the garden

i am actually really surprised that i have not written about this yet. i guess i wanted to keep it a secret. stupid satan. he is always trying to trick us into isolating. anyway. the garden. oh the garden. lets start from the beginning..not that beginning…the beginning of my garden story.

in 2015, in the Catholic Charities food pantry, i was working to stock the pantry and i heard God say “i want you to start a recovery home for young girls” and i said okay!

and then i went to summer camp, and during the Gospel one day, we talked about Mary Magdalene, and how she thought resurrected Jesus was the gardener when she saw Him. and He said,

“I want you to call it The Garden”

and i knew exactly what He meant. so okay, i’ll call it the garden. so after that, i took an interest and liking to things having to do with gardens, because one day i would own one. but i never really told many people about it. i think i felt if i told people, they would steal my idea. classic satan tried to scare me out of talking about my dream by making me fear competition. so this was like my secret promise from the Lord.

and then at the beginning of the year, Kari Jobe released her new album and it was called The Garden. and she talked about the gardens that are talked about in the Bible. and it was a wonderful album. and i love Kari Jobe. and i felt this cool connection to her because we both had these projects about the garden. it also really prompted me to dig back into the scriptures about gardens in the Bible. and i started learning more about the intimacy of God. i was learning about the Father’s original desire for intimacy with us. the Father’s gentle and sweet heart. i was loving it!

so i shared the album with all my friends, and told everyone about it. and everyone loved it. and started talking about the garden. and the garden of eden. and all the sudden, i was not happy about it.

i felt jealous. and protective. and territorial. that was my garden! that was my special place. they needed to stay out of it. and even worse, what if they wanted to call their place the garden now that i had introduced them to this. and just like that, fear, competition, jealousy, pride and inadequacy invaded my garden. i was not happy about it at all. i was standing next to Jesus in my garden, but thinking He was just the gardener. and then He spoke up.

and He reminded me that just because other people liked the garden didn’t take away from my garden with Him. it also didn’t make it any less powerful. and if anything, this was what was so exciting about the garden to me, inviting other people into it. and i did that. that was the whole point!

inviting people into the Father’s original design for intimacy and communion and great love. but what i had originally intended for other people, He used to heal my heart. He met me in the garden, and stayed with me as i figured it all out. His garden is such a place of security, a place were striving is not allowed. a place were mercy flows and streams of living water run throughout. it was always His plan to have us in the Garden.

identity

i would say that this last year/ten months i have learned a lot about identifying.

identifying mental illnesses, coping skills, theories, techniques, friends, foes, words, feelings, thoughts, prayers, spirits. the list goes on and one. but i would say the most important thing i have learned to identify is myself. cheesy, i know. but true.

this year, i have had to learn about myself to learn how to be a good clinician. i have had to learn my own beliefs, values, thoughts, triggers, strengths & weaknesses. and all of those things feel external. even though they exist within me, they feel like something i can quantify and count. but this year and this process pushed me to go further. it pushed me to integrate those external qualities and find a place for them inside myself. to identify myself with those things as a part of who i am, not a hat i can take on and off.

if you ask me what my strengths are, 10/10 i would say “hard-working” first. i have always identified myself as hard-working. what a good quality to have. i have always worked so hard at everything put in front of me. it is one of the things i am most proud of about myself.

but hard working isn’t a real thing.

i mean it is. it is a great quality to have. and work towards. see-there is that word again, work. but hard-working doesn’t translate. because when you’re hard working, you get all the work. from everywhere. from peers, from family, from friends, from supervisors, but mostly, from yourself. there is never a break. because you’re always hustling. always running to the next thing. if there isn’t something happening right now in front of you, then you have to find something to throw yourself into. because that’s who you are. you are hard-working.

and that is how i measured my value. by my output. by how much work i could take in and how much i could produce. notorious for working more than one job at a time. working more than 60-80 hours in a week. taking 18 hours of course work and being involved in 10 organizations. as soon as one thing ended, i had the next thing lined up. because that’s how you produce and show your worth, what you bring to the table.

when i told my counselor this she said “it’s almost like you’re running from yourself. from the truth of who you are.”

which is a very counselor thing to say, and seems like it would be #3 on the list of generic responses to tell your clients. right below #2 “Mmmm, that makes a lot of sense”  and #1 “You’re safe here. ”  but i let it go in one ear and out the other. because i definitely have some bad habits, but work wasn’t one of them. work is what made me worthy. it gave me identity and purpose.

but graduate school really turned that idea on it’s head. because there is no way, let me repeat, no way you can finish this program on your own. you just can’t do it. you have to have support, and supernatural help. seriously. as the program got harder, i realized i actually could not do this work, and was going to need some help. so i leaned in. and He helped me. there were so many nights at 3am, crying because i knew i couldn’t finish the 12 page paper due at 8am, because i was only on page 5. but leaning into Him, i surprisingly found 7 more pages to write. and presentations that i had no idea how to even put together, but after a few days, they were done. and sessions and conversations that i didn’t know how to respond to or how to start, that happened. there was trauma that i couldn’t imagine, and grace to hold that space. it was incredible to watch Him work through me, because i really had nothing to give.

at first, i thought He was doing all of this because i was a hard worker, and had committed and obeyed and now He would do these favors for me. but as i got to know Him more, and see the magnitude of what He was doing-the healing He was bringing, and the knockout papers He was writing-i began to understand it differently.

He was helping me based on my identity. but not the one i thought i had. not because i was a hard worker. but because,

i was His daughter.

what dad doesn’t want to help his daughter with her homework? what dad doesn’t what to go out of his way to make sure his girl isn’t alone? what dad doesn’t want to be able to stay up late with her as she works on her latest project and presentation?

and how sweet is that. His help wasn’t something i earned. there was nothing i could do to earn His help. it wasn’t contingent on getting an A or the highest participation rate. it was freely given. all i had to do was ask. literally ask, and rest. and watch my Dad ace the work. every time.

it was a sweet lesson to let Him replace my identity, as a hard worker, with His as His daughter.

now, in this new season, He has called me to rest. to not work in the traditional sense. but to spend time with Him. remembering. reconnecting. healing. processing. it is really hard because my tendency is to want to work. to jump into a job. i cannot tell you how many times i have been tempted to look for a small part time job here. even while i wait. but i hear Him say over and over,

“will you not take the rest I have provided for you?”

He is asking me to really seal in this new identity thing. He is asking me learn more about myself and about Him, without the false identity of a hard-worker. breaking levels of pride and thoughts of “what will other’s think or see?” it is not easy. it is actually a daily struggle to keep my eyes on Him. but His grace is sufficient. and His peace is sweeter than honey. and His presence makes us whole. 

the lessons of the msw

i learned so much in these last ten months as i have pursued my Master of Social Work. i am so overwhelmed by the Father’s faithfulness, provision, grace and favor over these last few months. i have been impressed by my own learning and ability to utilize new skills and help people reach freedom. but i wanted to share some of the lessons i learned:

  1. how to be an integrated person-one of my biggest lessons this year was how to integrate who i am in my values, beliefs, interests and joys into who i am as a professional. learning that what makes me special as a friend, makes me a wildly special clinician.
  2. i don’t have live from a place of scarcity– i had to learn that I don’t have to grasp and fight for survival, Jesus died for me to have life, and life abundantly (John 10:10). i am not at risk of being forgotten or left behind.
  3. there is no striving in His love– i could never do anything to earn His love. its freely given.
  4. excellence is the boldness & willingness to do hard things- excellence is hard, but it isn’t perfectionism. excellence means to honor my commitment, and give my all to a project, but to know when to give myself grace for my own abilities and limitations.
  5. i am freaking strong– the more i learn about what resilience is, the more i realize my own. the more i move outside of myself, and move from competition to appreciation, i am able to honor the strength i have been given and used.
  6. everything has a spirit– but really. there is a spirit for everything, and it is my job to cultivate or rebuke those spirits.
  7. how to identify things– i have learned language and concepts for what things really are. what sadness is, what joy is, what connection is, what disconnection is, what returning means.
  8. breaking cycles of shame changes lives– i have been honored to walk with women as they identify shame in their lives and break the cycles & chains of shame in their families. i have heard stories of freedom and life. and i myself have learned how to identify shame, and put it in its place.
  9. rest is powerful, if it is done right– i thought i knew what self-care was. LOL. what it is not is vegging out and watching netflix & staying in bed all day without talking to another soul. it is not jam-packing as many friend visits into a weekend. its about checking in with my own heart, and seeing what is missing and what i need to do to rest, and take care of that need. which might mean staying in my pjs, but it also might meaning having a FaceTime call with a sweet dear friend. it might mean listening to worship music, or buying a blank canvas and painting with big strokes.
  10. He just wants to be close– That’s it. that’s what He wants. to be close to us. he is not scared by our wounds or our unbelief, He moves in closer. He pursues. He is enough. there is delight in who He is. His presence makes us whole. He loves to draw near and speak. its His favorite thing to do.

part eight.two: preparation update

what a perfect title for the season i walked into.

yes. yes. yes. and yes.

the past few months have been every bit of preparation.

i have been learning so much. i have been learning about who i am. i have been learning about my fears. i have been learning to take them to the Father. and to ask Him to point them out when i can’t figure them out myself. i have been learning that i can’t expect what i am not willing to give. i have been learning how to cook. how to maintain a tiny little apartment. i have been learning how to be steadfast in prayer. i have been learning to fight for what i want. i have been learning to pursue health. i have been learning the importance of looking presentable, not for compliments, but for self-respect. i have been learning what it means to have a real routine. i have been learning (major learning still) how to wake up in the morning. i have been learning to accept the realities of who i am, my personality and my likes and dislikes. for instance, i hate taking out the trash, i hate doing dishes, i hate unloading/cleaning my car, i love organizing drawers, i love to paint, i love writing emails, i only wear like three of my fifty pairs of shoes, i hate to make others wait on me, i am pretty flexible with others and their timing, i am not a morning person.

i have been stretched and pulled. it has been really hard. but really good. i have experienced so much providence and grace in the last few months, it’s been crazy. i have been broken to be remade (still in process). i have seen new wounds. i have seen huge areas for growth. one of the biggest things i wanted this summer, and into this fall was a

one of the biggest things i wanted this summer, and into this fall was a husband. lols. this fall i have been seeing and understanding why it is important that i don’t right now. i have been able to follow God’s will without restraint. i have been able to go where He has led. i know that is still possible with a spouse, but it has been easier for me without one. i have so much growing up to do. i just wanted someone to come in and clean me up. that is not how it works. i have to do that cleaning with the Father. and that is a painstaking process. one of the verses i received at the beginning of this season was isaiah 54.

I am about to rebuild you wth stones of turquoise, lay your foundation with sapphires, construct your towers with rubies and your gates with jewels. 

54:11-12

i love that it says about. He is preparing. i am preparing. i feel something big brewing. i feel like i am on the edge of newness and excitement. i am leaning into the preparation and rebuilding.

 

the process: part two

my head and my heart are either racing, or completely silent. there is no middle ground. i am trying to wrap my brain around what God is walking me through in this season. here are a few things i knew coming into this new season in Waco:

  • Jesus wanted to heal my heart
  • Jesus wanted to transform me
  • Jesus wanted to teach me new things
  • Jesus was calling me, His bride, into the wilderness
  • this was going to be an influential time of formation, faith, promises, fulfillment, and newness

what I didn’t know was the following:

  • Jesus wanted to heal my heart, but first He had to let me feel the weight of it’s brokenness
  • Jesus wanted to transform me, but more than transform-He wanted to rebuild me
  • Jesus wanted to teach me new things about Him, about what faithfulness looks like, who He is, who His Father is, how He loves me and how He is calling me to love 
  • God was calling me, His daughter, His beloved, into the wilderness, where it would be cold, lonely, scary, dark, dry, and overwhelming
  • to reap the benefits of newness, I was going to have to do things I had never done before
  • God is so jealous for me, and is pursuing me unapologetically 
  • this was gonna hurt, bad

i feel like the past few weeks have been so raw, tough, trying, overwhelming, painful and heavy. i have been reading through Hosea, one of my favorites. as i began the study, i knew how much i loved the story on the pages of God’s unrelenting love, His pursuit of His people, and His willingness to stop at nothing to get them back. such a sweet story to read. but i had no idea God was ready to walk through Hosea so personally with me. half way through, i broke.

after one of the most intense encounters with Mercy and Truth on night in a confessional, chapel and HEB parking lot, i was shaken. to my core. i felt a fraction of the weight of my sin, brokenness, and helplessness. overwhelming is a understatement. it felt like a wave crashing over me breaking every part of my body. it felt like having light shined in your eyes after years in a dark room. it felt like a band-aid ripped off too soon. rejected, raw, vulnerable and weak.

He needed me to realize i was helpless. there was nothing i could do to earn my forgiveness. nothing i could give to Him other than my sheer brokenness. i have never felt more like Mary Magdalene at the feet of Jesus. pouring out the depths of my heart at His feet begging for forgiveness and offering every ounce of love my body could hold.

i knew this was part of the process. God knows me, and He knows what i need. i need more than to just know about my sin, i need realness I can relate to. and He delivered. after sobs and snot, i was finally able to calm down enough to ask Him where to go from here. He kept speaking Isaiah 54:11-12 over me.

“Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted,
    I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise,[a]
    your foundations with lapis lazuli.
12 I will make your battlements of rubies,
    your gates of sparkling jewels,
    and all your walls of precious stones.”

SO UNDESERVING. here i am: broken, sinful, weak, ashamed, rejected and in such need of the Divine Healer, and He says He wants to rebuild me! not just build an add on, rebuild. start over. knock down the old, and start fresh. He didn’t just want to make some renovations to the old model to make it livable and up to code, He wanted to do a new thing (Isaiah 43:19) and make it better than I could have ever dreamed. and on top of that, He wants to build with precious stones. ok….

when God speaks, He has such simplicity & depth in what He says. it may be a phrase but has a thousand meanings. in this image of rebuilding, i could hear Him speaking to the amount of time it would take. precious stones don’t just happen overnight. neither do beautiful buildings and structures. i could hear Him say if i wanted the fullness of His rebuild, i was going to have to do the work, let Him build and be patience with my heart as He reconstructed it.

so i’m trying. this breakdown was pretty perfectly tied into the Hosea study. experiencing the real discipline the Lord gives to us & the real healing He offers was paralleled so well in Israel’s journey. i am learning that God is jealous for me, and will stop at nothing to get me back. He holds nothing back.