a thousand trips to the ocean

I have probably literally been to the ocean over 100 times in my life. Every summer growing up, my family would take a vacation to the beach. I went to college in a beach town, and as an adult I’ve visited a beach destination at least twice a year. Suffice it to say, I love the ocean. I love the sound of the waves crashing the shore. I love the picturesque blue of the water. I love the sun beaming overhead. I love the gentle coolness of the refreshing water. I love everything about God’s beauty manifested in the ocean. For as many times as I’ve been to the ocean, I’m always in awe when I look out into the horizon and watch the water meet the sky. It seems so limitless to me, but Psalm 13:7 says that “He assigned the sea its boundaries and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs.” Wow! When I meditate just on that fact that he can draw borders for such massive bodies of water, how much more can He do for me? The Bible also says that He subdues the waves (Psalm 89:9) and He split the sea by His strength (Psalm 74:13). When I need to be reminded of the power and beauty of my maker, all I need is one glance into the expanse of those mighty blue waters.
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A few weeks ago, I was at the beach with a friend and her family. We spent 7 glorious days frolicking in the waves, laying in the sand, soaking in the sun and the ocean air. It was everything I needed and more. As this probably was my 101st trip to the beach, I never stopped to realize that this might be someone else’s first time at the ocean.

On the last day of our trip, they gave me the task of giving away the expensive floats we had bought for the week. Everyone else went back to the condo to shower and get ready for dinner, and I stayed back to enjoy my last evening on the beach and to make sure those floats got in the right hands. Earlier that day I had read Psalm 27, and I was particularly struck with the part that said to gaze on the beauty of the Lord. I thought wouldn’t it be amazing if I could behold God’s beauty every day, whether at the ocean or not. That day I had certainly beheld His beauty as I watched the clouds roll over the perfectly clear water. It was as if The Lord of the universe was calling my name. But that’s not what brought tears to my eyes that day.

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As I lay on the last float waiting to give it away, I noticed a girl and her mom pass by. The girl, no more than 8 years old, held her mom’s hand as they walked on the edge of the water. A few minutes later, they passed again. This time I stopped them and asked if they wanted our float. They were surprised at the gesture, but they took the float, and I told the little girl to enjoy. As I packed up my things to leave, I couldn’t help but watch this little girl and her new float. First she ran to her dad to show him the float, then she and her mom ventured into the water with the tube. She situated herself atop ready to ride her first wave. And as the wave came crashing, she flipped over. I felt a pang in my stomach, as I watched her run out of the water and back to her dad. Don’t quit, I thought to myself. She grabbed her towel and wiped her face and back into the water she went. And again she crashed with the wave into the water, and again she ran for her towel. Three times this series of events happened. I hoped she would not give up. I hoped she’d keep going. Again she jumped up on the tube, this wave bigger than the rest knocked her over into the water. I watched and waited for her reaction. She hopped up, wiped her eyes with her hands and was ready to tackle the next wave. Tears streamed in my eyes as I beheld the beauty of The Lord through the lens of this little girl’s first trip the ocean. And as the tide rolled them away, I watched her bounce on and off the float with glee, and I felt the joy of The Lord through her smile, her perseverance, her innocence, and her sweet spirit.

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I hope to take a thousand trips to the ocean, knowing each one will hold a priceless treasure of God’s love, beauty, grandeur, and magnificence.

God is Beautiful

It was late May 2013, my body ached from soreness and tiredness. My eyelids were heavy from sleep deprivation. My younger sister and I were on the last leg of a marathon trip through Europe. We had visited three countries in two weeks and were spending the last 4 days in an obscure Spanish beach city. We had arrived to Valencia earlier that morning by plane, then headed to a local bus station to board our bus for a 3 hour journey down the Spanish Coast. By the time we were on the bus, I was completely exhausted and entirely tired. All I wanted to do was close my eyes and drift into a much needed nap. Before falling asleep, I set my alarm to awaken me in two hours so that we wouldn’t miss our stop.

Little did I know that my phone was set to silent, and I would not hear the usual melody of the iPhone alarm.

I believe in the sovereignty of God in all things, so in addition to setting my alarm I said a quick prayer to God asking him to make sure we didn’t miss our stop. Then, I drifted into a deep, deep sleep. I’m not sure how long I slept before waking up, but when I looked down, my phone alarm was silently going off. And we were quickly approaching our bus stop. Awakened, I was suddenly super vigilant of our surroundings. At that very moment, I looked out the bus window, and there it was. A hand wrapped gift from God. I tried to pull out my phone to snap a pic, but I wasn’t quick enough. It was only a momentary glimpse. It was gone in a split second. Had I slept for a minute longer, I would have missed it. But God was gracious enough to allow me to see the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.

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As we were driving down the Spanish coast, there was a spot where the cliffs and mountains met the ocean in perfect harmony. The blue hue of the water looked unreal contrast against the rocky cliffs. The sky and the ocean blended into the infinite horizon. The scene was perfection and reminded me of the beauty of God and His beautiful creation. Like an artist painting a masterpiece on his canvas, God handcrafted this earth and everything in it. The Bible says: “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.” -Psalm 24:1-2.

If He takes that much care to create the ocean and mountains, then how much more care does He have for us, created in His image? Seeing scenes like that I feel very grateful to be part of His creation because He is a splendid artist and the earth and His people are His masterpieces.

God is beautiful, and so are His people. All of them.

imageThey speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty– and I will meditate on your wonderful works. Psalm 145:5

I am still going

I woke up this morning from texts from my sisters. My dad called, then my best friend Jade. They all had one question: “Are you still going?”

“What?” I responded, “what are you talking about?”

“There was a terrorist attack in Kenya, 147 killed.”

My heart sank. Tears formed in my eyes. So many questions raced through my head. Where was the attack? Who did it? ARE MY KIDS OKAY? I quickly grabbed my computer and googled “terrorist attack in Kenya”, a search term I dreaded typing with every keystroke. My heart pounded as I considered all the possibilities.  The thought of terrorism was hitting more close to home. I quickly scanned through the articles looking for anything familiar. I mapped out the distance from the attack to the school I’m planning to move to. I looked for any familiar names or faces. Those faces I did not recognize, but my heart still ached for a people I consider my own.

Three years ago, I made my first trek to Kenya, 1 year ago I went again, and 5 months ago I decided to move there. Unbothered by the threat of disease, unmoved by the “potential” risk of terrorism. Unfazed by the distance from home, the limited internet, and the lack of modern conveniences. My resolve never changed: “I’m moving to Kenya. My heart is already there.” It had become an automatic response anytime anyone questioned my move or my motives. The Lord is calling me there, surely I can face any of these “risks.” Surely, right?

This morning my resolve was shaken. My once automatic response replaced with an unsteady unsureness. My faith tested. “Am I really brave enough?” I asked myself.

The articles I’ve read about the attack say they separated the Christians from the Muslims, then executed all the Christians. These young students gathered for morning prayer and killed for their faith, for their belief in the one true King, killed for their devotion to the Father. Could I be that brave?

Probably not. But thankfully I don’t have to rely on my strength and courage. As Paul wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Dying is not the end, it’s the beginning of eternity. To be sure, I am filled with fear at the thought of moving to a country privy to terrorist attacks, but am I still going? Yes, I am still going. Of course, I am still going. Aren’t my kids still there? Is not my heart already there? Have I not been praying for this move?

Putting my life on the line for Christ just got more real for me. But isn’t that the way it should be. Shouldn’t believers of Christ be considered the crazy ones, the bold ones, the daring ones? My prayers aren’t that the Lord would keep me safe and comfortable while I am there, but that I would be poured out for Him and be used to spread His message and give Him glory. I’ll let Him figure out the rest.

“Kristen, did you hear what happened? Are you still going?”

“Yes, I am still going.”

“Love all”

IMG_0234In the sport of tennis, “love” means zero. Each game begins with the phrase “love all” to indicate that both players have zero points. Over the years and through my experience, the term “love all” has truly come to embody the sport of tennis in my life. At a very early age, my dad put a tennis racquet in my hand at our local YMCA tennis courts. From my first swing, I fell in love. Though very shy and reserved off the court, on the tennis court I came alive; I was aggressive and fiercely competitive. Often I would be far behind my competitor, but I would slowly inch my way back into the match until I had eventually claimed the match. My parents coined me the “comeback kid”. Tennis gave me a playground, a classroom, a platform to be unafraid, to show tenacity, to fight, to stand my ground and to love.

When I was 12, one of the local tennis pros gave me my first job. Twice a week, I helped her teach tennis classes to other kids. Most of them were older and bigger than me, but I’d proudly demonstrate a stroke or step in and correct their grip. I loved being able to use my tennis skills to help others. I loved being able to relate to other kids through a sport I cherished. Every summer for 16 years, I returned to the courts to teach at a summer camp. This was often my favorite time of the year, from teaching new techniques to water balloon relays to competitive games with the other counselors, nothing could better sum up those summer days than love. I loved the students, the games, the counselors, I loved being able to work with my dad and my little sister. I loved being hot and sweaty and exhausted and running inside for a popsicle treat with smiling, happy campers. I loved being a teenager but running a camp with 100s of kids, a staff of fellow teenagers, and being solely in charge and responsible. I loved pouring myself tirelessly into improving my camp and the experience for the kids.

I didn’t realize it when I was younger, but later I began to feel that tennis was my calling, and I was gifted in teaching tennis for a reason. I’d find that reason 8,000 miles away on a dirt court in Nairobi, Kenya. The first time I went to Kenya, I didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t even exactly sure why I was going. But I heard The Lord calling me, and I knew I couldn’t ignore His call. That was a life-changing experience. I saw kids playing tennis with wooden paddles but smiling from ear to ear. I saw kids with tennis shoes with gaping holes but sprinting across the court. I saw kids with worn clothes but laughing nonstop. I fell in love with those kids, with that place, with a sport that gave me so much giving them so much more. I returned to Kenya again this past fall, and upon arriving I knew I was home.

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Tennis has been my outlet, my haven, my constant for much of my life. Whenever I felt down, my dad would take me on the tennis court and before the match was over I’d forget my troubles and be smiling. Tennis has been a way for me to love others. From my many teammates to my students to the girls in Kenya, I have had the opportunity to meet so many people through this sport. While “love” may mean zero in tennis, it has been so full for me. And now I have the chance to pay it forward. As I make preparations for my move to Kenya, my heart leaps with joy when I think of how God has orchestrated this. From the cracked courts at the YMCA to the makeshift courts in a slum in Kenya, The Lord’s hand has been guiding me along.  It’s sometimes incomprehensible that He would choose to use me to spread His gospel through tennis. I might not understand it, but I fully accept it.

Each game in tennis begins with “love all”, and that’s exactly what I plan on doing: loving all through a sport that has loved me, blessed me, taught me, employed me, shaped me and given me purpose.

Life with retina

Over Christmas break, I got a new Mac laptop. When debating between models, I couldn’t decide if it was worth it to spend the extra couple of hundred dollars for the “retina” display. I am not a big gamer, and I am an amateur photographer at best, so I couldn’t justify spending extra money on just a better display. Ultimately, I ended up getting the retina model because it was slightly lighter and it had hdmi hookups. When I first started using the computer, I noticed that the picture quality was better but nothing really to brag about. Then it happened. I started importing all of my photos from my iPhone library. As the photos imported, each flashed on the screen for a split second, all of the colors bursting, the scenes expanded and the details magnified. As my pictures from the Grand Canyon to the Pacific Ocean to a tropical rainforest flashed on the screen, I saw these scenes as I never had before and tears flooded my eyes. Before then, I had only seen these pictures from the view of my phone screen: smaller, filtered through my screen protector. Limited. It wasn’t until the pictures were seen on the retina display that I saw them in all their true beauty and glory. Colorful. Full. Bright. Detailed. Enhanced. Enlarged. Enriched. Clear.

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That is life with Jesus. Before Jesus everything is smaller, darker, lifeless. With God, everything is brighter and clearer. After looking at my pictures on my new fancy retina display, I cannot go back to merely cataloging my shots on my smaller phone screen. I need them to come alive on my retina display. After seeing the fullness of life with Christ, I cannot settle for the dullness and emptiness of life without Him. After knowing infinite joy and peace, I cannot re-enter the world of hopelessness and despair. After seeing the beauty of God’s grace, I cannot succumb to the temptation of life without Christ.

When Christ entered my heart, I was given “retina” vision for life. Through all the chaos and confusion of living, God makes all things clear according to His divine will and purposes. That’s life with retina. And I never want to be limited again by anything less than the clarity that comes with living for Christ.

Journey to 30…

365 days ago, it hit me that I was about to be be 30. Me, 30 years old! I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around the fact I was about to hit such a huge milestone in my life. I didn’t feel 30. My life didn’t seem to have all the pieces together that a 30-year-old would. I felt incomplete and not ready to be a “real adult”. After spending some time in prayer, I realized that God has me exactly where he wants me to be. I have all I need right now. And I am all I need to be right now. How refreshing to know that I don’t have to strive after earthly goals and ambitions. I just get to live. Live in the moment and live for the moment. So I set out on this journey. A journey of 30 things I wanted to accomplish before I turned 30. Now, I didn’t reach every item on the list like #9 Read 30 books or #22 eat clean for 30 days. But I lived, and the results were amazing. I have seen more, done more, read more, wrote more, prayed more, laughed more, cried more, lived more than I have in any other year of my life. Here are some highlights from my journey to 30:

#17 Surfing lessons in California

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Now I don’t think that I come across as the surfer type. I’m not chiseled with a beach babe body, with long blond hair. But I LOVE the ocean. Let me repIMG_8052_2eat that for emphasis, I LOVE the ocean. From playing in the waves to sitting in the sand and listening to the waves crash on the shore, I am in total awe of the beauty God created in oceans. So I decided what better way to experience this creation, other than tackling those waves on a surfboard. So in April, my friend Jade and I set out on a West Coast expedition, and our first stop was San Diego’s Mission Beach. There, we first learned how to stand on the board on the sand, then we progressed to the real waves. Wave after wave, I tried to get up on my two feet. And wave after wave, I flopped, crashed, wiped out, toppled over, even managing to break my little finger. As the lesson was drawing near to a close, I mustered all the energy I had left, and with the final wave I managed to stand on the surfboard and ride the wave. What a feeling! In that moment, I was so consumed with the beauty and power of the waves that I had no room for worries or problems. In that moment, God used the rushing waves to remind me of his power and sovereignty.

#10 Be amazed

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As our West Coast trip continued, we traveled from San Diego to LA and from LA to Las Vegas and from Vegas to the Grand Canyon. It was at the Grand Canyon that I accomplished #10 on my list Be amazed. Have you ever seen something so beautiful that you felt like were viewing God himself? That’s the feeling I received peering into the beauty and depth of the Grand Canyon. As I stood on the edge, I observed all the colors of the rocks and imagined God, the creator, carefully painting each rock and each crevice. That place is truly awe-inspiring.

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#1 Complete a triathlon

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This year I completed my first sprint triathlon. For me this was a huge feat and I entered the day with anxiety mixed with excitement and a sprinkling of sheer fear. individually the components didn’t frighten me; I have enjoyed swimming since I was very young and have never had any fear when it comes to water; when it came to biking I was felt very at ease at the thought of rolling casually 12 miles in the flat delta; and my thinking around the running was at least I could walk if I got tired. When tried to comprehend all three of these activities together, coupled with my months of inconsistent training and moments of lack of motivation, the night before the triathlon I was a nervous wreck. I tried to calm myself with my normal techniques, deep breathing, thinking of oceans, dinner with my mom and sisters, praying, but nothing worked I couldn’t catch my breath and I was drowning and I hadn’t even entered the lake yet. However, I was able to dig deeply into my second and often third wind to finish, and it was one of the most rewarding moments of my life. I just keep thinking about Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” And press on I did, until I reached that finish line

#7 Give something meaningful to someone

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This past July, my beloved Grandma Kizzie passed away. She was truly one of my favorite people. During her life, she imparted so much wisdom to me and poured me with unconditional love. At her memorial service, one of my aunts asked if I would be willing to say a few words about her life at the service. For anyone that knows me, they know that I am terrified of public speaking. However, I mustered all my strength and resolve and gave her a fitting tribute. There is not much that I could give my Grandma Kizzie that she didn’t already have. She was a women of valor, of love, of faith, of charisma, of courage. She lived a life, I would be lucky to emulate. And in those few words I spoke at her service, I thanked her for being my grandmother and the impact she had on my life.

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So in October en route to Africa, I had layovers in Amsterdam and London, thereby accomplishing number three on my list: “Get a new stamp in passport.”

#8 Run a race

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This may be my favorite and most surprising things on my list. When I initially thought of completing a race, I was thinking about a 5k or half marathon, little did I know the race would occur across the globe on a tennis court. In October, when I was volunteering and teaching tennis in Kenya one day after practice, I had the girls running suicides for fitness. They were getting exhausted, but I kept pushing them to keep going. Finally they were all leaning over, every ounce of energy drained from the bodies. I knew they could go one more time, they just needed the extra motivation. Which of course was making it a foot race against “coach”. We raced and ran and laughed and raced some more until we were wiped, but I was full. Full of so much joy!

#4 Fall in love (object to be determined)

Alas, the tricky one! I would love to say that in the past twelve months I met a great guy, fell in love, and on my way to the wedding chapel. But that’s not how this story goes, even better I fell more in love with Jesus and the person he created me to be. I have found my passions and gifts. I have found a joy unspeakable. I have been blessed enough to have formed new friendships through church, bible study, prayer group. I have loved every minute of the past year. Though it was difficult at times, God has always been faithful, and I trust Him wholeheartedly with my life and my future. I am head over heels in love with my creator and my sustainer. I love Jesus, and I am falling more in love with me every day.

 So what’s left?

#30 Have a magical birthday

And what I have realized is the magic is not in the action, it’s in the love shared by family and friends. The gift of grace and forgiveness from God make every day a magical miracle. My birthday will be magical because I believe in The Lord, and his mercies are new every morning. Whatever circumstances I may face, God is good, and He is loving and kind. I don’t know how I will actually spend my birthday, but I can guarantee you it will begin in thanks to God for all he has done, and all he will continue doing in my life. My journey to 30 has been amazing, and am I ready to hit 30 now? Absolutely! Bring on the candles! Let’s see what this new year, decade, season has to offer. To God be the glory, forever. Amen.

The Wall

Earlier this week, on our company retreat, we went rock climbing for a team building activity.  Now, I love physical activities and challenges, but I have a terrible, crippling fear of heights. As soon as we arrived at the facility, and I looked at the height of the walls, I told myself there was no way I was going to climb that high.

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However, my competitive drive kicked in, and I wasn’t going to not try. So I tried. I climbed half way up the wall and froze in fear. I could physically go higher, but my mind told me that I could not. I panicked, not able to go any higher I came down. Dejected at my inability to keep going higher, I was frustrated and disappointed.

About 15 minutes later, I pep talked myself into going again. I knew I could do it. I knew I had the strength, I just needed to push myself higher. I had to trust in the harness and the rope. I had to believe that I wasn’t going to fall. I had to have faith that I could go higher.

So I got strapped into the harness and began to climb again. The first few steps were easy. I breezed through the lower part of the wall. Then, just like it happened the time before, I got to the same point, and I froze. Crippled in fear, I was stuck midway on the wall. My legs and arms began to shake, I looked down and panicked. I could not go any higher on this wall. Then, below me, all of my teammates began to cheer me on, encouraging me to keep going higher. There words were nice, but ultimately I needed to silence the voice in my head that told me I could not. I had to listen to the still small voice in my soul that told me I could. I let that voice be my guide as I took step by step, until I reached the very top. Higher than I thought I could go, but not higher than I could go.

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That wall is life. I know sometimes I get stuck in a place, crippled by fear, scared to keep going, losing faith, looking backwards, and ultimately giving up. But God never intended us to be stuck. By His strength we can keep going, keep climbing, keep moving, and go higher, longer, further than we ever imagined or thought. When I came down from the wall, all of my teammates rushed me with hugs and high fives. My boss even told me to tap into whatever force led me to the wall the second time. That force, that will, that determination comes from the Lord, and I pray that I can listen to His voice when he whispers, “keep going higher, my rope will guide you, my harness will catch you, my love will never leave you, you will not FALL.”

HE. Came.

Silent.

Dark.

Quiet.

Waiting.


Boom.

Bang.

Crash.

Everything changed in one moment.

HE CAME.

Unassuming.

Unnoticed.

King of the universe wrapped in swaddling clothing.

Holder of the world. Held as in infant.

Creator of the universe. Walking among the created.

Jesus came that we may have life. He came not with a loud uproar, but in silence in a manger, in a small town. There was not buzz about his arrival. The tabloid headlines didn’t shout of his birth like the royal baby. But yet he came, to a teenage girl and a carpenter.

He came. He came.

What’s more? He came to die.

He lived a life we couldn’t live and died a death we all deserved.

He came. The wise men knew. They brought gifts. The prophets had spoken of his coming. The people were waiting. Then, he came.

Yet, they rejected him. Mocked him. Beat him. Killed him.

But, he came. He came for me. He came for you. He came for my friends and family. He came for my enemies. He came for Mother Teresa. He came for Hitler. He came to save humanity. He came to give us life. He came to tear down the walls. He came to give us hope, peace, joy, comfort, love, patience. He came.

One night, in the midst of the darkness, in the midst of pain, suffering, hopelessness, he came. Silently, quietly, as just a mere infant, he came. An eternal light shining, he came. A light for the world, he came. A light for me in my darkest moments, he came. A light for all to see, he came.

And did I mention, he’s coming back.

“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” Isaiah 9:2

The Door Opened

It was early evening, and I felt the pang of emptiness that often crept in when I felt lonely or bored or frustrated. I had the overwhelming desire to fill this emptiness in the wrong kind of way. I wanted to turn to the passing pleasure of sin to fulfill the God-sized need that was growing in my soul. As I sat in my room in darkness with the door closed and locked, completely determined to give in to this fleshly desire, I couldn’t take it anymore. I no longer wanted to chase after empty cisterns. I lay still and quiet, trying to push back the urges, but they grew louder and bolder. Suddenly, I found myself singing “Amazing Grace.” By the time I got to the third verse, tears were streaming down my face, the singing now being pushed through choked cries. I stood up and began belting from the top of my lungs, “Bless the Lord, oh my soul. Oh my soul.” I was singing and dancing and praising and shouting and yes, still crying.

Finally, I collapsed to my knees in prayer. Not knowing what to say, I asked God to rescue me from my sin. To meet me in my need. To comfort me. To come to me. To help me. I called out to my Father. I asked Him to be that running father from the infamous prodigal son parable. As I was praying, a gush of wind came through my bedroom, and the once closed and locked door opened, shining the light from the hallway into my once dark bedroom. 

In that moment, the light came into my room, and God into my heart. “Hallelujah!” was all I could muster through the tears. Who was I to have the creator of the universe in my bedroom? Who was I to be rescued from my sin? Who was I to feel God’s infinite Grace? God showed me that all I needed to do was walk through the now open door. The invitation was sent. The door opened. The table set. The feast ready. I didn’t have to settle for crumbs in the dark, in hiding. I could live in the light, with God by me, around me, and in me. “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”

How amazing indeed? It is in my weakest moments, that God’s grace is that much bigger. That His love is that much wider, and deeper, and grander. God is amazing! He can literally open shut doors. He allows His light to shine in our darkest places and our darkest moments. This is the God I want to serve and honor and obey. This is the God I want to give my life to. This is the God that I want to run to fill my empty cup. This is the God that will bring me all my joy, peace, satisfaction, and pleasure.

When He opens the door, I leap through it with thanksgiving in my heart that He would be mindful of a sinner like me.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him…”  Luke 15:20

I am Crazy!

The doctors called it a psychotic break or a dissociative disorder. Whatever they wanted to call it, I was crazy, yes I said that about myself. I was completely and utterly crazy.

Four years ago, I found myself sitting on a library floor at Peabody School of Education. I had barricaded myself in a small study room, and did not want to come out ever. I can’t exactly pull up all the feelings I was experiencing at that moment, but I know it was a mix of sadness, desperation, exhaustion, neediness, unworthiness, unacceptance, and shame. I sat in there for quite some time before the police came knocking and the paramedics rushed in. In a faint distance, I heard the voice of one of the paramedics calling out, “Are you injured? Are you ok?”

Was I okay? Of course not, I had lost every marble that I thought I had. This episode landed me a stay at Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital and more hospital bills than my student loans could repay. I left the hospital just as broken as before entering, but I learned to be smarter with my crazy: do not lock yourself into public places.

That was four years ago, and so much has changed in my life. It’s hard to imagine that I was that person. But really, that was just a shell of a person, crying out for love and attention from the world. The world never answered that called, so I learned to call out to the one who made the world. For me, it hasn’t been as simple as saying a prayer and feeling miraculously better. It has been a slow process, day by day, year by year, when all of a sudden I don’t even recognize this new person. Now, I can’t imagine living in a world where my feelings triumph reason.

Depression is a real disease. It is not a stigma. It shouldn’t be shunned or looked down upon. It can affect anyone, from any family. But for me depression is more than a chemical imbalance. It is a sin problem. I allow the devil to distort my thinking and allow me to believe his lies. I start longing for attention from people. I want my satisfaction from things. I look to run away from my present circumstances. But now, I know that God is the source of all the satisfaction I need. His waters will never run dry. He provides and he takes away, but he never leaves us and he never forsakes us. 4 years ago, I could not tell you about joy. Today, I live in joy. 4 years ago, I couldn’t tell you about grace. Today, I’m abounding in it. 4 years ago, I couldn’t tell you about God. Today, He is my all in all.

Some may think it risky to put my story out there. To talk about mental disease in such an open way. But I don’t feel any embarrassment or regret about my past. By God’s grace, I’m not there anymore, and I don’t want to go back. My hope is that others will be encouraged by my story. Just a few weeks ago, I was sitting on a plane returning from a mission trip to Africa, and I thought to myself, “From sitting in utter despair on a library floor to sitting high in the sky, returning from serving God.” Only God can bring us from death to life. Only God can redeem the lost, broken, and unwanted. Only God can give us a new song, a new dance, and a new life.

I am still crazy today. Crazy for Jesus. Crazy to know him better. Crazy to commune with Him. Crazy in love with my creator and my sustainer.

Praise be to the Lord,
    for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
    and with my song I praise him. 

Psalm 28:6-7