Friday, December 4, 2009 ITunes game

HOW MANY SONGS? 4645 - and I still haven't sat down and ripped all those CDs into my playlist that I have been wanting to.

First: Abba Father by Shaun Groves from Invitation To Eavesdrop
Last: 9 Out Of 10 by Justifide from Life Outside the Toybox

Longest: may have to come back to this, since I'm on a different computer than my itunes is on, and I can't sort by time on my iPod.

First: Add to the Beauty by Sara Groves
Last: 6.1 by Out of the Grey

umm.....I don't play from my itunes very often and I can't find out how to figure it out on my iPod

With All My Heart by Out of the Grey from 6.1

Sex - how many songs come up? 0
Death - how many songs come up? 1
- Life After Death & Taxes by Reliant K
Love - how many songs come up? 258

Play along with me! Open your iTunes and post a comment here... or tag me in a note on Facebook... or if you're a blogger, leave me a trackback!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Our Mountain

Albuquerque by Night (from Sandia Peak)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Last, but certainly not least, I leave you with this. God is Good! Bill Johnson often says “God is always in a good mood”. I once heard a speaker say, “God is infinitely wise and always has our best interests in mind.” If there is nothing else you can stand on, you can stand on this truth. He is unchanging, unwaivering, and unable to lie. God loves you more than you can ever imagine, and His heart’s truest desire is to be close to you. And, it is in these times of seemingly endless darkness that our hearts are wrapped so tightly in His presence. I would never want to experience that kind of heart-wrenching pain again, but I will tell you that I have never felt so close and so loved by the Lord as I was during that time. “He is close to the broken-hearted” (Ps 34:18).
I pray that you will find comfort and rest in His outstretched arms.

Thank you for taking the time to walk this journey with me. I am certain that you are reading this for a reason, and as I bring this final chapter to a close, I pray that God’s ministering to your heart at this very moment. Love and blessings to each one of you, in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory! Amen!

Epilogue Part III: We Only Know (Hear) In Part

I Cor 13:9-10, 12 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part will be done away…For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I am known.

Perhaps the biggest crisis of faith I have ever encountered (and there have been many) came during the “Zeke” season. I was convinced that I had heard from the Lord, and that I had several promises that I was going to marry Zeke specifically. I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was God’s will for me. So when I sat in San Francisco with my grandma, this crisis came to a head. There was no way to reconcile what I thought I heard and what I was walking. Was I out of God’s will now? Had I missed it completely? And if I had missed God on this, had I ever heard Him about anything?
I spoke to it a bit in the first “lesson”, but I wanted to elaborate a bit more on this point, because it still confuses me a bit, honestly. It becomes a matter of complete blind faith, trusting that God is always faithful. And I really didn’t understand that until just recently, when I was a part of a class at church. In this class we were learning how to hear God’s voice and walk in the gifts of the Spirit (Words of Wisdom, Words of Knowledge, Prophecy, etc). And more than once, our teachers said that regardless of how God speaks to you, it’s important to ask Him for the revelation. Sometimes He’ll give you a word, and you think it means one thing, but it has a totally different meaning for someone else.
For example, you may at the grocery store, and you see someone and hear the name “Sue”. You walk over to her, and her nametag says “Anne”. Do you walk away, believing that you did not hear from God? Or do you stop and talk to her? God may have given you the name of Anne’s sister who is dying from cancer, and God wanted you to pray for her. We hear in part, we know in part, we prophesy in part.
Hindsight is always 20/20. Looking back, I can see that many of the dreams I had, or the “words” I received, were not specific to Zeke, but to my “husband”. I just assumed that it meant Zeke, because he was the one I was with or in love with when the words came. Every single one of those promises came true, just not with Zeke. So, did I miss God? Or did I just hear in part? I believe that I just heard in part, and while I have by no means arrived, I am starting to ask more questions and rest on less assumptions.

Epilogue Part II: Marriage Does Not Eradicate the Pain of Past Rejections

Whew, this was (and probably still is) a lesson that was hard to come by. In those first few months of marriage, I found myself asking Paul, “Are you sick of me yet?” or “Do you want to leave yet?” He had given me no basis for these insecurities, but somewhere in the deepest part of my heart, I still felt that I was to blame for Zeke leaving me. I must have done something wrong, I just didn’t know what.
Even more surprising was that this rejection didn’t affect only my relationship with Paul, but also my relationship with his family. I realized this over the Thanksgiving holidays just last year. We had just celebrated our second anniversary, and we were hosting the entire family for the holidays. I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to make sure everything was perfect. And I was stressin’ big time. Paul kept trying to console me by saying that it didn’t all have to be perfect, but it did. I didn’t know why it did, it just did. As the family arrived, things got more hectic. The only time I had to myself was in the shower. As I stood there with the hot water pouring over me, I prayed for peace. It was then that God revealed what the driver was, and I was shocked. My mother-in-law always says “The issue is never really the issue,” and this was the truth of the moment. I thought that I was just stressed trying to impress the family. But that was not the case.
Just a couple weeks after Paul and I had officially begun dating, Zeke called me out of the blue to see how I was. He felt compelled to tell me about why he ended the relationship, and said, “No one was happy.” I said, “We were happy. Didn’t that count?” And he said, “Well, no one in the family was happy.” And there it was. He broke up with me because his family didn’t like me.
So fast-forward 2 ½ years. I’m stressing out about everything being perfect for the family because rooted deep in my heart is a fear that Paul will leave me if his family doesn’t approve.
Rejection is a sneaky sucker. He will show up in seemingly random places, and affects all aspects of your life. He attacks our very identity. Praise God that Jesus has conquered the devil and all those spirits that he sends our way. And that same Spirit which raised Christ from the dead lives in us! And where the Spirit of the Lord is (inside us) there is FREEDOM!!! Praise God.
Let me just take a minute to pray for you. If you have experienced rejection, or are seeing some after-effects, pray with me.

Lord, I thank You that You say that I have been ACCEPTED into Your family as one of Your children. Father, I have been hurt by ______________ and feel rejected. I know this is not Your plan for me, so right now, I choose to forgive _________ and release him/her completely into Your hands. Now I ask that You will overflow me with Your Spirit, healing every wound caused by this situation. And I renounce the spirit of rejection and its effects in my life. I come into agreement with Your Word that I am a Child of the Most High King, and that Your Spirit lives in me. Thank You for Your freedom at work in my life.
In the precious name of Jesus’, Amen.

Epilogue Part I: Sometimes God Causes Us To Walk In Dark Places

Yes, I said “causes”. This was by far the most difficult thing to wrap my mind around. I had always been taught that God has “good plans” for us, something about future, hope, and joy, you know the verse. And I believe that He is always good, and always has our best interest in mind. Of this there is NO doubt. But, I have come to discover that this does not mean that everything feels “good” or that we will never experience pain. It is a warped mindset that has been perpetuated in the western church that “claims” only the “pleasant promises” in the word, and then teaches that if you’re not experiencing all good things in your life then you must be weak in your faith, or have committed some sin, or anything else that places blame on you. This is completely contradictory to the Word, which says that He will “lead us into all truth” and that “He makes our paths straight”. So, if I truly believe that He is guiding my every step, then I have no other choice than to believe that He sometimes leads me into dark places.
I will never forget when this started becoming clear. Paul and I were engaged, and I was heading back to Donna’s house (where I stayed for a couple months to save money for the wedding), and I was stopped at a stop light. This street was just about 1 mile from where Zeke lived, and I remember crying out to the Lord, “Why didn’t You keep me from dating Zeke? You always warned me, or directed me, or kept me from making stupid relationship mistakes. Why didn’t you this time? Why did You let me go through so much pain?” And I heard His answer clear as day, “Will you trust me, even if I never tell you why?”
My whole world stopped. There it was, a challenge from the Almighty. Would I trust His sovereignty? Would I trust His heart? Did I truly believe in my heart that His plans are perfect? It drove me into His word, fully expecting to find out that I had just eaten too much green chile, and that God didn’t really say that. Here’s what I found instead (from the NKJV):

Lamentations 3:2, 32 He has led me and made me walk in darkness and not in light...Though He causes grief, Yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.

Psalm 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For you are with me…

Job 2:9-10 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this, Job did not sin.

John 15:20 If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you

John 16:33 In the world you will have tribulation.

I found that God promises that we will have pain in this world. I bet you don’t hear that one “claimed” as much, eh? But He has also promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. So we can walk through those valleys of the shadow of death with confidence that “death” is only a shadow, in the glorious light of His presence.
I can already hear the responses, so let me clarify. Lamentations 3:33 says that the Lord “does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men”. I’m not saying that God causes us harm. There is a difference. It can be subtle, and it can feel like God is inflicting great pain on us, but He is good and merciful and faithful and His love endures forever. So when He leads us, we can be confident that He is leading us in our destiny, purpose and with our best interests in His heart. So how can we tell the difference? I’d like to paint you a picture.

Imagine yourself in the center of the Amazon jungle. The undergrowth is thick, and the canopy of the rich rain forest block any sign of the outside world, including the sun, moon or stars. It’s dark. It’s very dark. But you are walking. You have a guide, and he’s warned you of the potential dangers in the forest, which include, but are not limited to, wild animals, poisonous plants, quicksand, getting lost, or even an encounter with an cannibalistic tribe. But he has promised that if you stick close to him, he will take you to the most beautiful and rich land, full of promise. You have agreed to take the journey, convinced that the end is worth the risks of the trip. Suddenly you trip over an exposed root, falling face first into a patch of poisonous leaves. The itching begins immediately, driving you to a point of insanity. Your guide kneels down into the same patch of leaves, takes your arm and lifts you to your feet. He reaches into his backpack, and pulls out a bottle of some salve that you really don’t want to know about, and begins to apply it to the hives that have covered your exposed skin. As your pain begins to subside, you realize that he’s not itching. In fact, he has had no reaction to the poisonous leaves whatsoever. The journey resumes, and as you’re walking, you catch yourself watching his steps as well as yours, watching out for those dang roots, and you ask him, “Why didn’t you have a reaction to those leaves?” Your guide simply smiles and says, “Once you’ve encountered that poison, you build an immunity to it, and it will no longer harm you. I fell into a patch very much like that one a long time ago, and now I could sleep in it with no reaction.” You ponder this as you continue on your journey, and you’re intrigued. You ask the guide for all his secrets, and He just smiles, and says “You’ll learn in time. For now, let’s keep walking.”

The guide did not cause you to fall. He did not cause you to have a reaction. He was simply leading you. This is the difference. We live in a fallen world. This is a place where we will fall, we will feel pain, we will scream and cry and shout, and find ourselves surrounded by darkness. But that does not mean we “missed” the Lord’s leading. He may have just led us there.

Epilogue - Intro

I’m in the truck headed back to Texas after a quick weekend jaunt to Albuquerque. I was unprepared for the flood of emotions that hit me as we came over the mountain and descended into the city. In hindsight, I should have seen it coming. My good friend told me, over coffee, on Thursday night that she thought that I should finish the story and leave it in Albuquerque. I should have known that God was up to something. You see, this weekend marked the 3 year anniversary of Paul and I just knowing each other. And I think that God had the ultimate “anniversary” present for me. Freedom.
This will always be a part of my past, but I believe that God is closing this chapter, and writing the next. And I’m excited to see what He has up His sleeves. But before I leave you, there are a few parts of this story that trample on our paradigms if you will. You may be even questioning my Christianity. If it makes you feel better, sometimes I question it too. But all kidding aside, there were some difficult lessons that I was forced to learn during this time. I didn’t want to include these in the stories, as I felt that they may bog it down some, but I do feel that it’s an integral part of the process. So, in no specific order I leave you with the following thoughts:

Chapter Ten: I Will to I Do

Fast-forward to the first week of August. I had just earned my Masters of Theology from Desert Rose Christian College in Phoenix, and the ceremony was set to be that Thursday night. My parents were driving down from Salt Lake City along with my grandma, and Paul flew to Albuquerque to drive me out to Phoenix. We had already discussed that he would take this time to ask my dad for my hand, and I was so excited that I could barely sleep. I was sure that he would propose while we were in Phoenix, my home and favorite place!

We made it through the weekend with my parents’ seal of approval along with my degree, but no ring. To say that I was disappointed as we drove back to Albuquerque would be the understatement of the year. As we approached Albuquerque, it was about 1:30am. I was mostly asleep, but awake enough to know that Paul missed my exit. He continued east, and slowly made his way up our mountain. I was exhausted, and I’m sure I was a little whiny. My only thought was that we had to get up at 5am to get him to the airport for his 6:30am flight and I just wanted to sleep. But, as Paul said, it was tradition. So we made the climb. When we got to the top, it was about 2:45am and a balmy 40 degrees, rain coming down. Having come from Phoenix, we were still dressed in shorts and flip flops, but tradition dictated that we park and walk to the crest. I whined, cajoled, maybe even cried a little, but Paul dragged me out of the Tahoe and walked me up there. We made it to the top, and it took me about 20 seconds to be ready to go back to the truck, but Paul grabbed me around the waist and said, “Let’s just wait for a minute.” We stood there silently under our umbrellas for a few seconds, then he said, “I don’t want to live my life without you.” I said, “But you don’t have to,” and I turned to face him. It was then that I found him on one knee, holding the ring box. “Will you marry me?” he asked, shivering. I immediately said yes and kissed him. Because it was dark, I couldn’t see the ring, and we were freezing, so he gave me the ring box and we ran down the hill back to the truck. When we got in, he showed me the ring and placed it on my finger. It was beautiful. It was perfect. And I couldn’t believe that all of this was real. I took a picture on my phone, but didn’t send it to anyone. It was late, and I really just wanted to enjoy this moment with him.

Neither of us slept that night, but we didn’t care. We were getting married, and that’s all that mattered.

Over the next couple weeks we set our date. November 25. This wasn’t our first choice initially as we didn’t want to wait. But after some prayer and many discussions with our family, we all agreed that November 25 was perfect. It was almost like poetic justice, as that was the day Zeke and I had tentatively set. It was the day I had dreamed about even before I met Zeke. In hindsight, it was as if God was giving me the date, I just had the wrong man. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

The next 3 months were crazy busy with planning the wedding, multiple bridal showers in multiple states, counseling, etc. We put thousands of miles on each of our vehicles as we drove the 1000 mile round-trip between Albuquerque and Wichita Falls every other weekend, just to spend a few hours with each other in person. In the midst of all of this, we felt like the Lord was calling us to be in Texas. He was already in Wichita Falls, but didn’t feel like he was supposed to stay there. I had been feeling drawn to Dallas, prior to even meeting him. After much prayer, several heated conversations and a couple of house hunting trips in the middle, we landed in Plano, just 2 weeks before the wedding.

Then Thanksgiving was upon us. It was our wedding week, and the entire family gathered for dinner at Mama Donna’s house. There was so much celebration and anticipation. We flew through the holiday, the bridal tea, getting the boys’ tuxes, rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, and then it was Saturday.

November 25, 2006. The day that God fulfilled his promise in my life, and joined me to the exact man that I never knew I needed. Paul is everything that I wanted, and little did I know, even on that day, that he was EXACTLY what I needed. And the mystery of marriage began to unfold, as we drove off into the Albuquerque sunset.

Chapter Nine: NOT a Shotgun!!!

The next week was a blur. Every night we were together, sometimes until 3-4am. We went Putt-Putt, we went up to our mountain again, we walked through the park, we talked and talked and talked. Then June 4 came. It was one of the hardest goodbyes I have ever said. It was a Monday morning, and Paul came over, early, just to say goodbye one more time. Paul had been transferred and was moving back to Wichita Falls. Neither of us said anything, we just stood there in each others arms, and I cried (crying was getting old!). He walked out the door, and I went back to bed, and cried myself to sleep.

We talked several hours later, as he was driving home, and thus begun the phone marathon. Over the next month, we logged over 7500 text messages and over 3500 minutes (Thank goodness we had the same phone carrier, so we had unlimited of each!). By the time I flew to Wichita Falls for the Fourth of July Weekend, we already knew that we were going to be together forever, however, we weren’t quite prepared to share that with everyone else just yet. It was this weekend that I met Paul’s parents and best friends. It was also this weekend that I had the “Zeke Bonfire”. We took an old coffee can, and I burned everything that I had that linked me to Zeke. There was my old journal in which I wrote many of my thoughts and prayers for Zeke and about Zeke. It was the journal he gave me for Christmas. There were some pictures of us, as well as the information we had designed for the “Band”. Paul said nothing, just stood there as my pillar of strength as I lifted up a burnt offering to the Lord. It was healing. Little did I know that it was only the first step of many in this healing process.

Those 5 days felt like just 5 hours and all too soon I found myself on a plane, headed back to Albuquerque. I cried as I watched Paul drive away from the airport. I cried all the way through security. I cried on the plane. Would crying ever come to an end? Seriously? But it was only going to be 2 weeks until I saw him again. I could make it, right? We continued our phone marathon, talking every waking moment, plus some.

And we began to talk more openly about our plans, and Paul began to shop for rings, which raised some eyebrows. Those who knew us best counseled us to seek counsel, but most also believed that God was doing a good thing in both of us. It was moving fast, even for us, but we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were smack in the middle of where God wanted us. What we didn’t know is that much of our lives would follow this same pattern. It was just the beginning of the whirlwind.

Stay Tuned for Chapter Ten: I will to I do

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Chapter Eight: When God Changed His Mind

"For the Lord does not abandon anyone forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion according to the greatness of his unfailing love. For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow."
~Lamentations 3:31-33

It was the Thursday night before Memorial Day weekend, and I was preparing for a quick getaway to San Francisco to see Grandma Sharon. I was leaving directly after work on Friday, and coming back late on Monday night, and I was really looking forward to the break. As I was finishing up some laundry and getting my bags packed, I had my computer up and was chatting with some friends in Phoenix. Suddenly there was a message from him. After weeks of nothing, no emails, calls, texts, NOTHING, there it was sitting on my screen. "Hi", was all it said. The roller coaster car zoomed to the top of my heart and I dared to hope, yet again. Maybe he had finally seen the truth. Maybe he was jealous of Paul's attention. Maybe he was ready to come back. Maybe.....

I responded and asked how he was. I don't remember the exact conversation, but it went along the lines of he was feeling a little down and listening to some songs and he missed me. He sent me the mp3s of the songs, and they all had some kind of message about "I made the biggest mistake of my life", or "I miss you", or "Would you take me back?". As I sat there at my desk, I just began sobbing, my hearts wound ripping open afresh. He said nothing else; just sent the songs and disappeared. I screamed at the computer. I wanted to rip out the cords and throw it out the window. WHY?!??! How could he do this to me...AGAIN??? And again the roller coaster car hit the bottom.

In the midst of my outbreak, Paul called me. I tried to pull myself together, to no avail. I just cried and cried as I told him what Zeke had just done and how I was so tired of this ride, and that I didn't know if I could fight anymore. Paul listened, empathized, and then he challenged me.
Actually, it was more like a bet.

"You should turn off both of your cell phones and leave your laptop here," he said. "Can you handle that? I just think that you need to take some time with Daddy God and hear from Him." Now, I'm probably one of the most competitive people in the world, and I wasn't about to admit that this would be one of the hardest challenges of my life.
[As a side note, I've learned since that my "life language" is Influencer, who's greatest need is CONNECTION, so to be disconnected from everyone back home was HUGE].

I talked to Paul all the way to the airport, all the way to the gate, and up until they closed the gate, and then I had to turn the phone off. As the screen went black, my heart hurt for Paul.
WHAT?!?!?!?! Paul? Could it be? Why did I miss him? What about Zeke? It was one of the longest plane rides as I cried to the Lord for some answers. Had I strayed? Was I headed the wrong direction? Was I "cheating" on Zeke? What was going on?

When Grandma picked me up from the airport, we headed toward dinner, and immediately dove into conversation about relationships. I spilled my heart about Zeke and Paul and how I was so sure about Zeke that I don't know how to interpret my feelings for Paul. And with the wisdom of the ages, she simply said, "Why are you wasting your time on a man who can't decide if he loves you when you have an amazing man who is sweet, thoughtful, and obviously smitten with you?" It was the million dollar question.

Whenever I spent time with Grandma, I would sleep in the 5th wheeler. It was my own little apartment, and this weekend it became my sanctuary. I slept little, read the Bible some, and prayed like fire was raining from the sky and the earth was about to eat me up. On Sunday morning, I was sitting in Grandpa's old leather rocking chair, holding my Bible to my chest, quietly yearning for a word from God. And then it came. "It is finished." With these three words, all striving ceased and peace wrapped around my heart, and I felt completely released. I was free! IT was as if God plucked me right out of the roller coaster and set my feet on solid ground. Joy bubbled out and for the first time in months I was happy, giddy in love and flitting about like a school girl with her first crush. I couldn't wait to see Paul on Monday night, and Zeke quickly faded into the background.

It was sudden. It was beautiful. It was surprising. It was the beginning of a new journey....when God changed His mind.

Next time on As the Heart Turns, Chapter Nine: "Not a Shotgun!!!"

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Chapter Seven: On Point

"God often turns us on the heels of crisis to pivot us toward the path of our destiny."
~Beth Moore in Esther: It's Tough Being a Woman

Beth Moore tells the story of her bird dog who also "points" at squirrels. When she and her husband are walking with the dog, it will suddenly stop and go "on point" when a squirrel is nearby. In order for them to continue the walk, her husband must pick the dog up and turn it in the direction they are walking. Only then can the walk proceed as planned. She likens us to the dog. Sometimes we are walking along when a "crisis" hits and we freeze and get stuck. It is in this time that God will pick us up and "pivot us toward the path of our destiny".

It was early May, and our church was about half-way through a "50 day Revival" with several of our sister churches. These churches were joining together, calling out to the Lord to revive our city and turn our hearts back to Him! Services were 4-5 days a week at Destiny Church, and we all pitched in with worship, ushering, prayer, whatever it took to keep this thing running. The worship team from my church had at least 1 turn a week, but I still went every night. If there was anything I needed, it was some "revival". My heart still hurt, a lot. I still cried just about every night. I still played on the worship team with Zeke, and that really sucked. But I was starting to stand again. Maybe the first couple pieces of my Jenga life were being re-shaped. I was meeting new friends and laughing again for the first time in a long time. One of these new friends was Paul.

Paul was a member of Destiny Church, and I had seen him with some of my friends, but I didn't know who he was. In fact, I really didn't make an effort to know who he was since I was still in love with Zeke and I thought that he was dating the youth minister, Rachel, at Destiny. One evening after service, I was talking to Rachel, and Paul was standing there. Rather than be rude, I introduced myself, made some small talk and went along my merry way thinking nothing of it.

A couple days later, I arrived at the church about an hour early due to a miscommunication regarding service times. I was really wanting to change clothes, and I didn't really want to drive home, but Paul convinced me that I should go home, and he and Rachel would come with me. I thought, "Why not? We have the time." Paul sat in the back seat, Rachel in the front, and we chatted all the way to the house. I'm pretty sure that I mentioned Zeke at that time, and that I was "unavailable", but only in passing.

Over the next couple weeks, Paul, Rachel, and several others went out after every service. One night, Paul and I exchanged phone numbers and we began hanging out, even when there wasn't a service. He quickly became one of my new best friends, and while I wasn't initially attracted to him, I felt safe. I think that I told him at least 4 times that "my heart belongs to Zeke", and Paul respected that, saying nothing. We sat together each night at church, and he would place his arm on the back of my chair. Sometimes I would feel guilty, other times I wanted Zeke to see it, to make him feel what I felt in April, but mostly I just felt safe. I felt so safe, that I let Paul talk me into a trip to the top of Sandia Peak, this time driving around the back side of the mountain. We took his truck, and some extra blankets, and made the 45 minute trek. When we arrived at the top, we parked and walked to the lookout point. It was darker than dark, but the city lights shone bright. I stood there, shivering, looking back to that same house where my heart still lingered. I said nothing, but my heart screamed "I miss you, Zeke. Why aren't you here with me?" Paul and I walked quietly back to the truck where we laid in the bed wrapped in blankets staring into the sky littered with stars shooting across the blackness. I don't remember much of what was said, but I remember cuddling up to Paul to get warm. His arms felt so good, but the chaos in my heart and mind was out of control. I ached for Zeke. I wanted him. I missed him. I wished it was him laying there with me, instead of Paul.

It was late when we headed back toward my apartment. The ride was quiet, almost as if Paul knew that my heart was bleeding and that nothing could stop it. He didn't speak until we were sitting at the stoplight in front of my place. "Are you convinced that you are going to get back together with this guy?" he asked, with more than the question in his voice. "I am absolutely convinced," I replied. "God promised me." That was all we would say that night. By that time, the light had changed. Paul dropped me off, and I walked up the stairs to my empty apartment, more confused than I had ever been.

Stay tuned for "When God changed His mind"

Chapter Six: A Crisis of Faith

***Excerpt 2 from my journal***

There's so much chaos in my heart. I just want to hear from you, Lord, to hide in You. I'm sitting on the floor at the foot of the cross where I want to be, where I need to be. So, Lord, will you be here? Will you hear my heart's cry? Lord, you know that more than anything my heart is to serve you....
I've tried my whole life to be righteous; to live a life that is pleasing to you, and I've failed so many times, every time. And while I've preached so many times and believed that it's not about what I do or if I fall, but rather about who I am, I still fall into the same traps...the lies that I've disappointed you, and that's why I'm less than others and I'm struggling through life. Why do I get so defensive? All because I've been trying to be perfect, and I can't. My faith is so weak; my tongue is unbridled, and I'm having the hardest time trusting you. Even though I want that you really do have everything under control, I can't.
I'm scared, Lord. I'm scared that I've already screwed everything up. I'm scared that I can't really hear you. I'm scared that you can't use me. I'm scared to believe that you really do love me, that you really do want me, that you really do know everything that's in my heart...
Why does my heart waiver? Why is it that I can't believe you [about Zeke]? I'm still so scared that I'm missing your will. I'm scared to ask for confirmations because I know that doubt displeases you, yet I need one. I don't want to doubt. I wish my faith were stronger, but all the wishing in the world isn't helping me to stand. I know that my hope is in you and not in Zeke, but I'm discouraged. I know that your thoughts and plans are not mine...but it's hard to wait. It's hard to be strong. It's hard to see others' promises being fulfilled while mine seem sooooooooooooo distant. Trying to be happy for them while my broken heart screams is nearly impossible. It's so hard to believe, because I automatically believe there's something wrong with me. I must be doing something wrong. I'm not good enough. And God, I'm so tired; tired of working so hard just to fall flat on my face. These are your promises. This is your ministry. This is your life. SO why is it so hard? You said that you would do it; that you would hasten to perform your will you? I'm 27 years old, and so far from where I thought I should be...I feel like I've done nothing. Lord, when??? When can I be married? When I can walk into the destiny you have for me? When will I see your promises fulfilled?
You know I'm not trying to complain....I'm ready for you to do it. I'm ready to lay it all down again. I'm tired of fighting so hard...can I rest? I'm tired of trying to figure it out...can you make it better?

Stay tuned for "On Point"

Chapter Five: Jenga!

***Excerpt 1 from my journal***

"God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him..."
Psalm 18:20a (The Message)

Jenga! One of the most popular games in the nineties consisted of nothing more than a set of blocks, yet it provided hours of breath-taking and thrilling entertainment. You see, the goal of the game was to strategically remove a block from the tower and place it on the top without toppling the entire thing. Everyone had a different strategy; some chanted, some "hmmmed", some hands shook under the pressure. Only a "master artist" could grow the tower to twice it's original height, and woe to the one who caused the tower to crash. They would be surrounded by screams, laughs and friendly taunts.

It struck me, as I read this verse, that our lives often feel like a Jenga tower. Everyone is pulling pieces from our foundation in an effort to form us into their expectations, all the while creating an increasing instability. Before long, we come crashing down, lying broken in pieces scattered by the force of the fall. The reactions of those around us are diverse. Some will shout, some will laugh, some will shake their heads in disgust while others will try to put us back together again, just to pull out the pieces to make us fall again.

But there is One who has a different plan! You see, while Jenga may be a fun game for adults, in the hands of a child the blocks represent endless possibilities. There are fortresses to be built, houses to be formed, barns to be raised....same blocks - new shape.

At a time when my heart was shattered in pieces, I had a dream. In the dream my pastor was asking me, "Why are you crying?" And as I was beginning to respond with "My heart is broken", I woke up and I heard the Lord say, "Not breaking, reshaping". It took a couple days for it to sink in. God had a plan for my pieces. And though I feel that I can't make it through another day, I hear His voice faintly calling, "I have a plan for you, for a future and a hope."

Father, I come to you in pieces, my heart shattered. I lay myself before you and that you will restore and reshape me into the woman you have called me to be. Let me rest in You, knowing that You alone are my security. I choose to trust that you are the "Master Artist" and Architect of my life, and that your plans are sure.

Chapter Four: Not Bent, Broken

Why is that you can never just "break up" once? First there was the break-up with Zeke, then again with Zeke. But then it was his family.

I'll never forget that night at the Flying Star. Sitting alone opposite of Ben, Jill and Kelly (of course Zeke was not there), as if I were on trial. While exact words escape me, the gist of the conversation was something akin to "Zeke doesn't love you, so we don't either." I may be exaggerating, maybe, but that's the message my heart heard loud and clear.

Then there was the weekend that the band was scheduled to lead worship at a youth camp. Considering that the "band" was Zeke and his family, I felt that there was no way I could go with them. How can you lead worship with disunity on the team? Makes sense, right? Wrong! I was crucified for my decision to withdraw. After all, I had "given my word". How were they going to use that against me when the decision was made when we were still planning our wedding? I decided, instead, to go to Chicago to support our sister church. While I enjoyed my first visit to the Windy City, my heart still ached. It was a deep ache, like I was missing out on my destiny, and so I cried....again.

The next week was my birthday. What a weekend that was. My parents were scheduled to come down to meet Zeke, and the plan was that he would ask for my hand in marriage. Instead, they came down to find their very broken daughter, struggling to enjoy her favorite day of the year. We took the tram to Sandia Peak (my first time to the top of the mountain) and ate an early dinner. It was freezing, but I made myself walk to the edge of the mountain to see the city. As I stood there, my eyes became glued to his neighborhood, a place I knew well. Why couldn't I just let this go? Why was my heart still bleeding from this? What was wrong with me. I picked up a few rocks, and as a symbol of surrender, I threw them all over the edge. I watched each one tumble, one by one down the desert peak. Was this enough? Was that all it would take to get my life back? Looking back, I wish that I would have listened to my mother that weekend who, in the wisdom only a mother has, said that God's plans are often hidden by our agendas, and that I needed to let Zeke go. But I couldn't....I wouldn't.

When I was in college, I took a pyschology class. It was my favorite class as it explored so much of the science of human nature. I was particulary fascinated with a lecture regarding the tendencies of abused women and why they stay with their abusive mates. I distinctly remember asking myself, "How can they be so broken to believe that these men are their best option?". My professor taught that there is a bell type model which shows that the women actually believe that the "good" qualities in these men outweighed the "bad" qualities, therefore they were willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater "good".

Was this why I couldn't let go? I believed with all my heart that Zeke was a good man, anointed and called by the Lord to great things. I believed that he loved me deeply, and was just a little confused. I made so many excuses for him, even when the "other woman" showed up.

It was the first weekend of April. I had taken one of my many trips to Phoenix, and came back for a Monday night service. We had a special speaker, and I was on the worship team that night. So was Zeke. He walked in and we made eye contact, as we often did. There was a sadness in his eyes, possibly regret, but I just couldn't read him anymore. We made it through rehearsal, when I saw his parents walk in, accompanied by a pretty hispanic girl. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and believed that she was just a family friend. After all, Ben and Jill and Kelly were all laughing and joking with her as well. But when worship ended, he sat down right next to her and put his arm around her, whispering in her ear, making her giggle, just like he used to do with me. My already broken heart screamed "Enough! Isn't it enough? I can't possibly break anymore!" And my shaky smile quickly melted into more tears.

But I still wouldn't let go....

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Chapter Three: Darkness is Dark

Oh, that my grief were fully weighed,
And my calamity laid with it on the scales!
For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea-
Job 6:2-3

I tried to sing with the worship team on Sunday morning. I cried instead. I tried to listen to the sermon. I cried instead. I tried to laugh at the Superbowl commercials. I cried instead.

And I wished Ben, Jill, and Kelly would just leave the party. Why were they there anyway? Their pitying glances and silence were like salt in a raw wound, screaming "he doesn't want you anymore".

The whole thing was surreal, like I was watching the scene play out from another room. The darkness and grief enveloped my heart very much like a fog rolling in the San Francisco bay, hiding the beauty and leaving only nothingness. Nothingness. That's how it is. Grief so overwhelming, loss so deep, and darkness, only darkness. And all I could do was cry.

So I did. I cried on the way home. I cried in the shower. I cried when I crawled into bed. I cried in my dreams, and when I woke up I was still crying. I cried at my desk, open, vulnerable, exposed. I cried in my studio as I taught piano lessons. I cried at the grocery store. I cried at the bank. I cried at the gas station. Three days later, I found myself dehydrating, but still I cried. I couldn't stop.

Much of that first week is a blur. I remember bits and pieces, but only bits and pieces. Then came the next weekend. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, a conference at our sister church. Our worship team was leading worship for a couple of the services, so I was there. So was Zeke. And Ben, and Jill, and Kelly. After all, they were the best musicians we had, and the core of our team. It was everything I could do to stand on stage with them. My mouth moved as if I were singing, but my voice was gone, and I was left with just tears. More tears. Then on Saturday night, Zeke asked to talk to me. My heart felt a glimmer of hope as we sat in his car. Maybe he was done "processing". Maybe he realized that he had made a mistake. Maybe.....

I don't even remember what he said. He held my hand, and he cried, but then he left. Again.
I stumbled back into the sanctuary like a wounded soldier trying to make it back to base, and I collapsed in a chair next to Donna. And I cried some more.

The second week was not much better than the first. I cried less at work, "less" being the key word. But it was Valentine's Week. And this was supposed to be my first Valentine's day with my very own Valentine. I had waited my whole life for this. Zeke even promised that he would change my disgust for the holiday into a perfect celebration of love. Another broken promise. How many of those had he made? Why didn't I know that he was lying to me? Did he know he was lying to me? Surely he meant every word he said, didn't he? What was going on? Why was this happening? Who got to him? What got to him? Was he afraid? Did I do something? Did I say something? What changed? WHY?!?!?!?!? Oh, why?

More questions, less answers and more tears. God, I hate crying. God, I hate. God. Did He even care? Was He even there? Why didn't He warn me? Why didn't He say something, anything? Why didn't He just kill me instead? WHY?!?!?!?!

And the darkness deepened as I felt myself go lower, and lower, and lower. Was there an end? When would I hit the bottom? Would I ever hit the bottom? My faith was weakened, shattered even. The only place I could find comfort was in bed, hiding from the world of broken dreams that had surrounded me. I clung to my teddy bear as though he would leave me too if I didn't hang on. I was alone. Alone.

Next...Chapter Four: Not Bent, Broken

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chapter Two: Emoticons and Devastation

I arrived home on a Sunday night. Zeke picked me up from the airport, and by all appearances, we were right back to where we were. Happy, in love, ready to spend forever together. After a couple hours, he took me home.

The next night, our "band" met at Flying Star, one of the coolest little restaurants in Albuquerque, and our traditional meeting place. On the agenda was our upcoming ministry trip to Phoenix as well as our other gigs, a youth conference in March, recording studio dates, etc. I swung by Zeke's house to pick him up, so that we could snag a few "alone" minutes together before the meeting. On the way to the meeting, we talked about our future, and even the possibility of branching out from the group to start our own ministry. We were laughing, especially when I suggested that we should call our group "M&M", reflective of my pet name for him, my "Moshe Mexicano", my Mexican Moses. I had all sorts of ideas with what we could do with that, from having M&Ms in the lobby to designs for our decal, etc. It was a fun ride to the Star, but as we were pulling up, there was a dampening of the mood. Zeke indicated that Ben was going to say some things that I might not like, but wouldn't really tell me what was going on.

The atmosphere was ominous when I walked in. After going through line and getting my favorite Chicken Salad and Iced Tea, I sat down in the booth. Ben and Jill were across from me, Kelly to my right, and Zeke had pulled up a chair to the end of the table and was on my left.
Ben proceeded to tell me that he didn't want to go to Phoenix, and felt that we weren't "ready". He launched into a spiel about more practice, not knowing the people, yada, yada, yada, but I couldn't really hear any of what he was saying. I had planned that trip, by myself, at his request. Some of my best friends lived in Phoenix, my home. My Pastors out there, trusting me, had opened their doors and scheduled a couple of special services for us, after much discussion, and now Ben just decided he didn't want to go?

Because the rest of the group was all family, and he was the oldest, most of the decisions that were made were made by Ben, and the rest of the group followed along. I asked if Zeke and I could go by ourselves, as representatives. It made sense to me, seeing as I wanted my Phoenix family to meet the man I was planning to marry. Also, it fed right into our earlier discussions about branching out into our own ministry. Ben, however, would have no part of it. He became irate at the idea of Zeke and I traveling 6 hours alone together, and then started into a completely unrelated conversation about how he did not want Zeke and I spending any alone time together, because it didn't "look good" for the group. While I understand that when in ministry it is important to watch perceptions, I was floored by the idea that they didn't trust us, and that they were trying to dictate what we could and couldn't do. Looking back, I should have taken this as a complete sign of many family issues, but at the time I was so in love, that I was blinded to much of the obvious.

It was a very quiet ride as Zeke and I made our way back to his home. Very little was mentioned, and our goodnight was brief. I left knowing in my heart of hearts that something was brewing. If I remember correctly, I even called my friend, Donna, and said "something's not right". Little did I know just how big the storm was that was heading my way.

Two nights later, Wednesday, I finished work and headed straight to church. Our Pastor was teaching a Bible Study class called "Emmaus Road", which is the story of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation. I had taken the class the previous semester, but it was Zeke's first time through it, and Ben and Jill were also taking the class, and it was so good and soooooooooooo full of good stuff, that I wanted to take it again. So there I was. I found Zeke, Ben, Jill and Kelly all seated in the front row, and I plopped down right next to Zeke. His reception was cold, and he was aloof. Throughout the class I would try to write him little notes, or smile at him and he wouldn't even look at me. My heart started sinking, and my mind raced trying to figure out what was wrong. After class, Zeke walked me to my vehicle, and I tried to talk to him. He just started crying and asked me, "What if we can't be together?" Startled, I asked him what he meant. He just shrugged and said that he really wanted to be with me forever. I held him as he sobbed on my shoulder, and I assured him that we would always be together, and after a long embrace we parted ways. That would the be last night I would see him as my boyfriend.

Due to conflicting schedules, we weren't able to see each other until Sunday, at a Superbowl party hosted by Donna and Russ. The whole group was supposed to be there, mostly for the original Kansas City Barbeque and Commercials because no one really cared about the game.
But late Saturday night, as I was cuddled up to my computer, I received an instant message from Zeke. I don't remember how the whole conversation went, but sometime in the middle of it, he said, "I can't be your boyfriend anymore, just your best friend."

"What the H&*#$&(*# does that mean?", my heart screamed. Zeke said something along the lines of "I need to work some things out with God", and that "I really want to be with you, but..", and "This doesn't have to be permanent," but "you can see other people". And that was it. He was gone, and I was left with more questions than answers and more tears than I knew I could cry. My heart shattered in pieces and darkness settled in, and the hurricane of broken dreams swept me away.

Stayed tuned for Chapter Three: Darkness is Dark

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Chapter One: Love at First Sight

The day I had waited for my whole life was finally here. You know, the one you dream about when you're a little girl when your prince charming comes riding in to save you from a life of loneliness? After 26 long years of wondering what was wrong with or why I couldn't be married and all the stigmas that go with a young single woman, I had finally met the man of my dreams. We'll call him Zeke (an alias to shield his identity).

It was long in coming. I survived "Bridal College" (you know Bible schools where girls are more concerned with snagging a Christian man rather than getting a quality education) without as much as a single date. I survived a ministry position during which my title was Rev. Christi, our "single worship director". I had many crushes, and wanted to date several people, but never did. I tried, believe me, I tried. I would start down the dating road, only to be detoured by a gracious and wonderful Father. But finally, after many tears and questions, and conversations with Abba, I had a boyfriend.

I first met Zeke's brother and sister-in-law (We'll call them Ben and Jill). Ben, Jill and I were all on the worship team at our church, and they were very, very talented musicians and worshipers. Then one day, they approached me to be join their efforts to start a worship band. Ben played a mean bass and guitar, Jill was an amazing vocalist, I would play keys, Zeke would be our drummer, and their sister Kelly would join as another vocalist. We began with many dreams and visions and were off to a great start, with a few original songs in the studio, a couple events scheduled, and relationships developing. Relationships including mine with Zeke.

We hit it off immediately. Not only is he an outstanding drummer, like none I've seen or heard before or since, but he is an amazing graphic artist. Handsome, funny, and open, we fell very much in love very quickly. We had so much in common, from music, to the Lord, to our dreams for the future. Every waking moment was spent together or with his family, and it was not long before we started talking marriage. In fact, we had set a tentative date, pending his discussion with my father, and he was looking for rings. His parents were talking about the wedding and plans were underway for us to start looking for houses. I was living my dream. Not only was I in love with an amazing man who loved me, but I was finally getting a chance to move into worship ministry, my passion and gifting. Life was great.

Then I took a brief vacation. A friend was getting married, and I was performing the ceremony, so I jetted back to Tulsa for the festivities. Even when I was gone, we spent every extra minute on the phone, and all my friends were laughing at how giddy I was. I was absolutely glowing as I told of my own wedding to come. My heart was finally at rest in the love of my boyfriend, my love, Zeke. But all of that would change when I returned home, and within a week all of it came to a sudden halt.

Stay tuned for Chapter Two: Emoticons and Devastation

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Breaking Up isn't as Glamorous on Main St

I had a dream. It wasn't just any dream, but the kind that woke me up from a dead sleep with my mind racing and my heart pounding and a revelation that there was another layer of pain that God was peeling from a very broken heart.

It was just about 3 years ago when my whole world crashed at my feet, and my heart shattered and everything that I thought I knew about life, love, God and my destiny became a bottomless pit of emptiness and questions without answers.

So here's my story. Because it's so long, and because I really want people to read my blog more than just once (hahaha), I'll be breaking it up into "chapters". I tell it, not for revenge or sympathy, but because I know that writing it is part of the healing that God is working on, and that by talking about it, I can process it. I've decided not to spare any details, but to be completely honest about everything, my part, his part, God's part. I will use an alias for the ex, because this is not about him, but about God's faithfulness and amazing love and grace and His healing power that sets a heart free and mends the broken places.

It is my sincere hope that God will wrap His love around your hearts and minister to you as only He can, and that you will find "Beauty from Pain".

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed."
~Psalm 34:18

***as a note to those who know me and thought that my last post was about my marriage, there is nothing to worry about...I am still very happily married and blessed with the most amazing husband ever (a later chapter in the story) and he is completely supportive of me writing this story****

Friday, January 9, 2009

Beauty from Pain

The lights go out all around me
On last candle to keep out the night
And then the darkness surrounds me
I know I'm alive but I feel like I've died

And all that's left is to accept that it's over
My dreams ran like sand through the fists that I made
I try to keep warm but I just grow colder
I feel like I'm slipping away

After all this has passed, I still will remain
After I've cried my last, there'll be beauty from pain
Though it won't be today, someday I'll hope again
And there'll be beauty from pain
You will bring beauty from pain.

My whole world is the pain inside me
The best I can do is just get through the day
When life before is only a memory
I wonder why God lets me walk through this place

And though I can't understand why this happened
I know that I will when I look back someday
And see how You've brought beauty from ashes
And made me as gold purified through these flames

Here I am, at the end of me
Trying to hold to what I can't see
I forgot how to hope
This night's been so long
I cling to your promise, there will be a dawn....

(C) 2005 DJ Spacemonkey Music - Superchick from the album "Beauty From Pain"

stay tuned for..."Breaking up isn't as glamorous on Main St"