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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A Change In Your Wind

Life can be so weird. You cannot deny the awkward phases of transition.

When you were a baby, you had a cute little set of baby teeth. As a kid they turned to scraggly ones, crookedly growing in. After you ripened, you got yourself somewhere between 28-32 nice (or sometimes not-so-nice) adult teeth.

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Or perhaps you got these. If you had to improvise with foil, trust me, I understand.

Let’s take another example: In the wintertime, you get fluffy, beautiful, sparkly, white stuff outside. (If you live in Utah anyway!) In the summertime, you get sunshine, warm beaches, and endless fun. Between those seasons we get spring. While there is a blooming side to it, there’s also the rainy and mucky part. There are days so gloomy you don’t know what the heck to do with yourself.

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What I would call Oregon weather.

One more: You’ve been in a certain environment physically, or have been spiritually ministering in a particular way, and you were so passionately doing what you were. Then faintly you begin tapping into a new idea of where God wants you and what He could be leading you into. So, you go through a time of just persevering. Your passion for your past phase is beginning to dwindle and yet, the time to move on has not totally come. You JUST hang in there, it’s all you can do since you’re not willing to stupidly jump the gun.

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At times we don’t even have a decent awareness of the exact change in our life seasons, things just seem so confusing and even hard. My most recent example of a mental transition has been going from excitedly talking to girls about eating disorders and recovery, to trying to figure out what motivates me next in life. (I do still want to be a therapist in an ED clinic, but ED’s are not all I think about now.) Maybe you’re a few degrees more stable in your passions than I! Within a few years I can jump from living in Africa, to blogging descriptive details of my ED journey, to happily going back to college full time. However, we all go through times of change. In fact, the only thing that is a constant in life IS change! Let me simply remind both you and I, that the end will be truly worth it and there will be sun. Which I love. But, moving on…

Better-Things-Ahead

A Plunge.

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Okay… Not that kind of Plunge. Please. Keep Reading.

You try something new. You branch out. You step out of your comfort parallelogram. You decide that it’s time for something new and big in your life. comfort-zone

You take the first few steps. The rest seems impossible. The ground below you is rocky and you stub a toe. The circumstances around you, the people, the time you’ve got left- all add to your frenzy.

 

Should I have done this? Maybe this journey is impossible for me… Sure, others have made it before me, but I won’t make it in time. 

A life goal. A dream. A journey of healing. Forgiveness. Life changes. A career. Marriage. Kids. Loans. Putting yourself out there. Creating music. Painting art. Traveling abroad. Living your whole life in your hometown. Adoption. A church ministry. ED recovery (That one’s for me.), whatever is on your living heart.

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Whatever you’ve decided to do, in hopes of getting to your goal, you’ve taken a step of faith. But you glance back. You get the thought: Perhaps it wasn’t so bad back there. Maybe life was not that bad when I was lonely, bitter, and at the mercy of others. The rocks under your feet are relentlessly reminding you that you’re already in a different place now and there’s no going back! Your goal seems distant and you taste the dust. You wonder if the journey will be worth it. With what you see going on around you- the chaos, the noise, you can only hope and trust.

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The Israelite Fam stepped onto a rocky path once, unpaved. Behind them was death, before them was life. On the sides the waters piled high. Maybe at least one of them had the thought, “All of this can just collapse on me and for my efforts I’ll be screwed.” But God was unyielding. He got them through. The barbaric walls that reached toward the sky loomed in their eyes, but never came crashing down. They had to trust their Heavenly Papa. They had to trust that if He told them to drive on Sea-Bottom Avenue, He was going to take care of his babies.

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With whatever you’ve decided to do, or perhaps are simply debating on doing, something that will bring life and a better future for you- trust your Dad in. He can teleport you, run across the waves holding your hand, or He can simply teach you how to swim. Those who stood against you, maybe even laughed, picked on you, or tell you to stop- they get pummeled in the end. And you? You’re standing on fresh ground. You’ve crossed to the other side. It’s sunny here. It’s warm. You think it to be nice. You did it. It’s done.sunshine1