Not Today.

Where do I even begin? I use writing as therapy, kind of a stress reliever for myself. Most of the time, I have a specific thought I am going for, something that has been stewing around in my mind for a few days that feels as if I don’t get it out, I will simply burst.

But not today. Not this week.

Today, I am doing my best to get off of the couch. I am trying to be patient with my kids, and am not succeeding. I am attempting to feed my mind and soul healthy things and just can’t get my brain to cooperate. My world has been in an upheaval for two full weeks now, and I am beginning to feel the effects.

Don’t get me wrong, I have it good. So far, all of us are healthy, money is not a problem, and my husband is working from home. Seems like I have it made, and I do, truly. I am not trying to complain at all. My heart bleeds for those on the front lines of this pandemic, and even more so for those who have lost loved ones to this terrible virus. It really feels like we are living out a movie plot, and one day I will wake up and it will all be just some terrible dream.

But this is our new normal, at least for the coming months, and I am not sure how I feel about that.

I had every intention two weeks ago of utilizing every drop of this time wisely. I was ready to spend time with the kids, fix up the house, eat right, and even exercise! But as the reality of the gravity of our current situation sets in, as I walk around the grocery store keeping my distance from other shoppers wearing masks and gloves, as I read on social media the horrors the healthcare workers are facing in the U.S., a first world country, I am disheartened. My energy to stay positive fades and it is all I can muster to hold back tears.

Then, I feel guilty because I know I am not the only one feeling this way. Everyone is. Everyone is a little on edge right now, anxious about the unknown and what our near future holds, but trying to keep a brave face for the sake of our loved ones. Everyone has been affected somehow.

Today, I caved. I gave in to the anxiety. I laid on the couch and ate junk food. I let the kids entertain themselves and I vegged. Will I do this tomorrow? Probably not, tomorrow is a new day. But if I do, I have decided to put away the to-do list and give myself the grace to do so.

I apologize for the word vomit. I always try to end my blog on a positive note, but tonight, I just don’t have it in me.

Stay safe friends.

Beauty From Ashes. Some Thoughts on Covid-19

Wow, so Covid-19! Who would have ever thought something of this scale would happen in our lifetimes? I have to admit, this virus has given me some anxiety. People are losing their incomes, getting sick and even dying over this, so anxiety does seem like the natural instinct. But, on the somewhat up side, what an amazing opportunity this virus has given us!

The human race with the exception of essential healthcare workers, grocery workers, and delivery services has shut down entirely. How often does this happen worldwide?  I am choosing to look at this experience as a lesson.

Even though our normal life routines have been shaken up or paused entirely, the amazing fact remains, the world will indeed go on. Us humans are resilient. But with humans out of the way, nature itself has taken this opportunity to shine. The canals in Venice are clear enough to see the fish, the skies in China are blue again from the lack of pollutants in the air, and here at home, outside my window, spring is making itself evident by the birds singing and buds on the trees. All of nature is singing it’s song, and for once, we are not too busy to notice.

While I am feeling uncertainty about the immediate future, I am determined to make some mindful changes while I am at home.

I am making a conscience effort to connect with my kids. They are getting older, and this will be some of the last times we will spend together under one roof. I am being extra conscience to put down devices and look them in the eyes. I want to really hear them when they talk. We created a calendar of fun family things we can do together, and so far have laughed until our sides hurt.

I have been extra assertive to connect with friends. We are all home with our children, and some of us are not okay 24/7! Trying to keep some normalcy of adult conversation is imperative to my mental health, even if it means unconventional ways like video chats. Yes, I am old enough to say video chats are not my normal way to catch up with friends!

Livestreaming church services is going to be an amazing lifeline right now! I am so thankful for the technology we have in this day and age to do that! I am using this opportunity to dive into new Bible studies as well.

I am also doing things like switching to nonfat coffee creamer, because let’s be real, most of us will probably come out of this a few pounds heavier if we aren’t careful. I am also making a point to find an online workout class so when I switch out my closet to summer clothes I will still have clothes to wear!

Do I believe everything happens for a reason? I honestly don’t know. But in this circumstance, I look at it like this, I have a choice. I can choose to let anxiety overcome me and veg on my couch binging on Netflix all day. (Don’t get me wrong, I will be catching up on my shows). Or I can take this as a lesson. Nature doesn’t need us, we need nature. Time will indeed march on, and I can choose to be mindful of the things right in front of me, or I can spend my life with my nose in my phone oblivious to the changes happening all around me. I can utilize this opportunity to really see and hear my family, or I can let this time pass by without noticing their laughs or the sparkle in their eyes.

Please feel free to share with me the ways you are getting through this social distancing. I would love to hear some more ideas on being mindful! I want to come out of this a better parent, a better wife, a better employee, a better human! Just think of what the world could be like if all of us took the time to actually notice, even when there isn’t a global pandemic forcing us to slow down! Let’s not waste this amazing opportunity we have been given.

Isaiah 61:3 is a beautiful reminder of God’s restoration process:

And provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61:3 NIV

Stay safe friends.

The Oxymoron of “Modesty”

I am having a difficult time deciding how to begin this blog, so, I am just going to throw it out there and begin.

Yes, that is a picture of me in my beach attire. I thought it was fitting for the theme of the blog. Plus, it is a flashback to warmer days on the beach, there is currently snow on the ground outside my window.

This is a touchy subject, and I’m sure it will offend someone, but then again, someone somewhere will always be offended right?

Modesty.

I told you this would be a tricky one. Before I dive into the details, let me explain why.

I recently happened upon a Facebook post from someone I do not know personally bragging about their “modest” beach apparel. In this post, they specifically stated they didn’t mind people looking at them in such clothes.

Herein lies the problem.

For those of us who grew up in the UPC, or other such organizations, women’s modesty was taught as clothing rules: skirts or dresses only, to be worn below the knees, past the elbows and above the collarbone. The UPC tacks on a few additional rules just for fun, such as no makeup or jewelry, The verses used to support such beliefs are Deuteronomy 22:5, 1 Timothy 2:9, and 1 Peter 3:3.

Now, this blog is not to debate the pants and skirts argument that stems from Deuteronomy 22:5. To be honest, I am tired of that entire conversation, as it is such a ridiculous debate since we are no longer under the Old Testament law, and said verse clearly does not apply to us. Not to mention, people wore robes in Biblical times, there were no pants and skirts back then so this argument all the way around is moot.

The point of this blog is the definition of “modest” in the Bible. The UPC as a whole seems to miss the boat entirely as to what this word actually means. And honestly, it’s a little frustrating to watch. The main verse they use to promote their doctrine of modesty is 1 Timothy 2:9-10:

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

I included the KJV here, as this is the version I grew up with and most often have heard cited by UPC ministers.

In the UPC, women are praised for how “modest” they are with their clothing, after all, modest is hottest right? But what truly is modest? As I already mentioned, their version of modesty is a skirt or dress that stays within certain guidelines. It doesn’t seem to matter to them the cost of their modest clothing, the elaborate styles of their hair, or the brand name of their church high heels or purses. They also don’t seem to mind, and actually take pride in the way dressing as such brings attention to them in public.

Let’s take a closer look from the “world’s” viewpoint.

In today’s society, women wear pants, people wear swimsuits to the beach, and beehive hairdos are not exactly seen on a daily basis. Keeping those facts in mind, let’s be honest with ourselves, dressing in UPC style attire makes you stand out like a sore thumb. It makes you look like a religious zealot and makes you pretty much unapproachable to the average person. Is this the version of modest Paul was going for?

Let’s look at 1 Timothy 2:9, 10 in the NLT to help break it down:

And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do.

“Not draw attention to themselves”, right there that seems to blow the UPC version of modesty right out the window. But to be fair, let’s continue researching.

Personally, when researching a particular subject or verse, I like to go back to the original Greek text and use an interlinear Bible app to compare. Here is the verse laid out as it is directly translated from Paul’s original writing:

Likewise also women in apparel respectable with modesty and self control should adorn themselves not with braided hair or gold or pearls or clothing costly.

This doesn’t say anything about standing out from the “world” or looking different. In fact, if we look at 1 Peter 3:3,4 these verses seem to go together in theme:

Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They put their trust in God and accepted the authority of their husbands.

Modesty according to the Bible has absolutely nothing to do with how long your skirt is, what you are wearing to the beach, or how plain your face looks without makeup, but everything to do with your attitude and how you should behave in moderation in every aspect of your life. I certainly don’t see how writing a long post about how you wear a “modest swim skirt” to the beach for people to stare at you lines up with the Biblical definition. In fact, it pretty much goes against what Paul was trying to convey. Even if you go back to the King James Version of 1 Timothy 2:9 it includes the word “shamefacedness”. What does this word mean exactly?

The definition for shamefacedness is this:

Showing shame, bashful, modest, or shy.

Sigh… I suppose the entire point I am getting at is this: is modesty sticking out in public and being proud and bragging about it? Or is it more along the lines of not standing out in a crowd and being approachable to those who may be looking for a shoulder to lean on?

Even Jesus himself got frustrated with the religious folks of his day with their long phylacteries that they prided themselves in. Here are Jesus’s own words regarding this practice:

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Matthew 23:12 ESV

I could go on all day about this subject, this is definitely a trigger for me, but I will end on this note, research.

Research for yourself the definitions, Biblical context, and today’s application for words thrown around in religious societies. Had I never looked through an Interlinear Bible app or challenged ideas like the definition of modesty I would still be in the same boat as the poor woman who posted pridefully about people looking at her in her swim attire.

Do I judge her clothing choices? No. Do I care if she wears a skirt to the beach? Not even a little bit. But I do take issue with the misuse of Bible verses and the idea that others who chose not to stick out in public are being “immodest”.

Those ideas are what I am speaking out against.

Finding My Identity

Hey guys! It’s been a minute since I have had time to sit down to write! The holidays were crazy busy around here! As I’m sure your’s were as well! But here we are, now in January, the month that always seems to drag on for at least two months!

If you hadn’t heard, I recently did a podcast interview with Cultish. I am so very grateful and humbled to have had the opportunity to represent women from around the globe who have escaped legalistic, oppressive religions. If you haven’t had a chance to listen, please do, the guys at Cultish are incredible! I applaud them for giving a voice to so many. I have been touched by the many positive messages I have recieved and am excited to see where God continues to take me on my journey!

Something that has been on my mind the last week or so, is my identity. What does that look like for me, a woman and a Christ follower?

The UPC has rather recently coined a term to describe their identity, “Apostolic”. They say this means they are like the Apostles. They use this word to describe their outward standards (especially the women’s) and even have started selling clothing with words like #Apostolic and Apostolic Identity printed on them. They seem to be very proud of this term and like to advertise it a lot. I’m not going to lie, it bothers me.

When I was growing up, there was great question as to what I should call my religion. This was before the Apostolic Identity term came around. If you know anything about the UPC, you understand why. If I were to simply say I was a Christian, people may get me confused with every other mainstream denomination who called themselves that. If I said Pentecostal, people may think I was a (gasp) Trinitairan. Thus the dilemma. Belonging to a United Pentecostal Church, we had more revelation than other organizations, so we needed something to set us apart as the highest order of Christians. This is why I think they are now running with the Apostolic identity idea. They needed something to say they are different than other Christians. And this is my problem.

I recently had someone say to me that by speaking out against the UPCI, I was speaking out against them personally because their identity is the United Pentecostal Church. This made my heart hurt. You are not an organization, you are a person, a child of the most high God.

So where does this leave me? Someone who has not only left the “Apostolic” identity, but is actively speaking out against their ideals.

Let’s break it down a little bit.

According to Collins English dictionary, the definition of Apostolic is this:

Apostolic means belonging or relating to the early followers of Jesus Christ and to their teaching.

Okay, so that seems noble enough. If you are Apostolic, you are following the followers of Jesus.

But, is that the best we can do? While clearly Jesus’s earliest followers had great insight, I mean, we use the books they wrote everyday as a guide, they were just men. Men whom Jesus hand picked to follow him and spread the Gospel, but in the end, they were just like us. They sinned, gave into fleshly desires, and woke up everyday having to reconsencrate their lives to God.

What if we all just went directly to the source and became Christ followers? In Acts 11 it records that even the disciples were called Christians.

The definition of Christian is this:

Christian: of, relating to, or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings

So, why wouldn’t I want my identity to be directly tied to Christ? Why would I want to be identified as a follower of the followers of Jesus, when I can follow him myself? The New Testament tells me, we no longer need a high priest to be an intermediary, we can now go directly to the source.

I am in no way belittling the teachings of the apostles, but Ephesians 2 says it beautifully:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,

Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of our faith. Yes, the apostles and prophets help build up the church, but just as we are, they were nothing without Christ.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Colossians hits the nail on the head as well. We are rooted and built up in Christ, why wouldn’t we want to identify ourselves with him?

My conclusion is this: I am a Christian. I am a free woman following the teachings of the One who gave his life for me. And furthermore, as a Christ follower, I don’t have to live in the bondage of man made laws or traditions, my burden is now easy, and my yoke is light. This was God’s plan for me from the beginning of time, and I am humbled and grateful my identity lies in Him and Him alone.

“Easy-Believism”

I have been mulling over a thought for a few weeks, but life has been so crazy I haven’t had a chance to sit and unpack it the way it deserves. It is the holidays after all, who isn’t crazy busy this time of year?

I actually do have all of my presents bought and wrapped this year on December 23rd! I am pretty sure that is a personal record. Last year, I found myself buying stocking stuffers at Walgreens at 11:45 PM on December 24th! It is safe to say, gift giving is not my forte!

So now that I have taken a moment to brag about my newly acquired, mad present skills, back to the thought that has been stewing in my brain!

“Easy-believism”.

Yes, that is an actual term. One that I had been taught my whole life to avoid like the plague. This term is considered derogatory by some and used to describe those who believe their soul’s salvation rests strictly on believing in Jesus.

Stick with me here, I have a feeling the word vomit may get a little extensive.

I suppose because it is Christmas time, the time when Christians acknowledge the birth of their Savior, I can’t seem to shake this topic. (Yes, we are aware Jesus was not actually born on December 25th, just clearing that up.) But let’s be honest, the story of a virgin giving birth is a little hard to believe. Mix that in with the miracles Jesus is said to have performed and the idea that He was raised from the dead after the most gruesome execution available in that day, and you have a fairy tale that seems more far fetched then Sleeping Beauty! And if all of that isn’t insane enough for you to doubt the Christmas story, add in the belief that because Jesus suffered this gruesome death and was raised from the grave, we all now have the opportunity for our mistakes to be made right before an invisible Being in the sky. Yep, that all sounds a bit unbelievable.

In fact, it sounds so unbelievable it would be a huge disservice to yourself to not research these teachings on your own. I am not here to argue about whether or not God is real, and salvation lies in Jesus, I have done my own research and made my own decisions and am strong in my faith, but that being said, nothing is concrete. Let’s be real and honest with ourselves, none of us were around 2000 years ago. None of us were there when the earth was formed, you can say there is scientific fact to back whatever beliefs you may hold, and there may be, but at one point in time, the smartest people around thought the world was flat.

My point is, we all believe in something, even if your belief is in nothing. It takes faith to put your trust in whatever you believe, faith and confidence that the beliefs you hold are the correct ones. And that is scary. It is scary because we all like to be in control, and we all like to be right.

Having faith in something requires you to step out into the unknown and let go of the things you can see. Faith requires getting over the fear of being wrong and embraces the idea that even if you can’t tangibly see, touch, or hear something it is there. This takes the control away from us, and places it in an unseen force. Yikes!

If you have hung with me this far, thank you, you are an amazing human.

So now for the main point. Let’s assume you do buy into the teaching that God’s only Son came to earth, was born of a virgin, suffered and died on Calvary, rose from the dead and because of His perfect sacrifice we can now be free of our sins and live forever in heaven, I would say that would take a huge step of faith!

All of Christianity is based off of the teaching that Jesus came, so why use the term “Easy-believism” as derogatory or use it at all? If you indeed buy into the idea that there is a God, and He is the embodiment of perfect holiness, what makes you say there is anything “easy” in believing in that? Isn’t that the basis of all Christians?

I can tell you why, from my own perspective. It is because to put all of our faith in the belief that simply believing in Jesus is enough for our salvation, we relinquish some of our control. To admit there is NOTHING that we can do as humans and put our whole hearts in the belief that Christ did enough on our behalf is entrusting someone we have never physically seen with our very eternal salvation.

The phrase “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself” comes into play here. It is humbling accepting the gift Christ gave us. It is a blow to the ego to admit we aren’t enough by ourselves. It is hard to relinquish having the control over our salvation.

But the fact is, Jesus said “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Why would we attach any clauses to this?

The only verse in the entire New Testament that specifically asks the question, “what must I do to be saved”, is Acts 16:30. To which the reply was, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Sounds too easy? It’s not! As we already established, belief in Jesus takes a huge step of faith. Why in the world would we ever downplay this by using the term “Easy-believism”?

I think that is a slap in the face to Jesus. I know it would be painful for me if one of my children said my sacrifices for them weren’t good enough.

Do yourself a favor this holiday season, if you have never researched what you believe in, whether it is Christ, nothing, or something completely different, please do. It’s not easy to believe in something, but be responsible in whatever you decide to put your trust in.

Thank you for sticking with me while I spilled my heart.

Merry Christmas! May you all find peace, love, and joy this holiday season!

Life’s About To Get Good

This week has been a chaotic plethora of emotional highs and lows.

I won’t get into the details, but let’s just say, there was one day I had to bring a peace offering of food to my coworkers to make up for my crappy attitude. My mouth sometimes doesn’t have a mute button, although I am actively working on finding one.

I recognize biology plays a huge role in my mood swings. I know a lot of women can relate. But this last week I have been proactively working on a piece of me that hasn’t seen daylight in many, many years and the demons in my own soul, I feel, have tried to shut it down.

Feelings. The lows and the highs.

My therapist made a very valid observation a couple of weeks ago, and it stuck with me. As a way to cope with trauma, (personal and spiritual related) my brain has turned off my ability to feel.

As I am writing this, I am trying hard to come up with a way to explain what it feels like in my head, and it is hard to get out in coherent way.

Basically, I choose not to get excited, mainly about good things because of the fear of being let down. I don’t trust anyone (at all) because let’s face it, people let you down all the time and it hurts. I don’t want to feel the hurt, so I just don’t allow myself to feel love.

I explained it to my husband in this manner: every time I pull up to a stop light, I look around and envision the position and angle each car around me could potentially hit me. It’s like my brain is constantly in overdrive, plotting the worst way things could go south, just so it doesn’t take me by surprise if and when it does. I am always cautious to get excited about trips, because what if something unexpected comes up and I don’t get to go. I don’t get too attached to people, because what if they leave. You get the idea. It is exhausting. Not to mention, kind of depressing never to live in the moment and just be. I am over it.

I have described the feeling of oppression I had while in the UPC in my book and in my blog, and that was crushing. I felt suffocated and that is the one thing I did feel. Like someone was sitting on my chest at all times. Of course, I was happy when I got married, and when my children were born, but even in those moments I never allowed myself to really be present and feel the happiness all the way to my soul. For as far back as I can remember, I have always felt like a stranger looking out of my eyes. Like, watching the world go on around me, but trapped in my own head too much to be able to participate in it, but wanting to.

While we were on our cruise last month, we were watching people sing karaoke. A sweet elderly couple got up and danced to nearly every song, no matter how terrible the person singing sounded, no matter if they were the only couple on the dance floor, they didn’t care, they were enjoying themselves and each other’s company. I was enjoying watching them but also feeling a little envious of their ability to be in the moment and just be. I approached them afterward and asked them what their secret was, they looked so happy. She told me they had been married for 50 years and their secret was to enjoy each other’s company and just have fun together. While that is excellent marriage advice, I couldn’t wrap my head around how to do that. In my head, I am still a soul longing to break free from the chaos in my brain and live unfettered in the moment. I thought about dancing, or singing karaoke that night, but I simply could not break myself free and just live in that particular moment.

While I no longer feel the soul crushing oppression from living a life of legalism, I have not yet gained the ability to let go of the apprehension so deep seeded in myself and allow myself to trust and be free to just be me.

Yes, I feel like I have healed from most of my church past as far as how others treated me. Yes, I have come to depend on God’s grace to cover my flaws, and so many other things I have overcome in the last few years, but allowing myself to enjoy the feelings of happiness, true joy, and trust, those are things I am still searching for answers on how to feel them in the moment.

When all else fails, one should always look to a Shania Twain song for life wisdom and advice. That was sarcasm in case you couldn’t tell, but seriously, she released an album last year (the concert was awesome, but that’s another story) and the first single released from it spoke to me. I have been singing it practically non-stop the past week because the lyrics are my anthem at this stage in my healing process.

It took me so long to be strong
But I’m alive, and I hold on
To what I can feel, it hurts to heal
Oh, when love lies
Life’s about joy, life’s about pain
It’s all about forgiving and the will to walk away
I’m ready to be loved, and love the way I should
Life’s about, life’s about to get good

I have gotten stronger, I have forgiven, I have walked away from somethings, now, I am ready to love the way I should and feel love the way I should.

Life’s about to get good!

The Simplicity Of The Gospel

I will begin this blog by stating the following:

I don’t pretend to have all of the theological answers of the world just free roaming around in my brain.

Not even close.

I will say, that I am actively searching for them.

I didn’t go to theology school. In fact, as has been blatantly pointed out to me recently, I didn’t further my education much past high school in any aspects. A past decision that still haunts me to this day.

That being said, I am thankful for my upbringing studying God’s word and the new found desire in the last few years to search the scriptures for myself and to “rightly divide the word” as to “work out my own soul’s salvation.”

I am mulling over the idea today about the “Gospel”. My son mentioned to his father and I something very profound for a twelve year old this morning. (At least, as his mom I feel it was pretty astute.)

He said, “you know what I realized at church today? My youth pastor (Shout out to good youth leaders!) was talking to us about the Gospel and how it literally translates from the original Greek to mean ‘good news’. It makes me sad that there are people who choose to make it into a checklist of things we have to do, and they miss out on the good news of Jesus.”

(Cue exploding mama heart)

Let’s think about that simple statement for a moment. Granted, my child is being raised in a home where we openly talk about our past religious experiences and we are actively sharing our story. But, even his twelve year old boy brain is clicking on the matter! Thank God!

The church organization we came out from under touted the phrase, “the whole gospel to the whole world”. Somehow they managed to make the Gospel something so secretive and complex, that only their organization was favored enough to get the key to unlock the mystery. They morphed the Gospel into something that required putting random pieces of the Bible together like a puzzle from an Indiana Jones or National Treasure movie.

The Gospel is simple and it’s beauty and depth is in it’s simplicity. The Bible says God uses the simple things to confuse the wise. He does this so no man can boast. Salvation isn’t quest to solve a jigsaw puzzle, salvation is the good news of Jesus. That is all!

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul reminds the believers in Corinth not to stray from the message of the resurrection that he has preached to them. Christ died, He was buried, and He rose. And in that simplicity, our good news resides!

My entire childhood and part of adulthood, I always thought of those who stood fast in their faith in Jesus alone as their eternal salvation as foolish. As if they weren’t the select chosen such as myself, who was elite enough to understand the actual way to Jesus was though our own righteousness.

How foolish was I?

The Gospel means good news! Furthermore, is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus truly something you want to just brush over, thinking you have a “revelation” of something more complex? It is pretty amazing to think that God sent his Son to die on a cross, and in His doing so, I am relinquished of my faults! Why would we ever want to cloud over that miracle with our own perversions?

Paul actually says about those that do so, “let them be accursed”. Yikes!

I am convicted for all of the times in my life I judged others or thought of myself holy enough to aid in the assistance of my salvation. Thankfully, the Bible says our sins are as far as the east is from the west, and God is a good, forgiving Father.

I think He gets it. We are made in His image after all. He made us to question and think about things. He is big enough to handle our doubts.

I remember saying to my husband so often, when we first realized this truth, “it can’t be this easy”! But it is! Jesus provided the way to salvation for us, it’s that simple!

The good news is Jesus my friend, and that is the entire Gospel!

Check out my book on Amazon if you haven’t already! (Seriously, if you haven’t what are you waiting for?) 😉

Free: From Legalism to Grace Breaking Out of the United Pentecostal Church https://www.amazon.com/dp/1087259134/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_ZsmYDb8QHRHM9

Theme Park Faux Pas (Don’t be That Guy)

I am writing about something completely different than usual today. I always like to write about what inspires me in the moment, and today, I was inspired. Not in an uplifting, spiritual way, more of in a carnal, annoyed kind of way. Stick with me for a minute here, and I think you will understand.

As anyone who knows our family at all, or has followed my blog or read my book is aware, our family likes to take yearly vacations. More specifically, yearly vacations to theme parks. We mainly travel to Disney Resorts and Parks, but we have visited several others as well, and there are somethings that a portion of the general public just don’t seem to understand.

So, as we were walking around such a theme park today, getting the backs of our feet chewed up by a crazy guy pushing a giant double stroller, my daughter and I thought someone needed to gather a list of common theme park etiquette rules. Clearly, some people have missed the common courtesy crash course somewhere along their life path.

This blog is meant to be comical, but at the same time, seriously please tell your friends! You never know who may be doing these atrocious theme park monstrosities it may be someone you love! Help save the magic of theme parks and people’s sanity everywhere!

Let’s start with something simple; turnstiles. If you do not understand how a turnstile works, please for the love of Mickey Mouse just stay home. This adventure is not for you. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people struggle with walking through a turnstile. It really isn’t that difficult people, I promise!

Number two. If you are being directed by a cast member to walk into a room, please fill in all the gaps all by yourself. Don’t be the idiot that stops right on the other side of the door and makes the cast member say, “Keep moving forward people!” Not cool.

Number three. For goodness sake, never, ever, for any reason stop dead in your tracks in the middle of a crowded walkway! There are usually sidewalks for a reason, you can and should stand on them. Causing a 20 person pileup on your way to your favorite attraction because your kid wanted something in the diaper bag in the bottom of the stroller, ruins everyone’s magic. Just don’t, your spawn can wait until you safely exit the traffic lane.

Number four. Stay off your phone while walking. This should not need to be said, at least you would think.

Number five. Let’s get personal with this one. Personal hygiene. Deodorant is your friend. Don’t be the smelly person in the line. Nobody wants to smell your stinky pits, on a hot day, not even your mama.

Number six. Watch your filthy mouth. There are children present and some of us don’t want to have to explain gross or inappropriate things to our kids at Mickey’s or Harry Potter’s house. If my kids learn anything inappropriate, it should be from me.

Number seven. Personal space, it’s a thing. If you are using my child’s shoulder to rest your arm while you are filming a parade, I will purposely ruin your video. Don’t invade our space because you’re too stupid to get to the parade route on time.

Number eight. If your nasty hoodlums spill a milkshake or anything equally gross in a public space, clean it up. Don’t be the reason a cast member has to stop what they are doing just to clean up the mess your kids left. Be a decent human and do your best to wipe it up, and pick up your trash. It’s easy, just don’t be a pig.

And lastly, if the show calls for no flash photography, there’s a reason. Don’t be the selfish person who causes a child to ask their parent why someone wearing all black is standing behind the Flounder puppet. I mean really, that picture from the back row of the dark theater on your iPhone 4, is not going to be frame worthy, so just don’t do it. Just enjoy the moment and live in the present.

I witnessed every single one of these faux pas just today! I realize I am slightly bougie when it comes to theme parks, especially my Disney favs, but come on guys, don’t be that person! I wanted to share the etiquette rules just to be sure no one I know ruins someone’s magic!

Anyone have anything else to add to the list? I’m all ears! (total pun intended)

The Journey

When we first began attending our current church and were ready to come out of our shells and mingle a bit, we were blessed enough to meet a sweet couple who had already been where we were and had not only survived the hurt, they had thrived. This beautiful lady quickly started introducing me to others in the congregation who had also come through the pain of leaving the UPC. For each person she introduced to me she said, “they had the same journey we did.”

At the time, I thought it was a little comical she used the word “journey” to describe leaving a church. It honestly seemed a little dramatic. My mind immediately goes to the Lord of the Rings movies and all of the things they had to experience on their journeys! How can my church experience compare to that on any level? I mean, they had to defeat goblins for goodness sake!

Now I understand. It truly is a journey trying to deconstruct the falsehoods you were taught and get past the feeling of betrayal among other things. It is like climbing a mountain, just to see there are twelve more along your path.

Three years, four months, and sixteen days have gone by since the day I have labeled in my phone as “Emancipation Day”. One year on WordPress, twenty-seven blogs, and one book have been written. One year and one month taking anti-anxiety medication, nine months of therapy, and countless word vomit phone sessions with incredibly patient friends have transpired.

Today, I can finally say, I am over it.

Will my past ever leave me completely? Of course not. The UPC has been twisted into my very roots for life. I can’t say I won’t ever have another trigger, or that it won’t sting a little if and when I find out people have spoken negatively about me. But now, I am equipped to handle it.

I have armed myself with knowledge, surrounded myself with wonderful people, and learned to cast all of my cares on God.

As I am preparing for our upcoming beach vacation, I am reminiscing about my preparations for a similar trip last year. It was such an internal struggle for me just to pack the appropriate clothing for such a trip. This year has been different. I feel confident in my choices and my self esteem is better than it has ever been.

Since we left the United Pentecostal Church, I have had the opportunity to come alongside others as they begin their journey. It is such an inspiration to watch women as they blossom from the feelings of inadequacy to gaining more confidence with every subtle change. The before and after pictures speak for themselves. It is so much more than clothing and “holiness standards”. It is about the journey to find youself and your place in God’s kingdom.

We are children of the King. We are not to live our lives with our heads bowed in oppression. We were designed to live freely, being sure of our salvation.

Am I finished with my journey? I certainly hope not! But looking back over the last few years, I can feel a change in my very soul. I have grown leaps and bounds over the person I used to be. I have learned to create healthy boundaries and speak up for myself. I am deep down happy and content.

I feel like God has made it my life’s mission to help others find who they are in His eyes. I pray this blog site and my book will be a small part of encouraging those who are thinking of starting their journey out or who are currently in the midst of discovering their true status as God’s chosen.

Life really is a journey, one that cannot be experienced alone. Thank you for experiencing the journey with me.

If you haven’t read Free, check it out on Amazon!

Free: From Legalism to Grace Breaking Out of the United Pentecostal Church https://www.amazon.com/dp/1087259134/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_Or1LDbA14FEV1

Not Alone

Sitting on a rock over looking a gorgeous lake at a women’s retreat I begrudgingly accepted an invite to, I am recapping this morning’s events thus far.

It’s not that I wasn’t looking forward to getting away from the usual hustle and bustle this weekend, but it was more the usual social anxiety putting a damper on my promised relaxing weekend away.

As usual, the awkwardness of having to open up to people I barely know is uncomfortable to say the least.

Not to mention, I am used to the ladies retreats of my past where you are constantly with a group of people and expected to show up, dress up, sit through several long services and shop till you drop for two and half days straight. There was very little quality time with you and God, and even less time to connect to the people around you with no pretenses in place.

I suppose that was a little of what I was expecting.

I feel like I came expecting the worst.

And let’s be honest, waking up to a room of chatty Cathys this morning at 6 am was not exactly my cup of tea, but something did occur to me today.

While the panic attacks, triggers, and loneliness I have experienced in the last 3 and a half years have come as a surprise to me, I realized today, I am not alone in the struggle. No pretenses here, just a group of real women, who like myself, face monsters from their past and struggle with the feeling of not being good enough.

There is something to be said about the realization you are not alone in your crazy. There is something reassuring and almost peaceful to acknowledge the fact we all have our own portion of insecurities and issues. There is a calm that occurs from the depths of your soul when you look around the room and are honest with yourself and those around you in saying you don’t feel like enough.

And we aren’t enough, not by ourselves. But with the redeeming power of the cross on our side, we are a force to be reckoned with.

I wish I could be an open, outgoing person who loves to meet new people and takes on a weekend away with 150 women who are practically strangers head on with no insecurities. I am not that person. Maybe some day, but right now, that is not me.

But for right now, I am content. Content to sit by myself for a while inhaling the magnificence of my surroundings. Just me and God. Because with Him, I am enough.