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

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.

Receiving Help

I grew up believing receiving help was a sign of weakness and unintelligence. So I never asked for help. I dealt with my problems on my own and never turned to anyone for guidance, from asking for help on an assignment to asking for help in my personal problems or situations. I dealt with them all alone. So it took me down a dark spiral of depression. It was hard to get out of bed, it was hard to put one foot in front of the other, it was hard to even look at other people. It was hard to do life. I would put a mask on and tell everyone I was okay but on the inside I was so broken. I couldn’t tell anyone that I was struggling because that means I’m not perfect and if I’m not perfect then I’m dumb and if I’m dumb I am weak and I can’t be seen as weak because then no one will accept me or love me.
So I buried my feelings, the hurt, the broken pieces of me under a rug. I didn’t want anyone to see me less than perfect. But the more things got shoved inside the more of who I am began to diminish. I started defining myself by my failures and not my accomplishments. I started doubting everything. My personality was jaded by my inability to tell people what was really going on, so I began to just keep my mouth shut, so it wouldn’t slip out. 

Eventually it got to a point where I couldn’t handle it. I found coping mechanisms through alcohol. It was that temporary feeling of joy. I was so happy. I partied almost every weekend of college and by my senior year, it was every other day. It was bad but in the moment it felt good.

In 2012 though my life changed for forever. I had started my first full time job, I had my first real boyfriend, I had lost over 100lbs, life was so good. I couldn’t have been more happier. But the broken pieces of me was still inside me. I still cried myself to sleep some nights. But I remember distinctly on a July morning I had closed my tear filled eyes and said these words, “God, if you are real. I need your help. If you are real, why am I feeling this way? Why do I have everything I want but still feel alone.” It was my first prayer I had prayed for myself. It was the first time asking for genuine help. 

That September, God led me to my church home where I met Jesus. He became the One I gave my life to. My life changed the moment I open my mouth and asked for help; the moment I surrendered to the fact I can’t do it by myself. I found true joy. I found true love. And I keep working towards digging up the pieces I buried deep inside to become the woman God designed me to be. 

Asking for help is not weakness, it’s strength because it’s admitting you don’t have life figured out. It’s admitting that you have weaknesses and flaws that you cannot seem to figure out and that’s okay. God has provided not only the profession of counseling for us to go to but he gave us His Son to be our counselor. We all need help. We all need  Jesus because we all are imperfect and we are born into a sin filled world.  

Check out this clip on Jesus being the Wonderful Counselor from Pastor Tally Wilgis at Captivate Church: https://youtu.be/VoYjRfX34Wg

Redeemed Life

We are called to lived a redeemed life not a condemned life. 

Yet so many of us live inside ourselves and in our own little world. We start thinking God forgot about us, that God isn’t for us, that God doesn’t care about us. 

We begin to idolize this world and everything in it including ourselves. We put our needs and wants above others. We begin to think we are more important than everyone around us. We start knowingly sinning again and instead of immediately reprenting and turning away we begin to to tell ourselves “It’s okay, Jesus will forgive me.” It becomes a cycle.

When we do this, we will feel abandoned by God. We will feel like God isn’t for us. We begin to rely on ourselves and our “feelings” to define the relationship with God. We allow our earthly standards define the word “relationship”.

We can’t define it. It is way above our understanding. God has been our sideline since the beginning of time. He has been cheering us on since before our name was ever mentioned. God didn’t leave us. God didn’t abandon us. God is for us and will never be against us. Through every hill and every valley he is there. He is with us every step we take and every breathe breathed. 

So if we sit here and live as if we are of this world than we will live a condemned life. We will live like there is no hope, no light, no freedom. We will live as if Jesus never walked this earth and died for us. We will live for ourselves. 

But God calls us out of bondage, guilt, and shame. He calls us to follow him, so that we live our lives for him not for ourselves. We are to be the light, and tell people about the hope and love found in Jesus. We are to showcase Jesus and put him on display. We are to live a redeemed life because Jesus redeemed us. 

God will never abandon his children, even if you feel as though he has. God will forever love us even more than we can ever love him. Live as though Jesus is alive and active because he is, He lives in us. 

Meeting you at the point

In Genesis 22, Abraham was to sacrifice his son after God told him to do so. But the beauty is when they go to altar, God showed up. God had Abraham free his son and provided a ram to be sacrificed in his place. God met Abraham in the place after he placed a calling on him and Abraham was following through.

God will meet you where he called you, just not on your timing. I’ve been struggling with faith, I’ve been struggling on whether this life is what God has called me to do, I’ve been struggling with connection with God, I’ve been struggling with a relationship with God. It’s been rough. It’s been battles with the enemy, internal struggles and some very dark days. God promises me he will never leave me nor forsake me. He promises he will always love me and he is working all things for good for those who love him.
But I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to hear the goodness of God. It was as if I put myself in this box and the enemy decided to trap me in there and tried convinced me that God had forgotten me, and repeatedly told me if he truly called me then I wouldn’t be going through this pain. But all this time, God was out there telling me to hold on because I had to endure this moment to get to where God wanted me but I couldn’t hear him over the words of the enemy. I was right where the enemy wanted me, trapped in my own thoughts.

But I was set free. You see there was this moment I had to pull over and allow tears to just flow down my face and be broken before God. At this very point was the point at which God met me. I yelled. I screamed at God. But a peace had come over me. It was in that moment that I knew I was free and all I had to do was let go. 
God will meet you where he wants you. Today I walked into church with more happiness and joy than any Sunday over the last few months. I got to serve Jesus today and for that I am thankful. 

God’s Grace is Sufficient

Part of me doesn’t want to write this. Then another part tells me, I really need to and then I battle with why do I need to, no one needs to know…

I take this struggle and I mask it. I don’t want people to see because I’m ashamed of who it makes me or rather who I classify myself as with it.

Lately, I’ve been in, still am, in a deep depression. I have no motivation, ambition, willpower, love of my jobs or life, confidence, or anything. When I’m in this I tend to believe silence is better than talking. So I isolate.  

In isolation negative thoughts  over power any good. They dictate my value and my worth. I have sat in tears. I’ve laid in bed barely being able to move. Yet I refuse to let anyone close enough to know what’s going on. Then I convince myself no one cares. Yet I refuse to open my mouth. I refuse to let anyone inside. I refuse to show my weak side.

I think I can deal with it. I think I can make it on my own.  It’s like I’m in a pit but it’s too tall to get out without help, but yet I keep jumping attempting to reach the top to get out and I just exhaust myself. So with every failed attempt I just isolate into the corner of the pit more and more. I beat myself up calling myself a failure and worthless even though I will always fail by myself.

2 Corinthians 12:1-10 talks about Paul’s thorn in his side. After Paul begging the Lord to remove it, the Lord said “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (v. 9a) It goes on to Paul’s response of acceptance, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (v. 9b)

You see I can jump and jump and get nowhere. I can exude all my energy on my own effort. I can allow myself to accept my failures, my inabilities, my feelings. I can pretend this depression is not there. I can pretend that this thorn in my side by covering it up and masking it. But the Lord doesn’t want that. The Lord wants me to uncover it, to face it so that His grace can cover it.

Paul talks about boasting in weakness, why? Because like the Lord said, “my power is made perfect in weakness” meaning that I will never be cured of depression, regardless of medication, it will always be a battle, the thorn will always be there. But the question in the end is what is stronger? The Lord’s grace or my depression?  If I battle depression with the Lord, I am strong but if I battle with myself and isolate myself, I am weak. 

We are not meant to do life alone. We are not meant to battle things alone. We are not meant to isolate ourselves. Yet we all do it from time to time. 

The Lord is with us. God doesn’t abandon His children nor does He forsake them. We all have battles of different kinds. We all have thorns in the side. But we shouldn’t bask in it and just accept it. The enemy is sneaky and conniving. He will use your battles to keep you away from God. So don’t be silent. Don’t keep everyone out. Allow others in. Allow God in. Allow God to cover you with grace. Allow God to give you strength in your weakness.

Depression is real and it’s hard. If you battle it, seek help from others. Seek counseling. Seek medical help. You are not weak because you can’t battle it alone. You are strong because you admit where you are weak. 

God’s in Control

 

Let’s be honest for a moment, we all know God is in control. But how many of us would rather say, He’s not because we don’t want to face that fact that we are not perfect, that we fall short, we don’t want to admit that we need Jesus every day of our lives. We all do, even the people you see as “they can do no wrong” they too fall short! We can do nothing in our power, in our own strength, to make us not fall short. The beauty is Jesus came and died for us to build the bridge, so that we no longer fall short. He covers our sins.

You can say, “I know that”, but do you? Do you actually sit there and realize that every time you have a setback, that God is in control? I bet if you get the promotion, “it’s all God, thank  you Jesus.” But in the hard moments do we go and say, “thanks God, I know I fall short, and I know you and me have some work to do, so thank you so much for allowing me to go through this hard moment.” No, we don’t, we say, “Where is God” “I don’t understand” ” What did I do wrong”. We underestimate God in the hard moments, we feel if he was in control, then we wouldn’t be going through the things we go through. But sometimes we have to go through the hard moments, to get us to where He wants us.

Those hard moments are when we have our biggest growth. Why? Because you get on your knees, you get back into your relationship with God, you realize the sins that you have been allowing to dictate your life and you give them over to God, and you start focusing on the voice that should be.

So many of us are called to do great things, but sometimes we get discouraged because we have a major set back happen, or maybe we get depressed. And we let our circumstances dicate our life versus letting the Light dictate it.

I have battled depression for years. But the moment I surrender to it and I let it control me, is the moment I find myself, isolated and alone. I have to battle it, I have to fight it because I wasn’t called to live my life depressed, I was called to serve a God with joy, I was called to love others, I was called to be where I am in this moment. I can either take my depression and hide it away and pretend it’s not there or I can help others going through the same thing.

Yesterday, at church was so powerful, we did an illustration on how we are better together. We were told to lift our hands, to feel the burn of burdens we carry everyday by ourselves. Then we interconnected with each other, showing that that if we keep each other lifted, we can hold together longer, we can help each other when someone begins to fall. It was in that moment Pastor read out all the things we wrote down that were battling. We are better together, we get through things together not alone.

So when we face that next challenge or setback, there is a reason, even if you don’t see it. Don’t run, don’t hide, face it because God can use this moment in your life to help someone else out down the road because you’ve been there. God knows what he is doing even if it doesn’t feel right in the moment. Look around you, there are people there who’ve been through similar things, connect with them, learn from them, we do better when we do life together.