Slow things

I keep sitting down to write but these words won’t come.

I can feel them. They’re trapped. I want the flowing and the pretty words. The wise words and the words that express everything I need to say.

But they’re dammed up inside of me. Not like they used to, when all I felt was frustration — not frustration at the lack of words, but frustration at life. At feeling invincible, like no one saw me — feeling that I didn’t matter.

It’s different now. I matter to Him. He sees me.

And suddenly, all of the words that I have, that I long to write, they’re beautiful. I want to write stories and posts and poems that give people hope. I want to share the joy of Jesus with others. I want my “little darlings” to be soft and tender and poignant and raw and moving.

How frustrating for me to feel like I have all of those things trapped inside of me and yet they can’t get out. I know they’re there. I know they will come. I don’t think I’d love words so much if they weren’t intended to be used or said or spoken. But I’m ready to use them.

Now, please, Lord.

I’m not patient, so why must these words be patient? I want them to flow freely. I want to close my eyes and let my fingers fly across the keyboard. When I first realized I knew how to type without looking at the keys, I was in bed, in the dark, trying to fall asleep. My eyes were closed and I pictured a keyboard and there, in my mind, I could see each letter. I wrote words and sentences and paragraphs as I drifted off to sleep.

That. I want to see the words as easily as I did then. Perhaps — certainly — it was because I wasn’t searching for them.

And as I write, maybe that’s the lesson I am meant to learn.

Perhaps — certainly — it was because I wasn’t searching for them.

They just came to me, sweet and slow. They weren’t begging to get out, banging in my skull. When I didn’t think and I didn’t fight for them, they came.

God reminds me as I write of the slow things.

Certainly His salvation was not slow for me. My acceptance of it was, but His plan for me all along — it wasn’t ever slow. It was before I was.

But these things beautiful and lovely in my life? Most of them came in slow ways, as I waited with high hopes and heavy heart break. I wanted and begged for many of them and others I went into against my better judgement or by the will of others.

When I was suffering, when I longed to be free from those who hurt me and the hurts I choose to haunt myself with, time slowed.
When I walked away and said “I quit,” when I couldn’t look Him in the face, movement nearly ceased.
When I begged for Him to change me, and change seemed to come too painfully for my liking, time was frozen, drifting by so slowly that it stilled to be entirely still.

I am reminded, over and over again in the course of my life, of how He crafted the ways in which He would use these slow moments.

He said, “I will use all things for good for those who love me, who are called according to My purpose.”

I have waited for years. Not patiently. Almost never patiently. I have tried to use my life, the long way around that I’ve taken, my own way. The way of the world. And I’ve grieved because of it. I’ve suffered and cried as I’ve tried, swiftly, to rush my life and my dreams against the grain of His goodness.

He said, “Be still and hold your peace. I am fighting for you.”

I’ve bought into being strong. There was no need to be slow and patient because I had strength instead. I rarely allowed my proud fighting spirit to freeze, to let Him take over for me. I punched the promises of Jesus as I struggled to beat the rest of the world into knowing my might.

And He said “I will use it for good. They meant it for evil, but I will make it good.”

I’ve wept bitterly. I have been broken. I have been angry and I have hated and I have lied. And I have used it for evil. Every hurtful thing, every word and action — I have taken them and used them in a world in a way that is evil and against His word. Yet He was taken them back and returned to me the very things I used to harm for His good instead, for the saving of lives.

And still, He said, “I am redeeming you, girl. I’ve bought you with a price and you’re Mine. You’re more than paid for. Don’t you know, love, that you have been mine since before time began? Now stop fighting. Be. Still.”

He is my slow and still and sweet thing. Not because He is slow and still, but because He asks for me to be slow and still, and He has waited for me since before time began. Before I numbered these hours and years, before I could be impatient about the words and the world, He knew me. He said, “I will wait for her.” He is long-suffering and He knows me by name.

I will take the long way for Him. I will watch Him as He continues to write me, the words of who I am, slow and still and every so sweetly, for His grander glory.

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Champion for life

I’ve written ad nausem about my volunteer work with the Pregnancy Center and my thoughts on abortion and my own walk with God. It’s been part of my own need to be intentional with my walk with God. And honestly, it’s been hard. It’s been a really hard, ugly, painful journey. I’ve cried. I’ve seriously ugly-cried when I didn’t want to, in front of friends who were supportive and showed me the love and grace of God. I’ve resisted and punched pillows and begged God to just make it easy, not painful.

But God has chosen to have me walk through the pain anyway. While I wouldn’t willingly choose it, He chose it for me and so I walked through it — and I know I will continue to walk through it as He continues His healing work in my life — and I will do it with joy in my heart because He has chosen what is best for me. Painful though it may be, knowing that He’s got only my best interests in mind is comforting.

About a week and a half ago, the director the Pregnancy Center pulled me aside right after a counseling session. My first thought was that I had accidentally said or some something wrong, but as soon as we went into her office, she told me, “Well, as you know we have time scheduled at the banquet for client testimonials. We only have one person for sure and another who can’t be there but wants me to read a letter that she’s written. So…”

It’s at this point that I started to laugh. It wasn’t nervous laughter, exactly, or out of fear and excitement. I just couldn’t stop myself. I think I was really laughing at God and His timing because I had just, maybe three weeks earlier, given the most crazy-fast testimony of my life at School of Ministry. I was totally not prepared for it but I just felt like it was something I needed to do. And there I was, at work, with my boss about to ask me to fill in the missing client testimonial with my own story of how God came in and rocked my world.

So as I sat there in my supervisor’s office, laughing like a straight up mad woman, I completely felt God’s calling and I didn’t need to take the time to say yes. He was only just confirming that He wanted me to do this, and I knew based on my SoM testimony and some other stuff that’s been going on that He was ready for me to take this opportunity.

I prepared two versions of my speech, one long and the other short. I didn’t know until I got up there and spoke which one I’d have time for. I gave the short version but in the end, I could have given the long one. It’s funny — usually when I am speaking I feel really nervous, but I still love getting up there and doing it anyway. The night I shared my testimony at SoM, I was shaking and my heart was racing. But at the banquet, I felt a sense of peace and comfort and calm that literally was something only God could have provided me with. If 60 people and my pastor make me nervous, logic says 300 people and my pastor would make me about three times as nervous — but I was utterly calm.

I enjoyed my time up there and while I don’t have a video of it, I would like to share what I talked about. I didn’t give the speech exactly this was because I got up there and did my own thing, but this was the rough outline of my talk. I’m warning you; it’s long!

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The Ventura County Pregnancy Center was a ministry I never wanted to support. I don’t want to ruin the end of this story, but given the fact that you see me up here tonight, I think it’s fair for you to assume, correctly, that God utterly rocked my world and changed my heart. But you should know before I came to support what the Center does, I wanted to run away from it and everything it stood for.

I found myself pregnant at the beginning of my sophomore year of high school. I was 15 and dating a much older boy. It was a recipe for disaster, but I didn’t really have any rules or restrictions at home because I was a good kid. I got above-average grades, I was polite and well-spoken, and above all else, I willingly went to church regularly. My family wasn’t religious or even spiritual, but they loved that I had a solid group of friends who knew right from wrong and didn’t get into trouble. When I found out, alone in a friend’s bathroom, that I was pregnant, I knew instantly I would have an abortion, regardless of what I knew about human life from church. I didn’t want anyone to think any less of me for getting pregnant so young, so my boyfriend drove me to an abortion clinic on a Saturday morning in January, just a few weeks after I found out, and he drove me to his apartment to spend the night that evening.

Not long after that, maybe just a few months, the youth leaders at my church pulled me aside. They had somehow found out about my pregnancy and subsequent abortion, and in order for me to stay on the youth leadership team, I had to take a post-abortion Bible study called Healing Hearts. The women in the group were all very sweet but I was 15 years old and the only reason I was there was because I wanted to be able to check off the box that said “Krista can be a youth leader again.” I finished the study and even though I wanted to be anywhere but there for those few hours a week, God planted seeds in me that I wouldn’t see bloom until many years later. Even though I was just checking off a box, being in the Healing Hearts class reminded me that life has so much value, not just a baby but our lives as women and mothers as well, and it also showed me the tremendous love of God. A few years after I’d taken the class, I left the church with a very angry and bitter heart.

For almost ten years, I lived this angry, broken life. And in the shuffle of me losing my religion and God, I became a champion of the pro-choice cause. I was incredibly vocal about women and their right to choose what they wanted to do with their bodies, regardless of what I’d learned when I took the Healing Hearts class. After all, I reasoned, I absolutely had to support a cause that allowed me to graduate high school, go to college, and earn a graduate degree when no one else in my family had before.

One image in particular from this time that stands out to me is when I was in my final semester of grad school. I studied school counseling and took many counseling courses, followed by several internships. My first internship was at UCSB and at the intern desk where I sat, I stared at the iconic blue circle poster that read, in giant letters, KEEP ABORTION LEGAL. I took a picture of it and posted it on facebook, so proud of myself for standing up for the rights of women and fighting for men to keep their hands off of my reproductive rights.

It was around that time that God began tugging at my heart and calling me back to church. I reached out a new friend, Megan, and started talking to her about God. Megan encouraged me to attend her church and with a lot of trepidation, I did. It ended up being a very welcoming place, but I still felt out of place. I still was clinging so tightly to some of my old beliefs, such as still being pro-choice, and so in a fit of desperation I began praying, “God, change me in the ways You need to change me.” It was almost a constant prayer because I wanted so badly to not be the person I was before, but I was struggling to let go of this pro-choice identity that I created for myself.

About 18 months after starting this new church, Megan and I had a conversation about teenage girls getting pregnant. I’d never told her before about my own experience and so that day I nervously I told her, “I was one of those girls. And I felt like the only thing I could do was to have an abortion.” Before, when I told people these this, their response was something along the lines of “I’m so sorry you had to make that choice, but I’m so thankful you had that choice.” They really encouraged my pro-choice identity that I’d constructed for myself. Megan’s response was so different: “I’m so sorry that happened and I just want you to know how much God loves you.” It completely threw me off. I was prepared for judgment and shame, but what I felt instead was acceptance and grace and God’s love.

That began the journey that lead me to realizing that the Pregnancy Center was something I would eventually support. Looking back, I clearly see that God was calling me to become a champion for life, even if I couldn’t deal with that truth yet. Everywhere I went, I encountered conversations about abortion or about being pro-life. I heard things at church and on the radio and while talking to friends who had never spoken to me about abortion before. The kicker came when I went to a class at church and the evening’s lesson was on procrastinating when God was calling you to do something. I came home that night, shut my bedroom door, and wept. I could no longer deny  what God was calling me to do. The neon sign in front of me was flashing as brightly as it could.

During this time, I had moved in temporarily with my friend Megan and her husband. In the middle of summer 2012, I came home from a vacation exhausted and emotionally wiped out. I’d made the mistake of looking at a calendar and calculating how old my child would have been — 13 years old just a few days from the day I did the math. That night, with Megan standing in my bedroom, I felt not shame or embarrassment as the sobs escaped me but a deep, ugly, awful grief. I’d never felt grief over the loss of my child before because I’d never felt like I’d lost anything, but that night, I was overwhelmed not by the fact that I’m merely had an abortion but by the fact that I had lost a child. I had always stood firm on the fact that I gained something by choosing an abortion, but God was showing that the my truth and the truth in His word were not aligned. He was making very clear to me many of the things I learned in Healing Hearts years before: those babies lives’ have value and they matter and they’re just as real as a screaming, newly delivered infant.

That night, my dear friend sat in the dark with me as I ugly-cried, and she prayed a prayer that still resonates with me. I’ll never forget her words: “Lord, I thank you for Krista’s grief. It means you’re working in her heart.” Now, at the time I wanted to interrupt her and say, “Thanks but no thanks. I don’t want this grief.” I would have done anything not to feel that heartbreak, but eight months later, I can finally say I understand why she prayed that prayer. I’m so thankful for the grief, too, and that God had changed my heart. He totally answered that prayer, and just a few months later, I went through the craziest five days of my life: I had training to become a volunteer at the Center on a Friday and Saturday, on Monday I had an interview with Mary Anne, and on Wednesday I had my first volunteer shift. He does indeed answer our prayers.

I’m so thankful for each of you in this room tonight because we really couldn’t do what we do at the Pregnancy Center without you. Whether you’re supporting us financially, or spiritually as you pray for the moms and babies we serve, or tangibly with clothes and diapers and formula, we literally couldn’t do it without your support. I wanted to share with you tonight some of my story, because this really is only scratching the surface because I want you to know that the Pregnancy Center is not only an amazing resource to women with babies and mamas-to-be, but it’s a place for women who’ve already chosen abortion in their pasts. I mentioned earlier that I took a Bible study as a high schooler called Healing Hearts. Because I’ve had an abortion, taking the study is a requirement to counsel at the Center. I wasn’t required to take it again because of the class I took so many years ago, but honestly, I really needed to start my time volunteering at the Center with a heart that was focused on God and the healing work He was doing and had done in my life. Mary Anne suggested that I join a study called The Hem of His Garment and I did. It was honestly such a great study where I could really deal with some things, including my abortion, that were still painful in my life. And to be completely honest, finishing that study really encouraged me to take the Healing Hearts Bible Study again, this time with the right attitude of heart. Even though I took it for all of the wrong reasons the first time, God still used what I learned during those years where I walked away in defeat. He never let me forget, no matter how much I tried, that I wanted to fall at His knees and seek forgiveness for what I did and for what I’d lost. So I’m taking it again, starting just a few weeks from tonight. I want to let you know first-hand what kind of resources you’re helping to provide to women like me and I want to thank you for helping creating a safe place where we can come to know and understand not only God’s plan for life, but also for allowing us to come and experience God’s healing and forgiveness in a way that many of us have been avoiding for so long. Thank you for helping to take away some of our shame.

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I am just so thankful for God’s grace and second chances. He has truly changed me and answered my prayers… and in the pain, when my heart feels like it’s broken and I just cannot take it anymore, I know that He is present and He is my power and that He will sustain me!

As He said

I woke up at about 4:15 this morning and I’ve been up ever since. I’m not surprised; today is the Pregnancy Center banquet and I’m a bundle of nerves. It’s an event that I helped coordinate and, as of last Thursday, an event at which I’ll be speaking. I’m both nervous and exhilarated at this thought. I’ve got two speeches prepped, depending on the time. I’ve rehearsed and have rewritten a lot. Not many people know because I have to keep reminding myself this IS NOT about me. It’s about raising money to support God’s work at the center: saving mamas and babies and women who have already has abortions.

It’s not about how many people tell me they cried.

It’s not about how well I speak from the memory of my script.

It’s not about applause for me, or for any speaker really.

I am speaking for the glory of God and His kingdom and if all else fails, He has put me in this position for bring Him honor and glorify Him.

So I will.

As I prep for this day (because I’m just gonna have to wing it on four hours of sleep!), I’ve been reading my Bible. I just read about the Crucifixion in Matthew and in chapter 28, after Jesus is risen, an angel speaks these words:

He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. (Matthew 28:6 NKJV)

He is not there.

Do you know why? It’s simple.

For He is risen.

On the third day, despite the guards appointed to keep anything strange from happening, Jesus rose from the dead. He died a criminal’s death, knowing that it was what His Father had willed for Him. He lived the calling His Father had given Him.

As He said.

No surprises here. Jesus is exactly who He says He is. He has redeemed me! He bought me with a price! He promises me that He will be with me always!

Thank you, Jesus, for the Cross. I am always overwhelmed during this time of year. When I think about the Cross during the rest of the year, of course I’m thankful for it. But every Easter, I’m reduced to tears by what it actually means.

My sins crucified Him, but His wounds bring me glory.

Oh God. Thank You for Your sacrifice and Your holiness. May I seek it today and all of the days of my life until I dwell in Your very presence in paradise.

Influence

linkup

I’m linking up today with the lovely ladies of Influence so we can all get to know each other better. It’s a super amazing group of women encouraging, blessing, and loving each other the way God calls us to!

Impromptu photo shoot outside of Target — thank goodness for California palm trees everywhere!

One photo of me that I love: This is me. There are other photos I love, too, but my friend Kim was in town recently and we had planned on doing some fun pictures for my blog. Unfortunately, we got cramped for time and the best we got was me in my after-church-hour-in-the-nursery-with-sweaty-babies makeup, bra straps regrettably showing, in the parking lot of Target. But honestly, I really love this picture because of the circumstances surrounding it. My friend Kim ended up standing one foot on the tire of her car and the other foot on the shopping cart return station while her kids were locked in the car.

Three things to help you get to know me:
1. If I start a book, I have to finish it, even if it’s a book I totally hate. Some small part of me feels like there is going to be a redeeming quality. I have only ever given up on two books: the first book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Sometimes it takes me months to finish but dang it, I finish!
2. I have this dream of being an author and a public speaker of some sort. I want to talk about God and how He is mighty to redeem! It’s kind of my pipe dream and I want to be careful never to force that dream if it’s not what God has planned for me.
3. I love Essie nail polish. I have at least 20 bottles and I usually buy one a month. Their colors and formulas are good and it’s a nice brand that’s offers reasonably priced nail polish — it’s not designer but it’s also not Wet ‘N’ Wild!

One valuable thing I’ve gained from the network: Not long after I joined the network, I was lucky enough to join a mastermind group with four other amazing women. Really, our backgrounds are SO different (some moms, some not; the content we blog about is also SO VARIED!) but they all lift me up and encourage me so much. Check them out:
Alys @ AlysHejl.com
Claire @ Chronicles of Claire
Natalie @ Good Girl Style
Stephanie @ Girl Versus Dough

just being real…

During my final two and a half years of college, and during both years of grad school, I handled pressure and stress like a boss. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that I thrived on it. But I think living that way for almost three years just sucked the life out of me and now, I sometimes feel like I can barely handle any stress before I want to cry. I think about the days where I worked for eight hours, had class in Woodland Hills (about an hour away in mid-day traffic), spent six hours in class, drive home to Santa Paula (an hour or more depending on evening LA traffic), got home, changed into my pjs, worked on papers and sometimes projects for work, and then did it all again the next day.

It’s enough to make me feel like crying and hyperventilating as I write.

I have been feeling that way a lot lately. There isn’t anything excessively stressful going on in my life. It just feels like the way I am able to handle it all has changed so dramatically.

There’s work. That’s stressful for a lot of reason.

And the pregnancy center banquet next well. Amazing and totally blessed, but it’s getting to me.

Odds and ends

Family.

Keeping up with friends.

And so much more.

The reality is, I just want to quit sometimes.

Not quit life. That’s not an option. There’s nothing that will ever be so bad that it will make me want to quit. But…

I want to sit in my beg with a box of Thin Mints and finish Series 2 & 3 of Downton Abbey, catch up on the three books I’m reading, sleep a little, and do nothing. I know I had the time for all of that more recently. But it just seems like I can barely keep my head above the water right now.

I’ll go to bed in an hour. But first, I’m grabbing some popcorn and Diet Coke and Full House. Here’s to a more lively tomorrow.