10 Things I Wish I Knew 5 Years Ago

In doing what I do, I have had the opportunity to hear many people’s stories about their current church situation. Some are considering leaving, some are in the process of leaving, and others have already left but are learning to deal with the aftermath of that life changing decision.

Let me just say, I feel beyond blessed and honored that so many people have felt safe to reach out and trust me enough to disclose their personal situations. And I say a prayer for each and every one of them.

Myself personally, I feel like a hot mess 97.9% of the time, so I feel very ill equipped to give any sort of life advice. Leaving a church that has been your life and for some even their livelihood is a decision that cannot and should not be taken lightly.

So, I decided to put into words somethings that I wish I would have known at the beginning of my journey. Maybe it will be helpful for someone else.

1. Give yourself time! I cannot stress this enough. You are not going to sort through, let alone heal from years of indoctrination and spiritual abuse overnight. Be patient. Things will get better I promise!

2. You do not, under any circumstance, owe anyone an explanation of your decision. This is between you and God only.

3. You will not be able to convince anyone of anything if they are not ready to hear it. I know when I left, I wanted so badly just to stand in a crowded church with a megaphone shouting, “you don’t have to live this way!” But that would accomplish nothing. If your spouse is not making the journey with you, of course that adds a level of complication. Maybe, try to explain to the point they chose to listen, then do your best to trust God for the rest.

4. Ladies, the outward change is difficult I’m not going to lie. If you are like I was, I had no idea how to shop for clothes! It was so overwhelming looking at the different cuts and sizes of jeans! Give yourself grace. Wear whatever you’re comfortable in, and know that your style will evolve over the next few seasons. You are no doubt going to have a bad haircut or two. Your makeup is probably not going to look like a runway model. Eyeliner is difficult! But I promise, if you just keep practicing, it gets better!

5. Community. Super important! If you don’t know anyone personally who has made the same journey, find some online support groups. It will be easy to seclude yourself during this time, but try not to. If you need pointed in the right direction, let me know I can hook you up!

6. Realize you are not alone! This kind of goes with the last one, but when we left our UPC church I felt like I had lost everyone. I felt so very alone. But know there are others who have walked this path, and while you may feel lonely now, with time you will make connections. It is amazing how many people have ties to toxic churches.

7. Research and learn to recognize the signs of toxic relationships and the proper terms to describe them. I healed so much by recognizing that what happened to me has a name.

8. Don’t be surprised if people from your past life reach out to you. It will probably shock you how many people are actually questioning.

9. Don’t feel like you have to jump feet first into a new church right away. It’s okay to take a break for a while. No where in the Bible does it say a prerequisite to heaven is attending a church building three times a week. If you do find such a verse, please let me know!

10. Lastly, and this is very important! Know that people of “the world” don’t care a bit about seeing your upper arms or legs. This is a myth that the UPC is really good at drilling into people’s heads. Especially the women! Like I already said, wear what you’re comfortable in, but for you, not anyone else. Forget the notion that as you walk down the street in a tank top and shorts on a ninety degree day every man you pass is drooling over your shoulder blades and “lusting”. Of course there are creepers in the world, I am not negating that fact, but there are far more normal people who are used to seeing that kind of dress and don’t think twice about it. I could go on forever about the hyper-sexualization in the UPC, but I won’t. Just know when you feel a weird twinge the first time you show any skin that has never seen the light of day before, most likely it is not conviction. It is simply a remnant of your past and it goes away with time with no detriment to you. You are NOT backsliding!

I hope this blog will come in handy to someone at some point. And if you ever find yourself needing additional support, as always feel free to reach out!

One more thing, we are coming up on the one year anniversary of “Free”! I can’t even believe the response that little book has received! Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for updates about that!

God bless you on your journey to freedom!

The Repercussions of Modesty Culture Gone Wrong

I am currently sitting outside on my back deck enjoying the beautiful evening listening to the birds. They sound so carefree, and they should be! The Bible makes it clear God Himself takes care of them. Oh to be a sparrow, and by nature fully trust in God for our every need. Why do I worry, really?

I saw something this week that has stuck with me. Little girls trying to play outside in long skirts.

It seems that this small observation would be completely harmless. But the realization of the matter is, it is incredibly harmful.

I could see myself in those little girls, I could see my daughter. Fast forward to four years after we left the UPCI (Emancipation Day is in my calendar this week!) and I am still picking up the pieces of myself that I lost as a child. I am still watching my own daughter navigate through the remnants of her past in the organization.

You see, these little girls have no voice. They have no identity. They have no choice. As I was, they are being taught from birth that the very God that watches so closely over the sparrows is so harsh towards them that he cares about every stitch of clothing they are wearing. They are being taught that by wearing certain articles of clothing it would make men sin by lusting over them. They are learning to be ashamed of their bodies as God designed them and learning to hide their curves at all costs. They are losing little bits of themselves every single day.

I am heartbroken, even now. These little girls are why I can’t stay silent. Years of these teachings create seemingly irreparable consequences. Small blows to their self-esteem build up and cause incredible damage to a woman’s psyche.

I know. I’ve been there. I am still there. Not as I was before, but definitely still there.

Building self-esteem takes time. After having your identity ripped from you your entire life, it takes lots of time to figure yourself out.

I have written about modesty from a Biblical perspective recently, https://findingmyfreedomdoingmylife.com/2020/02/07/the-oxymoron-of-modesty/, however, my burden this week has been the long term effects.

Being told what you can and cannot wear every single day, having ingrained in your brain only certain types of women wear those clothes, being constantly hyper aware of every male around you takes a toll.

Most women, by the time they are adults, have adapted a certain style, perfected a makeup routine, accumulated the perfect jewelry collection to match their outfits. Have taken a dance class or played a sport. Not me. Not the girls I was observing.

We get to struggle as adults to figure us out. We get to have fitting room meltdowns, wear awkward clothing as we try to navigate the world of women’s jeans, watch countless makeup tutorials on YouTube only to get overwhelmed in an Ulta and walk out with nothing. We are the women who are ashamed of our bodies, incapable of taking a compliment, and mistrust every man ever.

We are the collateral damage of a church organization ran by man-made rules.

We are the repercussions of the men who always have to be in charge of the women.

We are the victims of modesty culture gone wrong.

But, guess what? I now have a voice! I am now capable of standing on my own two feet, making my own decisions, and speaking out against this damaging mindset!

And I intend to.

As long as there are little girls trying to run around in a long skirt, I will speak up.

I will be their voice.

I owe it to the little girl I once was.

She deserves it.

Finding Friendship

After my last blog post, those of you who read it were probably left questioning my sanity. Today is another day, however, and and my emotional well being has improved. Part of my healing process has been learning to allow myself to feel. Admitting to and experiencing the highs and the lows has proven to be a slight challenge for me, but I am doing better at it! It feels good not to feel like a walking zombie all of the time!

Something beautiful happened to me this week and I wanted to share. But first, a little background.

Not to pat myself on the back at all, trust me I have many flaws, but I am a giver and a fixer by nature. Acts of service is my primary love language, so I tend to show my affection in the same way. It’s just my personality. Drives my husband crazy at times because he has other strengths and sometimes he feels like I commit to and give too much. He is probably right. But, however, right or wrong, this is my way of showing love, and also feeling loved.

As most everyone knows, and many of you can relate, when we left our UPC church nearly four years ago, we lost many people whom we considered friends. The system makes keeping relationships with those inside the church nearly impossible. I’m not saying it cannot ever be done. I have one dear friend left from my past life who’s friendship is still strong. However, it stung quite a bit when she recently said, talking about some topics is now “off limits”. So while we are still close, I would be a fool to consider our friendship unscathed.

There were very lonely times for me in the first two years out. I am a woman, I like to be able to text a friend when I find a cute pair of shoes on sale, or if have a bad day. Those types of relationships were nonexistent during that time. I discovered fairly quickly those whom I had considered close as family, were friends with me simply out of convenience. We were not friends because we had shared interests, or got along so well. We were in a friendship for the simple reasons, we attended the same church, we were at the same practices, rallies, and conventions. We were merely in the same places at the same time. Convenience. When it came right down to it, when we were forced to make any sort of effort, the relationship wasn’t deep enough to bother. From my point of view, I felt like I tried, but at some point, it is just too exhausting to carry on a one sided relationship and so I allowed them all to fizzle out. Looking back now, those relationships all seem very superficial and conditional.

Ouch.

Are there friendships that exist without these faux pas?

There are many factors that come into play when talking about this side of leaving a toxic church, I’m not going to go into all of them now, but long story short, I found myself lonely and friendless.

But, it does get better. We don’t stay in valleys forever! Working through many of my hurts and hangups has allowed my heart to heal enough to begin putting myself in vulnerable positions in order for friendships to flourish. I wrote a blog about this very thing in December of 2018, https://findingmyfreedomdoingmylife.wordpress.com/2018/12/11/love/

When I wrote this, nearly a year and a half ago, I was in the beginning stages of forming true relationships with people. It makes my heart happy to see the growth in myself!

Now about the something beautiful I was going to tell you about!

While video chatting (because that’s the new norm these days) with a couple of amazing women the other day, one of my sweet friends began opening up about how her family is going through some financial struggles during this time. The economy is a mess right now, I know many people are having similar issues. After having great prayer and a small boohooing session, we ended the chat with “I love you’s” all the way around. It was what my soul truly needed that day.

The next day, I was at the grocery store and my friend came to mind, I picked up a gift card and slipped it into her mailbox anonymously. I just wanted to bless her and her family with what I could.

The following day, we were all chatting once again, talking about the economy and the stimulus checks that were scheduled to be issued. I mentioned how I was waiting impatiently for mine because my unemployment benefits had yet to be paid out. Our checking account was running dangerously low.

It wasn’t two minutes later and the sweet friend whom I had given the gift card to messaged me that she had sent me some cash to carry us through until we got our check!

I looked in my account and it was the same amount as the gift card I had anonymously given to her! This amazing friend had unknowingly, passed her much needed blessing onto me without even any questioning or hesitation!

I was speechless and began bawling on the spot. I knew she needed the money, yet, she was willing to share her blessing with me, with zero terms or conditions! Who does that?!

Like I said before, act of service is my love language. Many times I think acts of service and gifts go hand in hand. It wasn’t so much that she gave me something, it’s that she gave without me asking and without expectations of me doing something for her in return!

Is this real life?

I have been chewing this over in my mind for the last few days. It’s not that this dear lady and I have a long standing friendship. We have only known each other for a couple of years, a drop in the bucket compared to many other people I know. But the quality of friendship far surpasses the quantity of years of the friendship.

Does this mean everyone I am friends with has to start giving me money? Clearly, not. I am not trying to sound superficial. But the thoughtfulness and selflessness of her act touched my soul in a deep way.

Philippians 2:3 says this:

Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself

Her blessing to me far surpassed the monetary gift, it was the motivation behind it. There truly are genuine people in the world, and there is hope to have authentic, unconditional relationships.

My sweet friend proved that.

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.

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

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.