A religious experience.

I hate being called religious. A spiritual Christian? Not so bad. Here’s a snipet of what religion has looked like in my interestingly adventurous life:

I joined a religious community for about 5 years.

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I had just quit using drugs and partying the month I showed up to my new church. My first day there was a Friday and a section of the service was open-mic. Testimony time.

I was SO excited by God intervening in my life and saving me from death just weeks before. I jumped on the opportunity. I rushed to the front, took the microphone, and began to share about how God mercifully saved me. I wore a T-shirt, had big silver hoops in my ears, had a long blingy necklace on, and wore eye makeup that was much too dark for such a gathering.

I didn’t know I stood out.

Within the next 5 years, I was squeezed and pushed into the most uncomfortable mold. All I knew was that I wanted to make God happy! My new community of people was telling me- “Anna, that make up isn’t godly. You need to wear a head-covering. You shouldn’t wear jewelry. You laugh too much. That music you listen to? It’s secular. (Which was Skillet, Red, Lecrae, etc.) Your personality? Much too rebellious. Sister, you NEED to change! In fact, you need to call girls “sisters” and guys “brothers.” You’ve also gotta stop using the word “crap.”

You see, I always needed to change. Nothing was ever good enough.

Now if you are the perfectionist type, a people pleaser, and a passionate God lover, that makes for quite the combination. It’s easy to get lost. 

I lost who I was. I traded in my identity. I gave up who Christ called me to be. I became a slave to people. I wanted to fit in, but as hard as I tried, I still always stood out!

Maybe I was never called to be part of the crowd.Image result for getting out of the boat and walking on water

I came more “Americanized” than others to the Russian community. I came with a backpack of Utah sarcasm to people who misinterpreted it as mean and cocky. I arrived too loud.

5 years and 50,000 trials later, I realize that’s the only person I want to be: I want to be that outsider who runs up before more 100+ people to share about the miracles God’s done in my life, not having a care in the world of what they might think.

Since I’ve left that circle, cult, or maybe crowd, I’ve been on a journey back to the “me” God has called me to be. As such, I’m able to love freely, and when I share Christ, I share Him passionately. I’ve learned that my outside appearance will never please everyone. (Lately, it’s my tattoos that religious folks are triggered by.) Perhaps, it’s not the outside that really matters. I’ve undoubtedly had a fair share of mistakes, and I have yet to reach perfection!

On my own, I am sinful, but in Christ, I am righteous. As long as I have His grace, I’ll stay alive. Because it’s not about what I can do, but about what He has done. HE is all we need. 

Religion squelches. Law kills. Spirit gives life.

2-Corinthians 3: 4-6: “ And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

[That’s the MSG Version- Because yes, I read a version different than KJ or NKJ. I also don’t mind NIV. P.S: Another thing I was told in the religious circle was that I have to read the “right” version of the Bible. Those folks must have missed that that the point is the message & not the vocab.]

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Don’t post THAT

We all love reading raw material. We love those who share their vulnerabilities. We admire those who pull skeletons out of their closets. Shoot, even the chewbacca lady became famous quick. She was willing to share her real and totally dorky moment of laughter with the world. Viral. She went viral. We admire confessions. We love testimonials.

I love my momma. I do. We’ve had an interesting relationship, but lately we’ve at least been getting along. We talked the other day and she advised me by saying, “Don’t post THAT.” See, she’s aware of me sharing my ED journey on my blog. She’s aware that I share honest moments of life online. When she thinks of the opinions others will have of her daughter, I’m sure she wants them to be good ones; and what could be so good about her daughter telling everyone of her life struggles? Perhaps it makes her not look as good of a parent… Perhaps she’s afraid someone will hurt me when I’ve already put myself in a position of vulnerability. Whatever the reason is, she doesn’t get excited when I share personal details of life struggles. Yet, boy do she and my grandma like when I share my victories, but again- not the struggles.

To put your story out there, whether on Facebook, IG, blogging, etc. takes balls. To share it with your coworker, friend, or brother, takes courage. It takes guts to be honest about what you’re going through. To let others in can be super scary. True, they can hurt you. They can laugh. They can make fun of you. However, there’s also the chance of giving someone else hope. When I was beginning my recovery from anorexia, I scoured the internet just to find someone who perhaps was going through the same thing as I, someone I could relate to. Sharing life experiences can be radically encouraging because whoever you’re talking/writing to might think- “Wow, they’re just like me. I’m glad I’m not the only one going through this.”

Maybe you’re thinking, “What do I have to share? I’m just a stay-at-home mom.” Or, “What I’m dealing with is not THAT bad. Things could be worse.” Another thought could be,“Nothing exciting is going on in my life.”  

Trust me, there’s stuff you have to share.

Look, you don’t have to be a blogger to share your story. Any part of it. It just takes guts. You’re brave. Share. Inspire. Talk. You’ll be amazed at what happens when you share exactly THAT thing!

It’s all in your head

You are you. With all your +’s and -‘s. Lots of times you forget your +’s and can only see your -‘s. You have problems and you want solutions. At times, all you can do is hope. You believe that one day if you…

…Lose those last 13 lbs, or gain that much more in muscle, you’ll be perfectly satisfied with your body.

…Change or mask that one facial feature, you’ll feel pretty darn good about your face.

…Have children, you’ll be motivated enough to quit smoking/drinking/using drugs.

…Find the perfect partner, you’ll become confident in who you are.

…Find the perfect job, you’ll never complain about your boss again.

…Travel the world, you won’t have to deal with where you are in life now.

…Preach to any & everyone, you’ll be more “aware” of your salvation. “Holiness,” even.

…Finish school, you will feel more accomplished. You’ll finally be successful.

…Are promoted in any group or organization, you’ll receive respect.

This list can go on and on. You know which ones you would add.

(What would they be anyway?)

It’s the whole “grass is greener on the other side” syndrome. It’s easy to believe that once a particular circumstance changes in your life, you’ll finally be satisfied. As if happiness lies outside yourself. As if. You can’t run away from your demons. When your outside environment changes, your inner environment is not guaranteed to change.  I don’t know how to put it prettier than that. I don’t always speak pretty, but I can at least speak the truth. 

In my little life I’ve experienced this syndrome plenty. I still find myself thinking in these terms. By doing so, I can expect to fail. Because no one and nothing can fill a void. No one can change our mentality for us, or our outlook on the situations in our lives. Having a boyfriend who likes my body, doesn’t actually change my opinion of it. Getting married one day won’t rid me of my struggles. Finishing school and getting an ideal job won’t lead me to see myself as successful. Getting older won’t make me necessarily more confident. When I was a kid I thought, “By the time I’ll be 17, I’ll be beautiful, confident, and perfect.” I couldn’t wait to be 17. You can imagine, I was a little disappointed.

Yet… I can be those things today! I can learn to see my beauty, practice confidence, and admire God’s perfection in me. I can have a healthy perspective on my struggles. I can strive to do my best with what I’ve been dealt in life. I can learn to like and accept my body. I can learn to love me.

 

If you’re seeking joy, confidence, security, peace, freedom, etc. I can only say 2 things:

  1. You’ll find it in Christ. But what does that even mean? ( Trust me, I hate unexplained Christian cliches too.) Meaning: You’ll find it in yourself, considering He lives within.
  2. You’ll find it inside your own head by changing your thoughts.

A renewed mind.

Same difference.

 

Miss. New Ness

  1. A new car.
  2. A new home.
  3. A new relationship.
  4. Your first job.
  5. Fresher clothes.
  6. A new experience. That one— New experiences! We love them!
  7. Your first trip abroad.
  8. Your first kiss.
  9. The first trip outside of your mind.
  10. The first time you voted.
  11. A promotion.
  12. Your baptism.
  13. The day you bungee jumped, skydived, or rock climbed.
  14. Your first tattoo, piercing, and colored hair.
  15. Your first cellphone, time you sneaked out, or took a trip to the movies.
  16. The first time you got stung by a bee.
  17. Your drivers test.
  18. Your relative’s funeral.
  19. Your child’s first word.
  20. A birth.
  21. The list goes on and on and on.

There is something about humanity & new experiences! We tire of the old. We unfriend the familiar. We are on a chase for a new high.

 

However, what do you do the day that drive attempts to pull you South? What if you’ve already got something good going on, but you miss Miss.Newness? The chase- it never satisfies. In a relationship, the most memorable and “exciting” season for many people- is that of courtship. Why? Because so much is new. That’s why after a few years of marriage, the couple needs to “spice things up.” Or take buying that new car- notice that new car smell, but within weeks stop sensing such.

So what do you do to satisfy that insatiable drive? How many new things can you actually experience before the writing ink for your list dries out?

Good or bad, the “first times” and the new moments of our lives, we remember with admiration. I’ve been thinking for a couple weeks now, what is the solution for this search of ours? Is this phenomenon a part of our DNA or our character? Why such a drive?

There is something my friend did say that makes sense- she talked about doing things mechanically once they’re routine and how it isn’t fun to catch yourself doing that. So I conclude- We want to be connected with our hearts. The first time we ever do anything, we are full on into it, hard or easy. We are fully into it, because we want to do our best. Animals do not posses such a quality. The drive DOES give our human lives quality and pushes us to be our best. In that connection with our hearts, is the search for identity.

What do you make of the drive for New Ness?

the Jesus people.

“You’re free to be you,” the woman said.

“You’re adopted into our family.”

“God is Gouda, thank you Cheesus,” she laughed.

And quite frankly the man had correct discernment and enough courage to tell me, “You’ve got an eating disorder.”

The woman cut off my hair for me one night as it didn’t make me holier. A few months later she trusted me to do the same to hers.

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Jesus became my Rockstar (He is the Rock and the greatest Star! I was so excited about such a discovery!) and I was no longer scared to call God “Daddy” in place of “Heavenly Father.”  To love reading books outside of the Bible became a joy to me again and I was reunited with the little girl I once used to be.

They were not perfect, but Christ in them was. They valued me and honored me. For the first time in life I was accepted, just as I was.

You see, today I had quite the therapy session. Mostly we talked about my relationship/resentment towards my mother. My therapist asked me, “So, what is it that led you to finally start valuing yourself and stop letting yourself get manipulated?” I knew what it was. A family in Africa demonstrated real love to me and light was shed upon my heart. The time spent with them has forever changed me and now I see in a way I couldn’t see before. The therapist says, “You speak of them so differently. You get such a big smile on your face. How did they make you feel?” I replied, “Accepted.”

The mom wasn’t a neat-freak. The dad watched a lot of TV. The children ran around noisily. But at the end of the day, the woman put her boys to sleep and sang to them and the husband waited for his wife. And they freakin loved each other. (Hannah I hope you read that <——)

They were the closest thing to Jesus people I had ever met.

(& then there was a very fun girl, a faithful sister-listener, and a couple from England that loved on me. they all were shining Jesus too.)

Get Your Hands Off

You don’t hold my power.

“Change! Your car is not new enough. Your clothes are not in. Your appearance is not up to par. You are not kind enough. You are not brave enough. You are too tall. You are too small. You are too flabby. You are too chunky. Change. You’re not enough. Period. I am done!”

That’s the world. That’s people. That’s our society if we don’t reverse it all. The Power-Handoff starts in elementary. You get picked on in Jr High, welcome to High School- you still don’t measure up. Your hair’s not tall enough, hail Utah. Tragically, this can start even before elementary, in the homes of the most Normal Decent Folks. These experiences shape you. Or, maybe they don’t.

The Elders of Old at times still conform, to  the trend of giving power away. “Your handkerchief isn’t clean enough, sir.” (Ok, I’m kidding on that one. I hope it’s clean.) Back to the thought now…

Some Sad Folks spend their entire lives giving power away to measure up to the standards of the Relentless Perfect Ones. The race is in vain. There’s nothing in the end, literally nothing left of themselves.

You get to choose, as do I. Will you do you? Or will you attempt to change after one muttered word? After a cruel comment? After a passive joke?

I don’t want to anymore. This game is old and I like new tricks.

Moving on.