Restless

My friend Megan was having a rough day a few months ago and she decided to read her Bible as she lay on the sofa. She started reading Philippians and was reminded that God was asking her to be content regardless of her situation. I kind of forget about that verse/conversation until a few weeks ago when I was reading though Philippians. I underlined it and then forgot about it again. The verses?

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

And that brings me to today. I have been feeling very discontent (which doesn’t even sound like a real word!) for the last few weeks and I haven’t been able to place a finger on it. Yesterday, during a trip to IKEA with Megan, I spoke aloud what it is that has been making me feel unsettled (or restless as I’ve described it to several people in recent days): This is the first time in basically my entire walk with Christ (which I’ll say has been since I was 13, so in 16 years, or more than half of my life) I have ever felt ready to just abandon it all and leave.

I don’t want to justify my lack of peace right now. In this moment, I need to learn to be content. I was talking with Megan’s husband recently and was trying to explain all of this to him. He told me, “You know, it could be that you just need to be obedient to being where you are. God might just be asking that you be willing, and He might not have you go anywhere but where you are.” The moral? Be content in whatever state I’m in, even in the things that I don’t want. Especially in those things that I don’t want.

I’m miserable at work. I work in education and I really love the people with whom I work, but when I see how we spend an incredible amount of money on iPads, all I can think about is how that money could have been used to educate hundreds of kids in Africa. How that money could have bought them food and medication and clothing on top of their education. I spend days working through and against the bureaucracy that isn’t the fault of my boss or her boss, but is just what happens in this field. It’s hard to imagine that I need to be content in this state. (Literally, too. How can anyone be content in California? Wah way wah.)

One of the meanings of “content” in the original Greek is independent of external circumstances. Yeah. I need to be able to be independent of those things. Maybe God is calling me to be obedient at my place of employment simple because it’s a lesson I need to learn. And maybe — hopefully, I pray! — learning to be content in all things is simply a lesson that is part of the larger picture, one where I will not be in this place with waste. I can’t wait to be in a place, whether’s in a ministry here in the United States or somewhere overseas, where I get to give to those who have nothing to spare.

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This girl

My dad works every other weekend in his job as a police officer and this weekend, my mom went a ride along with him. Since I’m off work on Fridays over the summer, I offered to watch my sister today (she is eight) so my mom wouldn’t have to find a sitter for her. I haven’t gotten to spend as much time with her over the last few months as I normally do so it was nice to get to be there with her when she woke up. I’ve got a few random pictures of her I want to post… because man, I love this kid.

She got her first new belt in jiu jitsu on Tuesday! I am so proud of her. She is totally not a competitive kid and never really loved any of the things whose goal was to win (like soccer!), but she really likes jiu jitsu and it’s so good for her. I’m glad our parents encourage her to try new things and let her stick with the ones she likes.

With her Professor (left) and other teachers after she got the new belt. Now she just has to get four white stripes, four red stripes, and four black stripes before she gets a new belt. Each stripe takes about a month to get, if she goes twice a week, so it’ll be another year. Still, as the sign in the studio says: “A black belt is a white belt who never quits!”

On Wednesday she became a third grader! My heart! The picture on the left was taken by mama on the first day of second grade, in August, and the one on the left was taken on Wednesday. She obviously didn’t grow as much as these pictures make it seem (I’m much taller than our mom and took the picture on the right so the angles are totally off!), but still — look at how her face has changed! She has matured so much during the last ten months. I am going to miss her second grade teacher. It’s too bad they don’t track with their students!

After school on Wednesday, she hung out in my office for several hours because Mama had to clean up after graduation (Mama’s school has its graduation in the gym of the college where I work). Charisse say a book she wrote in kindergarten that I’ve kept tacked to my office bulletin board because I think it’s funny (it’s fill-in-the-blank stuff, and she filled in the “On rainy days my worm ____” blank with “likes to show his butt.” Hah!), and she was inspired to write me one called “Three things I will always say!” I had to convince her to add an “n” in the word “funky” because without the n… well, it sounded like something an eight-year-old should not be writing!

Today we went to IHOP for breakfast and she beat me twice at tic-tac-toe (and I didn’t let her win!). The first game ended in a cat’s game. After I told her that she shouldn’t eat until her belly hurt, but eat slowly so her body had time to register that her belly was full, she taught me this gem: “If you were ever in a bacon eating contest, you just have to each as much as you can before seven minutes because that’s how long it takes for your brain to know your belly has food in it.” She loves science so I thought maybe she learned that in science class, but when I asked her where she learned it, she said, “On tv! See, tv can teach you things!” Um, not really the best argument, my love.

The rest of our day. We made a lemonade cake. Alas, we put it in a bundt cake pan, and even after letting it cool for two hours, I could not get it out of the pan (and I sprayed that sucker, too!). Oh well. She also worked on a painting and a homemade popup card for a friend’s birthday party today. She is so creative and I love it! (I also love that I can take credit for being the one to teach her how to make a popup card!)

I love this kid so much more than I have words to express. She brings me such joy and laughter (and yes, even a little frustration and impatience, but it is so worth it getting to be her big sissy!). During the graduation ceremony we were at on Wednesday (for our mom’s school), I was almost in tears the entire time, thinking about how in ten years, we will be attending Charisse’s graduation. I know it seems a little bit ridiculous to think about ten years down the road because it’s so far away — but honestly, if you told me eight years ago, when she was only a few months old, that she’d be a reading, science-loving, school-rocking eight year old, and that it would feel like but a moment since since she was born, I would have scoffed at you. It really, truly has flown by, these eight years.

I’ll try

One of my new year’s resolutions/goals this year was to read through the New Testament. I’m only a few books away from finishing, and I’ve got to say — I’m super excited about it. This is the first time I’ve ever taken time to read my Bible regularly and with the intent of learning. I feel like this was such a topical read, though. I rarely used a study Bible, only looked up a few words in a concordance, and didn’t use a lot of other sources to do any deep digging. I’m okay with that, though, because I feel like I needed to read once for simply the sake of reading, and I’ll spend the rest of my life reading for the deeper understanding and knowledge that comes with spending time in the word.

Anyhow, when I was only a month or two in, I started to — pretty randomly — read Ephesians in addition to wherever I was in the Gospels at that point. I stopped after the first chapter but so much of what I read is underlined and highlighted. (There is nothing I love more than seeing a Bible with lots of writing and underlining and highlighting and love! My Bible has really narrow margins and I have yet to find one that has them, at least not without buying the Bible online first and returning it if it’s not a good fit, so… if you have a NKJV translation with wide margins, hook a sister up!) The other day, I was thinking about these verses as I grabbed lunch. I had just reread them in my through-the-NT journey and they were really resonating with me.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

(Side note: I love to talk to myself while I’m driving. It’s how I process my thoughts, by thinking out loud, and it has always been super helpful to me. In fact, if I know I have a tough conversation coming up, I “rehearse” while I drive — I have that conversation with myself, playing both sides, with every possible outcome in mind. It really helps me prepare and organize my often-scattered thoughts.)

Okay, so I was driving back to work, thinking out loud about the first few verses of Ephesians one. Here’s what my thought process sounded like:

“He chose us. We’re chosen by Him. And we’re predestined — I wonder what the word means. And he accepts us. We’re redeemed, and forgiven. He has given us an inheritance and He purchased us. What do all of these things have in common that they’d be included together in this chapter?”

And then it came to me. Every. Single. One. Of those actions is not accidental or done by chance — they’re all intentional, purposeful actions. And by being purposeful and intentional, they really highlight the sovereignty of God.

I promise I won’t write specifically on this topic every day. But it’s so prevalent in my mind right now because I’m trying to adjust the way I’m living my life. I cannot help but think of it today.

Given this thought, I just had to look up the words from these verses (in the context of the verses, of course!) in their original language:

  • Chose: to pick out, to choose, to pick or choose out for one’s self
  • Predestined: to foreordain, to appoint beforehand
  • Accepted: to make graceful; to peruse with grace, compass with favor; to honor with blessings
  • Redemption: a releasing effected by payment of ransom
  • Forgiveness: release from bondage or imprisonment
  • Inheritance: an inheritance, property received (or to be received) by inheritance
  • Purchase: a preserving, a preservation

None of these things is a “whoops-look-what-happened-when-I-wasn’t-looking” action. They were all done beforehand. They were done with the knowledge who we as human beings are. They are done with love and with compassion. God is purposeful; it only makes sense that I live my life the same way, right? I’m not sovereign God. I’m just human Krista, and regardless of how I try to live my life, I’m still a sinner, and I will mess up. I feel like that’s what a lot of people use as an argument against Christianity. “If you’re just going to mess up anyway, why try?” Because it makes sense to try. I’ll mess up less — and in smaller ways! — when I am actively pursuing living a life to honor a sovereign God.

So, that’s it. I will try.

Equipped

I have a hard time believing God will ever use me. I mean, let’s be real. I am so not he only person with this issue. I think anyone who has had a past, and most of us have things we were ashamed of or are still ashamed of (hi, my name is Krista and I fit into both of those categories). I really, really struggle with this. As much work as I think God has done, as much as I feel I am moving forward, there are always things that remind me that isn’t fully the case. Want an example?

When I was 15, I had this super sketchy boyfriend. He was 21. Did I mention I was 15? Yeah, I don’t think I need to say anymore, because there’s only one thing that a 21-year-old man wants with a 15-year-old girl. And you know what? Even though I went to church and I knew what I was supposed to do, I had a lot of issues in my life that meant I did what I knew I shouldn’t.

I’ll cut to the chase. I was 15, and I found myself in the bathroom of friend’s house, peeing on a stick. Within seconds, there it was.

Two pink lines.

In the moments right after I confirmed that two pink lines indeed meant I was pregnant, I formed a plan. I had been using drugs the entire time I dated Chris, so I was just convinced that I would have a sick or deformed baby. I lived with my grandma, sleeping on the floor of her bedroom, and I had another million odds against me. So I decided that the only option I had was to have an abortion.

I did, several weeks later. It was both the easiest and the hardest thing I have ever done. Oh, to be sure I knew at 15 I wanted to be a mom. That part of me struggled. The part of me who told no one except my boyfriend struggled with a decision that was too big for someone to make alone. The part of me that had been so staunchly pro-life grieved for what I was doing and for what I knew I would lose when it was all done. But the part of me that was alone also thought it would be the fastest way to end what I had started without thinking about the consequences. The part of me who had fought her entire life to not be a statistic was convinced that this was the easiest, simplest route.

I won’t get into the details, but suffice it to say that it was possibly the most physically and emotionally and spiritually painful experience I have lived through. What I thought would “make the problem go away” is something I am only dealing with now, nearly 14 years later.

When I started going to church again, I was a die-hard Democrat. Now, I know loving Jesus isn’t about being a Democrat or Republican or a whatever-acan. But I was the person who actually, embarrassingly said to others, “Oh, you’re a Republican?” with distaste. I cringe to think about how close-minded I was. And I embraced everything people on the left embraced, including being adamantly pro-choice. Total opposite side of the spectrum I’d sat on 14 years ago. I felt immense pressure when I committed, after a few weeks, to attending my new church regularly. Pressure to conform to a conservative belief system. Pressure to suddenly, drastically change overnight. I felt suddenly, horribly uncomfortable whenever anyone brought up the a-word.

So I took a deep breath and I sad, “All right, God. Here’s the deal. I’ve lived this fleshy life for too long to just stop feeling the way I feel. I know what Your word says. I know what those supporting and encouraging me in Your way say. So I’m going to do my very best to be neutral, and I’m going to ask you to change all of the parts of me that need to be changed.” I prayed it in various forms for months. For more than a year. I prayed it with a monotone voice and tears in my eyes. I prayed it out loud and in my head and during church and while I lay drifting off to sleep. I lived, during this entire time, in a world of “I don’t know.” I just kept repeating that prayer.

Here’s a piece of advice. Do not ever, ever pray that prayer if you don’t actually want to be changed.

God took me for my word and saw I really meant it when I said that because slowly, too slowly to notice at first, I changed. It was a thought here or a thought there, and then one day I was put in the position of counseling a family friend to have an abortion. She was given my number and told, “Call Krista. She can tell you her experience.” I freaked out when I was told this. I panicked. First of all, I felt a little betrayed by someone using me as a weapon to harm and not to help someone. I felt betrayed that people I loved would sell my story, basically, without thinking about how it was my story to tell. But more importantly?

I. Could. Not. Do. It.

The girl never called me. If she had, I could not have told her to have an abortion. What I would tell her was that I regretted it every day, that even though I had moved on and forward, it was still a spot that was tender in my heart. I would have counseled her to keep her baby and parent, or to keep her baby and give it up for adoption. But never in a million years would I have told her to have an abortion.

God had changed me.

And then, suddenly, He was like, “Not only have I changed you, but I’m calling you to action.” I started seeing information about abortion and crisis pregnancy centers everywhere. I though, okay, maybe I’m just more sensitive to these things and I’m just noticing them more than I am actually seeing more of them showing up.

Negative. Nega-freaking-tive.

I heard sermons about helping pregnancy centers. I had conversations initiated with me by people who would never, ever talk about abortion with me — but did randomly. Things in movies and ads, creepy stalker ads on Facebook, questions asked by the least likely people: God was nudging me to get involved. But I kept putting it off because hello? How could I ever counsel a woman not to have an abortion when I had one myself?

Last weekend (and by that I mean two days ago) at the Women of Faith One Day event in Long Beach, Christine Caine kept saying something that is still echoing within me: “You can start bad and end good.”

I started bad. So, so bad. But I want to — and I can! — end so, so good.

For two months now I have been fighting with myself and with Satan over the incredible fear I have felt regarding this. It’s a seriously ridiculous thing to fear, but fear it I did. Every time I thought about taking action, my palms got sweaty, my heart raced, and I felt like I would barf right where I was standing. I’m not really what I would call a nervous person. But this fear and anxiety and stress? Yeah, it was way too real. So I just did something, and prayed that I could be bold enough to do what God was calling me to do before it was too late and He asked someone else to do it instead.

Yesterday at church, I did something I have never done in the 21 months I’ve sat in the second row front the front, on the right hand side. I filled out the information card and checked the box that said I’d like to work in our community with our local crisis pregnancy center. I dropped it in the offering basket. My hands didn’t tremble and I didn’t feel like puking. Because, also as Christine Caine said on Saturday, “You can use your past to give someone else a future.” It didn’t scare me anymore.

My ability to move forward isn’t because I have changed to much since Friday night, when I was still terrified, still saying “NO!” to God. What changed is that He changed me. He has changed my heart so many times and so many ways over the last few years that I can’t help but marvel and laugh at Who He is. As if I needed any more evidence of His hands in all of this, last night I was reading 2 Corinthians when I came across this:

And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have. For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.
— 2 Corinthians 8:10 – 12

I just smiled. And then made that verse my facebook status and posted it on twitter. And highlighted it and underlined it in my Bible. It’s true what they say: God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.

I don’t know how I will be used or if I will be used in this area. But my fervent prayer is that I never stop pleading with God, with all of my heart, to use me to His glory and for His kingdom.

The first time

An Introduction:
This is going to be a place where I share about live life intentionally. But first, I think it’s important that I share my story. Because living intentionally in my shoes means understanding where I’ve come from. It’s got a lot of parts, this story, so bear with me as I share them slowly.

The story:
The day I walked into the church for the first time, my hands shook and if I hadn’t thrown on a pair of flop flops, my feet would have been slipping and sliding in my shoes, too. It was late September, hotter than normal, even for Southern California and the warm, late summers I’d grown up with. But I was sweating more than usual, too. I could feel the arms of my dress dampen the closer I got to the church. As soon as I got there and found my friend Megan, the introductions began. Lots of people’s hands in my hands, and names I felt I’d never remember. I was so hot. My legs stuck together when I walked and I regretted the dress – shorts would have been a much better choice. No one else was really dressed up at this church. After saying hello to hundreds of people, Megan took us to our seats, the second row on the right. She offered to sit wherever I wanted, even if that meant the back, but I reasoned that if I could drag myself to church, I might as well get the best seat in the house.

Being in church wasn’t new for me. For most of my high school years, church was a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday deal. I wasn’t raised by a family who was overtly religious; in fact, it wasn’t until I was in middle school and attended a play called “Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames” that I became a Christian. I’d sporadically attended services on Christmas Eve at various churches growing up, wherever worked with our schedule that year, but it was never a regular thing. The church I began attending after seeing “Heaven’s Gates” was my home away from home for the rest of middle school. But then the youth pastor left, and some new friends I made in high school invited me to their church. My middle school church was a Baptist church with an older congregation, and its dark walls and deep green wooden pews inspired quiet and propriety. But the Pentecostal church I began attending at 14 was much more lively, with clapping hands and people should “Amen!” and “Hallelujah!” during the service. It was there I made the first real friends I’d ever had, even if we weren’t really friends back then – they’re the ones I’m close to now.

Sometimes when I think about my time at this church, all I can see in my mind is the ugly, bitter end: the name-calling and character-bashing and gossip and deceit. The shame and humiliation I felt every day for two years. There’s no doubt that it wasn’t a healthy church. But I have to allow myself to look deeper than that. Because while it’s easy to remember the horrible times I had, there is so much I am thankful for: laughter and winter camps and growing up in a world that was safer from some of the external pressures of being a teenager (which is funny to think about now, when the rest of my story is one of pressure taking over my life). For the better part of three years, my Fridays and Saturdays were spent at my friends’ homes, having dinner with their parents and watching movies and doing hair in their bedrooms. If I’m being honest, I’ll be the first to admit that church was its own microcosm of the real world, and there were pressures we all faced (and I was certainly no stranger to those pressures, having fallen deep into them in during high school) but I also have to admit that in the somewhat-sheltered walls of that church, I was more protected than I might have been – but I wasn’t as protected as I should have been, and I wasn’t as loved as I should have been when everything fell apart. This is why I remember the end so quickly, why it’s those moments of hurt that radiate from everything I had to offer that rise to the surface more quickly than the sleepovers and giggles and friends and vacations. In the end, it was the end that mattered the most.

I walked away from this church so quickly and with such a wounded spirit, I swore I would never go to church again. And for nearly ten years I didn’t, at least not regularly. For Christmas Eve services I still attended that church with my friend Steph’s family, more out of tradition and expectation than want. I disregarded God and His plan, but somehow I maintained and developed friendships with the girls who were once the ones who brought me pain during the years where I wanted nothing to do with church. It’s funny the plans God had for me… The breadcrumbs He laid on the ground for me to follow seemed so random and disconnected, but they are so clear to me now. Throughout the years preceeding that sunny, overheated September day, I heard something in the very core of my soul – but I refused to fully listen or acknowledge it. It was there, but it was never allowed to fully surface.

One of my friends from high school was Steph, and even though I lived with her family during my senior year of high school, I wasn’t sure if we would stay close after I graduated. But we did, and God really strengthened that friendship in ways that I had nothing to do with my ability. Because of that friendship, Steph introduced me to a mutual friend, Megan, and Megan and I became friends on facebook. Her faith inspired me, and that voice I kept hearing in the back of my head, the one that had been there for years, was so loud and clear to me. It was God, calling me because to Him, waiting for me patiently and ready to embrace me. My own close friends were going through so many of their own trials at that time, so it was Megan to whom I reached out, and it was her who invited me to visit her church, Calvary Chapel, and it was the doors of Calvary Chapel I walked into the exceptionally warm Sunday morning in late September, sweaty palms, wrinkled dress, and all.

New

This post will most likely get deleted at some point. Maybe not. I’m nice and indecisive like that.

Anyhow, I need a sample post up here because I’m working on editing and desiginging (to the best of my ability) this new blog, with all its widgets and gadgets and other “ets” before I officially announce it to my people. I’ve never had a blog that I make readily avabilable to anyone who reads it, so I want to be as okay with it as possible before I launch it out into the interwebs.

Here goes nothin’!