A Letter to my Poppop

Dear Poppop,

You are missed. As the 21st anniversary of your death is approaching it still feels like yesterday I lost you. I walked beside you as you fought a good fight to stay alive. I remember being beside you as you lay in your hospital bed. I remember the pain in your eyes yet your love and humor never ceased to make me smile.

I still remember the smell of cigarettes and leather with a hint of double mint gum on the rides to church. I remember sitting in the garage watching you doing what you love and never backing down from a challenge. I remember you falling asleep watching wrestling or NASCAR and we would try to change it and you would wake up and yell at us.

I’ve held onto 11 years of memories but I’ve held onto 21 years of hurt. The last words from you I remember are, “Tanya, give me one more hug because I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again”. In the moment I was quiet, I took it like a champ just like you’ve would’ve wanted, I was dying inside. A week later we got a phone call, you went home.

But I lost the man who loved me unconditionally, the man who couldn’t get mad at me regardless of how many times I messed up and acted up. I lost my best friend, my grandfather, I lost a piece of me.

God gave us a time together that will go down in history but I’m still struggling with my 11 year old self trying to get passed this hurt today. I’m not who I was 21 years ago. The root of my pain and is driven by the hurt I felt the day you took that last breath. I ran away from God. I pretended he didn’t exist for many years. I filled my void with alcohol, pornography, and men beginning at the age of 13. I lost all self worth and identity. I stopped believing in who you told me I was. I blamed myself for your death, “If I only prayed more, if I was there more, if I was a better granddaughter, if I loved more”

I didn’t know who I was anymore. I never found myself until I got a glimpse of the God you believed in, I met Jesus. I got to finally feel the love you had for me. I got to witness the man you tried to be for me. I want to say that from that moment I was a completely different person. But I wasn’t. My life changed drastically, roads I was going down rerouted to where God wanted me but it took years to dig through the sin and it’s still taking time fighting the enemy and my flesh to get back to who I was before you died. There’s still shame, guilt, and more I’m still digging up I have to work through. But with Jesus I can do all things, you taught me that, I was just too blind to see.

Thank you for loving me like your own daughter. Thank you for teaching me even though I was too blind to see. Love you Poppop. Until we meet again.

Your Granddaughter,

Tanya

The Breakdown

So last week, I had a breakdown. I hit my emotional quota and just let it all out at once. Now by nature, I’m not that emotional, I’m not a feeler, or so I think and try to convince myself. Now there are a few ways people let their stuff out,  there are some people who let out their frustrations and burdens and blast them all over their social media, now some are legit a cry for help but some are people who blast about stubbing their toe or how someone cut them off in traffic…we all know a few of those people. Some people break stuff, some people just go to their close friends or spouse or even counselor. But there are also people who bury it deep inside.

You see we think we are slick and we think we let things roll off our shoulders but some of us don’t, some of us just bury it deep inside. Some of us, especially myself, get to the point of hurt and frustration that we eventually just have to get it all out at once. But the problem isn’t the blow-up, the problem is the build-up.

I build up so much that I put on a mask so no one knows I’m hurting. No one knows ‘s just how broken I am. And I will run to where I am the most comfortable. I will run to food, I will run to laziness and procrastination, I will run to my past addiction of pornography, I will run to the darkness inside of me and hide and I will see no hope, no purpose, I will feel empty, unloved and unworthy. But all I am really doing in all of it is running away from God and telling him that his purpose for my life is not greater than the darkness that’s inside of me and his love does not measure up to the love that I feel emptied from and the darkness is brighter in me than the light he put inside of me. All of which we know are false.

God does have purpose for my life it is far greater than I can even imagine. God loves me so much he saved not just my life but my soul. He chose me to be in heaven with him for eternity. He chose me to live with the Holy Spirit inside of me. He chose me to spread the good news of the Gospel. He chose me to be a living testimony of the grace of God. He chose me even knowing every flaw, blemish or scar. He knows my ugliness and knows where I run, but he still chose me and he still loves me regardless of how many times I try to run away or tune him out.

He chooses you too, the enemy will try to convince you otherwise. He will try to convince you that God’s plan is not better than your plan. The enemy will try to convince you that it’s better to live in comfort and for self than it is to be comforted and live for God. The enemy will try to convince you to stray away from God. The enemy will try to convince you that no one likes you, wants you, loves you and you will look to the temporary for the fix only God can provide. The enemy doesn’t want to see you succeed, the enemy only wants to see you fail. And we have to combat the enemy with promises of God and the power of prayer. Prayer is our communication, our way of repentance and praise. Prayer is our means to surrender control.

No matter how many times I might get frustrated or feel certain ways. I have to remember to take it to my knees and the cross before I take anywhere else or let it build. I have to let God mend those broken pieces. Because if I don’t, I won’t be me. I will shallow, quick to the tongue, and I will run to my comfort.

Even if you got nothing out of this I want you to know God loves you. He redeemed you. He has purpose and will for your life. No matter how far away you feel from him, he is right there by your side. He will never leave you nor foresake you. He loves you as son or daughter. You are his even if you don’t know it yet.

 

 

 

We are ALL Broken

My pastor said “Every person you lock eyes with is broken”. It’s easy to say that we get that, but it’s harder to see it lived out. We are too quick to judge, too quick to assume, too quick to cast our lives onto someone else’s. If we see it as true that every person is broken then we should show love versus hate, peace versus violence, humility versus selfishness, grace versus shame. But we don’t. We yell at people who cut us off in traffic, get angry when the coffee shop messes up an order, give attitude when things don’t go as planned, and love mostly ourselves and a few people around us.

But we are all broken. We are all sinners. We all are in need of saving. We all need a savior. We all need Jesus, but you and I have to be the ones who live our faith on our sleeves. We have to show others love instead hate, grace instead of frustration and shame. We have to be the ones who live by example. We have to be the vessel for The Spirit to use. We have to showcase Jesus and put him on display. Love wins in the end and we need to show it not just when we feel like it, but every single day.

Baltimore’s Hope

Baltimore, you hurt my soul. The one thing I have learned over these past few months is that it doesn’t cost a thing to make a difference in someone’s life. It doesn’t cost a thing to tell someone you are cheering for them. It doesn’t cost a thing to tell someone you believe in them. It doesn’t cost a thing to tell someone there is hope. It doesn’t cost a thing to tell someone about the love God has for them. It doesn’t cost a thing to pray for or with them. But we don’t.
 
We don’t go out in the inner city and tell those kids we are there for them. We don’t go out and tell those kids who had no choice in the situation they are in to tell them there is hope. We don’t go out and encourage them and show them the love God has for them. We don’t do it. Why?
 
We believe it’s someone else’s job. God appointed special people for it. But let me tell you, do you know how much Baltimore would be different if we put down our pride and took up our cross and followed him into where he cries out? If we laid down our lives to better those around us.
 
There are lost people everywhere, all around us. But my heart breaks for those kids in the city most of them are unaware what they are even going through. Their normal is our nightmare. Yet we expect their outcome to be the same as ours.
 
You have no idea what they go through. I haven’t even gotten past the surface and all I want to do is cry out to God and ask why. There is hope. We are the hope. We are the ones God called to love this city. Love cannot be poured out if it is not poured in. We can make a difference. You can make a difference.
 
I love my church because we have a ministry in East Baltimore. We have the light of Jesus shinning. But they can’t change the city by themselves. They can’t share the gospel with every kid in the city. But He doesn’t just call his church to his kids, he calls you and me to give hope and to show love to these kids. He calls all of us. If we all put the plow to the ground we can give hope and show love to these kids and start to show them a better a future just by taking time out of our schedule, embracing them and encouraging them. 

The Seed

2006. My first true freshman year of college. I was at High Point University. A university I never actually applied to because we couldn’t afford to pay the application fee. But I got the letter anyway.

Anyway, it was my first time being away from family. My first time I felt true “freedom”. I went into college as political science major, my dream at the time was to be lawyer. So since I knew I would stressed out, I decided to do the thing that would ease anxiety and stress, sing. I joined a group called University Singers at my college. We would sing at events and one time we event went to NYC to sing at a church. It was an unforgettable experience. I’ve never had experienced anything like that before.

In University Singers was this amazing young woman, Stephanie. There was something different about her. She was handicapped but she didn’t let it stop her. She shared her faith with me when I didn’t want to hear it. In my mind the only thing I could think about was “I wonder what I’m doing on Friday night? Whose having a party?” I didn’t care at the time what she was saying but my soul cared because it longed to be like hers. It envied her.

That year I was almost suspended from school because I was caught drinking and completely wasted throwing up in women’s bathroom in my dorm. And It wasn’t the first time. I talked my way out of the suspension and a large fine by getting community service and a minimal fine. But even through that Stephanie never gave up on me, I would tell her what I did and she didn’t care. She loved me through it. Something different.

My glimmer of light and hope shattered suddenly. Stephanie passed away unexpectedly. I can’t say it shattered my world because I was more focused on me and my fleshly desires. But it opened my eyes. The school did a dedication to her so the University Singers got up and sang a few of her favorite songs. I Can Only Imagine was one of them. This song resinated in my soul and every time I heard it, I cried. I had no real idea of what the song was about but my soul cried for it.

I transferred schools that year because I wanted to be “comfortable” next to friends. So I transferred schools to Lynchburg College. My flesh took over full fledge and hatred for Christianity began to stir up inside of me. I would debate it until my face was blue. I had all the answers. I would mock it. I would be mean to anyone who believed in it. I was an unpleasant person.

There were times I would listen to the songs we song at her dedication because it took to a place I couldn’t let go of. These songs were her light shinning through. They were hope. But I hid them from everyone. I didn’t want to be a “softy” or a hypocrite. So I only would put it on when I was completely stressed to the max.

6 years after the seed was planted, I found Jesus. That hope they sing about was found. My soul that holding on to those words was home. I felt alive for the first time.

Life happens but it’s what you take away that’s important. People come and people go. But there are people who you might only see for a very short moments that will end up changing your life forever.

Love like Jesus. Live with your faith in your sleeve. Never give up hope. And always listen to the spirit inside of you. We are chosen, sons and daughters of a living God. This world is not our home. Our father has a place for us in heaven…. I can only imagine.

Untapped Power

Prayer is an untapped source of power to so many. Many of us unknowingly put it off as just another task to do or we just need to check that religious box, “I prayed today”. But it’s so powerful and we shouldn’t neglect it. Why do we open our lips before we get on our knees? Why do we think we have it all figured out, when in reality we know only a small amount of anything?

Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” We can do NOTHING of the spirit without him, yet we think we can rule this world and this flesh without him. We think that if we don’t pray, it all will work itself out but it’s a wrong way to think.

Prayer is so powerful we shouldn’t neglect it. We need to cry out for our city, our neighborhoods, the lost, our nation. We should cry out to God about the darkness in this world because it is not okay. We should cry to God to surrender all of us because we need to be filled with all of Him. We can’t change the world by ourselves but with God anything is possible.

This world needs Jesus. This city of Baltimore is in desperate need of Jesus. We can’t expect mountains to move if we never get our knees.

Picture of the Past

So tonight I can across a picture with my niece and me. I was watching her and then taking her to church the next day. However, behind the facade of my goofy face was a terribly hung over broken woman.

What my niece didn’t know is that the night before I went to celebrate my friends birthday. But I just kept drinking. I didn’t see a limit. I paid for it. I blacked out. People who “knew” me saw a side of me they hadn’t seen… but wait a few months prior they did. You see I did the same thing a few months earlier at a party. I was drinking and drinking and just not caring about me or anyone else. It was my escape from the darkness I was living in. It was my “high”.

The night with my niece hurt me. I could not offer the love, support, or even fun times. I couldn’t keep anything down. My insides and head were throbbing in pain. I was defeated.

The next day was church and my niece was so excited! I put on a happy face and we went. I never felt more like a lair or failure that day. Anytime someone would try to ask questions, I simply deflected them and just try to push through for my niece.

Later that night, after saying goodbye to my niece, I fell to my knees and I wept. I was still in pain, hungover, and broken. I remember screaming out to God in frustration because I was reliving my life before I got saved. I was moving backwards in faith of what felt like deliberately, because part of it was in my hands of control or at least I thought it was.

God changed my heart that night on those knees. He turned me around and covered me. He took those burdens, that shame from me and put it on himself. I surrendered that night to who I was and to be molded into who God designed me to be. That was three years ago today.

Alcohol was my drug of choice it was one of my secret sins that I didn’t want people to know about so it’s actually one of the hardest to talk about. Where I didn’t drink much, when I did it was ugly and nasty. I used to tell myself I drink because it makes me comfortable in my own skin or it allows me to be “me” because there is no filter. Let me tell you those are all lies the enemy tells you to convince you to have one more drink because the more we numb ourselves the more we focus on this world and our flesh. So I was never “me”, I was the ugly version of me because I was closer to the enemies mouth than my ear was to God’s voice.

Alcoholism is real. Drug addiction is real. Luckily there is help and hope. God states he will never abandon you nor forsake you. He has and will always love you. You are his Son or daughter. He cares for you. There is hope found in Jesus. He died so that you might live.