A Note to My Younger Self

With so much news going on in the world the Gabby Petito case has captured mostly everyone’s attention in the US. We will never know why Gabby chose to stay with her boyfriend, maybe she didn’t intend to. We don’t know exactly what happened yet that caused her life to end.

As I watched the Bodycam footage of the Moab City Police Officer it brought back painful memories of my teenage years.

I was in an abusive relationship from 15 to 19 years old, and on and off after that. I know, I know, I should not even have been focused on boys at that age, and I look back at regret at those years, and am thankful God brought me through those tumultuous times, and is healing me from the trauma. But as I thought about those memories, I wondered how did it start?

In my case I was raised in a home with two loving parents. Unfortunately, they did not love each other. Not with an authentic “healthy” love. Abuse and divorce go back generations in my family.

When they split up I was 10 years-old. My brother and I felt we only had each other to lean on. Their divorce was a terrible one. My brother and I went through a parental abduction, a parent being hospitalized for months, my parents dating, remarriages, and eventually separation as the judge separated my brother and I when I was 13 and he was 10. My brother went to live with my dad, and I stayed with my mom. Needless to say, there was a lot going on in my household, and I was a latchkey kid since my mom had to go back to work full time.

I suppose I was really flattered that anyone would pay attention to me, and show interest in me. It was also fun to get away from a lonely life at home. With no mentors or older siblings around to give me advice and being really immature for my age, combined with insecurity and lack of a structured home life I went down a really rough path that the Lord did not intend for me.

It was a path of self-destruction. Promiscuity, drinking, abusive behavior, and suicide attempts were all a part of my teenage years. I know God was always with me, and He knew eventually I would turn to Him crying out to Him because my very life depended on Him. He proved He cared and cares for me, even after I ignored Him year after year.

Romans 5:8

But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

All of that to say this: If you are in an abusive relationship, leave. I know there are many reasons to stay, you would have to leave your home, what would it look like to others, how would you start over, you have no money…

This is not the path God has for you. It says in God’s word:

Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Looking back on my teenage self I wish I could give some advice to the younger me:

You’re beautiful, you don’t need to be in a relationship, you are worthy of love, the non-abusive kind, don’t take being cheated on, spit on, or cussed at. Don’t rush things, focus on your education and most importantly, get to know Jesus. Because if you do that the rest will fall into place at the perfect time.

Matthew 6:33 — ESV

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

If you are going through physical abuse, or even verbal abuse I urge you to reach out to someone you can trust, someone who can help. You deserve better, and you don’t have to take another person’s toxic behavior.

Our days are not guaranteed. God loves you so much He sent His only son to die for you.

Psalm 109:26

Help me. Lord my God; save me according to your unfailing love.

When you are in a good place in your life and look back, you will be thankful to the Lord for what He brought you through. He is our refuge and strength. Be patient with yourself, and give yourself grace.

Oh, and one more thing I would tell my younger self?

You are stronger than you think.

Baggage Check

So, recently I decided to join a Jazzercise class. Ten sessions to be exact. Right before my first class started I was so nervous. I hadn’t been in a class since pre-pandemic, and certainly never a Jazzercise class.

I was certain people were going to be cliquey and unfriendly, and I would not have fun. Well, I got to class and to my surprise everyone was so welcoming. I had a lot of fun, and although I was winded and tripped over my feet once, had a blast.

It got me thinking, what other negative thoughts did I have in my head that I had convinced myself of?

Well, a lot to be exact. I had been stuck in wrong beliefs for years that prevented me from trying new things.

A wrong mindset, insecurities, negative beliefs about myself, fear, and how I thought others perceived me had trapped me. I felt so weighed down and like I failed at things before I even started.

So, at almost half a century old, I’m trying new things. I’ve taken a few drives and gone places I normally wouldn’t go, tried new foods, started riding a bike again, and have taken an art class.

Even though I did wake up slightly panicked this morning hearing “Single, single, double, double” in my dreams I’m still determined to keep going. If the lady that I met in class is 78 years-old and still jazzercising, what’s my excuse?

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Are You Preparing to Die?

In 1 Kings 17 it talks about a widow that had no food in her house, and her debtors were coming to take her son.  It says she was preparing a meal for her and her son and they were preparing to die.  The widow was gathering sticks when she met Elijah the prophet.

            1 Kings 17:10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”

15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.

When I reflect on these scriptures I think about how many times I prepared to die.  I faced circumstances that seemed unsurmountable .  After my husband left I didn’t think I could make it through life without him and with three kids.  The challenges of work life, home life, and lack of money seemed too much for me.  

Not too long ago I had just gotten paid and the money was gone before I knew it. I was so frustrated and told God “You said you would provide for me and I don’t think you’re doing a good job of that.” It brings tears to my eyes now, that I doubted God for one second. Well, two days later I was walking into church, and a young woman came up to me and said that she had gotten an unexpected check in the mail from a car accident years before, and the Lord had put me on her heart. It brought tears to my eyes, and I was quite emotional and it took me quite a few minutes to compose myself and walk into church.

If you feel hopeless, I urge you to cry out to Jesus.  Ask Him for help, tell him what’s on your heart.  Are you in debt? Are you too tired that you feel like you can’t go on another day? Are you sick? Did your relationship just crumble? Sometimes life just runs us over, and it seems that we can’t go on anymore.  

But you know what? There is hope.  There is always hope.  It says in Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  

He can turn your circumstances around suddenly, and nothing is too great for Him.  If you haven’t asked Him for help, I urge you to cry out to Him today, and watch Him show up in your life.  

The Hardest Decision I Ever Made Was to Follow Jesus

I look at the title of this, and I cringe.  Following Jesus should be fun, and easy.  You would think everything in your life would get better, your bank account would be overflowing, and all your problems would go away.  That didn’t happen when I made my decision to follow Him.  

Matt 16:24 ESV Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

What does this mean? For me it means when I want to give up I remember the scripture  Philippians 4:13  NKJV “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  When I look at my bank account that says I have .67 cents in it, I trust His word  that says Philippians 4:19 “And my God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

When I get sad and depressed and I don’t want to get out of bed, and I think about my husband sleeping in his new bed, in his new apartment, I give the situation to God, and try not to do what I would have done in the past which is try to get back at him, or make him jealous.  I remember when I told God that He could have my marriage, and everything I had was His. Even when my heart hurts so bad and I cry until I have a hard time breathing, and my eyes are puffy I recall Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.”

God has a plan and a hope and a future for me, and you too. 

Following Jesus means that I get to witness his goodness in situations.  Everyday, I see His hand in my life, and the lives of others around me.  I see His goodness when I only had a few dollars in my bank account, and the person at Chick-fil-A  told me she paid for my food.  I see His beauty in every sunrise, and sunset when I marvel at the beautiful golds and reds, and different shades of pink.  I see His goodness when I get to pray for someone, and they have hope in their eyes, and look so much more hopeful than when I first saw them.

Every single day I have to make decisions in the little things like holding my tongue when I really want to tell someone what I REALLY think,  when my alarm goes off in the morning and I have to decide, am I going to sleep in, or am I going to spend some quiet time before the kids wake up and read God’s word?

Following Jesus doesn’t mean everything in my life got easier, and I don’t struggle.  But following Jesus gives me a hope that I didn’t have before. It means that His Mercies are new every morning, and forgiveness is always available for me.  Following Jesus means that everyday is a surprise, and I get to see His hand in my life, and the lives of those around me, His Goodness, Grace, and Love, and that is why I wake up everyday hopeful and press on, and why I made the decision to follow Jesus.