It’s November 30th and the wind bites as leaves are whisked to and fro around me, tumbling along the side of the street like a Solstice dance. I can feel Winter approaching, the season most associated with death, strangely bringing new life to my body. There’s a spring in my step I have not had in months, years, and in my mind’s eye I see a rush of new cells cascading through my veins, remaking themselves healthier, stronger. They say the body regenerates itself every seven years, though scientific validity of this claim is arguable. What is known, however, is that various cells of the body do in fact regenerate in specified intervals. The liver, for example, is said to regenerate every six weeks and the skin every thirty-five days. To quote one of my favorite authors, “you are not who you once were,” even several months ago. Continue reading
Why Jesus? Why is He everything to me? Why is He worthy of a life of sacrifice, devotion, and obedience? Why is He worthy of adoration and worship? Today, after a powerful testimony in church, I feel prompted to share a bit of my story and publicly declare to all of you just the reason why I love Him and owe Him my life. What I am about to share isn’t to bring attention to myself or gain any sympathy for my past, but rather to shine the light on what Jesus has done for me because maybe you’re asking yourself a similar question; maybe you’re wondering what Jesus can do for you..I pray what follows is an encouragement to your heart.
About 7 years ago I was at the lowest of the low. I was heavily addicted to alcohol, beginning to use drugs such as marijuana, and living a lifestyle of other destructive habits. I had everything going for me: supportive parents who put me through college, youthful beauty, excellent grades, a promising future, but somehow couldn’t manage to drown out the pain that was pushing to the surface. Everyday I battled with the demons from the injustices in my past, and I suffered extreme bouts of depression, anxiety and panic attacks, feelings of hopelessness and despair, physical pain and sickness, and crippling fear. In order to numb this pain, I turned to every earthly promise and remedy I could find, yet I never truly found healing or comfort. The bottle always came up empty, the high always wore off, the endorphins eventually left my bloodstream, the mantras they taught in yoga never quite brought peace or lasting change, the relationships and men always hurt me in the end. For all my efforts to find healing and hope out in what the world offered, I always came up short; I always came up empty of that which I desperately needed for wholeness. The shame and guilt from the way I lived my life, the way I misused my body and acted out my self-hatred, weighed so heavily upon me that I didn’t even want to live. Many times I wished it all could end. My heart was beyond broken, and I thought my life beyond repair. But then; but then Light broke through. Jesus, this Jesus I love and speak of, He broke in and shook me. He opened my eyes to my brokenness and my sin. Yes, my sin. I was practically living with my current boyfriend at the time, one of the many false “fixes” to the pain of my heart, and God spoke to me and in the kindest, most gentle and compassionate of voices told me that how I was living was leading to death. And I knew it. I knew I was careening into an abyss of darkness, that even though I wasn’t abusing substances like I had been a few months prior, I was still masking my pain. I was still spiraling and recognized that I had lost control of my life; yet, simultaneously as I had this realization I also saw that He–this Jesus–had been holding me the whole time. He wasn’t willing to let me go and He wasn’t ever going to give up on me. He was willing to look past all of the ways I had been living recklessly and was standing right in front with open arms, beckoning me to come. I heard Him at first as a startling voice of reason, and in the very next instant as a voice of unending, unconditional, everlasting love. It overwhelmed me and moved me to action, to buying a plane ticket back home where I found love, new life, and a fresh start surrounded by people who loved me, who showed me the way of walking with Jesus.
Surrendering that morning He awoke me gave me in an instant what years of searching elsewhere had failed to even bring me close to. In that moment I had peace, joy and hope that can’t be offered or found in anything else. I had nothing to lose except the shackles of the shame, guilt, fear, and pain that I carried, and everything to gain from this new life that I had been offered. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was seen, and I was truly, purely loved and my heart had found its peaceful rest in His hands.
While I worshipped in church this morning, I was reminded of all these things and I felt Jesus impress on me to share this with you all today. It is one thing to call yourself a Christian, and comes with its own set of stereotypes, and a whole other thing to truly be a Christ follower, one unashamed to testify to His goodness, mercy, power and love. I want to live like the latter, and I pray that my testimony of deliverance speaks to you today, whether you believe or not.
Of all the things I may believe in or doubt in life of this I am sure: Jesus is the answer, the solution, the healing for whatever problem you may have or pain that you carry today. He is near to all who call on His name, and whoever seeks Him will find not only eternal life, but that He truly is the living water that brings peace and life. Abundantly; over and over again. So I send His peace and love to you, dear friends, wherever this finds you today. To God be the glory.
Splat. Contact is made, glass shatters, contents spill over onto freshly mopped floors. One compounding frustration after another and this is the icing on the cake. Boom. Full gallon-sized jar of sauerkraut freshly opened, one month fermenting and hours spent preparing, out of my hands and onto the floor; an incredible mess of a situation right at my feet. Already on edge from a thousand little annoyances that shouldn’t elicit reaction and I feel the energy rise within me; that demon I’ve long stifled gritting its teeth and ready to surface at any moment, a bubbling caldron waiting to erupt. But no, not yet. I’ve conquered you, you ugly fiend called anger. I’ve better ways to deal with this string of irritations. Continue reading
It’s 5:27pm, and the world is alive with sounds, smells, laughter, barking, barbecues lit, and music playing. For many, this hour, this moment, is full of the people they love, the friendships they cherish, and memories just beginning to be made. For many this is just another beautiful weekend crowning a long, but productive workweek; the sweet satisfaction of rest and respite after all their labor. For others, this hour could be anything but sweet. For others this is just another day without a husband by their side or father for their children to look up to. It is just another day without enough food, a day without freedom, a day without love, a day without hope, a day without direction. This seemingly beautiful Saturday night may in fact be just like any other that passes with tears, with sorrow, with less than full joy in the absence of all that could be or the lack of what is.
I think we can all agree, the world is a complex place, fraught with sadness, disappointment, catastrophe, despair, abuse, injustice, broken dreams, broken lives, broken promises, broken people, hurt, wrongdoing, disease, pain, and on and on it goes. For those who have faith in God remember that even Jesus said, “in this world you will have trouble.” Yet, even in all that this life cannot promise or deliver, we can still find joy in the midst of our circumstances. Even in your failing health, failing marriage, or failing dreams, you can still hold onto and relish the good that is, and have confident expectation of better to come. Yes, even in the most despairing, unfair, and disadvantageous of circumstances you can still find reason to be joyful and even enjoy this life God has given.
To say it’s been a tough few weeks would be an understatement. But nonetheless, as I have not the slightest bit of strength left in me to revisit those moments and convey them to you, I’ll settle for this…
It’s been a tough few weeks.
Whether it was the lunar cycle affecting my female cycle, affecting the Lyme & co bacteria cycle, affecting the treatment cycle, WHOKNOWS. What I do know was that it was utter hell in every which way possible, and I found myself crying out to God almost daily to beam me up to heaven and out of my body–out of the unbearable pain.
But thankfully, He brought me out of that storm yet again (as He always does), and now I’m finally catching my breath after much struggling and splashing amidst the surging waters. I don’t know about you but chronic pain (in my case Lyme and old injury induced) can tend to leave me feeling like a weak swimmer out in the open sea, desperately clutching onto any floating object that comes near, doing my best to save my energy in the calm before the waves come crashing against me yet again, tossing me to and fro, above and beneath, and all the while gasping for breath and fighting just to remain above water.
If I’m lucky, I can float rather uninterrupted in these calmer conditions for a week, possibly two, at a time before a flare up comes, whether one day in length or three, to jolt me off. Then, quite frequently these days, a bigger wave will come, seemingly out of nowhere, and cast me under once again. Submerged in the darkness and bewilderment of those deep waters, I can often lose myself for a moment, too tired to believe I can keep up the fight to stay alive. Too beat down by the gales and swells of the storm to believe I can keep paddling. Too ravaged by the gusts and worn to such an extent that I’m tempted to let myself sink and let go of the buoy of hope; of ever finding safe harbor again, of ever making it safely to shore.
But if I’ve learned anything in the last two years of battling this illness, it’s this: that in order to survive these turbulent times, which inevitably will come, it is necessary–no, imperative–to keep your eyes fixed on the lighthouse that will lead you to shelter. The lighthouse that will remind you of a hope that’s secure, a hope that is sure, a hope that won’t be easily obscured, even in the darkest of nights or fiercest of storms. This light is what keeps me paddling, keeps me swimming toward shore even when I’ve lost sight of any hint of land. It guides me in the direction I know I must head. It steers me back onto course when the current has swept me away. It restores my focus and perception when I have let myself drift off into dangerous waters. It rights me when I can’t tell left from right or up from down. And it comforts me when I’m caught up in the swirl of the circumstances and the ensuing emotions that follow.
This lighthouse I speak of is one that towers above all others, one that can be trusted more than any other. When lost at sea there can be many flashes of false hope, many blinking lights that can confuse and distract you from the constant and credible beam that breaks through the haze. The true light. The light that shines through the darkness. The light that cannot be overcome. The light that lights the way, that leads to life, that rescues and saves.
“What is this light, and how might I recognize and find it?” you may ask.
The answer is not a what or a how, however, but a WHO. The light that I speak of is a person, comprised of three, who bears the name that has the strength to save from any level of storm. He is called many names, all with equal weight, all bearing power and might. I call Him Father. I call Him Helper. I call Him Lord. And He has sent His Son to save. I call Him Jesus. I call Him Savior. I call Him friend.
He is the True Light that has come into this world, not to condemn, but to expose and to save. He is my Deliverer, the One who walks on water, the One who beckons the storm to still, the One who carries me across to dry land. He is my shelter in the storm. My stronghold. The Rock on which I stand.
I cannot put it in any lovelier terms than these:
“Their ships were tossed to the heavens and plunged again to the depths; the sailors cringed in terror. They reeled and staggered like drunkards and were at their wits’ end. “Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves.
What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor!”
Psalm 107:26-30, NLT
And there you have it. All of God’s steadfast love and delivering desire wrapped up into one simple solution:
Call upon Him.
He will navigate you through whatever storm you may face. There is no need to splash about in distress. There is no need to chase flickering lights that will only soon but fade away. Keep your focus on the light that won’t fail you. The light that won’t ever leave or die out, even in the midst of the most raging tempest. He is the beacon of hope that you can rely upon. Don’t let the currents of life, the confusion, doubt and unbelief, sweep you away. Keep your eyes fixed on the lighthouse that leads safely to shore. Let Him command your stormy seas to still.
I am not through the storm yet, but I know the way out. I trust and believe that He’ll lead me and guide me and comfort me in the midst of whatever I face. Even in the worst of days I know that He’s sending me a life-perserver of love and faith and strength to get me through. I know I must cling to Him in the roughest of waters, the most violent of storms. I know if I hold steady to Him, I won’t ever sink. He is still God and He is still Sovereign, no matter how hard the waves may hurl and toss.
So I’ll leave you with this prompting, dear friends:
Will you trust Him? Will you cling to the hope that’s secure? There’s nothing to risk with Him.
This world is not my home, and this body not my final habitation. But I can look forward toward a future that is calm and bright as I sail toward the horizon of His love. He is Sovereign in the storm. He is strong enough to save. Will you trust Him?
Validation. Most all of us seek it in one form or another, whether it be from our spouse, our parents, our relatives, our family, our friends, the opposite sex, the same sex, our superiors at work, our peers, people we want to impress, people we deem more sophisticated than us, and so on and so forth. We run after approval, like a dog chasing after a ball, frenetically at times. Though our tongue isn’t flopping to and fro outside half of our mouth and drool being splattered across our face like it might that golden retriever fetching after the green tennie that his master has just thrown, we often portray similar responses when eyeing the object of acquisition, which could be anything from that nod of the head, that pat on the back, that sympathizing look and gesture or those reassuring words.
And we do all this for what end? What is really at the core of all this fumbling, frantic, insatiable quest for others to validate who we are or what we are or even where we are? Why such desire and need to be validated by others and dare I say, even ourselves? Continue reading
: the ability to resist being moved or broken by a force
: the quality that allows someone to deal with problems in a determined and effective way
Strength. For as long as I can remember I have valued this trait and strived to possess its attributes. Before I fully knew what this word meant, I instinctively knew that it was an inherent part of my character. Passed down from a first generation immigrant father, strength was something that was held in high esteem in my household and upbringing. It was the standard that all of my performances and struggles were held against. The question of whether we were giving our best, fighting with our all, was always subconsciously posed beneath the surface of what was actually spoken. And sometimes, it was spoken.
“You have to be strong.”
“Don’t give up.”
“Anything worth fighting for is going to be a struggle.”
“Don’t be a quitter.”
“Life is hard, but you just have to keep at it.”
And though there were and are many truths to these statements, it dawned on me as of recent that there is such a thing as an appropriate time to let go of the fighting and the struggle and just surrender; to find acceptance and peace with what is, and still contend for a better life. Can the two even coexist? Contention and acceptance? I believe so. And I’m finding that the less I struggle against what I can’t control or can’t overtake, the more ground I actually win.
Eyes blinking, lights twinkling, wicks burning. In the background, instrumental Christmas music plays softly, lending to the air of nostalgia in the steamy room. I soak and sink deeper into the steaming tub, sink deeper into my decade hopping reverie as I revert back to the mind of a little girl. Of a little girl who was caught up in the magic of Christmas as she lay beneath the tree gazing up into the million tiny lights and glimmering ornaments, wedged between presents, and surrounded by the train set circling round and round, entrancing me all the more into my sugarplum visions.
In this candlelit room I am almost back there, almost back to that time when only the best was possible. Where the future seemed as bright as the neighborhood collection of lights and holiday display. Almost transported back to a season where magic and dreams were more of my reality than bills and debt and failure and sickness. Back to a time where I would never have dreamt the future would turn out any differently than what that Christmas hope eluded to.Continue reading
How can one heart, sanctified by purity, oscillate between two such opposing extremes; on the one end bitterness, and the other, gratitude. How can the same soul, which awakes with thanksgiving at the sound of seagulls calling to one another in the misty morning hours, also lie down with enmity toward those who soar through life without second thought to limitations or constraints. Without second thought to the little things throughout the day that are so easily taken for granted. The things which those of us bound by the chains of our own bodies long to have the freedom to do once again. The things our sickness so unforgivingly snatched away. Of how deeply we pine for the simple things of life. To plan a lunch date without fear of whether we will be stricken by pain. To make a commitment without considering how it may interrupt or affect our tedious and time-consuming treatment. To jump with joy in response to a victory, an exciting report, or even just because we feel like showing our delight. And on to the bigger little things, such as the ability to throw on a pair of sneakers and run with no goal or end in mind, or to hike up a mountain or even a sizeable hill, to swim in the sea, to dance at a wedding, to attend an exercise class, or any number of physical things that should characterize the years of youth and remain throughout decades to come. Continue reading
Some days are darker than others. Sometimes the clouds roll in before dawn even has a chance to rise. These are the days that require more fight, more effort to plow ahead than others. Days that you don’t feel like awaking the dawn with harp and lyre, like David sings of in the Psalms. Days where you don’t feel like waking at all. Just let me lie here, stay in this bed a little longer and lament what I already anticipate ahead.
But days like these I know I must wrestle harder, beat the ground if I must, and resist my opponents efforts to choke the life I fight for. Continue reading
Hello! My name is Sofia, and after over a year of unanswered questions and unexplained pain and loss of vitality, I have finally been diagnosed with Lyme disease. Follow my journey through navigating this illness, and be ever inspired to stay fixed on hope.