Life After #MeToo

3 03 2018


When the #MeToo movement gained momentum and men and women were empowered to speak up, I praised these survivors who tackled shame and silenced silence. As stories surfaced of coaches, doctors, youth pastors, teachers, friends, and family abusing those entrusted to them, I was horrified and heartbroken yet surprisingly unsurprised at this pandemic. Our broken world was exponentially begetting more brokenness.

Over a decade ago, my story was quite public and my journey to healing quite long. It took years of God addressing layer upon layer of pain. In the last two years, I finally reached a point where I felt whole, no longer defined by the abuse from the men that had taken advantage of me in my teens. I was truly in a healthy place and felt completely unhindered by my past. So when #MeToo stories began circulating, I was extremely grateful others were finding their voices like I once had, but I felt no pressing need to speak up again. God had led me to freedom and my personal story was at rest. It was buried, not in shame, but in an honest act of moving on. While I both ached for and applauded the survivors now telling their stories, I was not compelled to unearth mine.

And in that place of personal contentment, God set off a tremor in my heart and severely ruffled my pristine feathers. I would never have imagined I’d be writing this blog now, but I can no longer sit back and send silent well-wishes to my brothers and sisters that have a #MeToo story. There is yet more work to be done.

While countless men and women have recently found their voices, I recognize this may just be the beginning for many of them. By no means do I want to come across as polished and perfect here. My road to wholeness was similar to turbulence at 30,000 feet: nauseating, terrifying, filled with ups and downs, and plagued with the thought I wouldn’t survive. At times, I felt drained of every drop of blood, sweat, and tears in the fight to freedom. Trust me, I am no professional that is writing a dissertation on how to overcome sexual abuse or any other abuse for that matter. I am no counselor or psychiatrist. But I am a former victim who has walked that rugged road to victory. And in that venture, Jesus handed me a key to freedom. So while I may not hold a degree, I do hold the power of personal testimony. And everything in me wants to place that key in your trembling hands, look you in the eye, and tell you that freedom is yours to be had, too.

Now that you have bravely spoken up, whether publicly or privately, and voiced “Me Too,” what now? Where do you go from there? You have taken the bold and vulnerable step of acknowledging the abuse, but I implore you to not stop at that. God has a glorious work He wants to complete in you. It may seem scary to even go there, but will you accept His call to further freedom?

I know not every story is identical to mine, and I’d be a fool to suggest that everyone should walk in my exact footsteps. God leads us on our own journeys, and as long as we are willing and obedient (not perfectly so by any means), He will see us through. But I feel compelled to offer a few suggestions that I found were critical for me. I encourage you to pray and consider what steps God would have you take toward wholeness and victory.

. . .

Get professional, Christian counseling.

Find someone that is trustworthy and equipped to walk the journey with you. Some of the most poignant times of healing came during the weekly sessions I had with my counselor. She faithfully listened and always pointed me back to the love and power of Jesus. Those sessions were undeniably led by the Spirit of God. Take note, I didn’t find her right away. I ‘interviewed’ other counselors prior to her until I discerned and knew she was the right person for me.

Additional resources: Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network directory 

Fight the fears and the lies.

For years I had twisted nightmares, dreams about being chased down, perverted images I could have never conjured on my own, and terrors that I would encounter my abusers. I would wake up and the shame and disgust would eat me up, ruining my entire day. It didn’t take long for me to realize the enemy was hard at work trying to destroy me with fear, lies, and deceit. So what’s your plan of attack during those onslaughts? Invite the Holy Spirit into your sleep and into your day. Capture every thought. Pray Scripture over yourself, and learn the art of war on the battlefield of your mind. A war was waged on you—whether the abuse you survived was one act or many—and it’s time you spiritually retaliate and take back the ground the enemy tried to steal from you. You are no longer a victim and no longer a slave!

Additional resources: The Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer, Believing God by Beth Moore

Get to know Jesus.

If there is one thing I know, it is that Jesus has every strength and power available to heal you from your hurts. I have lived it. Getting to intimately know your Healer is priceless on this journey. Grab a Bible, read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), start going to a life-giving church again or for the first time, and feed yourself with the inspirational truth that His life bring. Read about Him, talk to Him, and dare yourself to trust Him and take Him at His word. Let Him show you just how outrageously He loves you.

Additional resources: A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Philip Keller, Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah HurnardThe Signature of Jesus by Brennan Manning, The Shack by Wm. Paul Young


Easier said than done. I would never intend to undermine the brutal trauma individuals have gone through at the hands of strangers, predators, or people they trusted by suggesting that forgiveness is uncomplicated and easy. It’s not. But forgiveness is a non-negotiable. In no way does forgiveness mean condoning what was done. It is not ‘letting someone off the hook.’ Oddly enough, it is the release of the noose around your own neck. During counseling one day, I had an epiphany. As long as I held unforgiveness toward my abuser, I gave him the go-ahead to wrap me in his chains. I was under his rule and command if I held a grudge. It dictated my emotions and my peace (or lack thereof). As long as I was under its control, I was not in control of my destiny nor surrendered to God. Remember, forgiveness is not a once-off act. It’s an onion that sheds one layer at a time. You cannot get to the core issue(s) unless you are willing to address each layer of hurt as it presents itself. As God reveals those wounds, do whatever it takes to get to a place of release. Cry, yell, hash it out with Him, ask for the ability to forgive in that moment, and do it. Out loud. As another memory or layer comes up in time, do it all over again. This ongoing surgery is no cake walk. But if you want the cancer out of your soul, keep yourself on the operating table as much as it hurts. One day you’ll look down and find your gaping wounds stitched up by the loving hands of a capable Healer.

Additional resources: The Bait of Satan by John BevereKissed the Girls and Made Them Cry by Lisa Bevere, Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt by Jentezen Franklin

Be an advocate for others.

There will come a time for you, as you progress in freedom and victory, to stand alongside those that have been broken, to carry the ones that are battered, to inspire the ones that have not yet found their voice. Years ago, God clearly spoke and strategically led me to take my story to the authorities and make it public. It was terrifying, but I dared to imagine that other victims—whether related to my incident or not—would come forward and initiate their journey of justice and wholeness. And word got back to me that some did. I may never know the impact my decision had on people, but all I know is I was obedient to God. I am not saying each person must replicate these specific actions. Be led by how both God and wise counsel around you says you should proceed. If you or others are potentially in danger of being hurt again, take action and be their voice. Listen closely to what He would say you do for the sake of yourself and others. As He leads, He will empower you and give you wings to fly in the face of fear and ridicule. When you share your story, you equip others to share theirs. When you display victory, you encourage others to walk that path as well. That abuse was never meant for you, but your freedom is meant for many.

. . .

To every man, woman, boy, or girl that has ever been abused, I cry with you. And with tenderness and humility I approach. I am convinced of the power of Christ to heal and transform you. I believe in the abundant life that only Jesus offers, a life after #MeToo. Say ‘yes’ to walking this road with Him. It is undeniably worth it.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
    they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
    the devastations of many generations.
Isaiah 61:1-4

Gethsemane in Me

8 02 2018

Keep me in the garden

with my knees to the earth.

Though I have the option,

not my will but Yours I serve.


Keep me from all Self,

from every prideful ambition.

Strong in Love, oh kneeling heart,

rich in Godly volition.

Mid-life(ish), unMarried, and Making the Most of it: Lessons I’ve Learned Being Single

3 04 2017


Since writing that first blog three years ago on being single, I’ve gone deep into the heart of finding wholeness, courage, and healing in the areas of loneliness and the unfulfilled desire for a husband. I’ve shed enough tears to fill all the mason jars on Pinterest. I’ve snotted into my pillow, woken up with blowfish eyes, journaled like a castaway, and gone to the batting cages just to hit something that wouldn’t hit back. But through it all, I’ve experienced breakthrough upon breakthrough from a faithful God (and the unrelenting support from award-winning friends). While our journeys are our own, this blog is my attempt to tell you you’re not alone. If there’s hope and healing for messy old me, there’s hope and healing for you. God WILL redeem every area you give Him access to.

Here are the most valuable lessons I have come to learn having lived single for the good majority of my 34ish years. Through much fire, they have become like priceless gold, and yet I am aware that there is still much more to refine in me. Single or not, male or female, I pray you’re inspired toward wholeness, truth, and trust.

1. Life doesn’t finally begin when I get married.

For years I believed that my life calling, God’s plan for me, would only be launched after I met my husband. I sat by and twiddled my thumbs waiting for the day when I would really and finally be used in full by God for His purposes. That twiddling lasted over a decade, people. Talk about sore thumbs. I was still seeking God, growing, and even serving Him and others. But it was a casual and complacent pursuit. Thank God for ripping me out of that rut and lifting me out from under the stifling and common misconception that, “Once I get married, THEN I will…” Life is here and now, ladies and gentlemen. Your destiny is here and now. Stop idly waiting by, imagining the day when you’ll finally be primed for His purposes.

2. Loneliness, insecurities, and coping mechanisms won’t miraculously disappear once a ring is on my finger.

There’s an age-old, fairy tale idea that continues to deceive us all: meet the man or woman of your dreams and ride off into that orange glow to a place called Happily Ever After. All pain, brokenness, and brittle areas miraculously heal the moment you say, “I do.” That is truly a beautiful picture…painted by a clueless fool with his head in the silvery clouds. Ask any married person if all their problems went away at the altar, or if instead, their broken areas got magnified once they were in an intimate and vulnerable relationship. Ask them if they’ve ever felt lonely even though their spouse lay right next to them. Lace up your boots, single comrades, and treat this time of solitude as an opportunity to let God illuminate and heal your insecurities, pride, fears from hurts, walls from abuse, and your need for those nasty coping mechanisms (e.g., shutting down, depression, anger, sexual sin, on and on). It’s dirty work, like surgery on a battlefield. It’s painful and gut-wrenching to choose to trust Him and walk that road of wholeness, but it will undoubtedly save you a lot of heartache later on. Ditch the baggage now for the sake of yourself and your future spouse and children, but most importantly ditch the baggage simply to deepen that rich intimacy with God.

3. Jealousy, bitterness, and rejection are sure signs that my worth is wrapped up in the wrong things or people.

I could write a novel on this one. I’ll title it FrankenShelley: Nightmare of a Friend. The Goliath in my life boldly walked on scene this past year. At the cue of a best friend’s relationship and engagement, I began to feel things, say things, and think things on par with a schizophrenic lunatic. I was overcome with jealousy. “Why does she get what I’ve waited so long for?” I was bitter, sharp-tongued, and most definitely not the friend I desperately wanted to be. I found it difficult to celebrate her joys. Funny thing, I had come face to face with that exact same giant over a decade ago with another engaged best friend. Talk about a bridesmaid from hell. (I have some hilarious and cringeworthy stories.) Foolishly, I refused to lop its head off then. I simply sang that sinful giant to sleep, and it lay dormant for ten solid years, waking up stronger than ever one year ago. It took me being utterly fed up with how I was acting last year to do something about it. I was determined to not take this warped flaw any further into my future. I would fight it once and for all. Well, that “once and for all” took about 9 months of praying, intensely seeking God, speaking His Word over myself, confronting the lies, asking forgiveness time and time again from a most merciful friend, and fasting like a holy madwoman. And thank you, Jesus, Goliath’s head rolled in January! Through those character-refining months, God clearly revealed that my reactions of jealousy and bitterness were just the fruit of me being rooted in ill-founded worth. My worth was in the idea of being loved by a man. My worth was in the concept of marriage. My worth was in something I didn’t yet have. So without those things in my life, I was, by my own definition, worthless. Perfect transition to number 4…

4. Finding my worth in any man, woman, position, title, status, or thing other than God alone is the most fragile foundation I could ever build upon.

I have lived long enough and face-planted into the mud a handful of times to learn this most valuable life lesson. Nothing–no person or thing–is strong enough to be your source of worth, your foundation upon which you build your life. People and the love they give us should be wonderful reminders OF our value. They shouldn’t BE our value. Seek your identity in the way someone treats you, or the things they say or don’t say about you, or the job/ministry title you have, or the number of followers you have on social media, and you’ll be seeking forever. You will never be fulfilled in worth until you meet Worth Himself and have Him repeatedly speak it over you until you actually believe Him. Worthy is the Lamb. We are worthy by sheer fact and faith that He is and He loves. For more on this topic, read this blog from a few years back.

5. Co-dependent friendships are subtly alluring and a dangerous substitute.

Did I mention I was a pro at face-planting? I’m surprised I don’t have a flat forehead from this lesson learned.

I’m not talking about healthy, balanced friendships here. Those are a gift to us along the journey. But treat any gift with even the slightest obsession, and it quickly turns idolatrous, clingy, and sour. Since going through this murky mess a few years back, I’ve become keenly aware anytime I start being co-dependent or idolatrous toward a friend. And in the same way, I’ve recognized that exact tendency in a number of single people around me, especially women in my opinion. It’s subtle and requires a heart check, ladies. We blanket our girl (and even guy) friendships with God, but often leave Him out of the true center. Out of loneliness, we use our friends to fill that void instead of seeking deep companionship in Jesus. It may look like a Godly, selfless, friendship, but I challenge you to have the Holy Spirit check your heart. How much physical and emotional affection are you giving to and craving from them? Are you using them to soothe the ache? Do you hold them with a tight grip? Do you get jealous over their relationships? Always remember that every friendship and relationship should be humbly held with an open hand, a gift given by God. We were never designed to worship the Creator’s creation.

6. Settling may be a quick “fix” and an easier route, but it is actually a most unfulfilling and broken route.

Waiting is hard. Waiting well is even harder. When we give up hope on a fulfilled dream and settle for making that promise come to pass in our own way, we invite heartbreak through our door and sabotage the timely and purposeful work of God in our lives. We go back to dating people that treat us with little or no respect. We give our bodies over like cheap candy. We say, “Just this once.” We convince ourselves that our sin isn’t wrong. “It’s not that bad. At least I’m not doing this or doing that.” Take heed. The moment you start making excuses for your actions or for people never meant to be in your life is the moment you warmly welcome compromise into your home. And compromise is a sly little devil that coaxes you further and further into darkness without you realizing it. Stand strong, live in the light, know your worth, keep your standards high, respect others as well as yourself, believe in the good promises of a good Father, stay accountable, resist temptation, and stay the course! You will reap a harvest in due season.

7. Beware the lure of idolizing the idea of marriage.

There is a danger in living unsatisfied. Like Eve, we all fall prey to the lie that we are missing out. “If only I were married, then I would be fulfilled.” “If only I had more money, then I would be satisfied.” “If only I could have a baby, then our marriage would be complete.” If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Dissatisfaction is no devil when it leads you to the foot of the cross and forces you to cling to Satisfaction Himself. But intensely focus on that “one thing” that will supposedly “make it all better in life,” and you’ll find that dissatisfaction has quickly shape-shifted into your idol.

8. Learn now the art of swallowing pride, staying teachable, and giving of myself.

Take yourself to the nearest bakery and order a heaping helping of Humble Pie a la mode. Marriage (or any relationship) is not an opportunity to lord over each other. Jesus calls us to unity, to oneness, to service, to love. Do we get it perfect every time? One glance at my life and you’ll get your answer: nah bro. But there are few things more beautiful than a soft and teachable heart, someone eager to change and grow, someone who seeks to put others first, not out of obligation or self-righteousness but simply out of a heart that loves God. We love because He first loved us. Train yourself in the love-driven art of sacrificially giving of your time, your will, your desires, your service, and your finances. Practice eating that pie now. It’ll taste better with each bite. (The other alternative is someone shoving it down your throat later in life. And no one likes whipped cream in their eye.)

9. Practice vulnerable communication and conflict resolution.

I’ve always heard that a lack of communication kills marriages. People don’t know how to talk it out, express themselves, not blame shift, not argue in a fit of rage, not back down from their defenses, not storm out or shut down. They don’t seek resolution or remain vulnerable when it’s painful. I didn’t grow up with a family that had “family meetings.” We didn’t chit-chat about the state of affairs going on in our hearts. I was not well-versed in expressing my feelings. “Cat got your tongue, Shelley?” “Why, yes. Yes it does.” I was awful at opening up. But through time, determination, and being part of a secondary family that is SO keen on communication, I have learned to love and appreciate it. While I may not see eye-to-eye with someone, we resolve it until there is no bitterness remaining, no rock unturned, no hurt or fear or misunderstanding unspoken. Pull those cat paws off your tongue and routinely practice communication and resolution. You’ll find your relationships will be deeper, more personal, richer, and more wholehearted (let alone cat free, thank God).

10. Don’t build a doctrine out of dashed hopes.

It’s okay to feel the ache of a desire unfulfilled but not okay to hunker down and make camp in hopelessness. Hold onto your hope, hang tight to your promise. Cling steadfastly to a Father that loves you relentlessly and unconditionally. Let’s face it, if there is air in your lungs you will be bruised in life, maybe even crushed under the weight of disappointment. You lost someone you love. That father or teacher or friend you trusted mishandled you. You were ridiculed and demeaned, abused and neglected. You waited ages to see a dream come to pass, and it appears to be a rotting seed in the ground, a mockery. Tragedy struck and you’ve never been the same. We shake our fists at God, at our parents, at this world, and vow to never be hurt again. One hope dashed and we give up hope altogether. Do I dare invite you to hope again? With everything in me, YES. Hope takes courage. Hope says, “I refuse to let this world harden me. I choose to be open, loving, trusting, and trustworthy.” She generously reminds you of the goodness of God. Why would we suffocate her when she’s the only one that can usher us back into joy and wholehearted living?

11. Loneliness is a gift.

Any painful or broken area of your life is a gift in disguise, my friends. You have two options. You can react to your loneliness (or any other hurt, for that matter) with depression, anger, settling, coping mechanisms, etc. or you can let the overwhelming weight of it drop you to your knees before Jesus. After years of struggling with crushing loneliness, I finally realized that it can always lead me to my God’s arms. I once turned to other people and things to cope but nothing satisfied. When I started to turn to Jesus in my loneliness, draw into His love, look Him in the eye, and expose my tearful heart, I encountered the most beautiful transformative power. Him alone. And that’s when my perspective shifted drastically. Anything in this world that draws me closer to Him, my first love, is a gift no matter how serrating it may be. He, of all people, knows what the deepest of all pain feels like. He not only sympathizes with me but freely offers Himself as Healer. There is no greater gift than Jesus Himself. Find gratitude in the things that draw you to Him.

12. God is not withholding and playing a cruel joke on me.

This was the lie of all lies that was unearthed in my heart last year. God was cruel and He was withholding from me. I could believe all day that He was good to others, but to me personally, He came up short. I mean, He knew the deepest desire of my heart was to be married, a desire I’ve had for well over a decade now. He knew I would lose my parents and have to grieve that process without a spouse to comfort me. He knew all my friends would get married around me and I’d be left wide-eyed and heartbroken. He knew and yet He withheld. Or so I believed. At the end of 2016, I broke in half like an oil tanker and sunk into a sea of anger and bitterness. I kicked and screamed at God like a selfish child in a feeble attempt to punish Him beyond the most punishable cross. I had believed a lie about God for so long and desperately needed truth. I went on a 21-day fast and pleaded for God to set me free in my thinking, to give me eternal perspective, to open my eyes to His goodness. And He did. He always does. Our God stands outside of time, far beyond its limitations. And we run around in its constraints, tapping our watches, and demanding God fill our need. And when the secondhand laps back around, we stomp our feet and curse Him. Do we not realize He is sovereign? Do we so easily forget that eternity rests in the palm of His hand? Are we so vain to imagine that our ways, our wants, our plans for our own lives even hold a candle to His brilliance? Every good and perfect gift has already been handed to me from the Father in the form of His Son. Can I not trust that He will rightly guide my life according to His plan? Can I not trust that “perfect timing” is Perfection’s specialty? The pressure is off. For the first time in my life I’m untethered, free to fly in the simple trust that He’s got me.


Well folks, my hands are cramping but my heart is full. If you made it this far, you deserve an award. I’d love to hear your feedback: areas where you can relate, where you’ve personally grown, or where you still need encouragement. Feel free to share this with anyone that may benefit. I trust my journey may be of some comfort and strength to others out there. Remember, you’re NOT alone. (And if you know a single, sold-out Christian guy, just jot his name in the comment section, too. jkjkjkjkjkjk. I mean… jk.)

The Letter I Never Wrote My Dad

21 06 2015


Daddio, Daddy Jones, Trusty,

Oh how time flies when you’re within its constraints. Six and a half years have passed since I last hugged you, bopped your head, or asked you to stand by your bed so I could ram my shoulder into your stomach and “sack the quarterback”. Seven Father’s Days have come and gone without being able to give you a Far Side desk calendar or a nose trimmer or a cartoon tie or some other “useful” gift you so graciously accepted. So much time has come and gone.

Sometimes I still can’t believe you’re no longer here. Someone that was so faithful to always be there isn’t easy to part with.

You were always there, dad. Every track meet and road race you were at the sideline cheering me on with honey sticks in hand for energy and Aspercreme in your back pocket to rub down my chicken-legs after I crossed the finish line. Every basketball game you were in the stands videoing such important middle school footage and ever-so-kindly putting mistaken refs in their place. Every REI garage sale you were first in line and coming home with hoards of things you thought I might like. (I still have quite the stash today, dad. Those random gifts still come in handy.) If I ever vaguely mentioned I was interested in some hobby or that a friend of mine liked cycling or snowshoeing or collecting gum wrappers, there you were with gifts in hand, freely giving from the “Daddy Garts” sports store conveniently located in your garage.

You always put others first. Always. You would make sure our fishing poles were always set up on those all-night trips to the pier. (I’m fairly certain your line never even got in the water because you were always too busy helping me with snags or teaching me how to put the shrimp on the hook.) You shelved your love of surfing and gladly opted to wade in the water beside me as you pushed me into the wave, knowing full well that my scrawny arms could never paddle into that 6-inch swell. You would be up at the crack of dawn making the princess (me) her must-have snowboarding trip breakfast (pancakes). You would always make sure us kids made it to church every Sunday, something I will ever be grateful for. You would commute three hours roundtrip to work every day, come home, and make us dinner with a smile on your face, even if that dinner was your tuna/mac/pea combo thing. You were selfless, dad, utterly selfless, utterly reliable, and utterly trustworthy.

I don’t remember exactly when Trusty came into my life, maybe at age four or five. You were always there with the most dependable horseback rides, so my little brain opted to forever nickname you Trusty. Every night before bed, mom and I would call you from the stables. You’d clip clop over to me and pull me up into the imaginary saddle on your back. I’d fling my arms around your neck and you’d whisk me off to bed. You’d clip clop down the cobblestones in our living room, splash through the stream in our hallway, and slurp up a drink of water before squishing through the muddy terrain just shy of my room. Without fail, you’d get distracted by some apple tree and eat one along the way before dropping me off at my twin-bed destination for a good night’s sleep. You signed my birthday cards with hoof prints and ponds and fences to leap over. You left sticky notes on the mirror with horseshoes as a signature. If you ever acted out, I made sure to put you in your place by telling you I would send you to the glue factory if you didn’t shape up! I’ve never heard anyone impersonate a panic-stricken horse’s neigh like you!

For years you carried me. You were Trusty and even now it makes more sense as to why.

As I think back to a private conversation you and I had in your nursing facility just weeks before you left, I distinctly remember the remorse in your eyes. You choked out the words and drenched them in tears. You told me how bad it hurt to think you wouldn’t see me grow old, that you would never have the opportunity to walk me down the aisle. You cradled an imaginary child in your arms and cried at the thought of never being able to hold my babies. One thing was certain to me on that day, the pain of abandoning your little girl in life was more excruciating than the pain of the cancer eating at your body. You had put your all into being there for me. You were my Trusty, that faithful old horse. When you died, who would make sure I was okay?

Dad, I love you. I may have lost you for a little while, but rest assured, for this time while I no longer have you or mom here on earth, I am not at a loss. I am not lost. I am okay. It is unfathomable just how faithful God has been to take care of me.

A few months ago, I couldn’t sleep. My heart was aching for more of God, my Father, in my life. One thing I have learned through the pain of losing both parents is if I have more of Him, all else will be okay. All else will be okay. That night, in that moment of desperation, I reached my arms up in the air, crying as I laid in my bed as if to grab hold of the Dad I needed. I was craving to know my Father more. With a tinge of frustration, I said, “Show me more of you, God.” Suddenly and gently, an image of you popped into my head.

I was stunned and a bit puzzled. A few seconds passed and the lightbulb switched on. God whispered to me about you, about Trusty of all things. He chose to use you as an example of His love. Over six years have passed and I’m just now seeing how well you pointed me to the Father by your lifestyle.

You were so trustworthy, and yet it was just a shadow of the most Trustworthy One.

You took such joy and pride in every interest of my heart, and yet that was just a mere glimpse into the fondness He has for me.

You thoroughly delighted in giving good gifts to me, and yet that was a simple taste of His delight in meeting my every need.

I know the Father more because of you. I know Him! You couldn’t have given me a more thoughtful, everlasting gift if you tried. And God couldn’t have given me a more thoughtful gift in you, with every horseback ride, with every appearance at my sporting events, with every outing to the mountains. He knew what I needed in a father, and He knew you would be the best way to fulfill that need. Thank you, dad, thank you.

For years you carried me. You still do. You are Trusty.


Your F.O.

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

16 09 2014
My mom's hand in my own, months before she was gone.

My mom’s hand in my own, not long before she was gone.

Part 3 in the Me Too series

“The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.” Dr. Brené Brown

. . . . .

Tomorrow is my mom’s 64th birthday. Four years ago, unbeknownst to us, my family and I celebrated her birthday with her for the last time. We ate at a Luby’s cafeteria in Texas, and I nostalgically ordered the meal of my childhood: fish filet, fried okra, a yeast roll, and strawberry shortcake. (It tasted much, much better as a child.) I can’t tell you how many times I have told myself how I wish I had celebrated that special day with just a little more overt and spoken appreciation for the beautiful woman I called my mom and best friend. I just wish I had doused her in much more of my love that day. Two weeks later, she was diagnosed with incurable liver cancer. Six months later and she was gone.


I write this with tears in my eyes. I miss her. I miss that sense of peace and comfort when she and I would lay on the bed, chat about nothing and everything, then fall asleep for an afternoon snooze side by side. I miss her homemade soup and her piecrust and how she’d slap my hand as I always reached to eat more dough. I still grab my phone to call her at times when I want to share exciting news or see if she wants to spontaneously join me for a movie. I still randomly sing her quirky songs and laugh at her oddball sense of humor. I still listen to the few remaining voicemails I managed to salvage. I still pore over her photo albums, albums that will never be filled with new pictures of her. I still try to remember her as vividly as I possibly can.


My mother died on February 19, 2011, two years and five days after my dad died. (That story is its own, one of extreme loss and grief, yet one of restorative healing still taking place to this day. He was a wonderful, selfless, giving man that I learned love and life through). But I had just barely poked my head out of the swirling black clouds that came with my father’s death. And February 2011 brought on a darker and heavier storm than the one I had just survived.


Those who have experienced deep and personal loss can understand the journey. While our journeys of grief are never identical, we yet relate to each other simply because we have all shaken hands with grief. We cling to memories, we gather the moments that stick out and compile them in our brains, we hang onto the images that are burned into us forever. We remember so we don’t forget.


I remember her soft brown hair and how bad she was at dyeing it herself. I remember that nightgown of hers that looked like pea soup had been the designer’s inspiration. I remember how silky her hands were. I remember how she always tried to keep a smile in her eyes.


And then I remember the yellowing in her skin and the spots on her hands. I remember the glassy look in her eyes. I remember our last day out together before she was bedridden and the effort it took for me to keep her from falling down. I remember my words shredding the nurse to pieces as I told him how careless he was with my mother, that he had no idea what I was going through. And I remember breaking down in his very presence as he humbly apologized, told me of his personal losses, and then said he had just heard life-threatening news about another family member. I remember crying myself to sleep every single night for weeks before her death and months after her death. I remember how nothing in me had the willpower to do what I loved to do, sing from the heart. I was mute, my soul choked by grief. I remember how my bones physically ached in my mourning and how pain medication never helped. I remember fidgeting with every coping mechanism—both healthy and unhealthy—that I could get my hands on. I remember the sleepless and lonely nights, my only companion found in my tears.


I remember the good and the bad. But most of all, I remember the unwavering faithfulness of my God.


I don’t fully comprehend how I made it out of the valley of the shadow of death, but I do know that, as is promised in Psalm 23, He was with me.


Every storm that I face in the future will be girded with my memories of His faithfulness. I remember Him in the pain and I remember Him each day I wake. I’ve felt His strength pull me through. I’ve seen His eyes tell me with just a look that He’s got me. One glimpse of His face and the heavy burdens melt. For in His presence is fullness of joy.


Less than four months following my mom’s death, I got my voice back. On a night of utter grief and pouring out my heart to Him through tears, He showed me Himself. Not in the present. Not in that very moment as I was driving back to Colorado Springs after a worship night in Loveland. Rather, He showed me Himself on the day my mother died. It was all too real, and it changed me in a split second. On my mom’s final day here, I had a brief moment alone with her by her bedside. The hubbub of nurses and visitors had waned for a second, and I had time. I threw myself across her body and wept. I hugged her with all that was left in me. And I told her, through my choking sobs, that it was okay for her to go. I released her and gave her permission to depart. I went home, took a nap, and woke up to the call that she was gone. I will never forget that day. But months later on that drive home from Loveland, Jesus took me back to my last day with her. I relived it all. The tears, the embrace, the exit out of that room. But this time He showed me I wasn’t alone in that room. No, there weren’t any nurses taking her temperature or monitoring her heartbeat. But there was a visitor in that room, one I hadn’t noticed before. Jesus stood at the foot of the bed and watched me mourn over her. He approached me and held me as I embraced her. He let me tell her I was letting her go. And then he whispered to her, “It’s ok. I’ve got her now. You can go. Everything is ok.” And He and I walked out of the room arm in arm.


In that moment of deep revelation and intimacy, in that moment of seeing Jesus’ face, I was changed. I had spent months in agonizing grief over the loss of my mother. And in a single moment, although many tears and much sorrow accompanied me in the years to follow, I knew I was not alone. Jesus had promised to not only walk me through the valley of the shadow of death, but he promised to walk me through the entire journey of my life. For months I had lost my voice, my ability to sing joyfully from my soul. But in that car, early June 2012, a simple song poured out of my heart and I sang it over and over again:

Show me Your face

I long to see

The deep wells of love in Your eyes

I want to see You tonight

Let me gaze, let me gaze

Let me gaze on the face that changes me

Let me gaze on the face of love

(Face of Love)


This song that God hand-delivered to me on a night of grief and overwhelming ecstasy later became my personal anthem and one that has touched lives around me. I will never forget that moment, I will never forget that song, and I will never forget the face that changes me.


If there is only one thing I know it is the fact that Jesus is faithful. His love is overwhelming. To those in the storm right now, I speak hope, peace, comfort, and strength to you through Jesus. May you know him intimately and run towards his outstretched arms. May your wounds find healing in Him. This day, through your tears, remember Him. His love never fails.


If the darkest night is upon you as you read these words, know that the risen Jesus is wild about you, even if you can’t feel it. Listen beneath your pain for the voice of Abba God: “Make ready for my Christ whose smile, like lightning, sets free the song of everlasting glory that now sleeps in your paper flesh like dynamite.” Brennan Manning, from his book, The Signature of Jesus


. . . . .

If you need strength through the battle right now, I highly encourage you to read Christine Caine’s recent blog about her fight with cancer. It has strengthened many.

 . . . . .


The day after my mother died, I opened the book of Psalms to search out every ounce of comfort I could find in His Word. I clung to them in hope. I underlined them in faith, trusting my God Himself would bring me through the valley, not just point the way and say, “Good luck, kid.” I’ve listed a few here if you or someone you know needs strengthening.


But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. Psalm 3:3


With my voice I cry to the Lord, and He hears and answers me… Psalm 3:4


The Lord listens and heeds when I call to Him. Psalm 4:3


In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you, Lord, alone make me dwell in safety and confident trust. Psalm 4:8


But let all those who take refuge and put their trust in You rejoice; let them ever sing and shout for joy, because You make a covering over them and defend them; let those also who love Your name be joyful in You and be in high spirits. Psalm 5:11


Have mercy on me and be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am weak (faint and withered away); O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled. Psalm 6:2


…the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping. Psalm 6:8


…for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek (inquire of and for) You… Psalm 9:10


The unfortunate commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless. Psalm 10:14


…lighten the eyes [of my faith to behold Your face in the pitchlike darkness]… Psalm 13:3


Therefore my heart is glad and my glory [my inner self] rejoices; my body too shall rest and confidently dwell in safety… Psalm 16:9


…I shall be fully satisfied, when I awake [to find myself] beholding Your form [and having sweet communion with You]. Psalm 17:15


In my distress [when seemingly closed in] I called upon the Lord and cried to my God; He heard my voice… Psalm 18:6


He reached from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. Psalm 18:16


For You cause my lamp to be lighted and to shine; the Lord my God illumines my darkness. Psalm 18:28


Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and through the length of my days the house of the Lord [and His presence] shall be my dwelling place. Psalm 23:6


Although my father and my mother have forsaken me, yet the Lord will take me up [adopt me as His child]. Psalm 27:10


O Lord my God, I cried to You and You have healed me. O Lord, You have brought my life up from Sheol (the place of the dead); You have kept me alive… Psalm 30:2,3


You have turned my mourning into dancing for me; You have put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, to the end that my tongue and my heart and everything glorious within me may sing praise to You and not be silent. Psalm 30:11,12


The Lord preserves the faithful… Psalm 31:23


The Lord is close to those who are of a broken heart… Psalm 34:18


Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, my Help and my God. O my God, my life is cast down upon me [and I find the burden more than I can bear]; therefore will I [earnestly] remember You… Psalm 42:5,6


His beautiful promises go on and on and on, and He is so faithful to show their truths to the brokenhearted, the crushed, the bruised, the tear-stained, to me, and to you. I know it well.

Me Too: Not Enough

5 09 2014

you-are-enoughPart 2 in the Me Too series

“The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.” Dr. Brené Brown


Just a few days ago, I attempted the unthinkable. I bared my soul for the world to see. Upon clicking “Publish” I immediately burst into frantic tears at the thought of being exposed and shortly thereafter graduated to a nosebleed. Classy. If that doesn’t tell you how unaccustomed to vulnerability I am, I don’t know what will.


The response to my first blog, “Me Too: A single, Christian woman bears all,” was humbling and eye-opening. I saw women, men, single people, and married people relate. I saw people around the world inspired. And it made me realize two things: there is an immense lack of raw openness we share with each other and there is an overcoming power that realness lends to one another. A very close friend worded my newfound victory in this struggle perfectly: “What you used to view as weakness (being transparent and vulnerable) has become the strongest weapon in your arsenal against the enemy. Your act of stepping out and declaring your testimony is the epicenter of overcoming in your life. And just like an earthquake, you are now watching the shock waves go out and defeat him over and over across the world.” What happens when we speak out our testimony, our story, beautifully stained by the blood of Jesus? What happens when we choose to court Truth instead of residing with Lies? We overcome (Revelation 12:11).


There are many lies that I am finally beginning to reject in my own life. Thirty-two years of protecting these villains and I am just now becoming brave enough to say, “No more!”


“You’re unworthy.”

“You’re not good enough.”

“You’re not smart enough.”

“You’re not educated enough.”

“Life doesn’t really count until you’re married.”

“You’re not attractive enough.”

“No one will listen to you.”

“You’re uninspiring.”

“You’re too shallow.”

“You’ve been passed over.”

“You should have known better.”

“Those walls will never come down.”

“Just face it, you’ll always struggle with that.”

“Your blatant sin disqualifies you from ever being used by God.”

“You’ll get hurt again if you put yourself out there.”

“You’re not equipped enough to do that.”

“You don’t fit into the social norms.”

“You’re just not worth it.”

“You’re forgotten.”

I’ve given these lies enough stage time. I even watched my beautiful mom live much of her life in the debilitating and fear-inducing grip of many of these lies as well. It is about time I ended their reign in my lineage. Enough is enough.

. . . . .

Sharing a piece of my story with the world has done wonders for me. It has unlocked a cage I climbed into years and years ago. There is power in exposing the shadows and giving way to the light. But a blog here and there is not the key to my freedom. A few “likes” or “shares” or encouraging pats on the back from friends is not the key to my freedom. It is not enough. No matter how much of my life I share with the world, no matter how many masks I pull off, I will find it ultimately and eternally ineffectual without the blood of Jesus coursing through my words, actions, and life. The lies I have battled, the rejection I have sheltered, and the loneliness I have felt will all remain unless the love of Christ is embraced. And oh how I am embracing that profound love! Nothing, absolutely nothing, is as satisfying and healing.


“As we allow ourselves to experience our own pain, we can know that what we feel is Christ suffering in us and redeeming us. Rather than condemning ourselves for our weakness and making self-conscious efforts to try harder, we can allow the Crucified to love us in our brokenness. There is no way of healing from the wounds each of us carries except through the love of Jesus that forgives seventy times seven and keeps no score of our wrongdoings.” From Brennan Manning’s The Signature of Jesus


I could serve a life sentence in the prison of lies. I could waste years beating myself up for every sinful and filthy trench I have made camp in. I could cower in the corner of condemnation and live a minimalistic Christian life, suffocating the power of the cross. I could tremble at my inability. Or I could cling to that cross and look into the eyes that wash, transform, and embolden me. In myself, I am weak, messy, untrained, and feeble. But take that same brittle soul and leave it and its weaknesses in the hands of an all-powerful and all-giving God, and hear her proclaim, “I am enough!”


You are enough not because you have stressed and strained, worked and trained.

You are enough simply because Jesus is enough.

Me Too: A single, Christian woman bears all

1 09 2014


“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” Dr. Brené Brown


It’s 4 a.m. and I haven’t been able to get this short burst of bravery out of my soul. If I wait any longer, no doubt I will question my actions, sloughing them off as stupidity in action. I fell asleep to Bethel’s “You Make Me Brave” on repeat and woke up a few hours later with my story forming in my head. I felt like I had just enough courage to share with the world a piece of me that I rarely ever expose. Should it bring courage and comfort to just one person in the world, then it is worth it. Even if it doesn’t, I still can rest knowing I was obedient and my wings grew slightly stronger in the effort.


I write this for every girl or woman that has ever felt the pangs of rejection or loneliness. You couldn’t ask me to write on a more painful and personal topic.


“The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.” Dr. Brené Brown


I am two months away from my thirty-second birthday, and I am as single as a Kraft cheese slice. And that stupid cheese slice has been the source of a decade of deep sorrow. Until now, you never heard me addressing it to friends and definitely not acquaintances. If it came up, I quickly joked it aside and put on an air of confidence that probably fooled the world. But deep down I was sheltering a torrent of rejection and loneliness, that, given 9.3 seconds for my heart to dwell on, I would be in uncontrollable tears about. One of my greatest desires in the world is to have that best friend, that companion to adventure through life with, share all with, conquer the world with, someone to strengthen and be strengthened by. And having my hopes deferred year after year has led to pain after pain.


I do not doubt for a second that many of you in my position can relate to how I feel. For a decade now I have heard words like “He’s just around the corner. I know it.” At 22, my heart leapt at those words. Ten years on, my heart despises them for I find I am unable to match the hope in their voice with the dwindling hope in my own. I’ve heard those close to me attempt to comfort my temporarily exposed pain by saying, “Marriage is overrated,” crushing my moment of vulnerability by trying to discredit my feelings within. I’ve even had those close to me openly question my sexuality. But most of all I’ve heard the screaming voice of societal standards telling me I must not be worth someone’s love; if I am single this late in the game, then something is wrong with me (I’m not attractive enough, flirtatious enough, not this and not that); if I am not married by such-and-such an age, then I am doomed to forever be a Cat Lady. A Kraft Single Cat Lady, the third wheel in all my friend’s marriages. Whether imagined or not, I feel society’s sympathetic eyes on me at all times, a look that simply says, “Poor girl.”


For the past ten years I have violently and quietly struggled with every possible rotten yet thriving branch that comes from the roots of rejection and loneliness. The select few in my world were privy to the pain I endured and the pain I brought on. Sin had a chokehold on me. But at the beginning of this year, I reached an all-time low. My thoughts and my actions had led me to a place of utter self-destruction. I hurt myself and almost threw away my future, I rejected God, and I deeply wounded those close to me. In that moment of “I can’t believe I have allowed myself to get here” weakness, and in that state of “Never ever ever would I have imagined I could have done this and that,” I wept bitterly and cried out for help. Ten years of keeping God the Father at arm’s length, and I was finally ready for Him to truly be my all. No longer would I think He was withholding the gift of a husband from me. No longer would I believe He had forgotten about me. No longer would I shun His perfect creation, me, by thinking He had messed up when He made me. No one else, no boyfriend, no husband, no best friend, no family member, no counselor, no Christian leader, could fulfill the deepest longings in me. In that moment, I gave in and gave way. After a lifelong journey as a Christian, I cried out even louder for my Jesus.


I haven’t chosen to fall in love with Jesus because it’s the cool thing to do. I haven’t chosen to fall in love with Jesus to prove a point to anyone. I have chosen to fall in love with him because it is too painful not to. In a sense, this is my last resort. You may huff and call me pathetic. Or you may entirely relate to the ache and desperation. But He is my only hope. I have tried everything else to find fulfillment and everything else has left me emptier than before. He is honestly the only source of true fulfillment out there. One day I do expect to get married, and without doubt, because we are all imperfect humans attempting our best in this world, my husband will not meet the standard of Hollywood’s Knight in Shining Armor. He’ll misunderstand me. I’ll misunderstand him. We’ll miscommunicate. He’ll smell. He’ll forget to buy cheese slices or cat food at the store after I reminded him three times. I’ll need forgiveness from him throughout our marriage, and he’ll need it from me. And instead of my foundation of love shattering beneath my feet in those moments of human error, I am going to have to lean on the One that never fails and always forgives in order to find the strength to say, “I forgive you. I still love you.” As long as I have my husband, my friends, my family, or Christian ministers on pedestals, my world will crash when they err. The faithfulness of Jesus is not just something I want to sing about anymore. It is what I want to rely on and experience day to day, it is who He is, all He encompasses, and it is who He wants to be for me.


“Only the one who has experienced it can know what the love of Jesus Christ is. Once you have experienced it, nothing else in the world will seem more beautiful or desirable.” From Brennan Manning’s The Signature of Jesus


In these few months of absolute surrender, I have experienced comfort and assurance that no person could have ever given me. Jesus has gently taught me where I lack trust, where I lack hope, and where my faith is frail and feeble. I’ve clung to His words and whisperings:

“Know that I am good.”

“Come to me with any desire.”

“MY testimony about you is TRUTH.”

“I have your best interest at the center of my heart.”

“All my intentions for you are good.”

“As you know Me, you will come to know the true you.”

“Sin does not hold you. Trust in My power.”

And, “Believe Me.”


He sees my rejection and knows it all too well. He knows what it feels like to truly be despised. He can recount stories of utter loneliness, when those closest to him shunned him entirely. But he can also define true love for me, for his name is the definition, his actions the catalyst of that love.


“For love of you I left my Father’s side. I came to you who ran from me, fled me, who did not want to hear my name. For love of you I was covered with spit, punched, beaten, and affixed to the wood of the cross.” From Brennan Manning’s The Signature of Jesus


There is nothing more that I want right now than to know him intimately, day by day, more and more. I have become that girl that I used to despise who would say, “Sure, I’m single. I’m chasing Jesus right now.” It is no longer an excuse or a spiritual bandage to mask the deep pain. It is an honest and heartfelt maneuver to expose and eliminate the pain as I stand naked and vulnerable before the only One who can heal me. May my freshly forming scars ever point to that beautiful Healer and may they ever remind you that He’s there for you, too.


“I desire to know the Father’s heart toward me and put to work the power of the cross in my life, to have the brokenness in my life made whole. I want to be restored to a place where I am my whole self, able and willing to give of myself freely to others. I want to be made well for the sake of others. I am believing for a whole, healed, content, joyful, faith-filled, and fully trusting heart. I feel my ministry calling will be an outflow during the journey and process of this healing.” My journal entry at the beginning of 2014. I stepped away from the traditional goals or New Year’s resolutions, and in a state of total brokenness simply listed my heartfelt desire. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the route to fulfillment would be vulnerably sharing what is most precious to me.


(Part 1 in the Me Too series)