Tag Archives: identity in God

in the middle

28 Feb

Who doesn't take identity advice from hookah-smoking caterpillar?

“Who are YOU?” said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation.

Alice replied, rather shyly, “I–I hardly know, sir, just at present– at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5, HT to Renee Altson)

This morning I offered to give someone tips on blogging, which was probably a mistake, since I’ve been such a bad blogger the past few months.  Books are strewn all over my desk.  I don’t know what music has been released or who I want to interview.  My ideas are constant, and I am praying over each one to see what comes to fruition.  I am happy to report that my relationship with God is vibrant. 

As I consider the past six months, I am amazed at the amount of change that has occurred in such a small amount of time.  Six months ago I was ambivalent about going to church at all and next Sunday I will be officially accepted as a member at my new church.  My faith, my life, everything was falling apart, and from these ruins, God is building something incredible.  I continue to marvel at it, even on my worst days when I’m my own worst enemy.

I see myself at a crossroads asking God, “Now what?”  I don’t want to linger too long in this place, for I fear I might take up residence here.  I don’t think that life was meant to be lived at the crossroads, though crossroads are often a part of life.  

Being new at a church, I am trying to cultivate relationships and one of the first questions people ask is what I do.  I’m not sure how to answer that question anymore.  Am I a writer? A blogger? An author? A photographer?  A social networker?  A counselor?  A communicator?  A creative force in the world today?  A Bible study leader? What am I? 

All of it.  Yes, all of it. (Try to fitting that on a business card.) And some days I’m not very good at any of it.

Maybe I should just say “beloved child of God” or “beloved.”  Of that much, I’m certain…I’ll let God work out the rest.

(P.S. Having only met Bebo in person once, I never realized he had prettier fingernails than me.)

So…where are you?  Who are you?  Do you like Bebo’s fingernails?  How has God shown you want to do?  What has it been like for you at the crossroads? (And, please, don’t mention that terrible Britney Spears movie!)

A Ringing Reminder

13 Dec

Oh, Kohl’s, how I adore thee!  How I love your bargains, your “Night Owl/Early Bird” deals and the tantalizng deals on your website.  I even appreciate your in-store music, which includes Owl City, Joshua Radin, and, uh, Justin Bieber (I’m sorry, tweenagers for thinking that “Baby, Baby” was sung by a chick.   Kohl’s introduced me to the pubescent vocals of the Biebs).

Yes, Kohl’s is one of the only places I can find QUALITY clothes for big, beautiful woman and $45 pillows on sale for $14.  Without a doubt, I’d have to say that Kohl’s is my favorite department store (especially because they don’t sell much fancy schmancy make-up and expensive designer fragrances.  Sadly, there isn’t much nail polish either.  But at least I don’t feel bad about what I can’t afford.)  At Kohl’s, I find the same prices as Target, but with a higher quality accessory/home décor section.  There are obvious differences between the two stores (like, for example, you can actually BUY Justin Bieber’s album at Target.  Or more preferably Owl City!)

While stalking the Kohl’s website today after receiving an email about another BIG SALE (there’s always a sale at Kohl’s), I checked out the citrine stack rings.  Again.  A couple of months ago, I decided that my “aura” had a color and that color was a darkish yellowish orangey color. (And by aura, I’m not suggesting some bizarre metaphysical concept.  To me, the concept of “aura” revolves around one’s personality and how he or she relates to the world, the “energy” thrown out into the world through interpersonal and social interactions.  Jesus said, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”  I think of my aura as the overflow of my heart…and how I show God to the world though my very existence.)The closest gemstone to my aura’s color seems to be citrine.  I considered yellow diamonds, which are rare and precious, but the yellow was too light for the melancholy aspects of my personality.  Fake yellow stones were too yellow and sparkly.  And though I love moonstone, I’m not as milky and mysterious and blanched as the beautiful stone would suggest.

So citrine it is.  Slightly moody, yet hopeful, a bit sparkly, without overwhelming.  Sometimes it’s a dark orange, while other times a light yellow.  I am a citrine, at least in appearance.  I want to be a citrine—real and raw, shining with the love of God, but honest about my experiences with mental illness and other circumstances.

When I saw this citrine stack ring (picture above), I knew it was THE ONE for me.  I like to carry little reminders with me about who I am and who God created me to be.  I wear a Tree of Life necklace (this is actually the pin version of my pendant), a precious gift from BFF Sarah, that reminds me that I was not created to live here forever, and future glory is coming.  I will eat from the Tree of Life and be awestruck by the light radiating from God’s throne. 

I wear a friendship bracelet freely given to me in a special place and time.  Threads of black, blue, yellow, red, white, and green remind not only of where I was when I received this gift, but also bring to mind those salvation bracelets I used to wear.  Black, red, white, green, blue, yellow.  My bracelet would be a sorry excuse for the salvation message, as the colors aren’t in the “proper order.”  While there are various versions of the color order, my bracelet definitely is definitely disordered. Of course, the girl who gave me this gift was very confused about God, so I run my finger over the knotted threads and pray for her and all those like her.  I ask God to help me be an encouragement to these hurting souls.  I also remember how I hurt and how far God has brought me.

My mother gave me a butterfly ring to celebrate one year free from self-injury, how through the hurts God is twisting me, shaping me, molding me into a new creation.  And it’s painful, but I am promised suffering in this world, yet God is always with me, that He will never leave me.

There are other symbols I hold dear—birds, for Emily Dickinson said that “hope is a thing with feathers.” I especially like hawks, silent sentries keeping tabs on the traffic as I go to and fro, I see hawks and remember that God is always watching me, that He nestles me protectively under His wings.  I am deeply sentimental and like to keep these affirmations of God’s love (and the love of those who have given me these precious pieces) close to me. Each day, I choose my jewelry intentionally for what I need to remember or celebrate.

And that’s why I want a citrine ring—so that I can remember to “choose joy” and reflect my identity in God to all those around me.  To continue to find strength in who God created me, to be reminded of who I am.

I know that seems like a tall order for a ring with intermingling citrine stones and silver studs, but it is only a token reminder of things to come.  It is temporary and it will pass away.  Yet a little glimmer of hope, a little flicker of beauty from my ring finger reminds me (and the world) Whose I am. 

That makes a $50 ring priceless to me.

Do you wear or have anything (like a tattoo) that is special to you?  If so, what is it and what does it meant to you?  If you go along with my “aura theory,” then what color is your aura?  Do you shop at Kohl’s?  Where is your favorite place to shop?

To make my joy complete

8 Nov

For a couple of weeks now, I yearned to write a blog post, yet I was afraid that it wouldn’t be as elegant as I envisioned, that my writing was somehow lacking in my sabbatical.  Oh, the messy scribbles in my journal were good enough for God and still I wanted to present something “better,” more polished to my blog readers.

There was something faulty in my thinking.  I thought, “God always invites me to come to Him as I am, but shouldn’t I present my very best to the Creator of all things?”  And then it struck me—those messy scribbles are my truest words, for they are the yearnings of my soul, a heart crying out to the living God.  Perhaps my journals contain my most precious writings. 

Therefore, what I write for you, dear readers, is what is leftover.  Since these “leftovers” come from the outpouring of my heart, they are not sloppy seconds, rather the first fruits of a heart yielded in obedience to God.  I believe that even at the inception of Backseat Writer I failed you by giving you only what was left of me, by not filling up with God’s Word, by not trusting the Holy Spirit to guide my words.  Simply put, I was running on empty, putting on airs to impress you with my garbled speech, and trying to prove to the world and myself that I was a decent writer.  Thankfully, God in His mercy used my words anyway. 

“[i] write this to make my joy complete.’ 1 john 1:4

While tiptoeing through the New Testament, I found a verse in I John that defined my true desire as a writer.  John says, “[I] write this to make my joy complete.” (I John 1:4)  When I read that my soul leapt, for I had found my purpose, a life verse of sorts, for the thing I love to do most.  I will not write to please people or publicists or musicians or anyone else.  Instead, I choose to write to make my joy complete, and that joy, of course, comes from God. 

Like the tear-stained scribbles in my journal, I hope my joyful ramblings will edify you as well.  Even if my words are foolishness to the world, I suppose that is all right, for I want to find my wholeness in God, not in man.  Of course, this is not something I have yet achieved because I still look at myself in the mirror with a critical eye and I not-so secretly wonder if this post will make a difference in anyone’s life. 

As humans, I think we all long to connect with others, to know that our words can and do make a difference.  My problem has been that I wrote chiefly for the accolades (not always, but often) and not to make my joy complete, not primarily for the glory of God.  I failed to realize that writing FOR the glory of God is how I can make my joy complete.  So, above all, I choose God and I choose joy and I write to make my joy complete in God.

{I caught downhere’s show with Jason Gray and Aaron Shust this past weekend.  Their song “Let Me Rediscover You” from On the Altar of Love hit me straight in the heart, so I thought I’d post the video.}

Coming up: Even though I do write to make my joy complete, I’d like to share my joy with y’all, so I thought I’d give you some tasty tidbits of what’s coming up here at Backseat Writer. 

*My thoughts on Elisabeth Eliot’s book, The Path of Loneliness, which is an excellent book that rubbed my soul raw. (Psst!  There will be a giveaway!)

*A very lengthy and thorough review of A Way to See in the Dark, the latest album from singer/songwriter Jason Gray.  As I’ve mentioned before, this album has been a soothing balm for me.  I had the opportunity to meet Jason at the show.  I may have purchased an autographed copy of A Way to See in the Dark to give away to one lucky reader.  I guess we’ll just see. (I’m terrible at keeping secrets!  I bought two CDs, which Jason graciously autographed—one for me and one to give away!  I’m trying to figure out what I didn’t buy the special edition for myself. Duh!)

*Why “Choose Joy” is my new mantra and the woman who inspired the slogan…and why I didn’t read her blog earlier.  (Hint: It has something to do with my anxiety disorder!)

*A guest post by Wes Pickering on his new song, “Open My Heart,” complete with music video and lyrics!

*Whatever else crosses my mind…possibly a “Friday Faves” is on the horizon?  Photo essay?  We’ll see.

Dear, dear friends, what is going on in your world?  What are you reading, watching, listening to?  Dish it in the comments sections!

Let my ruins become the ground You build upon

18 Oct

“Let my ruins become the ground you build upon
Let my ruins become the start
Let my ruins become the ground you build it on
From what’s left of my broken heart”

“Ruins” by Bebo Norman from Bebo Norman

I used to think the Apostle Paul was a madman when he asked fellow believers to “rejoice” in their suffering (Romans 5:3-4, AMP).  Are you freakin’ kidding me, Paul?  Throw a party for mental illness?  Get jazzed over medical issues?  Maybe a pity party; that’s all.

That’s how I used to think.  Admittedly, I’m still working on “rejoicing”; however, I am learning to be content suffering.  My current struggles have forced me to find true dependence in God.  I am starting to believe that suffering is a “gift” and I do not fully, nor will I ever, understand its spiritual implications on my life.  Where I see only pain, God sees hope and promise…and beauty.

The brilliant red, orange, and yellow leaves beginning to dot the landscape of southeastern Pennsylvania illustrate beauty in death.  And isn’t that what Jesus calls us to do—to die to self and to find true live in Him?  And now just once or twice, but daily?  Besides the promise of Heaven, the Holy Spirit, God’s love, and much more, Jesus promised that in this life, we would all experience trials and suffering.  Yet He urges us to “take heart” for he has overcome the world.

For the past seven or so years (maybe more), I’ve bitterly resented suffering—my dad’s affair, my parents’ divorce, my life altering (and chronic) illnesses, my inability to find a job in ministry (which I now realize was a good thing), my mom’s remarriage and subsequent divorce from a horrible man who inflicted a lot of pain and abuse on our little family, and of course, debilitating mental illness.

At first, I sought after God and He is and always was present.  As I watched my life shatter around me, I screamed at Him, “How could You let this happen?  How could You do this to me?  You are supposed to love me.  You are supposed to do something with my life.  If You could do this to me, if You could let this happen, what else will You do?  What else will You ask?”  I simply ignored God and His still small voice that beckoned me home.  I prayed, read my Bible, and gave Him lip service only when it suited me.

I would not—I could not—relinquish all of me.  Yet God asked for ALL of me, so He could do immeasurably more than I could ever dream or imagine.

A few weeks ago, when I shut down emotionally, physically, and spiritually, I knew drastic changes needed to me made.  I could NOT go on like this [that] anymore, so I stepped away from Backseat Writer as well as other things so I could focus on overall wellness.  I have been learning so much about myself, God, and the Bible (among other things) through circumstances that forced me to come face-to-face with God.  No more running, no more hiding—just the naked truth of who I thought I was versus who God says that I am.

I am finding my identity in Christ, asking Him to help me overcome my unbelief, to help me believe the truth instead of the negative self-talk I readily offer myself, and most of all to learn to trust God in all things.  It sounds simple enough, yet it is a hard, long road, though it is the path worth taking.

At this time, God has called me away from many things, including Backseat Writer.  Not forever, not even completely, just for a little while.  When it is time, my sporadic and erratic posting will cease and Backseat Writer will return to a new “normal” with content that is solid, personal, and REAL—not the publicist pleasing garbage I’ve posted at times.  Although I assure you that not of it is garbage or posted to please publicist (or anyone else).  I can hardly wait to see what sort of future God has for Backseat Writer—something I believe will be far more wonderful that either you or I could imagine.

For now, dear readers, I must continue my sabbatical to focus on knowing God and knowing who I am to God.  I would like to pop in weekly with updates on what I’m learning—for there is so much to share with you!  Still, most will remain close to my heart; these things are spoken only between God and me.  But I want to let you in, at least a little, to show you what I’ve discovered.  I want you to know that God is not safe, but He is good.

I hear God calling to me, wooing me to Himself, “Come now, my love, my lovely one, my beloved.”  And it’s been such a long time since I felt lovely to anyone and loved by God.

“[God] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 5:20, slightly paraphrased)

Currently Listening To: Selections from various Bebo Norman albums, Jason Gray’s latest album, A Way to See in the Dark (“Remind Me Who I Am” has been essential in my recovery. I hope to post more about this song/album at a later time.  Thank you, Jason Gray, for crafting such a wonderful album!) Select others including Matt Hammitt (latest album, Every Falling Tear, is excellent!), Josh Wilson, NeedToBreathe (mostly The Outsiders.  Yes, I purchased their latest album on iTunes, but haven’t really listened to much of it yet.  Shocking, I know!), and Cat Stevens.

Currently Reading: My NIV Study Bible (does that sound cliché?) as well as daily passages from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen.  I highly, highly recommend both of these books.  I am just about finished with a powerful, lesser-known book by Elisabeth Elliot called The Path of Loneliness—not for the faint of heart.  An excellent read that I heartily recommend! Next I hope to read God’s Plan B by Pete Wilson and Jenny B. Jones’ latest, There You’ll Find Me as well as a smattering of writing books and whatever else pops up.

Other Randomness: I’m enjoying the new seasons of “Modern Family,” “The Middle,” and “Glee” as well as peeking at “The X-Factor.”  I’ve discovered Facebook games like GnomeTown, Words With Friends (play with me!), and Bejeweled Blitz, as well as exploring my world and spending time with friends, my mom, and of course, my beloved fur and feather children.

Please Pray For Me: To have continued spiritual, mental, and physical healing; that my nasty tooth infection would heal and my root canal procedure could be completed; for the small group Bible study I lead; that I may find a meaningful volunteer opportunity; and for my future writing endeavors.  Thank you so much for your faithful prayers!

So, that’s me…what are you up to?  What’s going on with you and God?  Any new pets or babies or anything I missed?  What are you listening to, watching, doing?  Dish it!

The One-Up Disease

26 Mar

The One-Up Disease, though lacking true diagnostic criteria approved by a board of highly educated individuals, is one that is running rampant through society.  Symptoms include bragging, name dropping, swelling heads, and of course, one-upping all your friends and family.  One-upping is prevalent in social and economic situations; for example, a friend buys a new computer, someone suffering from the One-Up Disease will immediately go out and buy a better computer and then flash it in front of the friend.  Or the One-Upper has an opportunity someone he or she knows would really enjoy, and decides to flaunt it.

The causes of One-Up Disease are numerous but include low self-esteem, poor self-image, pride issues, and most notably, lack of understanding of identity in God.  By placing trust in strokes from others and positive feedback, one-uppers find satisfaction and meaning in feeling they are better than others.

While treatment for the One-Up Disease is possible and recovery is practical, it is often difficult because the sufferer can be ignored by friend due to the annoyingness of one-upping.  Also, recovery is largely due to the individual’s willingness to end his or her one-upping ways and heeding his or her heart to God’s power of transformation.  Besides a humiliating fall (citing the proverb “pride comes before a fall”), other treatments include Bible reading, prayer, and honest discussion with friends.  Some alternative remedies include serving others, getting over oneself, and finding meaning in life other than self.

At any time, 65% of the population can be suffering from this disease; however, close to 100% of the population has suffered at any given time.  In fact, most people suffer mild to moderate symptoms of One-Up Disease 100% of the time.  Therefore, a daily regimen of spiritual encouragement via prayer, self-examination, and Bible study is encouraged.

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