Yay, God.

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Last Friday, this picture showed up on my feed, and Facebook told me it had been a year since I’d posted it.

haircut

A year ago Friday, I chopped eight inches off my hair. Anyone that had been around me for more than two minutes knew that my hair was kind of my thing. I hadn’t had a major cut since the eighth grade, and I liked it that way. It isn’t that I intentionally placed any of my identity in the length of my hair, but it kind of turned out that way. I just couldn’t remember what I’d looked like without long hair, so I didn’t know what life was like without it. My life was two-bottles-of-conditioner-per-one-bottle-of-shampoo, blink-too-hard-and-it-gets-tangled, and just-a-trim-pleases. It’s so silly to write an entire paragraph about how the tubular dead matter that grows from my scalp had become my safety blanket, but it had.

But I needed to chop it off. Six years had taken their toll on my hair, and the damage was extremely evident. It was time for a change. So, without telling my mother, I made an appointment for May 27th and cut my hair up to my collarbone.
When I came home and showed my mom, she cried. I hadn’t seen that woman cry that hard since we’d had a death in the family. You think I’m kidding? My sister has a video.

Now, I don’t normally keep tabs on my haircuts, but I will never forget this day for as long as I live.
A year ago Friday, I chopped eight inches off my hair.
A year ago Friday, my mom told me that she and my dad were getting a divorce.
And when she finally hugged me and left the room, I used all the breath I still had in my body to lift my head and look at myself in the mirror across from my bed.

And there was a girl with puffy eyes and hair up to her shoulders, and I was scared of her. I was scared of her because she hadn’t shown up when my uncle died. She hadn’t shown up during the break-ups. She hadn’t shown up when I was wrapping a tape measure around my waist and purging water. She hadn’t shown up when I couldn’t get out of bed the year prior because I was losing against depression.

I was scared of her because my life as I’d known it was ending, and I didn’t even recognize the person in the mirror.

Eight hours after my appointment, I wanted my hair back.

**Now that the whole divorce thing is out there, I’m going to take the time to issue a disclaimer. This blog post is not about my parents’ marriage or the deterioration of it. This blog post is not meant to shame or gossip or expose. My parents are wonderful people and wonderful parents. They have supported me and loved me always, and they’ve parented me and my siblings selflessly. I waited to share this information because it is sensitive and personal for all of us. So I absolutely will not tolerate any judgment regarding my mama and my daddy. This blog post is about me-n-Jesus, okay?**

For as long as I can remember, my family has yayed God. If one of us aces a test or overcomes a challenge or reaches our destination safely, all God’s Millers say, “Hallelujah, yay, God!”

It’s the same as saying, “thank you, God,” but it’s spunkier, and we like that.

Now, for the days, weeks, and months following my mom’s announcement, I didn’t jump out of my seat to yay God. I spent an obscene amount of time in our pool house, actually, crying and screaming until nothing else would come out and begging God to help me heal.
For what I lacked in “yay, God,” I made up in “please, God.”

Now you might be thinking, Jeez Louise, Catherine. You are a twenty-year-old woman. There is no way you didn’t see it coming. These things happen all the time; it’s not that big of a deal! Get over it.

Divorce wasn’t a word in our vocabulary, though. I remember being young and hearing my mother explain to me and my sister that divorce was only an option in cases of abuse or infidelity. I remember being in the seventh grade and sitting in my dad’s office as he told me loud and clear, “your mother and I will never get a divorce.”
So I grew up with the knowledge that no matter how tense things got, divorce was in impossibility.
So imagine my shock when after twenty years, the impossible happened.

Poor me, right? Absolutely not, but we’ll get there.

You see, my family was fantastic. We were a happy family, and my parents poured all of their souls into our lives. So I poured all of my identity into my family. Mom, Dad, Madison, Bo, and I were who I was. It was my constant; it was my foundation; it was my stronghold.
My family was my long hair. I’d gone so long with it that I didn’t know life without it.

Here’s the deal with being a young-adult of divorce. When you come home for holidays, it doesn’t feel like home anymore because someone isn’t there that had been for twenty years prior. When you call home, you do so twice. And when you’re moving full speed ahead into a life in which marriage is finally part of the picture, you realize that your authority, your coaches, in that area didn’t make it, and you can’t help but think that your relationships with significant others, friends, and the guy that tells you for the five thousandth time that guac is extra all have expiration dates. Monumental experiences that should be met with sheer joy—homecomings, graduations, and weddings— are instead met with apprehension. You are forced to think that, at 20+, you may acquire new siblings that won’t appreciate or participate in you and your siblings’ rousing rendition of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” or brilliant reenactment of the graveyard scene in The Goblet of Fire, using only cats as props. You have to accept that your child might call someone you do not know “Grandma” or “Grandpa,” and when they cry, that someone will pull your baby onto his or her lap and cradle him just like they did for you when you were a baby never.

That was what made my heart break a million times; there would be no consonance between life as I knew it and life as I’ll know it.

My parents got a divorce, and I broke my heart.

I broke my heart because I placed my faith, my identity, and my future on an idea, on the idea that this one part of my mortal life would never change. But people are sinful, malleable, and easily broken, and life is hard and unpredictable.
Burying my identity in my perception of my family was like putting a piece of fine crystal service in the middle of a war zone and expecting it to emerge without so much as a scratch.

 

You cannot place malleable things in a volatile environment and expect them to remain consistent.

 

That is the wisdom that God brought me when I begged for it. So a year later, I’m going to yell a “YAY, GOD” for my parents’ divorce.

God didn’t orchestrate the divorce. In fact, scripture tells us that God hates divorce, verbatim.
I hate off-key singing and ground beef, so I’m sure as heck not going to fill the world with either.
People orchestrate divorce. People are to blame if you want to play the blame game (but I’d strongly advise against it as it lasts longer than monopoly, and no one has ever won a round in the history of the world).
So I’m not saying, “Yay, God,” for the occurrence of my parents’ divorce. I’m saying, “Yay, God,” for the outcome of my parents’ divorce.

I strongly believe that God grants blessings in the form of opportunities. Blessings would be handed to us if humankind weren’t so darn stubborn, but God offers us them instead. It’s up to us to recognize them and graciously take them.

The greatest opportunity that I was given was one to reevaluate where my foundation had actually lay and to replant it in a place where it could grow and be strong while it was uprooted. I’m talkin’ Jesus, people. I’d thought that I’d placed my soul in God’s hands before, that He was my foundation, but I was using my family and all I knew as proxy, keeping myself nice and neat in my comfort zone and refusing to expand outside with Him as my guide.
So, this time, I had to give my crystal service directly to God to hold because everyone else I’d typically go through had fallen victim to casualties, and I decided what I actually thought about life and love and relationships with the guac guy because He had become my authority, my coach.

Y’all, the people and things and ideas in which we place our hope are hair. They’re used to identify us. We take care of them. We get used to them and can’t imagine life without them. They protect us, shield us, hide us. But in the end, they’re fragile. They change. They wear damage. We can trim and condition and care for them, but none of that changes the fact that they’re dead.

~Y’ALL READY FOR MY FAVORITE BIBLE VERSE?~

“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

We are dead save for Christ. The hope we have, the strength we have, the faith we have—they’re all given to us by our Lord. So if we are in the market for some, we have to go to Him!

He is constant. He will actually never change. God as I’ve known Him will always be God as I’ll know Him, and that is extremely cool.

You know what else is extremely cool? The changes that have come in the past year are.
My dad and I have talked about how much we have grown since the divorce, and it’s incredible to experience a year’s worth of instantaneous heartbreak and joy. As strange as it is to say this, my parents’ divorce has been one of the biggest blessings I’ve ever received.

I want to navigate what’s to come with God and that mindset because I’m still scared and hurt and heartbroken. With every step forward, there will be two steps back, but for the first time in my life, I am guaranteed steps forward.
Our God is capable of taking something He hates and using it to help sons and daughters he loves grow. I get to quit taking lessons in how to love from my parents and begin taking them from the One who created it. God is offering me the chance to be happy and move on, and I need to take those opportunities as they come.
With every bitter thought, with every pity party, with every gain that feels like a loss, I want to walk with God.

It’s been a year since I cut off my hair and my foundation vanished.
Hair grows back, and foundations can be rebuilt.

Yay, God!

Love,

Catherine

 

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lowercase “i”

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It was the worst one I had ever had because It came on slowly. It had stalked me all day, ducking behind a corner every time I tried to catch It, every time I tried to temper It. I’d tried to take control, tried to overpower It, tried to drown It out, tried to make It go away even just for a little bit, but It stayed with me all day, making me want nothing more than to be left alone, and making sure that I knew that as soon as I was, I wouldn’t be safe. I tried to lose It. I cleaned. I laughed. I went to the gym. I pet my dog. I talked to my mother, but I couldn’t get away from what Debbie had said that morning. So It came because It is stronger than I am. It dragged me inside of myself and I sat there on the couch in my dad’s house while my sister tiptoed around It, trying to figure out a way to attack and take out something she couldn’t see or understand. I stared at the walls and avoided talking because It doesn’t like when I talk about It. That allows me to put some distance between us, and It can’t let me have any control. That’s what It does. It preys on my weakness. I went back home and straight up to my room, muttering a desperate “I’m fine,” to my mother because It made me. Closed door. Weak steps. Hard thud. It was there, flattening me against the wall and smothering me. All I could do was cry. So I cried, curled up in a ball on the ground while It attacked me and took full advantage of me. I squeezed my eyes shut so hard that my head hurt and told It to go away, told It to leave me alone, and It told me that It couldn’t leave me alone because It was me. I was the stalker. I was the attacker. I was the monster that made life an actual, miserable, constant living hell. I don’t want to live anymore. I don’t want to live anymore. I don’t want to live anymore. I. Don’t. Want. To. Live. Anymore.

I didn’t realize the severity of my anxiety until this summer.  I didn’t realize the severity of my anxiety until that night. As I sat there on my floor, crying so violently that there was no sound anymore, letting my anxiety kill me, I thought, “How did I get like this? How did I get from being a level-headed, laid back, joyful person to a complete and total wreck?”

I’m not going to go into detail about my personal life. I will share my heart with y’all all the live long day, but some things are too painful and too personal and too awkward to talk about, so I will serve y’all a hot, steaming plate of the freakin’ gist. I hope you have your eating pants on.

In a matter of six months, everything I thought I knew about myself, about my family, and about the way life works became smoke, and my foundation didn’t just crumble. It disappeared.

But this is how I work. I am all emotion and no logic. I want to fix everyone and everything. I hate conflict. Confrontation destroys me. Seeing people get hurt destroys me. Disappointing people destroys me. So my life was destroying my life.

I know, I know, it could be worse. At least I have my health and the people who love me. I know that. I truly do, but It doesn’t care. It is the honey badger that just don’t quit, y’all. Those words, however sincere and heartfelt and true they may be, do not make a difference. Do you think I am being dramatic? Here’s what is basically going down when someone uses the “at least” statements.

Person 1: “I have a brain tumor.”

Person 2: “QUIT WHINING. AT LEAST YOU DON’T HAVE BIPOLAR DISORDER.”

Person 1: “I don’t have a British accent or an Uncle named Vern either, but that doesn’t change the fact that this thing is going to kill me.”

We could talk about all the things I have going for me in my life for so many freaking moons. I am incredibly fortunate to live the life I have, and I want to do it. I want to live the crap out of this life. I want to follow Christ and discover His purpose for me. I want to love well and passionately and show others that kind of love, the love that only comes from Christ. I want to stumble and to get back up because I know I am safe with Him. I want to go and go and go and be because that’s why I am here. I am here to shine a light. I want to surrender my heart to God and live for Him. I want that. I want all of that.

That is why It terrifies me. It takes that want away. It gets in the way of my life, and It steals my life. It kills me every single time It wants to. That is why It is so bad. It is nearly impossible to surrender a heart that does not belong to you. Trust me, I know how precious and sensational life is. If anything, my struggle with anxiety has made me more aware of that. I do not want to die. I want to live and live hard, but it’s a scary thought that I will have anxiety for the rest of this life that I love. I do not want to die. I want my anxiety to end, and when I am having an attack, the only way that seems possible is to die with it. It’s like Harry Potter and Voldemort with the silent “T” because let’s get it right.

But every time I have an anxiety attack, there is a voice that reminds me that I am not my anxiety, that reminds me that It is actually just it. It is an obstacle. It is a very real, very big obstacle that I will continue to encounter for the rest of my life, but it can be overcome because it may be stronger than I am. But it is not stronger than God. That truth gets me through. The attack does not end right then. I still hurt. I still cry. I still lose the ability to function in that moment, but I know it will end eventually. I know I am going to come out of it because God promises us that.

Just because I talk about how liberating it is to give my heart to God, that doesn’t mean I won’t have a rough go at it myself. Just because I have a strong faith, that doesn’t make me immune to life and all the crap that comes with it. Just because I have been healed time and time and time again, that doesn’t mean that I will outgrow this illness. I’m not magically healed by God. God does not promise to magically heal us. He is not a sage. He is not a voodoo doctor. God promises to use our hardships to shape our lives and clarify His will if we offer them to Him.

So I take the pain. I ride out the attacks. I pray through them and lean on God for strength because for every attack I survive, I find value in life ten times more easily because I know that good is going to come.

I take medicine. I see therapists. I have good days, and I have really bad days. But I am working on it because I want to. My anxiety is not my fault. I have just as much control over it as a cancer patient has over her disease. God made me happy. God made me goofy. God made me caring and messy and awkward, so that is who I am. I am not my anxiety. I am not crazy. I am not unstable. I am not a stigma. It’s about darn time that we start treating mental illnesses as what they are. It’s about darn time we stop shaming people who struggle with mental illness, including ourselves. It’s about darn time we stop stigmatizing mental illness and distancing ourselves from the issue.

I was terrified to share this part of my life with anyone because I thought it would change people’s opinions of me, that they would see me as some ticking time bomb that could freak out at any given moment rather than seeing me as Catherine. And that sucks because I am Catherine. I am not Anxiety. How am I supposed to make that distinction and separate myself from my illness if no one else can or even tries to?

No one runs from cancer. No one runs from ALS. No one runs from heart disease.

Everyone runs from mental illness except those who can’t. Mental illness is just as serious and just as life-threatening as physical illness. It kills even when it doesn’t. So stop pushing it under the rug. Stop treating it like it doesn’t matter. Stop talking about it as a non-issue because without treatment and support, it becomes It.

Pray for healing and understanding. Offer love with reckless abandon. Care too much.

Pity doesn’t help. Empathy does. Unsympathetic motivation doesn’t help. Understanding does. Leaving people who struggle alone doesn’t help. Making them feel safe does.

Open your eyes, people. Hurt is a lot closer than you think. Never cheapen anyone else’s struggle. Never make a victim feel guilty. Never brush anyone aside that needs you.

Love because God taught us to. Love because someone needs it. Love because it heals.

I am only okay because I found out that it was okay to not be okay. I am only okay because I know that a life led by anxiety is not what God intended for me. God has a purpose for my life. I sure as hell am going to go after it, and my anxiety can just deal with the fact that it with a lowercase “i” is going along for the Incredible ride.image

Show Yo’self

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It has been a year. It has been a year since I sat down on my dorm bed for five hours in Goodnow Hall and typed out my most mortifying secret for the entire world to see. It has been a year since I watched God’s words reach half a million people over the course of forty-eight hours. It has been a year since I watched the responses pour in and read each one, feeling uplifted by the encouragement, touched by the stories others shared, and absolutely destroyed by the judgment some spat. It has been a year since I finally made the decision to change my faith, and it has been a year since I decided to let God change me.

If I have learned anything in the past year about humanity, it’s that someone somewhere needs to hear what we have to say no matter how small or trivial those words may seem, and sometimes, that person isn’t halfway around the world. Sometimes that person who needs to hear the words the most is the same person who is speaking.

It was true a year ago, and it is true today.

That’s where I struggle. That is where I struggle in my faith. That is where I struggle in my relationship with God. I had a story. God gave me the strength to live through it. God gave me the words to explain it. God gave me the courage to tell it.
I wrote what I thought was my testimony.
Little did I know, my faith had not yet been defined. I had not been refined.
I was convinced that I had been given that story to be taught a lesson.
No, I had been given my story to tell. What would come from that telling would be my lesson.
The encouragement.
The stories.
The judgment.
The reception has become my testimony because I realized I could not lie anymore. I realized I could not hide anymore. Perfect strangers, people I would never meet in a million years, listened to me; they confided in me; they trusted me. I had to believe what I was writing. My heart broke a million times as I realized how much this disease has affected me, how much it still affects me, how much it has affected my relationship with Christ.
Your judgment helped me define my beliefs. It’s funny how we fear adversity, fear being shaken by adversity, and end up stronger than we were before our beliefs were challenged.  You questioned my beliefs, so I had to, too.
Is this what I really believe?
Yes. It is, gurl.
Your stories convicted me. I realized how imperative it is to actively seek refuge in Christ; I was not strong enough to heal on my own. I will never be strong enough to heal without Him. Praise God.
Your encouragement restored my faith in love—love for others, love for myself, and the love Christ has for us.

Thank you.

I’ve realized more than ever how malleable souls are. We are malleable souls.

One of my favorite moments in words—it’s worth being called a moment because the term “quote” does not do it justice—is credited—falsely, apparently—to C.S. Lewis. Now, I’ve acknowledged that he allegedly never said it, but I absolutely love C.S. Lewis. He’s a genius with a rockin’ testimony, so let’s play pretend for a hot sec.

“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”

(I will say, however, most trace it back to a secular science fiction novel from the fifties, which is intriguing in and of itself. God’s providence is cool, y’all.)

“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul…”

How beautiful is that? How terrifying is that?
It’s so easy to think of a soul as an object, as a possession, as a temporary idea. We can claim it when convenient and reject it just as easily. It’s our emotional side. It’s our volatile side. It’s impressionable and unpredictable.
It’s terrifying to realize that a soul isn’t a possession. It’s an identity. It’s our existence. Without it, we are not, and we are not ever without it. We are emotional. We are volatile. We are impressionable and unpredictable.

We are malleable.
We are weak. We are ambitious. We are selfish. We are opportunistic.

We are malleable.
We are influential. We are capable. We are empathetic. We are insightful…

…If…we go with God.

In my most recent post, I mentioned a meditation on Romans 12:2 that I gave at the end of my senior year. Guess what I’m about to whip back out? THE MEDITATION, Y’ALL.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

In my meditation, I compared people to Play-doh because it’s great. It’s soft and smooth. It has this distinctive smell. It somehow always feels cool to the touch no matter how much we knead it.
(Those aren’t things we have in common with Play-doh. Those attributes are exclusively Play-doh’s. We wish we could be as silky smooth as Play-doh.)
Here it is: Play-doh will assume any shape to which it is molded. “It was fantastic,” I said to my congregation, recalling my unhealthy fascination with Play-doh in pre-school.
“If you put it in a seashell mold, it was a seashell. But then, if you put the seashell into the flower mold, it was a flower, and it was like the seashell never existed. So what is so wrong with malleability, with being broken enough to be molded into something as wonderful as a blue play dough flower?
Well, if it falls into the wrong hands, everything.
Because then a little three-year-old boy would take my flower and shove it up a Lego where it would be placed in the Lego drawer to harden, and neither the Lego nor the play dough could ever be used for play time again.”

Play-doh will assume any shape to which it is molded.
Play doh will harden into any shape to which it is molded.
So will we.

“We are like play dough. We are malleable and easily influenced. And if God is our sculptor, we are in good hands.”

If we open our hearts to God’s will and God’s words, we will be transformed.

A year ago, I stopped my egotistical war with God and finally decided to open up about my eating disorder.
“No, God. I don’t want to. I don’t want to shatter this image I’ve worked my whole life to build. I don’t want to let people know how shattered I’ve been, how shattered I still am. That’s my secret.”
Obviously, I wanted to keep up an image. If I hadn’t been concerned with how the world perceived me, I wouldn’t have starved myself, wouldn’t have ruined my body. I wanted to conform.
I wrestled with coming clean for months. Months.
And a year ago, God won because He always does. He pried me out of that lego, and thank goodness He did because if He hadn’t, I would still be there, hardened and hiding, not allowing my heart to be exposed to Him or for Him.

We have been given this incredible gift to impact and to be impacted, so it’s about dang time that we realize it.
We aren’t lost souls. We are hiding souls.
If we are lost, it’s because we are choosing to be.
We are traipsing around, focusing too much on life after high school, life after college, life after retirement, life after mortality, and we have no idea how much potential we hold. We have no idea how much we are isolating ourselves by not living intentionally.

We are so preoccupied with our schedules and aspirations that we don’t realize the path we are leaving behind us. We don’t realize the potential our words or actions have. We miss opportunities to change and be changed because we are trudging along with our heads ducked, shutting out everyone around us.
I do it. I do all of it.

We are supposed to reach people, to bond with them, to love actively and deliberately and well.
We are supposed to bring people out of hiding.
But you can’t find someone if you’re hiding, too. That’s not how the game works.

So come out, come out, wherever you are!

You have words to speak. You have a smile to give. You have a shoulder to offer. You have advice to dole. You have bonds to form. You have a difference to make. You have joy to spread. You have a story to tell. You have a life to live.

You are a soul to find.

We have not been given these lives for ourselves. We have been given them for His will.
We have not been given these stories to keep to ourselves. We have been given them for His purpose.
We have not been given this love to hoard. We have been given this love for His kingdom.

So, thank you. Thank you for your encouragement because without it, I would not have been able to realize that the reason I felt so lost was because I was hiding myself. I would not have been able to realize that I needed to turn around and run back toward God. I would not have been able to realize that my self-righteous heart needed to be broken by the words He gave me. It needs to be broken every single day.

In the past year, I’ve rejoiced, I’ve wept, I’ve run, I’ve fallen, I’ve stumbled, I’ve healed, I’ve sung, I’ve judged, I’ve repented, I’ve hidden, and I’ve been found over and over and over again.

It’s been a year.
And it’s been the best out of my twenty.
Praise be to God. Always.

[So much] Love [it hurts],
the anorexic
the bulimic
the obsessive
the wanderer
the sinner
the saved
the blessed
the loved
[the malleable]
[the transformed]
[the brought-forth]
Catherine

“Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”

–Jim Elliot, the stinkin’ genius

“It’s All Part of God’s Plan”

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Time: 3:46 AM
Place: The floor of my study room in the Gamma Phi Beta House
Why: I took my medication after dinner so I could stay up and work on homework tonight, and homework is boring. And this message is too important to wait until after the school week from Hell is over to write. It has to happen now.

I am a member of First Presbyterian Church of Thomasville, Georgia, and I am under the impression that no sanctuary is more beautiful than ours. I was baptized in that sanctuary. I was confirmed in that sanctuary. It was in that sanctuary that I realized how much I really love architecture. I sang my first duet with my sister in that sanctuary. I played sardines during youth group lock-ins in that sanctuary. I’ve been to funerals, weddings, and come to appreciate the fact that we serve grape juice for communion in that sanctuary. I’ve cried there, I’ve laughed there, I’ve come to know Christ there.
But it was not until a couple of weeks before graduating high school that I really realized the gravity of that space.
It was Youth Sunday, a Sunday in the late Spring during which the Youth of the church lead the service. They sing, read scripture, take the offering, preach–the whole shebang, led by sixth through twelfth graders who were approached by the Youth Leaders and coerced into performing a particular role.

By the age of eighteen, I had stood up in front of the congregation more times than I could count.
Granted, my Youth Sunday participation had been less than scintillating the year before. I was in charge of the offertory prayer. You know, the prayer that is given after the offering has been taken from the congregation.
It goes something like, arms out to the side, “Lord, receive these tithes and offerings as a sign of our gratitude and abounding love for You. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.”
My dad even typed it up for me.
But I’d gotten up there, no stranger to public speaking, mind you, lifted my arms, and said, “Dear God…”
*Insert ten second long pause*
What came next was reminiscent of Greg Focker’s prayer in Meet the Parents.
It ended with “…and thanks again. Amen.”

But, nearly a year later, as I walked up to deliver my meditation on Romans 12:2 as the last of the senior speakers, I could hardly breathe.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

I was nervous because I was about to deliver a message about one of the topics with which followers of Christ struggle the most: Discerning the Will of God. It’s a subject over which one must tread lightly because of how easily God’s Will and the scripture pertaining to such can be misinterpreted.

Here is the gist what I, with the help of our associate pastor, took from this passage:

If we focus on worldly goals, we are shutting God and His plan out. It is only by surrendering our hearts to Him that we can be led, for he molds and shapes our hearts to follow the path that He has lain for us.

I delivered the message, left the pulpit, and returned to my seat. And as ridiculous as it sounds, I felt change stirring.
Standing up in front of a congregation and interpreting God’s word had required a lot more than stage presence. It had required conviction.
So I fell in love with prayer, and out of it, and back in. It’s a cycle. And I committed myself to letting God guide me as best I could.

“It’s all part of God’s plan.”

It is such a default Christian thing to say, but we all do it.

This post is about the colossal hole we’ve created as sons and daughters of Christ by using this saying.

It’s a spiritual crutch.

It’s a religious pep-talk.

It’s a backup plan.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this saying. The fault comes with how we use it and fail to fill in vital information.

The huge fault, the colossal hole, comes when it is used as a response to the question, “Why would God allow this to happen?”

The fact of the matter is that a parent who is grieving the loss of his or her child, a victim of a natural disaster or an act of terrorism, or a friend who has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness doesn’t want to hear that their tragedy is “all part of God’s plan.”

You plan surprise parties.

You plan vacations.

You plan baby showers.

You don’t plan bad things. You plot.

So you’re safe. You have officially answered a question to which you did not know the answer by giving the End-All-Be-All of answers.
“It’s all part of God’s plan.”
And your intentions were truly the best.
But here is what has really just happened.
You’ve just used God as a scapegoat.
That victim has instead heard, “God planned this tragedy. God planned your hurt. God planned your misery.”
Your genuine intentions have accidentally painted God to be a villain, a puppet master who directs all of the good, the bad, and the ugly of the world. He is responsible for all of it.

WHOA, NOT TRUE.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
James 1:17

For I proclaim the name of the LORD; Ascribe greatness to our God! “The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.”
Deuteronomy 32:3-4

And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5

The whole truth here is that God is good. He is good all of the time. He is perfect. His intentions are perfection. He cannot create misery. He cannot create hurt. He cannot create tragedy.
Those are all concepts spun from evil, woven by darkness, and caused by human err.
We brought those things into His perfect world.
God doesn’t kill children. People and accidents do because we brought imperfection into this world.
God doesn’t wash away houses. Hurricanes and floods do because we brought imperfection into this world.
God doesn’t massacre a crowd. People do because we brought imperfection into this world.
God doesn’t take someone’s health. Diseases do because we brought imperfection into this world.

God does not orchestrate hurt. God bares the burdens and the hurt of the entire human race with us. He hurts when we hurt.
If it were up to God, children would not be taken from their parents, and parents would not have to bury their children.
If it were up to God, homes would not be lost.
If it were up to God, the hate that has to exist in someone’s heart to kill would not exist.
If it were up to God, our bodies wouldn’t fight with disease.
He did not intend any of this.

But God has to allow it. He has to allow it all because we chose, and continue to choose every day, to stray. He has to allow it so that we will realize how weak and how saturated with evil we are without Him. He has to allow it so that we might find our way back to Him. He has to allow it because we separated ourselves from Him, so the decision to follow Him has to be our own. He cannot guide us until we have welcomed Him into our hearts.

God does not orchestrate hurt, but He promises to bring us through it.
He promises to be our refuge, to bring us comfort, to mend our broken hearts.
He promises us joy and light and love because He has promised us Himself if we give Him ourselves.
He has promised us a future if we follow Him.
He promises us eternal life.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

God is sovereign. He knows our future as well as He knows our past. He has gone before us and mapped out great plans for our souls. He has fought the battles we have yet to face. He has seen the tragedy we have yet to experience. He has born the sin that we have yet to commit, and yet He still promises to stay with us, to be our guide, and to bring us out of the darkness that we have cast over ourselves since the beginning.

You might try to claim that He is spiteful for punishing us, for even allowing hurt to come to His children, that no one deserves to bear any agony.
But here’s what we really don’t deserve:

God.

We don’t deserve His life, His Kingdom, His grace, His mercy, His blessings, or His love.
But he allows us to have it, all of it.
Not only does he allow it, but he promises it.

So yes, God does have a plan.

But everything we are dealt in life is not “all part of God’s plan.”

No, your hurt is not part of His plan. That’s the result of our disobedience.

His plan is free of hurt, free of hate, free of sin. But we cannot find it in this world. We’ve destroyed it. We have no life except through Him, through His redemption, through His promise. And life according to His plan will be so much grander than anything we could ever imagine.

So let’s stop incriminating God. Let’s give thanks that He will deliver us from evil. Let’s take comfort in the knowledge that our Redeemer is so much stronger, so much more powerful than any of the darkness we face. Let’s open up our hearts to Him so that we may be renewed instead of turning away from Him when we need Him most. Let’s be humbled by the fact that He–the only pure goodness this world has ever known–has not only allowed us, but has chosen us to follow Him. Let’s rejoice in the fact that HE NEVER LEAVES US and He will never lead us astray.

Time: 6:36 AM
Place: Couch in the Gamma Phi Beta Lounge
Why: To knock some sense up into your head and mine.

God is good all the time.
All the time, God is good.

Seeking Always,
Catherine

Get Me to the Church on Time

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I am getting married.

My family has finally stopped referring to my boyfriends as “flavors-of-the-month.” Laugh if you must, but I’ve pretty much had a boyfriend since I was twelve.

Colby Marsh–shout-out to Colby–asked me to the Valentine Dance in the sixth grade. I was two inches taller than him in my one-inch heels, and his suit was too big for him. He had asked me to the dance, so, by default, he had to be my boyfriend. This was middle school. This was the big leagues. We didn’t just throw our emotions around.
I can still see poor sixth-grade Colby being lifted above the heads of the other boys, flailing, writhing, desperately trying to escape. They carried him right over to me and plopped him down at my feet. He tried to run for it. They held him there.

“Dude, just do it. Everyone else did it.”

“Catherine, will you go out with me?”

“Sure.”

“Okay, cool.”

They let him go. He bolted.

The romance lasted for two months–we even held hands once–before he broke up with me on a Sunday afternoon through a mutual friend. He called Friend. Friend called me. My heart broke. I spent the duration of youth choir practice staring out the window, imitating the obligatory post-breakup depression I’d watched in movies as best I could.

After Colby came a string of middle-school boyfriends, the longest lasting four months and the shortest a mere six weeks, hence “flavor-of-the-month.”
As I got into high school, I dated two boys over the course of four years and began my current relationship just a month into my freshman year of college.
My friends and family pretty much reached a consensual conclusion that I’d be the first to get married and start a family upon graduating college.

This past weekend, I spent the Fourth of July with my sister and our cousin, who are both twenty, at our family’s river house in Dover Bluff as per usual.

We’ve spent nearly every Fourth there since I was eleven, and it has become more of a routine than a tradition. Seven people come. Our Memaw, my Aunt Mag, my Uncle Harve, my cousins Anna and Layton, my sister, and I all take our place in the Bluff House and quickly establish normalcy. Memaw can either be found in a rocking chair on the front porch, tearing through a novel or in the kitchen, looking out the big window over the sink, watching people come and go on golf carts and four wheelers. Aunt Mag is either walking Anna’s Maltese, reading by Memaw, or in the kitchen, trying to keep up with the stomachs of the teenagers that are in and out of our house all day. Uncle Harve is either fishing on the river, out working on the yard, or sleeping. (Seriously. That man can sleep anywhere. Once, when we replaced an old hand-me-down recliner with a slightly-less-worn hand-me-down recliner in the living room, we placed the old one outside in the yard for Uncle Harve to move. When he didn’t come in from the river when he said he would, we didn’t think much of it. But when Memaw moved to the window over the sink to watch the comings-and-goings of our neighbors, she found him. There was Uncle Harve, snoozing in the old recliner in the front yard of the house, wearing a shirt that said “Women love me; deer fear me.”)

South Georgia, yeah!

If Layton isn’t working or fishing with his dad, he hangs out with the other boys our age. And we three girls are always riding through the woods on the golf cart, singing at the top of our lungs. We even have designated Fourth-of-July bedrooms. There is a balance to it that I love. We each have a niche.

On the Fourth, the entire family comes to the back yard to help Anna, Madison, and I put together our float for the parade. The stakes and stress are always as high as the humidity and heat index because we have now established a legacy, taking home first place four years running.

July 4, 2011 We took home First Place for the first year with a "Surfin' U.S.A." float, which was honestly a giant wave

July 4, 2011
We took home First Place for the first year with a “Surfin’ U.S.A.” float, which was honestly a giant wave. Lord help us.

July 4. 2012 The stakes are raised.

July 4. 2012
The stakes are raised.

July 4, 2013 The year to end all years, establishing a three-year streak with a mobile duck blind and beards. "Hap-pay, Hap-pay, Hap-pay Fourth, y'all!"

July 4, 2013
The year to end all years, establishing a three-year streak with a mobile duck blind and beards. “Hap-pay, Hap-pay, Hap-pay Fourth, y’all!”

This year was different, though. Anna, who is three years my junior, travelled to Europe with People to People Student Ambassadors this summer, and she was set to return to the U-S-of-A from her three weeks abroad on none other than July 4th. So she, Uncle Harve, and Aunt Mag couldn’t make it for the actual Fourth this year. However, since the holiday fell on a weekend, the events were spread out among three days. So they considered coming for Saturday and Sunday for a bit, but Layton decided that he’d rather just Madison and I join him and a friend for some cousin bonding for the weekend.

It dawned on me that there would be no adults down there with us.

Then I thought about it, and something scarier occurred to me.

I am nineteen, a legal adult, and, since Anna would not be in attendance, the baby of the group.

We have two good friends that I’ve known since I was eleven, when we met the first year we started coming for the Fourth. Blake and Daniel are cousins and the two funniest guys I know. Blake is twenty-one (and the object of my first real crush back when I was eleven; shout out to Blake!), Daniel is twenty along with Layton and Madison, and I am nineteen.

It dawned on me that we WERE the adults that would be down there with us.

Although we kept up some of our antics, i.e. dressing up as Bald Eagles at the age of twenty, the over-all tone to this year was more serious than it ever has been, more adult.

July 4, 2014 There is nothing more majestic than two Bald Eagles riding around in their nest. Happy Birthday, America.

July 4, 2014
There is nothing more majestic than two Bald Eagles riding around in their nest. Happy Birthday, America.

When Madison and I rolled into the Bluff on Tuesday night at eleven, she and I stayed up with Layton well into the night, discussing our relationships and listing off everyone we knew in our classes that are engaged or “close-to-it,” married, or having/have already had kids.

The list was surprisingly long.

I kept thinking, But we’re kids. We aren’t old enough for any of this.

But we were the adults that were there. We were the adults period. I just don’t feel like one when there are older adults present. I don’t feel like an adult when I am sitting in the same bed in which I’ve slept since I was a toddler with my cousin and sister, mentally taking inventory of all the materials I’ll need to make Bald Eagle costumes. I don’t feel like an adult when I squeal over the dipped granola bars that Aunt Mag left on the kitchen counter for us. And it didn’t stop there.

The next night, Layton and I sat on the front porch, rocking and talking about what we wanted in our lives, mostly in relationships, in the near future until three in the morning. The following night at dinner, Madison and I sat with Blake and Daniel on their front porch, discussing what we wanted to name our children while we ate dinner.

Meanwhile, in my head, I am freaking out.

When did it become normal to spend the present talking about the future? The real-world future with a salary and a mortgage and a family? When did we stop surfing dirt on trashcan lids while being pulled behind golf carts and spending hours in the pool or chasing each other around, massacring the others with water balloons and silly string? Why does it all of a sudden have to be front-porch sitting like the adults?

The more I sat there and freaked, the clearer it became to me how dead-wrong my friends and family have been this whole time.

Chances are, I will not be the first person to settle down out of college. I don’t know my future, but I know my personality. And considering the looks of where I am right now in my life and the fact that I still have four more years at the best school in the universe before I graduate with my Master’s, I will not be where I assumed I’d be even last year.

Four years ago, I was sketching plans to make the golf cart look like a giant wave for the parade. Four years later, I am considering making a buffalo costume to go along with next year’s potential covered-wagon pioneer theme.
So four years from now, I expect to be up to my knees in papier-mâché, transforming the golf-cart into a mobile Mt. Rushmore. I call George Washington, kids.

I am legally an adult.

I am mentally a kid.

It dawned on me for the first time since my sixth grade year that one’s preparedness for marriage is not dependent on the ratio of time spent in a relationship to time spent out of a relationship.

Yes, each new relationship is an opportunity to find what I think I’ll prefer in a life partner, and since my freshman year of high school, I’ve been able to discern which qualities in a guy are compatible with my personality and which are not in any way, shape, or form to be repeated.

I don’t know who I am going to marry. It could be Noah, my current boyfriend, or I could have ten boyfriends after Noah before I decide to settle down. But I do know that I have never gone into a relationship thinking that I am going to marry the guy I am dating, and I have never actually believed that I would marry any of my boyfriends at any given time in any of my relationships.

Why?

Because I am too busy getting excited about being a buffalo next summer.

I don’t want to marry my boyfriend because I am not ready to think about marriage.
It has nothing to do with Noah. Noah is a great guy in every meaning of the word, and our relationship is just fine. It’s everything either of us needs at this point in our lives, so it doesn’t matter if it will be everything either of us needs in the future. If it is, great. If it isn’t, great. If our relationship grows with us, great. If we outgrow the relationship, great.

God has a plan.

My sister told me about a book that one of her friends from high school read on relationships. I’m being a horrible blogger right now, but I have no idea of the title or even the author’s name. Even so, one of the most profound claims that this author made was about our tendency as human beings to search for someone we can make better. We want to help others, “fix” them, or fill a void in their lives so that we become an object of infatuation, falsely convincing ourselves or the other that our partners NEED us. We complete our partners, or  they complete us.

Wrong.

I, like many other little girls, was introduced to the idea of Prince Charming at a very young age. I began expecting that one day, I would meet and fall in love with someone who offers everything I want, who balances me out perfectly, and I would do the same for him. He would be someone who inspires and challenges me, loves me through all my struggles and in spite all of my imperfections.

He would complete me.

I was silly.

The only one that can complete a human being is God. His love is the only power that can make us whole. Our souls long to be relentlessly sought-after, yet the same souls hunger for something we can’t offer ourselves–freedom. God is our souls’ mate, the author argued. It isn’t until we have honed and cultivated our relationships with Christ that we will truly be made whole. And even then we should search for other whole people who desire a relationship with us because of their relationships with Christ. God then truly becomes the foundation for the relationship, the common ground and the common goal.

Christ is my Prince Charming, King of Kings. Not only does he offer everything I want; He offers everything I can’t, everything that any man I will ever meet cannot. Not only does He inspire me; He is my strength and my shield, my source of unfettered joy. Not only does He challenge me; He guides me and reveals to me through His love my purpose. Not only does he offer me unconditional love; He washes my imperfections away.

He completes me.

There has been a lot of chatter recently, especially on the internet, as to what age is appropriate for marriage nowadays. Posts have gone up in opposition to “starting a life” with one’s partner right out of college (23 Things to Do Instead of Getting Engaged When You’re 23), and others have gone up in opposition of the former’s opposition (My Response to “23 Things To Do Instead of Getting Engaged Before You’re 23″).

(That’s not my response, just a response. THIS is my response to the whole debate.)

The fact of the matter is that some people are ready for marriage earlier than others.
There is no right or wrong side. It’s a personal choice
I’m nineteen. I know people my age that are getting married, but I am personally not ready to consider it.

Why? Because I am nineteen, and I need to be selfish.
By “be selfish,” I mean I need to work on myself before I turn my attention to anyone else.

Eventually, I hope to have a husband to love and fight with, to worship God and be broken and yoked together. Eventually, I hope for the blessing of children with my husband, to bring them up the way they should go.

But it’s not time for my eventually.

It’s time for my right now.

Right now, I need to find myself.
That’s not as extreme as it sounds. I am not going to drop off the face of the planet a la “Eat, Pray, Love” or reinvent myself or date as many guys as humanly possible.
Right now, I need to cultivate my relationship with Christ so that I may do His will, so that I may know His plans for my future.
Right now, I need to be made whole.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” –Jeremiah 29:11

If I allow myself to fall deeply in love with Christ, to devote my life to him, to surrender my own desires and trust that He will guide my soul in the direction it should go, I will know when I will be ready for marriage. I will be ready when He wants me to be ready, but I won’t be ready until I am whole.

My greatest fear is resentment. How am I supposed to respect a man with whom I will hopefully spend the remainder of my life if I selfishly blame him for all of the opportunities I missed because of him or resent him for not living up to my expectations. How is my husband to respect me for the same reasons?

Christ fulfills our deepest desires in ways that we can’t, in ways that others can’t. If I am whole, I won’t feel empty. I won’t feel like something is missing. I won’t wonder “what if?” or regret opportunities not taken. If I am whole, I won’t need a man to complete me, to live up to my expectations.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” –Ephesians 5:25

I don’t want to need a husband. I want to love him.
And I want the same for him.
The Church is Christ’s bride. He doesn’t need us, yet He loves us. He doesn’t need us, yet He desires us. He doesn’t need us, yet He pursues us. He doesn’t need us, yet He sacrificed His life for us.
Our souls long to be bonded to something bigger than just ourselves.

If I bond my soul to a human being, if I depend on my future husband to fulfill my soul’s desires, I will become a prisoner to my own resentment and disappointment.

If I surrender my soul to Christ, if I allow myself to depend on Him, I will be set free.

How beautiful and wonderful is it that through total dependence and submission will come total liberation?

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” –Matthew 6:33

And here’s a crazy idea.

I can continue to live the life I am living. I can continue to spend most of my time in Seaton Hall at Kansas State, working on whatever Hell-in-the-form-of-a-project I’ve been assigned. I can continue pursuing my Master’s degree. I can continue in my sorority and church and friendships. I can continue going to football games on Saturdays and cheering on our Wildcats. I can continue dating my best friend. I can continue growing toward Christ both with him and as an individual.

As long as I actively pursue God and my relationship with Him above all else, He will guide me. He will work in my life and my relationships. But if I allow my concerns for my future, such as my success in school or keeping up with my friendships and relationships, to consume my focus, I will never be complete and always feel lost.

If I pursue God above all else, He will bless my life, and eventually, my marriage. If He remains my focus, my life as an individual and with my someday-maybe–husband will be more fruitful than if I put my relationship with God on hold and make Him my eventuality. There will be no guessing, only confidence.

” ‘And the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” –Mark 10:8

When I marry, I will not marry my soul mate. I will marry my brother in Christ, a man who has yoked himself to the Lord. And under Him, we will become one; through Him, we will be bonded.
I will not be dependent on him, nor will he depend on me. We will depend on Christ and support each other in our pursuit of God.

But I am not ready to support another in his pursuit because I have not truly begun my own.

I don’t know when I will be ready. God does.
So I will run toward Him, and He will run with me.


blog 5

Right now I am a nineteen-year-old Eagle. Right now, I am not whole. Right now, I have to work on my relationship with Christ so that He can work in my life.
Right now, I am not waiting on eventually.
Right now, I am waiting for eventually.

I refuse to be a slave of my expectations or aspirations. I refuse to be a slave of the future.

My eventuality is not my purpose. My God is my purpose.
My marriage will not define me. My career will not define me. My parenting will not define me. My success will not define me.
My relationship with God will.
My relationship with God will define my marriage, my career, my parenting, and the success of all three.

So who needs twenty-three things to do other than get engaged when you’re twenty-three?
I have one thing to do that trumps the entire list:
Fall madly in love with Christ.

So I’m getting married.

To a man? Eventually.

To Christ? Every day of my life.

 

“And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.” –Hosea 2:19

Godspeed, y’all.

Catherine

"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." --Galatians 5:13

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” –Galatians 5:13

 

This Little Light of Mine

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It feels strange to be typing out a brand-new, clean-slated blog post–first day of school kind of strange. The kind of strange that is so familiar and old-hat but still maintains this daunting sense of potential. The kind of strange that leaves me physically feeling like the last day of school was just last Friday but mentally feeling like I am prepared for the first-day-of-kindergarten-and-nothing-else-because-that’s-how-much-knowledge-I-retained-over-the-summer. The kind of strange-turned-stupid that convinces me that this whole getting-up-on-time with all my pencils sharpened and all my ducks in a row and all my hairs styled gig is going to last. The kind of strange that births the anxiety attack I experience as I sit down in a new seat in a classroom where I had class last year and realize that it’s too cold or too toward-the-front or too toward-the-back or too-close-to-the-door-because-I-can-totally-see-that-junior-twerking-in-the-hallway-to-get-his-friend’s-attention-and-what-if-that-happens-daily, but the new seat is actually only inferior to last year’s seat because of its newness and nothing else. That. Kind. Of. Strange.

It’s not that I am an old pro at this whole blogging thing. I am–in every conceivable meaning of the word–a rookie.

But, if anything, these past three months have shown me how naïve I really am, how selfish and vapid I have allowed myself to become. I know that absolutely no one has been on his or her toes, waiting for me to publish a new post, but before I can start, I have to explain why I haven’t written one. I was scared. I was scared after the last post’s rapid-fire popularity that anything that I could possibly write would pale in comparison. God’s words touched so many in my first post, and I didn’t want to disappoint anyone with a mediocre second. But then I realized that I wasn’t important in this whole scheme. I was merely the vehicle, and God was the one touching lives. Not me. Not little young me. So no matter what I wrote, as long as I felt called to write it, God would have a plan for it. I realized that even if the next thing I wrote touched one person, made one person stop and think about what had just been said, then that is ten-fold better than if I just kept my thoughts to myself and sat stoic in self-satisfaction.

Since the first day that I posted “[Thigh Gap]se in Judgment,” I have been bombarded with the same message. Every hymn I sang, every conversation I held, every sermon I heard, every article or book I read, and every inner-struggle I experienced linked back to the same idea. And if that isn’t God telling me to get over myself and write, I don’t know what is. So I move forward with the knowledge that I am nothing, we are nothing, and everything is nothing without God.

Last night, as I was sitting on the couch, unwinding into the monotonous familiarity that ensues upon arriving home after a week at the beach, I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed. Now, a lot of people hate the fact that Facebook is now plagued with Buzzfeed quizzes and photo-string articles. I am not one of those. Is it a good thing that I enjoy opening up a link that says, “Forty-two Moments that Make Us Wish Jennifer Lawrence Was Our Best Friend?” Probably not. But I will be darned if by the end of that article I didn’t wish Jennifer Lawrence was my best friend.
As I scrolled through the feed, I saw that someone had shared a link to a photo-string called “29 Photos That Show The True Meaning Of Playing With Death.” I followed the link and was blown away and terrified in just twenty-nine photos. (Seriously, if you haven’t already seen it, go look it up.) It’s honestly just photos of people doing crazy-adventurous, dare-devil kinds of things that make my stomach crawl up my throat just from looking at pictures.
As I looked through the photos, I thought, “Wow, they are really living.”
But then I thought, “I am really living, too. I mean, I am sitting on my couch, absorbed in the goings-on of other people, but my heart is beating. My lungs are pumping. My brain is functioning. I am just as alive as the person on my phone screen who is scaling a sheer cliff-face, and I am just as dead as he is.”
I locked my phone and sat back, resolving that if God had wanted me to scale sheer cliff-faces, he would have given me the adventurous spirit required to do so. Sure, those people in those pictures are exceptionally brave, and they may very-well be the bravest or strongest people that a handful of somebodies know.

Not me.

The strongest person I know is my Memaw. She is eighty-two years old and my only surviving grandparent. Just in my lifetime, she has lost her husband, her mother, her oldest son, and some of her best friends; travelled the world; undergone–and is currently facing–serious surgeries; grand-mothered eight grandchildren; endured constant ridicule that comes in the form of countless dreaded, flamingo-themed gifts from her entire family (honestly, her house is covered, and she HATES them); and beat cancer. Memaw is strong.
Those people are strong. But Memaw is strong.

Then I started thinking.
And I thought, I want my grandchildren to view me as the strongest woman they know.
There is something so beautiful about that thought. No one has a monopoly on opinion. It is possible for every person on this earth to be viewed as the strongest person that someone knows at some point in his or her life. The potential exists.

But it won’t happen.

Fifty or sixty years from now, my grandchildren will not see me as the strongest woman they know. And if they do, then bless their little hearts because God may not call me to be a dare-devil, but he certainly isn’t calling me to be who I am right now.

Strength is defined as the ability to resist being moved or broken by a force.

For that reason, I will never be the strongest person ANYONE knows.
Why? Because the motivation and purpose for my life and my existence that I claim is often the part of me I keep most hidden.
That motivation and purpose is my relationship with Christ.
It’s one thing to keep my relationship, guard it, and protect it. The Bible tells us to guard our hearts above all else because that is where Christ resides in us.
No, my hiding my relationship cannot be described as valiant or even cautious. It’s cowardly, born out of timid shame.
I am lying to a three-year-old version of myself who sat in Sunday School, singing “This Little Light of Mine” with all of my heart when the only thing of which I was sure in that moment was that Satan was NOT going to blow it out.
HA.

Will I have a conversation with someone who shares my faith about the love of Christ and His unending grace?
All day long.
But he has to show his light first. Only then will I reach behind that bushel I drag around behind me and reveal a light, saying, “Look, I have one of those, too, and now that I see that my faith won’t offend you, I’m gonna let it shine.”
Will I have a conversation with someone who doesn’t share my faith about the love of Christ and His unending grace?
All day long.
But I will wait until he asks me if I have a light. Only then will I reluctantly and carefully reach behind that bushel I drag behind me and bring forth a light, holding it far enough away from myself so that he cannot see the light reflecting on my face and keeping it a safe enough distance from him so that he doesn’t get burned.

Why do I do that?

Because I am scared. This faith to which I accredit my entire existence, all of me, all of my soul, is my most powerful weapon.
And that’s honestly what terrifies me, that I’ll use it as a weapon or that people will see me brandishing it and get scared.
As a follower of Christ, I have been given a charge.
As God’s creation, we have been given a charge.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

-Matthew 28:19

Can we look at that for a moment?
The Bible doesn’t say, “Go therefore and force the religion of Christianity on all nations, condemning those with whose views you don’t agree in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
So why are we?
We can evangelize without judgment.
We have to.
We are in no position to judge. None. Ever.

Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ, and Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us!

-Romans 8:34

If we keep obsessing over 1) being politically correct with our evangelism or 2) playing God and trying to “save sinners from themselves,” we are going to drive the Truth straight into the ground, bury it, and hide the mound of fresh earth ourselves by trampling on it until we have ultimately killed it.
I am so guilty of it. I am beyond guilty of all of it.

We are not God. We are sinners. We are broken people. All of us. The believers and the non-believers; the preacher who speaks God’s Word from memory in the pulpit on Sunday morning and the homeless man who sits in the back of the church, unable to read the Word but somehow more capable of understanding it than the deacon-church-regular sitting in front of him; the people who point a gun and the person at which the gun is pointed; the mothers who worry and the children who don’t; the blind and the sighted; the gay and the straight; the lost and the found.
I could go on, using as many adjectives, identities, and stereotypes as humanly possible. But none of them would separate us from the fact that we are people. And people are sinners. None of us is worthy of God’s love.

But He showers us with it anyway. He pours it out over us. He drowns us in it. He cleanses our souls with it.

Our charge is to spread the gospel. The gospel is the Word. The Word is God. God is love.
Our charge is to spread love.

Our charge is not to condemn the broken when we are broken ourselves.
Our charge is not to save the others.
Our charge is not to save ourselves.
God already did that.
God is the righteous. God is the savior. God is the sovereign. God is the perfection.

Our charge is to love as God loves and let others know of God’s love for his people.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35″By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

-John 13:34-35

God’s love is impenetrable and abounding, positively infectious.
We are known for our self-righteousness because of the way we have chosen to spread the gospel.
Our identity should be made known by the love and joy that we exude. He will break our hearts of stone and give us hearts for love alone.
So while we have been walking around with our noses up in the air, claiming the word of the Lord, we have only been distancing ourselves from God, not our sin.
Only when we repent and allow our broken hearts to seek and be fulfilled by the love of God will we be disciples of His word.
It isn’t by force, coercion, guilt, or condemnation that men are changed. Those are diseases that already plague each of our hearts–believers and non-believers alike. Adding more is like fighting fire with fire. The heart will only become more bitter.

It is by love and love alone that the truth may be revealed.

Strength is defined as the ability to resist being moved or broken by a force.

That force that breaks me is fear. Fear that I will step on someone’s toes with my big, heavy beliefs. Fear that I am not worthy. Fear that I will judge. Fear that I will be judged.
That force is the bushel that I am dragging behind me.

The only strength that I have a prayer of possessing is that which is found in the Lord, in Christ our Savior.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

-Psalm 119:105

I’m right about that light, my faith, being a weapon. But if I keep it hidden, concealed behind me, it will terrify. If I hold it in front of me, let it guide my path and lead my heart, people will know me by it. People will see me by it. They’ll see all of my flaws, my broken self, the truth. But they’ll see my weapon, my light–the source of my strength–miles before they see me.

When we hide our lights from the world, we are also hiding our lights from ourselves. We have been given this incredible gift, this incredible strength, despite our crippling weaknesses. We have no right to keep it from ourselves, let alone others.

God’s word is the light. God’s word is love. If we allow His love to guide us, to lead us, to radiate from us, we will be unstoppable.

I want to be strong, so I will follow Christ. Take the charge, cast away the bushel, and let your light so shine.

In His love,

Catherine

The Annexorexic.

Standard

I love games. I am a competitive person, and I will admit, it sometimes gets the best of me.
If we’re playing SceneIt, you’re getting mowed over when a scene of my favorite movie comes on. If we’re playing Twister, you’re falling first. If we are playing Risk, I actually don’t know what will happen seeing as I have never played before, but I will try to win. I like to think of my competitive tendency as the whimsical side of my stubborn-as-a-mule nature. (I only call it whimsical because they’re games. It’s actually quite terrifying.) I know it’s bad, but I am human. Just a whimsical human being. 
But as much as I love competition and excitement, I hate one type of game.
Ice-breakers.
The one I despise most fervently is the most relaxed of them all: “Describe yourself in three words.” 
I dislike it so much because when you ask a group of teenagers that are complete strangers to describe themselves in three words, it doesn’t matter how old they are, whether or not they attended Harvard at age eight and are now developing a cure for cancer, or if they have the charisma of a panda cub in a room full of fourteen-year-old girls and one Catherine Miller. IT’S GOING TO BE AWKWARD.
There’s no way around it. It gets ugly, painful even, because here’s what comes out:

“Uhhh…love, Jesus, and four.”
Next kid.
“Ummm…great and fine.”
“That was two.”
“Oh, and I’d say I’m four!”

We aren’t Jesus or four! Leader of the group, we are just thinking of the most generic answers possible to avoid being awkward, to avoid embarrassing ourselves. I’d say we’re doing a pretty jam-up job if I am being honest.

But no matter how much I despise the glacial pace of that ice-breaker, I’m going to be a hypocrite and go for it myself. 

Surprised, Elated, and Humbled.

When I posted “[Thigh Gap]se in Judgment,” I had no idea that it would receive the response that it did. That was huge. That was fantastic. That was love, Jesus, and four. 
I had originally thought that maybe five people would read it, and I might get a like or two on Facebook from my parents. But no. Once again, my thoughts were not God’s, and He said, “Watch this.”
As I watched the response pour in on Wednesday afternoon, I was a puddle of tears. Absolutely confounded. I cannot thank y’all enough for the support and the love that you have poured out not only to me, but to each other. It’s one of the most beautiful things that I have ever experienced, and it is only a testament to God and the good that He continuously pours out over the world. 

That post was all God. The details of my story involved in that post were some of my most hidden secrets, so I can attest to the fact that the internet was probably the last place I wanted my story to be posted. But it was what God wanted, and it has been such a blessing. The man upstairs knows what He’s doing, y’all.
One of the most overwhelming responses that the blog has received is a “thank-you” for the reminder that we are all beautiful, and another is a statement that the particular reader is impressed that I learned those things at my age. But I am here telling y’all that post was also a reminder to myself, that God knew I needed to hear those things, too.

Despite the overwhelming positive response, I did receive a few negative comments. Some of them, I posted and sent a reply because I thought that some things needed to be cleared up or said, but others that were just too vile to even stand to read once didn’t quite make the cut. Let me explain that I am not trying to sound like a brat that cannot take criticism. I’m an architecture major. My entire education right now is based on criticism. Criticism is great because it challenges your views–and in some cases, your spirit–and makes you reevaluate your opinion or think about what has been said. And as a result, you grow; you learn. Criticism, when given and taken correctly, never breeds complacency.
Please excuse me when I say this because I  really mean the best. I honestly do. But this past week, while being joyful and fruitful and awe-inspiring, has been rough. People say that one of the worst feelings in the world is being judged by someone before they know anything about you, but after this week, I disagree. What’s worse than that is posting your deepest and darkest secret–one of which your own mother, who paid for therapy after learning, only knew bits and pieces–for the entire world to see and THEN getting judged. I told my mother it’s like a double-sided mirror at a Ripley’s museum. I could see myself, and that other person could see me. But I could not see them.
I honestly struggled with it. A few things that were said cut deep despite all of the positivity that was coming at me ninety miles per hour. But, my mother pointed out to me that just as God works in strange ways, so does Satan, and he was using the hurtful words said by certain people with hearts that weren’t in the right place to shake me and my faith. He knew that those words would leave me thinking that if I had never posted that blog for the entire world to see, I would not have ever been nearly reduced to tears by someone that I will never even meet. First of all, that was ridiculous on my part because I knew from word one that God had a plan, and I realized that not everyone is going to love everything all the time. And just as some people felt compelled to tell me that they liked it, others felt the opposite. That’s okay. I’m closer to God because of both sides, so thank y’all. 
But I do have to say that hope is not bred where negativity is spread.
That’s right, I just threw it back to pre-school.

So, after thinking about some of the things that were said for a while, I’ve decided to share what I’ve learned–both spiritual and health-oriented.
I’ll start off with this one. It didn’t hurt. It just made me laugh.
1) Q: Are you single?
    A: No.

This one puzzled me.  

2) To the reader that made a remark about how while I was starving myself, kids in Africa are praying to God for water, I realize that. I am sorry, I really, really am–as a human. It’s horrible, and I want to help change that now and in the future. I am not completely positive about what you meant by that comment, but I am going to assume–please forgive me if I’m assuming incorrectly–that you meant that it was selfish of me to deny my body food when I’m fortunate enough have an abundance of it in my pantry while others don’t have a crumb to eat. If you wish, classify eating disorders as first-world problems. Throw a hashtag in front of it on Twitter for all I care. But before you do that, please understand a few things. While it may be a “first-world problem” in your eyes, that doesn’t make it any less of a problem. It’s a huge problem. Eating disorders take lives of men and women–young and old–every single day. Here’s the thing: EATING DISORDERS ARE NOT LIFESTYLE CHOICES. They are mental diseases. Anorexia Nervosa and bulimia are both mental conditions, and most eating disorders stem from a need for control. My own, we found out through therapy, was a result of my personality. I am a perfectionist, I have an obsessive personality, and I am an extremely anxious person. That’s where God comes in. That’s why I sought Him as my refuge. I couldn’t help it. And so many people can’t either. 
I don’t think I am special. I was fortunate enough to have a relatively mild form. I never went to the hospital, and while my habits were slowly killing my body, I never almost died  in ICU with my parents sobbing over my emaciated body.  When you have an eating disorder, your body is a prison. It’s the enemy. So many people’s bodies are the enemy. I wasn’t parading my experience to throw a pity party. God was letting others who were going through the same struggles know that they are not alone. Living with an ED is a beast all by itself because not only are you looked down on by society for being “selfish” and “vain,” but you are also in total isolation from the human race because you are denying your own body of its most basic need–sustenance. It might sound trivial to y’all. Heck, I even thought it was ridiculous before I experienced it myself, but I have never felt more alone in my life as I did then despite having the most loving, supportive friends and family in the world and a beautiful life on top of it. It’s the hardest thing to admit, not only to others, but to oneself. I personally could not have changed without God, the same God that loves the children in Africa. God doesn’t care how we hurt; He only cares that we hurt. And He’s there to love all of us through any of our struggles.
So please, before you pass judgment on me or anyone else that looks a certain way or acts a certain way about food, try to understand how hopeless it feels, and try to understand that I was just trying to let people know that God is our strength and that none of us is alone.

This one cut deep.

3) I was told by a reader to “grow up” and stop acting like I was “better” than her by “hiding behind God” because she could see right through me. This particular reader told me that her mother’s life had been ruined in her late forties due to an eating disorder and that I needed to stop eating like a bird and working out every day. To this woman, I am truly sorry that your mother went through that and that it has hurt you. I cannot imagine watching my mother, who is my hero, go through that. It broke my heart to hear that. But just because your mother struggled with it, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t, too. Just because she was older when it took over her life does not make me naïve or shallow. Just because the people in my life didn’t show their hurt while it was happening, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t show it when they found out. It’s because of this experience–both struggling and getting better–that I have grown up. I have grown up in my self respect, I have grown in my respect for others, and I have grown in my faith. It wasn’t a prima-donna teenage phase. It was definitely real, and it is still definitely real. I struggle with it every day. Every single day. It doesn’t go away. I try to eat healthfully and exercise because it’s still real. If I don’t watch what I eat, I’ll get thrown back into the vicious cycle again. Just as an alcoholic can easily slip back into drinking, I can slip back into harming myself. I don’t want to do that. Please don’t judge me for it because the comments like that are the ones that make people with these problems shut down. Comments like that are the ones that made me shut my parents and my sister and my best friends and even God out of my life. And they are the ones that made some of my closest friends do the same thing. I had no idea about them, and  they had no idea about me. Does that mean it didn’t happen? Absolutely not. We are all unwell without our God.
That was what hurt me. God is my refuge, and you claimed that He was not. That remark was like cutting a runner’s legs off while he is running a marathon. If you want to assume things about me, I can handle it, but do not think for a second that I don’t believe with all my heart that He is the one who is carrying me through. It may sound dramatic, but that’s because it is dramatic. I am not hiding behind God. He is shielding me and keeping me and protecting me, so I am STANDING behind Him. He is doing the same for every single person. And while that reader was looking right through me, I hope she saw a broken, sinning soul that needs God, a heart that loves God, a mind that wants to do His will, a strength that is given by God and God alone, and a spirit that is fighting for God.
I don’t intend to sound mean or offensive, but I wasn’t crying for help from anyone who read that post. I’ve already cried for help, and God has already answered.

My intentions were to let that be known and to let it be known that He will do the same for any that seek Him. I’ll leave y’all with these verses that I hope reflect the message I wished to convey through this post. Thank you all so much for all of your support. I am truly humbled by God’s work through all of your beautiful hearts!

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

Psalm 28:7

 

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:33

 

All the best,
Catherine