Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Our story: episode three

"What's a Twin River?"

The above is filed in the "most commonly asked questions of my life" folder I (don't actually) keep on my laptop. Or at least it was, back when I was serving the great state of Texas as Miss Twin Rivers 2012.

I've got the post-pageant glow...oh wait, that's just a spray tan.
I'm so tempted to diverge into the land of spray tans and evening gowns here, because truly, it was/is all completely fascinating to me. But that's another story entirely—probably one that's more book-length than blog-worthy, but we'll see. In the meantime, if you're curious about why I competed, you can click here.

Two weeks out from the Miss Texas Scholarship Pageant, I was standing in my parents' kitchen feeling whiny and frustrated (probably just needed a brownie) when my dad announced, "I'm going to book a vacation on Hilton Head Island for the week after the pageant."

Normal, expected response: "Awesome! How many swimsuits should I bring?"

My response: "Are you kidding me? If I win, I won't be able to go on vacation...are you saying you don't believe in my dreams?!"

See, in my sugar-deprived mind, my dad was saying, "There's no way you're going to win, sweetie, so let's skip out of town as soon as possible after you go down in flames." In real life, I think his thoughts were more along the lines of, "The hyper-focus of the last six months has left our entire family really, really, really exhausted. Win or lose, let's kick back and enjoy a nice vacay together."

But I still didn't want to go to Hilton Head. All people did there was golf, right?

My angsty protests and cries that no one understood my passions continued until my dad announced, "You know what? I'll call the Kikers. They don't live too far away...maybe they'd like to meet up with us on the beach. Who knows? Taylor might even bring a few friends."

Under normal circumstances, I think my dad's solution would be called a bribe. In light of the rest of our story, I think you'll agree that it was actually a Divine revelation inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Final night of Miss Texas—just a week away from "meeting" my husband!
Two weeks later, I walked off the Miss Texas stage with a win—just not the kind I had originally hoped for (i.e., there was no crown involved). But I had gone "all in" on a new experience, worked diligently toward a goal, gained invaluable speaking experience, and interacted with students, senior citizens, and Special Olympic athletes I wouldn't have otherwise met. So I counted it a victory, and it was off to Hilton Head we went.

Hi, husband.
This is where I really met Taylor. With no makeup on, no future plans to speak of, and our parents sitting approximately three feet away the entire time we were conversing.

For six months, I had been singularly focused on one goal, and one goal only: Becoming Miss Texas. By the time I hit the beach, my frame of mind had undergone a major adjustment.

July 13, 2012

What's coming from this? What was that? Where do I go from here? I know You were there with me, God, from day one. But the outcome was different than I imagined. I'm open and excited to see what's next. Speak clearly and show me the way—I want to be where You are and serve in the capacity you have prepared for me. I want Your best, not my biggest fantasy. Continue to refine my vision.

Oh, He refined it, alright. Right there on the beach, the Lord connected my spirit to Taylor's. And just like that, I knew.

I'm 99% sure that someone just rolled their eyes. Believe me, I get it. Married people say all the time, "When you know, you know." As a single person, this was extremely frustrating for me to hear, too. So, as best as I can describe it, here's how I personally "knew that I knew":

1. I felt a physical change. Battles with anxiety and fear, memories of past struggles, uncertainty about the future, a sense of impending change...all of those things had created a kind of emotional numbness that I had physically felt in my chest for quite some time. Would I ever be able to connect completely in a relationship? I honestly didn't know—until Hilton Head. While talking to Taylor, without any force whatsoever, it felt as if a valve in my heart opened. And there I was—laid bare to the core, yet filled to overflowing with the sense that this man had seen through every pretense, every barrier, every bullet point on my resume I'd thrown out for his consideration, and had taken hold of me...the me that God created me to be. I didn't have to prove anything. I didn't have to try. I was exposed but safe all at the same time. I was known. The best thing? I could see him in exactly the same way.

2. Every conversation we had drew me closer to Christ, not to Taylor. I'm not blind. As I shared in episode one, I'd been well aware that Taylor was "hot" since I was 14 years old. But his looks aren't what captivated me for three days on the beach. In everything Taylor said, everything he did, he pointed me back to Christ. In his testimony; in the way he looked at nature; in the way his eyes looked at me, knew me, and—somehow, even then I could sense it—loved me anyway. It was and continues to be a reflection of the way God loves me, and it was and continues to be the most powerful, humbling truth I have ever experienced.

3. I just knew. For the majority of my life, I have demonstrated fear—but meeting Taylor inspired the greatest faith act of my life to date. After three days of conversation (and not one hand-hold, kiss, or "Can I get your phone number?" to speak of), I journaled:

July 24, 2012

Right now, sitting on the floor of our hotel room in South Carolina, I want to speak two things in faith: I believe that You can and will heal my Scoliosis from every pull and curve on my back, and I believe in my spirit that I am going to marry Taylor Kiker. Lord, it's yours. I release it and look only into your face. Holy Spirit, if he is the one for me as I believe he is, prompt his spirit and confirm it unmistakeably to me. I ask for a way where there seems to be no way. Fill me with Your peace, patience, and above all, a blazing and assured trust not in my emotions or feelings, but in You and You alone.

4. He just knew. After three days of conversation (and not one hand-hold, kiss, or "Can I get your phone number?" to speak of), Taylor journaled:

July 24, 2012

Thank You for the time I got to spend with Karley. I loved being able to talk about life, dreams, and You with her, and her parents are so cool. I would love to marry her; she embodies what I pray for in a wife. Thank you Jesus for the time I got to spend with her. I don't know how it would work and I have no idea what I'm doing, but You are the God of the impossible. Lord, heal her and increase her faith for her healing. You died for her to be whole; let Your kingdom come and will be done in her body. I will wait on You alone, Lord. I know Your plan is the best and most fulfilling for my life.

So, since we both named-and-claimed with the written word that we believed we were going to marry the other, you would think that we started dating immediately, right?

Wrong. There were still six, long months to go until either of us would know just how exactly the other was feeling...or that we both journaled those entries on the same day. Did you catch that? The same day. The same day.

But why didn't we say anything about our feelings? When in the world does the handmade turkey card come into the equation? And after such an incredible experience on the beach, did I really almost succumb to doubt and give up on the whole thing?

To find out, stay tuned for episode four—the final (I think) segment in the "Our Story" series. Can't wait to share the incredible conclusion!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Our story: episode two

So, where were we?

Beausoleil, France.

Oh, yeah. Southern France. AKA, where I was living and working as an au pair (read: tutor/housekeeper/grocery-shopper/general assistant) for a fantastic French family in the fall/winter of 2011.

If you read this post, you'll remember that moving to Monaco was one of the greatest experiences of my life. But it was also one of the loneliest. This entry from my journal pretty much says it all:

Nov. 10, 2011

After being in France past the "honeymoon" phase, the glamour is stripped away. The truth is, it's lonely here. People are lonely. Kind of an every-man-for-himself mentality. For me, plain and simple, I've realized I don't need any of the glamour in this life, because it's all just a fleeting facade at the end of the day. It turns to ash. You remain, and You give life.

And by the way, yes...I was dating a French guy at the time. And yes, to the world (and apparently, my dad) the whole thing seemed like a "fairytale." He regularly brought me flowers and chocolate. He had an accent. Contrary to most stereotypes, he was both polite and kind.

But he wasn't a follower of Christ. Yeah, yeah, I knew the verse about not becoming "unequally yoked"—but I never really felt it until I got to France, where daily I found myself getting deeper and deeper into a "relationship" I'd never intended to enter in the first place. It was glamorous. It was romantic. It was exciting.

However, because we weren't able to connect spiritually, it wasn't real. Christ wasn't our foundation or focal point. Consequently, we didn't see life through the same set of lenses—and finally, I admitted as much in my journal.

Life isn't travel, or intrigue, or accumulating experiences, or living my life so that people will say, "Wow, she's really doing something." I can't marry a man who can't communicate with me. How will he ever know me, or my heart? How can I know his? Continue to prepare my heart for marriage, Lord. I believe that when the time is right, I will have no hesitations. Help me to mature into a woman who can give and receive romantic love that is first a reflection of the way You love me.

So imagine the, um, spiritual freak-out moment I had when, in the middle of all this, Taylor sent me a message on Facebook telling me that he'd been praying for me. Specifically, that the Lord would be "filling my cup to pour out His love to others" and provide me with spiritual community.

Woah. That was real. That was an example of God's love in human form. At exactly the right time, He gave a man in North Carolina a spot-on word of encouragement for a lonely girl in Southern France. Suddenly, the should-I-or-shouldn't-I fog of confusion I'd been in about dating the Frenchman vanished.

Thank you for prompting Taylor Kiker to send that message. How cool that you put him in my mind and me in his, and prompted both of us to lift the other up in prayer. Help me avoid spiritual manipulation in this renewed friendship, Lord, and help me not to see him as a piece of Prime Rib in the Christian meat market. Truly though...

Yes. As ridiculous as it sounds, that was a real-life, unedited journal entry (I'm sure the Lord got a good laugh out of it, so feel free to join in).

After Taylor messaged me, I knew what I wanted—or more accurately, what I needed—in an altar-bound relationship. No, I didn't know then that he would become my husband in the not-so-distant future. But his message reminded me that in Christ, relationships (specifically, marriage relationships) are meant to do so much more than create a heart-to-heart or body-to-body connection. They're made to unite spirits.

Only in a Christ-centered relationship can God deeply minister to and intensely love each partner through the other. Only in a Christ-centered relationship can a man and woman be half a world apart, and simultaneously be called into prayer on behalf of the other.

*Single guys and gals, this is an aside from "our story": But if that's not the kind of relationship you're in, get out. I know that's firm, but hear my heart: Don't settle for less than His best. Don't cheat yourself out of the opportunity to see Him do "immeasurably more than all you can ask or imagine" (Eph. 3:20-21) in your future marriage relationship. Don't waste time messing around with "almosts" or "good-enoughs." Really cool "God-stories" are out there for everyone, not just for Taylor and me. I encourage you to resist the temptation to script your own knockoff fairytale, and let the Author do His divinely beautiful, masterfully creative thing. I've tried dating both ways, so I can tell you from experience that the rest of your life is so worth the waiting that's involved in finding God's best. Promise.

Alright, back on track with the story. With a clear mind and several insanely long journal entries in the bank, I said "goodbye" to France, came back to America, signed up to compete at a local beauty (I mean, scholarship) pageant, and...didn't talk to Taylor again for six months, when we both ended up on vacation with our families in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

But how did my dream of becoming Miss Texas nearly derail our relationship? And how many days did it take for us to know that we had met "the one," anyway? And did we really both journal that we were going to marry the other one on the Exact. Same. Day. ?

To find out, you'll have to—you guessed it—stay tuned. Can't say I didn't warn you that this thing was really, really extensive. :)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Our story: episode one

I was laying on my parents' couch, iPhone in hand, adding names to a list titled "People I would go on a date with" when the Lord dropped my future husband's name into my mind. 

Taylor Kiker.

I had just graduated from college, ended a relationship I knew wasn't altar bound, and—after a season—figured it was time to start dating again. Hence the list. Tim Tebow took the (highly coveted, I'm sure) first spot, and a collection of Major League Baseball players who were purportedly Christian (as in, they used Switchfoot or Jeremy Camp for their walk up songs) followed. Rounding out my Fantasy Dating League were a few guys from church and randomly selected crushes-du-jour.

Taylor Kiker.

You know that "came out of nowhere" phrase? Hearing his name during the summer of 2011 was exactly that—a whisper borne from nothingness, but spoken clearly and with assurance. What in the world?

I mean sure, we grew up together . . . kind of. Our families were friends, and we all attended First Baptist Carrollton back when Taylor and I looked like this:

He's had my attention from way back when.

But in the third grade Taylor's family moved away, and spent the next few years traveling (and living) around the world for his father's job. The next time I really remember seeing him, I was 14 years old. The buzz around the church gym was that "Taylor Kiker was in town, he was really hot, and he brought a friend with him." 

Taylor, top left. Me, bottom left. Oh, my.

Needless to say, Taylor's presence did not go unnoticed by me or any other 15-ish-year-old female lucky enough to be in youth group that morning. That height! Those surfer-esque locks! AND he brought a friend?! My exact words on an Xanga entry were, "Um, North Carolina trip, anyone?"

But after that, nothing. Until the list. Until I heard his name.

Taylor Kiker.

Unlike the other names on my list, his seemed real somehow. It sparked. Naturally, I went into my dad's home office to do something about it.

"Give me a reason to contact Taylor Kiker," I said.

My dad should have said something like, "Excuse me, what? Random!" Instead, he thought for a minute and responded, "We've been thinking about taking a vacation in North Carolina. Why don't you ask him what's cool to see up there? Oh, and tell his dad I say 'hi'."

Then, this Facebook message happened:

"Hi Taylor! I just got back from vacation and saw that you added me, I know it may have seemed random but my family has been talking about finally visiting North Carolina since I'm home from school and it reminded all of us of your family! I'm not even sure if you're home for the summer, but if you have any suggestions about what we should plan on seeing, that would be great. Also, my dad said to tell your dad hello - I think he's planning on getting in touch with him soon if we actually do make it out there. Hope all is well!"

Taylor should have said something like, "This is clearly a clever, but thinly-disguised excuse to contact me. Please stop creeping on my Facebook. Are you a stalker? Additionally, you use too many exclamation points."

Instead, get this: The next day he messaged me back, told me that his dad had been working in Dallas for the last year, and encouraged my dad to get in touch with him.

My dad called his dad. Turns out, Taylor was coming to visit two weeks later. My dad invited the guys to join my family for a Rangers baseball game. We all went.

Oh hey, future hubs, future father-in-law, and forever-dad all in one photo!

On the ride to the game and back, Taylor and I had amazing, spirit-sparking conversations. And when I say spirit-sparking, I mean I could literally feel the presence of the Holy Spirit as Taylor shared his testimony, and I caught glimpses of his heart for adventure and openness to the things of God. He was hungry, passionate. There was so much I wanted to say to this person who so clearly understood life the same way I did, but I was more than aware that there wasn't nearly enough time. 

In a month, I was moving to Southern France to work as an au pair. In just a few days, Taylor was going back to school in North Carolina. 

As if that combo wasn't enough of a story-ender, I later found out that my dad also dropped THIS bomb when I wasn't in the room:

"Kar's dating a French guy right now. It's like a fairytale!"

At this point, you're probably already starting to see why I consider our marriage to be a miracle. But there's still so much left to tell. Like, was I really dating a French guy? Did Taylor and I continue talking while I was living overseas? How did our families end up reconnecting? And how did a hand-made turkey card turn out to be the ultimate "game changer" in our relationship, anyway?

To find out, you'll have to stay tuned for episode two. And three. And . . . well, we'll see.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Our story: an introduction

"So, how did you two meet?"

My husband and I get asked this constantly. And I totally understand why.

 We began dating in January (yes, of this year). 

We got engaged in March. 

We said "I do" on July 27. 


 As one friend said this weekend...

"By the time I knew you were dating someone, you were already married!"

Tell me about it. In every sense of the word, our love has been a whirlwind—one of those things that looks hazardous or out of control unless you're standing right in the center of it.

Which is why, I think, people want to know our story. Here's the problem: It's long. It's complex. It's rich. It spans years. I never feel like I have enough time to do it justice, and secretly fear that if I go into allllllll the details, the asker's eyes will begin to resemble a pair of Krispy Kremes (as in, they'll glaze over).

Meaning "We grew up in the same church" is usually the answer I go with. It's true, but not even close to capturing the ins and outs of our whole story. 

Recently, I've been working on a manuscript for a how-to book based on Hitched in a Hurry, the bridal column I wrote for D Weddings throughout our speedy engagement. In short, the book is a guide for the sprinters of the wedding world—i.e., brides who (like me!) are planning weddings in six months or fewer.

In chapter one, I ask my brides/readers this question: "What's your hurry?"

Because if they're anything like me, they'll be asked this question all the time over the course of their engagements (and at their weddings, and as they begin their marriages). For this reason, it's beyond important for these gals to establish a "why"—integral, even. Otherwise, naysayers ("You'll walk the aisle naked!") and question-askers ("Are you sure you've really thought this through?") will begin to dampen their formerly bright, optimistic bridal spirits.

For the record, here's the "why" behind MY hurry: Because God moved in incredible, impossible, and sometimes almost imperceptible ways to bring my husband and me together. Because our set-up was nothing short of Divine. Because the Lord gave my husband eyes to see me as He does, and allowed me the same insight into my husband. In light of these things, how could we NOT sprint down the aisle to exchange the vows that would make us lifelong, permanent teammates? How could we NOT join our lives together as quickly as possible, that we might give Him glory for the great thing He had done in giving us to one another?

That being said, I thought I'd take a few blog posts to tell our story. The whole story. Consider this the introduction, with chapter one soon to follow. (Teaser: A list titled "People I would go on a date with," beginning with Tim Tebow, got this whole thing started. Dream big, right?)

I truly hope that you'll "stay tuned" for each crazy episode. It's our greatest testimony as a couple, and the biggest blessing I've received in my life personally. 

But please note: No donut-eyes allowed. (wink, wink)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The heart of our desires

Turns out, even living in a castle in France's Loire Valley can't eternally satisfy.

 "Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart."—Psalm 37:4

Psalm 37:4 is one of those verses. The kind that everybody memorizes in Sunday School; A pretty promise that we Christians are particularly fond of naming and claiming.

I wonder sometimes about this one, though. Sure, we can all quote the verse. But are we getting it right? Do we understand what we're saying? Do we know what it really means?

For a long time, I thought of Psalm 37:4 like an if/then equation—"If I read my Bible, pray, and go to church enough, then God will come out of the lamp to grant my every wish."

Dangerous, dangerous, dangerous, this interpretation. And wrong. Like, F-minus on the test kinda wrong.

In her devotional book titled Jesus Calling, author Sarah Young phrases it this way: "Delight yourself in the Lord, for He is the Desire of your heart."

This seems like a small change at first, right? Just a slight variation in sentence structure. But I think the distinction goes much deeper than the syntax—right down into the heart of things, in fact. In our self-centered humanity, it's easy to approach Psalm 37:4 as a formula by which we can attain God's favor and get everything we really-really-really want in life. But here's the slightly harder, but so much more fulfilling truth:

If we delight ourselves in the Lord He will always be faithful to give us the desires of our hearts, because at the base of every earthly desire is a hunger for Him. The things of this earth can only temporarily satisfy the ultimate God-space within us. Note: This truth even applies to good earthly things (like marriage, deep friendships, high honors and accolades, and ministry positions). These kinds of longings might masquerade as the desires of our heart. We might even feel a deep, physical pang at the thought of never getting married, or fulfilling our potential, or achieving our goals. But ultimately...

...accepting a marriage proposal will not forever-fill the deep longing we have for completed and perfected companionship. There is no human on this earth that has the "other half" we spend so much time seeking. Only God can meet that need.

I know you're not meant to be my "everything," but I still like looking at you.

...rising to the top of our field does not guarantee a life-long feeling of affirmation or the sense that we've "made it." Only God can impart the kind of blessed assurance that makes it possible for us to truly "cease striving."

...seeing our biggest, most fantastic dreams come to life cannot satiate our craving for more: more adventure, more travel, more goals, more dreams. Only God can satisfy—period. 

If Psalm 37:4 is an equation, I think it goes more like this: Reveling in more of God = Being satisfied by more of God. Nothing else—nothing else—can bring the fulfillment of the Father.

So we take delight in Him. How? By learning to acclaim Him. By seeing a sunset and praising His artistry. By languishing in His Word. By accepting His love. By believing His promises. By trusting Him with everything we've got. By walking by faith instead of sight. By knowing His Truth. By imitating Christ. By seeking first His kingdom. By relinquishing control. By acknowledging His name in all times, seasons, and circumstances. And thus the "heart" of all our earthly desires—to know Him more and glorify His name—are met.

No genie-in-a-lamp required.

. . .
My eyes are ever on Your hands,
What I want, a list of my demands.
Like an undisciplined child I stomp my feet.
Feeling thwarted
I rage, I curse, I weep.

Yet from You no condemnation,
Only love and affirmation.
You say to me, "You are mine.
Trust me, believe me.
Look up, into My eyes."

But I wrestle out of Your embrace,
It's Your hands I seek,
And not Your face.
I grasp only for the gift, ignoring the Giver.
Oh Father, help me to wait for what only You can deliver!
Because that thing I want and hold so dear
Can never satisfy My heart or stop my tears.

May this Valley of Baca, this place of tears,
Be my reminder that You listen; my God Who hears.
While my heart is still so tender,
Jesus, help me to surrender.

"Look Up," by Ann Osborn

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The hem of His garment

Mark 5:25-30: "And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His cloak, because she thought, 'If I just touch His clothes, I will be healed.' Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering."

. . .
How desperate this woman must have been! Everything she tried to do made her condition worse. Every doctor she went to see only increased her pain and suffering. Her earthly resources were exhausted. There was nowhere left to turn. She was at the end of her rope.

A year ago, I was in a similar state of desperation. I knew the Lord had placed a calling on my life, but when I looked ahead, I saw nothing. I was in the vortex of a seemingly endless season of waiting.

No job offers. No plans. No direction. No future husband. No publishing contract. No clue. Just an overwhelming stretch of future that I couldn't see, control, fathom or predict.

In my life, these seasons have traditionally triggered anxiety. My traditional response? To dive inward, self-isolate, and panic. That's the key to health and happiness, right? (Hint: It's not.)

Self-isolation looks like this: cold and lonely. Don't do it.

So there I was...again. Sitting in church, head in my hands, tears falling down my face. Tormented by the thought of falling into another pit of anxiety. Completely desperate, begging Him to wrap His hands around my mind, to "fix me" once and for all. That's when the bleeding woman came to mind.

Like my biblical friend, I had exhausted every earthly resource available to me. I had been to counselors and talked for hours about the ins and outs of fear, anxiety, and worry. I had consulted friends. I had read books. I had asked for prayer. And still, I remained afflicted. Perpetually concerned. Unable to rest. Fearful of fear. 

What I hadn't done? Peeled myself away from introspection for long enough to simply stretch my hands out to Jesus.

Broken, I prayed from the deepest part of me: "If you would just let the hem of your garment pass over me, Lord, I know I will be made well."

And then a marvelous, beautiful, quiet thing happened.

Matthew 9:20-22: "Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind Him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, 'If I only touch His cloak, I will be healed.' Jesus turned and saw her. 'Take heart, daughter,' He said, 'your faith has healed you.' And the woman was healed at that moment."

As it was with the bleeding woman, so it was with me: One brush of His garment upon my life infused me with His healing power. I felt a physical release as fears, doubts, uncertainties, agonizing thoughts and painful memories were flooded by the Truth of who I am in Him, and more importantly, the Truth of who He is and has always been.

Freedom looks like this: warm, wide-open spaces. Grab hold of it!

 So here's the question: Why didn't I come to Him sooner? 

1. I was looking at myself, not at Him

To spot Jesus in the midst of all the junk crowding our minds, we can't fix our eyes on anyone or anything but Him. I had to turn away from all distractions. Say goodbye to the practice of digging for answers within myself. Stop expecting Band-aids offered by other humans to heal the deep wounds of my mind and spirit.

2. My hands were filled with other things
To take hold of the hem of Jesus' garment, we can't be grasping anything else in our hands. I had to let go of self-concern. Forsake my pride. Lay down my fears about the future. Cease worrying that His provision would run out. Release the stranglehold I kept on my dreams, ambitions, and desire to please others.

3. I didn't trust His heart as Father

To be restored by the healing only He can bring, we can't approach God with human understanding. His power is not limited. He doesn't love selectively or impartially. Unlike a human father, our God is perfect in nature. In faith, I had to say He is my healer—not just the healer of other people "with bigger problems who probably need it more than me." In faith, I had to affirm that He's a Father who longs to give good gifts to His children—all His children. In faith, I had to find my worth in my status as His daughter—not in my own accomplishments. 

To this day, my healing continues. It's a process, and the enemy is always lurking around trying to tempt me to despair. When I'm "feeling good," I tend to let go of Jesus' robe and say, "Thanks for the medicine—I've got it from here." The result? I get fixated on the mirror again, close my fists around the things of this earth, and forget how deep, high, long and wide the Father's love is for me. But every time I return to my Savior, in His great mercy and love, He is faithful to bring me to a new level of deliverance.

Do you need to be restored today? Don't linger in your pain. Desperate for Him, say, "I know the smallest touch from you restores my life." Have you forgotten the new name He's given you? In faith, clutch the hem of His garment in both of your hands, and refuse to let go. Are you gaping at the future, grasping at identity, groveling for the approval of man? Lay down the things of this world, go to the Father without a backup plan, and hear Him immediately say, "Take heart...your faith has healed you."

And then, walking in wellness, help someone else find healing in His name—the only name by which we're saved. 

John 10:10 "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

Friday, October 4, 2013

You are not your fear

I'm obsessed with all things French.

Seriously. Obsessed. Love their chocolate. Love the fact that they eat their chocolate for breakfast (and lunch, and afternoon espresso hour, and dinner). Love their culture and their fashion. But most of all, I love their language.

My husband has slowly begun to recognize this. Last night, for instance, we watched a documentary that featured a sub-titled French speaker. During the other parts of the film, I was on my phone, checking Twitter, blah blah. Doing all those "I'm kind of here but also somewhere else"-type things. But when she spoke? My head snapped up, and I was there.

"Now I know how to get your attention," husband said. "I just have to speak to you in French."

He was kidding, but let's be honest. It would probably work. To me, everything (I love you, you're beautiful) sounds better en fran├žais (je t'aime, tu es belle).

Beautiful, non? But here's my favorite phrase of all:

"J'ai peur."

In English, we translate those words to mean "I am afraid"—a line I couldn't be more familiar with.

Yes, as previously established, the English substitute for "j'ai peur" is "I am afraid." But literally translated, "j'ai peur" means "I have fear"—not I am fear, or I am afraid.

Eze, France

This revelation was massive for me. Never struggled with fear, worry, or anxiety? Think of the concept in these terms, then. "I am a writer. I am a doctor. I am ranked first in my class."

The difference between being and having: If I am a writer, and for whatever reason, I'm no longer able to write, my identity will take a blow. I might begin to question my worth. I may cease to see my value. I might forget my purpose. If I am afraid, then fear is a part of who I am—which certainly presents a huge challenge to my identity, since Christ repeatedly commands His children, "Do not be afraid."

It comes to this. Our identity is found in Christ—not in our struggles, our status, our job titles, our accomplishments, or even our victories—so we can never be shaken. We'll never find ourselves by looking in the mirror, but we'll always find ourselves by looking at Him.

Eze, France

"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:14-15

"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20

In the fifth grade, fear hit again. Only this time, I wasn’t just afraid. I was panic-stricken. I have memories of wailing for my mom to take me back home once I got to school. Even at the age of 10, screaming from the backseat, I was shaken to the bone by the feeling that I’d jumped out of my mind with no way of getting back in.

Aside from these bouts with irrational anxiety, my childhood was beautiful, slow, and pure. By the grace of God, I grew up in true innocence—unaware of evil and kept completely from darkness, even in my teens. So when the final tidal wave of anxiety came, it nearly destroyed me.

By age 17, as the newly-elected varsity cheerleading captain, I was confident that I had both of my feet planted firmly on the top of the world. And then, suddenly, they weren't. What had once been a fun “extra” in life—that is, cheerleading—quickly became the stuff of nightmares. Emails were sent about me. I was accused of being un-Christian, unfair, not who I seemed to be, a mean girl, a bully…a rumor even spread that I had vandalized someone’s house. At the end of the year, a lawsuit was filed against my high school. The media picked up the story. I lost about 10 pounds due to stress. I quit the team. I graduated.

Unfortunately, the madness of that year continued to haunt me.

To escape it, I “ran away” to attend college in California. By the time I got there, though, I was numb. My character had been called into question; I'd been labeled a liar, a fake, and a fraud every day for the last year…what if I was?

That seemingly innocent question exploded in the form of the most powerful, all-encompassing sense of darkness I have ever faced. Rather than fighting against the real accusations that had flooded me for a year, I simply swallowed them until they transmuted into that same, familiar, irrational fear. The result? Over the course of my freshman year of college, I felt as though I could not see two inches in front of my face. Outwardly, I was functioning. Inwardly, anxiety had descended like a physical weight. I wore it on and in my chest—thick and heavy, poisonous and suffocating. This time, the trigger was the same, but different. I wasn’t afraid of throwing up, but I was afraid of being twisted somehow. Dark, horrific images flooded my mind. I was gripped with panic, digging and digging and digging inwardly to prove that I wasn’t just a pretender. That I was healthy and whole—the same person I had always been.

My identity was not only in crisis. It seemed utterly and completely obliterated, and I felt as though I was nothing more than a black mark. At that time, I related to no Bible verse more than this:

Psalm 55:3-5

My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught because of what my enemy is saying, because of the threats of the wicked; for they bring down suffering on me and assail me in their anger. My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.”

During this time, "I am afraid" was the primary utterance of my mouth; the first confession I made every single morning. Although the Lord began to do a deeply healing work in my life the summer after my freshman year of college, it wasn't until I went to live and work in France two years later that the Lord highlighted "j'ai peur" to me.

What a huge, significant difference this makes! From childhood, I had been claiming fear as a part of who I am with the words "I am afraid." When in reality, I've only ever had it—which means that, in Christ, I have the ability to lay it down at any time. Excuse me, what?!

The truth is, we "are" none of these things. We are children of God; servants of the King; saved; redeemed; transformed; called by a new name; immeasurably valuable; deeply loved; chosen; secure. We have struggles; fears; concerns; jobs; positions; ambitions; ranks; goals; accolades; recognition.

And so, if I simply have these things? Well, let's just say that I might be "hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (2 Cor. 4:8-9)

"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him." 1 John 3:1

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." Hebrews 6:19

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10:23
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More on battling anxiety + depression here

More on finding healing here

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