Lost in the Garden Project – Eyelids

article-new_ehow_images_a04_8s_n9_firm-up-eyelids-facial-exercises-800x800Most of my life I would close my eyes and see how different my life would be if I wasn’t afraid. But as I move through life those images are becoming less and less. Maybe less is the wrong word. More like,  different. As a child I felt like I was trapped in my own head. I was too fearful to speak up. People always called me the quiet one. Some people don’t care about being the quiet person in the room. But I didn’t want to be. But I was scared. I would think of things to say but they would come out all wrong. I’d get excited about things but not many people seemed to care. My fear of people kept me always fighting with myself, struggling to interact with people, but always wanting to just go home and hide in the comfort of my four walls, with my journal and music. But even then, I wanted to encourage people. I wanted to make a difference and never felt like I could because I was too afraid to just be me. It felt like it was just me and Jesus against the World. Jesus told me he had a great plans for me. I would smile and nod but not believe him because I doubted my ability to break out of my chains. Little did I know that I didn’t have to. In time, God would unlock them for me.

In highschool I felt invisible. I couldn’t wait to go home where I felt loved. But God continued to whisper in my ear, ” You are special. Your value isn’t tied up in being noticed by people.” I still didn’t believe Him but because my God noticed me, I spent most of my time with Him. He would whisper in my ear everyday, encouraging me to encourage others. I found  joy in using words to encourage others. At my school we could write notes to people by giving them to the office to be delivered to the person in their class room. God put it on my heart to send some letters to remind people that they are loved. Sometimes I would make it anonymous and other times I would sign my name. It brought me the greatest joy. This is when I realized I had the calling and gift of encouragement. God told me to prepare for more.

As Christians there is a point where we reach the end of ourselves and God takes over. This happened to me about four years ago. I was in my last semester of college and I was in a toxic relationship. My fears and insecurities led me there. I was trapped by my self. I became pregnant with this guy. I always wanted to wait till marriage to have sex. I was depressed, pregnant, and so regretful. I was at the end of my self. I cried out to God and he answered. He promised to take me on adventures for him and use me for good regardless of my screw ups. A few weeks later I lost the baby. That was my major turning point. No more messing around. No more being bullied by fear and insecurities. Suddenly it all seemed like a waste of time.

But I lacked friends. I felt alone. God told me he would provide a community of friends if I went to college group. I hated meeting new people because I hated being in a room full of people I didn’t know. But I was desperate. I started going to college group consistently. A married couple led the group and I confided in the woman.   I was struggling with staying away from my ex and she prayed for me. From that point I was a new creation. From that moment I felt called to help young women find freedom from the lies of the enemy. When I closed my eyes I saw myself leading young women in the church. I still wasn’t sure how I would do it, but I became involved in the women’s ministry at my church. I took steps daily to stop being afraid. Suddenly I was leading groups of women at these studies. I was scared out of my mind but did it anyways. It was so freeing and fulfilling. I thought women’s ministry was my calling. I was going to pursue a job in that field regardless of how much it paid. But God does things his own way.

Last year some friends and I started a college group at my church. Suddenly I’m teaching and leading Bible studies and I look back to how I never thought I could do this in a million years. Yesterday I started a discipleship study with 10 people from our college group. I was nervous to start it and struggled in brainstorming how to organize it. Well I was sitting there praying with my group and these girls were praying things that suddenly opened my eyes. They were thanking God for me and saying that I was making a difference and inspiring them. I was choking back tears. I took a snap shot of this group of ten people split up in small groups, discussing how to live for God better and praying for each other.  For my whole life, this is what has been behind my eyelids when I closed my eyes and dreamed. I wanted to be used by God to inspire and make a difference. There is no better feeling. As long as I can do this for the rest of my life I don’t care what happens.

What does God promise you when you close your eyes? What are your dreams? Listen to God’s whispers even when you are afraid, take small steps. Keep walking forward even when you are shaking and doubting. You will open your eyes and realize suddenly your life looks a lot like the back of your eyelids.

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Lost in the Garden project

When I was a kid, you could make me do anything for some peanut butter and chocolate.  I was always pretty sure God was present in the chocolate, peanut butter combo, the same way he is present in music and the ocean.

I was a selfish child. This became evident to my mom when we went to the grocery store. I would ask for candy at the check out,  and when faced with the answer “no,” I would then throw my self on the floor and flop like a fish out of water. Sorry about that mom.

The first time I remember making a decision to be selfless, involved a Reese’s peanut butter cup. I was playing with my best friend and there was only one left; a miniature one.  So I decided we should split it, but I wanted it to be even. I went to the kitchen and cut it with a butter knife. I accidentally cut it unevenly and stared at it…and stared at it. I really wanted the bigger piece. I took a deep breath and made the decision to take the smaller piece. It took every ounce of strength in me. Come on, it’s chocolate and peanut butter!

But then I felt something change in me; a flip of the switch. It felt good to take the smaller piece. As the chocolate and peanut butter swirled around in my mouth I realized it tasted better than ever before.  I decided I wanted to be selfless all the time. I was aware that righteousness and wickedness were at war  inside my heart,  and in that quiet moment with my best friend and a Reese’s Peanut butter cup, it felt  like I punched wickedness in the face, and I wanted to keep punching.

Lost in the Garden – Realization of my sinful nature

English: Door into the fruit garden at Strokes...

English: Door into the fruit garden at Strokestown Park The six acre walled garden has recently been restored at Strokestown Park. Many of the fruit varieties date back to the mid 1700’s. The stone walls were heated with fire-boxes built on to the outside. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t remember asking Christ to be my Savior. Well, I don’t think so anyway. Have you ever created a memory because someone told you it happened?  My mom told me she led me to Christ when I was four. So I have this memory  of sitting on my bed with my mom, folding my hands and repeating a prayer. But I’m quite positive it’s not a memory at all. I don’t remember being four years old. I  couldn’t understand grace when I was four. I do remember finally grasping an aspect of God’s grace and love at age 11.

When I was eleven I thought I might accidentally stab my sister with a kitchen knife. I didn’t want to stab my sister. I loved my sister. But this was an age where I was afraid I would accidentally sin. If I found out something was wrong, I wondered what would happen if I did it. But I had intense guilt about these thoughts.

I was a perverted child who would snicker with my girlfriends when someone said, ” Do it.”  I would easily lie to my parents and not feel guilty. My conscience wasn’t  strong.  But one day I came home from my grandparent’s house to a surprise party for my tenth birthday. I was so grateful and overwhelmed with my parent’s love, that I felt guilty for the way I was. Suddenly I listened to my conscience and realized I wanted to be a good person. Being in the presence of love made me want to be better. It made me want to be deserving of this love. So, shortly after my tenth birthday I confessed to my mom how I had been behaving.  I thought, from then on,  I would be  free of guilt and condemnation. But instead I started feeling guilty for everything. Every bad thought or slight mistake, I was overwhelmed with guilt, running to my parents to confess. I probably drove my parent nuts.  I remember one day  vividly. I was very depressed and heavy with guilt. Everything just felt suffocating. I went in my room and just cried on my bed. I felt crazy and alone. I couldn’t escape the guilt. It felt dark.  I could feel this tug-of- war on my heart between good and evil.  I wanted to be perfect but I couldn’t control my thoughts. I wanted to be good yet knew I couldn’t be.

I started reading more scripture and paying more attention at church. I looked to God for help, understanding I couldn’t be good by my own power. Somehow by age eleven I finally grasped the unconditional love of God. I started praying more and taking every thought captive. Finally this guilt and depression faded away. Age eleven was a pivotal age for me. I had an epiphany. I started to see myself the way God saw me; as a precious child of God. I felt His love and just wanted to worship Him.  I wanted to tell everyone about his great love and grace. I felt goodness won the game of tug-of-war over my heart. I found peace in the presence of God.

Lost in the Garden Project

English: Door into the fruit garden at Strokes...

English: Door into the fruit garden at Strokestown Park The six acre walled garden has recently been restored at Strokestown Park. Many of the fruit varieties date back to the mid 1700’s. The stone walls were heated with fire-boxes built on to the outside. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lost in the Garden Project is a writing project that I would eventually like to create into a book. It is a work in progress and I will show the progress here. Basically I will be telling my testimony through a collection of my old prayer journal entries and short essays and stories. I will be sharing  how I found Jesus in my childhood, struggled with temptations, ran from God, and how He found me and I experienced a grace and reconciliation that changed my life. The purpose is to show the power of God’s grace and to reach out to you out there who may be feeling lost or  dealing with similar issues. Living for God is like tending to a garden to produce good, lasting fruit. It takes hard work and humility. But sometimes while trying to tend to our faith we get lost in the garden.  We tend to think we can find our way on our own, but only Jesus can help us find our way.

Journal Entry

11/ 29/2007

I thought I found myself when I was eleven. I thought I had life figured out. But I saw my life go by with the lines in the asphalt. I have lost myself. I am scared of my own weakness. Breaking like twigs I snap; dying with every wrong choice I make. Life slowly has become a selfish search for what feels good. My morals have slowly been rationalized out of my life.  How did existence become so complicated? Everything seemed so simple a few years ago. My choices were between, God and the devil, good and bad, guilt and peace, shame and confidence, and dishonesty and honesty. The choice was so obvious. When I made the choice at age eleven, to be a moral, God-fearing, honest person, I thought life was set and I just had to follow God’s plan for my life. But little did I know how difficult it would get. Between then and 13 years later, people have died, I made friends with people from very different lifestyles, I began to drink a lot, almost had sex with someone I don’t love, and I have begun to doubt God and the ideas about Him that I have learned all my life.  I don’t recognize myself, or like myself really. I do have a lot of fun; probably more fun than I ever had. I feel accepted and loved by my friends, When I drink, my social phobia disappears.  But I woke up this morning with the worst hangover I’ve ever had. My mom started crying and said she doesn’t know me anymore. I felt numb and just wanted to break down crying because I realized that I don’t know myself. I miss having a clear conscious. Many people used to look up to me for my strong convictions. I have become selfish and weak. I still love God. I still want His plan for me. But I feel God is crying because I am looking for happiness in empty bliss. I am doing things I never thought I would do.

I have a very hypocritical lifestyle right now. I feel two forces at war inside of me. I am afraid to break down because that means I have to change. Some things I know I can give up but some things I don’t know if I can. But I am hurting my family. I really truly want to love everyone and help those in need. I have will but no action. I know I need God. I can’t do this on my own. I know I am not perfect and cannot be perfect. I will not become legalistic or judgmental. But this is me, broken. I am lost. My identity is more ambiguous now, than when I was eleven. Here is my written journey about finding myself and trying to connect with God. I will not hold back. There are no secrets here.

God I am sorry for my weakness. I still love you and want You. I know I am being selfish. Please forgive me. I Chose you when I was eleven and still choose you. It is just harder now; harder than ever.  Help me Father. I know I’ve repented many times. I am being saved and continue to work out my salvation. Help me trust you. Amen.