Prisons of Self

I just posted this image and the following response to The Parallel Bible – the world’s first visual and social Bible app – and thought it also belonged here as a milestone on my path:

Matthew 5:26

Matthew 5:25-26 – “Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are with him on the way; lest perhaps the prosecutor deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison. Most certainly I tell you, you shall by no means get out of there, until you have paid the last penny.” (WEB)

We take ourselves to court, judging and accusing harshly, and sentencing ourselves to silent prisons from which there is no release. You will never get out when you hold yourself in contempt. It will cost you everything. When Jesus was preaching on the mount about making peace with our enemy before coming to tithe, I propose He was including our own worst enemy: Self.

I’m currently dealing with a whole trove of self-contempt I never knew was beneath the surface. But it keeps popping up to complicate situations in all areas of my life, so I’ve decided to confront it head on.

This photo and post actually comes from a prayer time I was having with Papa earlier this evening. I thought I was repenting and making sure all the last of some ugly sin in my past was covered – again. Suddenly, mid-sentence, I was startled silent – Papa literally rose up within and very sternly said, “STOP. I will NOT allow you to beat, condemn, discount, or hold (hostage) your self any longer! IT IS FINISHED! I don’t even know what you’re talking about anymore, but it certainly does not sound like the woman I know you to be.”

See, when Jesus died, He covered every last deed. He sent your past as far as the east is from the west…as the Cageless Birds song goes, “Guilt went looking for my past but only found Love.” But our hearts are not open to receiving that Love if we’ve locked them away in prisons of contempt and unforgiveness. They can see it through the bars and know it’s for them, but they can never fully receive or participate…and that deferred hope of Love makes the heart sick. And a sick heart becomes the wellspring of a life half-alive.

Release yourself today. Make peace with your enemy, and watch as the fruit your life produces to tithe at Jesus’ feet sweeten and increase by the bushels. The most beautiful offering we can give is our hearts, totally open and free to be loved every bit as much as He died to make possible.

The original post can be found on The Parallel Bible by clicking HERE or looking me up by username (LilWhiteHouse).

Healing, Life Journey

Wedding Shoot Deja Vu

This morning, I sip my coffee and revel at how something as simple as a photoshoot can bring a girl to her knees.
When the photographer for the music video I’m going to be in tonight said, “My vision is…at a winery and you are getting a surprise engagement,” I both felt “Oh that’ll be easy. I got that down” and a sense of dread, all at once. I’ve had a strange complete shut down about it all weekend, not my usual when I’m ramping up for a shoot. Normally, regardless of how prepared I feel, I start feeling a nervous excitement, practicing, making sure wardrobe is on point. This weekend, I’ve been pretending it isn’t happening and have totally numbed out.
And then, as I woke up and thought, “Huh, maybe I should get my nails done,” it hit me…
I felt “I got that down” because I’ve already been there. I don’t have to worry about how to act because this has already happened to me nearly 2 years ago next month: day starting with a nail appointment, makeup/hair/wardrobe, surprise at Napa vineyard, and all! And the total avoidance is for obvious reasons. I’ve been there, done that, and have been unraveling the aftermath ever since.
This leads me to the following musings:
#1. I have amassed over the years enough wedding photoshoots and videos from my modeling career that I never need have an actual wedding. I can just pick my favorites from the shoots, photoshop the lucky guy in, and we can just bypass the whole ordeal. HA!
#2. Our minds and emotions are incredible creations – and pain is the worst. It totally blocks us from living fully alive and aware of ourselves, and we might not even know we aren’t free. I’ve been intentional in my forgiveness and healing process, and I still wasn’t even immediately aware of what was going on inside of me surrounding this shoot. Thank JESUS for His love and dogged determination to see us whole and healed and living life abundant, even when we are a tad daft.
#3. Not everything is a sign from God or some crazy prophetic mystery – sometimes Holy Spirit is highlighting a cycle we need to break. I forget where I read it, but in one of my books (probably either The Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan Allender, Experiencing the Father’s Embrace by Jack Frost, or something by Brennan Manning), the author describes how traumatized people will often unknowingly place themselves in situations similar or identical to their trauma, thus reliving it repeatedly. They are not doing it intentionally, but there is a part of them that is attempting to go back and fix the situation so that they emerge victorious this time. So they regain the upper hand or overcome the trauma. The problem is, it was a trauma for a reason, it inevitably repeats, and the person is left re-devastated and believing this is just a cycle happening to them, unaware they are being attracted back with hopes of overcoming. I believe this is both a physical and spiritual pull, and both need to be addressed in order for a person to step into freedom. So, hmm.. Am I somehow doing this with wedding stuff??
#4. Is Papa just REALLY trying to get my attention with all this wedding symbolism – from getting paid to second shoot a wedding last year on what would have been my actual wedding day for a bride named Lyndsie at a venue with the same name as my art studio, to the only modeling gigs I’ve gotten this year all being wedding-related, to now shooting a music video, for what’s referred to as “The Wedding Song,” including an identical engagement scenario… oh, and it’s going to be featured on a reality tv show called Married at First Sight: The First Year? I’m actually apt to believe this one is a Divine orchestration because I’ve also been receiving words about being in a wedding season, the bride of Christ, Song of Songs, etc.

All I know is that I’m finally ready to listen… I get it, God. We can stop with all the blindingly obvious signs and get on with whatever it is You’re trying to tell me now. I give up. I surrender. Just please make the whole “always the bridesmodel, never the bride” cycle cease. I am finally on board, I’m listening, what would You like to do in me through this experience? Whatever it is, I’m game.

And now I’m off to use this opportunity to relive a past hurt and forgive in real-time.

Photo credit: Jerry Yoon Photography | http://www.jerryyoon.com

Healing, Life Journey, Thoughts on God

Humble Dependency

I have been really mean to myself this week – really down on myself for shortcomings, ugly/raw reactions, messy processing of emotions, etc. And, of course, I have plenty of Bible verses swirling in my head to back up why I should be upset with myself for not doing x, y, or z or for feeling icky feelings:

“So far as it depends on you, live in peace with everyone.”
“Turn the other cheek.”
“They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
“Fruits of the Spirit…” are not anger, mourning, frustration, sorrow.

Luckily, I just had a perspective pivot (courtesy my amazing counselor). She said:

“Instead of seeing yourself as a failure or being hard on yourself for not doing things the way you’d like to, how about saying, ‘Papa, I am not You. My ways don’t ever look like Yours, but that’s not because I’m a failure, it’s because I’m not You. I need You because I am not You. I am humbly dependent upon You because, while I am amazing, I’ll never be You, and that’s ok, because I have You.'”

I think that far too often, we unnecessarily brow-beat ourselves and take verses out of context to hold ourselves in contempt. Yes, we are called to forgive and to love and to live in peace. However, we are not called to be doormats or punching bags or enablers of poor behavior. What we don’t learn soon enough is that sometimes love looks like not allowing someone to continue to behave poorly and to ruin their relationships with hurtful behavior. Yes, we will eventually land on love and accept His peace, but we must give ourselves the grace to grieve and process the emotions, just as they are, first.

So here’s one: “Love others as you love yourself.” THAT right there is permission to love yourself well so that you can love others better. You love yourself by honoring your process, with all the ugly, messy emotions that come up, and listening to what you want/need. If you can’t do that for yourself, you won’t be able to do it for others. Keeping your peace and love on look like being really kind to yourself by recognizing that you’re not God and never will be. And that’s ok, because He is God, so you don’t have to be. But you are human, a spectacular one at that, and humans were created to have emotions – even “negative” ones. Celebrate your humanness, knowing that the God spot is already taken by the One who fearfully and wonderfully made you, process and all.

Today, if only for a moment, may you grant yourself the grace Jesus died to give you – He loved you enough to believe the sacrifice was well worth it, so let Him align your mind and heart to His love. Give Him permission to be God and take your glorified place by His side.

Healing, Life Journey, Uncategorized

Thus Ends the Dress Saga

“This is the last song that I write
While you’re even on my mind
Cause it’s time to leave
Those feelings behind
Oh, ’cause blue skies are calling
But I know that it’s hard”
Noah & The Whale

For those who’ve been tracking the drama of the wedding dress, I have quite the praise report! I’m happy to announce that I am not only all paid up a whole month early, but the dress made its way to my doorstep on Friday as well. Understandably, this has stirred quite a mix of emotions. The joy of blessing and provision swirled in to deep sadness that the dress will live, unused, in storage. There is no “big day” or occasion. Just a girl and her dress – the most beautiful she’s ever seen.

So, after allowing myself the whole run of emotions this weekend, I’m ready to write. This will be the last spoken about the dress until the day comes to don it. But it’s such a beautiful dress with such a beautiful story for it to pass along into the box without any acknowledgement, so here goes:

In November, when the time came to start the search, I was totally unprepared. As a little girl, I hadn’t really given much thought to a wedding – I guess everyone else had at least some idea of the magic and majesty they’d come to expect, but I was busy worrying about more immediate concerns. My aunt made the first move and set appointments for me to dress shop the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It was a good thing, too, because I didn’t even know you had to make them!

I tried to make a Pinterest board for the dress, but I grew increasingly frustrated when internet searches yielded not a single dress I really loved. I pinned bits and pieces from dresses here and there, but I’d yet to see a complete dress that wowed me. To make matters worse, my ex-fiancee saw my board and made negative comments about each part of each dress I actually kinda liked. He’d say he liked everything I didn’t, and my heart hurt a little when he pointed at the coolest remnants I had found and shot them down. Combined with the fact that every other dress search in my life had ended in tears and disappointment when, store after store, I could never find a dress that fit both my body and budget at the same time, I was dreading the day.

Already anticipating failure, I approached the day rather lackadaisically – I knew I wouldn’t find a dress that day, so don’t get hopes up. I threw up a desperate prayer, “Papa God, I know there are so many greater concerns, but could You please help with my dress shopping? I’ve never found a dress easily, and I always get stressed out and cry. Lord, with everything else being so hard to find and plan, could you please just make this the easiest decision about the whole wedding? Please help me find the perfect one quickly and have no doubts about it at all or get stuck between two – let me just know beyond a shadow of a doubt, love it, have complete peace, and be able to afford it.”

I was shocked at the incredible treatment I received that day (at Trudy’s Bridal in Campbell for those who need a fabulous experience). I had my own personal dressing room and helper; no racks to rummage through, just me and my aunt on a bench while our assistant retrieved what she thought I might like based on my Pinterest board and insistence that it be lace. After I tried on a dress at the helper’s request so she could estimate my size and be sure I didn’t want satin, she brought in about 5 lace dresses.

The very first dress I put on, I knew I’d found it.

I did try on several other dresses that day to make sure, but I kept coming back to this one. I couldn’t believe it. I’d found the dress in less than an hour and it was $100 less than our estimated budget.

Or so I thought.

When I got home, I looked at our wedding budget and realized I’d just committed to double what we’d allotted. Slightly panicked, and getting major gruff from my intended, I prayed and the peace returned: I’d asked God for this dress, and He’d hand-delivered it to me down to the last desire of my heart before I could even articulate what they were. He’d provide.

But then my engagement was broken and a call to the bridal shop revealed that I was still on the hook for the full amount. The ironclad no-cancellation policy had me in a chokehold; I was unemployed, in transition, had exhausted all my savings, on my own, and had 4 months to pay off the $1200 balance. Each month, I made the $300 payment, I was not quite sure it would go through – the anxiety of it all brought so much anger and stress and resentment. What had been a blessing and a gift seemed now a burden and reminder of my deeply broken heart.

Then, Papa stepped in. Each month, the payments miraculously cleared until I came to the halfway point. As I made my second-to-last installment, a quick figuring told me that, unless I found a job soon here in Redding, I would not have enough to finish paying the dress, much less drive down and pick it up. I became angry because I’m also trying to save to pay my BSSM tuition, and this was draining resources that could be going to that.

What I learned is that Papa’s resources are endless – they cannot be drained! The day after I made the payment, I got an email from a man I had met in passing one time back home in Indiana, circa 2009. Our interaction couldn’t have lasted more than ten minutes, and I’m honestly not sure how we were Facebook friends. Long story short, he expressed that he would be paying off my dress:

“From your postings it’s evident that you always give so much of yourself to everyone, for so many great causes, and to God. You pour your heart and soul into everything. You leave a lasting impression on everyone you meet. Just wanted to give you something back, just to say thanks Lindsey from everyone.”

And just like that, I realized I had been complaining and totally missing the point God was trying to make. How often do we allow Satan to come steal our victories, kill our hopes, and destroy the miraculous blessings and testimony God’s writing in us? God had given me the dress of my unarticulated dreams, one that was never intended for my ex (he pointed out and expressed distaste for each feature without knowing it), and He’d given me a double-portion since I doubled the cost on accident. And, He’d paved the way to pay for it both through my own finances (completely independent of my ex) and gifts given by a few other people. When the final payment was made by a near stranger, I heard Papa say, “I do not bless to curse. I would never give you this dress if I didn’t intend to give you a reason to wear it. I know there’s a part of you that believes pursuing Me and the call I’ve placed on your life to serve the least of these means silent submission to a life of singleness. I see your pain of M’s broken promises to love, protect, and cherish you. But I have not broken My promise. This is not a reminder of an end – this is a promise of My love, provision, and a beautiful future. Just rest, and let Me continue to provide for your every need and heart’s desire while we work together to restore your spirit.”

As an added lil kiss, the bridal shop offered to ship the dress to me in Redding, free of charge, to spare me the trip. Boom. God even sent my neighbor over to my house, beers in hand, the moment I opened the box and started the mix of sorrowful sobbing and overjoyed “Oh, it’s even more beautiful than I remembered.” Blessings on blessings, glory to glory.

So, thank you to the people who chose to give so generously to help me receive this healing gift. You know who you are, and I know I could never fully express my gratitude. I thank God for you every time I see my dress hanging in the hall.

And praise be to the One who is the Giver of the best gifts, Promiser of great promises, and only One who truly knows my heart. Thank You for reassuring me that blue skies are calling and for holding me close while it’s still hard for me to see. Thank You for the grace & space to grieve what’s been lost and for marking the time to leave all those feelings behind with such a beautiful milestone.

Healing, Music, Thoughts on God

My Future and My Past

“You are my Future
And my Past.”
– Future/Past by JohnMark McMillan

Today, after 3 years of suggestion from my counselor, I committed to reading the book The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Dr. Dan Allender. It’s causing me to go toe to toe with my past so I can fully embrace my identity as a beloved, passionate daughter of Papa God and all the blessings and joy and future that come along with that title. As Dr. Allender says, “The work of restoration cannot begin until a problem is fully faced” (p. 14). Well, I just moved to a new place, know no one, have no schedule, and am still job searching, so if there’s ever been a time and place, it’s the right here and right now. And it’s hard. Really hard. But not nearly as hard as living with this constant feeling of separation from my Papa or of shame that if people really knew me they’d all abandon me or of distrust in myself that I have changed or will ever be free from my old struggles/self. “The damage done through abuse is awful and heinous, but minor compared to the dynamics that distort the victim’s relationship with God and rob her of the joy of loving and bring loved by others” (p. 14). I’m sick of being secretly disgusted with myself and waiting for the next time I’ll screw up (or God will).

The other shoe is always poised to fall, and enough is enough. I’m too blessed destined to be held back any longer.

At this point, I have a workbook and two notebooks slowly filling up with thoughts, confessions, musings, and revelations, so certainly there will be many more posts of a similar nature, but this is what I felt released to share from today:

This song has been stuck in my head for days now, on repeat, to the point I had to acknowledge it as a meditation: “You are my First, You are my Last, You are my Future and my Past.”

At first, I thought this was because God hit me hard at Friday’s concert with the revelation that He is not only interested in/excited about who we are (in the present) and who we will be/what we will do (in the future) but ALSO He in/about who we used to be and what we’ve done…and what’s been done to us. Elementary concept, I know. But as someone with a past like mine that is a source of so much shame and guilt and desire to just forgive, be forgiven, forget, and “that’s not who I am anymore, I’m a new creation in Christ” it all away, this was stunning.

Jesus not only was there in every single moment of my past, with me and not against me, but He was also IT. He IS my Past. And if He is my Past, it is blameless, beautiful, and holy; I need to embrace it and love it just as He does. He sees the gold in it, already died for it, and gives it massive grace. I need to do the same, because I don’t see what He sees: how He’s going to spin the scraps of waste and hay into a golden destiny someday.

With this song and thought process swimming circles in my skull since Friday, it finally had a place today to land and attach. I’ve learned enough by now to know that when something seemingly simplistic happens to get lodged in there like this has, it is rarely happenstance or simple at all. Well, waiting for me in the book was the following:

“To be told, ‘The past is past and we are new creatures in Christ, so don’t worry about what you can’t change,’ at first relieves the need to face the unsightly reality of the destructive past. After a time, however, the unclaimed pain of the past presses for resolution, and the only solution is to continue to deny. The result is either a sense of deep personal contempt for one’s inability to forgive and forget…Hiding the past always involves denial; denial of the past is always a denial of God. To forget your personal history is tantamount to trying to forget yourself and the journey that God has called you to live” (Allender, p. 15).

I’ve spent years trying to be a new creation, trying to just be different and better and good. I have acknowledged my past abuses do contribute to present dysfunction and sins, but I reasoned this away with the flick of a “but if I am right with Jesus, I am new and don’t do these things anymore; I just need to be in Him and nothing else will matter.” And thus, an even harder fall when the inevitable happens – open wounds always drag us back to the point of brokenness. It is here where the Great Physician waits for us to stop hiding the hemorrhage, to stop scabbing and denying Him access. As long as I hide or justify or nurse my own wounds, He cannot bind up my broken heart.

I look forward to the day that I can truly say that my scars are continual songs of praise to my Savior. Til then, I’m gonna be a bloody mess awaiting redemption, book and pen in hand.