thou mayest

Oh. Dear. God.

Dear Lord, where do I start?

How about with a question? 

That one doesn’t count.

What am I doing?

Can we make it two questions?

Why am I doing this?

You told me more than once, on more than one occasion to follow you. In fact, I think it might be the most common thing you say to me. That and “stop worrying, girlio.” I like it when you call me “girlio,” it makes it more believable when you tell me not to worry… more do-able, or at least as do-able as “not worrying” can be for me.

So, Man, I know I’m following you, I mean, I think I am, right? What happens when the rest of the world chimes in with “what the hell are you thinking, JJ?” How do I stand against that? Do I stand against that? How will I know the difference between You asking me to stand contrary to the norm and You asking me to listen to the counsel of others? What if “everyone else” is right? What if this life really is about white picket fences and owning your own home and 401Ks and all that other stuff that kind of makes me want to cry when I start thinking about it? 

What if I’m crazy? What if I’m the one missing the point? What if I’m supposed to want the things I don’t want? What if I’m missing a screw or a wire or something that requires just a little more medication to make me like everyone else? Who is everyone else? Who is it that I’m even worried about? Why do I even care what they think? When I stand before You, because I know that I will, I know with all that I am that I will, am I really going to tell You that I lived according to the thoughts and opinions of other people more so than according to the very words You spoke? 

Jesus, Dude, I’m scared, Man. I don’t know what I am getting myself into, but I have to believe you called me to this place. You did, right? This isn’t me trying to prove a point or be irresponsible, this is You being You, which, let’s be honest, is pretty crazy, and You’re calling me into Your crazy… right? 

I don’t understand. I don’t understand why grown-ups even bother teaching kids the Bible if by the time the kids get old enough to grasp who You are and take You seriously enough, they are told to grow up and get serious about life when they attempt to live a life that looks contrary to that of the world. Those words, “get serious.” Why can’t I shake them? Why do they have so much power over me? Why, when I start to run after You with my bare feet and dirty hair, trying desperately to cling to your garments, I hear those words, “get serious,” and I slow down, look around for a pair of shoes and a comb, tidy up and play the part… the part that others want me to play. The part that makes me look good and feel crazy. Why does following you look crazy to others, even others who know you, but feel good to me? And even when it doesn’t feel good, I know that it is good. 

Evan, you know Evan, my boss/friend/brother-from-another-mother (thank you for that one), asked me to continue working at the church for the rest of the school year. I was supposed to go back to Portland in just a few short weeks, wrap up this summer in California and go back to the comforts of home… my cute little house, my fun city, my amazing church family, and my group of friends who I have missed more than I am able to express. My home. My comfort zone. That is where I was supposed to go. That was my plan. That made sense. It all made so much sense. This was only supposed to be for the summer… three months. That was it. 

When Evan first asked me to stay, everything within me said “NO WAY,” if for no other reason than I simply missed home, and truth be told, I missed life being all about me. Again, my home, my friends, my comforts… me, me, me. I hate to say it, but if we’re truth-telling, I like it that way. Well, I do and I don’t, but mostly I do… me, me, me. I told Evan I would pray about it, which meant I would mention it to God, but not lose sleep over it. So I did. I started the conversation about it, You remember… “Lord, Evan asked me to stay longer. I don’t want to. What are your thoughts?” That was as much energy as I put into it. I didn’t want to pray about it, but since it had been offered as an option, with that little bit, I was consistent, “Lord, Evan asked me to stay longer. I don’t want to. What are your thoughts?”

As it kept coming up in conversation, the conversation about it eventually started to get longer, perhaps because the more it came up, the more realistic it became, and the more realistic it became, the more there was to say about it, or perhaps, ask about it. I notice when I ask The Lord, “what are your thoughts?” on a certain issue, He isn’t very quick to give them to me, but if I keep asking, thoughts start forming and He at least gives me more questions to ask Him as I try to navigate in the direction I think He is asking me to go. Isn’t that right, Lord? Isn’t that what You often do with me? Correct me if I’m portraying You poorly. I wonder how You answer other people’s questions. I know, that is between You and them, I just can’t help but wonder. 

And so I asked more questions as more thoughts came… where will I live? How will I get around? What about my cute little house in Portland? What about my church? What about my friends? What about my heart?

Some of these questions I still do not have answers for, and as the day got closer for me to let Evan know my decision, I knew I might have to give an answer without all the answers; after all, that is the kind of God I serve. He often asks us to do the craziest of things, sometimes without the slightest clue as to how we are going to accomplish them, only asking us to trust Him. When I quit my job back in April, I had no idea what I was going to do next, but I knew the time had come for me to let it go, an irresponsible move to some people, but I couldn’t shake God asking me to do it, to trust Him. On my last day of work, I found out I got the job to come work in San Diego for the summer, the one place I had always wanted to live for as long as I can remember. A place I had tried to move to time and time again, but time and time again it failed as I tried to force it simply because I wanted it so bad. I look back at the times I was dissapointed over not being able to move to California and I see the Lord holding me saying, “chill out, girlio, if you just wait a little while, I’m going to make this better than you can imagine. I’m gonna get you there, but I’m gonna do so on my terms, which, let’s face it, are better than yours. Trust me.” And He did. He got me here, in a way I could never have imagined or dreamed up. To get paid to do life with high-school girls and stay in large homes and drive a large car and talk and learn about Jesus and surf and skate and climb trees and eat fish tacos all while living in San Diego!? #Nailedit, Lord. Good Grief, did He nail it! 

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But even with all of my amazing adventures in San Diego, I followed myself here, which means so did my struggles, and once again the life lesson that locational change may help, but it certainly isn’t a cure-all. I faced the same struggles in San Diego as I did in Portland, except I did so without my friend base, my support system who saw me though the last few roughest years of my life. Yes, I stayed in large homes and I was caught up in all they had to offer for a day or two, until the largeness of the homes made me all the more aware of just how empty they were and how lonely I was. Expensive toys are only fun but for so long when you are enjoying them by yourself. While it might have been nice to have my own movie theater, after a while I started to wish people were in the empty seats beside me. 

And so, while I have loved my time in San Diego, it’s not the final destination I thought it would be when I was younger, in part because what I never in a million years saw coming is the fact that so much of my heart is still in Portland, in part because of the people I found in Portland. This being why my initial reaction to Evan’s request for me to stay in San Diego was one of “NO WAY,” a response that a younger me would have kicked myself for saying. But, I’m learning that the Lord loves to shake things up. The Lord gives and He takes away. Why is that we rejoice when He gives and  we shake our fists at Him when He takes away? Or at least I do. Not only do I do that, but He gives and I complain that it’s not what I thought it would be. I constantly put the Lord in a no-win situation in my mind’s eye, even though the Lord always wins whether I see it or not. I am more affected by my view of the Lord’s character than the Lord is, it’s my behavior and attitude that changes depending on how I view Him. He is unwavering in who He is regardless of how I view Him. Thank God. Seriously, thank You. 

Given the location of my heart despite my physical presence, the Lord and I clearly had a lot to talk about when the option to stay became more realistic… where will I live? How will I get around? What about my cute little house in Portland? What about my church? What about my friends? What about my heart?

I could very easily go back to my comfort zone, mostly because it’s comfortable. It’s easy, so to speak. It’s not that there is anything wrong with things being easy, I certainly think there is a season for that, as there is a season for everything, that’s Scriptural, not just a song by The Byrds, but I don’t know if that is the season God has for me right now… mostly because as I’ve prayed about it, I’ve felt less and less peace about reaching for ease. BUt God has gifted me with a sound mind to make choices, and so regardless of what He might be calling me to, I could still choose to go after what I want, to go after ease, to go after my comfort zone. I could easily get cozy within the walls of my cute little house… 

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and while I might be wishing I was living a more adventurous life, I’d at least be comfortable.

Or, I could choose to go after a season of being stretched and challenged in a way that my comfort zone doesn’t stretch me or grow me. I could choose to go after the crazy, the “that doesn’t make sense,” the road less traveled, not because it lacks beauty, but because it doesn’t offer enough answers or guarantees before taking it. Don’t get me wrong, San Diego is beautiful, and I would certainly not complain about the geographical re-location, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a beautiful location does not replace beautiful relationships, and moving to San Diego for as beautiful as it is means I have to let go of the beauty that Portland holds for me. 

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My God is good, and He has gifted me with a choice… sometimes it is a gift I am glad to have, and sometimes I wish He would just say “do this.” Lord, why? Why can’t You just say, “do this”? Maybe in this case You have, but it tears my heart so much not only to make the choice, but to own that choice. Honestly, I want to be able to blame You for the parts of the choice that hurt… the parts of it that might hurt other people. I’ll admit, in most cases when faced with a decision, I want the glory if things do work out, but if they don’t and people start asking “why’d you do it?” I want to point my finger and the blame and say “He made me do it.” I’m sorry. I’m sorry I do that to You, time and time again, I do that do you. Why is it that we pray for clarity and then when we don’t hear what we want, we ask You to be clearer? I think You’ve been clear with me, and I’ve asked You to be clearer, and You graciously have been, and I’ve asked You to be even clearer. And I’m sorry it’s taken so long, but I don’t have 20/20 vision or insurance to do anything about it, so it takes me a bit longer to see things clearly… You’ve offered me directions, and then told me I could choose which route to take.

On August 18th, the day I turned thirty-one, I made a choice. I made a choice to live the life God has called me to live, which means a life worth living, one that makes my heart beat because I am fully alive, not because I am barely surviving. A life like that isn’t easy: a life that not only makes the heart beat, but also makes the heart skip a beat. A life like that breaks the heart and mends the heart and tells stories of hardships and chaos and confusion, followed by goodness and mercy and a peace that surpasses all clarity and understanding. A life like that comes in waves that roll and waves that break, and while you might ride some waves with ease, you get beaten down by others, but the chance to ride on top of the wave is always worth the occasional beat down. A life like that has bruises and scars because it has lived well and has at the very least tried to face its fears with courage instead of hiding from fear until it goes away. 

God gave me a choice and I choose His directions. I choose Him. I choose to live the life He has called me to live, a life that isn’t always easy, but is worth it. I choose You, Lord, I choose You.

On the day I turned thirty-one, I took one of my high-school girls with me to get a tattoo on my foot, one that represented my choice, the choice for how to live my life gifted to me by God and my gifting of it back to Him. He gave His life for me and so I give my life to Him by living it for Him. Given the fact that it was her first time in a tattoo shop, she handled it like a boss… until the needle came out, which is when she decided to inform me that she got queazy easily and left to sit by the candy machine on the other side of the half-wall. “You’re supposed to be here for moral support,” my tattoo artist hollered to her jokingly, “you’re just going to sit over there during the painful part and eat Skittles!?” “Yep!” She yelled back, “and I’m enjoying every single one!” 

The two of us then went and met up with more girls where a party was being held for me. When we arrived, there were balloons in the shape of spades and I almost started crying. The party was at Kathliene’s house, the same house where we had our girl’s retreat, the same house with the purple-freaking-nail polish and the bad-ass axe. In fact, it was Julia, the one who saw me with the bad-ass axe that went with me to get my tattoo. It was an amazing night, surrounded by faces I had spent the summer with, faces that I had to decide if I would see for a few more seasons or not. The girls swam in the pool and I kept my fresh tattoo dry by sitting along the edge. We ate Mexican food on the rooftop at sunset. Kathliene pointed out the sun going down over the ocean, “JJ, that’s your sunset, that’s what God is doing for you on your birthday! To JJ, from God,” she kept saying. 

We went down to a little tiki hut in Kathliene’s front yard where I opened gifts, gifts that reflected the fact that the girls had gotten to know me: jars of peanut butter, scented candles, a journal for my “great ideas,” a necklace in the shape of California, a gift certificate to my favorite surf shop, a copy of “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” signed by everyone, a shirt that doubled as a dress so that I could “dress up while still being JJ,” and to top it off, a purple-freaking-birthday cake. I felt so known and so loved that words fell short. 

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For as ugly as it may sound, part of what made my summer so difficult was the fact that is was not all about me. But… in the moments sitting in that tiki hut the night of my birthday with all of those girls around me, I was so incredibly grateful that my summer had not been all about me. Life is so much more life-giving when it’s not all about you.

At the end of the night, Kathliene, her daughter, Aeriel, Oilvia, who joined our group the weekend of the girl’s retreat, and I all laid in the tiki hut as they prayed over me. I knew by the time they were done praying what my decision was… they knew too, well before I did, but they affirmed my decision. 

They walked me down to “the cloud,” the beat-up old station wagon I’ve been driving all summer, packed it full of leftovers, gifts and crazy balloons. They hugged and kissed me goodnight and I drove away with my choice in my head and my heart.

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I looked down at the bandage on my foot and I knew I couldn’t get a tattoo that represented the choice to live a life worth living and then take the easy road. I mean, I could, that’s my choice, but that tattoo would only haunt every easy step I might take should I walk that road. I tattooed my choice very intentionally to my foot as a representation that on days when I don’t feel my choice to follow Jesus, I will still walk in the truth of who He is, and He is a He worth following, despite what I feel.

I got home and I texted Evan. I had told him that morning that God was going to tell me His thoughts by the night’s end and as soon as I knew my decision, I would let him know. It went something like this:

JJ: So… I talked to God…

Evan: I can’t breathe

JJ: She told me to tell you what’s up!?

Evan: OH MY GOSH WAS IT OPRAH?

Evan: ALANIS MORISETTE?

JJ: Ellen Degeneres

Evan: Wow. Your timing is masterful even via text

JJ: Bahahahaha. That felt slightly blasphemous

JJ: Well…

JJ: OK…

JJ: You see…

JJ: The thing is…

Evan: OH MY GOSH

Evan: WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU

JJ: OK fine, I’m staying

Evan: MY EVERYTHING IS PARALYZED

JJ: BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I LITERALLY just LOLed.

Evan: JJ THAT IS THE SECOND BEST NEWS I HAVE EVER RECEIVED

JJ: Wait… what’s the first?

Evan: Ummmmm… okay I don’t actually know, I just didn’t want your head to get TOO bloated

JJ: Fair enough

And just like that, although not just like that at all, as it was a hard decision to make, I decided to stay. I chose the road that wasn’t all about me. I knew I had to let go of my cute little house in Portland, my fun city, my amazing church family, and my group of friends who I have missed more than I am able to express. My home. My comfort zone. My plan. I knew I had to let go of it all, and I knew I had to trust the Lord with it. I knew that just as much as the Lord had gifted me with my home in Portland, He was asking me to let it go, not simply because I wanted it and He wanted to tease me, but so that my hands could be open for something else that He wanted to gift me with, be it something tangible or a life lesson I could learn no other way. 

The community part is the hardest part for me. Homes rot, restaurants close, toys break, all that stuff expires, but people… how am I going to let go of the people who have been my family since the breaking up of my own family? I know, I know I am not limited to only having a good community in Portland, I know community can be found and created here in San Diego, so perhaps there is more to it. 

I guess it is this: when I am most honest, perhaps the most uncomfortable spade for me to call a spade, as it is a topic I steer clear of talking about at all because it involves the breaking of my heart and the bruising of my pride, is the spade that I am terrified of letting go of that one person who still has my heart, even though he let go of my hand. That one person who is in Portland, where our hands still might not meet again, but would at least be more likely to do so than in San Diego. Nothing in me wants to admit that someone has my heart, in part because I pride myself on being an independent woman who doesn’t get hurt by romantic relationships (God and I both laughed at that one), and in part because that one person has already told me that God asked him to let me go.

At the beginning of the summer he told me he would wait for me, and it’s been nearly a month since he let me know he wasn’t waiting anymore, for reasons I understand and even support, but it doesn’t mean I’m not hurt by it… or angry. And I’m allowed to be there just as much as he’s allowed to be where he’s at, I’m just praying that God sees me through it so I don’t drown in it.  I could just as easily not mention that part, the part about being let go of, it would certainly save face, but being real about the depth of what hurts now is only going to give God all the more glory in the long run. Bringing people into the hurt allows people to see God at work. Nobody does healing the way my God does healing, and so I can say with confidence that I am hurt, knowing my God will heal my hurt, in one way or another. 

After all, I can’t manipulate my way back into the arms of the person I want to be with, I can’t “accidentally” turn the right corner and run myself into him, and I certainly can’t live my life that way. I have to actually live my life, even if parts of it hurt right now. And I can’t keep making my life all about me. 

On top of which, I don’t want to create a pattern of bailing when things get hard. Truth be told, as much as I hate to admit it, I think that’s my pattern. I ask God to give me strength and endurance and the ability to love people even when it gets hard, expecting Him to zap me with said feelings, and when He doesn’t, I bail. Maybe instead of zapping me, He is giving me an opportunity to put into practice the act of pressing in when it gets hard instead of bailing out. If I wait until I feel like pressing in when things get hard, I will never press in, I will bail every time. I don’t want to keep bailing on people. 

So, I’m moving, which might sound like I’m bailing, but I think it is the very opposite. For as many challenges as I may have faced this summer, I have come to love the kids I have been working with and I can’t bail on them now. I still see Portland as my home and a place I will go back to at some point, but I also see that I’m not done here yet. I don’t know where I will live or how I will get around, I don’t know how God is going to come through this time, but I know He will. I know you will, Lord. You always do. The barista at the coffee shop where I am sitting just offered me the entire pastry case to take home… muffins for days! Breakfast for me and whoever’s path I cross has just been provided for!

This is me following You, right, Lord? This isn’t me being irresponsible or careless, right? All I heard was “follow me” and this is the direction I saw you walking, at least for now, and so all I knew to do was to say “OK fine, I’m staying.” You know me, You know my heart, correct me if I’m wrong or if You find any fault with my choice (unless you find fault with my choice in being tattooed, it’s a little late for for that, but I’m pretty sure you’re okay it, New Covenant and everything), I just can’t help but think that you are walking me towards continuing to invest in the lives of people in front me.

Part of me is scared, yes, that’s human… when the course of your life takes a completely different direction than the one you thought it was taking, it’s only natural to be a little scared, if not a lot scared. And when that scared voice starts to get louder than God’s voice, I turn my eyes and tune my ears to Psalm 91 and re-claim my choice: I’d rather follow Jesus with a little fear in my bones than not follow Him at all. 

At thirty-one years old, still with bare feet and dirty hair, I am running hard after Jesus, trying desperately to reach out and cling to Him, and would consider it an honor if only just to touch the hem of His garments. I cannot fathom that being a disappointing choice. 

If God really has said to me, or any of us for that matter, “Thou mayest,” then I say to Him…

“Thy will be done.”

I don’t say that lightly. I take that claim very seriously. My hope and my prayer is that the life I live will say more about who I believe Jesus to be than any amount of words I could ever say.

And for that reason, I choose…

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to stick around for a little while longer. 

Meet Me There

Posting over at the Door of Hope Women’s page today…

door of hope women

JJ Barrows wrote today’s post. May her authenticity and  wisdom speak His truth to your hearts.

It is a Tuesday morning unlike any other, at least for me, as it is my first Tuesday morning being thirty-one years of age. It’s funny to me how at one point any age past thirty seemed so very old, and now any age before thirty seems so very young. I was talking with a girl in her twenties just the other day and found myself saying, “Oh, but you’re just a baby.” And maybe there is truth to that, maybe in the grand scheme of life, twenty is the new “baby,” and if thirty is the new twenty, then I myself am in fact still just a baby.

While there should be comfort in that, at least according to the world, that I’m still young, the more I get to know Jesus, the…

View original post 1,953 more words

chop and rage

I am the bi-product of a bad marriage. Part of me hates to say that because I love my parents dearly, but I’m learning in life that you can love people while still telling the truth, even if the truth is messy and hard.

I’ve lived most of my life convincing myself and other people that things were fine when they weren’t, that everything was okay when it wasn’t. In a card game it’s called bluffing, and I’ve become quite good at it. If I’m dealt a spade, I call it a heart and I smile while doing it. The problem with smiling while bluffing is that it not only hides the truth, it feeds the lie… the lie that things are fine when they aren’t, the lie that everything is okay when it isn’t. And the more you feed the lie, the more the lie becomes your reality, making it harder and harder to see the truth, the truth that you need help.

And the problem with bluffing, whether you are smiling or not, is that it not only isolates you in your hidden struggle, it eradicates any sort of hope for something greater, something better, something (at the very least) different from your current situation. Pretending my parents’ marriage or family situation is good isn’t going to be what improves it, and maybe calling it what it is isn’t going to improve it either, but it at the very least frees me up to find hope somewhere else instead of expending all of my energy into putting on a performance that becomes less and less convincing as time goes on.

As evidenced by my blog title, my life motto has become to “call a spade a spade,” to say “here’s what I’ve been dealt… I won’t lie, it kinda sucks, but how can I play it well?” I’m learning that it’s a process to learn how to play your cards well. Just when I think I’ve mastered the game, someone else appears to be coming out on top, to be winning, and the temptation to bluff sets back in, along with my pride and my smiles and my abuse of the Christian F-word: FINE, everything is just fine. While being “just fine” might make you seem like good company, someone who won’t cause any drama, ruffle any feathers or spill any milk, it also makes you seem pretty boring. As I’ve recently thought about what people might say about me after I’m long gone, be it from a room or life in general, I would hate for someone’s description of me to be “JJ, you know, the girl who was just fine.”

And so I’m calling it, my spade, the one that says I am a bi-product of a bad marriage. I know that is not who I am, but it is a part of my story, and calling out the bad allows room for the good to come in. I can’t talk about all of the healing and restoration God has done in my life if I don’t say what it was that needed to be healed and restored in the first place. For much of my life I have struggled with the lie that I am not worth it. I can pin-point it precisely, back to an old relationship. Before I understood addiction, I asked my boyfriend at the time why he wouldn’t quit drinking for me if it was hurting me.

His exact words were, “because you’re not worth it.”

And while he apologized shortly after, and years and years have gone by and I’ve sought my own healing, been in and out of a few relationships since then, and he probably doesn’t even remember the conversation, those words are the words that haunt me most to this day. I remember exactly where I was in the moment those words broke a sound barrier, piercing my eardrums as they seeped into my being and rooted themselves deeply into my mind and my heart. I know the Lord’s heart broke for me as much as my own heart broke in that moment. He knew the battle I was going to have to face to un-do that lie, and as a good Father, His heart broke at thought of His daughter going to war. And still, as a good Father, He has held tightly to me since then (and well before), refusing to give up on me and letting me fall victim to the lie that I am not worth it. I know my Lord’s heart broke because the enemy danced a victory dance that night, and though the Lord loves dancing, He did not reserve dancing for the enemy. The enemy danced because he was given enough fuel in one moment, in one sentence, to attack me for a long time to come. Please, chose your words wisely, they carry so much weight.

When my parents separated and later divorced I was sent through a shock wave. I was already barely able to keep bluffing my way through life, going through the ending of a relationship, a community, a job, an identity. When “comes from a good family” was taken off of the table of things I thought I had to offer, I snapped. While I knew well before my parents’ divorce that my family was dysfunctional, I banked on no one else knowing, hoping people wouldn’t know I had enough baggage to go to Iceland for a year or two. I figured people could or would fall in love with me first and then I could yell, “SURPRISE! I have more issues than VOGUE MAGAZINE, but at least you love me!” My fear was that if people saw all of my crap before getting to know me, I would never stand a chance. And I’m not quite sure what I wanted to stand a chance at, I didn’t want to get married, in part because of my experience with my parents, but I still wanted to be sought after, loved and valued. Even as a self-proclaimed independent woman with a black belt in Beyonce, I still want to be sought after, to be desired, to be “worth it.”

At twenty-eight years old, my world was ripped out from under me as the truth of my parents marriage was exposed and the one identity I felt like I had left to cling to, “I come from a good family,” was not only shattered, but broke my heart in the process. And I know, I get it, as a Christian, my identity is to be in Christ, but that’s just it, when you bluff your way through the game, “everything is fine,” it makes it harder to see the truth, “I need a Savior.” If it’s possible, I would say that up to that point, part of my identity was in Christ, while saying that all of it was. But I don’t think it’s possible for part of your identity to be in Christ, I think it really is all or nothing, but I couldn’t see that while I was bluffing, and so seeing as how it wasn’t all, since I was priding myself on the family I came from, I crashed when my parents’ marriage did.

My parents are not responsible for my crashing any more than I am responsible for their divorce, so I am not blaming them for what I went through then and what I continue to go through now as a result of it, but I often avoid talking about it in fear that it might be interpreted as blame, either by them or others. But even more than fearing mis-interpretation is the overall general fear of man and woman… fear of what people think. Perhaps this fear set in at an early age when my Sunday school teacher was disappointed that as the pastor’s kid I did not have my Bible verse memorized, and so as not to disappoint again or mis-represent my father, I set about to strive for the sake of being accepted. Perhaps the fear grew in middle school when I was told that “pastor’s kids are the worst,” and so as to be liked by the kids my age I set about to rebel because that’s what pastor’s kids do. And perhaps the fear of not being accepted for who I really am became a reality, or so I perceived it to be a reality, when six years into a relationship I was told that a bottle of alcohol had more worth than I did.

When I came to learn the story behind my parents divorce my anger at God increased to a level I never thought possible. Divorce in and of itself is hard enough to stomach, no matter what the story or situation. When I was handed the revised version of my story and my family’s history, I wanted nothing to do with God and His way of writing. I couldn’t fathom why He would ever even bother to bring my parents together in the first place. I remember yelling at God one night and asking Him how He could allow two people to go through so much pain, as there are two sides to every story, and both sides of my parents’ story broke my heart, and continues to do so. I remember screaming at Him and through my sobs I yelled out, “and if it’s because you wanted me here then I hate you… because I’m not worth it!”

And I truly believed that. I truly believed that my existence was not worth what my parents went through to bring me into this world, and I felt guilty for being alive. And again, the enemy danced as he watched me forget the truth and believe the lie that I wasn’t worth it. And again, my Lord’s heart broke as He pleaded with His daughter to just hang on, to not give up, to believe in His love for me despite what I felt. I look back and almost have a vision of Jesus weeping over me, weeping harder than I wept, hovered over me, begging His Father God to have mercy on His child.

I look back and I see Jesus being good to me, holding me tight, crying with me as our hearts broke over the same thing, but I couldn’t see it in the moment, not did I even try to. I couldn’t imagine anything good coming from the situation I found myself in, not even a hug from Jesus seemed good enough, or even worth it for that matter.

I under went a dark season of guilt, mainly for being alive. For as crazy as it might sound, I walked around believing that it was my fault for my parents ever getting together in the first place, for them having the story that they did. I felt guilty for their pain and I felt helpless because I couldn’t fix it. I was already here, walking the earth as a bi-product of a bad marriage. I felt responsible to make sure they didn’t hurt anymore and so I mostly kept quiet about the pain and guilt I felt, along with the anger at both myself and at them. I thought as long as I lived my life in a way that pleased them, they wouldn’t hurt as much. And at twenty-eight years old, after all the recovery I had gone through in my own life, I forgot most of it and set about again to be perfect in every way possible, ignoring the fact that perfection is impossible and perfect people don’t need Jesus.

I kept in touch with God, mostly to ask Him not to wake me up in the morning, “please,” I would sometimes cry at night, “please, don’t bother. I can’t keep up.” Taking my own life seemed to be the opposite of trying to help my parents not hurt anymore, and so in the confines of my own mind I decided not to take action, but I longed for the Lord to make that call for me. Since I had no control over eternally checking out, I took control by striving for perfection, hoping that maybe if I was good enough in this life, I could make my parents’ story worth it.

As I set about for perfection, trying to earn my right to simply walk the earth because I had forgotten the simplest of truths that I learned as a young child, well before I was ever lied to about not being worth it, that Jesus did and does in fact love me, I slowly began to disappear… again. Being perfect meant I couldn’t be JJ, and since JJ wasn’t “worth it” I set my sights on perfection instead of He who is perfect, and I managed to kill off JJ while believing she was alive and well. I killed off 23 pounds of JJ as I shrank into a bone structure that wasn’t strong enough to hold life in it. I hid under large clothes, tired eyes and weak smiles, never letting on that I hurt as much as I did, in part because I was too weak to hurt, another added bonus of disappearing. The lie that I wasn’t worth it became my truth, and surviving became my way of living as I tried to redeem the pain my parents’ had to go through in order to bring me into the world… “maybe if I’m a good enough daughter it will have been worth it… maybe I’ll be worth it.”

While I might have questioned my parents’ love for each other much longer than I care to admit, I never questioned my parents’ love for me, so it’s not a pressure they put on me to be perfect, or a situation they asked me to redeem. I don’t think they know the depth to which I have wrestled with the Lord over the matter, if for no other reason than practice makes perfect, and when bluffing is a regular practice, you get really good at it; so good that you don’t even realize you’re doing it. Sometimes I wonder how it’s possible for a twenty-eight year old brain to get as confused as I did, to have access to so much truth and so much love and yet still miss it. Part of it I think is pain, pain confuses things. Part of it I think is saving face, saving face confuses things. Part of it I think is memory loss, memory loss confuses things. And most of it I think is the enemy taking those parts, along with a handful of other parts, and making a great case for why you should be God instead of God being God.

Next week I turn thirty-one, and while I still might not have all my ducks in a row, I know for sure that God does not spell His name with two Js. I cannot claim to always understand Him or the way He works, I cannot even claim to always agree with Him or the way He writes stories. I don’t understand why His writing is sometimes perfectly legible and sometimes as scribbled as a two-year-old’s. I don’t know why I hold the cards that I do in life. I don’t know why some people seem to have better cards and some people seem to have worse cards. I do not understand this God I serve any more than I understand the game of life. There is so much I still don’t know.

But I do know this… I am worth it. I am worth the air in my lungs and the heart in my chest. I am worth the effort it took to bring me into this world no matter how painful the process. I am worth more than a bottle of alcohol. I am worth the life of a Man named Jesus, who saw a little girl trying desperately to be who the world told her to be, even when it wasn’t who He called her to be, and instead of scolding her for not listening to His voice, He picked her up, time and time again, and He laid Himself down in her place, taking on her shame and her guilt so that she might be able to experience the glory of being called a daughter of the God Most High… a title, a role, a claim on her life that wasn’t earned, and therefore can be taken away by no one.

My parents are still divorced, and their story has not changed, but my perspective of God and the way in which I live out who I believe Him to be has. I no longer carry the guilt that I once did for being alive, in fact, I feel so set free from it that the thought seems silly to have ever had in the first place, but it was as real a feeling as the feeling of freedom I now feel. And so I suppose that’s it, I had to be real about how I felt in order to be set free from it. I had to call a spade a spade. So long as I was pretending I was fine, it kept me in bondage, drowning in my own shame and guilt, unable to be me while killing off any of me that tried to come up for air.

I don’t need to earn my worth, or redeem my parents’ story. I don’t need to be perfect, or make sure everything is okay. And I don’t need to curse the Hand of God when everything isn’t okay. Cursing the Hand of God only gives the enemy more room to dance, and I refuse to continue playing a role in letting the enemy enjoy the pleasure of dancing. He has danced long enough in the name of my family, which goes back much further than my upbringing. I’ve given into his lies for far too long, waging war against God and my own body. I am reclaiming that territory, the territory that God deems worth claiming and calling His own, the territory that is my body, heart, mind and soul. I’m calling the enemy’s bluff, that I’m not worth it, and with the truth exposed, the healing can begin. Where there is healing, there is victory, and I’d rather live victoriously with battle scars and war stories than tell the generation that I raise up that I didn’t really need Jesus because everything was “just fine,” especially when it really wasn’t.

A few weeks ago I was given a tee-shirt by a friend who didn’t know where I was at in life, but she knew I needed a tee-shirt (“needed” is a strong word). While I try not to collect too many articles of clothing, there was a story printed on the inside of the tee-shirt that left me clinging to it. For as silly as it may sound, it was as if God was saying, “take off those lies you’ve been wearing and put on this story.”

The story was titled “CHOP AND RAGE,” and it read as follows:

“Don’t stay out of the water. Don’t decide to only let the waves collide against your thighs. Don’t stop pushing out when your heart starts to thump in your throat and you realize how cold the ocean feels when you can’t touch the bottom anymore. Don’t stop swimming when you peer back and find the shore you’ve always known to be a stranger, a line of interchangeable ants along the horizon. Don’t stop slicing through the sea when your arms like twirling swords get tired, even when the water goes from green and curling and foamy to heavy and hearty and black.

You won’t die. And even if you do, so what? The world was created to be explored, even its tides and storms. The chop and rage will turn a heart to stone, but even stone can be moved, formed, and reshaped. The heart, if unable to do anything else, was created to be refined until it can’t beat anymore. Take it into your soaked and wrinkled fists and poke your head above the churning water. Hold it high and scream for help. If you want it bad enough, you will always find a lifeboat upon the surface.”

This is the story that I will relay to the generation that I help raise up, be it to kids of my own by birth or adoption, or kids of others, by loved ones or strangers. I will tell war stories that involve sunken ships, fallen trees and fierce storms so that the weight of restoration, redemption and resurrection can be understood. I will reveal my bruises and scars and I will dance in my imperfection instead of hiding it. I will let them see me cry so that they will know I mean it when I smile. I will admit that sometimes the bottom of the ocean seems safer than the storm raging above, but so long as I believe in the One in whom even the wind and the waves obey, I will face my demons, shake them out and I will never, ever, ever give up.

I may be the bi-product of a bad marriage, but the “badness” of my parents marriage is not what determines the “goodness” or the worth of the people in the family.

I am worth it… and now it is I who dance, crushing the head of my enemy with each step.

My prayer for you is that you know this to be true for yourself.

No matter how or why you got to be here on planet earth, you are here by no coincidence or mistake. It is with great reason and intention that you have breath in your lungs and a heart in your chest… should you find yourself ever doubting that, don’t hide your doubt while appearing to be “just fine.” If Jesus conquered death then He can handle your doubt… call it out, name it, expose the darkness of it to the Light, and then scream for help.

I don’t know how and in what way help will come, but I know that it will.

Just. Hold. On.

You are so incredibly worth it.

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“chop and rage” can be found at lovenailtree.com

purple-freaking-nail polish

Last Friday night a few of the girls and I had a sleepover, an “intentional” sleepover, if you will, for lack of a better Christian word. Honestly, I went into it feeling pretty discouraged about the numbers that had dropped due to out-of-towners, a handful of sickies and the general 10% who never respond to any of my messages. It was supposed to be a weekend long retreat, but due to the numbers and lack of desire to continue bashing my head in to plan things that people don’t show up for, I almost canceled it. However, there were three girls who committed, and I can’t preach the message of “quality not quantity” if I’m not living it out, so I trimmed it down to an intentional overnight and set about to rally as best as I could for twenty-four hours.

I wanted there to be fun and food and time to be silly, and Jesus is in all of those things, so I knew He’d be there even if that was all the sleepover involved, but I also wanted time set aside to press in and get to know this Jesus guy on a more personal note. It’s like when you meet someone at a party, fun enough, but if you wanted to get to know them better, you’d probably invite them to coffee so you could talk a bit deeper without the loud music and store bought guacamole. I wanted there to be coffee time at the sleepover. Jesus was already partying with us, I just wanted to make sure we took some time to have coffee with Him. In more ways than one, I wanted there to be a lot of coffee time at the sleepover.

On Saturday morning I woke up at 5:00am and climbed to the rooftop of the house we were staying in. I sat there and watched the fog try its best to hide the ocean. “Nice try,” I whispered, “I still see it.” Ocean beats fog the way rock beats scissors. I asked God what I was doing. I asked what He wanted. I asked Him where He was. I told Him for what felt like the fifty-millionth time that I needed Him. I needed Him not only to lead these girls, I needed Him to lead me. “You gotta take them deeper,” I said, “I can’t do it. I don’t know how. If You want them to go deeper, You gotta do it. I got nothing… literally, I forgot my Bible. I planned a girls weekend to press into You more and I FORGOT MY BIBLE. That’s where I’m at, if that says anything at all. I got nail polish! I got purple-freaking-nail polish and no Bible! I am slowly turning into the epitome of what I don’t want ‘women’s ministries’ to look like… purple-freaking-nail polish and no Bible. No meat. Come on, Man, you gotta help me.”

I buried my head in my hands and waited, not long, as my patience to wait upon the Lord had been running on low for a while. I went back inside the house and tip-toed past the girls sleeping in the living room. I laid on the couch and fell back asleep until 7:30. As the girls began to stir we stood around the kitchen counter, they eating bagels and cream cheese, me watching with a stomach ache. I had a stomach ache in part because I always have a stomach ache (I have a digestive system that is just as confused about food as my mind is, which makes recovery even trickier) and in part because the night before, I ate too much chocolate-covered-toffee from Trader Joe’s and seasoned popcorn, seemingly from Heaven.

As we wrapped up in the kitchen we sauntered back into the living room to watch a documentary that Kathliene, one of the girl’s mom and our hostess for the sleepover, suggested we watch. Since well before the sleepover I have been trying to figure out how to go deeper with the girls, frustrated with either a lack of involvement or a lack of interest in who Jesus is as a person, walking amongst us today, still healing, still loving, still heartbroken over the state of this world and its occupants. Kathliene knew I was at my wits end with trying to plan and facilitate deep discussion, so she offered this DVD as a way to show Jesus in a way that you don’t often see Him in La Jolla, California.

The documentary was called Father of Lights and it was about the very real and present transformational, healing, crazy and absurd power of Jesus. Perhaps that’s not how the back of the DVD would describe the film, but I don’t have the DVD on my person and so goes my description.

I wasn’t sure what to expect or what the girls were going to get out of it, I was just hoping it would somehow open up a deeper discussion about Jesus, especially in the here and now. To be honest, I was a little nervous, it’s not like I have answers to the things I even wanted to talk about, I just wanted to talk about them. I was nervous because I knew the film was going to be “charismatic,” for lack of a better Christian term, and seeing as how I’m a recovering Southern Baptist (amongst other things) with a charismatic curiosity, I don’t know where I fit into the whole classification thing regarding the personality of certain denominations. I’m lit. That much I know… when it comes to Jesus, I’m lit. That’s how one of the girls described me and it remains one of the best compliments or classifications or whatever it was that I have ever received to date.

I’m lit, and yet even still I was a little nervous, nervous to talk about modern day healings and prophecy and visions and basically anything in Scripture that could potentially jump off of the page and become real in today’s day and age. And I was nervous because with high-schoolers you aren’t just responsible for the high-schoolers, you also have a responsibility of sorts to their parents; and when you don’t know where their parents stand on certain issues, it doesn’t change the message Jesus has asked you to give, it just makes it a bit more nerve-racking with the potential to be awkward.

I prayed that the Lord would do something, show up somehow, as if He wasn’t already there, in a way that would rock the girls and myself. I needed and wanted the Lord to be drastic in His measures to reach out to His kids as much for myself as I did for the girls. And maybe it sounds weird to want or think the Lord could or would reach out through a television screen, but I had nothing else to bank on. I had no devotional planned, no Bible, an aching stomach and a bottle of purple-freaking-nail polish.

As we watched story after story unfold of people meeting Jesus and being healed in ways I can’t even begin to explain or wrap my head around, ways in which I am moved to tears even now as I sit and think about them, and ways in which even I, for as lit as I am, was whispering to God, “dude, is that for real?”, I started to feel a stirring within me.

“You need to ask for prayer,” I heard from somewhere within me. “For what?” I asked somewhere within me. “For healing,” somewhere within me said back. I felt uncomfortable and certain that “somewhere within me” wasn’t actually me, but God. “You need to ask these girls to lay hands on you and pray for healing, for that which is physical and that which is mental.”

“No way,” I said back, “no way. I believe in healing and I believe you can and will heal me and the constant discomfort I find myself in, but I am not asking that of these girls. I don’t want to scare them and I know asking them to pray for healing will creep them out because who knows what you’ll you.”

“You need to ask these girls to lay their hands on you and pray for healing.”

No.” I was firm and direct, “I’m not asking them that. Like I said, I believe in your healing power, which is why I will go home as soon as this is over, get in the closet, lay hands on myself and pray that you heal me… or I could just ask you now… heal me.” I was really hoping I would feel a jolt of revival, but I felt nothing.

“And how is my power displayed when you hide it in a closet?”

Lord, come on, I’m a leader. These girls need to ask me for prayer, I can’t… and then if I ask for prayer for healing I have to say what for, don’t they need to see me as stronger than that!?”

“You need help, and you need healing and you need to ask for it if you want to lead well.”

Or something like that.

I believe in the miraculous, but I feel much more comfortable talking about it in a third-world country type of setting where it seems to be more commonly accepted, if I’m being honest.

“NOT IN LA JOLLA! NOT AS A LEADER! NOT FROM HIGH SCHOOLERS! NOT FROM JUST BARELY HIGH SCHOOLERS… THEY’RE GOING INTO NINTH GRADE! PLEASE! AND WHAT WILL THEIR PARENTS SAY!?” On the exterior I was as calm as could be, but my insides were freaking out, and I was desperate. I was desperate because I know better than to ignore God’s voice, but I hate when it sounds like the very thing I don’t want to do. Sometimes I am still convinced that if I argue enough or appear desperate enough before God He will change His mind, and maybe sometimes He does, I don’t know, but I know that for as much as it sucks in the moment, it’s in your best interest that you follow through with what He says.

“One of their parents is in the other room,” God said, “so start by asking her for help and go from there. You asked to take them deeper, are you going to stand in the way of your own prayer?”

Not a single thing within me wanted to ask these girls to pray for me. And when I am most honest, not a single thing within me wanted God to show up in a “charismatic” way, or even really at all, at least not on His terms. I wanted Him to show up on my terms because I was running low on faith and truth be told, I just wanted to get the weekend over with. I wanted to hang out with the girls, but that was all I wanted to do. I didn’t want to lead, I didn’t want to read scripture or pray, I just wanted to hang out and eat chocolate covered toffee from Trader Joe’s and seasoned popcorn from Heaven, hug on the way out and call it a good weekend.

“JJ…”

The credits started to roll. My heart felt like it was dropping into my stomach and my insides felt like they were on fire. I knew I had to act quickly before the girls started getting up and I changed my mind. My hands trembled…

“KATHLIENE!” I yelled. “YEA!?” she hollered back as she was picking up our sleeping bags and nail polish one room over. “CAN YOU COME IN HERE!?” She came running in. If anyone is in tune with the Holy Spirit, it’s Kathliene, so I suppose I should have been more grateful that if the Lord was going to urge me to ask for healing from high-school girls, at least He was doing so in the safety zone of Kathliene’s house.

“I know this might sound crazy,” I said as my voice shook… “try me,” Kathliene said. “I think I’m supposed to ask you all to pray for me for healing. I’m embarrassed to say it, and embarrassed that I’m the one who’s asking, I feel like I should be the one praying for the girls, but I really think God wants me to ask y’all to lay hands on me and pray for healing.” I kept saying that as a leader I felt silly to be the one to ask, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the time was going to come when I would actually lead these girls, but I also knew what I had to do. I had to ask. Kathliene reassured me that I was not silly or crazy or stupid or in the wrong. She asked me to tell everyone what specifically I felt I needed healing for.

This was the part I hated. Couldn’t they just do a generic prayer of healing? Couldn’t I tell them after I had been healed of it so I didn’t have to be sitting smack dab in the middle of my ugly while talking about it? It’s much easier to talk about the ugly when it’s past tense. I wanted to be healed but I didn’t want to go through the healing process, especially not as a leader, especially not in front of the high-school girls I was “leading,” let alone trusting their hands to be the ones laid on me doing the work of the Holy Spirit. How prideful is that!?! Good God, my spade to reveal may be more than a two-fold in this one.

My spades to reveal are that a) I didn’t want God to show up incase He made the girls uncomfortable, and I got caught up in wanting them to be comfortable more so than I wanted them to encounter God, b) I didn’t want to creep the girls out or disappoint them, so I was more worried about what the girls (and their parents) thought of me more so than God doing the miraculous in this day and age at a sleepover in La Jolla, California and c) I doubted the power of the Holy Spirit in the bodies of these teenage girls.

My heart breaks as I type that out and I can feel my body trembling as I swallow that hard truth. I almost couldn’t be that honest, but it’s true. That Saturday morning, I almost didn’t ask for healing because I doubted that it could come from the hands of high-school girls, which is to say I doubted the Holy Spirit’s ability not to discriminate against age and sex, which is to say I doubted the words of Jesus when He said “the truth is, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask anything in my name, and I will do it, because the work of the Son brings glory to the Father. Yes, ask anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:24, emphasis added), and He said so without stuttering or hesitating or discriminating or going back on His word.

The problem was not the sex or age of the hands that were going to pray over me, the problem was my problem with the sex and age of the hands that were going to pray over me. Who am I to limit God when He says He can’t be limited? Who am I to try and put God in a box when He simply won’t fit? Who am I to say “Jesus heals, but…”?

I began to tell Kathliene and the girls what I needed healing from. Ninety percent of my waking hours I am physically uncomfortable. My stomach constantly hurts. I don’t know how much of it is what I eat, what I don’t eat, how much I eat, how much I don’t eat. I don’t know what digestive intolerances are legit intolerances versus mental intolerances due to a history of eating disorders. I take two bites of food and feel full, but knowing I need to eat I keep eating, but eating when I already feel full means I don’t know how to gage when I should stop eating. I don’t even know what issue is physical and what issue is mental anymore. Maybe my body is trying to play catch up. A friend reminded me a few weeks ago that my body is trying to recover from the damage I’ve done to it over the years just as much as my mind is. And so even though I am recovering, I am still feeling the effects of the choices I have made in the past, which is why it’s important to deal with your past, so you don’t keep repeating it. I don’t think I am being punished for the choices I have made, I think I am feeling the effects of the choices I have made.

And it sucks.

It sucks, but I suppose to a degree it’s important to feel the effects of the choices I have made, at the very least for the sake of realizing I never want to make them again! Perhaps I will make those mistakes again, because I’m human, but perhaps I won’t, at least not the same ones. And while I know I will make mistakes, perhaps I can work towards the results being a little less disastrous than being hospitalized on a regular basis. Perhaps I can learn to trust the hand of my Creator a little more and learn to love all of His creations, including my own mind and body. Perhaps I can stop discriminating against myself. Perhaps then the bills would stop adding up, which is another result of repeating your mistakes, or mine, I suppose. I don’t want to be like the dog referenced in Scripture that returns to his own vomit time and time again, but as a recovering anorexic, but even more so a recovering bulimic, I AM THAT DOG! I HAVE LITERALLY RETURNED TO MY OWN VOMIT, and sure, not in recent years (at least in the literal sense), but I have returned time and time again. Sorry. Some revelations are more graphic than others.

So there was the whole physical and mental issue in regards to food and my body, and then there was the emotional issue in regards to depression. I’m depression prone. And when I’m not depression prone, I’m depressed. I no longer have shame in saying I struggle with depression, unless I’m in the middle of the struggle while leading girls younger than I. Jesus is victorious, and that is my battle cry day in and day out, but even with the best of intentions, I can’t deny the fact that something feels wrong about claiming the victory of Jesus while longing to get back in bed and not face any more of the day. Nonetheless, I claim it, not because I always believe it or feel it, but because it is the only claim I know to be true regardless of how I feel. If there is one thing I have learned from my battle with depression, it’s that I cannot trust how I feel as ultimate truth. The last few weeks had gotten worse, longing for bed while in the middle of what I think is one of the most beautiful parts of the country. I felt crazy. You can be in the most beautiful place in the world and completely miss all of it if your insides are all jacked up.

I asked for healing for my whole mind and my whole body… the pain, both emotionally and physically. I said I didn’t know what to expect or what would happen, but I at the very least needed to not only be willing to ask, but actually ask. Kathliene took charge in the best way possible. “Okay girls,” she said, “I want you to put your hands on JJ.” She directed her daughter, Aeriel, to put her hand on my stomach. Kathliene stood behind me and put her hands on my head. She said she was going to open in prayer and she encouraged the girls to pray as they felt led. One of the girls I had met for the first time the day before, Olivia, and it was her first time doing anything with our group. Yep, it was Olivia’s first time joining the group and the leader was in tears because she had a tummy ache and was barely able to believe her own message to girls about how very loved we are, just as we are, in the bodies we’ve been given.

Kathliene began to pray healing prayers over me, over my mind, over my body, all in the name of Jesus. She began to cast out whatever was not of Jesus to be gone in the name of Jesus. I started to cry and Aeriel’s hand on my stomach began to shake quite aggressively. Aeriel started to pray and it was as if someone set off a rocket inside of her. The prayers, the visions, the prophecies that came out of her mouth were coming at such lighting speed that I could barely absorb one before the next one came. Kathliene still whispered her own prayers and joined in agreement with Aeriel’s prayers, “yes, Jesus, yes,” I kept hearing over and over. Aeriel said she knew God was going to heal me and she claimed it.

Then Olivia started in, the new girl, lighting speed prayers, so fast it seemed like she could barely keep up with what she was saying: “I see God reaching down in JJ and He’s pulling up a piece of coal. There’s a fire in JJ that is the Holy Spirit, but there’s this lump of coal disguising itself as part of the fire and God is reaching down and pulling out that piece of coal.” When she said God was pulling out the piece of coal, the worthless piece of coal, my upper body bent over my legs so that I was facing the floor. Olivia kept praying about this lump of coal coming out and I could feel this sort of muck making its way to my mouth, until I felt like I had to spit. Kathliene jumped in and prayed that it be gone in the name of Jesus, that the lies be gone, that I was claimed territory and whatever tried to take up residence there was bound in the name of Jesus and commanded to leave. It was as if I was hacking up a hairball, a big, lumpy, coal-ish, not of Jesus hairball.

Hairballs form from single strands of hair that get lumped together, and single strands of hair lumping together take time to actually form a ball. I like to chew on my hair sometimes, it seems harmless enough and there are other habits that are certainly worse, but just because there are worse habits doesn’t mean that chewing on my hair is actually a good idea. The “badness” of some habits doesn’t increase the “goodness” of others. The problem with chewing on your hair is you can’t actually see or feel the damage you are doing in the moment. You can’t see or feel yourself swallowing a single strand of hair, which is what happens when you chew on your hair, you unintentionally swallow strands of hair, but seeing as there is no obvious consequence except maybe a mother’s reprimand, “don’t chew your hair,” you keep chewing. Let me clarify, I keep chewing. I keep chewing until over time all of these single strands of hair have accumulated and formed a big ol’ hairball in the pit of who I am.

I had a spiritual hairball, so to speak, strands of hair or spirits of self-hatred, anger and depression that I had been chewing on, and without intending to, swallowed them as truth as they slowly formed a hairball of lies in the pit of my stomach. The bigger the hairball got, the harder it was for me to distinguish the truth. Seemingly harmless single strands of hair, you can barely even see them when they aren’t clumped together, accumulating over time to cause great harm. Wasn’t it C.S. Lewis who said “the road to hell is a gradual one?” I didn’t wake up one day and hate my body, I just looked at this girl or that girl and objectified them along with myself as I compared ourselves to each other. Men don’t just objectify women, women objectify women all the time by the way they compare themselves, and I am guilty of this, especially living in Southern California where most people run around half-naked. That is a topic for another day, but it is an example of the strands of hair I had been swallowing at least since moving to California.

I won’t lie, before I started hacking I held back, I held back in my prayers, asking God not to be too drastic, again because I didn’t want to freak anybody out. One of the girls, Julia, was quiet during the whole process and so I worried I was freaking her out and I asked God to keep it tame for her sake. “Who are you to decide what she can handle? Do you want your fear of her thoughts to be what keeps you in bondage?” He asked. Good point… here were these women trying to pray over me for healing and I was almost combatting their prayers with mine by saying, “nothing too big, God.” I wanted healing, but I wanted it done a certain way so that I wouldn’t get fired or yelled at by a parent. I was trying to control my own healing process… GOOD GOD, HOW BIG IS THAT HAIRBALL OR COAL OR WHATEVER IT IS!?!?! GET IT OUT! I started praying along with everyone in the confines of my heart and mind, “yes, Lord, whatever it takes, get it out, heal me, I want you to heal me, you take care of these girls and do what you need to do with me.”

So I hacked up a hairball, or maybe it was the coal Olivia referenced, but either way, there I was, sitting Indian style on a chair, face down, the hands of Kathliene and three ninth grade girls upon me, physically hacking something up, making noises as it left my body. John, Kathliene’s husband came in and began reading scripture, specifically Ephesians 3:14, out loud as I was still keeled over in my chair. They claimed victory and healing over me and when Olivia said God had taken the coal out, I felt like I could breath, I felt released to sit back up. I shot up with tears in my eyes and gasped for air. “I feel like I can breathe,” I said. “Praise Jesus,” Kathliene said, the girls all laughing and smiling and praising Jesus.

My arms were physically tired and incredibly sore. “My arms are so tired,” I said, “I feel like I’ve been fighting or something.” Julia put her hand on my leg, looked me in the eyes and said “well, you have been.” I felt comforted by the fact that she wasn’t running for the door, it was as if God had nudged me and said, “see, she’s mine, she knows what’s up.” Kathliene asked Julia how she was doing or if she had any thoughts, “just… WOW,” she said. We all laughed and said “yep, that about sums it up!”

Kathliene wanted everyone to pray a closing prayer to seal up the doors that had originally been opened to let the enemy in. She said that just because the enemy had been cast out doesn’t mean you can carelessly leave the door wide open… that’s when he saunters back in, and so she wanted to pray a sealing up prayer to keep the enemy from coming back through that door, and a protection over my mind to not open those doors back up. I did have to own the fact that a lot of those doors, I opened. “Just because Satan knocks doesn’t mean you have to open the door,” Kathliene said, “Jesus has your heart… that’s why Satan tries to go for your mind, he tries to trick you, but you have a sound mind, JJ.” I can’t quite explain how comforting, healing and restoring it was to hear someone say to me over and over again “you have a sound mind, JJ,” she had her hand on my head as she said it.

The girls all prayed, Julia started and she spoke words over me that I have clung to each day since then, “God, keep JJ safe in her new body.”

Kathliene started writing down all the prayers, visions and prophecies the girls spoke over me. To write about them here would take days to record. As we were about to hop up and start getting ready for the beach, Julia said she wanted to share something she felt like she saw. While this might be a paraphrase, it went something like this…

“You know how Eve was deceived in the garden by the snake in the tree? I saw you walking towards a tree, and the snake was there but before he even had a chance to deceive you, you pulled out this bad-ass axe and hacked it down! Like, Satan can’t deceive you, he doesn’t even have a home anymore because you hacked it down with your bad-ass axe!”

We laughed and celebrated and cheered over the fact that I had a bad-ass axe and hacked down Satan’s hiding place. It became our one-liner the rest of the day… “JJ hacked that down with her bad-ass axe,” “hey, where’s my bad-ass axe?” “Oh, just grab the bad-ass axe” “you wanna borrow my bad-ass axe?”

Julia, who I was afraid would call her mom and run for the door, stayed by my side all day, and I was incredibly grateful that I didn’t go home, crawl in a closet, lay hands on myself and ask to be healed alone.

I wanted the Lord to take the girls deeper and I thought that was going to look like heavy conversations, which was as deep as I saw it getting, but the Lord said He had more… I just had to be willing to be used, as I had prayed, regardless of what that meant. Visions, prayer, prophecy, healing… I couldn’t have fit that into the curriculum or planned it on the schedule.

Since then I have experienced a great deal of healing, including restored sanity and a sense of hope, normalized eating and decreased stomach pain, and while it might be TMI, God is often TMI, plus it’s glorifying to God’s healing hand… I got my period which I haven’t had since March. I felt like a cross between Shania Twain and a 12 year-old girl that morning as I yelled, “YEA! I FEEL LIKE A WOMAN!” Sorry fellas, the truth often makes one cringe, but God is good and Jesus wins.

Jesus wins… and His power is not limited to sex and age. I saw and felt the hand of God work through a group of ninth grade girls, simply because even if they were afraid, they had faith and as promised, God responded to faith. I, as the leader, didn’t even have much faith, but when I was unable to get up and walk myself, those girls laid me on a mat and carried me to the feet of Jesus, and seeing their faith, He healed me.

When I forgot my Bible, God showed up in a group of ninth grade girls and replaced my purple-freaking-nail polish with a bad-ass axe.

My God is good.

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