enjoyed one another before the enemy intruded. (For their sake, I hope they had a honeymoon.)

Satan took advantage of their innocence and vulnerability by seducing Eve to doubt God’s goodness and faithfulness. As she weighed the serpent’s crafty words, I can imagine the angels and demons waging a fierce battle in the heavenly realms. By succumbing to the temptation and eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve altered the direction of all humanity.     
  
At that moment, their eyes were opened and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they strung fig leaves together around their hips to cover themselves. Toward evening, they heard the Lord God walking about in the garden so they hid themselves among the trees. (Genesis 3:7)

Adam and Eve’s reaction provides the template for humanity. We fail or sin (or others fail and sin against us), we experience shame, we cover ourselves, and we cover our tracks. Shame mysteriously attaches to our bodies and our sexuality even when the choices we make seemingly have nothing to do with this. By hiding—whether physically or through deceit—we distance ourselves from God and from others. This distance temporarily prevents us from experiencing more shame but simultaneously separates us from the authentic love and grace that we need to break free from shame’s grip.

After following Jesus for about a decade, I began to understand that lying actually contributed to my shame. I knew I needed to stop. I wish I could report that after a single confession, I never lied again—but that would be more deceit. To this day, if I fear that an honest disclosure will result in conflict or rejection, I am sorely tempted to massage the truth. (Swiftly changing the subject works great, by the way.) It’s taken me years of regularly confessing whenever I lie (even if it’s over something ridiculously insignificant) and continually looking to God to tell me who I am to gain a measure of freedom. Psalm 34 has been a great encouragement to me during this time:

 I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
     He freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
    no shadow of shame will darken their faces. (Psalm 34:4-5 NLT)


The man I eventually married does not drive or own a Jaguar. He is handsome, but more importantly, he has helped me to learn the direct correlation between truth telling and shame: The truth really does set us free. This is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.



Thursday, July 9, 2015

When You've Been Hurt By the Church: a New Series Featuring Guest Blogger, Matt Rose, with "Out in the Cold"

When I gave up on church a few years back, it was because I had been wounded several times...in several churches. And honestly, I began assuming every church was like the ones where I’d been burned. I know better now, though, because I finally stumbled upon a church that was different. The people there proved me wrong, and they left an indelible mark on my soul.


But now that mark is all that’s left.


To say our pastor had inherited a wounded church would be an understatement. One bitter rift after another had cost it nearly 1,000 members over a decade and a half. And as more and more people walked away, we lost our focus. Our meager budget wouldn’t allow for big overhauls or flashy upgrades, but we continued to think If only we had this going for us--or maybe that thing--then we’d be desirable again.


But somehow, miraculously, this enabled our pastor to plant the seeds of something better. Rather than trying to "make ourselves up" in order to attract others, he encouraged us to simply start being real.


Instead of purchasing new paint and programs, we birthed neighborhood ministries. And unlike so many churches that require everyone to believe the same things in order to belong, our pastor helped us see that people will begin to genuinely believe when they’re first allowed to belong. No strings attached. He also saw me as a potential leader in the church and gave me opportunities to preach. I had finally found a home.  


For most of my life, I believed God was a math equation; the more I studied about Him, the more convinced I became that I was the only one who knew the right answer. Being a part of this church forced a radical change in me.


As much as I’ve learned about God after a decade of following him, I’ve unlearned more. And watching my church create something remarkable from its loss did something for me that nearly a decade of studying couldn’t: it humbled me.




As a whole, though, our historically program-driven church body struggled to see the beauty that was so evident to a handful of us. Long story short: our pastor’s family moved and it was suggested that our church merge with a local church plant that needed a building.


Merge is a generous word. Acquisition would be more fitting. Rather than two churches becoming one as promised, the weaker one was absorbed by the stronger. We were shrinking. They were growing.


I reached out to the new pastor. I knew it would be a matter of time before the two churches' differences came to light, and I wanted to know if we’d be able to create a unified future together. Things only got worse from there.


I was hoping to be assured that I could still have a place at this newly-merged church, but I found instead that the place for people like me was outside the camp. I had been the black sheep plenty of times before--the quiet charismatic, the t-shirt and jeans in a room of suits and dresses--but I had never been made to feel this badly about it. Out in the dark. Out in the cold. Away from the common table where the body and blood of Jesus were shared. 

I went from being a respected leader to becoming a complete misfit in less than two weeks.


To be frank, this season has been hell on earth for me. The community that originally taught me to love like Jesus loves has been ripped away from me. The community that loved me--me and my sometimes crazy beliefs--is gone.

Our closest friends are grieving the loss of our community as well, and several of us have begun meeting every other week in a friend's barn. I don’t know what the future holds, but for now, I’m cherishing our laid-back liturgy. I’m cherishing our shared meals. I’m cherishing the conversations that are healing our wounded souls. I’m cherishing the sounds of our kids playing outside all afternoon. I'm cherishing God's presence in this unexpected place.

I still weep. I still gnash teeth. But I also savor every moment of what’s happening in that barn -- under the shade of those trees, and in my heart.

Photo by Hadessa Creative/Hadessa Photography


A South Carolina native, Matt Rose now resides in Missouri with his wife of nine years and their two daughters. When he isn't dabbling in theology books, 
he can usually be found cheering on the Kansas City Royals. 
You can connect with Matt on Twitter @MatthewSRose and  on his blog.



Sunday, July 5, 2015

Q and A with Dr. Natalie Eastman, author of Women, Leadership, and the Bible: How Do I Know What To Believe?

I had a wonderful time speaking (and enjoying the ocean and the Mickey Mouse) in Florida. Next week we will kick off our new series on Shame and Spiritual Abuse/When You've Been Hurt By the Church.

In the meantime, I am so pleased to share a Q&A with Dr. Natalie Eastman. She is a friend and sister Redbud, and her new book, Women, Leadership and the Bible: How do I Know What To Believe? is a great resource for any woman wanting to be equipped with tools to dig into scripture at a scholarly-but-doable level.

Eastman (M.Div. ‘02, D.Min. ’05–Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is a freelance writer, editor, and member of the Redbud Writers Guild. She has served as a full-time youth minister to girls and women; Bible study teacher; worship leader and team developer; missionary to east Asia; and retreat and event teacher/speaker. She lives in Delaware, OH, with her husband and three young children. You can find her blog at natalieeastman.com, and her training and coaching at biblicalbreakthrough.com.


Q: What’s the purpose of your book, Women, Leadership, and the Bible: How Do I Know What to Believe?

A: The term “empowerment,” it seems to me, is vastly overused these days. Yet, admittedly, that’s exactly what I’m doing through WLB and Biblical Breakthrough! Through equipping women with seminary-level tools by which they can study, understand and interpret the Bible; then, stuffing them full of confidence through constant encouragement that they can do this, I hope to empower them to change from an internal status of paralyzed and possibly ignorant (or simply the feeling that one doesn’t know much or enough) to confident, ready, and trained to engage and effectively apply God’s Word with theological reliability and biblical skill.
Of course I hope this empowers and encourages any Christian wanting to become more grounded in God’s Word, not women only; but my primary mission and calling is to and for women.


On an emotional level, I simply want to tell Christians, especially women, “You can do this.” This is not rocket science. Nor do these abilities rely on a special gifting of the Holy Spirit. These are learned skills. Anyone who puts their mind and effort toward the training can and will learn how to know what the Scriptures are saying, as well as what they’re not saying. They can learn how to filter through the many voices “out there” that interpret God’s Word; how to tell the difference between when someone’s giving their opinion about what God’s Word says and when they’re interpreting; and what to do with the many conflicting opinions and interpretations. It can be done. People do it every day. And you can do it with greater skill and effectiveness, while still being sensitive to and filled with God’s very presence throughout the process.

Q: What benefits does Women, Leadership, and the Bible provide to women?

A. Whether or not the subject of women in church leadership roles is an “issue” in your community, a thoughtful approach to understanding the issue can help a person feel secure in their practices and help them understand the interpretations of others. That type of studied, thoughtful understanding promotes good and helpful dialogue among Christians. The method taught in WLB benefits people wanting to get to the bottom of other issues, too; for, as we all know, many other theological issues have been or will become “issues” there at some point. WLB can benefit your church or ministry in numerous ways:
·         Engages women with the Bible.
·         Encourages women toward further biblical and theological development.
·         Develops women as critical thinkers, so they can embrace their faith and service with groundedness and confidence.
·         Urges independent thought within the context of Christian community, with unity being the ultimate goal.
·         Equips women with seminary-level hermeneutical skills and tools on an introductory level and, hopefully, whets their appetites (or satisfies one!) for further and deeper biblical studies. 
·         Teaches women to recognize and face internal and external influences that impact their faith and practice.
·         Encourages grace-filled dialogue and study about this and other “controversial” issues within a safe space.
·         Provides a “virtual community” for women who really want to “get to the bottom of things,” biblically speaking.

Q: What view of women in leadership does this book promote - complementarian or egalitarian?

A: Women, Leadership, and the Bible promotes the view that women should be biblically literate and discern the answers to their questions about that issue for themselves. Said another way, the book does not support either view and does not lead toward one conclusion/position over another. Instead, it helps women learn to interpret Scripture, then weigh the evidence and interpretations for themselves, filtering positions by various means, and making their own decision, with the help of and within the context of their own communities. I worked purposefully not to lean either way - to the extent that I took it all back to nearly starting over several times. This was important to me, so women can truly learn to think critically for themselves on this and any other issue they tackle biblically and theologically. I worked very hard to create a safe and objective space, within the pages of the book, for women to explore this issue.

Q: I am a [seminary professor, Bible college professor/instructor, other academic, pastor, ministry lead/influencer, etc.] and I’d like to consider Women, Leadership, and the Bible for use in my [class, ministry, church, Bible study curriculum, or similar program]. Can I obtain an exam copy?

If you would like to consider WLB for use in your particular circumstance that would mean a larger quantity purchase, you may request an exam copy from James Stock at Wipf & Stock Publishers (James@WipfandStock.com).

Q: What if I am not in the media? Can I get a free or reduced-price copy?

If you are interested in WLB, but are not in some sort of “influence” role, you may be interested to know that Dr. Eastman runs book giveaway contests on the book’s Facebook page on a fairly regular basis. Just enter “Women, Leadership, and the Bible” in Facebook’s search box.
Otherwise, you can purchase a signed and personalized copy through http://womenleadershipbible.com/shop/buy-signed-book-wlb/ or through Amazon at http://amzn.to/1d8NXuv
  

Want to connect with Dr. Eastman? 

http://bb.natalieeastman.com
http://womenleadershipbible.com
FB: https://www.facebook.com/natalierweastman
FB: https://www.facebook.com/womenleadershipbible
G+: https://plus.google.com/+NatalieEastmanTVI/

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Why Talking About our Shame Matters (and a book cover!)

Lydia Brown is a gifted poet who has contributed some beautiful lines to my book. A few weeks ago I received an email from her, and she generously gave me permission to share it with ya'.


___

"Mini Story: The past few days, I've been experiencing some shame. 

I had one of those moments where you gather that what you're doing isn't the best thing, but you reason it away as okay. Only after it's over do you realize how bad it is, how sinful you are, and how much more is underneath the surface. 

It was one of those moments where you know you need to look at your shameful action, call it what it is, and possibly apologize for it, but all you really want to do is anything BUT acknowledge your shame. 

(I personally want to wear dark, tattered, clothes- a little early-Avril Lavigne or something. I want to keep everyone at a distance. Runaway, not care, push... Be bold in my torn state and just stay there wearing my shame and hitting the world with it.)

It's in these moments that I often find myself running to my favorite edgy and pained music. A lot of the songs involve receiving and giving heartbreak. As I was listening this time, thankfully, I was confronted with the sensation that 'This is so far from satisfying. I'm bored.' 

It seems there's been a genuine switch in me where this running and reveling no longer feels like my best option, even if I initially feel like trying it. 

I had the thought, 'People need to write about shame.' And particularly, I thought, 'Christians need to write about shame!' There's a lot about pain in general, but what about the pain of shame?' I am so glad you are writing this book." 


___

Lydia's email reminded me how grateful I am to even be able to write this book -- because we've all been there, haven't we? Our shame loves to isolate us, and to breed itself and multiply in darkness. But when we bring our shame-stories to the light, when we share them with each other, shame has no choice but to shrink from the brightness.  

So, in honor of Lydia's courage....without further ado... here is the concept cover art for Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding Your Soul (Zondervan). Now available for preorder HERE.  It will be released this October. Yay! 


I'm preparing to travel to do some speaking, so I'll be off the blogosphere for a couple weeks. 
But I'll be back in July (with a brand new series for those who've been hurt by the church or have suffered spiritual abuse). In the meantime, feel free to keep up with me on twitter. 

As always...live shamelessly!


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Sight Unseen: On Being Intimately Seen by an Invisible God, Friendship, and Freedom from Shame

To believe we are seen and known intimately by an invisible God is the craziest of beliefs. It's honestly, well, it's unbelievable. And yet, I don't know about you, but to let go of that belief would probably make me crazier. I'd lose my anchor, my lighthouse, the beauty I see even on the darkest of days.

Last week was a strange rollercoaster: a reunion with some high school friends (I feel old.); a contest to attend a conference (I feel like I lost a popularity vote. But thank you for voting for me anyway!); my book being shipped to endorsers (I feel vulnerable, but sooooo thankful.);  a boat outing in Chicago with my friends (I feel blessed.)

And so I remember that I am seen by an invisible God, because in the middle of a week where I am weak--

Am I special to you? What do you think of who I turned out to be? Do you like what I am saying? Can I please have your approval? 

-- I get to go dancing on a boat with my silly besties. Girls who know me. Girls who have vowed that if I'm ever unconscious in the hospital, they will take care of any unsightly hair situations before other visitors are allowed in.

God sees us and has given us the gift of friendship to help us move out of ourselves and into further freedom from shame.
#SelfieSticksChangeEverything
As a new writer I'm trying to learn how to silence the critical voices in my  head -- real or imagined (and yes I have imaginary voices in my head) -- by thinking of them as little bugs. I place those nasty critters into mason jars and then metaphorically throw those jars out the window. If they are especially hairy and obnoxious, I imagine them burning in a bonfire.

It sounds crazy, but as previously established I believe some crazy things.

Lately I've tried something new. Those insecurities. Those shames. I don't think they want to be stuck in a jar anymore. I don't think they need to be strangled. I don't think they should be responded to with hate. Because the hate and the imaginary burning actually causes me to hold on more tightly.

I'd rather let go of the I am not enoughs the way a child releases a balloon to the sky -- with moment of sadness, but also wonder.

I want to watch my insecurities float and dance gleefully away towards the clouds and the birds. I want my perceived inadequacies to travel to another city, another state, another country--maybe even to another planet--and then fall to the ground as something new--a discovery for another metaphorical child in another place, a treasure.

Not destroyed, but made new.

I know the Christian life isn't primarily about my emotional health. It is about justice for the poor, a Father for the fatherless, food for the truly hungry, forgiveness for sin, and the upside down Kingdom of God for this world.

But this is the crazy thing I believe about the gospel -- even on the cloudy days, an invisible God, who sees all things, actually sees me too. He helps me let go of my balloons and dance on a boat with the gift of friends.

When I can't see clearly, Christ gives--and is my--visibility.