fortress ’round my heart

“[Your eyes so full of wonder]
I have crossed the horizon to find you
[Your heart, an innocent warrior]
I know your name
[There’s a task for you]
They have stolen the heart from inside you
[My dearest one]
But this does not define you
[And your deep thoughts]
This is not who you are.
You know who you are.”

it’s clear my heart is completely vulnerable when i cry tears of solidarity with the monster/hero *spoiler* at the pivotal moment in Moana (lyrics to song quoted above).  i spent a couple of weeks on my parents’ couch in November. i’d been on my own for eight years, and it was the most depressed i’d felt in a while. i had the option to sleep in my old bedroom, but i couldn’t bring myself to accept the accommodations. my mom got V to sleep even though it was my joy to rock her every night of her life. my world was upside down, and i had turned it that way. i made the decision. there were no surprises. i planned it all to go this way. but i felt like i could barely carry on except to watch tv on the couch. it took me a moment to accept the reality i was creating, because i was creating new for someone else who i want to protect more than even me.

but i made a decision in those weeks that i’ve opted to keep living by. keep moving. sometimes life’s favorable. sometimes life’s miserable. but even if i’m treading water, i’m not drowning. i’ve been barely above water some days. but most always, i have moved forward with optimal outcomes. processing things as they come and allowing myself to move through them in a wise and timely manner has mattered the most.

“are you OK, erin?” i haven’t known what to say, so i give really awkward answers. when people ask me that, i really appreciate it. they really inflect certain parts of the question to let me know they’re inquiring about my personal life. how do i say in three to four sentences that i have been processing this situation with professional help for over a year now so i feel kind of peaceful and clear now? people think i’m in denial or callous. but, if you saw an inevitable future a long while ago, would you face it and protect yourself, or would you lie down and die in it?

when i wrote my last blog post, i decided to be open about my journey through counseling. it was kind of like i was opening the door to everyone, “hey, something is coming. i am grasping for connection. i am living in the now until now is no longer.” i knew when i started the therapy journey over a year ago i had some big personal choices to make and i couldn’t make them based on my own wisdom and understanding. i had to develop tools and strengths. i had to sort through a lot of emotional and relational chaos. i read endlessly, listened to wise counsel of the experienced, discussed with professionals, talked to Biblical counselors. after the final decision was made in fall, i finally opened up to my best friends, who were totally clueless about my personal life. you know, it’s odd that way. i’m one of those people who claims to be open, light and free, but i have hidden so much darkness and pain over these last five years. depression showed me so much truth and humor about the world, but it isolated me into becoming a pitiful sliver of myself.

through my therapists, i have been able to look at my life over and over through many lenses.

looking things in the face and not making excuses for my actions was troubling, but i have experience with people who blame others for their problems. i refuse to become a bitter person who can’t identify my responsibility in a situation and move past things, making the best of a bad decision.

i learned to accept choices made from the perversion of duty in my mind. i embrace my anger and my darkness. i’m fueled and impassioned by feelings, but i have to abide by reason and balance. pushing those energies toward good makes all the difference for me. i can look inside myself and accept me, even if i don’t like aspects. i aspire to be better. i forced myself to find beauty and healing in the choices i made, even though i acquired a tremendous amount of pain. over time, the emotional pain got to be so much that i became numb without noticing, and that was the worst. i would fearfully wonder if i would feel again, being such a sensitive soul yet so disconnected from the realm of emotions. there were months where the only things that brought sparks of emotional energy to me were my child and hip-hop music (weirdly true).

then, i came through it. over time, the numbness dissolved. i feel it all now. i’m grateful for pain. pain means i’m living. and sometimes my feelings are so raw, i’m like a child expressing them. i don’t inhibit myself much. it’s a double-edged sword. not in a tantrum kind of way, but in the way that i almost wrecked my car last friday as my eyes filled with joyful tears as i stared at the blooming whites of the trees against a perfect pink sunset. sometimes i am so scared i will move back into the old mindset that i throw walls up really hard at people to protect myself. so basically, i’m a very free-feeling hermit. i hid behind a facade and a concept of what i was shamed into being for so many years, i lost myself for a while. that was my choice. i forgive myself for giving into those ideas, and now my life is back in the correct direction. i’m rebuilding.

i am not afraid of love. i believe in love more than ever. my ultimate goal has always been peace and authenticity. before this season. throughout my entire life. getting out of unrest was the goal, and moving toward peace is the vision. positive thinking and clear boundaries are helping me achieve this. i have found forgiveness in myself and everyone and every hurt. i am so thankful to look back and take a calm breath at the end of a difficult season. spring is here with the beginning of a lot of “new.”

i have no regrets, and my mind rests.

jesus saves

i will never forget the moment i accepted Christ. when i was at vacation bible school around seven years old,  i wanted this thing i’d been hearing about since birth that seemed to change everyone around me. i had prayed a prayer at a puppet show previously when i was four–a moment i remember vividly–but i just didn’t feel like it had done the job. maybe if i prayed a little harder and got baptised that would do it, i thought.

it didn’t.

i spent many years of my youth ritualistically praying in my room alone and sometimes with my parents and sometimes in the church pew. i was doing everything right. i threw my system of a down cds in the church trash can and i didn’t know any bad words. i read my bible. why couldn’t i feel secure in my salvation? i would waver between frustration and desperation over this, sometimes being able to put it out of my mind and sometimes plagued with obsession. this created a deeply-rooted insecurity in me that still exists today in my weakest and messiest moment. i started researching the subject of eternal security, a subject that–if you know me well, you know–is something i am very passionate about. i often fail to explain why: it helped me understand the truth of salvation and studying it ultimately led to my personal acceptance of Jesus Christ.

my dad gave me a book when i was 19 that would ultimately end up changing my life. “what every christian ought to know: essential truths for growing your faith.” i started reading it on the way to atlanta for the forward conference the summer of 2007. chapters two and three had me feeling so insecure. here i was on a church trip in a church van going to a church conference with my christian friends, and i was feeling scared that i wasn’t really saved again. a familiar feeling that i liked to put out of my mind. i chalked it up to “everyone feels this way.” but in my heart i knew that i was different than these people around me. my heart wasn’t the same. my joy was flawed and inauthentic. i just didn’t understand.

i started getting angrier as the day went on. i was praying for reassurance. i was praying so hard i was sweating. i remember so vividly telling God how angry i was at him for letting me feel this way. “have i not done enough for You to just give me peace about this? i witness to people for You. i act right. i think right. i do everything i know to do.”

and then i got bold. in the middle of the conference as everyone around me was getting their Jesus on, i was frustrated. i couldn’t take it anymore. i looked up at the ceiling as if Jesus was hanging out in the rafters and i said in prayer that if i could not resolve to know Him i was giving up right then. i would rather revoke everything i had ever said of Him, unlearn everything i had every heard of Him than to feel inauthentic and tired in my “relationship” with Him.

i was scared lightening would strike me dead, as i had been a big rituatlistic actor for years in my faith–and knowing that renouncing Christ was the one unforgivable sin.

then something i will never be able to explain happened. it wasn’t a special song, but i will remember it forever. hillsong united started singing “hosanna” and i started feeling something different in my heart. for the first time in my life, the Lord was clearly speaking to me. the Lord said to me in my heart that i had been putting on a show for years. i had been reaching and doing and trying to climb my way to heaven through my actions and that was just silly, impossible, missing the mark. how could i misinterpret His word after hearing it so often for so long? the reason Christ is different from all other religions in society today is because all I have to do is accept Him. He has done the work for me. He died for me–for every failure, every stumble, every sin in my life and in the lives of all who live.

i cannot save myself. i cannot earn salvation. i cannot gain salvation. i can only accept Him. i accepted Christ that night in 2007. it may sound looney and it may not sound like a moment worthy of explaining in such depth–but in that moment i was finally alive in my Spirit, and i was full of joy knowing what it truly meant that Christ had died on the Cross for me.

i have never really shared that moment before here or anywhere. i had so much pride in being saved since i was a child even after that night. i didn’t want to be seen as a “new christian.” man, my pride has always crippled me. i feel it is important to discuss the journey now, because i realized some things today. salvation doesn’t insure a perfect life. it doesn’t mean putting on a face that everything is OK. it’s not black and white. christians are sinners like everyone. they’re hypocrites and failures and a bunch a gray people in a gray world. it’s Christ in Christ-followers who is unblemished, and sometimes Christians don’t display the Lord accurately. sometimes they don’t display Him at all.

i’ve been conflicted for a year and a half. i started hiding from church. i don’t know if i have been to a service three times between today’s easter service and last year’s. at first i was OK. then i became lazy because of work, and then i didn’t want to admit i was struggling with sin. i didn’t want to admit i had gotten into a pit that i couldn’t get out of. i wanted to still be the erin in choir, organizing mission trips, leading bible studies, interning in the youth department. but i made some choices that i felt were inappropriate for those roles (like drinking, bad relationships, etc.), and i bowed out. rather than seeking Godly council, i progressed to a point where my heart was hard and blinded with my earthly choices.

i realized this today. i kept nursery, and hugging on the babies and seeing lovey-dovey couples made me feel so agonizingly helpless and impatient. i often give in to this desire to keep up with everyone around me. i’m too old to hunt easter eggs. i can’t pretend to be a kid this year to avoid feeling bad. i can’t stay out of work like i could ditch on college classes. i’m almost 24. i want to be on my way to starting a family and a life beyond myself. then i remember that when i accepted Christ, i accepted that even though it’s natural for me to be stubborn, impatient and selfish–i’ve got to wait. if i don’t wait on Him and His time and take things into my own hands, my life will be a tornado full of murk and trash like many moments of the past two years have been. if i do wait, i will be rewarded.

He put Philippians 1:6 in my head to comfort me today. though i am not happy, that’s just my circumstances. i have my joy in knowing that the most important thing in my life, my relationship with Christ, is fully intact and growing again. the Lord has placed specific desires and traits within me. i am not letting go of the hopes i know are of Him for i know i can be confident He will fulfill them in His time. it is my job to take in his word, give to others and live a life each day accepting and appreciating what He did for me on the Cross.

it has never been me. it has always been Him. and i’m glad to have that straightened out in my heart again.

i post this in hopes that my vain journey around the bend for quite some time will resonate with someone who reads this and that they will be inspired to put their pride, their confusion, their stubborness, their sin, their sorrow, their circumstances aside and see the simplicity of returning to Christ.

Philippians 1:6: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”

today is the greatest

everyone should have a blog post with a smashing pumpkin title. today may not really be the greatest. i sat at work for eleven hours yesterday, forced myself to talk to my best friends instead of hiding like i normally do when i’m down, i wrote a lot, and i slept for twelve and a half hours. that’s right, i went to work and still slept over half the day. i consider it a record. this morning i woke up after that coma with knots in my stomach again. i gagged a few times as i was getting ready, and then i looked at myself in the mirror.

i’ve been alive for 23.5 years, and for most of those years i’ve worked hard to make a positive impact on the world around me. i want to encourage people when i see they’re down. i want to share my mistakes to help others not have the pains i have. i’d drop everything to help a person in need. i’ve been  loyal to my best friends, some who have stuck around for 12 years or more–anna, casey, lindsey, kristin. i haven’t been a perfect friend, but i’ve been loyal. i listen, i care,  i make them laugh. i take their pains on me when they’re hurting. i may say and do dumb stuff occassionally like every imperfect person, but i’m humble enough to apologize and take they’re forgiveness as an opportunity to be better to them in the future.

i needed to look at myself in the mirror this morning and feel positive.

i’ve been down, because i’ve done everything i can to gain forgiveness from someone i care about and it just hasn’t happened yet. then something wild happened to me yesterday.  i wrote a blog post last week attempting to be funny, and it really hurt a couple of friends of mine who thought they were my target. i got defensive about it, but it’s been bothering me really badly. i hated the idea that something i had said in jest had hurt the core of someone. i may be sarcastic, but i have a really sensitive heart. hurting someone really hurts me. after a week, i talked things out with the friend i unintentionally hurt yesterday. i asked for her forgiveness and she gave it to me–and we both felt better.

and then i realized that it isn’t just a trite old sunday school saying. forgiveness isn’t just for the person who gives it. it’s also for the person who asks for it. searching my heart for honest repentance and having the courage to put my pride aside to give a humble apology, i’ve grown as a person. i may not ever receive true forgiveness from people i’ve asked in my past. things would be easier if i could, but it’s not always possible.

for me, accepting that idea is almost as hard as finding the means to apologize when i’m wrong. i hate hurting people. i hate being unable to resolve it. it tears up my life knowing i’ve affected someone negatively, especially when i didn’t mean to. but i must give up my impatience and give things time. after a week of not knowing how to approach the whole blog ordeal, it approached me, and i now feel free of something that was burdening me inside.

that freedom is inspiring. i know the Lord wants what’s best for me. i know what he wants me to do with my life, and i know i’ve been complacent this year and blamed it on my job and other circumstances mentioned in previous blog posts. i’m glad i’m not wallowing in self-pity today. i’ve been doing it for a year now over different people and different situations, and it’s a tired act.

there’s nothing to be sad about. yesterday cannot be relived, and taking anxiety medicine to avoid feeling what today has to offer is just stealing time. the Lord forgives me, i’ve asked for the forgiveness of people i’ve affected, and i am forgiving myself. there’s nothing else needed but to keep going in that direction.

if i make it to being old, i know i’ll look back on a full life. i just want it to be a life full of good, not bad. i’d like to see the world, but if i rarely make it out of albany, i’d be ok. i want to have watched my family grow and my parents smile. i want to make them proud by the life i live, the job i have, the wife i become, the mother i long to be. i want to know the Lord more each day and share Him with others by how i act, not confuse them like i have with my behavior lately. and i hope as old lady erin looks back at the choices i made this year, i might not remember how dark some spots were because so much good will have occurred to overshadow them. or maybe i’ll remember today and the last few days and feel satisfied that something so seemingly trivial changed my direction in the best of ways.

something bad may happen tomorrow to shake up my world. something good may happen tomorrow to resolve a hurt. i can’t predict how the Lord will shape my life, but i can rest knowing that if i listen and follow that He has a plan for me that is beyond the dreams i described in the paragraph above. so today might not be the greatest in some respects, but today can be great because for the first time in over twenty months i don’t feel so aimless as an individual anymore. and for that i can be joyful today.

“it’s only over when you quit, and you ain’t no quitter, honey.” (thanks, brian.)